Windwright

[Age of Heroes] A Walk in the Park (semi closed)

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6/23.1 093045.1851

 

It was a beautiful day in the city of Fillydelphia. Birds were singing, the sun was shining, the grass was growing, and the trees were spreading their leaf-laden boughs over the walking trails and providing shade and privacy to those within. A pair of ducks floated in the pond, diving occasionally for the sheer liquid joy of it as much as searching for morsels.

 

A juvenile dragon hiked his way to the edge of a secluded clearing, his walking stick making a clack with each step as it's end met pavement. His costume was a hodgepodge of wool and cotton garments with cat-like ears on the brown hood and tiny wings that would never get him off the ground, mixed with welder's goggles and a ramshackle collection of bangles, talismans, amulets, chokers, armlets, and anklets. He looked like a young dragon trying to cosplay as a gremlin who'd just flown through a tacky jewellery store. He was alone, for now, but he was never comfortable outside his costume when he wasn't at home. Habit and paranoia coming to a nervous head, even here and now when he had three hours to himself. Not that it really mattered when he could slice time into paper-thin ribbons and stretch one hour into a week.

 

But Stable Loop was waiting for his new pupil, his sister, and her friend.

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Hard to believe two weeks had gone by already since Rosetta and Bahamut had returned to Canterlot with their new ward in tow. Getting Mutt settled in wasn't too arduous of a process...The only hard part really being when they had to fit his bed through the hallway without breaking it...The hallway that is. But they managed!...Okay maybe not the only hard part. But that was neither here nor there! Today was the first day of Mutt's training under Stable Loop and that...well that would be a journey in and of itself.


There was little time to take in the sights of Fillydelphia for the trio. Mauser was a stickler for time and time was a stickler for him...or something. Rosetta just didn't want to be late is all, especially after practically begging him to help. Some breakfast, a quick check in at the hotel, and off they were to the park! And then off passed the park towards the meeting ground. "Now I'm not gonna say don't be nervous, Mutt. That's just natural. But my brother is a good guy and takes things seriously, you'll be in great paws!" Rosetta said as she floated next to her friends. Not far now.

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Mutt has had a very confusing and eventful two weeks. It has been more than difficult to acclimate to living with these two. Sometimes it seems like anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. They were acting really weird around him for a while but things seem to have mostly settled down. The one thing that bothers him about this arrangement is the travel. He's now been in three different cities in the past month. He haaaates walking everywhere. He counts riding trains, carts, and even chariots as walking. Just.. faster walking. Okay maybe not chariots, they fly. But, whoo! Today is the 'day' the he ends up spending what are apparently going to be a repeated series of two hour periods involving himself in consequence free shenanigans. For a given value of 'consequence free'. What happens to a loop when it starts over? Where does that timeline go?

Mutt stumbles a bit as Rosetta decides to take this opportunity to coach him. He stops dead, turns to look at her, and stares blankly. "I will already have humiliated myself as much as possible by roughly around the time I meet him and things cannot possibly go any more wrong than they are already going to. Or will have gone. Or have gone already. I guess it's entirely possible that I've already done the worst thing I will ever do in front of him and anything I do today is a step up. There is no way of knowing so there is absolutely no point to any apprehension regarding meeting him." he shrugs and plods forward again. That is the most eloquent sequence of thoughts Mutt has expressed in the entire time these two have known him. Weird.

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093412.19034

 

Stable Loop sniffed the air, the senses loaned to him by his amulet screaming in his head that an Enemy was near. His nose confirmed the familiar scent of Bahamut, as well as two other, much fainter smells that Loop knew were probably Rosetta, a thaumite smell, and Mutt, the smell of Vulkanized diamond dog. He stepped onto the path he thought they'd be taking and followed the scent to the source. 

 

"Far enough." he says, holding out the hand not holding his staff. "Not much time, but here's the rules. I'm gonna do this by starting up a loop and taking care of some business. I'll have a couple hours to help, then I need to go do my thing. I'll need different amounts of time at different points, but the four of us are going to be the only ones that know what's going on. Once I start this up, we're all in it together until I finish what I need to do here. This won't be fast. You will be sick of today. You will not see nightfall for a very long time, and this will end up throwing off every instinct you have that works on a cycle. I'll try to keep it as close to a year's interval as I can to mitigate things, but it takes a lot of- well, time to compensate after it's over. This won't be fast. This won't be easy. This won't give you all the answers. It will, however, get you an idea of where your limits lie, and how far over them you can go without breaking. Are you sure you're ready?"

 

The whole thing was delivered in a voice that sounded physically like it was on the cusp of maturing, but whose tone suggested the owner was asking for an oath.

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Rosetta chuckled softly. "He's not all knowing. He looks ahead at possibilities. No one can know every single possible outcome. No matter how hard they try." it was about that time that Stable Loop made his appearance. Flawless timing as ever...But there he was wearing that amulet again. Was there really no better disguise? How many times now had Rose and Bahamut heard this sort of thing? A lot of Hopesguard recruits didn't really get what they were getting into, even with his warning. But then again a lot of Hopesguard recruits didn't have the two of them coming along with them.


Bahamut meanwhile stood quietly alongside his friends. Things were awkward with Loop. He had no idea why, but something got his hackles raised whenever the dragon was around him. It hurt, especially not knowing what but there didn't seem to be a lot that he could do. But he wasn't there to try to smooth over some mysterious animosity today, he was here to help Mutt as best he was able.

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Mutt turns to reply to Rosetta that someone probably wouldn't need to see everything to form a rather steady opinion of him, when another dragon shows up! He thinks. The guy is so loaded down with knick-knacks and bric-a-brac he might be more object than man. Literally. He's heard of bodies surrendering to the consciousness of some objects before. Well, read about. And then the dragon starts a brief and intimidating lecture. The dog hrumphs, tilting his head for a moment, then claps his paws together. Sounds like a lot of work for not a whole lot of progress, which is pretty much exactly how his life has gone up to this point so that's fine with him. "I absolutely am not! But I am nothing if not experienced in dealing with lasting consequences of poor decisions. So let's do it anyway!" the dog grins and wags. He is perfectly ready to hate this particular date for the rest of his life. Just throw it on the pile with the others. "I will do my best to stay out of your business unless my involvement becomes strictly necessary." Mutt is... well, probably not grasping just how unpleasant this could get, but he's fine with that. He knows he's not smart, and he knows it's even worse with this brain. But he's had time to, at the very least, steel himself for the leap.

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093834.22179

 

Stable loop frowns for a second and nods, then starts taking off his useless knickknacks and putting them in the 'hood' of his outfit, eventually leaving only an armband, a charm bracelet, an amulet, and his goggles. Turns out the false wings on his back weren't, as when he pulled off the hoodie and fastened a couple of straps to turn it into a knapsack the wings stayed attached to him. Lastly he slips the amulet over the tiny horns on his head, and suddenly he's no longer a teenaged dragon. Instead, where he was standing is a mountain of mountain dog tying the cord of the amulet to the sack.

 

One of the ducks takes off from a nearby pond, flying overhead and quacking irritably. A blue butterfly lands on a nearby tulip and beats its wings, flap, flap, while it drinks the nectar inside.

 

"Right, that's settled then. Come on, we have time to get breakfast, and I'll bet you two haven't eaten." It wasn't a question, and the Diamond Dog beckoned for the group to follow him while he walked toward the edge of the park. His eyes, once the goggles were slipped up to his brow, had a pair of 'hands' piercing from the iris through the limbal ring at the 9 and 3 positions.

 

A dog barks somewhere in the park, sounding angry, but the scent of roasted peanuts drifts in on the wind from somewhere.

 

"There are a couple things to know about that I don't like talking about in real time, so sorry for the vague ultimatum. I've got the four of us in a six hour loop. I'm going to stick around the first time through because it'll get disorienting and I want to be able to answer questions when it happens." Mauser says, his tail betraying his stoicism with a couple of quick-tocks.

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Bahamut chuckled softly to himself at Mutt's response. It was funny, even if just a little bit sad. He was sure though that if anyone would be able to help out Mutt, it'd be Stable Loop. The only thing that the dragon wished was that he could help with whatever chip was on their shoulder. But alas. "Breakfast sounds like a fine idea. All I've had myself was a couple pieces of toast on the way." he said with a nod as he and Rosetta followed along.


Rosetta herself, well. Breakfast wasn't much of an issue as she was. She _could_ eat, but it was a lot more complicated than just grabbing a bite at the local diner or something. Thaumite was involved, big shocker there, but it was usually too much of a hassle for out and about anyway. She did have to agree though, the time loop thing was pretty disorienting...It never really got less so, but at least you knew it would be after the first time.

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Mutt wags vigorously. "It is so great to have breakfast like, every day. It feels like a luxury." even before he didn't always get to have breakfast.. there was just too much to do, to the point he resented it. The dog follows along eagerly, having never really BEEN to Fillydelphia before he's just kind of going to follow Mauser until they get wherever they need to go. Mutt perks and looks to Mauser, head cocked to one side. "Training wheels huh? ... Yeah that's fair. I have no idea what's going to be happening with this. Appreciate it." he resists the urge to grin at the wagging... because, well, Mauser's a lot better at suppressing it than he is and it would just be inviting trouble to giggle at the doggo trying to be sooo serious.

He watches mouser intently, and it takes several more seconds for his brain to catch up to the events. "... Whoa! You're really a dog!" he exclaims, stating the exceedingly obvious. The dog was just a dragon! Or is the dragon now a dog? He scrunches his nose and is then immediately embarrassed at how long it took him to have that reaction and also that he had it at all. "I'll.. just.. be quiet now." he fiddles his pawfingers together and looks mortified.

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094627.9211

 

Mauser snorts once in a quick laugh. "Yep. 100% pure Diamond Dog, though I keep a very careful rumor running contrary." he says, crossing a street after only a cursory glance. He's used to his bulk preventing problems and it wasn't like ponies were pulling trains across the street here. Yet. "Rosie thought I could help you out, since you didn't get the training we did in how to use our strengths and cover or weaknesses. Dad was always a stickler for that even if he was a pushover about everything else."

 

Seems like there was a carriage accident a block or two down interrupting traffic. Mauser frowned at it before moving on to a little cafe out of the main thoroughfare run by an elderly griffon couple offering a rare thing: Sausages. There was toast and muffins too, but Mauser had scouted this place out months ago on another assignment, as it was one of the few establishments outside of Griffonstone to serve meat. 

 

He ordered and paid and sat down, waiting for Mutt before he says "Rosie vouched for you, so I'm gonna offer the same courtesy to you I do the rest of my family and Bahamut. I won't look forward more than a day or two, and I won't look back, unless you specifically ask me to. Sometimes I might see you by accident if I'm looking at someone near you or who crosses your path, and I make no apologies for that, but I won't Snoop. That said, would you like me to?"

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Mutt hums and listens quietly and respectfully as Mauser talks to him about Mauser. He starts forming a mental image of the dog's father that is likely wholly inaccurate. His ears swivel this way and that, mostly keeping track of his surroundings as he walks and watches Mauser. He does not quite appreciate how effective his ears are at keeping track of his surroundings when he has forward vision. It's a bit difficult to split his attention between Bahamut and Rosetta, and Mauser, and the City so they kind of get a little drowned out of his focus while they walk... to the point they could probably wave a hand at him and he wouldn't notice for a few seconds.

Upon arriving in the restaurant he smells... something he's never really smelled before upon entering the establishment, it briefly distracts him and makes his stomach roll over eagerly... The pup shudders and slinks his way over to a seat and sits down, he has not ordered anything. Partly because he's never been here and hasn't looked at a menu but mostly because he is still unemployed and feels awkward about ordering on someone's tab. Even Bahamut and Rosetta. Mutt stretches a bit.. but not much, because he would take up ALL the space if he stretched to any satisfying degree. His ears twitch as the conversation switches to him and what Rosetta can do for him. This is a slightly more interesting topic to him if only because it's relevant to the reason he's been told (repeatedly) that they were going to be here today. The dog rubs the back of his head and frowns, thinking.. "Uhhhm. Yeah.. I mean. I guess. I don't .. MIND? looking back.. as long as it's, uhm.. no more than two months.. I do have... some things to hide that I'm not, explicitly proud of..." his tail tucks a bit. "Well, if.. doing this thing is at all helpful to whatever we're going to be doing then I guess it would be prudent to say go for it." Mutt grins sheepishly and finally looks weakly over to Bahamut and Rosetta to acknowledge them  and grins awkwardly. He's well aware that they're aware that he's keeping things to himself and not sharing them but it feels awkward to explicitly state that he's hiding things, like that.

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100819.4192

 

Mauser nods and reaches across the table. He doesn't, strictly speaking, need to make contact to do a Reading, but it helps. Especially when he's already using another power. Looking back is the easy part, of course. The diamond dog simply winds time backwards in his mind's eye, an unseen observer to every action Mutt had taken from two months ago until the present, recorded and then played forward. Travelling to Manehattan, the weeks he'd spent scrounging alleys and being mistaken, not unfairly, for a looming monster by the ponies of the city, the bad luck and misfortune culminating in the meeting and incident on the docks. One thing was glaringly obvious to Mauser. Mutt had NO idea how to be a diamond dog. Not just the training he and his siblings had received, it was like Mutt wasn't used to using his nose and ears at all. 

 

He frowns, but keeps his findings to himself as he starts the next part. His eyes went berserk. Lines and hands spiked through from his pupils to the limbal rings like someone had hooked up a visualizer ring to an amp that was simultaneously being used for an orchestra, a battle of the bands, and a white-noise station. Time split before him like a river delta viewed through a kaleidoscope, each stream branching and joining in a thousand different ways. It was a jumbling, confusing mass, but themes began to emerge. 
 

Spoiler

"YOU HAVE MUCH POTENTIAL, A CREATURE OF EXTREMES. SUFFERING OR SUCCOR BLESSED, THESE SHALL BE YOUR THEMES. NOT FULLY DOG AND NOT FULLY PONY, A BEING WITHOUT MOLD. BUT MEDIOCRITY SUITS YOU NOT, SO KNIGHT OR KNAVE BE BOLD. YOU WILL REACH FOR DISTANT STARS, AND PLUCK THEM FROM THE SKY. OR CRUMBLE FROM THE PRESSURE, AND CURL INSIDE TO DIE. NAUGHT OF LIMITS KNOW YOU, SAVE THOSE YOU CHOOSE TO BEAR. SO WEIGH THY BURDENS LONG, FOR WEAL OR WOE BEWARE."

 

Mauser reels back and shakes his head. It's really, REALLY hard for him when that happens. So many potential futures that refused to collapse. Even ignoring the ordinary confusion that sprung up when he trained someone in a loop, Something or Someone had plans for Mutt. Or at least wanted to use the poor guy as entertainment. The Diamond Dog woofs quietly while he reviews what he's seen and heard. Hang on...not EVERY detail is different. There was a point in a couple of months that repeated... What WAS that? 

 

Mauser closes his eyes and reviews, focusing on that point. A letter? Why would this letter be-

 

Mauser starts laughing. At first it's quiet titters, almost barks, but it quickly builds into a booming, tear-streaked guffaw. "You two..." he starts, then breaks down into a fit of giggling. The restaurant owners look up in time to see the mountain of a mountain dog roll off of his chair, clutching his sides. 

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This was always Rosetta's favourite part. The first time she had watched Mauser's eyes do the thing, it freaked her out. Not in a pad way, but it was something that was hard to forget and never really got old. She wondered what it must be like, gazing through those days and days of memories and where they all could lead or could have led. Organizing a library must have nothing on that. And with an ever confusing prophecy, it came to an end. A curious one at that. Rose had her suspicions that Mutt wasn't always a Diamond Dogs, but this seemed to confirm it. When Mauser went quiet, Rose sat back and waited. Something interesting must have came to light an-why was he giggling? Wow something really tickled him...What could be that...Ooooh no. Floating up from her seat, Rose smiled awkwardly and quickly grabbed Mauser by the scruff of the neck. "Ahahaha...Excuse us a moment." it must have been pretty humorous to see floating glowing metal diamond dog slowly dragging off another more corpreal one almost three times her size.


Bahamut for his part simply sat in confusion. Not at just Mauser's sudden and rather uncharacteristic fit of hysterics, but that prophecy. Despite having been partnered with a Diamond Dog for so long, it hadn't really occurred to the dragon that Mutt's behavior was out of the norm for them. And so the 'not fully pony' bit stuck out to him. Was it an allegory of some sort? Something to do with him fitting in?


Meanwhile, with her brother pulled around to a quiet corner, Rosetta tried her best to calm the roaring laughter. "Sssh, shhhhshshh! Hey, hey, shh. He, hey c'mon. He doesn't...We haven't told him yet okay? You saw the letter right? He doesn't know." she said looking over her should towards where Mutt and Bahamut sat. "We're trying to figure out when and how to tell him..." or if it'd be a good idea to tell him at all...

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Mutt coughs quietly and flats his ears, biting his lip as Mauser does the weird Seer... thing. Wow that's weird. He stares and scrunches his snoot a little bit, that looks like it tingles and it's making him a little dizzy. His heart bottoms out into his stomach like an especially dense rock as Mauser starts prophesying. Well that doesn't sound g... Oh mother of mercy Mauser did not just say that with these two sitting right next to him. Mutt is about to bury his face in his paws and groan when Mauser starts... giggling. Then laughing. Is he being punked? "What? Oh." no apparently it's to do with Bahamut and Rosetta. Weird, well it's probably not relevant to him... Aaand then Rosetta drags him off and is very shushy and angry. Mutt is now curious but doesn't really have the sense to focus his senses to the conversation over there.

The dog focuses his attention to Bahamut and then coughs awkwardly. "Yeah I don't know WHAT he's on about. Prophecies. Weird huh? Sounds like a lot of work for me in the future. I dunno what I'm... Stop looking at me like that." Mutt uuuughs and flops chin first on the table, staring at the opposing booth. He sighs. "I've only been a diamond dog for about two and a half months.. Or three. I lost track of time. I was gonna say something but... Wheee, look at me I have an outrageous claim but no proof! even with all the weird stuff that goes on it's really a bit of a stretch to ask anyone to believe that with no evidence... also it's kind of humiliating." the dog just groans a bit and buries his head in his hands. "I'm gonna be honest, I hated this when it first happened. I.. did not like these creatures at the time. I met the wrong ones. I don't wanna go into it."

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101010.1010

 

Mauser blinks and snickers. "Oh no. I wouldn't dare let you off that easily. You two are gonna be the ones who get to show him the letter. I'm gonna be the one with a camera." he says, wiping a tear away from his eyes as he calms down. "That was the only thing I've had time to make sense of. What did I actually say this time?" he asks. He wasn't sure he'd ever actually told Rosetta how that part of his snooping worked, he usually needed to stop time and replay it in his head, but with her nearby he could probably skip that part, especially if he wanted to not be exhausted for the next five hours.

 

Once Rosetta had repeated it back to him, he scratches his head a little. "Well that's not ominous or vague or anything." he complains, mentally reviewing more of the timelines he'd followed. "He's in for a rough ride. Watch him, and watch out for him, while I'm doing my thing today. Try to focus on finding out where his power gaps are, so you don't exploit them accidentally."

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The dragon started to sweat a bit. Oh boy. That made things with the letter even worse. How on earth could they tell him now?! "I...see? Well stranger things have happened, you know." Bahamut replied, giving a glance over towards Rosetta. "It's fine, I won't pry. Though I'm sorry your run in with diamond dogs for the first time was a poor one. There's no reason to be humiliated though, you're still you, even if you've got a different body, right?" he gave Mutt a reassuring pat on the head.


Meanwhile, Rosetta folded her arms and huffed. It was funny when you were on the outside, but being one of the ones to have to deal with bringing it up? Oi. After Rose had repeated back her brother's prophecy, she gently shook her head. "I can only imagine. Well don't worry, that's why we're here after all. We need to learn what he can and can't do as much as he does."

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Mutt relaxes and settles in, burying his face on the table a little more. "I miss flying. Riding along.. It's not the same. It's not the same at all. It was pretty much all I had before... this. So the definition of 'me' has kind of had to change. Also... Uhh. No, not really. I can't control my brain. My thoughts and behaviors are different now. The form dictates more than I would have liked, or did you think I normally wiggle around on the floor arfing and wagging when someone rubs my belly? Or bury my face in things to smell them? Or bury myself facefirst in food that's in front of me when I'm sufficiently hungry whether it's mine or not? It's not me. It's like I have a whole different brain. Because I do." Mutt chuffs a little bit and stares at the table... "And body. Everything's weird! The smell in here has been driving me crazy. I want it. I mean I reallllly want it. Even though I know what it is. My insides are pleading with me 'please for the love of god eat that'. Ever since the change I've been struggling to balance out entirely new sets of behaviors and desires that just came with the body, and fighting them has a tendency to make me a little miserable."

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Mauser nods to Rosetta and opens his muzzle, then perks an ear and holds up a paw. He sighs after a moment and walks over to the counter, where he pays for the food and carries over a tray of something slow-roasted over a rotisserie and smothered in spices. He slides the tray onto the table with a practiced ease and speaks,

 

"Hey, sorry for springing that up. I know it's probably a sore point still, but I'm not exactly in control of what I say during and right after a Read like that. When someone's destiny is balled up enough or big enough whatever gave me my powers likes to peek out and poke fun at me trying to understand things. Didn't think it'd happen again, last time was...well, let's just say I'm not on Hopesguard records because I got lucky."

 

He spins the tray and deftly plucks out a plate of curried chicken for himself and Mutt, then nudges it so the third plate and the tray itself settles next to Bahamut across the table. "So, it's tricky to go from a sight-base to smells and sounds, but we're gonna change things up a little and I'm gonna take you on myself for a couple cycles to teach you how to be a dog. After that I'll turn you over to Rosetta and Bahamut to teach you how to be a hero. We'll work on your powers somewhere in there too. For now though, you ever wonder what these things are for?"

 

He opens his maw wide and taps a very decidedly pointy canine tooth. "Diamond dogs aren't like ponies, inside. We need to eat things ponies don't. Dragons too, but they can cheat and use gems. Us though? We need meat. Chicken and fish are both pretty safe bets, without upsetting ponies too much, and some griffon settlements have other stuff we can eat too. First rule of Diamond Dogging: Learn when to indulge without upsetting ponies, because everyone gets along better that way. But we DO need to indulge in things like meat, and sniffing things, and occasionally chasing something. We make good heroes, when ponies let us. We're wired different, and we're made of different stuff. Our instincts aren't hard to fight for a little while, but if you don't ever give in, it just builds up like an itch."

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