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Stage Two: Bubbling Brook! Time to Go Bold!

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Stage 2- Bubbling Brook
 

This idylic stream is usually peaceful, gently moving about the Whitetail woods lazily. However, the weather pegasi of Canterlot didn't do their job correctly and pushed a storm south and now torrential rains slam the area. The bubbling brook is beyond capacity and reports of flooding in the lower regions of the Whitetail Woods are filtering in. Everywhere however the storm is intense and raging and you have the sensation that as you leave the civilized town of Ponyville, this is not just a race and a cause for Equestrians to rally behind, but a battle of wits and skills in a poor environment.

There is a higher path, one that is free of any real obstacle and only features a small, manageable leap for any equine over the stream. The other choice is the bridge, which is on the normal path and is much faster.
Or maybe it will flood with you on it, dragging you away until rescue workers can throw you back. Choices, choices...

OOC Note- Please put in bold at the start of your post whether you are going for the bridge or not. If you choose to go for the bridge, your time is limited and it takes more than one post. You may post your character going over the bridge and being finished with it when you think you've posted enough to do so, mark these posts as well. I will make a narrator post when the situation changes; those who have succeeded will be told then!

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Thanks to the efforts a certain candy scented pink pony, Taira's passenger had finally calmed down... and he had new one! Taira bounded along with the raccoon and alligator passengers on his back, "Thanks for the help there! It's nice to meet you, Pinkie Pie and you too, Gummy!" This mare was a very intriguing equine! She had that curious magical scent clinging to her like  the orange one did, "I'm Taira, I'm from all the way  to the east: Neighpon." He took a second to gesture with his head toward the aforementioned direction.  

 

For Gummy and this unnamed Raccoon they would find Taira a very smooth if rhythmic ride, "You know, I' could have sworn I've seen creatures like this back home... although mine were less panicky and didn't have fingers. They were a bit more dog-like too... dog's I can handle but I'd never met one of them with a temper like this one had just a moment ag--" Suddenly Taira's face was bombarded with rain. By  the mountains, the weather here was absolutely manic! One moment it was a brisk autumn day and now the foreigner found himself being blast by sheets of water. The sculpted kirin's height did manage to spare a good deal of Pinkie's body from getting soaked... and he was impressed that the pair on his back seemed to remain calm through the sudden shift!

 

If Taira didn't know better he might have suspected his temporary rival having a hand in this, but if that spirit had anything to do with this he could have smelled it. He did have to wonder how he was dealing with this. 

 

No time was left for him to dwell on things as there was a split in the path that lead to two possibilities. That bridge seemed a bit too dangerous for him to try, especially with a pair of passengers on board!  "Pinkie-san! I think I'll take the high road!  If you're not coming with me I promise to keep an eye on your scaly green friend!"

 

 

Edited by Pretzelparty
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Coloratura was an observer of the pony condition. It was rare to have something shift out of her awareness. After all, what was performance and stagecraft if not a thousand conflicting stimuli, motivated entirely by personality, interacting constantly in new and creative ways? It did not escape her notice that a raccoon had now entered the fray. It also did not escape her notice how it had done so. The gray stallion had suffered a bit of a fall and in the middle of it, a racoon had...appeared? It was strange. She didn't know what to make of it, but Applejack did. The mare told Rara to be on her hooves around this 'Discord'. The name rung a bell, but she couldn't quite place it. “Ah, one of those types? Sometimes a restraining order isn't enough, I suppose...” she said, watching as Pinkie Pie ably handled the situation. Hopefully.

She continued her trotting which eventually became a lesser gallop, with the pack opening up and the path widening as they left Ponyville behind and moved deeper into the Whitetail. The sounds of dozens of quads of hooves and other random appendages beating the ground furiously like a friendly stampede echoed loudly across the landscape. The leaves were falling in their twos and threes, their bunches and their singular escapes. The sound and fury did its part, the impacts added in their own lot, and Equestrian magic did the rest. The seasons changed before their very eyes and Coloratura allowed herself to take in the beauty of it all, falling somewhat behind Applejack in the process. This was allowable. She was here to participate more than anything.

What snapped her out of her pleasant acknowledgment of the leaves was the wetness and sloshing sound of water on her hooves. “Huh?” she asked, looking down. The path ahead, and indeed the trees, were mired in ankle-deep water. Nothing all that dangerous, and a little mud never hurt anypony. So this was what they had been warned about? She had to admit that she had in some manner distanced herself from the possible harshness of the race itself, enamored as she was with the idea and goals of the event, and coddled in the cocoon of friendship that other racers provided. She stomped her hooves inquisitively in the water. Splash splash, no big deep mud hole. So nothing too dangerous, but when she resumed her galloping she did so at a more conservative pace.

In due time she approached the fork. The first led to a bridge, which looked rickety. It was a low bridge, one placed directly over the stream itself without an arch. As a consequence as the water level rose it was starting to come undone. While still attached on either end, parts of it were slick with water and it was swaying slightly. On either side of the bridge were trees, trees full of leaves and just begging to be denuded. It was also, based on what she had read, the standard route that the Running of the Leaves followed.

The other route was off to the right and went up, marked with a 'detour' sign. It was likely much safer and thus enticing based on that alone. Of course it was going around which meant it was slower, and she wasn't sure if there would be as many trees to help the leaves off. Most importantly, she wasn't sure whether somepony would see her take the upper route and word would spread of her taking the easy way out. The papparazzi- well, you know what? She wasn't going to allow them to make such decisions for her.

She just had to make it herself. Decisions, decisions...

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The runners swiftly galloped through the light forest, turning around farm ends, circling around the occasional boulder, not tripping over the sudden stump in the middle of the path.  Applejack was so familiar with this part of the country that she could almost run it with her eyes closed.  Which she did so inadvertently as raindrops started smacking her in the face.  It started pouring.  Applejack had known that there was cloud misconstruction today, as it said in the morning newspaper.  Typically the town of Ponyville orders a few hours of gusts the night before the Running of the Leaves to weaken some of the leaves from their stems.  Looks like somepony accidentally spilt in raincloud powder.  "Consarnit, if I had a bit for every time the weather was misplaced around here, I could afford hurricane insurance for the farm!"

 

Applejack decided to wait up for Coloratura.  She knew that what was coming next would be a challenge to a new runner.  Bubbling Brook was always the first hazard of the trek, and by sheer chance, it just happened to be at the time of a downpour flowing through a cheap bridge over a unforgiving stream.  She knew that for the most part Ra-Ra could handle herself in a storm, but that she might need a little guidance and encouragement.  When they were little, they got along so well together at Camp Friendship because of how little they both cared about getting a little wet or dirty.  One time, after Applejack and Coloratura lost a tug-o-war match and got muddy, they both laughed it off, but both wondered what they were to do with the muddy clothes they had.  Applejack offered that they should just jump in the lake, but Coloratura was apprehensive.  Before they jumped into the lake together, a young Applejack smiled at her camp friend knowing that they would be fine and said, "Trust me?"  And seconds later the fillies were splashing playfully without fear.  Towards the end of camp, Applejack wanted to play a song she had written and thought Coloratura should sing it.  But her friend was really nervous.  Even Applejack was a little scared to get on stage to present, but she knew that their performance would be good so she encouraged Coloratura before they got on stage to help ease the tension.  "Trust me?"  The duo would then perform one of best shows of talent that year.

 

Applejack had her moments with almost everypony; she was good at being friendly with practically the whole country.  But there were a select few that Applejack had a special connection with.  And with her foalhood friend Ra-Ra in the race, she knew that it would be best to stick with her during the toughest moments of the race.  When the pop star approached, Applejack with her wet hat and wet hair was standing at the fork.  "Hey!  Ra-Ra!  I want to help you cross this bridge here.  I know it looks chancy, but I've done this before.  The stream can sweep you away but the bridge should hold.  And if it doesn't I have a contingency."  Applejack pulled out from under her hat a standard rope.  She tied the rope around her abdomen.  "If we're tied together when we cross, we can anchor for each other to keep from being swept away.  Don't worry, it looks violent, but it ain't that deep.  A few seconds of running across a watery bridge, and we'll be in the clear."  She tied the other end a loop for her friend to slip into and held it up.  Applejack stared at Coloratura, the rain streaking from the brim of her hat.

 

"Trust me?"

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Just in case RL prevents me from posting another post for this turn, Fire Walker will BE JUMPING! That bridge looks a bit iffy.
 
 
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This was it! Fire Walker's very special little 'happy section' of the race. She would canter among friends as they all got to enjoy the sights and sounds of the 'Bubbling Brooks'. The relaxing and memorizing natural soundtrack would lure her into an Zen like trance. She would be the Run-Goddess. Her hooves and the path would connect in perfect harmony. The leaves did not have a chance!
 
After feeling rather bummed about Applejack's dead folks, the slight hint of tears gave away to rain drops. Plenty of rain drops! What the hay? Weren't the Pegasus ponies supposed to have cleared this all? If this were a regular marathon, the race would have been called off, but this was the 'Running Of The Leaves'! You either had to run, or be washed away by the wind and rain. So much for the 'relaxing' section of the race.
 
"That bridge does not look safe.", the officer warned those who were near. "I'm sure just about any of us could easily make the leap, while the others should turn back." The 'running' was important, but not at the cost of one's life.  There was always next year. She knew Applejack Pinky and the cheetah-bird would have little troubles making it over. But Swift? Had she ever seen him leap before? Maybe he could make it across the bridge. He was light and agile. The others, like the heavier stallions and Ice Storm and her bulky armor would probably either wait till the rain stopped or give up. The jury was still up for the Photo-Mat Vampire. She looked healthy, but would she make it? Discord would just find a way to cheat.
 
Even without the use of her wings, the battle trained Pegasus pony would make it across. She was strong and aerodynamic! She just needed to hit the right speed and find the perfect spot to leap when the time came up...
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OOC: Pinkie will be taking the high ground, not jumping!

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Pinkie was so super duper excited to meet this fellow! She loved meeting ponies and others from far off places. It was exciting, and interesting! She loved to learn all about other cultures and at the moment she didn't know much at all about Neighpon! There was so much she could find out from getting to know Taira! She already knew they were going to be just the best of friends.

 

"It's great to meet you Taira! Well... Taira-san actually!" She did know that adding san after somepony's name meant you were friends. If there was one thing Pinkie could speak in almost any language it was friendship!

 

As he spoke of taking the high road and having Gummy along for the ride she bounced extra high in anticipation! "Gummy's going to have so much fun hitching a ride with you!"

 

She nodded at her scaly friend. "Where The Gator goes, I go too!" 

 

An umbrella hat suddenly appeared on her head as big old rain drops started to fall in earnest! She was happy to have the kirin shield some of the water from her. Yep, he was already a good friend! She could just tell!

 

"Looks like we get to stick together for this leg of the race Taira!" She glanced up at the sky as hugely big bruised and blackened clouds covered the rest of the sky. The rain quickly started coming down faster!

 

"We better head for the high ground quick! Gummy doesn't know how to swim do ya?"

 

The gator eyed her, one pupil rolling off at an odd angle as he did so.

 

The water started rising even higher out of what had once been a tiny little brook. 

 

"Hey Taira? How fast can a kirin run?" She nudged him playfully and took off at full tilt towards the higher pass of the roiling river!

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Ra-Ra wasn't entirely sure whether she wanted to go for the bridge or go for the safer path. The doubt allowed for influence, and it didn't take a lot for Applejack to influence her in such things. When they had been fillies they had become fast friends at Camp Friendship. Ra-Ra had been much more shy in her younger years, reticent to give purchase to the idea that she could be a little more impulsive and it would be okay. Applejack taught her she could, through the overwhelming power of her charm and trustworthiness. She remembered fondly that Applejack was a perfect hundred percent in leading her on the right path, as a filly and as a mare. No reason to disbelieve her now.

Of course, it hadn't been a one-way street back then. Applejack always was a bit too humble. She could bake better than just about anypony else but wouldn't strut it. Racing, tug of war, hiking, anything athletic? She was the best, but nopony'd know it because the Applejack that went into Camp Friendship had been the product of manners so well-maintained they could become a problem. Ra-Ra may have had problems being impulsive and just going with the flow, but Applejack hadn't seemed to want to take pride in her accomplishments. They were both shy in their own ways. Ra-Ra had told Applejack to have pride, and Applejack helped Ra-Ra gain confidence.

Applejack was still helping Ra-Ra. She had helped her get back to her roots, get her old self back, and she hadn't done much to help Applejack to even it all out. Applejack even now was here to help. She informed the non-local about the conditions that the bridge interacted with. Ra-Ra acquiesced immediately, taking the rope and tying it as she had been ordered. “That sounds like it could work, Applejack. Well, I mean, I hope it does!” She said, tying it nice and tight. She had an easier time around her abdomen. She had worn a corset for years to get the proper look for the Countess, a little rope was nothing.

“You know, you've been so kind to me. I can't keep on taking all of your sage advice and give nothing I return. If you keep this up I'll be forced to buy you golden horseshoes to match your character,” she teased, half-threatening her friend with something she would likely never want. But maybe she'd suggest something a little more reasonable or realistic. One more reason for Ra-Ra to keep close! With the rope secured, she started to make her way across the bridge. Each step in front of the other in a jaunty jog, but more controlled than before. She was as sure as Manehattan was bright that it would be unwise to be less than careful. Their little plan could keep them safe, but it would put them behind the eight ball. No reason to cause Applejack any more stress than defending what Ra-Ra could only guess was multiple Running of the Leaves titles already laid at the farmer's hooves.


 

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0sLBSik.pngA smirk played on the beguiling wizard's features. The pony, though fit as any could be he was much older than most what with his grey-black mane and lines along his eyes. He jumped up in delight and pranced along with his tail up when his raccoon hat had landed on Taira, providing the Kirin with a little shade.

 

"I see you've met my hat." The head cocking caballo chortled and resumed his run along the path.

 

It was not until they arrived on a crossroads that the spirit would give pause to consider. He trotted in a circle and stopped to look at the others. Now he had never raced before and come to think of it he was not sure if there were traps triggered by taking the wrong road! The equine shaped noodle wasn't one for following the crowd, but this proved to be a dangerous venture. If it was trapped he could be disqualified or worse, he'd have to face a horde of swamp things. That brook hardly looked sanitary. His lip curled up in disgust before he looked to the wooden pathway. Folding his ears back the plainly grey unicorn tapped the edge with a hoof, testing it. He inched his weight into it and stood a moment. Bouncing around in place he would satisfy himself that the bridge was indeed not trapped.

 

"Puh, of course I'm fine. It was a little trip, is all." Not really but that was what that smoky face mountain stallion got for distracting him. Even if Bevel in a cheerleader's outfit was a fine distraction, Nevertheless he had to keep face! Cheating was hardly what it could be called. Simply a distraction. Yes. So Discord would cross the bridge with a prance in his step to give that bird an eyeful of his immaculate magnificence! He noticed. Senpai always noticed, even if he said nothing.

 

"Ha! Silly ponies, no dirty hooves for me!" He delighted. "This racing thing is easier than I thought. I could do without the walking, but if I outdo that loaded kirin -- well it would be worth it." He was assured that his lighter build was an advantage against the swoll Neighponese! 

 

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Hawke chuckled a bit to herself. Seems like griffons weren't the only creatures to not want to admit when they messed up or took a spill. This unicorn would probably fit right it. But was it out of embarrassment or pride that he covered his fumbled tracks? "Hehe, well glad to know you're doing as good as you look. Name's Hawke by the way, how about you?" she would ask as she kept pace with the handsome, albeit perhaps a bit cocky, stallion. She was used to cocky though, live around Talonopolis long enough and it becomes the norm whether it's deserved or not.

 

When the first sounds of pitter pattering rain started up, Hawke looked towards the skies. It started fairly light before the larger darker clouds rolled in, pourin not just sheets but comforters of rain down across the competitors. Now, Hawke didn't mind a little rain contrary to what some creatures out there might think, given her partial feline anatomy. But honestly, this was just ridiculous. "Heh, well with the rain pouring like this, it won't be long til everyone's dirty." Hawke would keep pace with her new conversational partner across the bridge as well. She wasn't sure if the stumble from the stallion was an accident or a common occurrence, but it didn't hurt to keep an eye out on him as they and others crossed the flooding bridge. "So the beefcake kirin is a friend of yours huh? Lemme take a wild guess, he challenged you to the race?"

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Taira's ears perked up at the sound of his rival calling out behind him, "Oh I certainly have! He's a cute little fellow. Think you can teach me how to do that trick after I beat you? I've already got one bet on the line, why not another?"  The Stallion's brow arched as he saw that grey stallion moving towards that precarious bridge, "You'd better be careful! It won't be any fun if you get swept away just after the start of the race!"

 

 

"Alright then!" Barked the cheery stallion as he galloped his way to the higher path with his pink friend, "This won't be the first hill I've had to climb with friends and it won't be the last! To the 

high road!" Taira had to stop himself from rearing up in excitement... didn't want to dump his passengers! Instead he galloped forward with a bit more speed to his steps. His tail whipped and flew like a banner behind him in his trail. Pinkie's question gave him a momentary pause, "A good question! This one's a bit out of practice but I'd say..." With a rush of wind at his back and a splattering of rain over his face he put a little distance between him and his pink companion!

He called back with a cocky smile,"Fast enough to give you a work out!"

 

 

 

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(Applejack is taking the bridge.)

 

After Coloratura slipped on her end of the rope, Applejack helped fastened it to keep it from slipping off easily.  She let out a little grunt as she pulled the rope tighter.  "Alrighty then.  The best way to tackle this would be to try and stay on the upstream side of the bridge.  That way, if we lose grip we can try and regain balance before falling off the downstream side, which ain't gonna happen."  Applejack yelled to allow her voice to carry over the violently pattering rain and the rushing of the stream's whitewater rapids.  "And don't run.  A nice light trot should do.  No need to run a sprint, it doesn't take that long to pass it.  If we run, the bridge might break under the extra pressure of our hooves.  So we might as well be light-hooved.  You got it?"

 

Applejack went in front of Ra-Ra, carefully taking the first step.  She softly whispered to herself.  "Easy does it, Applejack."  She hadn't been nervous to this point but it was too late to turn back now.  The entirety of Applejack's pelt was soaked, her hat sagging on all sides and covering her ears.  She took another step, and began bracing herself on the side of the bridge.  Now that she was on top of it, she could see the poor craftsponiship of the bridge.  She would reserve judgement of the shotty structure and those responsible for building it for now, so that she could focus more on surviving the short venture across the waterway.

 

When she looked back to see her friend who was probably shaken with a noticeable amount of fear and pensive to take her first step, she said,  "Sooner you start, the sooner we can get on outta here!"  The rope had reached maximum tension as Applejack took her third step.  She would need Coloratura to start on the bridge before she could continue.  "It's not that bad, the wooden parts of the bridge are holding up quite nicely."  Just then, the plank Applejack's hoof was on snapped, and her front leg jolted through it.  A fraction of a second later, or what seemed like an eternity to her, she used her strength to pull her leg out and maintain balance.  Her muscles were now on high alert, attempting to gauge all the vibrations of the bridge to detect weakness in the structure like a spider on her carefully woven web.  "Whoa nelly!  Ah'm mean, see, easy as pie!"  Applejack gave her friend a fake smile to continue confidence building.

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Boulder Dash followed close behind the leaders of the race.  He kept his pace and made sure his breathing was regulated as he maintained the distance between himself and Applejack and Ra-Ra.  Soon the bubbling Brook was coming up, an strict obstacle if there ever was one.  Boulder Dash watched the as Taira and Pinkie Pie made a dash for the hill top and he nodded in approval as they ran up the hill side

 

As such he chose to follow the two, fearful that his weight would cause the bridge to break.  He decided to let the Mares take the bridge while he ran up the hill side and using his strong fast front hoofs he picked up his pace and soon he had caught up with Pinkie Pie and Taira. 

 

"A work out? Dis here is another day on the farm for me good sir!" he said as he reached neck and neck with Taira.

 

"Regardless of how this ends, I got hot freid green tomater sandwiches and cold Bloody Mary's at the finish line with yer name on it Taira.  But I'm not making it easy on ya" Boulder Dash said with a smirk on his face.

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SHE'S GONNA DO IT. SHE'S GOING TO JUMP. 

 

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This was supposed to be a regular race right? So why did it feel more like a fight for survival? She was not expecting this kind of weather, it was pouring with rain, and if she had to guess, the stream up ahead was going to be ferocious. She had been through this area a couple of times, while not exactly on this path, she did know that there was a stream going through it. It wouldn't really be fit to call it a stream in this weather. 

 

She stopped at a fork in the path. One path went up higher than the other. Her range wasn't sufficient enough to notice much further down. She noticed a pony go up the top path which told her that both options were viable. If she had to guess, the bottom one had a bridge and the top one... had a bridge also? Maybe. Perhaps it would be easier if she could have read the sign. She decided to take the top path, it was further away from the water and so she thought it might be safer. She didn't know which route was faster but she didn't really care. 

 

She was wrong, there was no other bridge up on this path. She could make out the other side, maybe there was supposed to be a bridge here? It didn't really matter because she knew she had the prowess to spring herself across the gap. She stepped back a couple of steps before dashing forward to leap herself across the gap. Of course, she may have misjudged it. She made it, just barely. Her front hooves made it and she had to take the moment to pull herself up. Yeah, maybe she should have done the bridge instead, would have been faster too, maybe. Well, that didn't matter anymore. "I'm okay, I'm okay. I think I'm okay," she said to no one in particular. Her adrenaline rush faded away. "Yeah, okay. Right yeah, I... I... Should keep going." Wait, was this a physical test or a mental test? 

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"A workout indeed!" She pulled her umbrella hat forward, taking what she assumed to be a challenge. Pinkie smirked as she ran forward, mud flying up behind her. 

 

"This just got serious." Her eyes narrowed as she focused on the kirin in front of her. His tail flagged out in his wake as he galloped forward with the wind at his heels! 

 

"Geez Lewis! We have some stiff competition here!" She could just barely see her gator still clinging onto the hindquarters of Taira, the coon right next to him! "Gummy! Don't tell me you're switching from my team!" 

 

She couldn't help a little giggle escaping her muzzle as she galloped on, doing her best to gain on the charging kirin. This was fun! This was actually super fun! It was dangerous yeah, and a tiny bit scary because of the sheeting rain and the mud, and maybe a little bit painful because her muscles where twanging their complaints at being burned in the gallop...but yep, overall it was fun!

 

As she continued on there was suddenly a blur beside her and then galloping past her. In the process a spray of mud and water shot up, coating the pink mare in debris. She paused and shook off like a dog before taking up the gallop again. When she was within range she heard the big stallion that had just charged up talking about fried green tomato sandwiches!

 

"Fried green tomato sandwiches!" She tiptoed a few beats beside Boulder and rubbed her tummy. "Those are my favorite! Well one of my favorites... there cake, and cookies, and pie, and ice cream, and of course cupcakes, those are the bestest best of course!" She rambled on, an odd feat for somepony who was galloping for all she was worth to keep up with the two big stallions. "But yeah fried green tomato sandwiches are good too!"

 

As the group of three pounded onward Pinkie's gaze shifted forward where she saw a reddish colored mare make her jump.

 

"Um guys?" She nodded towards the gap they would need to jump. "Almost time to- WHOOP!"

 

Pinkie slipped in a particularly muddy patch and started sliding towards the gap!

 

"Whoa noooooo!"

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Taira's age must have been catching up with him, he barely noticed the brick of a stallion gaining on him and Pinkie. He wasn't about to try and keep this one from feeling welcome though, "Hey there, Stranger! Nice of you to join us on the high road!" A friendly grin was all he could spare with the rest of his body still devoted to the task of running. Thanks to the heavy rainfall and the speed he was going, The kirin's fuzzy mane seemed to have been slicked down on his head. 

 

Boulder's accent was pretty thick, at least to a tourist like Taira. After the drenched sprinted realized what he meant he could hear his stomach growling beneath him, "Between the hat, the sandwiches and drinks I'm gonna have a treasure trove  the envy of dragons when I reach the finish line! I hope all that talk wasn't ta get my mind off the road and on my stomach, friend!" She shot the stallion a playful smirk as he built up speed to make that jump ahead! Eyes squinted up against the pouring rain battering his face and muzzle before he made a graceful leap across the gap! 

 

When he landed on the other end he had to stumble at the mud on the other side. This place was slick and hard to get a good grip on the land... he really wished he could go back to his paws, but a deal was a deal... even with a dirty (well a less than clean) dealer like Discord. When the bulky kirin finally regained his traction his ears perked as he heard a rather distressed sounding cry.

 

"Whoa noooooo!"

 

Taira whipped himself around and his jaw almost dropped as he saw his pink racing partner spinning around and heading straight for the gap! He had to think fast! In this weather and with the threat of a flood at the bottom of the way... well he figured keeping a pony from mortal injury was worth breaking the rules. The stallion's chest puffed out as he sucked in a deep breath through his nose, then blew a thick cloud of misty magic from his maw. Just as his new friend slipped off the edge she'd find herself cushioned on a cloud of magic and being levitated back up. The heavy rain was wearing away at the edges of his conjuration so he couldn't make the spell last long enough to help her across... so he carefully set her back on the other side and coughed a couple times. 

"You can do it, Pinkie-san! Gummy and I know you can!" The stallion blinked a moment, was he seeing double? There were two pink ponies on the other side of the gap now! Well, this pony had already produced a serenity inducing alligator, and a hat from nowhere... maybe she could self replicate too! Regardless, the smaller pink pony seemed troubled so he would wave to her as well, "You too! Just get a good running start and Jump! Don't think about it: Just go!"

 

 

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Ra-Ra found herself momentarily apprehensive. Not of the danger involved- she was certain that between Applejack, the other racers, and whatever safety measures existed downstream, she would survive and thrive. She didn't think she was in any deep trouble, no. But she was a little worried about ruining Applejack's chances at winning. The august mare had done so much for so many, yet what little Ra-Ra had known before their reunion told her that she had suffered greatly Ra-Ra didn't want to be the cause of her friend losing something else.

But Applejack was, as usual, her confident self and she encouraged Ra-Ra to head down the bridge. She did so with full knowledge that it was rickety and less than stable, but most likely going to sustain itself for a moment or two longer than needed. While no great bit of confidence, she allowed herself to operate with the belief that it would be enough. And so she took a few steps, a gentle trot on old wood, as Applejack allowed her confidence to stream out of her. It had an undesirable effect. Few ponies could match the voice control of Coloratura, and the nervousness and doubt that seemed to reside in her friend were not assuring.

Still, all seemed well enough until one of the wooden pieces broke. Applejack hadn't risked a fall into the water, but it definitely brought Ra-Ra's concerns more into the immediacy.
"Applejack-!" The musical mare cried out, though it was more of a strained whisper. "Are you sure you want to continue...?" She asked, looking around. Others had started to join. That grey stallion was coming up right behind them, as was the Griffoness. She was worried about her friend, but she was always worried about the slowly unfolding disaster that could happen if they were to be the first to fall on a collapsing bridge. Applejack could take care of herself and likely Ra-Ra, but with four ponies, could she really be so certain of their safety?

Applejack's eyes slowly started to widen, her smirk flattening. "I will explain in full detail how sure I am once we get to the other side. But right now you need to come on this here bridge so we can start moving across it." The stark contrast between not running and not moving was paramount for Applejack at this moment.

Ra-Ra was already walking towards her friend, even before she had been alarmed by Applejack's partial collapse of the bridge. It didn't help that being somepony who lived and died by voice control that she could tell just how much slowly rising worry was being concealed behind Applejack's strong core. She complied, keeping herself loose in the process. "Applejack, it would be a shame if I had to spend a lot of bits on getting this bridge fixed and not getting you some nice, golden horseshoes. Speaking of, you ever have told me if you wanted them..." she trailed off, allowing the pregnant pause to invite Applejack to a topic not as immediately concerning as the bridge.

Applejack heard her friend very clear. However, the orange mare's stubborn selective hearing would leave out the parts that didn't interest Applejack immediately. "Why would you have to spend money on the bridge? You know, just because you're a rich, famous," she took a step, "talented, resourceful pony who has a huge," Applejack wobbled as she spoke, "heart for charity, doesn't mean you gotta throw bits," she took another step, "at e'erything that needs fixin'."

She never could trap her friend into whether or not she wanted some golden horseshoes? At some point, she would take measurements. Things would get awkward but that was fine. She had dealt with enough fans that social interactions being weird seemed secondhoof. She followed Applejack hoof by hoof, even a little faster than her friend so they could remain close. "Bits going for a," she stepped over a gap, "worthy cause are better than bits being spent otherwise, are they not? Besides," she said, sidling up completely next to her friend, finally closing the distance gap entirely, "we've always been good at fixing things, haven't we?"

Seeing that the rope had slacked gave Applejack encouragement to go further. That is, encouragement that Coloratura was close behind and not because Applejack was terrified. Although, any self-respecting earth pony would not choose this situation most days. "You know as well as I do, hemptf" she lunged for the next plank, "that money doesn't solve everything." She took a short breather while her partner followed steps, and she noticed the rapids picking up water much more at the midpoint of the bridge. The water started annoyingly hitting Applejack in the face, causing her to look away from it, but she spoke in jest. "Remember that water slide at Camp Friendship?" She took a step. "Where fillies would ride down it into the lake?" Applejack checked the rope to make sure the water hadn't caused it to loosen. "You were always too scared to ride it, 'member? But you love standing on the deck at the bottom so that the water would splash you every time a boat came sliding down, heh." Applejack took a step and looked back, looked at Coloratura, but also noticed there was more bridge behind them than in front of them.

Ra-Ra laughed, though she told herself it was in no way related to worry once the water started to act more violently. She was never somepony who shied away from active water, that was true. But she had one key advantage that Applejack forgot. "Oh, I don't think I was scared to ride it, at least I don't remember being afraid of the ride itself," she said as a gout of water burst up and drenched her, her wet mane falling at the side. "I just remember a certain filly almost drowning the first time she used it because she hadn't learned to swim just yet," Ra-Ra allowed her words to trail for a second as she took stock of their position. It was good. Really good. But the water was getting violent and she could feel bits and pieces of the bridge starting to uproot. Anypony with a sense of self-preservation would be concerned, but she believed they would get past it fast. "If I remember, she had a blonde mane, some adorable freckles, and played a pretty decent guitar..."

Applejack chuckled at Ra-Ra's explanation. "Oh yeah, heh heh, I remember that gal." She took another step, this one more playful than those previous. "She also had one of the best friends, too. And if I remember right, she had a nice violet and blue curly mane, beautiful turquoise eyes, and the most pleasant singing voice I had ever heard!" Applejack paused again and looked at Coloratura, her mane wet as ever, but smiles fully cracked. "Those two ponies were the best of friends."

Kerplack!

Applejack's hindquarters fell through the bridge as a large piece of wood from it snapped and drifted downstream. She fell halfway through the bridge and halfway into the violent whitewater, as the water had almost matched the bridge's clearance. Her front hooves were grasping at the step she took previously.

Ra-Ra wasted not a moment and jumped next to her friend, weakening the bridge even further. She instinctively grabbed ahold of Applejack's front legs and pulled on them, trying to pull her ahead of the collapsed portion. She grunted with the effort but she was, in the end, an Earth pony and they all had reserves of strength, even the daintier ones. With one mighty heave she pulled Applejack up, clear of the water- and then she fell backward. Ra-Ra fell on her back with Applejack on top, the bridge underneath cracking under their combined weight.

Applejack took heavy breaths, for the purpose of instinctual preparation of being dragged underwater by the currents. As Coloratura used her strength to help Applejack, the bridge started to crackle in many places, and the apple pony took immediate notice. "We need to move, NOW!" She carefully helped Coloratura up from under her and jumped over the missing plank, caution be damned. "We're almost there, just jump the last step if you have to. This bridge is about to get washed, and I don't mean clean." She started briskly walking across the rest of the bridge, attempting to keep Ra-Ra at her heel instead of a few steps behind.

As she did so the bridge finally gave away. It became detached from the start and end, with a sudden surge dropping Ra-Ra to her knees- she got back up a moment later as one more plank gave away, leading her too get as close as possible to Applejack.

The Griffoness and the stallion she had been told to be concerned about were making good times themselves. Ra-Ra kept an eye on them always happy to see friendships seemingly forming out of the blue. Something was off about the stallion Applejack had called Discord. Was it a nickname to go along with a chaotic personality, or was he really some sort of spirit of chaos incarnate? She didn't know. But she did know that they were all stuck on this bridge together as it started to move downstream.

“Okay, now what?” She asked, remaining calm. At least they knew where they stood now!

OOC- The bridge shakes, shatters, and breaks for good, heading downstream slowly. It means nopony is gaining points, but there is still time to get to the other side of the riverbank before points are lost!
Riverhippo provided Applejack for this post.

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Applejack lowered her center of gravity, and leaned with Coloratura for stability as the bridge became an impromptu river raft.  As they headed downstream, the ponies would start to drift further and further from the race path, losing more and more time.  "We just need to jump it, Ra-Ra.  We're close enough to the river bank.  We just need to promise each other that if one of us doesn't make the jump, the other will use the rope to pull them in."  Before she could entertain the possibility that neither of them make it, Applejack counted down.  "One.  Two.  Three!"  Applejack heaved to the bank and pulled herself through the muddy grass.  She turned around to see Coloratura bracing the waves, the rope erect and tugging the mare's weight against Applejack's.  "Nope, not gonna happen."  Applejack grasps onto the rope and begins to pull as hard as she can, attempting to gain leverage on the slippery banks.  "I'm not letting no angry river take my friend away."  Slowly but surely, she pulled Coloratura closer to the bank until the musical mare could cling to the bank herself.  Once they were both safe, Applejack fell backwards and caught her breath for a few seconds.  "Two hundred, Ra-Ra."  Applejack got up, wiped the mud and excess water from her hat, and put it back on.  "Two hundred bits outta build us a new bridge."  Applejack smiled at her fillyfriend and started to trot, gained speed, and began running again.

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"Don't ya worry none now Miss. Pie, there will be plenty to go around" Boulder Dash said with a big grin.

 

Keeping pace with his Kirin running partner he built up his speed and his ran towards the jump point, as it came up he bent down and launched himself like a rocket towards the edge.  "YEEEEEEEEHHHHHHAAAAWWWWWW!" he shouted as he landed with a heavy thud on the other side if the ravine with Taira, the ground cracking under his bulk as he landed.  However his cry of joy turned to shock when he heard Pinkie Pie cry out and gasped as he saw her slide to the edge.

 

That turned to amazement as he watched Taira save Pinkie and he walked over with a grin on his face.  "Well butter ma backside on call me a biscuit!  Fancy trick there ya got" he said as he offered a hoof to Pinkie Pie helping her up.  

 

"We started together, so let's all finish together" he said with a a kind smile.

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Fire Walker let out a sigh. Typical. The path she had thought would be the least stressful, turned out to be an utter disaster. Not only did they have to deal with the crazy weather, the bad bridge, there was also Discord’s very horrible breath that tied to all into one very bad pickle they were in. Maybe Pinkie had a mint somewhere on her person. Still, Fire had one job and that was to make it through the path and over the river. She could do it! She was strong! She was well trained!
 
As the river drew nearer, she noticed more than a few ignored her warnings and tried their luck with the bridge. Some made it through, but others were not that lucky. Particular Applejack and her friend. She knew the farmer had experienced far riskier tasks, so it was easy to assume she was trying her very best to help the other mare. The Pegasus would have stopped and tried her best to help the pair, but it was already too late. She was nearly upon the ridges of the river and it was time to leap!
 
With an satisfying THUD, the mare found herself at the other side of the river. She was safe, and from the looks of it, so where the others, including the farmer and Coloratura. After she paused to make sure nopony was injured, the officer started back into a run. The next path was what she believed to be a campground....
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Ra-Ra found herself incapable of helping herself up and out of the raging tumult- well that was a gross exaggeration but song lyrics sometimes owed themselves so such hyperbole- that surrounded the bridge. It had moved just enough to make less than confident of her own ability, and the hooving for any jump seemed unstable at best and flat-out broken or dangerous at worst. Luckily she was not in this alone, not committing to anything without aid. And once again, as it had been and always seemingly would be when she was lost amidst the tides of life, it would be Applejack would save her. If not from herself, then from a more agreeably direct threat.

She was set to jump but the athletic mare did it first. Ra-Ra's back hooves hesitated as Applejack's body brushed against Ra-Ra's, and this caused her jump to fail completely. In a flash she was in the water, bubbling and gurgling in the bracing waters that had caught the bridge so easily. She tugged on the rope underwater and Applejack turned around and saw her friend struggling. Applejack pulled and Ra-Ra swam until she was on the shore, and then pulled herself up and out of it. The entire debacle only took a few moments but it was a few moments of less than pleasurable experiences. She wanted to tell Applejack that she had a role to play in the failure of the jump but just as quickly as that thought came it was banished. She had made a mistake but compared to what she had done already? It was a drop in the bucket. “Is that...” she hacked up some water, “two hundred bits for a bridge like this or for a better one?” She shook her head with a smirk, pushing her mane off to the side as she turned around, getting the rope off in the process.

“You go, Applejack. I want to make sure these two get off safely!” She said, pointing to the griffoness and the gray stallion.

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While Squall's action right at the start of the race placed him in the lead, noblepony had the unpleasantness finding out that the weather itself had stymied his efforts.

"This will be problematic..." stallion mused as he found himself at the crossroads. While the bridge would be an obvious passage, it was obvious for Squall that it saw it's last maintenance check long ago.

 

So Swift....stopped.

From swordpony perspective it brought the threefold benefit. First, it will allow him to maintain, and perhaps even regain some of his stamina. While otherponies might doubt the sense of such action so early in the race, it never really hurt to do so. Second it will allow him to forecast how the weather will change. The crossing was but a temporary obstacle, a runaway storm may very well trouble him from the rest of the day - it would be wise to see if it would be the case. And finally third, the little stop would be an opportunity to study his opponents. His Love, Miss Applejack and Ice Storm were already familiar to him, but gaining profile on other could provide him with advantages that were not obvious at first.

 

So Squall stood and watched, while making a mental notes.

There was a quilin from the faraway Neighpon. Perhaps Swift, being more familiar with foreign wondewr then most could recognize that something was off about this stallion....If he wasn't so dumbfounded by seeing quilin being ridden by a small...alligator?! And a raccoon?!

"The %^$#?!" Squall expressed his astonishment in a rather inelegant way. However, right then a sudden realization crashed into his mind. Raccoon? This couldn't mean..

"Oh for the love of..." Swift muttered under his breath as he squinted his eyes and scanned through the runners. Ah there he was. A form that was a little younger then the one he took during their first meeting and he rid himself of that gave-away goatee but it was still recognizable enough. Trying to predict Discord was an exercise in futility. Then again, as long as he will be playing fair, beating him in the race was not an impossibility. Then again, it was hard to say what exactly Discord considered normal.

"Hi Gramps." he greeted the spirit of chaos as he ran past him, letting him know that he knew, but still being enigmatic enough for other racers to be oblivious.

 

Next was...pop-singer? Ex-pop singer? Squall wasn't sure. Either way, noblepony recalled that for world at large she was known as Countness Coloratura. This was a stage name of course. Being a noble himself he knew all noble houses across the land. This however was an advantage for her - at least in context of this race. Using a crafted identity for so long, meant that that noblepony couldn't get a good read on her aside from 'friend of Applejack'.

 

Next was a lean griffoness. Half falcon, half cheetah. Hmm challenging trying to best her in speed would be a stupid idea. However neither raptor nor the feline halves that made her were known for stamina. The best tactics would be outlast and then overtake her, after strength reserves fail.

 

And speaking of strength reserves.....

There was coming the stallion that grind the rock that were blocking the road earlier into dust. He seemed to be a stark opposite to the agile griffin female. With a frame large and powerful like this  he could be going for days and days. At the same time however it wouldn't allow him to reach speed beyond the certain threshold. Also this gait of his...Was he a seafaring pony? Great, like Swift had to be reminded of his pirate-hunting days right now of all times.

 

Setting all the ARRR's aside, and continuing with endurance theme - the pink mare that was clearly nopony other then Miss Pinkie Pie. And also perpetuum mobile in equine form apparently. Another pony that Swift had to give up in outlasting.

"Distract. Distract. DISTRACT. DISTRACT!" a panicked flashed through unicorns mind upon seeing her in action, in noblestallion mind this being the only way to best the inexhaustible mare.

 

Oh and there also seemed to be a blind teenage mare in the race, judging from how cloudy her eyes appeared.

Wait.

A blind mare. In a race. One the quickly was turning into obstacle course.

"The double %^$#?!" Swift dropped the another cuss-bomb, after both the stoicism and sarcasm failed him once again at the same time.

 

Perhaps extinguishing those reserves  was the reason for noblepony's minuscule reaction when witnessing the collapse of the bridge. After seeing it being whisked away along with Miss Applejack, Coloratura, Discord and Hawke his next remark was turned towards himself.

"<Sigh> Let it go Squall. You have a race to participate." he said, while also making a mental not to drop a donation for the bridge rebuilding

. Seeing that circumstances made the choice for him, Swift turned towards the higher path - now the only available way forward.

Swift speed up, gaining enough momentum, and before leaping from the very edge f the cliff, in what could only be described as quintuple somersault.

 

So far so good, but right now Swift focused on catching up to Fire Walker. Who knew what problems would await them next?

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Pinkie's heart raced as she slipped over the edge with a squelch of muddy mess. Her hooves waved frantically in the air as her decent started to pick up speed.

 

"EEEeeeek!" This was not what she had planed at all! In fact, this wasn't fun at all! 

 

Then a misty magic surrounded her and her fall halted.

 

"Oh wow!" She began to rise back up to the edge of the chasm. Giggles began to escape her.

 

"He he heeeee!" She glanced back towards her kirin friend. The mist was receding towards him and since it matched the color of his cutie mark which was barely visible through the mud he had kicked up, she figured it was him that had saved her!

 

"That was so fun!" She waved to him, a gratefulness welling in her heart. "Thank you so much for saving me Taira-san!" He had even thought through depositing her on the leading edge of the ravine so she could make the jump herself! She certainly didn't want to be disqualified for using magic to move her forward. That tumble could have really hurt her, so saving her from that was worth it no matter what!

 

"You can do it, Pinkie-san! Gummy and I know you can!" 

 

She grinned broadly at him. "You bet I can!"

 

She trotted forward and took one of her signature bounces over the chasm, clearing it with lots of room to spare. She landed with a splash that ended on her backside on the far side of the ravine with Boulder and the reddish mare she hadn't met.

 

"Whew! That was a close one earlier!" She wiped the water that was accumulating on her brow off like it was sweat. Reaching up she took Boulder's hoof. 

 

"We better get going! This rain is really raining on our parade!" She started to canter away happy to have such a good friend so quickly in Taira, and glad to have met Boulder!

 

"Hey there! I'm Pinkie Pie!" She offered a greeting and muddy smile to Loose Cannon. "Some race huh?"

 

Once Taira was near her she narrowed her eyes at Gummy. "So, you think it's safer over there do ya?" Gummy stared blankly at her.

 

"Can't say I blame you!" More Pinkie laughter erupted as she picked up a gallop! "Try to keep up Taira! I gotta keep my eye on that gator!"

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Applejack nodded as she ran away from her survival partner.  It was true that she felt a little guilty on leaving the river before making sure everypony was alright.  But seeing as how one of them was actually a spirit of chaos, Applejack figured the grey stallion was probably operating within the element in which he best performs.  Everything would be fine.  And Ra-Ra could use a breather, too.

 

As for Applejack, she was just fine continuing to run at a quick pace, pounding the ground to help the leaves fall.  Approaching on the path, she met up next to Fire Walker who for the moment was by herself.  As they ran along side each other, the two paths that split across the river rejoined into one path as it continued towards the glade.  "How did you make it across?"  She huffed in between her jogging pants.  "You'd think they would build that bridge properly at some point.  Seems every year there is a major issue with something along the race path."  Applejack very shortly recollected past year miseries involving a friendly community race turned near-death survival experience.  "I can't remember if you had run in the past.  Is this yer first year running the leaves, Officer?"

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Once Pinkie pie got back on to solid ground, Taira's misty dissipated into nothing. The buff kirin wiped his brow, slinging away drops of rainwater of perspiration, "That was close..." His smile resumed as the pink pony managed to clear the gap in an impressively bouncy manner that got a chuckle out of the old stallion. He turned to Boulderdash, "I don't think I'll be able to butter anything in this weather, Friend! As for the spell? It's nothin' all that special, Functional and versatile but it's one of the only spells I can do!" Something stopped Taira before he could resume his run: The filly on the other side of the gap. She'd still not jumped yet! 

 

"Just a moment, Pinkie-san! You and our better built friend here can have a head start: I'm feeling generous." The grey maned kirin would wink her way, "Besides, He'll be even better cover from the rain!"

"Don't worry! It's shorter than it looks on your end!" With the pouring rain around them he had to wonder if he could even be heard. In case he couldn't he would exhale a couple wisps of mist. The clouds shaping into the image of a small pony and two lines. In a swift bound the little filly shaped cloud of mist would leap across the way and soon dissipate away, Taira smiling and waving the mare over.

 

Once Loose Cannon made her leap, Taira would run on ahead, but not too far in case another pony might suffer an unfortunate skid.

 

With the race resuming its pace, Taira would gallop along with gusto. Every few steps in his gallop he would glance back to make sure Gummy and the bandit (That was his name while he was on Tai's back!) were still mellow and holding tight. Soon he caught up with Pinkie Pie, the eccentric earth pony conversing with his passengers again before addressing him!

 

"Try to keep up Taira! I gotta keep my eye on that gator!"

 

"I hope you can keep your eyes on him -and- the road this time! Don't want you taking another spill!"

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Pinkie's hooves pounded the ground, sending leaves flying. The rain continued to sheet down but she thought she could just  barely see a break in the storm up ahead.

 

"Yep! You're right there Taira!" She focused on the path in front of her. It was a bit hard to make out because of the mud and rain.

 

"I hope this rain ends soon! I think I see the end of the storm up ahead...maybe!"

 

It may have been a break in the storm or it might have just been a spot the pegasus weather ponies had forgotten to fill in. Either way sunlight lanced down, lighting the path ahead and producing a spectacular rainbow!

 

"Wow! That's pretty amazing!" She bounded forward as rain pelted all around her. "No telling what's gonna come our way next!"

 

The pink pony's heart soared with every step she took. She had already made two new friends on this adventure! No telling how many more were to come!

 

 

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