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Tides Change (OPEN for E.P.I.C)

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It's been a while since Swift Squall was in the Castle of Friendship. Various commitment and obligations always got in the way fro another visit, preventing Squall from dropping to say 'Hi' to his Sweetheart or asking the Princess Sparkle for opinion on some important matters.

 

Unfortunately, his presence here this evening was once again dictated by duty. There was something made Swift spent his nights sleepless lately, and for the welfare of Equestria and beyond it had to be addressed....

 

"Sorry to drop by so unexpectedly Dear....." Swift apologized to his fiancee while they stood in the Castle's main hall - now illuminated by the pale light of the moon. Princess Sparkle was away right now. For how long? Who knows? It didn't wasn't really relevant right now - especially seeing that he had to exchange words with her as well, regarding the same issue.

"I just felt.....that this place is more secure then most. And Saraneighvo....Well, Saraneighvo isn't really an option, is it?" he said, almost sounding apologetic to the crimson pegasus.

 

"......I am not sure who else will come. I tried to reach out to however many I could yet....." he paused for a moment, before taking a deep breath. Noblepony turned around and gazed at the Fire.

"....You agree with me, do you? At least on the part that the current course can't continue?" he asked, almost hesitant.

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It had been a rather long day for Captain Fire Walker of the Twilight Guard. The red Pegasus pony started off the day by hosting an ‘W.O.F.T’ meeting with concerned citizens of Ponyville. This stood for ‘Watching Out For Trouble’. It was not an official name yet as she was still trying to think up something cute and clever. The good officer taught the small group on how to look out for signs of danger and what to do when one encounters something suspicious. This –did- not involve, screaming, panicking and then fainting. After that, she spent a good hour training and sparring with some of her fellow ‘Guard’.
 
After a quick shower and lunch, she lead two separate school tours through the public sections of the castle. This was fun, but she still needed something to ‘spice’ up the tour as it could be somewhat dry. Maybe she could seek help from one of Twilight’s friends. Pinkie would probably make it crazy. Maybe Miss Dash. She knew how to put on a good show.
 
Once the tour was over, the young officer spent the rest of her duty walking the castle, and making sure things were in their place. Princess Twilight always knew when something was not right. Be it a candelabra that was not perfectly centered, or a magazine in the public bathroom that was out of date. The purple gal would simply enter the castle and know something was ‘off.’.
 
Once this was taken care of and the public entrance was locked, it was now all ‘Fire Walker’ time. She had an oversized tub that was calling for her. There, she would sit in the hot, bubbly water and enjoy a glass or two of her favorite red wine, Bon Marché! After that, she would curl up in her bedroom and hopefully finish off the novel she had been working on for the last few months. This was the life!
 
The surprise visit from her fiancé only made things better for the mare. "Swifty.", she cooed, "I'm never sorry to see you coming...I'm only sad when you're leaving." The tub was big enough for two! Unfortunately, the noble-pony was not there for a social visit.
 
He apparently was having a meeting. This must have been a last minute thing, as Swift knew he needed to contact the castle at least one week ahead of time if he needed to use the meeting room. And it needed to be when the castle was open to the public. "Not getting your meaning...Could you please tell me what 'course' you are talking about.", she glanced over at a regal looking bench as she needed to get off her hooves. "Let's sit and talk. And you can fill me in."
 
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"This is what I am talking about." Squall answered, tapping with his hoof the recognizable, stylized 'E' brooch attached to collar of his duster.

 

"....I....Alright, let's." noblepony agreed. They sat on the bench for a minute in silence before Swift gathered his thoughts enough to open up.

 

"......Moto, I know you been part of this only for the short time. But we both know what EPIC is all about...what it's supposed to be about. And how much effort and pain we endured to make it work. And....and I guess how important it is for me to be part of something that leaves an impact." he admitted.

"When it started we had to be apart for so long that.....I just don' all of this to be for nothing. And if things will continue as they are, they apparently will." unicorn mused pessimistically.

He just sat there, quite for a few seconds with downcast head. But suddenly the unicorn stood up, and Fire could see a spark in his eyes.

"I refuse to lay down and let it happen. When we gathered for the first time in Saraneighvo, all of us did so with a sense of duty and honest wish to make a world a little better place to be. And we didn't finished. WRAITH may be laying low, but they are still out there. I don't know if others thought it was over, got dejected or forgot, but I care. And I will remind every other pony and nopony who swore that oath why they should care too. Personally if I have to." Swift said before pausing.

 

"I am not blind or stupid thought. There are problems and issues that got in the way, both on personal and wider level. Problems and issues that need to be addressed." swordstallion pointed out. before he begun recalling the few problems he mentioned.

"Spring's trying to get herself together after falling out with Cedar. Night Watcher has self confidence issues. Pathfinder is still immature and rash as ever. Ice holed herself in Las Pegasus and barely leaves. Rose has trouble with expressing herself, Deadalus keeps making himself as untrustworthy as possible and Dunder....Dunnie....she still refuses to her own mistakes. And I......I...." Fire could see Squall's shoulder slump upon terrible self-realization.

".....I could help them....any of them but didn't. Because 'duty' or 'obligations' done in the name of greater good...." unicorn whispered as he sat back on the bench.

 

"......I said I called a meeting but I am not sure if anypony will come. And who came blame them? They are busy with enough with their problems" he added, completely dejected.

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Pathfinder always found herself on one adventure or another, doing something or the other but always finding it a  great reward for her time. When the equation was imbalanced the answer was a foregone conclusion, and the algebriac involved was biased in her favor. Spelunking in a cave was not as fun as fighting off hordes of skypirates or looking for Maredrid, but it was not a bad way to spend a tuesday. And after all of the time she had been with Snowfall getting work done in that area she was happy to say she locked, stocked, ready to roll, broil, boil, toil, rock, sock, chalk, and never balk when it came to answering EPIC'S call.

 

It wasn't as hard to get to her as it used to be. Since her marriage to Snowfall she had a place where close friends and colleagues could reach her and when word reached Snowy of some sort of meeting to be held in Ponyville, Pathfinder knew what was what. It had to be EPIC! She packed her stuff- well she didn't pack anything, she had many go-bags ready- and charged on out. The flight over the forests and mountains and the beautiful lakes had been relaxing. Relaxing was boring. Equestria was so much safer now! All the mystery was dying off, cave by cave, tree by tree. Pathfinder was still a young mare but was finding Equestria defying her in her search for something cool and fun.

 

No matter, though. She was here to answer the call. As she flew into town she knew exactly where the meeting would be held and made a beeline for the castle. For all the worth of her friends in the organization she had always felt like an outcast among them, if she was being totally honest with herself. She reckoned she did more to keep Equestria safe and push out the dark than any other individual here yet all they did was look at her with a mixture of scorn and disdain. It would be enough to make her downtrodden if the possibility existed of such an emotion existed within her, but it didn't. She couldn't help that she loved what she did while they all seemed to treat it like an obligation. They were silly and she was the one in the right, of this she was sure!

 

Without hesitation she flew around the castle, looking for an open window. She found egress and then just flew around checking for unlocked doors that led into hallways that led her around until she heard the sound of voices. Familiar ones at that. Without betraying her speed a moment longer, she made her appearance in front of them.
"Hey hey hey hey hey hey you two crazy kids!" She said as she came in for a landing, eyes bright and wide. "Excited to see you! I thought you two would be too busy making foals to adventure any more but I guess not. Snowfall wants tons of foals but I'm like, 'pssh not now gotta go fast and adventure' and she's all like, 'but your femur is still fractured', and I'm all like, 'who needs femurs when you've got wings, silly!' Ahhh, I love that mare but sometimes they can be a bit much. Know what I'm saying, Swifty?" She said while giving him a playful knock on the shoulder as she winked at Fire Walker. "So, how goes guarding Princess Thunderbooks? Stop any magical assassin lately?"

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“Swifty.”, the red Pegasus pony scooted up next to the stallion and leaned into him...just slightly. “You’ve done plenty of things that have left an impact.”, she assured the noble-pony. “There’s your businesses'  that effect creatures from all over, along with your charities that continue to do good...That’s more than most can say they’ve done.”, she paused to listen to what Swift had to say.
 
“I wonder if this ‘Wraith’ simply just broke up...Those involved probably realized there was nothing to gain in hurting others..Or causing disturbances....And they all did some growing up....Either that.”, The officer smirked, “After causing their last round of mischief, maybe someone decided to take them out one by one....When they were at their weakest point...Maybe a few bounties were put up...And even their former teammates took the bait, only to be in turn betrayed by another.”
 
Fire Walker nodded her head as Swift spoke of the others in his group. Pathfinder! That was a name she had not heard from in ages. The mare was more than capable...Brave...Tough...Clever...But there was this whole ‘Daring Do’ disguise. Maybe she was incapable of such feats as her real self....Whoever that was...Her favorite stallion did the same...Only in very small doses. He would throw on a costume that concealed his identity along with a silly name to give himself. 

There was also her Dunders...What was going on with him? He was another pony capable of greatness....Nearly everything he could do was better than most, but the fuzzy brown stallion seemed to have rather poor self-esteem....Along with this ‘Dunnie’ thing.  Fire had hoped they could continue with their yearly tradition....Gather up the gang and hit Muggo’s for a night...His family always decorated the pub for Hearth’s Warning Eve...And they had the best ‘nog.
 
“Well, it’s an odd time to set up a meeting....I was about to crawl out of this uniform and into an tub....”, before she could continue, entered..
 
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And this time through a window. Thankfully it was an open one.
 
The mare turned a slightly darker shade of red after the mention of children. “Kids are a future plan....”, she added, “We still have a few things before that...Marriage....Getting the whole ‘Twilight’' Guard’ thing situated...And Swift and I still have not found the right dog. And then maybe which one of the chairs we really like in the living room.”
 
 
She smiled at the well dressed mare, “No assassins that I can think of....”, she pondered the latest bits of Ponyville excitement...”We did have a child that nearly destroyed all magic....Which I’m still trying to figure out...” that was probably not  their finest moment. “We need to invent an device that warns ponies that magic is about to poof away, so those who are flying can find a safe spot to land....Thankfully the magic in my armor lasted a little longer and protected me from needing to wear a full flank-cast after I fell....The previous time this happened, I had a nice Wonderbolt to land on. Poor guy.”
 
 
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"I did, but not as much as pony with my resources should....." Squall said. "And even that came at the expense of my friends and teammates. How can I claim that I helped the Equestria if I can't aid them?" unicon asked. ".....Perhaps I should enroll that school your boss moonlights as a Principal off." he whispered.

 

"....I wouldn't count on either of those possibilities. And even if they did, there is still a matter of answering for their prior deeds." Squall pointed out. He remembered very well what was on the hooves of WRAITH members, an being nowhere as forgiving as Fire was, Swift was driven to bring just retribution to them.

"And calling anything they did a mischief is vastly underplaying their crimes. While I agree that spawning more than a few avenger's is more then likely...if we couldn't root them out, what hope a lone vindicator has? Besides, by now I believe we would find at least two or three bodies if that was a case." he lampshaded, perhaps a wee bit too cynically

 

Squall nodded when Fire mentioned a poor timing for this gathering.

"Indeed. This way I could find out who still care enough. To coma at such unusual time and place would...." he explained, ending his statement with meaningful pause.

 

The stallion was so self-absorbed in his brooding that he barely registered the new arrival.

"We are older then you." he reminded the brown pegasus. "Also, what Fire said.  Not for the lack of trying mind you. I am looking forward towards four or mo-....PATHFINDER?!" noblepony literally fell from the bench when the realization who he was talking to finally kicked in.

 

"...Errr....I-I mean l-long time no see." he said, trying to salvage his image while he was gathering himself from the floor. "Say hi to Snowfall from me when you get back alright? Also, ask about that new shipyard she's building, if you can."

 

When Fire mentioned a lack of potential hit ponies lately, Swift bumbling despite himself....

"Two...." he spke under his breath. When the two mare looked at him he added, almost apologetically.  "It was a slow week, okay? And one wasn't even 'magical', just from Neighpon"

 

Fire also mentioned the recent lack of magic. Squall nodded in agreement, even if he couldn't comment on this from experience....

"It was just like Tirek rampage from what I heard. Although what he did had to be local. I was in Saddle Arabia when he did that, and I didn't noticed anything odd. This one on the other hoof....I literally slept through it." swordpony admitted with a shrug.

 

Feeling that most of the awkwardness was dispelled, Swift refocused his attention on Pathfinder. Her presence was...a start. Not the first pony he would pick, but a start nonetheless. And if there was one thing Swift was good at, it was being prepared. He slowly reached into his duster pockets to produce the package.

"Here." he said said to hyperactive pegasus while levitating the gift. "Just don't ask me how I got it month earlier. I have connections, and I am ugly rich." Swift mumbled, while doing everything to avoid eye contact with the brown mare. He really owned Foxglove for this one.

 

The shape, the smell of the ink and fresh paper......could it be?

Well, of course it was. Count Squallcoast knew from experience that some addictions could not be cured - only fed.

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oOOoooooOOOOOOooooooOOOOOhhhhhhhh she made the captain blush at the mention of kids! See, Pathfinder knew that beyond the armor and the bravery was a cute little thing wanting little colts and fillies like any other mare would. Look at the blush! It was super true. Swifty sure seemed to have his mind on it, didn't he? Not for lack of trying? Well, sometimes the locomotive didn't work right and it fell off the tracks and blew up. Hopefully that didn't mean there was anything wrong between them, especially when he wanted like four or a hundred of them. She wasn't sure if he had the patience for it. Foals could be very hoovesy and liked to touch things. She eventually had to kick out all foals from her club meetings because they kept touching her stuff. It had proven a bad choice since for no real reason soon everypony else had left! Oh well. Just more for her to play with. Besides, foals didn't make great adventure partners. Too fragile. "I guess I can get wanting to wait. Gotta make sure you get all your fun years out of you before you become tied down by a dozen foals!" Pathfinder smiled. She just liked that everypony was finally maturing.

 

Meant she was gonna have more opportunities for business!


Speaking of, he mentioned two assassins. He was braggart by nature so she didn't take it at face value entirely, but she was a mare given to the allowance of certain amounts of bragging so she'd allow it. The whole magical incident had been pretty cool, to boot. "That was what happened? Pretty cool stuff, Fire. I was in the Great Leota when I couldn't fly anymore. I fell down ruined fortress and into some scalding water, broke my leg and all that. I still got through it though. Turned out somepony else had already collected the ring of destiny from the fortress of Talacon, but I was just excited that to be in the middle of one of my favorite stories. A little filly though, really? What's the next threat to Equestria going to be, an overly inquisitive snapping turtle?" She laughed as she hovered around them, imitating a snapping turtle snapping as she did so. She had a lot of energy to get out, and luckily the subject moved onto something much cooler.

 

Like whatever this gift was. Like a foal on Hearthswarming Day she grabbed it and opened it in a flash. Was it...? It was, yay! "DARING DO AND THE BEAST FROM BEYOND!" She leapt into Swifty's safe space and gave him a big hug, nearly squeezing him out of his eyes. She then twirled him around while flying, also kissing him. "Thank you thank you thank you thank you!" She said before dropping to the floor and release him, zooming around the room and kicking all her limbs akimbo. It was only pure luck that she didn't knock stuff over as she came to a stop and tried to reset her brain towards other topics. Less exciting as they were, she still had loads to offer ob them.

 

WRAITH and other enemies of EPIC, specifically those topics. Pathfinder had done her job. While most of the others had so-called lives that pulled them away from adventure and investigation, Pathfinder until recently hadn't had any. That gave her a lot of time to look into things. She settled on the floor, back on the cold surface as she read the book and tapped her back hooves excitedly as she spoke. "Well, WRAITH wasn't a very cohesive group anyway, right? Core group, then a lot of mercs and henchmen followed by some tough hombres like Sachy Wachy and the Red Jarl. Sachadara is a psychopath but is loyal to her queen and her queen is troubled, so she's quiet. The Red Jarl didn't care about anything WRAITH cared about in the first place, total means to an end sorta dealio. Sombra? Rumors about him. I think I found at least one place he's been to but he doesn't seem concerned about his previous plans. Revenant? Missing. The last time I saw any of their goons after the little Neighponese incident was Hesperia a few months back and they seemed desperate for work. Durango Black was working as a frontstallion for them but all I got outta him before I was being chased away was that they were behind on their payments, and he was gonna be taking them as compensation."

 

She flipped a page.

 

"If I had to guess? They're international. Moving away from having ambitions on Equestria, at least for now because of their consistent failure. Part of that means there is gonna be some sort of internal strife. I've taken apart enough cults and organizations to know what thats like! There is gonna be a major dilution in their talent and scope of operations. They could be evolving from a super cool enemy to a lame criminal organization. Doesn't mean they're still not dangerous of course, but I'm not losing sleep over them. Heck, the Razorclaw tortures haunt me a whole heck of a lot more than what WRAITH did!" She said with a light chuckle, reading her amazing book gift as she dirtied the floor of the castle visibly, the dust and debris of the outside world caked on her coming off and forming a very light dirt angel.

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The red mare let out a sigh, “I have my doubts as there are more misers out there that continue to stay rich mostly by sitting on their bits, but I’m not here to argue with you...” She was here to get her flank down the hall and into his chamber’s private bath. But that could wait. “You want to fix a few things and help a few friends...We’ll just need to talk about it....See the problem....Find the solution...And then apply the solution.”  She wished Miss Starlight Glimmer was about. She was the nearby school's guidance counselor and a real smart cookie. She was a good deal more kind and understanding than the Captain could ever be. It wasn't that long ago with a rather pesky, heavyweight dragon barged into the castle and started getting his dirty claws on EVERYTHING. Even interrupted the pink unicorn during her bath and TOSSED the mare out of the castle, still in the tub! Yikes! Thankfully Glimmer was able to use her magic to keep both the tub and herself from being smashed into pieces. And she still kept her cool. Fire Walker would have taken her glaive to the scaly pest. Guest or not. He was not going anywhere near her stuff!
 
"You're probably a little too old for the school." It was basically a high school with the added bonus of FRIENDSHIP. And it had probably the most diverse student body anywhere. Dragons. Griffons. Ponies. Changelings. And even a Yak.. All in one school. "Not sure if they gave a night-school for adults. Would make sense. But I'm sure you already got what you needed.", she pointed at his fuzzy ol' head. What they needed was a hot tub! Nothing like sitting in a vat of steamy bubbles while enjoying an adult beverage or two. Well, Swift would probably get a soda. Or juice. What would Pathfinder drink? How about the drink only adventurers drink! The Kungaloosh! Just need vodka, rum, melon liqueur, pineapple and cranberry juice and wala! You're ready for adventure!
 
"Well, he was using the kid...I think....", she had heard BITS of the story. "And somehow he used her to stop magic.....For short moment, but I was getting a few things done early in the morning and boom!", she waved her front hooves about, "Magic was gone and I was falling....I bounced off a few branches, hit a bush and landed rather awkwardly in somepony's backyard. Thankfully nothing was broken...And once the magic restore and I was checked out by the local doctor..I spent the rest of the day at the La-Ti-Da Spa...Just soaking....And letting the pain float away."
 
"Ha!", the Pegasus snorted, "I see maybe one....two kids tops...", since girls were perfect, she would want two of them, but EVERY dad wanted a colt to chase around and do 'dad stuff'.....So it would be one of each. Maybe twins. "I have nine siblings, so there's no way I'm going through that again...Or put my poor kids through that as well." She glanced at the mare. Was her coat light cold like Daring Do? Or was it dyed? Would it be odd to simply be born to look just like your eventual fictional role-model?  Maybe Pathfinder's true talents were like her name. She would find the path and solution for any problem?
 
Fire listened patiently to the adventure's story. Sounded like a Daring Doo adventure. Even with the need to keep her heroin from being able to fly. Why didn't A.K simply make her character into an earth pony? Would solve the need to keep the brave pony from simply flying over a death-trap or foe. "Those snappy turtles can be mean....My father got snapped on the flank many years ago during our little canoe trip at Flabanabba Park....Was just a filly and I learned all kinds of new words that day.", the mare added with a smirk. "If we're going to be fixing problems, I'm going to need a drink...Something strong....Anything you two want? Along with the usual, we do have sodas and tea....", she glanced at the Doo-Clone. "If you want something crazy, just ask..."
 
Fire Walker also needed to get out of her armor!
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"Unfortunately, as proven time and time again, I am talking too much." Swift replied, remembering all the times his big mouth only inflamed the situation.

"I...didn't had friends until I moved to Fillydelphia. Even now I don't know what to say."

 

"I probably am." Swift agreed when Fire mentioned  that he was way beyond high school hi-jinks age-wise. "Perhaps Sparkle should think about working out university level curriculum."

 

"Wrong." noblepony objected, hearing his fiancee getting the details wrong. "The kid used Him, putting into practice what she learned from correspondence with the centaur." he explained =although Swift chose to omit from where he got all that information. Seeing the clear surprise on both mare's faces he felt compelled to add "Monster's come in all shapes and sizes." Squall pointed out, solemnly.

 

 

Pathfinder reaction was kind of expected. She was very predictable in her fangirlismm so it was no surprise tha...

"GACK!" Squall squeaked when hyperactive pegasus snatched him in bear-like embrace. "A-Air...." he managed to gasp while she flew around with him in tow. Thankfuly after a few moments Pathfinder released the noblepony, being too excited to maintain her grip.

".....Gahhhh.....you seriously making me reconsider any future potential presents." Squall muttered massaging his neck, while Pathfinder kept bouncing around the room.

 

Swift got quite irritated when Fire didn't agreed on the number of their potential scions. The stallion could only roll his eyes before he reminded his fiancee.

"Dear, I am the last Squallcoast. And let me tell you, holding that burden can be....lonely. Not to mention my social class is pretty.....spoiled. If we were to improve it, we have to add to it. And besides...." he added with a smirk "It's not You who will have to 'Go through that again' , is it? Besides, I am rich. It's hardly the same." noblepony pointed out.

 

"Turtles....ummm    turtles are...errr..." Swift slurred as he tried to wrap his head around the fact how sound Pathfinder suddenly got.

When exactly did she started to do logic?! Was that a result of receiving her 'fix'? Questions for later.

 

"A....Anyway....What are you saying is very plausible Pathfinder...." he started, his expression getting more steely with each moment as he walked towards the adventurous pegasus.

"But it change anything. Split or not, intentional or not, we came together and swore to stop them. To punish them for their crimes. How many did they hurt? Crystal Empire, Askr...denizens of those are just the top of the list and they all cry out for justice! This isn't just about me, you or anypony else Pathfinder. I saw what atrocities they were capable off, and so did you!

Are you saying you ready to stop just because you....bored? To turn you gaze away and wash your hooves? Do? You?" Swift asked. his voice was quite , bud demanding the answer.

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Spoiler

Note to self: Give Rose new artwork.

 

E.P.I.C. 

 

That was an acronym Rose hadn't heard from in a long time. Since she'd resumed her studies and befriended Blueblood, it honestly seemed as though things had calmed down immensely. Then she got the most curious summons to the castle in Ponyville by none other than a fellow member of the E.P.I.C. Organization. It must have been important if they went through all the trouble of contacting her. Probably something desperate since Rose was basically a fairly strong civilian unicorn with a useful set of skills and not a trained warrior or guard of the royal variety. 

 

When Rose finally made it all the way to the castle she found herself lost in the corridors for a while. If she hadn't heard the sound of familiar voices she might have just resorted to trying to tunnel her way through walls of crystal to find her way out then hoping the princess would be lenient later. She recognized Squall's voice and that of Fire walkers. "Um... Hello?" She asked in her usual listless tone, "I got the notification and... wanted to help."

 

 

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Why were they talking about turtles? She didn't mind turtles. They sometimes had spikes on their shells and flew around trying to getcha with them. But her mind raced as she tried to understand why they were talking about turtles. Turtles. Why turtles? It dawned on her slowly as she listened to them talk about how many foals they were gonna have. She didn't need to think on that one. She knew the number was between zero and a hundred, no plan needed. As long as she could adventure Pathfinder was happy! But turtles- for some reason when she had said the Razorclaw tortures they had heard the Razorclaw turtles? Ahhh. That made...sense, she guessed? It didn't but hey, ears were ears. "Oh, I didn't say turtles. I said tortures, as in whips and chains and very not kinky things, including wing-muscle destroying chemicals. I wish they had turtles instead, turtles are fun. The shells look super comfy! But yeah, the Razorclaw family is waaaaaaaaay worse than WRAITH. I'd bet my bottom bit that they're in bed with one another, too. I'd rather deal with WRAITH than the Razorclaws any day of the week...unless Sachadara is there. Then they're about even," she ended lowly, then perked up.

 

"Wow, this takes place BEFORE Daring Do and the Rays of the Ruby! Oh, water would be fine. I am kinda sorta maybe a lot thirsty!" She said with a chipper attitude to the offer of the Captain. Was she also the Mess Captain? What a mare!

 

Swift was lucky to have her, especially with all of his histrionics. Count on him to be brought information that was decidedly positive and decide to concoct some sort of weird story. Then again, his mind was kinda funky. Endlessly bold statements that sustained themselves in a world of imagined need of them. He was amongst those who put hoof to flank against WRAITH all the time, why he felt any of it was needed was beyond Pathfinder. Then again, that was why she liked him. No matter how silly he could be he wore his emotions on his well-made sleeve.  

 

Pathfinder didn't stop reading as she responded. "No, you silly little stage actor come to life, I don't think we stop hunting them. But I remember what our mission actually is: To protect Equestria from all threats, not just WRAITH. That organization is scattered and hurting and sure, we should kick them while they're down some more. Once down, you always apply pressure to their special spots until they squirm and crack and the goo comes out, like sentient slave slugs under the crust of the earth. But obsessing over one threat...its like when you're in an old ruin, right? Everypony is always on the lookout for traps. What few ponies actually realize is that the best kind of trap is the trap that relies on your own vigilance. Figure out a pressure plate riddle, only to miss that the first few hooves lengths at the end is a hidden pressure plate itself. You're so intent on solving the trap and getting through it that you don't even see the next plate and bam, you're done, son," she said before flipping a page, her tail still swishing excitedly as she read on her back. "Don't let WRAITH be a riddle that blinds you to new threats," she said in a sing-songy voice. Silly, serious Swifty.

 

Rose came in. Rose wasn't the most talkative of EPIC agents but she was still a darn good one. Besides, she didn't need to talk. Pathfinder was here for that. "Hey Rose! Rose! Guess what Nifty Swifty got me?" She said as she gently waved the book by rolling slightly on her back in Rose's direction, "the next Daring Do book! Oh my Celestia, right? RIGHT? Whatcha been up to, by the by the by-by?"

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“Pffft.”, the mare whinnied. “I’m not sure I could take the word of an ancient, evil vampiric centaur if he did say he was being manipulated...Although I did encounter Cozy Glow during an training session a few weeks ago and that kid kind of creeped me out." , the mare shivered as she spoke, "Reminded me of someone who only knew about fillies from watching very old movies. Surely Trample movies....I would also say children cannot be evil and cannot be tried for crimes as an adult." she added. "And they did place her in Tartarus, so there's probably something about her that the higher ups don't want to share with us...Which might be for the best.", Fire Walker had dealt with beasties that seemed harmless due to their size or 'cuteness' from vampiric jackalopes, Pukwudgies  to Parasprites. Not to mention the Winterchilla attack on the castle during Hearth's Warming Eve. So Swift was probably correct there.
 
"Well, you could say that, but you're also not the one who will be holding a rapidly growing creature inside you that eventually will learn to kick and has hooves..And will need to pass through an exit far smaller than he or she is." Thankfully the stallion knew he only need to wave an cute little foal at the mare and she was ready for some babies! Still, it would be three hundred and eighty days it normally took....She would have to stop enjoying her favorite adult beverages...And eventually would be confined to office duty for a bit.  But they would end up with...A sweet little filly or colt.. The officer let out a sigh.
 
Also, Fire was rather surprised the fan-filly had not already pre-purchased the newest Daring Do book. She seemed to be the type who would have already preordered the next twenty novels ahead of time..The deluxe signature versions..With the gold tip pages and added commentary. The red mare had enjoyed the initial trilogy, but the books started to get a little silly after that. At least it made a reader out of her little sister Wind.  And what? Swift mentioned something the hyper pony had said was....plausible? Ha! And he said he never drank!
 
Surprised to see another pony enter Swift's little meeting, the officer nodded at the mare, "Nice to see you Miss Rose....", she waved. "Also, if any of you want something to drink, just ask...We have tea...orange juice...purple stuff...whatever the heck Miss Pinkie Pie brought over in the pitcher..."
 
 
 
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"Pathfinder, TMI!" Squall chastised the pegasus mare when she begun describing her 'experience' as captive of WRAITH. Still her words reminded him of something - a threat always present at back of his head, but till now always pushed to the background.

"Razorclaws....Morianna..." he muttered, as his thoughts brought him to devilishly intelligent Aquelian professor. This was danger that was left unchecked far too long. It would be wise to bring it up after all the other topics were discussed, especially since it directly tied to one he was going to bring up anyway.

 

"You are not wrong Dear. That's why it's not from Tirek's account that I know about this." noblepony explained, while still withholding his 'source'. "And I disagree about children being innocent. I myself know I wasn't when I was young, and I can assume others here had dark thoughts in their child years as well . Darkness dwells in any heart Moto. It feeds on pride, envy, hate and other malicious feelings until it's festering get's to one's mind and soul. That's why acting against them is so meaningful. Everything is a choice, good or bad. How could they have any weight otherwise?" unicorn dropped a bit on his views on those present.

 

Luckily and further brooding on his was interrupted by a welcome arrival indeed.

 

"Rose. You are here." Swift said, part disbelieving but even more thankful. "Please sit down. There is much to discuss, and I wish for your input as well." he welcomed the unicorn mare.

 

Squall could only stand there as Pathfinder gave him a lecture, astonished by how....logical the eccentric mare was.

Was she always like this? And to his shame Swift had to admit to myself that he didn't knew. It was so easy to draw conclusions, judging her on account of her (admittedly) larger then life fanfilly'ism towards Daring Doo franchise. So easy that he didn't even bothered to peek underneath and to know this mare he had a gall to call 'comrade'.

Squall clenched his teeth, angry at himself. He supposedly learned this lesson thanks to Spring Breeze - or Naj as others tended to call her - and yet, here he was again. What a stubborn fool he is. Why he keeps making the same mistakes?

 

"Not the comparisons I would use. Yet..." Swift started when he regained his ability to speak.

"You...are right. You are absolutely right Pathfinder. I was so focused on the pieces of the puzzle...that I forgot what kind of picture they make when put together." he admitted while walking towards the window, and taking at both the Moon and School of Friendship visible in the distance.

"But....you aren't the only one who was 'right' Pathfinder....." he said after a moment, while turning towards his comrades once again.

 

"I was pondering a lot in recent weeks. And I came to epiphany. You see, the reason why I asked to gather here is not just from security, or to get away from the prying eyes in Saraneighvo. No, it is because I found out that the reasoning, that the mare that calls this Castle home came up with, to be one I agree with." Swift explained before taking a pause, gazing at other ponies, as if he was expecting some questions.

 

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The unicorn looked to Pathfinder in her odd position on the table. She tilted her head a bit to try and get a better look at the cover and title while she responded, "Studying. I've been looking to further my knowledge of the magic I use. Are you still doing all those adventures? I only went on a couple and I got cursed after the second one..." She huffed through her nose in annoyance before smiling to Pathfinder and giving the slightest of smiles, "It's good to see you again. The rest of you as well."

 

She bowed her head to Firewalker, "I'm almost scared to ask what might be int pitcher... I would like some orange juice if it isn't any trouble." She said in her usual calm register as she approached the table and the rest of the group.

 

Squall sure seemed different since the last time Rose was here. somehow the unicorn seemed more mature, did he get taller too? What he was talking about though was going a bit over Rose's head. Perhaps she'd come in a bit late in the conversation to truly get the grasp. "Um... I just got here so I'm not sure I have all the context." She slid her currently deactivated headphones down to hang off her neck, "What was your Epiphany, Mister Squall?"

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Rose was a strong pony and it was a shame she didn't have as much fun with adventures as Pathfinder did. She had all the good qualities to start with, too/ Oh well. Lives were long. She could only hope that someday Rose could be saved and find the adventure that was right for her. "Good to see you too, Rosey Posey. I'm always adventuring, no better way to live! Did you learn anything new about your magic with all that studying?" She asked, bopping her forelegs up and down as she continued to read. Her mouth was dry- "ya know Fire, I think I'll take some water!" She said as she flew over to a pitcher and poured one glass out. Then she found the juice and poured one out for Rose, flying it over to her before getting her close and assuming her reading position.


Now all they needed was Swift getting to it.
"Get to it, Swifty. We aren't getting any younger over here," Pathfinder said with a giggle, continuing to read while she waited for Swift Squall to get down to brass tacks. He had a habit of leaving iff with pregnant pauses and waiting for everypony to breathlessly ask what nexy. Luckily he wasn't a salespony, he could get all sorts of ponies and other creatures to eat out of his hooves. For Pathfinder, she was happy to be reading the book and awaiting whatever new adventure was bubbling up within Swift Squall's overactive imagination. Always a good time to be had!

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The mare was finished arguing with her beloved. At least for now, she simply gave him a quick kiss on the snout.  She hoped while E.P.IC. might be shrinking, they would still be ready to provide help for the forces of good when needed. There were were far worse things out there than the foes her former team frequently faced. Evil lords who could turn friends into foes. A defeated foe looking to return from the shadows. . And a dark matron that had lost it all, and thus did not have anything to lose. These were the foes Fire and the Twilight Guard looked out for. Thankfully they did not just rely on her own numbers to do so..
 
Once she found herself in the kitchen, Fire Walker poured a glass of fresh orange juice for Rose. Maybe she should have asked the unicorn if she wanted a little vodka in her juice to make it into a Screwball. And Pinkie’s drink? Curious to see what it was, the mare sniffed at the pitcher. There was no real smell..After taking a small glass of her own, she tried the drink. HOLY MOLEY! It was leftover party-punch and sweet Celestia did she put in the sugar!
 
Before she could find out what the others wanted, Pathfinder quickly made her way into the kitchen and snatched up some drinks. Knowing the disaster that would befall Equestria if the bouncy mare ingested the sugar-infused beverage, the Captain quickly emptied out the party punch into an nearby sink. Whew!  The world would continue to be safe, at least for another day or so. After snatching up a bottle of her favorite soda. She placed the bottle upon a wheeled serving tray along with orange juice for Swift, and the rest of the pitcher of water for the others.
 
She was here for support, and to make sure none of the cute mares dared to put their hooves on her stallion.
 
Best soda in all of Equestria!
 
Spoiler

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" Hmph." Squall snorted when Pathfinder chivvied him. He was getting to that part.

" It's a simple one, in concept. I believe it was palpitating inside my head for a long time now, just unformed. It's only when Miss Sparkle founded this..." he waved his hoof at the School of Friendship, visible through the window. "....Institution, I realized what was missing in our endeavors."

 

Squall walked away from the window and now gazed at the all three mares.

"We were gathered to protect Equestria, but the truth is, our sights were inward all the time. Equestria may always been amicable to other nations, but the truth is, despite this friendly disposition we didn't bothered to reach out and offer a helping hoof when it was needed. Did we do anything when Griffonstone lost their Idol of Boreas? Did we act immediately? No, Miss Sparkle had to do the job decades after the fact. How about when Storm King came knocking at Abyssinian's door? Ditto. Or did we attempted to do anything, about the abhorrent situation on Stottinsberg Islands? Nope, still continuing. It was always Equestria first, Equestria above all else..." Squall paused while giving a heavy sigh.

"We do all know that nopony is an Island. We can stand on our own, but not necessary alone. And the same - with a bit of good faith - can be applied to nations, as Sparkle's school showed. We can get along, regardless of race or shape, that school proved that. What am I saying is, that EPIC was founded to protect Equestria....But now....well....'Non Sufficit Equestria'."

 

Swift paused again, this time to take a sip of offered juice. After giving his fiancee a thankful kiss on a cheek, unicorn continued.

"If we are to aid our nation, we have to do this by offering kindness to other countries as well. Operation in Whitescar was a good start, but we have to get bigger, more involved. And this is an offer I am about to present to Princesses. The question is...?" he gave the gathered mare another, meaningful look.

"Are you with me on this?"

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Pathfinder wondered if Squall ever pretended to be an actor and spend a day or four performing some overblown dramatic piece at a local theater. He had a flair for it and a very powerful speaking voice. If Pathfinder hadn't been inured to such things by a battery of mentally influencing relics and enemies who had sharpened her mind in issues of charm then maybe she would be impressed. Instead, she waited for him to get to the fun part, which he did in time and with great purple prose highlighting it. The idea was pretty sound regardless. Equestria was less of a nation at this point and more of a harmonic concept that had its roots spread far and wide, deep and strong. EPIC needed to follow suit!
 

"Oh, cool. So you wanna ask Princess Notetaking if we can expand outside our borders? Seems good to me. More eyes and ears and different sents of them to offer different perspectives can be super duper important. The dangerous traps are the ones you don't see AND the ones you don't understand! The more varied our experiences and outlooks, the better we're gonna be at doing our jobs," Pathfinder said as she closed the book and rolled onto her stomach, leafing through her notebook. "I have information I've compiled of super cool ponies, yaks, griffons, you name it from across the world. Lemme see..." she said as she flipped her papers around randomly. Suddenly she stopped and pulled one out.

 

"Ahh, a good one. This pony's name is Skycrack. She's this tough as nails military pegasi from Acroneighos. I think she beat the heck out of a dragon in an arena match too, like an adult one. She isn't like some other Acros either. More like her parents, doesn't seem to discriminate against non-pegasi," Pathfinder said as she pulled some notes out of saddlebag. Acroneighos was a super militant city that held little charm to her. The ponies there cared more about spears and shields than having fun adventures unless by fun adventure you meant flying around and fighting battles, in which case they loved it a whole heck of a lot. Like most major kingdoms in Maretonia it was more than a little prejudiced against species not dominant there, but it was changing. Slowly. It was a very tradition bound city after all. Skycrack and her parents were on the bleeding edge of equality, but it would likely be several generations before they were truly equal.
 

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After her drink was poured by Pathfinder, Rose offered the explorerer a smile and a nod of her head: her reserved way of saying 'Thank you!" She scoured her mind for a few seconds to dredge up the information, "... Well I've learned that The magic I create is a sort of field of destabilizing energy that take breaks down other forms of energy. I've been trying to learn other ways to apply it and the effects it can have. Some experimental for the most part, I've been hoping to create a spell that could be useful for mining operations." She took a sip of her drink... that was possibly the longest explanation she'd ever given.

 

 

Squall's speech was certainly a stirring one. More than Rose could ever say she'd feel comfortable saying, She could always appreciate the stallion's gumption in taking the lead of most situations. At first she was going to ask what "Non sufficit" meant but it seemed that Pathfinder was ready and able to better explain what Squall was getting at. Getting more perspectives in general was very useful in a variety of subjects. Now with the world opening up, perhaps they should aim for the truly exotic. She liked Pathfinder's suggestion of somepony from Acroneighos, but militant as that city was it was still very much a pony perspective...

"I think I have an idea that would be interesting to pursue if challenging after the beginning. Neighpon has an interesting history behind it and many aspects of it's culture might be unusual to us... but I as thinking that if we are looking for unique perspectives than maybe we should look into the Yokai. They have a strange way of living and seem to be fairly knowledgeable. I understand they have rocky histories with the ponies and kirin of Neighpon in many parts. It seems like an interesting opportunity... and if we need a lead, apparently a yokai whose lived long enough that he was around before the events of Nightmare moon is working on Applejack's farm for a while: he seems fairly talkative." Rose had been around for the Running of the leaves and was in the stands when this yokai revealed himself... it was startling but in the end the day seemed to end in good spirits.

 

 

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Fire Walker could not help but feel she needed to say something, but she was not there to argue with her beloved. She was there simply to open the door and serve some refreshing beverages. Most kingdoms outside of Equestria generally preferred to solve their own problems, and many would actually react rather negatively to offers of help. This almost felt like what she was doing with the whole ‘Twilight Guard’ thing. She was not only helping to protect Ponyville, but also train its residents on how not to become victims. On how to defend themselves and others from harm. And while the mare had once considered herself an member of Swift’s team, she simply no longer had the time to dedicate herself to his cause. She would be more than happy to help if needed. But for now, she needed to get her flank to bed. There was a rather lengthy scroll she needed to go through. There was also a need to see if she could convince the purple princess to see if she can switch to notepads or notebooks for her plans...As it was much easier to flip open a book as opposed to unrolling out a long scroll.....
 
After taking a final sip from her cup, the mare slowly stood up, “I need to get up early tomorrow, so if you don’t mind, I will see myself out....Well, at least to my room..”, She gave her very special stallion a quick kiss on the cheek. “If you need anything of me, just leave me a little note on my door or in my mailbox. Which is by the entrance.”, There was a few boxes marked with an assortment of names of those who resided in the castle.
 
“Good night dear Swift...And ladies..”, she gave a slightly sleepy smile to the trio, before she headed off to her room for some much needed shut-eye.
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"Not just Twilight, Pathfinder. If this plan is to pass, we need to secure the support of at least one other Princess. Perhaps we can have Twilight convince Candace?" he mused.

"I am also not naive. Not all nation will be hot on supporting such initiative. Aquelia is watching us with with a suspicious eyes since we got closer with Griffonstone. And Maretonia city states will probably try to use us as a means to one up each other. Neighpon is also facing a political struggle since it's Shogun has gone missing. We have to go to one's that we have good relations first, and through partnership with them show that such initiative can work" Squall pointed out to gathered mare.

 

Of course for all of noblepony logic, he was once again left flabbergasted by Pathfinder's antics.

"Why do you even have an intel like that?! If somepony caught you aboard with this, you could be accused of being a spy!" unicorn said in astonishment, before quickly regaining composure.

Before he could comment on the possibly EPIC candidature that winged mare brought up, Rose came up one of her own. And while both brought some challenges when it came to recruiting them, the potential benefits that those two could bring greatly outweighed them. There was just one small thing....

 

"Hold on, I just a pony that came with an idea how to reform our group. I am not a leader, Dexter Silverbeak is." Swift pointed out to gathered mares.

"Which brings me to next issue. I....I don't think he should be one. For one, I always had a feeling he's treating it more as a job, not a calling. Second he has very condensing attitude towards everyone - although perhaps it's not I that should call him out on this. Third, he was way to passive when it comes to our operations, way too reactive. And fourth....." Squall paused, it was hard to of accusing anyone of something, especially without the proof and without them being present. ".....Fourth, I don't believe he would place good of the world over good of Aquelia." he said before turning around and walking towards window once more.

".....At this point I don't think we should have a one leader, period. Each of us has some different ideas of what's right and wrong, and while they more overlie on each other then they don't, there is certain that sooner or later will come the issue that will start frictions. Perhaps a rotating council of EPIC members is in order...." swordpony mused.

 

It was than when Fire decided to remind of herself. Despite her patience, it was clear that she was worn out from her duties, and -as she reminded them - she will have to be up by daybreak to tend to them tomorrow as well.

"Thank you Dear. And thank you for being some patient with my antics. I will join you as soon as I can." he said. Squallcoast's were lot of things, but never quitters, and stallion was not giving up on extending his noble house so easily. "Let's see...how about spare key to your bedroom here?" he said when his fiancee asked if they needed 'anything'.

 

"Sleep well Love..." he returned crimson pegasus kiss with a smooch of his own before returning his attention to two other mare.

"Both of the po....errr beings you brought up are excellent picks. As your colleague I don't see why would we shouldn't attempt to sway them both to our side." he complimented Rubble and Pathfinder.

"That said, one of them will have to wait for now. Rose, you said this yokai works at Miss Applejack farm at the moment?" Squall 'asked' for confirmation before heading towards the staircase leading below. Seeing that neither of them was following him he turned around.

"What? This is not far away at all. We should make hay while the sun shines." he pointed out.

The time of being reactive was over.

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