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Tropical Trials & Tribulations (Closed: Taco)

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The warm breeze, dulled only lighty by the cooling night, came in heavily flavored with the taste of salt heavy in the air, a fact which disquieted Applejack. She wasn't much for the beach. Sand had nothing on good, solid ground. The ocean was a pile of salty nothing that had a bunch of mystery critters she wasn't much fond of. She'd take a deep fresh lake any old day. And the salt? It just carried with it memories of one too many salt cubes as a younger mare and a few too any raging headaches as a result. Not that she'd openly complain about any of this, anyhow. It'd be a right stupid thing to do about an all-expenses-paid-trip to the  Gallopocus Islands at the best of times, least of all when it was her job as a member of the Twilight Guard to investigate reports of mysterious critters down south.

 

She wasn't alone. Seven other members of the Twilight Guard joined her, the most important being the Captain of the Guard herself, Fire Walker. Equestria must've been real quiet to send the Captain on what was gonna amount to a wild goose chase! Not that Applejack didn't appreciate her company. The other members of the Guard were all right no doubt but four of them were former Royal or Night Guards who were folded into the Twilight Guard and the other two were fresh into the ranks. Twilight above, it was good to have somepony she knew on this trip. 

 

They were also taking a new-fangled airship, and the only pony who could fly it was one of the Night Guard. It was built for speed and was supposed to allow a small group of Guard to respond to calls very, very quickly. It was a very small airship. Very, very small. Two ponies could be on the 'deck' at most, climbing up and down a small ladder through a hatch. A single large magi-tech crossbow with ten bolts was hitched to a rail but that was it for defense. Then Underneath that was the crew cabin with four small bunk beds with small personal chests and a table and chairs that were bolted into position. The door in and out of the airship was located here and it was a simple unhitch and drop. and one room to either side. One was for storage of supplies and gear and was hardly large enough for that and the other contained waste disposal and a small emergency supply of magic charges to power the auxiliary magic engine should the sail-powered craft need it.

 

She was sure they would need to. They had gotten a late start and the airship had proven to be slower than they had thought- though still really fast, all things considered. What should have been a six-hour trip to the island had instead taken almost ten hours. Applejack busied herself as best she could as she went over the supplies. They didn't know how long the investigation would take so they had been told to pack for a week. Each pony had their own bag with essentials and they brought in a bunch of mission critical gear and additional food supplies. She spent some socializing with the new crew and even some time top-side, though the air rushing past her face almost made her lose her stetson- thank Twilight for that conveniently placed crossbow!

 

By the time they arrived at Fire Stone Island, a smaller but densely forested island with a dormant volcano, it was ten at night. The airship came in with a swoop astride the island. To its credit the airship was silent as all get out and moved like a dream, almost like a bird. It slowed and came to a stop gently. Applejack could tell that much. Even though she was now stuffed inside with five other guardponies near the exit door in full armor and by all rights she would have been fine even if they had crashed against rocks. Instead it smoothly slide into the sand and settled in. That warm breeze, the salty smell, it soon overtook the cabin as the door was unhitched and landed softly in the sand.

 

One by one they exited. The first Guard out, a Royal Guardspony unicorn, cast a spell. A small, dull green wave that was nearly invisible radiated from his position and into the treeline. Creatures larger than a newborn foal became outlined in a pulsing red briefly as the guards scanned them. Some small island predators, a large bird or two, even a shark or two in the water a bit. Nothing to be too concerned about just then. The others fanned out.

 

"Woo-eee, happy to move mah legs! Alright, secure tha perimeter and we can set up camp. Reckon it's a bit too late ta start investigatin'. Right, captain?" She asked Fire Walker as she trotted out. She was the XO to Fire's CO out here, after all. Whatever Fire said was law!
 

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Fire Walker's eyes curled up in a true happiness as her snout sniffed the wonderful salty air. She almost wanted to break out into song. 'Somewhere beyond the sea..Somewhere waiting for me..My lover stands on golden sands..And watches the air-ships that go fly'n.' Thankfully she did not. She had what she considered a -decent- voice, but this was a SERIOUS mission. No singing. No prancing or frolicking about on the wonderful, magical sand. No stylish bathing suits. And definitely no Martinis with salt on the rim! This was business. She had other days she could return to these wonderful, wonderful islands. And then she would have her sweet Swifty at her side. She wondered if Martini Paradise returned to her homeland.  She hoped to see the magical masterful mare of mixed Mojitos and Manehattans!
 
And it was another 'critter' mission as her partner would say. What's with all the critter missions? Fire Walker would also say. Whatever it was, it had to be very important, having all these Twilight Guards...Especially a Captain and an actual hero along with the ride. And they also got to test out a mini air-ship. She knew her husband to be would want one of these. He already had a big and fancy one, but a small and sleek one? She could picture him zooming around in one of these.  
 
She never heard of 'Fire Stone' until they took off for the mission.  It almost sounded like an romantic getaway. Secluded forests. Probably have a lovely cabin or two there for couples. But then there was the volcano.  Something she did not lava. at all. After a quick and safe landing, the red Pegasus pony followed the others out of the air-ship.
 
"It's a bit too late to be wandering out into the darkness.", the mare kept her voice down low as not to disturb the creatures that choose to sleep at this time. "We should all get some proper sleep so we'll be well rested before we need to find the lay of the land." with a nod, she asked the others to help set up their temporary camp and set up two look-outs who could switch after four hours. She volunteered to go first.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
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Fire Walker was thinking the same way Applejack was. The XO nodded and snapped off a quick salute. "Aye aye, Cap'n," She said as she turned and trotted towards the airship. Several guards were getting gear out and she did her part while she spoke.

 

"Get your tents set up, two ta a tent," she said as she started to help with one of them. They were simple designs with two entrances, but had a few cool features. Shadows and figures could be seen if they were close on the outside but you could have a small fire on the inside yet it would remain completely concealed. Plus it had a decent manner of anti-flame protection. 


"Swift Star-" Applejack pointed to the pilot, who jumped off the top and glided next to the Ponyville native. "Yer tha first watch with tha Captain," She said. Star saluted and started setting up her tent.


"Second watch, Brickhouse and Lighthouse. Third watch, Gleaming Shield and Brightblade. Fourth watch, Crescent and Ah. Lighthouse and Brightblade, do a perimeter sweep ta place tha early detection alarms. Ah'll handle yer tent," Applejack ordered as the pairs went to setting up their tents, sans Lighthouse and Brightblade. It took only a few moments for the experienced camper to set them up as the two dropped off near invisible magical alarms. If triggered by a creature with an aetheric link- so not a random animal- it would alert all of the Guards. Just one of may tools Applejack was glad to have as they tried to keep everypony safe out here.

 

It wasn't long before it was done. Each Guard had their own supply kit and they only needed four tents after all! Applejack trotted back up to Fire Walker. They were going to be sharing a tent, so might as well see to being a good tent-partner!
"Tents up an' perimeter secure. Need anythin' for tha watch starts, Cap'n?"

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The month had been interesting so far. The red coated officer was able to spend some quality time with her mother during the early week. She had never been the same when a old friend of hers said she 'looked good for her age'. This did not sit well for the middle-aged mare who proceeded to try her very best to push back the march of time. From hiring a personal trainer to get back into shape, to dying her hair back to its original color, she didn't want to look 'good' for her age, she wanted to look incredible. And normally she would have enjoyed a nice cup of tea with her mother on Monday, but not anymore. They spent the day at the 'Obstakillers Cirque Du Sore Legs' Obstacle Course' in Canterlot.  Fire Walker's poor performance highlighted the need for her to go on a mission. Any mission to get any from her mother. Thankfully Applejack had one lined up for her. One that did not seem very serious, but somepony knew something she didn't know, as they gathered a rather skilled group of guard to figure out who was causing some ruckus on the islands. Or was that rackus?
 
Hokey smokes, Applejack was really getting into this. You would have been lead to believe they had snuck into enemy territory and were about to sneak into the head's base. Still, the farmer took this very seriously, which was good. It had been a rather long time since the Pegasus pony had joined a group such as this. With a grin, the officer joined in and helped set up everything. In The R.E.A, nopony just sits and 'supervises'. Once things were settled, she did go over and make sure everything was set up correctly. And that it was.
 
"Everything looks good.", she responded, "Get some rest and we'll alert the siblings (Brickhouse and Lighthouse) once it's their turn. Till then, get some rest..", she saluted the good Captain*
 
Now it was Fire Walker's least favorite thing to do. Watch. One obviously does not want anything to happen, but it gets so boring, you almost want something. But nope. She made sure the mare was on opposite ends of her so they had an optimal view of the surrounding areas...
 
And so they waited...And watched...
 
 
 
* Or whatever Applejack is. I forgot
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"Sounds like a good plan ta me. If y'all need anythin' just get me, Ah'll be in our tent," Corporal Applejack replied with a salute, more formal with her salute than her phrasing. They were close. Applejack trusted the Captain completely- she was a mare who knew how to fight, how to lead, and more importantly knew what she was fighting for. You couldn't ask for much more when it comes to a true leader and Applejack was happy to follow her, even if the mission seemed a bit silly. And some overkill. Nothing wrong with making sure though, right? Better they do that then do too little and have a problem in the future.  

 

Applejack started trotting back. As she did so, she sought her gaze over to Swift Star, who was currently taking her position on the deck of the ship. "Eyes sharp, Swift. Yer gonna have ta watch tha captain with them special eyes of yours," Applejack said optimistically. She knew that Swift Star was a good mare but importantly for now she had that bat pony vision that would allow her to see better in the dark than anypony else here. Swift Star nodded and resumed her watch as Applejack, assured of their safety, trotted into her tent.

 

It took only a few moments for her to make her tent a home. Pictures of Zap Apple, Rainbow Dash, Apple Bloom, Big Mac, and Granny Smith quickly went up, a pillow went down, and she laid down on the soft bottom of the tent and yawned. She brought out a small journal and started writing, as was her promise to herself when she joined. Had to leave a record, right? She felt a kick and rubbed herself- "Momma's gonna be fine, Ambrosia," - as she continued to write. She was as true and honest in her journal as she would be at any other time, though she couldn't but try to impart some lessons while doing so. What would today add to what was turning out to be a holistic tome of maternal good will? 


Indeed, what would it bring...

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One of the things a pony needed to be during watch was on their hooves. None of this sitting about. That usually opened up a quick trip to Slumberland. Nope. On your hooves and also one needed to move about. Circulate those legs! Her older brother, Walk did this for a living! He could have easily got a nice, comfy office job. But nope, he prefered to walk the streets of Canterlot, making sure things were nice and safe. How he was not driven insane to the boredom had always puzzled the young mare. She also needed to keep her mind set firmly in reality. There are no monsters. There are animals, small and large, but no monsters. She needed to keep her eyes moving. If one stared at one spot for too long, one's mind starts to make up stuff. A stump in the distance starts to look like an Cockatrice lurking in the night.
 
The mare did pause to breathe in the salty, but very healthy air. She would soon be here, or at least in the region, with her Swift Squall. It would take some convincing, but she would prefer a simple Island Cabana. A nice little hut on stilts that rested over the beautiful waters of the Gallopocus Islands. He would want to go big. Rent one of those oversized estate mansions that were usually as far away from the beach as possible.
 
Huh? Fire Walker heard some rustling in one of the nearby bushes. Wild dog? Lost pelican? She nodded at Swift Star who got a better look at it with her 'Special Eyes'. "It appears to be one of those feral piggies. Nothing to worry about.", she added with a smile, "Cute little guy." before she returned to her side. There were stories about a group of Diamond Dog pirates known as the 'Sea Dogs'. Their Captain kept a few onboard as pets. However, when the 'Sea Dogs' were blown out of the water by a rival, the pigs were able to swim to an nearby island and over the next hundreds of years, those pigs managed to make a ton of new piggies. Those piggies made new piggies and so-forth. There was now an island known to the tourists as 'Piggie Island' where the adorable piggies would play with the visitors and more importantly, clean up after them as well.
 
 
 
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And sure enough, there was now a Piggie. A rather adorable little guy. Oh, how Fire Walker wanted to pet the Piggie. But she could not. She needed to keep watch. She managed a quick smile at the little guy who made a friendly snort before finding a little spot for a nap. He could be useful. If something horrible got near, the Piggie would be alerted and make a good deal of noise. She will name him Pork Walker. He sort of reminded of her brother, Punk. And if he were on guard, he probably would be doing the same. Even smelled very similar to her often in trouble sibling  as well.
 
The watch continued with no other random 'events.'. Pork Walker seemed to be having a dream where he was enjoying a good meal, as his little Piggie mouth was making adorable 'nom' sound. Soon it would be 'House' Siblings' turn, and then Fire Walker would be able to get off her hooves for the rest of the night.....
 
Spoiler
 
 
 
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When it was time for the siblings to do their job they did. Nothing out of the ordinary on their watch. That was kind of a letdown because they were known for being a pair of unfortunates. They could be counted on to trip over the jungle vine or have that patch of snow on a tree limb come crashing down on their heads. One of them even managed to get his head stuck in a toilet. How or why his head was there in the first place, nopony knew or wanted to know. Still, they did their jobs and that was all Equestria could ask of them.
Gleaming Shield and Brightblade had an equally boring watch. Brightblade was known for her stoic demeanor which meant they had to pair her up with the loudest mare they had. It made sense somewhere.


In time Gleaming sent a mental knock-knock spell to Applejack, who rose from he deep sleep ruefully. It had not been a kind rest. Her dreams were heavily troubled with threats from her past and unknown creatures from the future, each threatening to take their turns gnawing away at what she held dear. She didn't know why it was but these dreams had been happening more and more frequently over time. She had considered seeking some help for it but she was willing to just chalk it up to a bad run of her mind deciding to try t hurt you. The brain while you slept was a total mystery to her. Often times it would help you relive the best and brightest moments of your life. Other times it brought horror, and most often of all, nothing. She wasn't gonna worry about it as she got dressed in her armor and made her way out for her watch.


Crescent and Applejack took to their watch with bravado. They would be the ones to greet the new sun but more importantly they would be the ones to see a few pigs turn into a passel of hogs and a drift of piglets. They wandered into range of the camp and took their time. Applejack had her fun with the little piggies. She certainly liked playing with the varmints, she had a soft spot for them. She even fed one of them some of her rations as the sun rose, the little piggy running off soon after as it was the runt of the drift and was probably just happy to get something. In time the sun rose and the birds, exotic as much as they could be, started to signal the start of the day. It wasn't long before it was time to-


-"Wake up, Cap'n!" Applejack said with a smile. She had made sure to give her captain every second she could and even got a small breakfast going- though Applejack's definition of a small breakfast may not entirely fit others. She'd made it inside the ship itself, ducking in and out as the sun rose higher and made the watch infinitely easier. When the Captain awoke with the others she would find a nice healthy plate of haybacon, appletoast, and tea. Applejack dug mightily into hers. "Howdy! So, how'd you get yer sleep on? Tha watch was uneventful. Spotted ourselves some dolphins a ways off and some lil' piggies a while back."

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It was a night that could not be any better. A full moon was out and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky.
 
Fire Walker's beloved fiancé, Swift Squall was at her side and they were slowly walking on his private beach on his private island, somewhere in the Gallopocus Islands. As they slowly made their way towards a simple, but lovely cabana, the mare paused to soak in the atmosphere and let her hooves feel the sand. So bloody perfect. She sighed and they continued.
 
There was a rather large picnic blanket rolled out near the small beach cabin. Festive candles along with a bottle of Bon Marché, which was her favorite, was resting in an wicker wine basket. "Il est temps pour certains baisers de fantaisie!", her beloved spoke in Prench for some reason. She really was curious, but as she opened up her mouth to speak, it was clear that kissing was the only thing she was actually going to do with that! well, at first that is. But as the handsome visage of 'Fillydelphia's favorite son' drew near, it was quickly replaced with a pig.
 
"Pig Walker!", the mare gasped as the friendly little Piggie gave her a rather quick kiss.  "That is such a cliché.", the mare muttered to herself as she slowly woke up from her dream. Sure enough, the adorable little creature had snuck into her tent and slept at her side like a faithful puppy. She gently woke up the little guy before she started with her morning routine. They were out in the middle of a island, but she still needed to look good. Everything must be in regulation even when there was only her fellow officers! If she were out of uniform, the other officers would lose respect for her!
 
Once everything was proper and she looked utterly perfect, the red mare put away her mirror and slowly made her way out of her tent.
 
"Good Morning...", she whispered as her eyes caught sight of breakfast! Yum!
 
As he gathered up her meal, she smiled at the farmer. "Yeah, one of the little guys snuck into my tent and slept at my side.", as she spoke, 'Pork Walker' scrambled out of the tent and towards the bushes, for a little hunting of his own. "I Slept well enough." Her watch-partner proved her name wrong as she might have been swift when it came to flying, but not when it came to waking up! Thankfully she soon was out and about.
 
"Lets enjoy our hardy little breakfast, and then we will begun discussion on her mission for today."
 
 
 
 
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Applejack gave a good, hearty laugh as she saw the little pink oinker walk on up to them. Well, it had smelled an awful lot like the farm back when she had woken up but she was wiling to throw that up to her nose playing tricks on her. Looks like he had simply missed the little fella in her very own tent! Ha! "Well, Ah guess that makes him part of tha team, right? Official mascot of this here expedition?" Applejack said with a smile as she continued to wolf down her food. She was usually own for at least appreciable manners in company but this was work and she needed to waste not, want not when it came to time. Plus it was a darn good breakfast if she said so herself (and she did). No cause in letting that sit idle in front of her face!

 

"Yeah, 'bout tha mission," Applejack said as she continued to scarf down her meal, speaking in between bites as the rest of the squad started to close in. Most hadn't taken quite the amount that Applejack had and were finishing up already. That suited Applejack just fine. She was fit and rearing to go, meal or no. But something about this mission did seem weird and she needed to get it off of her chest at some point. "Don't it see a bit strange ta send tha Captain of tha Guard and some of her best Guards on a mission to investigate...well, Ah mean, somethin' real minor?" She asked in a whisper just before the squad got too close to talk louder. She didn't mind voicing her concerns and questions to the Captain, but she wasn't about to go blurting anything out that'd set anypony on edge based on nothing more than her gut feelings.

 

She finished her meal quickly after the last question. "Here, Ah'll take yers-" she offered, taking the Captain's plate when it was empty, "-an Ah'll clean up tha campsite while you give us our marchin' orders, Cap'n," she said with a salute, trotting to and fro while listening in to her Captain's dispensations for the day.

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"Private Pork Walker reporting for duty.", the officer chuckled before she turned her attention to breakfast and her map. There were things that needed to be planned. Numbers to be crunched. Her squad could move so far with an steady, but captious march down this way. With the weight of gear, armor and supplies. They would get here before the sun went down. And there were the weather reports for the next few days she brought with her. Sunny for the day, but there was talk about some heavy clouds, or as Director Red Skies made hem into, they were cute little grey clouds with angry faces on them.
 
It took a moment before the food really hit her, "Wow Corporal, this is really good. Like really really good.", she closed her eyes in a moment of pure bliss as she enjoyed her meal. Military meals on the go, usually were furchtbar, or at least that's what they would say in Germane. She could eat this everyday! "Honestly, with the way things have calmed down after taking down Tirek, I think they’re just trying to find things to keep us busy. Last week they even sent me over to find Mister Waddle's glasses." They were of course, on the top of his head. Just like the previous week. "I have a feeling there might be more into this mission than we all might realize.", she kept her voice down low as well.
 
"Thank you.", her plate was swiftly snatched up by the farmer once she was finished. The officer pinned the map on a board which she held up with a wing. After getting the attention of the others, she started.  "As you can see here is a map of the island.", she poked a red pin into it. "Where we are.", another went into what appeared to be a gray blob. "Our first destination will be this cave right here as it is the nearest and has by far one of the more idea places we need to be searching. Please note that there is an advisory in this location. Said it used to be a Sand Tatzlwurm cave, so breathing masks have been inserted along with your gear. They attack their foes with a very highly allergic sickness called the ' Tatzl-Flu' which is also very contagious. They are large creatures but are vulnerable to magic and heavy vibrations. We will do a total exploration of this cave before we head off here.", she poked another pin further from the cave. "Was told this was a temple at one time. Considering its location near the volcano, one could probably guess it was meant to appease the volcano itself."
 
"For this, I will need Swift Star in the sky for scout duty. I will take the lead, Corporal Applejack will protect the rear. And.", she showed the others on a chart where they would be. "Unless there are any questions, we may start on dismantling camp and gathering up all of our supplies and gear."
 
Once that was taken care of, Fire Walker aided with camp. Soon, they would be traveling to....THE 'CAVE OF THE SAND TATZLWURM.' or as it was probably called now. 'The empty cave with nothing cool inside." Duh Duh Duh Dah.
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Applejack listened intently to the Captain's orders as she cleaned up camp. It was a one pony job and she was happy for it because otherwise ponies would get the idea that there were different and equal ways to pack up camp and that would be a real shame when she had to redo their work to make sure it all fit into the hold of the ship. She did this every time the unit wet out on the mission and they had all learned that while she was easygoing on the outside, she was a hard-flank when it came to doing things the right way. This and her love of cooking for them earned her the title "Unit Mom", which was a title she was more than happy with if it meant that everypony would be allowed to focus on their job.

 

The job today seemed relatively simple. She had wondered why they had masks but it made sense now. You didn't want to get caught bare-faced around those critters, or even the residue they left. If there were miscreants on this island it would be smart to use those caves to hide out. And if it was just a critter, well, they could handle the critters something fierce. Some magic, heck they didn't like heavy vibrations- she'd vibrate the heck out of their heads with Bucks McGillicuddy and Kicks McGee. She would handle rear security. Not bad. She would have preferred being point but rear security was important too. Critters attacked the rear more than the front and miscreants always tried to get away with their miscreant deeds in a miscreant fashion, likely in the rear. 

 

By the time the Captain was done speaking, Applejack had finished settling up everypony's camping gear. "Y'all take yer sets ta tha storage hold of the ships," she said as she started gathering up all the cookware and other non-essentials. In time she had taken them to the main cabin of the ship, layin them haphazardly on her 'bed'. She then got her gear on for the day and trotted on out next to the captain. "Ah'm all saddled up and ready ta rock, Cap'n," she said before she felt a kick on her underside. "And so's Ambrosia. Ain't that right you little filly?" She giggled as she pet herself. "Happy ta stretch mah legs. Bein' in that ship made me feel like a packed carrot stick!"

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Fire Walker waited for the good mare of 'many many jobs'  to finish talking before she dismissed the others to start on camp. 'Pork Walker' was allocated rations of table scraps, which made him very happy. Not being the type of a commanding officer who just stood around while her fellow officers did all the work, she lent a helping hoof. She did pause for a moment. Applejack was pregnant again? This would be the second adventure the pair had been on together where she was with foal. Thankfully all of the red Pegasus pony's fears during their trip were unfounded as foal number one was born without any issues, or at least none Fire Walker had heard about.
 
Once the camp was dismantled and placed in storage, the officer made sure everypony was ready and was fully equipped. She also made sure they all had time to visit the little filly and colt room before she secured the ship. After that, they would need to use the bushes for their business. The ship itself had a few features that kept nasty folk from breaking in, and her favorite new addition was a cool little new enchantment known as the 'Chameleon Circuit'.  One of the head enchanters of the R.E.A, a unicorn named Ilinalta had come up with it. Once everypony was ready and all the doors were locked,  Lighthouse activated the device. Within seconds, the ship was replaced by an large grouping of impenetrable native trees. "Neat.", the mare uttered as this was the first time she got to see the device in action.
 
And thus began the march towards EVIL! Or at least over some rather rocky ground. Thankfully their assigned horseshoes were created for such surfaces. They were hard on the outside, but as soft as a kitten who was hugging a bunny inside. This was also good for Applejack as the shoes prevented too much rocking when one was walking. Swift Star did not have to worry about the ground as she was the first to go ahead into the sky.
 
As they trotted on by, Fire spotted the usual native animals as they wandered about. More of those cute piggies. Lots of birds. Adorable little beach mice. And even some turtles. These quickly vanished the further they moved away from the beach. And what had started off as rocky mounds appeared to grow larger the further they moved on. Eventually there would be cliffs and the cave they wanted to to find.
 
Fire was surprised to see their scout already. "Just a head's up Sirs.", she floated to the ground, "There's an U.L.C.U.D. ahead. Maybe a half-mile ahead. Walking your way. It's a little hard to see as it's a mess of trees, but I have a feeling it's an  Tri-Horned Bunyip. They're usually harmless but please proceed with caution.", before returning to the sky, she paused just in case anypony had any questions.
 
 
 
Spoiler

Unknown Large Creature Of Unknown Danger

 

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Applejack was mighty impressed by the ship's cloaking feature. Being able to ide in plain sight was worth all the trouble it likely took to make and maintain, she reckoned. She was sad to know that it wouldn't be able to work in motion- somethin' about the special materials and spells used to make it work right being too hard to maintain. Twilight had mentioned the construction of it during one of the pre-bachelorette party-parties that Pinkie Pie held for her. Still, it was a advanced technological piece of crasftsponyship and she was pleased as punch to be among the first to take it for a spin. With her thoughts drifting from technology she barely understood as explained by a Princess who understood too much.

 

She was placed at the rear of the formation which was a good place to put her. Rear security was as dangerous as point when you were venturing into the unknown. Canny enemies were likely to attack the rear just as much as the front in the hope of penning you in, while predators always struck the back. In prey communities and herds the weak, the stragglers, were in the back. It was therefore time honored pony tradition to put the most rootinest, tootinest, hardcore badflank you had in the back. Teach them predators that a pony grouping required a lot more gumption and power than they could bring to the table. And so they marched into the jungle, Applejack merrily humming a very low tune to herself as she kept alert of the area around and behind her. 

 

It was some time in when Swift returned, reporting an ULCUD not far from there- a Tri-Horned Bunyip. While not the worst critter to run into out here she wasn't gonna take any chances. One of her talents was that she had been tangling with beasties and critters for almost as long as she could shake a lasso and had pretty good knowledge on most of them. The Tri-Horn wasn't one of her avenues of expertise like Everfree critters were, but after encountering one in Ponyville Lake, she had read up a good deal on them.

 

"Heh, thats a rare one 'round these parts. Alright everypony, make sure ta stay ta one side of it. Them Tri-Horns ain't nasty critters by nature but they startle real simple. Somethin' about being on both sides makes 'em real concerned," Applejack replied as she moved to the right, off the path. It would be a slower march until they made it past the critter but it was better than having to fight it. Of course it made her think about how in the world it had ended up here, and why it had stayed. The Tri-horn tended to live in the water and only ventured out of it briefly and for cause. Why the hay was it all the way deep in an island? No matter. Applejack was the first to move right but she was joined quickly by the others and they continued their march, hopefully not alarming the Tri-Horn Bunnywhatever any more than they possibly could.

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Fire Walker smiled as they made their way onwards. With a skilled scout in the air and an honest to goodness experienced hero in the back, the young officer had confidence for their mission. She was in such a good mood, she almost felt a song in her heart. One that was telling her to keep up cantering. Everything was going to be alright. And nopony's gotta worry 'bout nothing. Don't go hittin' that panic button. It ain't worth spilling your drink. Everything's gonna be alright. Alright, alright. The mare could not help but wonder where that song came from? The old song just popped up in her head. This was a favorite song she remembered hearing back in college. The singer went on and changed her style to pop a few years later, which was far more popular than country. Boo.
 
Normally, she would have considered this a 'dooming moment', when things were going well, and then the goofy hero thinks about things going well, and then things go right to h-e-double-hockey-sticks! But she couldn't even believe that. Things were going well. And if she had a drink, it wouldn't be worth spilling. But she had so much to look forward to. Her bachelorette with the girls. Her marriage with Swift. Grindecologist Coffee just shipped her a fresh box of her favorite coffee. Her mother's first romance-adventure novel was being released. Rom-Adv? Advent-Rom? Her old instructor, Greasy Spoon was visiting her parent's house in Ponyville and was going to make a big meal for all. And hopefully give a few lessons to her Culinary challenged family. Things were going just swell!
 
As they cantered on, she could not help but be impressed by somepony who broke out into song. Who here had such a lovely voice? She knew it wasn't Applejack as it lacked her usual country twang.  "Guys, I do appreciate the skill it takes to carry a tune, but could you stop with the....", she glanced behind her. Nopony was singing. "Um.". The creature who was singing was right in front of her. And it wasn't an Tri-Horned Bunyip, but an...
 
 
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"Come on Swift Star. Did you flunk your  U.L.C.U.D test? That's a Siren!"
 
For a moment, the large creature stopped singing and glanced down at the little ponies with a grin. Was she hungry?
 
 
Spoiler

Just a head's up. Just cause you see a Siren, doesn't mean it's a Siren. It could be anything..And if it is a Siren, there's always good ones..Right? :oops: It's all up to you!

 

 
 
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Applejack's ears had been perking up at the sound of music. She couldn't place where it was coming from until they were in the thick of it, at which point the revelation that it had been a siren was almost a blessing. At least that gave Applejack's mind something to chew on instead of wondering who it was that could hum straight into her head. She turned to face the siren and studied it, her mind racing through the vast catalogs of information that they had been force fed during review and training.


Sirens only appeared in three scenarios as far as Applejack was aware of.

 

Families of them were almost never encountered but when they happened it was always bad news. Even the well-meaning ones were willing to do whatever was necessary to protect their family units, and as a species they were known to react quickly to potential harm. Still, they tended to move in very dense units when it happened, and she only saw and heard one. So it wasn't a family unit.

 

Most commonly whenever a siren was encountered (though that was still exceptionally rare), it was a positive experience. Their normal nesting and 'hunting' areas were around large lakes and in the frozen north. The festivals of the lake folk were said to be the happiest of all places to be for a siren, who would be willing to provide magical song and joy to the townsfolk. This siren certainly looked the part, but why was it all the way out here, on an island seemingly abandoned?

 

The third scenario was that this was one of the 'classical' siren known to schoolponies for their tangles with the Pillars of Equestria. They fed on anger and disharmony and fueled it in return. They were much rarer than the second grouping but were the most famous of all types of sirens. They sometimes worked on packs when feeding on larger groups but would often work alone. The better with which to eat, right? But if that had been the case, wouldn't their armor have set off some anti-magic protection?

 

Plus, Swift had said it was a Tri-Horn. Now, ponies could make mistakes and such but the difference between a Tri-Horn and a Siren was pretty significant. Either their scout needed to retake whole courses on identification or something was fishy.

 

Applejack didn't know what to think, but she knew something was up. She motioned to the Captain and the rest of the team with a loud tap on her breastplate before making two zipping motions. The others nodded. That was their sign to activate their own anti-magical field. It was limited n duration before it recharged but it weakened magical affects of all kind within their personal bubble. And this close together, both the power and bubble grew. Assured, Applejack began.

 

"We are tha Twilight Guard of Equestria, sent here on order of Her Majesty Princess Twilight Sparkle. If ya could be so kind as ta come on down so we may talk to ya all proper like, we'd be awful thankful," she said sweetly and earnestly, though she did make sure to announce themselves first. It was proper protocol and one they adhered to in any unknown situation, by custom and law alike. She really did hope it was a nice siren. If it was, then the anti-magical field would just prevent any active aid, which they could adjust later. If it was an aggressive siren however, the field would actively counter the magic. 

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The large Siren floated along with her eyes closed as her head bopped back and forth to a song nopony could hear. One could only assume it was similar to what the impressive creature was singing along to.  “In a clothing store...Okay, fine...Fer sure....Fer sure....She's a....Like, oh my.....",  Already looking down, her eyes opened up and was rather surprised to see a small army of adorable little horses!
 
"Like, oh Wow.", she gasped. The little orange one with the funny accent was trying to talk to her. "Like wait a sec, my little Bettys.", she removed a red colored pearl-like earring from her right ear. She then placed it on a bracelet which was covered in pearls of the same size but of different colors. The unicorns in the group recognized it as a form of a memory stone or gem. Spell-casters could enchanted stones or other small items to record messages, which was unusually very helpful in school, meetings or other activities that required taking notes.  This Siren apparently recorded music on hers.
 
"Oh, gag me with a trident! Look at all thuh adorable little ponies!", at first her tone was cheerful, but it slowly shifted into less positive territory. "Little ponies wearin' armor canterin' around with weapons. On my island! Without an invitation. Messin' up my mournin' groove. Gettin' cute little hoof prints all over my sand.", she added as she folded her front legs, "And now you wanna me to get all shrinky so you can beat with your little horsey hammers. As if!"
 
Fire Walker started to talk, "I assure you we were.."
 
She was quickly cut off by the Siren. .."I am so not talkin' to you, little red, like I am talkin' to thuh country orange horse!', she glanced over at Applejack as she spoke before shifting her eyes back to Fire Walker for a moment. "Betch.", she sassed as her eyes rolled up. Her expression quickly reverted back to cheerful as she turned back to the farmer.  "Okay Country Time, like, are you goin' to promise you and your little pony pals are not gonna hit me with your weapons if I get all fun sized?"
 
There was just one more thing she needed to say before she opened it up to the Earth Pony, "Oh, and if you need to, like, know, my name,  it's Toccata Tre, as in 'Tre-Awesome, Tre-Hot, and so Tre-Talented!", she broke into three different poses for each of her 'Tre's, "Just don't you dare call me, Tre-Ta. Only my boyfriend can call me that and he's, like, so-very super-hot. Wish he was with me right now. As we'd be doing stuff." And to make sure everypony knew what she meant, she started to rock up and down.
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