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Venturing South [ENDED]

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"That's enough, Dellios," a tall, dark griffin growled, chasing his son out of their home and onto the balcony. "I don't care if you're an 'adult', if you keep acting like a damn fledgling I'm going to treat you like one."

"Whatever," Del rolled his eyes, curling his claws around the rocky edge of the balcony, shuffling his wings and shifting his legs in preparation for takeoff.

"If you don't like it you can take that attitude and find a new place to live!" Del's father shouted, scraping his claws against the floor in anger.

"Maybe I will," Del muttered, curling up on his hind legs and leaping over the balcony's edge, his wings out just long enough to pull away from the cliff's edge, then he snapped them in against his sides, plumetting towards the canyon floor like a bullet, the openings and ledges of neighboring homes carved out of the canyon wall flying by him in a blur. Feet from the bottom he extended his wings and turned a hard 90 degrees. He reached down and scratched a claw against the hardpacked dirt, growling under his breath.

Del just lost another job. His third in as many months. Every time this happened his father threw a fit, made his life miserable for a few days, Del would take off, Mom would calm Dad down, and once Del turned up again he'd find a new job. Which, of course, he'd lose the next time he got the wandering urge. He just wanted to see the world. Feel the wind combing through his feathers. And most importantly, get away from his stifling family for a little while.

He caught an updraft, letting the wind carry him in a widening spiral up towards the clouds as the southern edge of Talonopolis faded from his sight. He shifted his flight south, hoping to find a something to take his mind off the fight he'd just had with his father.

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Lola glided casually over the canyons, musing on her insistence against traveling with a bodyguard. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, and the scofflaws she had encountered thus far had been no trouble at all, but the two groups in the short distance she had come from Talonopolis were already trying her patience. Though she had traveled between Griffin cities before, she had never been alone, and the attention a lone female such as herself seemed to attract was far greater than she had expected.

She kept a talon on her parasol as she flew, and her eyes out for any more trouble. She spotted the other griffin in the distance and flapped hard to close in. She sized him up briefly, quickly coming to the conclusion that he was not just another ruffian. A plan quickly formed in her mind; she had no desire to travel with a bodyguard, but if the boy was headed in the same direction there was no reason she couldn't travel with him as a deterrent. She closed in further.

"Boy! I say, boy," she called out to Dellios, "where might you be headed? Would you happen to be going as far south as Rockwington, perchance?"

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Completely lost in his daydreaming, Dellios checked his flight course, fluttering his wings for a moment before slowing his pace to match that of the new arrival. Her parasol immediately caught his attention, he'd never seen anything like it, let alone seen someone fly with one.

"My name is Dellios, not boy," Del pointed out, his voice lightly tinged with irritation. He shot Lola a glance out of the corner of his eye, immediately noticing her beak. A Silverbeak, father would love to hear I'd traveled with one of them, especially after the last tariff hike on the workshop's power supply. He had heard a string of new, creative curses rip through the shop from his father's offices in the back when that notice arrived. "I wasn't really headed anywhere in particular, though I suppose I'll end up at Rockwington."

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"Well, then, Dellios, perhaps you should wear a nametag so those who have not been properly introduced will know your name," the griffiness teased. "Regardless, you may call me Lola, or Miss Silverbeak if you prefer formality. I have some minor business in Rockwington, and I was hoping you might be willing to accompany me that far. In fact, I'm headed east after that. If you are truly aimless in your travels, I could make it worth your while to join me as far as Canterlot, if you'd like."

"It's not that I have need of assistance, mind you, it's simply that as a woman traveling alone I seem to attract a bit too much of the wrong sort of attention, and it's rather bothersome having to constantly electrocute those cretinous brigands." She waved her parasol emphatically at the last bit, sending a few stray sparks into the air.

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Dellios startled at the sparks. Electricity had only recently become part of his family's life and he was having trouble getting used to it. He wheeled out of striking distance and looked back at Lola, deciding to keep the fact that he knew full well what her family name was to himself. Her weapon, coupled with her formal way of speaking, and well known lineage made him a bit uneasy, but he had every intention of seeing how the situation played out.

"Nice to meet you, Lola. And I'll make a deal with you," he smirked. "If you keep that.. thing," he waved his talons toward the parasol. "I'll gladly accompany you wherever you're headed. It certainly beats wandering on my own."

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"Excellent." Lola stashed away her parasol in her bag and retrieved a hand mirror to check her appearance. She had not been planning on company on the trip, but some conversation would make the trip pass much faster, and it presented her with the opportunity to learn a bit more about how the lower classes viewed the world. She smoothed her crest feathers a bit, put the mirror back, and cleared her throat.

"So, Dellios, are you from Talonopolis yourself? Are you a would-be adventurer setting off for a life of excitement, perhaps? Or are you a runaway fleeing the obligations pressed upon you by your clan?"

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Del raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything about her primping. She was beautiful, and couldn't be too prissy if she'd flown all this way without a bodyguard. Or perhaps she'd shaken them at some point. Dellios wondered if she was judging his rough looks and manner of speech the same way he was making assumptions about her.

"I suppose I am running away, though it's certainly not the first time," he said thoughtfully. "I come from a family of ironsmiths, and have no real desire to follow in my father's footsteps. Not to mention how claustrophobic Talonopolis gets after a while. I've lived there my whole life. I want to see the world, but I've hardly been further than Rockwington. What about you? Running away?"

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"Oh my, no. I'm... broadening my horizons, I suppose. Progress marches on, and I don't think the prevalent xenophobia of Talonopolis is conducive to a progressive mindset. I'm sure you've heard the tales of what wonders unicorns can work, in spite of the amusingly naïve socio-economic policies of their nation. I hope to learn more about their ways and to spread the influence of my family outward. For far too long, we've been content to live in isolation, but modern technologies demand a more globalized marketplace."

She paused, realizing she was lapsing into a rant. "But I digress. The purpose of my travels is scientific, to put it simply. I have no intention of abandoning my family... uh, not that there's anything wrong with seeking your own fortune."

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"It sounds like we have quite a few opinions in common," Del smirked. "You wouldn't believe some of the things I've heard my father say about 'the outside.' It's like the rest of the world is going to ruin everything about his precious way of life." Del sighed and shook his head, looking off into the distance wistfully. He remembered telling his father about his first visit to Rockwington, and the first ponies he'd met, how fascinated he was by unicorn magic. All they had to do was think something and it would happen.

Lola was significantly more eloquent about the idea, but he absolutely agreed with it. Their technological advances would only be enhanced by allowing new creatures with new ideas into the heart of it all. Even his own father's shop could turn a significantly higher profit with a unicorn or two on staff. He wouldn't even hire outside their clan, let alone outside their species.

"So you're playing scientific diplomat on this journey, I take it?"

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"I suppose I've been quite fortunate with my own father. Had I couched it in simple terms, he may have disapproved as well, but when it comes to enriching the business, he's more than willing to overlook the cultural norms to get an advantage." She grinned, recalling just how easy it usually was to manipulate her father.

"But yes, I suppose I'm a diplomat of a sort, though perhaps public relations would be a more accurate description of what I'm aiming for, as I'm representing a business rather than a nation. I don't want our company to be a foreign thing, I want us to have branches that reach across the divides of culture and species. Everyone will benefit."

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Dellios nodded, swaying lazily as he flew. He turned what she said over in his mind, he was honestly surprised that her father would be openminded. He'd always thought the upper class was even more rigid in the old ways than his own family. It was, after all, one of the only things, besides their money, keeping them in power.

"I have a feeling this is going to be an interesting trip," Dellios said, half to himself, but still loud enough for her to hear, as Rockwington appeared on the horizon.

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"Would you look at that, we're already nearly there. The trip really does pass by much faster with someone to talk to, does it not?" Lola said as she glided down towards the city, oblivious to the fact that she had been dominating much of the conversation by herself.

"It'll be a bit late to set out for Bareback Gulch by the time my business is done here, and there's an awful lot of desert to cross. If you'd like I can have them set up one of the guest room at our estate here for you, if you don't mind being the subject of gossip. A strange young man arriving with me is sure to spark all manner of speculation from the servants." She smirked at the thought. She had never been one to shy away from a scandal, as it was an excellent way to stir up the curiosity of the upper classes.

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Monty and Ashton stood on the outskirts of Rockwington as the Griffin's balloon slowly deflated. "I'm sorry, but I can't do that." The griffin repeated to the unicorn as he switched off the burner. "Please? I promise I won't get in the way and I can help to cover any expenses." the pony pleaded with him. "Its not that, I'm just so busy here I won't be able to deliver this balloon until at least next week. You'll have to find some other way."

Ashton's ears visibly drooped as he thanked the griffin again and walked away. He really wished he could have left town sooner but what could he do. Unless he wanted to walk to the eastern lands he would have to wait. It was just yesterday that his parents had agreed to let him travel on his own and see the other parts of Equestria. He had managed to pack his things within hours of being told but he still hadn't managed to find a means of leaving.

The whole idea of seeing the east was almost overwhelming. He had heard so much about it but he had never actually been there. The furthest he had ever gone was Neighples and even then only a little ways into the marsh. From what he had heard though the greenery of the east made the Neighples marsh look brown. Supposedly they could grow fruit trees in abundance there and some even had flower gardens. He couldn't really imagine that, a few high class griffins had small gardens as part of their estates but he heard that every pony has one out there. Some things were just too much to believe.

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"Well," Dellios smirked. "If you think your reputation can handle it, I'll be grateful for the hospitality." He found himself wondering exactly what sort of accommodations he'd have for the night.

Dellios swooped to the side to avoid a landing hot air balloon, glancing down and seeing a somewhat dejected looking orange unicorn. The sight pulled him from his fantasizing about a gigantic, fluffy bed to curl up in and reminded him that he'd be travelling clear across Equestria if he truly did follow Lola all the way to Canterlot. He'd be certain to meet other creatures along the way, and a huge number of these new creatures would be ponies. He had only briefly met a pair of unicorns in passing on his last trip, and he'd never met an earth pony, or a pegasus. He'd never even met a hippogriff, and now he'd get his chance. He smiled to himself and followed Lola's descent.

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Lola landed gracefully and whipped a pen and paper out of her purse. "Alright then, let's see... I don't suppose I could get you to look for some transport while I attend to my business? I've got a decent amount of equipment I'd like to bring along, and even with two of us it would be more than we could carry by wing. Something like this would be ideal." She gestured at the nearby air balloon.

"Here's the address of my estate, I'll let them know to expect you so if you show up before me they don't think you're some ruffian. Is there anything else you need before I go?"

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((OoC: I don't have a full profile for Monty Golf but I could RP him for a short while. He can't just sell you the balloon though so the dialog might get a little tedious. If you like I could give you the details in a PM and you could decide if your character agrees or not and we could just say that you worked out a deal and move on.))

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"I'll see if I can strike up some sort of deal with whoever owns that balloon," Del accepted the paper, tucking it into the front pocket of his bag. "And I'll meet you at the estate." Dellios smiled to himself, turning from Lola and headed towards the balloon, and the griffin standing by it. He cast one glance over his shoulder at the other griffin, pleased with how this adventure was shaping up.

After a brief conversation with the griffin struck up a fairly straightforward deal in regards to the balloon, and hoped that his new companion would be pleased. Del made arrangements to meet back the following morning, and hoped he'd remember all the details to properly relate them to Lola later on. With transportation squared away, Del decided to take some time to explore Rockwington.

((ooc - I may be too braindead from work to do much posting until the weekend, so feel free to take it away if you like, and I'll catch up on Saturday))

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((OoC: I'm setting up a thread in the OoC area to expand on the cities. Mainly I'd like to figure out the population ratios. I kind of get the impression that Rockwington is mostly (80%) Griffin with a small Hippogriff (15%) population and a few ponyfolk(5% mostly unicorn and earth). This is fully open for debate though.))

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((OOC: Lola's gonna be scarce for the rest of the day, and since everyone's split up, we may as well skip ahead a bit in the interests of getting this back on the road, so to speak.))

Whenever Dellios eventually arrived at the estate, a relatively modest mansion by Lola's standards, Lola herself was not there. The servants had been told to expect him, however, and were exceedingly polite, offering him dinner and showing him to the guest room without commenting on his rough appearance, though they do give him a few disapproving glances when they don't think he's looking.

Lola herself got back quite late, and headed straight to bed. She still managed to be up bright and early in the morning, however, and had the servants prepare a few meals to eat on the way. She has a pair of fairly large suitcases already packed, and greets Delios as soon as he gets up.

"Good morning my young accomplice, I trust you slept well? I've already packed my things, and a few meals worth of supplies so we can eat en route." She gestured to her bags. "Were you successful in finding us transport? I'm eager to get going, we have an awful lot of desert to cross before we get to anywhere interesting. I'm not sure how quickly we can travel, but I'd like to reach Bareback Gulch by tonight if possible."

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"Quite well, thank you," Dellios smiled, stretching a bit, still trying to shake himself awake. The accommodations had been nothing short of luxurious, especially in comparison to his small corner of his parent's cave in Talonopolis. He couldn't help but wonder if the estate's staff had been talking about him, however, the atmosphere had been a little tense when they showed him to his room. "I did find us transportation, but I had to make a bit of a deal. The balloon we'd passed on our way into the city was not for sale or rent, but needs to be delivered to Canterlot. The owner agreed to allow us to deliver it, so long as our stops along the way don't take too long. We've also picked up another traveler, it seems. A unicorn who wants to head east. There should still be plenty of room for the three of us and our cargo, though, the basket is designed for six." Dellios paused, trying to gauge Lola's reaction before continuing. The arrangement had seemed a little odd to him, but he certainly didn't mind, and hoped that Lola would be pleased with what he'd set up. "We're to meet Monty, the balloon's owner, out on the edge of town this morning. I'm hoping the unicorn will be there as well."

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Monty took a moment to relax. They were ahead of schedule. Too ahead of schedule. The balloon was practically ready for liftoff and neither of the other two travelers were in sight. He couldn't believe how early that Unicorn had knocked on his door. He had hardly gotten out of bed himself and the pony seemed to have been awake for hours. Getting up early was one thing but this...

And he kept asking questions. 'Can I help?' 'Can I see the map again?' 'What were the other Griffins like?' He could hardly think with him around. It was going to be his first time traveling but he was like a hatchling that wouldn't shut up. He idly wondered if all Ponies were like that or maybe just the ones without wings. At least he had a few minutes while Ashton returned home for something he forgot. He took his time checking the ropes and securing the cargo, grateful for this moment of peace and quiet.

Ashton trotted back to the balloon completely oblivious to the griffin's ire. Restraining himself from a full sprint. He didn't want to seem to be too eager. Monty seemed busy with checking ropes at the moment so Ashton leaped into the basket and pulled off his saddlebag. He nudged through his bags again. Hopefully the others would show up soon.

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"How interesting. Well, another traveling companion certainly can't hurt, and a unicorn no less. Well, lets get going, don't want to keep this Monty waiting." Lola gestured for the servants to get her bags, and stepped out the door. She unfurled her parasol to shield herself from the sun, and because she believed it gave her a more elegant bearing. First impressions are important, after all.

"You know," she said, making idle conversation as they headed to the balloon, "taking a direct course will lead us directly over the Everfree Forest. What a fascinating place that must be. If I wasn't already committed to studying unicorn magic, I'd be tempted to mount an expedition into it to see what fascinating things we could find. Ah, here we are."

"Good morning, um, Monty, was it? I see the balloon is already prepped and ready to go. Fantastic. Now, ah, I trust your associate here has the details on where to deliver it once we reach our destination?" She turned to the unicorn, clearly more interested in him than in the other griffin. "Salutations, I am Lola Silverbeak. It is a pleasure to make your accquaintance."

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"The Everfree Forest...." Dellios said to himself, trailing off. He'd heard stories about it, and the massive, wild beasts that roam there. Creatures made from a cruel mishmash of other creatures, massive bears made of the night sky, fierce serpents that frightened even the hardened griffin travelers he'd heard the stories from. He stood slightly behind Lola, completely oblivious to Monty and Ashton, lost in his daydreams. At the sound of Lola's introduction, he snapped back to himself and stepped forward.

"And I'm Dellios," he said, straightening his posture and puffing out his chest a bit. He was surprised to find he was the tallest creature present, though he only had an inch or so on Monty. He wasn't expecting an adult male pony to be the same size as a female griffin. He suddenly wondered if they'd been tricked into an extended babysitting venture, and if he'd only assumed the unicorn in front of them was an adult.

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He was a little surprised. He hadn't been expecting a scholar. He leaped from the basket. Ah, Hello. My name is Ashton Stone. Its, its nice to meet you." He turned his attention to the servants who were bringing Lola's things. Maybe she was nobility? Was Dellios a bodyguard? He wasn't sure. "Canterlot is a bit further than I was planning to go but now that I think about it, it might be fun to see it." "I'm sure it will be." Monty interrupted his head craned upward. "There is a good wind going now, and if we hurry I can take you a few miles out of town before coming back." He turned the valve ands started heating the air. The weight of the occupants, cargo, and ballasts was about equal with the lift."Okay. We're set here. Let me know if you have everything and I'll loose a few ballasts."

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Lola smiled and stowed away her parasol. "How wonderfully punctual." She motioned for her servants to load up her bags and gave an envelope to one of them. "Give this to my father next time he's at the estate, please, Javert." The servant nodded and Lola turned back to Monty.

"Well, I'm prepared," she said with a notable amount of excitement in her voice. She climbed into the balloon, managing to make doing so look dainty and graceful somehow. "Let's get this journey officially underway!" She watched Monty carefully, so she would have an idea what to do to fly the balloon later in if she needed to.

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