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Staff of Fate: From Stormy Skies to Roaring Waters! (Team 1, Hoofington, Closed)


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Equestria's settled lands have for many generations been plundered and stripped bare of relics that in eons past were held in awe. Now, they are the stuff of myth and legend, considered by many to be simply fanciful tales. That doesn't stop some from taking these myths and using them as the fuel for something grand- adventure. Adventure is often a blanket term that hides a sea of motivations, and that strange motion often forces disparate parties to work together. The group of ponies that trafficked through the forest directly northwest of Hoofington were no different. Some were there for the greater good, still others for adventure, others knowledge, and some for fame. They made their way to an old and abandoned small castle that was rumored to be the resting spot of the Orb of Overwatch, and that was worth braving the hellacious winds that grounded the pegasi and forced the unicorns to keep their head down while the beating rain drowned out any conversdation. Determination was their ally as they made their way to it, however, and before long they found themselves in front of the castle.

A giant clap of thunder and a streak of lightning certainly makes the ancient building seem sinister, but who knows if the Orb of Overwatch is even there?

Well, that's a dumb question because in just a few moments, a few ponies will!

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Spin Tale could easily recall in great detail the most miserable day of his life. Sometime before he was injured in the line of duty, Spin’s father took his family out on a camping trip in the Whitetail Woods while he was on leave. On the last night of the trip, the then-young Spin felt the night air seemed a bit more damp than usual. Seeing that no stars could be seen at all, Spin tried to warn his father to put on the tent’s rain flap; his dad laughed Spin’s concerns. It was thus no surprise to Spin that an hour into sleeping, a torrent of rainfall poured down from the heavens; a torrent that refused to relent until daylight. Without the rain flap, everypony in the tent got wet without the benefit of a good night’s sleep. From that day forward, Spin Tale swore never to go camping again.

That was, of course, all in the distant past. Standing in front of an abandoned castle out in the middle of the woods, Dr. Tale couldn’t quite grasp what possessed him to get into his current mess. Something about how Equestria needed his services or some ridiculous perception in the back of his mind that previously told the stallion that an adventure would actually be fun; the stallion at the moment couldn’t clearly recall the events in the Ponyville library which ultimately brought him here today. If it were up to the good doctor, he’d be comfortably back home in Canterlot now tending to his army historical museum. There was one thing Spin remembered though like his life depended on it; he’d never fail to return a library book on time ever again.

While things didn’t seem bad too bad now to warrant reclassifying his childhood memory as the second-most miserable day of his life, the stallion already began noting the similarities between his current situation and that one horrible night long ago. Spin warned his partners… no, that was too charitable a word to describe them; more like unconnected group members with a temporarily-mutual interest… well, he warned them that this specific castle northwest of Hoofington had in fact been looted and pillaged long ago. All the proof for the doctor’s claims was laid out in his doctoral presentation should anypony have been interested, but his unconnected group members with a temporarily-mutual interest didn’t seem to care.

Nope; Spin Tale was told that perhaps the looters missed some super-duper secret antechamber which somehow protected this so-called Orb of Overwatch. Dr. Tale rejected such asinine notions; he knew historical pillagers were quite ruthless in locating every last chamber an abandoned site might contain. But alas, here Spin was, out getting drenched in a thunderstorm without any sort of assurance that his temporary mutual-interest group would find anything of value at all. As his legs found themselves sullied by mud and his mane ruined by water, Dr. Tale clenched his teeth and silently cursed both the pegasi weather team that brought about this storm and that featherbrained Daring Do impersonator, whom he considered to be almost totally responsible for his abysmal predicament.

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Rain Leaf noticed that the group's progress had come to a halt, if not just for a brief moment to recuperate. The short rest was well received even if it was right in the middle of such a powerful storm. Wind and rain assaulted the group of ponies sapping precious energy and strength every minute they stood idle. Strangely, he didn’t mind the mighty downpour and felt oddly at home in the middle of it all. His drenched mane hung along the side of his head and acted as a small passage for the rain as it trickled down his head all the way down to his hooves which were slowly sinking in the runny mud. It was a wonderful feeling, refreshing, yet brisk. He looked up at the storm clouds far above, allowing the rain drops to splatter on his weather goggles. A small smile formed on his face. He was enjoying the trip, something he couldn’t say about the others in his group.

His eyes widened at the thought of the others. Nothing about the group flowed together. Each of them seemed to be shrouded in mystery, only brought together by Pathfinder’s promise of adventure. He pondered how the ponies all met the adventurous pegasus. Surely, they must have all been suckered into some absurd goose chase that sent them all into a hazardous ruin of some kind. That was what they were here for, a promise of something grand hidden deep within this forsaken castle. Why on this of all days, though? Surely this had to be some sick joke that Pathfinder was playing on them. Unfortunately for her, this weather was his favorite.

It was all unbelievable, really. Several months ago, he was nothing more than a simple botanist that ran errands for others that were far too busy or important to bother with the tasks themselves. It was simple work, running from one point to another, gathering random samples for a modest amount of bits. It was a job that he could respect.

Then, the mentally unbalanced mare entered his life shortly after he made the rare mistake of poisoning himself. She spoke of adventure and fortune during their stay at the hospital and saved him from a sticky situation months later. It was his real first taste of adventure, something he now craved. It was all so insane. It was a hopeless change that forced him to shirk his duties. The list in his pack was only getting longer and surely Maple must be getting tired of his excuses. Even his own sister was questioning his decisions. That right there was a warning flag enough. He knew what it was and knew what danger lay ahead. It wasn’t where he belonged, and yet, here he was with a group of ponies he barely knew. He couldn’t even comprehend what he was needed for. His knowledge of the Iris of Immortality wasn't anything substantial and this concept of the Orb of Overwatch was completely lost on him. Regardless, he was prepared to assist them in any way with whatever knowledge he had, both in his head and in his trusty travel pack.

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Life was awesome. Unbelievably, unquestioned, unchallenged. Awesome. She thought that every day of her life and every day of her life it was right. When you had an endless stream of glad tidings to deliver to the world and the world in turn gave you the seeds to produce even more glad tidings, you lived a blessed life. Pathfinder lived that blessed life. Her journeys provided her with the seeds for future adventures and she shared those adventures with those who in the end would come to be her close, lovely friends. How lucky were they to know her? How lucky was she to know them?! It had been a crazy few month since she had met Rainy, and now here this awesome group of adventurers were, solving the ancient mysteries of Equestria and looking fine as they did it.

It had all started with Rain Leaf. Well, back up. It had all started with her trip to Talinpolis. While the Helm of Commander Hurricane had been the goal, the item that had started the snowball effect that now consumed her as well as some others was this trinket called the Ruby Claw. It was nice enough but she wasn't interested in claws as much as she was hooves and after her radically awesome escape from The Pit and the city with the Helm, she had given it to her fillyfriend Snowfall as a gift. That was what a good fillyfriend did, she assumed; give a gift no matter the circumstances. It was cool looking, full of cool little indents that Pathfinder had failed to force gems into, and appeared to be useless as a tool to dig out of caves. But she had missed something important, something historical, and a few weeks later as Pathfinder was recovering in a Canterlot hospital after a fandom-responsible injury, somepony(or ponies) broke into Snowfall's secure suite and stole the Ruby Claw.

Pathfinder wasn't going to stand idly by while somepony got one over Snowfall and, by extention, Pathfinder. She followed any leads she could get but the trail ran cold. Whoever it was, he or she was good. Judging by the silence she got when she mouthed off in search for clues, he or she also had the bits to cover their tracks. The occasional stray arrow in the dark, poisoned lettuce, giant boulders falling from the sky, hyper violent storms that seemed to have tracked her, and once in a while finding a deadly snake crawling through a new hole in her very hole-y tent told her that this pony wasn't going to play nice, either. But for all of the failure that came with eventually running dry on leads in her search, she had done something far more important. She had discovered the purpose of the Claw in a larger sense and had discovered a bunch of adventure-minded ponies to trundle through Equestria with her on an epic adventure.

Rain Leaf had been the first and, so far, the most successful. It was a bit strange to think that they had worked out so well in finding the Iris of Immortality- which now was hidden and secure with Snowfall, who was sure not to flaunt it this time Pathfinder thought- and even seeing the Saxon Staff. He was just a botanist, not a full-blooded adventure like Pathfinder. But every group needed the newbie and of them all, he was probably the most new. Maybe by the end he would be the best adventurer ever and save everypony, but also have to sacrifice himself to do so. She didn't have that character yet in her story. If he was going to play that role though, he'd first need to fall in love to make the whole thing super dramatic. Maybe the botanist and the egghead could get together and have the most awkward and left-hooved kisses in the history of the medium.

Speaking of the egghead, she had been the second(or third, depending on how you decided to count) to join this little group. She had not initially been involved, but when Pathfinder had followed Dr. Spin Tale and his little book during the hunt for the Ruby Claw, she overheard the details. Everypony who was anypony knew Twilight Sparkle, but even Pathfinder had been impressed by her wide berth of knowledge and her energetic desire to do well by Equestria. Plus, Pathfinder had heard rumors of her devastating magical power and that was always useful. Was Twilight neurotic? Yeah. A little frantic without her little helper? Yeah. But everypony couldn't be as awesome and experienced as Pathfinder, they all needed problems to overcome. Pathfinder was glad to have her aboard.

The other member of the duo who had joined that day was Dr. Spin Tale, a Canterlot history academic with his book so far up a nose it may as well have been a tree. He was smart and willing to get down and dirty(or so he said), but of everypony here, he had the most to prove to Pathfinder. He knew a lot about military affairs which made her think that maybe he would be a good tactician, but Twilight was actually experienced in such matters and Pathfinder had found herself in more scrums than she could count. Every group needed to have all their niches filled and Pathfinder worried briefly that maybe he didn't have a niche. She didn't want to think that their team's niche list included worm bait, but Dr. Spin Tale had to prove he had a better spot than at the bottom of the bait chain. It'd be a shame if that happened to be the case because he seemed nice and was awfully cute, but who else could it be?

Certainly not The Great and Powerful Trixie! She was too Great! And Powerful! And Trixie! Pathfinder had run into her last while fishing out the very last remnants of the trail of the Ruby Claw's thief, a fierce storm driving her into shelter. There, she had stumbled upon Trixie and her stallion-servant(no matter Dr. Whooves' assertions to the contrary) and through discussion revealed what was happening. Was it any surprise that Trixie jumped at the chance at big time adventure? Pathfinder's little voice at the back of her head gnawed at her and said something else was up, but it was drowned out by epic gestures of mental fandom at having her favorite magician come along. Pathfinder wasn't entirely sure about her niche yet, but as far as she was concerned, all Trixie had to do was pose and look good. And magical. And powerful! What she had that Twilight lacked in her little experience with both was almost boundless confidence. That would come in handy, especially early on when rough patches would need to be smoothed over.

So here they were, the fantastic five, ready to go and solve...something. Through her wild chase for the Claw and the Iris of Immortality, Pathfinder had connected some strands together. It was all connected, somehow, with other relics. The why and what were still up in the air but everypony with a working brain stem knew that if a mystery relic puzzle was being solved by ponies of unknown moral fabric, you had to take at least one piece. Pathfinder planned on taking all the pieces, but she figured starting with one of them was the best idea currently. The only one they had any really good information on was something called the Orb of Overwatch.

Twilight would probably know more about it's history and power, but all Pathfinder cared to know was it's location and that had been easier than she'd feared to discover. Some ancient castle outside Hoofington that belonged to some paranoid ancient princess, now a derelict structure. It had been easy to discover, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the coast. The real challenge had been getting there, the wind violently tearing at the sky and the rain hammering them on the ground. The critters of the forest ran to and fro and Pathfinder's hat was getting soaky, which was nothing new. It had been soaked in sewers, lakes, acid, and a hundred and ten other chemically treated materials and come out just as sparkling(to her eyes- Snowfall made sure to wash it industrially every time they saw one another, along with the rest of her adventure-stained clothes) as before.

Pathfinder was pretty freakin' excited. What sort of awesome traps and stuff were hidden inside the ruined castle? Everyone looked super jazzed to be here, too. They were all super awesome adventure ponies and tonight was the night they made their first big move. Dr. Spin Tale had been pretty sure that pillagers had ransacked it, but Pathfinder knew from experience that such treasures were often hidden by powerful magics and traps. Any normal pillager would have been done in, and even seasoned adventurers would have difficulty. That is why she had assembled this awesome, flawless team of heroes to tackle it. He was wrong. She was sure of it. Plus, whoever they were tangled up with seemed be in the area, if Pathfinder's terrible luck with storms was any indication.

She flapped her wings to get the rain off, which was a silly move but made her feel better regardless as she trotted through the mud until with squinted eyes she could make out fine details of the building. Parts of it were missing, collapsed in some areas and purposely broken in others. There appeared to be three entrances, two on raised platforms that led into the guard towers that flanked the main building and then one that was, well, straight ahead. The giant wooden doors had only recently started to rot away despite the eons of disuse and repair, the powerful magic used to preserve them wearing off. Pathfinder didn't dare fly up; if she was tossed towards the ocean by the end and suffered an injury, it would be game over. The game had just begun.

[colour=#006400]"Well, we're here!"[/colour] Pathfinder screamed to be heard over the wind and rain, flapping her wings with nervous energy. She started hovering.

[colour=#006400]"Okay, so, how do you want to do this? I could just break the door open, but if it's booby-trapped that would be a bad idea. Maybe I can stay next to the door and then one of you two-"[/colour] She pointed at Twilight and Trixie,[colour=#008000] [/colour][colour=#006400]"-Can open it? You know, with your magic and stuff? If it's booby-trapped, no one gets hurt. If it isn't, then we can all enter pretty quick and clean. Ready? Break!" [/colour]Pathfinder finished, not even waiting for a response. Her plan was perfect.

Pathfinder hovered out of tree cover, battling the weather slight as she came to rest next to the double doors. The other ponies weren't far away at all and yet she had a hard time making them out; making out Hoofington's flaring lights was going to be tough. Rough.

Just the way Pathfinder liked it.

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Here she was, the Great and Powerful Trixie, stuck with this rag-tag group of misifts, lead by Pathfinder - that strange, foal-minded pegasus who lived her life based on a fictional book. Trixie couldn't believe that somepony like this ever succeeded at much of anything save costuming at foal's birthday parties, but Whooves seemed to account at least a modicum of truth to her ramblings. Maybe it took some strange, eccentric mindset to do this - after all, Whooves, too, was constantly telling unbelievable stories and babbling incoherently. But then, she'd already lived through some unbelievable stories with him ...

Trixie only agreed to go along with this after Whooves had asked her if she could *please* keep an eye on Pathfinder, and not let her get her hooves on the Orb by herself. While Trixie didn't like the idea of being some kind of errand mare or foal-sitter, she agreed - of course, if this also gave her the chance to learn the orb's secrets for herself ... She was, after all, the greatest, most spectacular, and most beloved magician ever! The Doctor was being a bit vague about what the Orb actually did, which seemed his modus operandi, but he also claimed his predecessor had put in the castle "long ago" and had been a little more specific with some information as to how Trixie could retrieve it.

If it was only that easy. Things got complicated when Pathfinder would "recruit" every nearby vagabond pony she ran into in the forest and bring them along, despite Trixie's most logical and well-meaning protests. Even ... HER. That lavender unicorn, that upstaging mare, that ... that ... Twilight! What was she doing here?! No doubt to get the orb for herself, steal all of Trixie's well-earned accolades once more. Well this time it would be different, no made up stories about Ursa Whatevers - this time the Great and Powerful Trixie had very true stories, and was quite prepared! Well ... mostly prepared.

And so here they stood before this door, and Trixie managed to pick up just enough out of the constant stream of noise from Pathfinder's mouth - that Trixie had almost managed to complete tune out - to realize that she wanted help. Of course! Trixie just sighed and rolled her eyes, if she didn't no doubt that lavender usurper would! [colour=#6699cc]"Stand aside, my humble compatriots, and watch in awe!!" [/colour] Trixie stood up on her hind legs so that her cape could better billow in the wind for dramatic effect. The world was a stage, after all! The Doctor at least understood that. Her horn glowed a beautiful lavender and, throwing away her distractions, gathered her will. The wind gathered up around her, swirled around her, flaring her came in a most magnificent fashion. She packed the air together above her head, gathering it up, and then gestured dramatically towards the door, along with a few brilliant explosions of rainbow colored sparks for effect. The old doors crashed open with a loud bang. [colour=#6699cc]"Nothing to fear with the Great and Powerful Tri-"[/colour] Trixie's eyes opened wide in mid-sentence at a glint of light in the darkness, and then a triggered spear flying from that doorway, right towards her.

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[colour=#006400]“Well, we’re here!”[/colour]

And so they finally arrived at this wretched sea-side castle. Spin Tale thought it was too bad that the castle had to be abandoned out in the middle of the woods, left to the mercy of the elements. If only the city of Hoofington could cough up enough bits for essential renovations, the old fortress could be turned into a heritage park that anypony could visit on a daytrip. It was too bad though that so many potential sites of historical significance had either vanished off the face of Equestria or had simply been robbed for anything of worth, down to the last block of stone. Of course, Dr. Tale mentally pointed out the irony that he himself, along with his “merry” band, was now the latest in a line of archeological plunderers. The stallion grimaced at this thought.

[colour=#006400]"Okay, so, how do you want to do this? I could just break the door open, but if it's booby-trapped that would be a bad idea. Maybe I can stay next to the door and then one of you two… can open it? You know, with your magic and stuff? If it's booby-trapped, no one gets hurt. If it isn't, then we can all enter pretty quick and clean. Ready? Break!"[/colour]

[colour=#ff6666]“Uhhh, Featherbrain?”[/colour] a disgruntled Spin Tale tried to interject; [colour=#ff6666]“This castle is a complete wreck! If you’re worried about booby-traps, why not just look around for a…”[/colour] Dr. Tale’s advice was of no use, for Pathfinder had already flown away towards the front entrance. Any sensible pony would have scouted the castle for another way in; heck, the notorious plunderers of Equestria’s past almost always made their own entrances rather than risk facing potential booby-traps at the front door. With the dilapidated condition the castle was in, surely there would already be holes in the outer walls off to the other sides?

[colour=#6699cc]"Stand aside, my humble compatriots, and watch in awe!!"[/colour]

Spin Tale facehoofed, and not for the last time on this… “adventure”. Trixie here was yet another pony who apparently lacked common sense; always too busy boasting about her “great and powerful” magic routine. In all honesty, it didn’t surprise Dr. Tale that Pathfinder would associate with the likes of an obnoxious stage performer. If Pathfinder were to make a living acting out Daring Do’s adventures in front of audiences, Spin imagined that the hyperactive pegasus would behave in precisely the same way as Trixie.

At any rate, Spin Tale didn’t care at all for the colorful show Trixie put forth in her effort to magically open the door. If this was a stage show back in Canterlot or whatever, the stallion would have probably actually enjoyed the awesome display of magic. As it stood however, Dr. Tale was not at a performance, but rather waiting for a simple door to open so he can get out of the rain and the mud. What point did it serve to summon wind effects and rainbow-spark explosions if nopony was around to watch? Well… at least Trixie managed to open the old wooden door.

[colour=#6699cc]"Nothing to fear with the Great and Powerful Tri-"[/colour]

The earth pony stood a bit away from Trixie while she opened the door, not wishing to be in the proximity of any booby trap should the blue-coated unicorn happen to trigger one. Widening his eyes at Trixie’s interruption, Spin Tale surmised that she indeed set one off even though he couldn’t see from his vantage point what the trap actually was. Too far away to respond in time, Spin simply stood there with a combined look of horror and annoyance as it appeared the adventure would suffer a very quick first casualty.....

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  • 2 weeks later...


[colour=darkgreen]"Well, we're here!"[/colour]

Rain Leaf raised his head at the sound of Pathfinder’s voice. He gently tightened the strap on his pack that he had been fiddling with and approached the other members of the group as they assembled near the door. The shapes of the others weren’t very difficult to see thanks to his goggles but he was unable to make out many other details in the tinted world that he saw through them. Obviously, Pathfinder was the one that was hovering in the air near the doors. A small tingling sensation raced up one of his legs as it sunk into the mud. He fidgeted as he tried to readjust himself but it was to no avail. It seemed as if every spot he stepped in had become a slush of dirt, grass, and water. He huffed in irritation which fogged up his goggles slightly. If only he had brought his jumpsuit.

Rain Leaf snapped to attention when he heard Pathfinder speak up again. He tilted his head as he struggled to make out what she was saying through the bellowing winds.

[colour=darkgreen]"Okay, so, how do you want to do this? I could just break the door open, but if it's booby-trapped that would be a bad idea. Maybe I can stay next to the door and then one of you two…”[/colour] She pointed at the two mares to his left.[colour=darkgreen] [/colour][colour=darkgreen]"-Can open it? You know, with your magic and stuff? If it's booby-trapped, no one gets hurt. If it isn't, then we can all enter pretty quick and clean. Ready? Break!"[/colour]

Rain Leaf’s ears twitched as he heard the stallion to his right attempt to get a word in. He wasn’t able to make out much other than something about looking around for another exit. It sounded like a far better idea and less dangerous idea. Who knows what the dark, forgotten hallways within this forsaken castle could have in store for them. Unfortunately, being careful didn’t really suit Pathfinder’s style as far as he knew. Although, the plan she had laid out was actually far more cautious than he had expected it to be.

[colour=#6699CC]"Stand aside, my humble compatriots, and watch in awe!!"[/colour]

Rain Leaf raised his brow as the mare stood up on her hind legs, allowing her cape to billow in the wind. The air around her swirled and gathered above her, sending water in every direction. [colour=#ff0000]‘Is this really necessary?’[/colour] he wondered as she motioned toward the door. With a spectacular display, the doors crashed open, revealing the shadowy interior of the castle.

Something shifted slightly inside while Trixie boasted about her accomplishment. Rain Leaf immediately leaped at the mare who was now aware of the impending danger as she saw the spear flying towards her. As he collided with her, he noticed that he had taken the place of the mare and that he was now in the spear’s path. In a flash of lightning and the tearing sound of fabric, Rain Leaf landed in the mud, rolling onto his stomach before coming to a stop. He now felt cold but was to terrified to open his eyes. The silence was lifted as he took a quick shallow breath and slowly lifted himself out of the mud and into a sitting position. As he rose, the contents of his pack came pouring out into the mud.[colour=#ff0000] “No!”[/colour] he cried repeatedly as he desperately tried to scoop the contents back into the bag. After a few moments he gave up realizing that his efforts were futile. His head hung low, the rain flowing down his drenched mane. [colour=#ff0000]“Not again.”[/colour] He said with a huff.

Something off to the side caught his attention. The spear lay not far from him. Rain Leaf quickly gave himself a quick look over just to make sure that he was still in one piece.[colour=#ff0000] “How?”[/colour] The last thing he remembered was the spear coming right for him. His eyes shifted back towards the spear in the mud. A rope was attached to the back of the shaft. He followed the length of the rope only to see Pathfinder standing at the other end. [colour=#ff0000]“How… how did you…" [/colour]He briefly closed his eyes took in a quick moment to gather his thoughts. With a sigh, he opened his eyes and smiled. [colour=#ff0000]"Thanks.”[/colour]

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The most important part of an adventure was response to stress. The best adventure ponies, real or fake, looked at a stressful situation as a chance at doing something amazing, something worthy of the title adventure. That was perhaps the biggest difference between Pathfinder and her compatriots, that desire for not only adventure but that kinetic energy that they called stress. The only way a pony could truly call themselves an adventurer was if they submitted to it, adapted to it, became molded by it, and started to seek it out. Then you would never be caught unaware, never caught in a bad situation, everything would turn just the way you wanted it. Some may argue that it only appeared that way since you coated everything in a positive light, but what did they know? They were too busy with careers and telling you what to do with your life every time you came back around to pick up your mail or they treated you for the seventh broken wing in four years and WHY WAS LILLY LIVER SUCH A CONDENSCENDING PEGASUS!?

She sighed, mentally assigning Spin Tale's reservations(and Lilly Liver's) to some long-forgotten folder marked "COMMON SENSE' that went back to it's dusty, never looked in corner of her mind. There just wasn't much use for a second or a third hole when the door could be opened, was there? Thieves looked for shortcuts. Graverobbers. Rascals. Ponies that didn't deserve the glory and honor of Equestria ancient relics, weren't worthy of the adventure to retrieve them or having their names etched in the annals of history. They were pretenders to a throne that didn't even want, and Pathfinder considered herself way, way above them. Adventurers needed to hit the front, the obvious, go through and defeat the traps. It was a boring story otherwise and any adventurer worth his or her salt detested boredom. The only excuse one had for not taking the obvious way was if they knew for certain that traps existed that one could not top. But beyond that, Spin Tale's advice was regulated to the back of Pathfinder's mind.

Luckily, Trixie was an awesome pony and she commenced being awesome. Within a span of a few moments- it should have been immediately, but you had to allow for theatricality with her- the door flung open, and that was when something really cool happened. Of all the traps, the flying projectile one was one of the most common. Pathfinder had labeled it number forty-seven on her list of traps, and only that high because after a few knocks of the head against a boulder she had forgotten the order of numbers. A spear came flying out and despite it's swiftness, she noticed a few pathetic signs. First off, there was only one spear. Most traps had many. Had it already been triggered? And why a projectile trap at the front door, where there was so much cover? Most traps of that sort were placed inside of a hallway, little cover, little hope. It was amateur placement, or more likely, placement of a trap that some old Princess didn't think she needed.

It also wasn't as fast as most other projectiles. It was this flaw that allowed Pathfinder to react, reaching into her backpack and grabbing onto the rope and in one swift motion, sending it flying through the air in a lasso. It wouldn't be enough to stop a raging bull, but her heated toss was enough to clasp at the very base of the spear at the end of the rope's span just as it reached Rainy's saddlebag. She couldn't stop it from tearing his bag open, but she could stop it from tearing him open- had she been a nanosecond slower, it would have landed with a sick thud in his flank. Not a deadly blow, but he would have needed help. Help only Pathfinder could have provided, probably, slowing her down. She would have done it because she had all sorts of sibling-esque adoration for him, but still, her style did not leave room for cramping.

She pulled the rope back, dragging the spear back. She untied it and then tossed the spear and rope back into her saddlebag, ignoring the physics of the matter. She tied the saddlebag back up.

[colour=#006400]"Alright, good job! Let's get in!" [/colour]She bellowed before doing as she said and flying right in.

Immediate dissapointment.

It used to be a grand hall for a Princess who considered herself equally grand. She must have also valued knowledge and gold, if Pathfinder's skim reading of the material was accurate. Great bookshelves lined the walls, or used to. As Spin Tale gathered, other intruders had more or less made their own entrances, collapsing the walls that also counted as bookcases. Piles of rubble, wood, and torn up books collected dust all around. Parts of the Hall had collapsed over time naturally or due to the natural degradation of time, but more so because around half of the bricks that made up the floor had been gold and therefore plundered. Large gaping holes allowed Pathfinder to see below, but there wasn't much to see; the Princess had been a fan of height, not secrecy. Not only that, but what Pathfinder saw was utterly bare. Previous looters didn't even leave the steel, hoofcuffs from her dungeon.

The spear trap was also mostly barren. It looked like it once held more than sixty spears in a crossbow bolt fashion, likely set up when the Princess used the Orb to see just how unliked she was in her little Queendom. Most had either been used or looters had managed to take out all the extra bolts.

Not any of that mattered, really. But if looters had done such a number on this place- and by the looks of holes in the ceiling, they had done it to much of the castle- then what was the likelihood they hadn't reached the top? Or the enemies they were arrayed against?

[colour=#006400]"Darn it! Don't tell me that paranoid Princess couldn't even bother with some hard traps!"[/colour] Pathfinder said, landing and stomping her feet in a tantrum.

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Trixie had been careless, although she would be the last to admit it; she had to act quickly before she was shish kabobed! Her horn quickly lit up to suspend the spear and - WHAM! Trixie found herself splayed in a large puddle, her face half submerged in the shallow muddy water, a few bubbles rising to the surface in front of her shocked, then annoyed face. Her eyes widened with the sudden realization that her cape and hat were now filthy! She leaped to her hooves, threw out her chest, and demanded, [colour=#6699cc]“Who? Who threw the Great and Powerful Trixie into this disgusting and dirtifying muck!?”[/colour]

It could have been no other than the brown pegasus, Rain Leaf, who had shoved her like that. She was all ready to give him an ear full about how she could have deflected the spear, but he looked so dejected about his now ripped bag and its spilled contents that she hesitated. Was she getting soft? Trixie sighed in disgust, and the magic from her horn gathered up the drenched items, stuffing them haphazardly into Rain Leaf's bag, sticking out of the top at every angle. Her purple magic created a purple, glowing zipper to seal up the tear in the bag, and then she followed Pathfinder into the entrance without saying a word to him, her head held high, her magic flicking mud away left and right from her precious garments.

[colour=#6699cc]“Ugh, this will never do.”[/colour] Trixie could hardly see anything, and she didn’t want to overlook any potential clues… or riches. With a simple act of will, she brightened the glow from her horn. [colour=#6699cc] “Behold! The mysteries of the ancient past that Trixie has revealed beeee ... fore ... you.“[/colour] One quick look around reveled the stark truth that Pathfinder had already figured out; the place was a moldy, wet, decaying, ramble of broken wood, rusted metal, and mossy stone. [colour=#6699cc] “Wait! What is this? Are you sure we’re in the right place?”[/colour] Trixie stared sternly at Pathfinder, was this weirdo cheating her somehow? [colour=#6699cc]“The Great and Powerful Trixie does not like to be played with! Er, I mean messed with! Are you sure we are in the right place!” [/colour] She wondered if Whooves was having better luck as she looked up the dimly lit stairwell of crumbling stone.

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Spin Tale didn’t want to acknowledge it, but Pathfinder’s life-saving stunt with that fancy rope-work actually amazed the earth pony stallion to a certain degree. Not that he’d ever admit it to anypony though; especially Pathfinder herself. The last thing that pegasus needed in her life was encouragement to keep being insane. Lest Dr. Tale forgot, credit was also in store for the other pegasus, Rain Leaf, who shoved that obnoxious magician out of the way of the spear. At least Trixie had enough gratitude to make a token effort at stuffing Rain Leaf’s spilled belongings back into his bag. Once the unicorn took care of the mess, Spin Tale tentatively followed her into the old castle.

[colour=#6699cc]“Ugh, this will never do. Behold! The mysteries of the ancient past that Trixie has revealed beeee ... fore ... you.”[/colour]

As expected of an abandoned ruin, the inside wasn’t all that bright… save for the light shining from all the collapsed sections of the walls and the roof. Spin Tale rolled his eyes; less than fifteen seconds into the group’s survey, and already he was being proved right. This place had already been broken into beyond all doubt; any further questions were dispelled as Trixie’s light spell revealed that the interior had been stripped clean of all valuables. Picking up a stray tome on the floor, Dr. Tale attempted to read it only to find that not only that most of the pages were torn out, but that the text had faded away into obscurity long ago. A pity he thought… those books could have provided valuable insights into the paranoid Princess.

[colour=#006400]"Darn it! Don't tell me that paranoid Princess couldn't even bother with some hard traps!"[/colour]

[colour=#6699cc]“Wait! What is this? The Great and Powerful Trixie does not like to be played with! Er, I mean messed with! Are you sure we are in the right place?”[/colour]

Really? This castle had nothing left of note (at least for the group's immediate purposes), and Pathfinder was throwing a fit because the castle lacked enough booby traps? Now very much annoyed, Spin Tale saw fit to answer Trixie’s question for the childish adventurer. [colour=#ff6666]“Of course we’re in the right place, my dear Trixie,”[/colour] Dr. Tale hissed; [colour=#ff6666]“And just as I said multiple times before we got here, there isn’t a STINKING THING HERE AT ALL!”[/colour]

Trotting towards a broken-down column, the miserable stallion continued his sarcastic tirade towards Pathfinder;[colour=#ff6666] “I must say; well done Featherbrain! Clearly your 'wisdom' has brought us all riches and recognition beyond all our possible imaginations! So where are we off to next? Maybe there’s a secret nonexistent temple within the sewers of Hoofington? HA HA; that’s a riot!”[/colour] Just as he laughed, Spin Tale leaned his foreleg against the column; an unwise decision it turned out, as that action caused the pillar to break apart. With his attention on the collapsed support column, Dr. Tale failed to promptly notice the cracking sounds of the roof immediately above him. In a matter of seconds, that particular roof section broke apart from old age; by the time the falling noises got loud enough, the earth pony only had enough reaction time to cover his head and scream as the plummeting pieces of stone closed in.....

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Ruined books, drenched maps, and muddy tools; these were the rewards for his foolish act of bravery. It certainly wasn’t something Rain Leaf was unfamiliar with and it didn’t hit him quite as hard as it did when he lost his first pack to a brushfire sparked by a surprised pink unicorn or his second during his first encounter with the Ruby Raiders. Still, it was like watching a hefty sum of bits just wash away. The tools could be cleaned and the maps could still be saved, but the books... he didn’t even want to check the extent of the damage done to the pages by the water and mud. No, he will have to dispose of them later. A new pack wouldn’t hurt either. Maybe, he will try a blue one this time. Hopefully, next time he will refrain from calling them “lucky” or “trusty” lest they end up burnt, torn, and lost.

Rain Leaf was still grateful that everypony had made it out of the mess without any real injury. Once again, Pathfinder had his back and was there to bail him out of trouble. He was also rather surprised by Trixie’s unexpected act of kindness and although it didn’t really solve his problem, the gesture had done much to lift his mood. He didn’t even get a chance to thank her for it once Pathfinder started up again. With the doors now open, the mare of obviously eager to jump right on in.

[colour=darkgreen]"Alright, good job! Let's get in!"[/colour]

Rain Leaf hesitated while the others entered the castle. He spread his wings, allowing the rain the wash away as much of the mud as possible before following the others in. Normally, he doesn’t mind the mud, so long as it stays on the ground where it belongs. He could already feel it in-between his feathers and he knew that it was going to be a nuisance later, but there wasn’t much that he could really do about it now.

[colour=#6699CC]“Ugh, this will never do.” [/colour]Trixie said. She brightened the magical glow from horn to provide light for the others. [colour=#6699CC]“Behold! The mysteries of the ancient past that Trixie has revealed beeee ... fore ... you.“ [/colour]

Rain Leaf gave his wings a few good flaps, shedding as much of the muck as possible. With one last look at the stormy sky above, he sighed and trotted on through the entrance to join the others whom were already inspecting the interior of the run down, forgotten castle.

[colour=#6699CC]“Wait! What is this? The Great and Powerful Trixie does not like to be played with! Er, I mean-“ [/colour]

Rain Leaf ignored the bickering that was taking place among his comrades as he gave the interior a look over. It was a complete mess. The floor had fallen through in some spots and rugs and drapes had long since decayed in the damp environment. Mold and a few mushrooms covered much of the walls and floor. He even spotted a few patches of moss. The old castle had turned into a cave-like environment. There might even be some bats and other cave dwellers inside. It was incredible. He had never seen anything quite like this. [colour=#ff0000]“Fascinating!”[/colour]

[colour=#FF6666]“-well done[/colour][colour=#FF6666] Featherbrain! Clearly your 'wisdom' has brought us all riches and recognition beyond all our possible imaginations! So where are we off to next? Maybe there’s a secret nonexistent temple within the sewers of Hoofington? HA HA; that’s a riot!”[/colour]

Dr. Tale’s harsh tone caught Rain Leaf’s attention. His eyes narrowed at the stallion as Tale leaned against a column. He didn’t appreciate Spin Tale and Trixie’s negativity. How was the group supposed to succeed like this? Where did Pathfinder even find these ponies? Were any of them going to work together without criticizing one another? [colour=#ff0000]“I hardly think any of this is necessary. All we are doing is wasting-”[/colour] he tried to interject, annoyed by the team’s bickering. A loud cracking noise silenced him. The old support pillar Dr. Tale was leaning on gave out bringing heavy stones down with it. Dr. Tale was right below the falling rocks. Rain Leaf felt helpless as Dr. Tale’s screams filled the room. He wasn’t in a position for any of his heroic antics and there was no time for him to react. He could only hope that one of the unicorns still had a trick or two to show.

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[colour=#800080]Twilight stood in the pouring rain and tried desperately to ignore the fact that her saddle bags were completely soaked. Before she set off on this adventure she had cast a spell on her bags and the books inside to protect them, but she wasn’t sure how effective it would be. She’d never had a problem with it before, but this weather was something that her bags have never experienced before. Her long mane was drenched and her hooves were beginning to sink into the mud. The harder the rain came down, the more she sank. She looked around wondering how in Equestria she had ended up in this situation. This whole crazy thing had all started with Dr. Spin Tale and that diary in her library, and somehow led to a crumbling castle outside of Hoofington. Dr. Tale seemed as though he was as unhappy and surprised to be out in this kind of weather as she was, but Pathfinder seemed like nothing could get her down. That crazy mare was all smiles as she surveyed the odd group of ponies standing around her.

Odd group of ponies was definitely no understatement, this was not a team of adventurers you’d see in any foal’s tale. They were all either inexperienced or completely crazy; she thought that last bit while glancing in the direction of Trixie and Pathfinder. However, they were going to have to make due and find the orb of overwatch to keep it from falling into the wrong hooves. Although, Twilight did have her doubts about if this group of ponies were necessarily the right hooves. On top of the fact that she’d just met them, Trixie was here. She’d have to keep a close eye on her to make sure she wasn’t here to steal it, and Twi had to do all of this without making herself look suspicious.

The downpour was so loud that it was hard to hear a word that anypony else was saying. Pathfinder was yelling about something, Twi was able to make out the word door and then PF pointed at her and Trixie. Although it didn't take long for Twi to realize that Pathfinder wanted the door blown open, she was still beat out by Trixie. The blue mare could not seem to stop showing off no matter what the circumstances were! Even in this situation, instead of just opening the door like a normal pony she shot off fireworks and made a big fancy show out of it. Before Twilight could even roll her eyes, the situation turned dangerous; as soon as the door broke open there was a spear flying right at Trixie. Twilight didn't need to intervene because Trixie quickly slowed down the spear and Pathfinder caught it, good thing too... otherwise this expedition could have ended right here and now. Thanks to their teamwork, the whole disaster only resulted in some muddy personal effects. Unfortunately, among the objects were a few books; the sight of ruined books made Twilight cringe, always. She shook off the small feeling of loss and cautiously followed the team.

Poor Twilight was beginning to desperately miss her companion, Spike. She was having trouble being brave without him here, it felt as though she had no safety net to fall back on. Even though she had trouble making friends back in Canterlot, Spike was always there for her, and now she just felt cold, wet and quite alone.

After taking a few seconds to compose herself and shake away her feelings, Twilight stepped inside of the old castle. Her heart immediately sank as she was greeted with a room full of ruined books. There was debris all over the floor, including pieces of wood and ripped up books. From the looks of it, a lot of knowledge was lost here and would be quite unlikely to get recovered. Twilight looked over at Pathfinder and noticed that she was busying herself with the deactivated spear trap, this meant that Twi would hopefully have a few moments to do as she pleased. Since the issue at hand was books, Twi decided it was best not to waste any time. Her horn glowed softly as pages and torn book covers started gently floating off of the floor into a neat pile at Twi's hooves. She began reading some scraps as others continued to quietly make their way over to her location. Twi was certainly faced with an interesting collection of knowledge. Some of the [/colour][colour=#800080]scraps[/colour][colour=#800080] looked as though they came from record books and others looked like they may have been fiction but a few pages seemed to be about something real! Her ears perked up and she smiled when she realized she was holding a page from some sort of spell book, a very old one. Finally, something good happened today. She quickly tucked it away into her saddlebag without looking suspicious; the last thing she wanted was for Trixie to realize what she was doing.

Twilight had been trying to generally ignore everypony else's whining as she took care of what she felt was important work. A few more pages were putting themselves away in her bag as others floated around her. However, she could not ignore Dr. Tale's yelling and finally turned around to see what was going on. Dr. Tale was clearly getting quite frustrated by the fact that this castle seemed to have nothing left in it but dust and broken rocks, but Twilight wasn't ready to mention what she found. The upset stallion continued to rant and Twilight continued to pull every s**** of paper off of the floor. She got the feeling that the team was about to move on (or possibly get into a fight) so she hastily stuffed the whole mess into her right saddle back, which she'd thought to leave empty in case she found anything. Everything she found of value however, was in her left saddlebag neatly tucked into the middle of a stack of books.

The latch on Twi's saddle bag had barely been fastened for a second when Dr. Tales made the unfortunate mistake of leaning on one of the castle's crumbling, old pillars. Without any hesitation, Twilight jumped right into action. Her horn glowed so fiercely that the center was white, and she quickly grabbed every single piece of the falling ceiling out of midair. The pieces floated towards the corner of the room where nopony was standing and stacked themselves up against the wall. Twilight let out a deep sigh and let herself slump down onto her flank. This was going to be a long adventure... [/colour]

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There were a lot of things that could have happened that turned a once powerful castle into a wreck that was falling apart. Time was the greatest enemy of ambitious architecture as the mad designs of those ancient architects were simply too complicated to remain standing when the rigors of the eons passed. Sure, castles were sturdy. But when the secrets of maintenance were lost to the grave or dusty tomes never to be opened again by a forgetful populace, it was just a matter of time. They required the skills and knowledge that while not totally lost on modern society were often reserved for the highest skilled in their profession and they had better things to do than worry about old, uninhabited castles in the middle of mating season between The Strand and the eastern outstretch of Equestria. If age took it down a few notches, then the curious and determined would finish it off with their prying. That was likely what happened here.

But her thoughts were forestalled by the possibility that angry doc Tale was about to meet an untimely end. Pathfinder head a scream and turned around, but by the time she noticed what had happened it would have been too late to do anything. So in that brief moment in time, she wrote the poor doctor off as a morality lesson for future explorers about the dangers of being mean. Who would replace him? They had some decent choices, she thought. She was a little partial to Gilda, but she was far away. Snowfall was too busy and too high profile. Maybe little Sparks? As a little one he was probably immune to all the sharp, pointy things that hedged the sides of an adventure. Besides, the replacement for the first loss in an adventure wasn't likely to fall so easily!

It became a moot point when with only some strain Twilight moved the falling column and stacked it neatly. Yep, there was a reason they brought her along and it wasn't just for those deep, disarming eyes! After she was finished, Pathfinder shot on over and nudged her in the ribs. Maybe a bit too hard.

[colour=#006400]"Good job, Sparkly. I knew we brought you along for something!"[/colour] Pathfinder finished by ruffling her mane, a sure sign of fantastic friendliness and camaraderie She then took a breath and looked around, ready now to engage her fellows!

[colour=#006400]"Yeah Trix, this is the place,"[/colour] Pathfinder pointed up at some of the gaps in the ceiling,[colour=#006400] "and if I had to guess, somepony was here recently. See how there aren't any spiderwebs or other signs of age in that hole like there is...everywhere else? That'd also be near where the Orb would be held. Well, if I was a paranoid princess that's what I would do with it, hide it where I could be a creeper and stare out at the city of Hoofington,"[/colour] Pathfinder started thinking hard, standing up and examining her tail with a backwards glance, [colour=#006400]"and I'd have a bigger tail, too. That's the in thing, the hip thing, with the royals. Right?" [/colour]She glanced around, [colour=#006400]"Right?"[/colour] She looked at Twilight specifically, since she knew she was practically Celestia's adopted daughter, [colour=#006400]"Bah, doesn't matter!"[/colour]

Pathfinder took flight.

[colour=#006400]"Alright! Now that brainiac alpha has saved brainiac beta, we can decide what to do next,"[/colour] She said, accentuating her words with her hooves rubbing together.

[colour=#006400]"I say we BUNKER DOWN for the night! Maybe we'll find some clues. The brainiacs can stay behind while the rest of us take turns prowling the perimeter to make sure everything's fine. Maybe if we're lucky a giant sea serpent will attack the castle, or zebras from Unyasi will try to launch an invasion with this as the first strike! More likely though,"[/colour] Pathfinder now look visibly disappointed, [colour=#006400]"we'll probably just deal with the growing storm of the year outside."[/colour]

She sighed- and then perked back up, eyes glittering as she looked around.

[colour=#006400]"Unless any of YOU have any ideas!?"[/colour]

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Trixie was annoyed - the place was a total bust. Was all that information that Whooves spouted worthless? After all, he said his predecessor was the one who hid the staff, not himself. Perhaps long-ago thieves had pilfered the place. [colour=#6699cc]“Stupid earth pony”[/colour], Trixie mumbled to herself as she whacked one of the decayed books with her forehoof, sending yellowed, torn papers flying as it slid across the damp floor. She should have known he would have mucked it up! Unless ... Unless they only managed to get so far. Whooves had spoken of a series of traps and tests one had to get through. Maybe the trespassers never were able to find the Staff itself, if they even knew it was here.

Spin Tale confirmed that they were in the right locale, but he had no confidence what they were looking for existed. What did he know? He was an earth pony; he couldn’t appreciate mystical artifacts like the Great and Powerful Trixie! Yet again, so was Whooves, but he was ... different. It was only that difference that kept her here, that and Twilight Sparkle.

Trixie had so many conflicting emotions when it came to the purple librarian mare. It used to be simple; just anger and the desire for revenge. However, those emotions slowly consumed Trixie in such a way that it almost enslaved her to a magical amulet, one that brought out the worst aspects of addiction and malice. She had been freed of her all-consuming desire for retribution, but she struggled with jealousy and her own feelings of inadequacy. Trixie just wanted to prove she, too, could be just as good of a magic user, just as responsible, just as loved. This Staff was her opportunity, an opportunity to shine! She wasn’t sure if she could trust Twilight, a feeling that instantly caused Trixie’s head to turn when she caught of glint of glowing purple out of the corner of her eye. It was pretty obvious Twilight was stuffing papers into her saddlebags, but why? [colour=#6699cc] “Twilight Sparkle! What are you hiding in your bags, is there something you are not telling us? Maybe some sort of clue-.“[/colour]

Before Trixie could finish her line of questioning the ceiling above made a horrid creaking sound. She looked up only to see the stones coming loose and beginning to fall. Now was her chance! She was well versed in dealing with stone, after that humiliating time at the rock farm. Her horn began to glow, but before she could take control, the stones stopped in mid-air, surrounded by a purple hue not of her own making. Twilight had already taken the situation into her own hooves. Trixie could do nothing but watch in jealous indignation as the purple mare dealt with the issue as if it was a first year magic test. [colour=#6699cc] “I’ve could have handled that! But… uhh, good job, I guess.”[/colour] Why was being nice so hard!

At least Pathfinder finally had a good idea. Indeed, they were stuck for the night, the storm making any trip back quite impossible. Trixie’s horn glowed brightly once again, [colour=#6699cc]“the Great and Powerful Trixie agrees, we can only go forward!”[/colour] Trixie marched proudly into the blackened hall, it might be scary, but at least it was dry. Sort of.

The next chamber was much like the first one, shelved by the remainder of books, also gutted by thieves. It seemed like a dead end, just a convenient campsite, till Trixie noticed the tiled pattern on the floor, an ornately tiled, but cracked and broken pattern on the floor which included a large X made of little tiles of obsidian. To anyother pony, it might just be decorative, but Trixie remembered a fragment of Whooves' ramblings. The next clue! A secret doorway! Trixie smiled brightly, they were on the right track, thanks to her! [colour=#6699cc]“The Great and Powerful Trixie thinks this would be a good place to rest for the night!”[/colour]

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The moment where Spin Tale expected that he’d be squashed into oblivion by a mass of rubble never came. Confused, the doctor stopped his ear-shattering scream and uncovered his eyes to find Twilight Sparkle levitating the ceiling pieces towards one of the walls. Getting up from his duck-and-cover position, Dr. Tale caught his breath for a moment as he tried deciphering what had nearly happened to him. To put it bluntly... he could have gotten severely injured a few seconds ago; maybe even died even! When the stallion agreed to go on this silly little quest (why the curator did so he still couldn’t clearly recall), he knew they’d be a slight element of danger involved, but Spin never in a million years could have expected that an ancient castle could have nearly put an end to him without it even trying. Needless to say, Spin Tale wished he was back home in Canterlot instead, safely tending to his museum and his patrons. It would not be the last time the curator held such thoughts.

[colour=#006400]"Good job, Sparkly. I knew we brought you along for something!"[/colour]

[colour=#6699cc]“I’ve could have handled that! But… uhh, good job, I guess.”[/colour]

Observing the others congratulating Twilight for saving his life, Spin Tale sorted out his thoughts about the lavender unicorn while gathering back his wits. For all the relative nastiness that Dr. Tale had encountered the last few days, at least he could claim that having an opportunity to team up with Celestia’s student had just about been the only redeeming feature of this trip from Tartarus. While making their way over to Hoofington, Dr. Tale had taken spare moments here and there to ask Miss Sparkle all about her past heroics and those of her friends. For her part, the modest Twilight happily obliged him with her tales concerning Nightmare Moon, Discord, and other menaces. Spin Tale got the impression though that the unicorn had other tales on the back of her mind; ones that while not as epic as the publically-known stories were the ones Twilight seemed most proud of. The stallion had made a note to question the young mare about those later.

While Pathfinder showed the group what she guessed to be recently-made holes in the ceiling, a still-shaken up Spin Tale couldn’t keep his mind off his savior. It was one thing for Twilight & Company to have helped indirectly save him through saving Equestria on at least four separate occasion; it was another thing entirely to have the purple unicorn rescue Dr. Tale’s sorry rump in person. Because of that, the stallion now guessed that he’d need to find a way to reward Twilight in kind. Throughout the last year or so, Spin Tale had disassociated himself with much of his remaining network of close friends precisely because he didn’t feel he could pay them back for sharing his various day-to-day burdens. Yet now such concerns seemed trivial compared to the debt the doctor now owed Twilight.

[colour=#006400]"Alright! Now that brainiac alpha has saved brainiac beta, we can decide what to do next. I say we BUNKER DOWN for the night! Maybe we'll find some clues. The brainiacs can stay behind while the rest of us take turns prowling the perimeter to make sure everything's fine. Maybe if we're lucky a blah blah blah blah......"[/colour]

[colour=#6699cc]“The Great and Powerful Trixie agrees, we can only go forward!” [/colour]

[colour=#ff6666]~Whaaaa... I’m brainiac beta now? Doesn’t a doctorate in history count for anything when exploring historical sites?~[/colour]

To Spin Tale’s utmost displeasure, Pathfinder remained as childish as ever; how could she possibly expect a patchwork of peace-loving zebra tribes to invade the Kingdom of Equestria? Pushing aside the pegasus’s inability to think logically, Dr. Tale stared for a moment at the ceiling gaps; Pathfinder was indeed correct that the particular section was oddly-devoid of webbing, Spin would begrudgingly give her that. Glaring into the darkness beyond the holes, the earth pony made out numerous small shapes nestled on the distant ceiling... a resting bat colony perhaps? As Trixie wandered off into an adjoining chamber and declared it a good spot for the group to rest in, Dr. Tale reasoned that Pathfinder’s hunch was worth checking out... if only to get away from the feathered madmare for a few brief moments of sanity.

But first, it was time to express gratitude to Twilight Sparkle. [colour=#ff6666]“I uhhh... ummm.....”[/colour] a nervously-smiling Spin Tale thanked the unicorn with honesty; [colour=#ff6666]“I appreciate what you uhh... did back there, Twilight. Heh heh heh... sorry about that mess...”[/colour] Dr. Tale quickly looked in the direction of the rubble pile, wincing at the wreckage of what would forever remain a testament to his moment of uncharacteristic carelessness. Bringing his attention back to the ceiling punctures, the red stallion mused to the lavender mare; [colour=#ff6666]“If there’s anything worth checking out on the upper floor, how would we get up there anyhow? You’d think it’d be connected to a stairwell or two, but I doubt somepony would have needed to punch those holes up there if that was actually the case.”[/colour] Spin Tale was in no way an experienced ruin explorer, but he was glad that he had some common sense in him... along with Twilight as well.

[colour=#ff6666]“Well Twilight,”[/colour] Dr. Tale questioned;[colour=#ff6666] “Maybe another one of your spells is in order?”[/colour] It was either that or one of Pathfinder's hair-brained schemes... and the doctor knew what not to trust.....

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  • 4 weeks later...


Rain Leaf cringed at the exact moment when he thought the good doctor would have been crushed. Spin Tale’s screams had stopped but there wasn’t the loud disgusting crushing noise that he had expected. He reopened his eyes to the sight of the lavender unicorn using her magic to move the rubble and stack it against a wall. Spin Tale had been relatively unharmed and it was all thanks to Twilight Sparkle being hot on her hooves and calm in the head.

Rain Leaf let out a short sigh of relief which turned into a short hearty laugh and raised his head high, glad that the current crisis had been avoided. Trixie struggled to even get out a few simple words of praise. Two close calls and they still have yet to accomplish anything. It certainly was an awful start. What’s next, a spike pit? Perhaps Spin Tale will knock over a bookcase of doom! The very thought of apocalyptic wooden furniture forced a small smile from him.

He scanned over the group, gauging everyone’s reactions and was irked to see that Pathfinder seemed to be relatively unfazed by it all. She quickly blew it off with a small congratulatory nudge and a few words of praise before continuing about with her usual plotting and planning.

[colour=darkgreen]"Yeah Trix, this is the place, and if I had to guess, somepony was here recently. See how there aren't any spiderwebs or other signs of age in that hole like there is...everywhere else? That'd also be near where the Orb would be held. Well, if I was a paranoid princess that's what I would do with it, hide it where I could be a creeper and stare out at the city of Hoofington,"[/colour]

If Pathfinder was correct, their entire trek to the castle would have been all for naught. What a nice change it would be if they were to get somewhere first for once. Not like his two previous encounters with Rumble and his ilk. Rain Leaf analyzed the holes in the walls and ceiling, looking back and forth between them while Pathfinder went on about with her rambling. Who knew what kind of danger could be up on the next floor? It seemed as if any part of the brickwork could give away with the slightest bit of pressure. Still he wondered why the holes were even there in the first place. Was it simply impatience that led to their creation? Perhaps the path ahead was more treacherous than they had expected. Pathfinder reclaimed his attention once she took flight.

[colour=darkgreen]"I say we BUNKER DOWN for the night! Maybe we'll find some clues. The brainiacs can stay behind while the rest of us take turns prowling the perimeter to make sure everything's fine.[/colour]

Surely she didn’t mean the exterior of the castle. What could there be to worry about out there except for rain, rain, and more rain with a side of rain? As for the interior, there wasn’t much to prowl without exploring further. Unless, that was what Pathfinder had in mind. Did he dare offer to take first watch?

[colour=darkgreen]"Unless any of YOU have any ideas!?"[/colour]

Rain Leaf gave it a little bit of thought. With a lantern either he or Pathfinder could cover a decent amount ground on their patrols. However, mapping the interior alone was a dangerous task. One sprung trap could end any of their adventuring endeavors.

[colour=#6699CC]“The Great and Powerful Trixie agrees, we can only go forward!” [/colour]

He had very little time to think before the mare marched off down a dark hallway illuminating their path with her magic. He briefly looked back at the other two unicorns who were conversing behind them before he followed Trixie down the hallway. It was a short journey into the next room. A relatively empty chamber was all that awaited them. Aside from a fancy little design on the ground and a few sacked bookcases, it seemed to be nothing more than a useless study area. A few torch sconces were the only things that would provide any light. If they could get something burning in those, it could be a nice cozy little spot to hold up.

[colour=#6699CC]“The Great and Powerful Trixie thinks this would be a good place to rest for the night!”[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]“It looks safe enough.”[/colour] Rain Leaf said as he set his saddlebags down. He ran a hoof along the spot where the tear once was. It was a harsh reminder of what could have been if Pathfinder hadn’t acted faster. The last thing he would have needed was another long stay in white hospital room. Was this really the same Trixie that he heard about who started the whole fiasco in Ponyville? She sure didn’t seem like the pony to offer a token of kindness but it was nice to know that she was capable of performing and act of kindness when the time called for it. Ponies can change. At least, that is what his mother had always taught him.[colour=#FF0000] “Uh, The Great and Powerful Trixie, is it? Thanks for patching up my bag.”[/colour]

A new thought dawned on him as he looked around the room.[colour=#FF0000] “You know, Pathfinder, I didn’t really see any staircases in the other room. Perhaps one of us should check around for one. I don’t mind exploring around the second floor for one with a lantern. Otherwise I don’t see how the grounded members of our party will be able to continue because I sure am not carrying any on them up through those holes.”[/colour] He chuckled. [colour=#FF0000]“Trixie, can you and Twilight see if you can find a more long term solution to the lighting situation. I’d hate to have you two serve as standing torches all night.” [/colour]

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Pathfinder was sorta sad that she had to call Spin Tale Braniac Beta. She knew that he had to have some smarty-pants thoughts floating in his mind on account of his doctorate and his reputation, but he wasn't impressing Pathfinder very much so far. It wasn't just because he had been a wet noodle so far, the target of some horrifying events while complaining like a little filly. No, he was going out of his way to offer up problems that didn't need to be solved because they weren't even problems! Gee Whiz Spin Tale, how were the ponies going to get up into the observation room? It wasn't like pegasi existed who could casually fly up there and see what was what. No, he had to worry about how to get up a crumbling staircase, probably with a freaky spell by the most magical unicorn Pathfinder had ever heard of. Sweet Celestia, some stallions!

Pathfinder gave a short laugh.

[colour=#006400]"Oh Spinny, don't be a silly colt. I can just shoot on up there, no magical staircase easing spell needed. I swear, at this point Rainy here's gonna take over beta spot! Oh, I'm just kidding," [/colour]She ruffled his mane, smiling as she did so, [colour=#006400]"you'll always be number two braniac in MY heart!" [/colour]She chuckled at her entirely harmless and friendly jab as she nodded towards Rain Leaf, who was once again a bastion of common sense. He was full of a lot of ideas, but unlike some of her other soon-to-be-best friends, his solutions were simple like a straight line. She wished that some lines weren't as straight as they were sometimes, but she had to keep in mind that some of her other soon-to-be-best friends weren't adventurers by trade. They were magicians, epic sorceresses, qualified botanists, and even a history buff! OOOOHHHH LOOK AT THE HISTORY LOVER ISN'T HE THE GREATEST!? Okay, maybe she should stop thinking about him.

[colour=#006400]"Good thinking, Rain. You can check that area out. Hey Trixie Trix, you and Rainy can go and investigate that chamber,"[/colour] Pathfinder hollered from the first chamber as sh started going through her saddlebag. It was home to a thousand things more valuable than anything this castle once held, like her fanfiction and various plushies as well as less awesome but more practical. She eventually found the target of her search, a lamp that looked unusually pristine all things considered. She then found a little bit of oil- fireflies didn't like being cooped up and it struck her as cruel if she carried them around- and tipped it into the lamp. She then dug around some more and found a nice, long piece of flintwood, struck it, and allowed the fire to light the oil.

For a brief moment in time, the whole of Pathfinder's world exploded in light as if the sun had come to roost on her snout. Just as suddenly, the fire dimmed and the lamp was lit, Pathfinder's facial pelt singed terribly.

[colour=#006400]"Here you go, Rain Leaf! Watch over that awesome little botanist, Trixie Dixie!" [/colour]Pathfinder tossed the lamp at Rain Leaf and didn't bother seeing if it was caught, clapping her hooves together- and by luck, snuffing out the last of the flames.

[colour=#006400]"Alright, they'll be awesome over here, and I'll see about investigating the room above us. You two...uhh, commiserate and discuss philosophy or whatever it is two braniacs do," [/colour]Pathfinder felt suddenly incredibly uncomfortable and so she took off, hovering further and further up towards the hole. It wasn't very big, but then again, she wasn't that big a mare. She reached up and found the top edges, pulling up and eventually forcing herself through the holes(though her ears stung for a few hours afterwards).


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Trixie frowned as all the other ponies kept chattering on. [colour=#6699cc]"It was not hidden by a princess,"[/colour] she informed Rain Leaf, [colour=#6699cc]“It was hidden by a Doctor, and I have been informed by The Doctor how to find it!”[/colour] If only The Doctor hadn’t been so ... frustratingly cryptic about it! A secret room that could only be reached from beneath, through the X that marks the spot? But the X was on the floor! You could only go down through it!

She stared at the floor while everyone else looked upwards for a few minutes, turning around the center as she considered it … then looked up to the four corners of the room, where the X stretched to. There were four pillars there, supporting long, graceful arches out across the ceiling, connecting each pillar to each other, forming the square of the room and … and an X along the ceiling, as well!

A ring of stones was set into the ceiling, right at the center of the arched X, with a wide round stone set within. Trixie grinned impishly. [colour=#6699cc] "Fear not, all of you! You don't need to flit about aimlessly nor worry about torches nor staircases! For the Great and Powerful Trixie shall reveal the location to you, at this very moment! Behold, the X that marks the spot! As my awesome power and magnificent brainiac brilliance reveals to you the location!"[/colour]

She reared up, dust lifting around her as her magic aura glowed brightly, and a blast of purple light shot up from her horn to strike the big round stone in the middle of the room, a shower of sparks and a rain of twinkling lights floating down over all the ponies.

For a moment there was nothing - no reaction, no revealed secret, no nothing. Blast that Doctor! He was embarrassing her! But just as she was about to open her mouth, there was a rumbling, and a shower of dust from around that circular stone, and suddenly it dropped from the ceiling in a rush, making the floor shake as a new pillar struck into the center of the room. Trixie jumped in surprise, as it barely missed crushing her, a mere inch from her nose. Her eyes were the size of saucer-plates, and her pupils tiny. Was that crazy Doctor trying to KILL her?!

She took a step back; looking up along the pillar... it wasn't stone, but instead a round, metal, spiral staircase, leading up the center of the room into the dark room above. [colour=#6699cc] "Ha-ha! Behold! The Wise and Scholarly Trixie has revealed the way forward!"[/colour]

Trixie looked directly at Rain Leaf with a proud smile as she again lit up her horn with a lavender glow. [colour=#6699cc] “Come now my little winged companion and no need for lanterns, producing such trivial magic as light is nothing to Trixie! I’ll lead the way!”[/colour]

Trixie trotted up the stairwell full of confidence; it looked as if Whooves was leading her on the right path after all! As she entered the dark room, she looked about cautiously, her horn only providing enough light to bath everything in a pale lavender glow. As she looked up she could just tell the wooden ceiling was rotting away but otherwise undisturbed. What did strike her odd though was the room was still pretty dark. It wasn’t that large! It was as if something was absorbing some of the light emanating from her horn, preventing her from seeing any details. [colour=#6699cc] “I don’t like this…”[/colour]

I figure the clue to Hoofington could be in here. Someone could figure out why the room stays dark, and of course someone could cause the building to come apart; have fun!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Twilight winced visibly as Pathfinder poked her in the ribs. She had never been good with pain, especially sudden pain like the headache that was quickly spreading from a point somewhere behind her eyes to what felt like her entire brain. That's the catch with straining your magic without preparing your mind first, it hurts. Twi barely heard what Pathfinder was saying and just shrugged off the mane ruffling, this mare sure liked being hooves on with her friends. A lot like Rainbow Dash in that regard, but a little rougher. At least Dash knew to take it easy, especially after something like what Twilight had just pulled off.

With a deep breath to center herself, Twilight stood up again and looked around. Nothing had changed of course, except for the large stack of rocks in the corner and the absence of part of the ceiling. That, and the flickering stars that were now dancing in the edges of her vision. Unfortunately it didn't seem like she'd have time to slowly and quietly pull herself together and let her mind settle. So another sigh and a few blissful seconds of darkness behind her closed eyelids would have to do.

Pathfinder was talking to her again, something about tails, and the response she seemed to be looking for was yes. [colour=#800080]"Oh uh... yeah..."[/colour] she said, quietly trailing off at the end of her thought.

After another moment or two Twilight's ears finally stopped ringing, sort of. Luckily, in that time Trixie seemed to have gotten distracted from the question she had asked. Which was good because Twilight had a shaky at best cover story for what she had tucked away in her bags. It would all fall apart if anybody had noticed her sorting things into different bags, since all of the unimportant stuff she found was going to one side and all of the good stuff was more carefully hidden on the other side.

As Spin Tale walked over, Twilight realized that she probably looked as exhausted as she felt. So of course when she tried to perk up and cheerfully said [colour=#800080]"Happy to help! It was nothing"[/colour] it must have sounded like she was completely full of horse apples. Spin Tale did have a good point about that upper floor, there didn't seem to be a single way for a non pegasus to get up there.

She did her best not to wince when Spin suggested more magic but her ear twitched and her eye might have too, she couldn't tell for sure. [colour=#800080]"More spells? I think it might be best if we explore up there tomorrow. I might be able to stack those rocks and some other stuff lying around into a staircase."[/colour] She did her best to sound like exploring tomorrow instead of tonight would be good for the whole group. The last thing that Twilight wanted to do was admit that she was pretty much running on empty now, especially after Trixie had said she could have moved those rocks no problem. Twilight knew it was a total exaggeration, but that wasn't really point.

Twilight wasn't sure what to say in response to Pathfinder's braniacs crack. Twi wasn't even sure if Pathfinder was trying to be insulting or not, but based on the way Pathfinder looked awkward before taking off Twi suspected not.

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Rain Leaf fiddled with his saddlebags, eagerly awaiting the group’s next decision. Trixie explained to him that a friend or acquaintance of hers had hidden it there in the castle. Who was this Doctor character that she had mentioned? It sure would have helped if she had filled them all in before they even entered this terrible place.

He started to tap one of his hooves impatiently as he looked around the room. A small sensation began to gnaw away at his stomach. Was it hunger or was he merely anxious. He detested sitting around like this even if it was just for the moment. Nothing was getting done in this stone death trap. The sooner they were out of there, the better. Luckily, planning hadn’t stalled completely. Pathfinder quickly shot down Spin Tale’s concerns but she didn’t seem to be very thrilled with his own suggested course of action. It did lack the extravagant details that her wild plans typically involved but it was the best he had. Who knows, maybe Trixie could shoot off some fireworks or something to give his plan a theatrical effect.

[colour=darkgreen]"Good thinking, Rain. You can check that area out. Hey Trixie Trix, you and Rainy can go and investigate that chamber,"[/colour]

It wasn’t quite what he had planned but he didn’t mind having somepony around to watch his back. He watched as Pathfinder rummaged through her belonging before coming upon a small lantern. With a quick fill and a spark, the lantern was lit. It was a little dimmer than he had hoped for but it would have to do for now.

[colour=darkgreen]"Here you go, Rain Leaf! Watch over that awesome little botanist, Trixie Dixie!" [/colour]Pathfinder said shortly before tossing the lantern in Rain Leaf’s direction. He barely managed to catch it by the handle. Due this little distraction he hadn’t been paying attention to Trixie or what she was doing.

[colour=#6699CC]"Fear not, all of you! You don't need to flit about aimlessly nor worry about torches nor staircases! For the Great and Powerful Trixie shall reveal the location to you, at this very moment! Behold, the X that marks the spot! As my awesome power and magnificent brainiac brilliance reveals to you the location!"[/colour]

[colour=red]“What now?” [/colour]Rain Leaf muttered. He watched as the mare reared up, dust swirling around as the magic coursed through her horn. A brilliant beam of purple light struck the large stone in the middle resulting in a rather spectacular display. It seemed as if that was all it was, a display. He started to shake his head but was interrupted by a powerful rumble that shook the whole room. A large pillar fell from the ceiling. Rain Leaf opened his mouth in shock allowing the lantern to fall to the ground. The light cracking of glass couldn’t be heard over the noise. Luckily, the pillar barely missed the blue mare.

[colour=#FF0000]“Whoa.”[/colour] He hadn’t quite seen anything like that. It certainly was an interesting turn of events. He looked down to see the cracked lantern on the stone floor. The sight made him cringe.[colour=#FF0000] “I’ll replace it?” [/colour]he said sheepishly to Pathfinder. He never was good with other ponies’ things. How could he forget all of the books he had ruined on his adventures?

[colour=#6699CC]"Ha-ha! Behold! The Wise and Scholarly Trixie has revealed the way forward!" [/colour]Trixie boasted before turning to him. She re-lit her horn, providing a lavender light to lead the way. [colour=#6699CC]“Come now my little winged companion and no need for lanterns, producing such trivial magic as light is nothing to Trixie! I’ll lead the way!” [/colour] She said before walking up the staircase in the pillar.

He waved to the others before following her up the stairs into the next room. After a near slip up on the final step he joined Trixie in the darkened room. He waited for a short second expecting his eyes to adjust to the darkness in the room. The light from Trixie’s horn was as bright as ever yet the room still remained darkened much like the undergrowth of the Everfree Forest. Was this some sort of trick? It certainly wasn't like anything he had ever seen before.

[colour=#6699CC]“I don’t like this…” [/colour]

He flashed Trixie a worried look as he cautiously moved about. [colour=#FF0000]"Uh, Trix, could I get a little more light over here?"[/colour] A chill raced down his neck as he attempted to navigate the dark room. The room felt incredibly small and the darkness seemed to creep up on him as if the very shadows around him were alive. Everything was covered in darkness and Trixie’s magic did little to cut through it.

He squinted as he walked forward, barely able to make out the dark shapes of wooden décor along the side of the room. He approached what appeared to be a small wooden cabinet. The wood looked oddly intact for its age and the doors were closed shut. A globe sat on the top but the markings and locations were indecipherable in the darkness. He was tempted to pick it up but if he had learned anything about these kinds of horrible places it was not to touch anything. Plus, that was what the luxury of unicorn magic was for.

[colour=#FF0000]“Are you positive that were in the right spot? Perhaps there’s another…”[/colour] Something faint on the far side of the room caught his eye. A twinkle like that of a distant star beckoned him over. He cautiously trotted over towards it while trying to avoid any potential traps or tripwire. As he approached he began to see the shape of a door in the darkness. The glimmer he had seen was coming from a small red gem stuck in a small socket in a design. He was able to make out the scowl of a regal looking mare with the gem as her eye looking over a large collection of smaller designs. Where they supposed to be ponies or houses? There wasn’t a knob or a handle that he could identify on the door. What could be behind it?[colour=#FF0000] “Hey, check this out!”[/colour]

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[colour=#800080]"More spells? I think it might be best if we explore up there tomorrow. I might be able to stack those rocks and some other stuff lying around into a staircase."[/colour]

[colour=#006400]"Oh Spinny, don't be a silly colt. I can just shoot on up there, no magical staircase easing spell needed. I swear, at this point Rainy here's gonna take over beta spot! Oh, I'm just kidding, you'll always be number two braniac in MY heart!"[/colour]

Aside from having his mane ruffled by a disturbed mare-child, Spin Tale felt more miserable and useless than ever. Not only did both Pathfinder and Twilight shoot his idea down, but it appeared that last spell of Miss Sparkle’s really put a number on her. Dr. Tale didn’t buy at all the lavender unicorn’s attempt to make herself seem lively; in a way, it reminded the earth pony of Twilight’s grogginess back when he first laid eyes on her at the Ponyville Library. Of course, she appeared a million times worse now... but that went without saying.

That, Dr. Tale deemed, was a serious problem. One of the reason he had initially felt comfortable enough to undertake this stupid expedition was the assurance that as the most magically-powerful unicorn in the land, Twilight Sparkle could keep the group (and by extension, Spin Tale) from harm. Having heard Twilight relate the stories of all the times she saved Equestria, the red-coated curator had absolute faith in her ability to call upon magic at will, as if she was a biological spell-casting machine. But now, such foallike faith in the mare steadily appeared grossly misplaced.

[colour=#006400]"You two...uhh, commiserate and discuss philosophy or whatever it is two braniacs do."[/colour]

Spin Tale groaned as the featherbrained pegasus once again reminded him of how utterly unnecessary it was for the red stallion to be here. Not only were his attempts at contributions either ignored or rejected, he couldn’t even recall if anypony bothered to ask him on background information on the old stronghold, since historians were most useful addressing such inquiries and all. So as the others went about exploring the Celestia-forsaken castle, Dr. Tale resigned himself to look after the ailing Twilight. [colour=#ff6666]“Ugggh, somepony tell me why I’m not back in Canterlot tending to my museum right now?”[/colour] he tried muttering under his breath, although he was just loud enough that “Brainiac #1” could probably have overheard him.

In any event, the good doctor of history figured that Miss Sparkle could use some attention. As she did save his life a few minutes ago, Dr. Tale surmised that it was the very least he could do to repay the favour. Maybe she could be persuaded that it was worth the effort and strain to keep him alive and well, Spin self-deprecatingly thought. Slowly trotting up to the unicorn mare, Dr. Tale hesitated for a moment first before nervously asking; [colour=#ff6666]“Ummm, there isn’t anything I can do for you Twilight, is there?”[/colour]

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Pathfinder was used to squeezing through tiny holes as both underground caverns and caves weren't really built for her type. When she was a little filly first sticking her newly dyed wings where they didn't belong, she could squeeze just about anywhere. She hadn't grown up fat of course- you needed food for that and a steady stream of it and Pathfinder was happy enough to find a nice leaf or three every now and then in her adventures. But holes were no longer her friends, which meant that it toom a few seconds for the sting of compression to flow off of her and for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Once they did, she had no doubt that her theory had some legs to it. She had no doubt of course. She had been in her fair share of abandoned ancient castles with stories of paranoid princesses to have a guess of where the Orb was originally and she was pretty sure she was right.

It was a rather simple room, perfectly, almost insanely precise and circular. Windows to the outside allowed whoever was inside a full three hundred and sixty view- heck, more than half the surface was open due to them. A single long throne extended around the room so the Princess could sit and stare outside the window, looking down on her charges and believing that within their hearts lay the seeds of rebellion. Pathfinder fluttered over to one of the many windows and took a simple glance out. The wind was vicious and the insults of the season were upon them, rain and hail and snow combined into one nasty Southeast'r, but the city of Hoofington's lights fought a gallant fight and could be seen piercing the shroud. Comforting to know that nearby were a whole clutch of ponies that would welcome their tales of greatness! Pathfinder smiled as she looked back to the center of the room where the hole to the brainiacs below was. Of course, this was where the podium for the Orb would have been and the meticulously detailed carvings leading from it to the chairs told her as much. Well, that and the identical podium hanging from the ceiling, leaving a small place where the orb would have fit nicely. All in all, fun room.

Pathfinder hovered back to the hole.

[colour=#006400]"Not much to see up here, but I'm pretty sure this is where the orb USED to be. Everythin's really dusty and undisturbed though, so-"[/colour]

She was cut off by disaster.

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Trixie didn't understand what exactly fueled the darkness as to make it so opaque as to resist the glowing of her horn, which should have illuminated everything in the room with a dull purple hue, but she was astute enough to recognize it as some kind of powerful spell. Anything more than a few feet from her horn was shrouded in a impenetrable black like fog but without the smoky appearance of a cloud, only the eerie wall of pitch that surrounded her, all around the small sphere of light that centered on her horn. They had to tread carefully, for who knew what other magical charms were cast about them in the shadow.

When Rain Leaf asked for more light, Trixie forced her horn to glow even more brightly, although her increased efforts had little effect against the persistent darkness. It was all she could do to keep close to the peagsus so to not loose him in the mire when he spotted something interesting…

The "door" Rain Leaf pointed to appeared to be an artistically ornate but disquieting rectangle mural carved into the wall; the fiery mare that was the central feature had but one eye, which was represented by a beautiful blood red ruby. From what Trixie could tell is it looked like she was lording over a village or villages, but much of the rest of the relief had been eroded which made it unclear to what any of the individual structures were. [colour=#6699cc]"This is certainly a grotesque mural! Still, I the Great and Powerful Trixie is sure this is the clue we seek! Why else would Trixie lead us to this room?!"[/colour] The Doctor did say something about "the peering ruby", didn't he?

Trixie stood closer to see if there were any associated writing, her horn almost touching the stone as she squinted her eyes in an attempt to decipher anything of note. It felt as if the darkness was strongest at this point, almost as if it was working to hide any secrets the carving may reveal. As she moved her head up, her glowing horn came in contact with the ruby eye suddenly causing a massive blue spark of energy, which momentarily lighting up the room and knocked the azure unicorn mare back several feet.

Trixie shook her head as she looked up wide-eyed; what she witnessed both amazed and frightened her. A beam of light shot out from the ruby across the room, illuminating the entire domed expanse in a way her horn could not. Instead of hitting the far wall though, it shot through what appeared to be a small perfectly circular opening cut into the brick, edged with ornate coloured stones. Trixie stood up as she continued to look in awe having just enough light to see the speaks of water from the storm outside illuminated by the beam as it exited the other side, "[colour=#6699cc]isn't that the direction of Hoofington?"[/colour]

As Trixie stepped back to get a better view of the whole spectacle she heard a click as one of the stones of the floor depressed beneath her hind hoof. The unicorn froze, her eyes even wider than before. At first there was silence for a couple seconds, then the room started to rumble and shake, [colour=#6699cc]"that's... Not good!"[/colour]

As the first stone from the ceiling fell before her her, Trixie turned to her pegasus companion and yelled only one word, [colour=#6699cc]"RUN"![/colour]

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sleep. Sleep and a book; that was really all Twilight wanted at the moment. This whole adventure was just going downhill, it seemed. Twilight was far from alone here, but it sure felt lonely being away from Spike and her friends. She was beginning to realize just how much safer she felt when they were close by. Not entirely lost in her thoughts, she heard Spin Tale mutter about how he'd much rather be back home. Without really thinking about it, Twilight quietly said [colour=#800080]"Yeah, I know what you mean..."[/colour] She was not entirely sure if she had been loud enough to be heard.

Dr. Tale looked nervous. It was hard to tell if it was because of the accident or the way Twilight looked at the moment. Twi felt safe to assume that it was a mix of both, that had the doctor a little uneasy. Especially when he came over to check on her.

Anything he could do? Overusing one's magic wasn't something that could really be healed in a mundane way. It wasn't something that most ponies, or even unicorns really understood. The average unicorn's magic would simply give out on them instead of hurt them if they tried to perform a huge spell without taking time to prepare. Large spells were much easier to perform after the mind is given time and focus to get ready. Twilight was grateful that she could get serious magic done on the fly, this wasn't the first time it's saved somepony's life. However, she always hated the magic hangover that immediately followed.

[colour=#800080]"Oh, I'm okay, Tale. A big spell like that is just tricky when you're not expecting to cast it."[/colour] She wasn't sure what else to say. Twi didn't really want to complain, and there wasn't much that could be done even if she did. In a few minutes the room would stop spinning so much and her ears would stop ringing so badly.

Everything would be fine.

Just as that thought floated through the conscious part of Twilight's mind, something crashed in the next room.

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  • 3 weeks later...


[colour=#800080]"Yeah, I know what you mean..."[/colour]

Spin Tale swore he heard Twilight reply back, but it sounded faint enough that he couldn’t exactly ascertain if it was reality or it was just his mind playing games. Based on the appalling circumstances he found himself in, the good doctor wouldn’t be surprised if he did end up with insanity by the time he returned to Canterlot. Or maybe Dr. Tale was the sane pony, and everypony else was insane. Either way, the thought that Spin had someone else to share in his sanity, or insanity, gave him a small measure of comfort.

[colour=#800080]"Oh, I'm okay, Tale. A big spell like that is just tricky when you're not expecting to cast it."[/colour]

[colour=#ff6666]“Ah, I see,”[/colour] Spin Tale plainly answered; [colour=#ff6666]“If you need anything, just let me know... I guess..... yeah.”[/colour] Trailing off, the mumbling earth pony started to slowly pace the immediate area, unsure if he should bother saying anything else. Whatever that spell did to Twilight, that unicorn wouldn’t be able to serve as an adequate conversationalist for at least a few minutes or so. That meant all the red-coated stallion could really do at this point but be left alone to his thoughts.

But no... wait! Spin Tale was on an adventure! Adventures wouldn’t be adventures if they didn’t inconvenience the curator at every step and turn! All of a sudden, Dr. Tale’s head turned with fear as heard a scream wail from where Trixie and Rain Leaf had wandered off to. That rumbling sound was not a good omen either, and already Spin was reflexively trotting backwards towards the castle exit.

[colour=#ff6666]“Yo-you know... T-t-twi-light,” [/colour]Dr. Tale quivered;[colour=#ff6666] “I’ve go-got a bad fe-feeling about this.....”[/colour]

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