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Head in the Sand (private)


BeGoneThots
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The stallion had paced his hooves up and down the halls of his manor for hours. Firestorm was impatient, but that was to be expected when the matter at hoof involved his son. When all three ponies were gathered, he spoke all he knew. Flashfire was a former REA commander, having been demoted, he resigned and walked away from the REA. That was something Firestorm could understand from his son. The REA had been his son's entire life work. His whole youth had been invested into it. Building a career that would have been his lasting mark up on the world after he was gone. But with demotion, Flashfire had felt himself a failure and sought seclusion from all Equestria. That too, was expected by Firestorm, the father. However what was not expected was the utter disappearance of Flashfire. It was almost impossible for any pony to vanish into thin air like that. No paper trail, no travel documentation. Not even sightings. All but a few personal belongings had just been delivered to the father's residence. 
 

This distressed Firestorm greatly, but he wanted to respect his son's wishes to be left in peace. He had not filed a report until a letter arrived. The letter was from Flashfire. It was a simple note. "Need reinforcements. Small detachment to the following location." The note contained coordinates of the location, but the maps of the desert area showed no towns there. Firestorm assumed Flashfire had run into hostile forces of unknown kind and become trapped. The letter had been delivered through magical means, which meant Flashfire did not have the ability to use his magic to transport himself away. Firestorm, a retired REA member himself had moved before the royal courts for help, as he had no power in the military any more. 

Now with the three ponies before him, he had laid out a map for them. Showing the exact location. No town or settlement located in that part of the frontier. Just empty desert and unexplored canyons. Even his friends in the REA had no idea what was there. The desert was hostile at the best of times. But that area was very hot and mostly loose sand and rock. no soil to grow crops in that was known of. 

After paying for supplies and arranging for the group to have additionally funding, Firestorm had only asked them one thing, to ensure their son's safety. He knew nothing of if they had any other orders from the REA for retrieval. He gave them a photo of Flashfire. The proud REA commander in full armor standing beside Firestorm. Flashfire's face was stern, like the look was permanently stuck on his lips. The photo was dated to a year prior, the most recent of all pictures of the commander in question. Firestorm's parting words as they left ere simple. "Please save my son."

As the Train arrived in Appaloosa, there was a cart of supplies waiting for them guarded by two armored ponies. It was the covered kind of cart, providing it's own shelter for the users. It was stocked inside with what appeared to be large barrels of water and an ample supply of food as well as a few other basics. The guards were standing by the cart, reading what appeared to be the newspaper. The sign on the side of the cart had the primary REA symbol, as well as a notice with their names tacked to it. 

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Cryo was the first of the small team to step off the train, looking around a bit. Even if this pony had left, he used to be an officer, and now he was a pony in need of help. Not that Cryo made a habit of seeking out cases like this, but he couldn't very well refuse when the mission was offered to him. 

 

He was confident that this team could make it through this. Dawnguard was... Enthusiastic, maybe a bit too much, but he was still a guard. Naj was another matter. He knew she was a member of EPIC, but he had yet to see her skills in action. 

 

In any case, the dark unicorn approached the cart, giving the two guards a salute before speaking. 

 

"Lieutenant Cryo Freeze. I hear this is for us." He said simply, watching the two. 

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This would be an odd one.  Naj was on this mission in a semi-official capacity.  Word had come to EPIC that an extra pony was needed for special and only semi-official mission.  Naj ended up getting the first shot at it, a state of affairs she suspected Princess Celestia had a hoof in based on previous correspondence, but that speculation was neither here nor there.  Naj had volunteered, and now she had a job to do.
Which was made perhaps a little more complicated by not working with any ponies she knew.  She never could quite tell how a pony would react to her, and while guards tended to be more disciplined as she explained her circumstances, several would arguably have more reason to take issue with her than anyone else.

 

Not knowing how much her two new companions had been told, she made sure to bring it up before the end of the train ride, though it had taken her until their train had almost arrived at their destination to work up the nerve.  Which was just as well, since that would provide a convenient distraction.

 

Naj stepped off the train immediately after Cryo Freeze, pausing to look around for a moment as she hadn't been to Apploosa previously, before her eyes settled on the cart and she started walking over to it herself, and coming to stand beside Cryo.  She gave a small salute of her own, and then asked “Anything in particular we should watch out for out there?”  She figured local guards would know more about the local hazards, and while probably nopony had time to for an in-depth discussion, Naj's group could still get a heads up on any major issues or common pitfalls to watch out for.

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Where there is a need for rescue, the bloodline of heroes will cry out, to save all from destruction.

 

Such was the cry that had arisen in Dawnguard when the call for help had first rung out through the REA. Exploration, danger, and the unknown - all of which had been cited as reasons not to volunteer for the service, and all of which had been overruled by the riptide of avenging justice that resided deep in the marrow of his very bones. Where there was injustice to be brought to justice, wrongs to be righted, and avenging to be delivered unto all those that dared threatened the sanctity and peace of Equestria...a Chosen would be there.

 

...Still, a Chosen couldn't help but wish that there was anywhere but there.

 

The desert air was hot, of course it was, but even with all his preparations - magically cooled cloths strategically lining the inside of his armor had been a particularly brilliant bit of Righteousness, if he did say so himself - Dawnguard couldn't help but wish this REA member had gone MIA in a less...hot, location. Though, as always with the darkness, the light shone brilliantly to cast a shadow. He had never traveled to this part of Equestria before, with his days training in the Canterlot barracks, and the chance to explore off the grid was something most REA members never even dreamed of doing.

 

Who knew what sorts of blackened agents of EVIL they might run into, that would be vanquished under the uncontrollable might of his spear hoof!

 

The companions joining him on this epic quest had been a bit of light shining against the darkness, too. Cyro was a familiar sight, albeit a closer one than he normally got, but Naj...well, Dawnguard wasn't ashamed to say that he'd been a bit aghast, after he'd been informed of her...status. But, knowing that their fair Princess of Light had personally vouched for the EPIC member had quickly doused all righteous worries from the Pegasus's mind. Princess Celestia was a fair and mighty ruler - one who exemplified Light and Good - and Dawnguard trusted her judgement. 

 

"Indeed, pray tell," the Private added onto the tail end of Naj's question, hovering above the other two as his spear hoof slowly curled itself in front of his face, "what evil hoards await us in the sun-kissed eternity of the desert, that we may be prepared to deliver fresh and swift justice upon them?" 

 

 

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The guards stood up and saluted in return. The first spoke. "Greetings. Well. For what's out there, heat. A lot of it. The cart has been enchanted to help cool you off. Dont travel in the mid day sun. Stay inside the cart. You have water and food for a couple weeks. As for what exists... well there are the usual animals. Desert Owls and snakes, lizards. But the most dangerous thing out there would have to be the Sand Coyotes. They can hide in the sands themselves. Pop out when you lease expect them. But they are made of sand so a quick blast will disperse them long enough to give you time to run or set up some kind of defensive position. Lot of canyons that offer shade from the heat too. A few watering holes. But ... anything past a few miles outside of town and we dont know. No pony really wanders out that say except that blasted fool. Flashfire was his name. Came to town, bought a backpack of supplies and left town. Said he was going to walk the desert blindfolded. Even if the heat barely affects him, hes likely gone and starved or died of dehydration. There arent any towns in the directions he headed. Just open desert until you hit the mountains."

The guards took a moment to remove their helmets. "You were sent to look for him. We got word to safe guard these supplies for you. Honestly, we figured him for dead weeks ago. If he is alive, most likely he lives in a cave. Foolish pony, heading out alone wearing a blindfold and saying he cant be hurt by the heat." The other sighed and shook his head. "You three just be certain to keep eyes on your supplies. There is no help out there for you except yourselves." Moving to a small shed to the side he came back with a bag and pulled out a map. "Look. im going to give you my map and compass. The message we got said you were heading to this area." he tapped the spot as he laid out the map on the back of the cart. "You should head slowly along until you start seeing canyons. Even at a good speed, that is two days from here. Our detachment went that way once. And we ended up turning back because out there its much hotter. The sands are white, and they reflect a lot of the sun." Rolling the map he put it in the bag and then pulled out the compass. "She's a bit beat up, but she works. Just hold on to her until you get back to me please." Placing it in the bag the guard returned his helm to his head. "This said, If you need to take care of arrangements before you go out there, do it now. We dont oft find wanderers out there. And if you get into trouble and manage to signal for help, it will take us at least a day to get ready. So don't expect a speedy rescue. If you are really going off after that bloated ego of a pony, best of luck." 

Their impressions of Flashfire was... less than stellar. They seemed to think him an idiot. Not only that but claimed he had wandered off into the desert blindfolded. He was known for being a bit proud of his abilities back in the REA, but not to these levels. However, there was concern in their voices, for both the three before them, as well as the former officer. 

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Cryo listened to the two guards, taking in all the relevant information he could from the map and the briefing. When it was done, he gave the two guards a nod before speaking. 

 

"Thank you. You know what to do if I don't come back." He said, saluting the two before going to inspect the supplies. Flashfire went out into the desert with only a backpack of supplies? And he did it blindfolded? Well, he was alive when he sent the note at least, and if he were to be believed there was a hidden town out there. 

 

Honestly though, he wasn't too worried about the heat. He could keep himself cool with his magic, he did it all the time in the summer just like his brother kept himself warm in the winter. 

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Naj understood the guards' concerns, but she wasn't overly worried, at least not yet.  Truth be told, this is probably the most prepared she'd ever been going into one of these.  She did have some survival experience as well, and although this may be a somewhat rougher region to get through than her previous adventures, the addition of the cart and supplies would likely more than tip things in her favour.  Of course, that was all the more reason to appreciate all the help.  Naj too nodded her head.  “Thank you both, this is a big help.”  She grinned, as she grabbed the bag.  “Don't worry, you'll get your compass back.”

 

Naj reflected on the situation as Cryo walked over to the cart.  The local guards didn't think much of the group's chances, or the pony they were sent to find, but then they were also looking at things from a different perspective.  If nothing else, Naj, Cryo and Dawnguard had one bit of information the local guards didn't.  “And, we got a letter from Flashfire actually,” she said eventually, “so while I don't know how long he could keep going, he has to have at least lasted until now.”  She was actually somewhat impressed with the wayward commander, having survived both the desert and his own idiocy for as long as he had.  She gave a small salute, saying “See you when we get back,” before turning and following Cryo toward the cart.

 

Naj wasn't entirely sure what to look for, aside from the obvious, so she left Cryo to it.  When all three of them were gathered, she spoke.  “So, I figure we wait until evening to get going.  Anything we need to do until then?  My plan was just to get a look around town, first time I've ever been here.”

 

[So, I propose a to when they actually leave, unless anyone does have something to do first.]

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B...blindfold?...

 

The admission was strange enough to pull even Dawnguard out of his heroic fantasies for a brief moment, mentally wondering at the type of pony who purposefully disabled themselves in some way, only to venture into some hostile territory. It was a common enough training tactic, sure...the Hero would usually blindfold himself while balancing atop some precarious poles, then leap around in a dazzling display of agility and MIGHTY STRENGTH while dodging several poison-laced arrows, only to perfectly land upon the center pole - land on one hoof, no less - and pause, while the arrows fell from the sky after being cleaved straight through by their spear. 

 

...Not that, he had tried doing something similar and had ended up on bedrest while his flank recovered from its gratuitous use as an arrow pincushion, no, never.

 

The white Pegasus was pulled out of the painful not-memories, however, as Naj spoke up, expressing a desire to leave at nightfall. A most diligent choice, for obvious reasons. "A Chosen Warrior should always make last minute preparations," Dawnguard cautioned, blue eyes flitting over to the supply cart, "for he can never be certain of the one item that will make a difference." A chosen memento that stopped an arrow from piercing his heart, or the singular tack he dug into the cliffside to stave off an impeding fall to his doom! It was the little things that mattered. 

 

"To the market!" 

 

----- Time Skip -----

 

Ah, yes, his power rose with the moonlight...

 

For the vast wings the Princess of the Night had begun their stretch across the land, basking all underneath in reddish hues as the sun continued its descent, only a sliver left over the horizon. Dawnguard had split up from the others for their endeavors in town, but now, assembled again, he could truly appreciate the gritty wind blowing in form the desert, gentling tugging his mane into mysterious swirls as he stared out over the vastness. 

 

It was time.

 

"Our quest begins, my fellow compatriots," the REA member cried out into the still evening, thrusting one hoof forward towards the sand dunes in the distance, "the dawn of Righteous Avenging has begun! I shall bear the burden of the cart first, just as a bear the weight of the bloodline of heroes flowing within my veins." Said cart was quickly fastened onto his body - though judging by its weight, he'd need to switch off at some point between the now and daybreak. 

 

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As the group left, they would find little more than sand dunes and a half walked path leading only a half mile from town. after that, it was sand and rock as far as the eye could see. There was little more to tell, aside from the occasional night owl hooting in the distance. As the lights of the town dimmed away behind them, a more dark presence began to make itself known. The soft howls in the distance would be their only warning. animals of some type living in the wilds. 

As the moon rose high in the sky during the night, the wind would get chill. The desert was not kind to travelers in the day time. And upon the night it was just as cruel. The blistering heat of the day was replaced with frigid wind upon the night. The empty land could not keep the heat, and so became terribly cold and dry. The wind picked up the loose sand and blew it like glass shards against the side of the cart. but it did not penetrate. The cart was well built, and it's enchantments well cast. The provided the protection needed against the desert. 

Deep into the night, their trek would take them from town and into the wild. With only the occasional sight of a distant camp fire from the buffalo tribe, or the sound of an animal in the desert night to let them know time had passed. They were isolated, alone. But the cart seemed prepared for that as well. There was a music box inside. Small and simple. As well there was a small selection of books to keep them entertained. Allowing them the ability to read and pass time while they walked should they choose. The cart itself, was also stocked with a camping stove, allowing meals to be prepared on the go. Though it was quite small inside the half full cart. Supplies and water took up much of the room. And the three bed rolls took up almost all of the rest. There was little space for anything else.

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Cryo had spent most of the day gathering supplies for the piles he found lacking, as well as collecting as much information about the desert that he could. As it was, he felt more secure about their chances out there now that he had shored up their supplies along with what Dawnguard had bought.

 

The unicorn stood next to the other two as he watched the sun go down, giving no response to the pegasus' theatrics, aside from a nod to show he had heard. He walked along behind the cart as they set out, to protect their rear flank. It was cold out, but he could handle it. He had been through worse temperatures and come out the other end. The sand, however, was a different story. His helmet helped to block it out, but it didn't get everything, so he created a sort of windshield out of ice to cover his eyes.

 

It made things harder to see, but he could see better than he would with sand in his eyes. When it came time to switch who was pulling the cart, he took the shift, hooking himself in and walking along without complaint. With nothing else to focus on, his mind drifted to his brother and his parents. None of them knew where he had gone, he saw no reason to inform them. Now the only thing they would hear of him is that he had returned, or that he was gone. Despite the dangers of his job, he was proud that his brother was trying to follow in his hoofsteps.

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Naj hadn't felt the need to purchase much.  Most of what the group would need had been covered by the supply cart given to them, and the changeling herself would need slightly less than the other two.  She considered picking up a light of some sort, before remembering an old light spell she was taught as a guard.  She hadn't used it in some time, so she spent some time practising just to be safe, but that meant one less thing she needed to worry about.  In the end, there was just one thing she could think of that might not be accounted for, and so she ended up purchasing a traveller's cloak.  It provide some protection against the wind and sand, and could double as a blanket should the need arise.  With that accomplished, and it didn't take too long, she spent her remaining time split between keeping an eye on the cart and looking around the city.

 

---

 

Night came soon enough.  Naj was close to the cart, wearing her cloak when everypony reconvened.  She'd been planning to volunteer for first shift but Dawnguard beat her to it.  She wasn't really sure how searching through the desert amounted to 'righteous avenging', but overall she liked the stallion's energy.  Cryo claimed second shift, leaving her with third, when she'd be most tired.  So be it, there was a chance she'd be most adapted to working with little sleep, so maybe she was the best fit for the least forgiving shift.  That wouldn't be a concern for some time though.

 

The sun was setting, the moon was rising, and they were off.  With Cryo taking up the rear, Naj decided to walk beside Dawnguard at the front, wanting to get to know her companions a bit better and figuring that of the two the pegasus would be more open to a conversation.  When they got a few minutes out of of town, Naj looked back once to confirm they were far enough out and then dropped her disguise with a flash of green fire.  She'd already told both of her companions what she was, they likely wouldn't encounter any other ponies for at least a couple days, and she wanted to have her full focus to put toward the task at hoof and searching for and dealing with any dangers they encountered.

 

“So,” she began, walking essentially next to Dawnguard, “if you don't mind me asking, what made you join the guard?”  She gave a sidelong glance at his spear before adding, “Besides the obvious I mean.  I would guess you'd find guard life a bit limiting, given your approach.”  She frowned, looking back out at the sand.  “Though I suppose it might be different than the guard life I knew...”

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The cart was switched off, his companions valiantly continuing forward, and the Dawn of Justice was approaching.

 

Well...not the literal, dawn of Justice, because they'd made sure to set out in the evening to avoid the unforgiving blaze of the Stranded...or whatever this desert was called. Although, Dawnguard wondered if they shouldn't have set out earlier, in the evening sometime. While the desert could boil a pony alive in Tautarus-fore and brimstone in the middle of the day, the nights could become equally unforgiving, freezing a pony's soul down to its very marrow and leaving them frozen upon the path to righteousness...it was a delicate balance, one that would take their combined cunning, strategy, and dedication to walk upon.

 

Luckily, he had full faith in his most noble of companions. They were sure to complete this quest, and return home for a level up! 

 

...It was about time for his next promotion, wasn't it?

 

Thoughts of gaining one more step closer to General were momentarily stymied, however, as Naj abruptly dropped her disguise, the sudden flash of bright green startling Dawnguard for a brief moment. He recovered quickly, of course - the bloodline of heroes could not be so easily distracted from its never-ending quest for RIGHTEOUSNESS - and was only mildly curious when the Changeling walked up beside him, asking him about -

 

- ah. Ah-hah, she was curious of the Chosen One. Naturally!

 

"Ah, my companion of Swift Illusions and Disguises," Dawnguard began, his spear hoof slowly beginning to curl in front of his face as he hovered alongside Naj with his wings, "when a Chosen Warrior feels the bloodline of heroes coursing through his veins, he does not join the guard...for he has been the guard all along!" His spear hoof was thrust upwards towards the rising moon, white coat slightly illuminated in the nighttime. "There is no matter of joining or choosing," the white Pegasus continued, drifting closer to the Changeling as passion bubbled over with each word leaving his lips, "there is only destiny, the red strings of fate that bind an Avenging Warrior of Light to forever rally against the encroaching darkness! Down, spear hoof!" Dawnguard cried, clutching his spear hoof close to his chest, the riptide of Avenging Righteousness threatening to spill outwards and unleash calamity upon the still night of the desert.

 

Luckily for all present, no such cataclysm happened, allowing Dawnguard to breathe a short sight of relief, before turning back towards Naj. "Your own guard life is surely different," Dawnguard agreed with a sage little smile, "for not all are called onto the path of justice as Chosen Heroes. What of the two of you?" the white Pegasus questioned, turning around slightly so that he was mostly flying on his side as he look towards both the Unicorn and Changeling simultaneously. "When did you hear the siren call of sweet, sweet Justice, an Avenging need to bring swift and righteous delivery upon all darkened wrongs?" 

 

 

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The air was still, save for a light breeze this night. Little to carry their voices any distance. Though, as they walked and the sand softly churned under hoof, they would see the landscape around them seemingly endless. Just, sand. Dunes into the distance for miles around. No light save the moon and stars, and any torches they might have lit or spells they may have cast. A calm night. 

Out against the far horizon, could could make the shape of rocks. Though tiny at this distance they would be near mountains up close. The kind that plateaued at the top. If a pony could reach the summit, they would find a more suitable place to stay. However, reaching the top was no easy matter. 

And from a near by cactus, a dessert owl took flight to find it's nightly meal. swooping silently away into the night to hunt. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

(Sorry guys, for some reason I thought it wasn't my turn.)

 

Cryo walked along, keeping a close eye out for any trouble with his horn at the ready. The green flash made him look back for a moment, but he looked forward again as he determined it was just their changeling dropping her disguise. 

 

Really, the unicorn couldn't help but overhear the conversation between the two, given current conditions, and Dawnguard's response made him roll his eyes a bit. Sure, he was a guard because of his blood. At the very least, Dawnguard was enthusiastic about his job. 

 

"I joined to protect ponies. I suppose I decided to join the day I got my cutie mark." Cryo said simply, spotting the plateaus in the distance. "Perhaps we could camp up there." He added, pointing to them. 

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Naj smiled at Dawnguard's antics, finding them endearing though tempered by potential dangers he would put himself in, before falling silent.  The excitable pegasus explained that he didn't so much choose guard life as it chose him, and while Naj wasn't quite sure if she agreed with his notions of fate she could sympathize with the idea of being given a purpose rather than choosing one.

 

She listened to Cryo as well, though his answer was much shorter.  He'd joined to protect ponies, and he didn't feel like saying a whole lot more than that.  He even shifted topics, pointing out a rock formation they might be able to make camp at.  Naj shot him a quizzical look, wondering why he was so intent on changing the subject, but didn't feel the need to press him just yet.  Instead she just nodded in agreement, guessing that there probably was a good place to camp somewhere around there.

 

Then it was Naj's turn, as the only one left who hadn't said anything about her history yet.  She remained silent a moment longer, before she spoke.  “I dunno.  After being rejected as an inflitrator, being a guard just seemed like the best fit.  I had a knack for combat, and I liked protecting...well it was changelings initially.  It was where I was the most useful.”  She paused for a moment, considering before adding, “though I guess that's not the full answer.  After I came to Equestria, I couldn't exactly join the REA.  Well, maybe I could now, but I haven't had the nerve to try.  I still have...I dunno, a drive to protect.  So I joined EPIC.  Though I can't say it's the most active post most of the time, and I've taken up a few other odd jobs.”

 

She felt awkward in the ensuing silence, and took the moment to pointedly look around their surroundings for anything out of place.  Her ears perked up at a sound, but she relaxed again once she identified it as just an owl.  Not being entirely sure what she was looking at the moment for made her all the more alert.

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Ah, yes. Likened kin, the lot of them.

 

"Then we all seek the Dawn of Justice 'cross the encroaching blackness of Evil," Dawnguard intoned, nodding his head sagely as he studied his valiant quest companions, "to protect the weak, and make strong the forces of Good! Harken to me, most noble friends of Justice! We shall see this quest through 'til the end of time," the REA guard promised, thumping his spear hoof to his chest plate, head bowing briefly. 

 

Indeed. Until the end of days, they would search for their missing comrade. 

 

...And hopefully a place to set camp, soon. Not that he, filled with the unending fury of the bloodline of heroes crashing through his lifestream, really needed a rest, no...but for his companions! Perhaps.

 

And just like that, the Stallion of Ice and Chill pointed out a rather impressive rock formation on the horizon, causing Dawnguard to perk up slightly. "Then let us make haste!" the white Pegasus cried out, "to camp, and shelter, and smores!" Perhaps, then, after they had settled in for the night, they might regale more tales of their exploits within the guard, or EPIC, and elsewhere and beyond. The Illusionist's mentioning of her work as an infiltrator sounded interesting...or rather, her failed infiltrating. Her failure to infiltrate? Her rejection as an infiltrator. 

 

Which was not a surprise. Clearly, her heart called out for more prominence to protect and shelter rather than slink through the shadows. Small wonder she would find her place among the elite skills of EPIC!

 

Stories would have to wait, however, as the group approached the rock formation - to find it just a wee bit more intimidating up close. Dawnguard to certainly fly to the top, yes...but that left his companions along the bottom, easy pray for all dangerous predators of the sun-scorched desert...and him without a cozy card to sleep in! "Hmmmm..." Dawnguard murmured, hovering off the ground as he stroked his chin, "we must scale our way up these rocks, or face the terrors of the desert waste. To the summit!" 

 

[[ OOC : I time skipped the group to the rock formation. If I wasn't suppose to do that, just let me know and I'll edit. ]]

 

 

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((OOC: fine by me.))

No sooner had Dawnguard spoken, than the soft growl from behind the group came. Like a nightmare, they rose from the desert sands. Sand Coyotes. Four of them in all, with glowing blue eyes. The eyes could easily be mistaken for stars in the night sky at a distance. But this close, there was no mistaking them. As the four beasts snarled and slowly began to approach, the leader of the pack stepped forward. Issuing a long howl. There was silence as they seemed to wait a moment. When no reply came, the group of sand beasts stepped a little closer. 

 

They spread out some, forming a semi-circle. Though it was fairly dark, the light of their eyes made them clearly visible. And as they began to slowly creep closer, one barked viciously. This was a hunting pack. They were looking for prey. One of them jumped at the group. Snarling as it launched its assault. 

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Cryo ignored Dawnguard's theatrics, shaking his head a bit. That stallion always did seem to be the most unprofessional guard he'd met in a long time. At least he was dedicated to his work, more so than some. 

 

Those thoughts would have to wait, however, as they reached the base of the rocks. Now they had to get the cart to the top of the rocks. Maybe if they could lift it with magic... hopefully the two of them would be enough for that. 

 

And then came the growling. Cryo looked to the creatures, unhooking himself from the cart and turning to face them. His horn was already glowing as the things howled. He finished his cast as the coyote jumped, a spike of ice shooting up out of the ground to impale and freeze the beast in place. At the same time, he readied his shield and hammer, preparing another spell for the next attack. 

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In other circumstances, Naj might have been annoyed or concerned by Dawnguard's antics, but for the most part she appreciated anypony who could approach guard duties with such enthusiasm.  Likely it was because she was a changeling: while many back in the hive were happy about the role, finding someone with such a positive attitude was a rare thing.  The passion for justice also helped, providing her with a steady trickle of sustenance that she instinctively fed off of.  What she was getting wouldn't be enough to survive on alone, but it would greatly extend her own reserves.  With how much Dawnguard was giving off, Naj doubted he'd even notice what little she took, let alone feel any adverse affects.

 

Their other companion didn't think so positively of Dawnguard's attitude.  He had a the sense of discretion not to say anything though, so Naj was content to just shoot him a quick glare before returning to the topic of discussion.  Though really, it seemed like there was only one way through this, to Naj.  Lacking any special equipment, they'd probably need a bit of coordination, and then some good old-fashioned horsepower.  “I think we'll have to just push it.,” she said, “I don't see...any...other...”

 

Naj trailed off as the beasts appeared.  Figuring out a way up the rock formation would have to wait, for the moment they apparently had a bigger problem.  Naj turned and, watching Cryo impale one of the creatures, used the distraction to jump up to a position on top of the cart.  From there she readied herself, with Cryo, and presumably soon Dawnguard drawing attention to themselves, Naj would be ready to leap down on anything that tried to catch one of her comrades from a blind spot.

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If he had been any other pony, he would have been taken by surprise.

 

But the stars had divined unto him the coming terror, and he. 

 

Was.

 

Ready.

 

"Great Celestia's Extensions!" Dawnguard cried out as the funny little lights fully materialized themselves as Desert Coyotes - fearsome beasts that roamed the scorched sands for the forces of Evil. Already his valiant comrades leapt into action, the one beast immobilized by a righteous pillar of Freezing Chill, while Naj flew herself into the air and onto the cart, the overtures of battle singing from her very stance! They were counting on him, the Chosen Warrior of Light, to fulfill his role as the bearer of the Bloodline of Heroes, and he was all too willing. 

 

But carefully. The raw fury of his spear hoof could unleash devastation if used so recklessly. Such was the mighty power of the bloodline of heroes, coursing through and within his life's blood.

 

"Foul Beast of Sandswept Origins!" the white Pegasus yelled, leaping forward to slash at an approaching coyote with Daybreak. The beast fell back with a pained howl, and Dawnguard, too, fell back, close to the cart, for Naj had positioned herself for a righteous attack from above! "You will never triumph over the Unending Conquest of LIGHT!" A sudden movement from the left had Dawnguard furiously flapping his wings against the ground, half-blinding the creature with a torrent of sand that cascaded over it like the force of a thousand running rivers of Righteousness. Such was the power of Goodness!

 

But, of all things import, the cart had to take precedence! Their life support, their means of shelter against the scorching desert days and freezing desert nights...who knew what sort of foul machinations the beasts might inflict upon the cart, causing its magic to leak out like the last falling leaf of autumn!

 

The cart, had to be protected!

 

 

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While the kicking up of sand did blind the coyote momentarily, it also added to its bulk. Making it bigger, and more intimidating as every grain of sand kicked up flew right to its body and stuck as if it were attracted to it. It snapped out blindly, trying to bite at Dawnguard. The frozen one could only stare on at the fight as its pack mates tried to attack the three travelers. Though it looks like they were getting ready to run. This was more than they had anticipated, and without warning, the two to the side bolted away. Leaving the frozen one, and the larger blinded one behind. 

The larger finally got its eyes clear, and turned on Dawnguard. Though it was slower now. Growling hotly in its anger. When it stepped forward, it cracked the ground under its paw. The dry desert earth readily willing to crack in just the dry heat of the day as it were. There was a moment where it paused, judging the three as it waited. As if prepared to either attack or run. Backing away it moved to the frozen one. The one that was frozen was still able to move its glowing eyes. Turning them on the larger coyote, before looking at the three traveling with the cart. They seemed to be communicating as the larger snarled and barked at them. 

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Cryo stood ready, a wall between the beasts and the cart. He had dispatched one already, though the ice wouldn't hold forever. Especially once the desert warmed up. Of course Dawnguard made things worse by blasting sand on a beast made of sand, which seemed like it would be obvious to not do that, but it was too late now. At least he had successfully blinded the creature, and all but the two had run off now. 

 

Speaking of, the two seemed to be conversing, even though one could only move its eyes. The unicorn watched the large beast warily, not sure what they wanted from them now. 

 

"Get moving, both of you. I'll hold them here while you get the cart up there." Cryo said, addressing his companions as he kept his eyes on the beast. His horn was still glowing, his levitation holding his weapons at the ready while he also set traps with his ice. He placed traps under the sand, almost like land mines that would at least partly freeze those that stepped on them. 

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  • 1 month later...

Cryo and Dawngard's efforts had already caused two of the things to turn tail, and with one frozen that meant there was just one still in a position to fight.

 

They were fortunate, Naj felt.  The creatures the three of them had run into weren't angry enough to be reckless, and they weren't hungry enough to be desperate either.  The fight could probably be ended without much fighting, which would be a good thing.  They had plenty of supplies for the moment, but out here anything that saved them resources or energy could be incredibly valuable.

 

Cryo had recommended that he hold the remaining coyote off while the other two moved the cart, but Naj remained where she was.  “Not yet,” she called back, before jumping down, and beginning to circle around the remaining coyote, “We have the numbers now, best to scare them away first.”

 

Cryo's plan had some merit that Naj could see, the idea presumably being to leave a rearguard while keeping the supplies secure.  In other circumstances, she would have complied without hesitation.  But here, they were dealing with a wild animal, one running on instinct rather than strategy.  Taking the cart and leaving Cryo would keep the cart secure but leave Cryo suddenly alone with one if not two Coyotes, presenting them the best chance to attack, at least in their minds.  If instead they acted more aggressive and made use of their current weight in numbers, the coyotes could be driven off without further incident.  Naj made a point to look as dangerous as possible while circling around, moving toward a flanking position while also making a point to leave a path out away from the cart.  The goal was to intimidate them into leaving, which wouldn't work if they felt trapped.  She also held off attacking herself for the moment, keeping a watchful eye for any attack against her or her companions, to make herself ready to retaliate.

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Oh, right. Sand Coyotes. 

 

Dawnguard was vaguely grateful that none of his bunkmates had joined on this mission, and valiantly ignored the flush he could feel spreading up his neck as the coyote simply growled at him, more put out than damaged. Though, the flurry of sand seemed to have at least disturbed its vision as intended, causing the white Pegasus to perk back upwards.

 

The Light would not be overcome! 

 

"With swiftness then, my comrades!" Dawnguard cried, falling in behind Naj's plan, "as a Chosen Warrior of Light never leaves a friend behind!" With one incapacitated in ice and another weakened with dull senses, they might carry the day by simply forcing the Hoof of Justice upon them, striking fear into their bestial hearts! Following the Changeling's example, the white Pegasus was quick to thrust himself into position next to Cyro, wings spread wide in an effort to make himself look as large as possible. "Back, foul beasts!" he growled, his spear held forward as a steely glint entered his eyes, "back, to the sun-scorched abyss from whence you came!" 

 

 

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The Final coyote backed up a couple steps, but seemed reluctant to leave just yet. It kept trying to move to put itself between the three and the frozen coyote. It was trying to protect it's injured pack mate. It issued a snarl at the three, barking violently. The beast did not seem willing to leave, nor did it seem willing to attack. It issued another snarling bark before it simply fell apart. It became one with the sands around it again. Though the blue glow of its eyes still hovered in the pile of sand it had become. 

 

The night now quiet again, the soft sound of the gentle desert wind was all that was heard. The three had won this round. Rendering the creatures unable to fight had broken their attack. It was a simple scavenging pack. Not fully hunting, just looking for an opportunity. The three were now left in peace. 

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