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About Hederik

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  • Birthday 03/20/1992

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    C# programming, board games, Norse mythology and ponies. Especially ponies as written by BlackRoseRaven.

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  1. Merry Birthiversary!

  2. Gross! Also, I have view no. 3000: I can't relate. Cannot remember any moment in time when I didn't have a few dozen books waiting to be read. And the list keeps growing... Sounds great. I'm slowly finishing on the refreshing, so I'll look into this soon.
  3. Huh. Didn't know that. How well does it do with archiving messages? Like, do you need to make backups every now and then, or is it reliable in this regards by itself? You wrote nothing wrong. I was just commenting on the difference that a small "a" makes in some statements. Other than the "small wonder" example, consider "having few books to read" vs "having a few books to read".
  4. So glad to see you respond. Another platform is entirely fine by me. However, I would prefer forums to Discord - spoken sessions are damnably hard to arrange, especially with our differing timezones, and I'm ever the written-RPG guy, although I have had my fun with spoken ones. I mean, I would not be impossible to convince to a spoken session, but it definitely most likely wouldn't be this one. I read it as "it's small wonder" and kept pondering why you'd think that until I noticed the "a". Ah, the intricacies of the language...
  5. @Colenso Rivers, @SilverHeart, @Once In A Blue Moon @AzureNightLight (did I forget anyone?) Hi! Your worst GM ever here. It won't happen today, though it might happen this week. It may also not happen at all if disinterest is paramount or if you decide to scold me into the ground (a choice I morally support, truth be told). I have reason to hope for the contrary though, so: I'm thinking on reopening this session. It's been tremendous fun, I've enjoyed your cooperation a lot, and I did put quite some work into devising a storyline I wanted to share. (Fortunately. I forgot so much without all my detailed notes I don't know if I could recreate where this was heading.) I still need to reread what we've written - what feels like years ago, and for a good reason. To decide anew what awaits in the depths, and reintroduce you to the world. I'm not averse to reopening signups, either (I guess I'll have to edit the first post too). That... would be it, I guess. Any takers and questions are welcome. Apologies by the bucket available on the cheap cheap to any parties eligible to claim them.
  6. @@Once In A Blue Moon, @@AzureNightLight, @@SilverHeart, As the small group began to make their way into the tunnel, echoes rang all around them when the rest of Pony Valley's forces - by now being little more than a unit - marched their way past the opening and downwards along the mountain paths. Should someone be looking back, they could have observed a variety of emotions displayed on the officers' faces: awe, fear, hope... sarcastic derision too, although it was always hard to tell how seriously Toad and Gal's shows of distancing themselves should be taken. The last to come by, when the six ponies were quite far inside already, was general Hardy, who stood there until the others disappeared from view entirely. Had someone been trying to read them, it would still be quite hard to decipher her emotions from the distance -- was it longing or apprehension that made her eyes glint like that? Inside, the ponies were being made to wonder if their eyes will avail them anything during this journey. The darkness that greedily devoured what little light reached this deep from outside was bad enough by itself to make this passing unpleasant. Perhaps unwittingly, the glow of Star's horn strove futilely against it, making colors and shadows dance and mingle all around them, making the other ponies' heads spin and blurring their vision. If that wasn't bad enough, what was true about the Sieve's build outside proved doubly so inside: save for the floor upon which they walked, there was nary a flat surface in sight. Crevices opened left and right, some almost wide enough to stick a hoof in, others mere fissures in the stone's structure; cracks of unknown depth opened across the path; and finally, there were holes. Every face and facet of stone, every plane and surface was pockmarked with these like a smallpox-ridden piece of cheese. That had been stabbed repeatedly for the last few days. With a trident. By an apoplectic sadist. Even walking after Azure as he had been, Midnight Rover kept clipping his hooves on the rock and stumbling slightly, emitting a near-constant jangle, although he controlled his balance enough not to make it overly audible. Cirrus, in turn, appeared to have the least amount of trouble navigating this alien environment, even though everything about her screamed about high-strung nerves and a mounting anxiety. Still, she trod lightly and always stopped in time when the group in front of her had to pause suddenly because of the stallion's bouts of clumsiness. Meanwhile, even Star happened to bump into the male on an occasion, although her blank, unseeing expression never changed. Observing the way ahead and behind was proving mostly useless. With the quality of light and the texture of the rocks, the most useful sense available to the van and rear was hearing... and perhaps smell. Thankfully, neither was picking up anything quite extraordinary. The only thing that seemed out of place was a near constant sound bringing to mind two stone slabs slowly scraping against each other, sometimes rising in volume, sometimes lowering, and constantly weaving itself together with the hum of Star's magic. It was a good ten minutes of a mind-wearying travel before a fork finally appeared in the road. It was difficult to say for sure, but the tunnel appeared to have been going mostly on a level until then. Only a few meters before they reached this crossroad, Midnight stumbled into a short stalagmite, causing it to crash down onto the ground where it crumbled into a few jagged pieces. The thud was loud, but the clangor of a full plate mail making such an impact dwarfed it by far. Still, an interesting observation could be made thanks to the accident: the inside of the rock was solid - there was no hollow space that hadn't had any connection to the outside. Furthermore, in quite a few of the deepest recesses, small parts of the rock were off-color. What color it was exactly, Star's magic made near-impossible to tell, though. Speaking of whom, the mare stopped dead in her tracks while the stallion cursed silently on the ground before her, but her trance appeared unbroken and she had shown no sign of noticing the appointed checkpoint in front of her, still focused on channeling her energy to unknown ends.
  7. Here are a few additional matters that have been poked at outside of this topic, but deserve to be brought to attention of anyone following the RP or considering joining it. Q: These ponies have leather armor. Is it made of the hides of other ponies? A: Goodness, no. While the picture painted may be rough, borderline cruel with how the academy's attendees are trained and treated, they are in no way inclined to indulge ponicide, cannibalism or using dead compatriots' bodies (methods of death notwithstanding) as materials for creating anything. The very notion would have met with similar outrage as it would in our world. I honestly haven't thought about it before now, but I'd say that since we know something similar to be true in Ponyville, the ponies of the Valley could be keeping cows, pigs and such -- and seeing how the reality is a fair bit darker here than in the show, harvesting leather from them isn't impossible (albeit wasteful, as I can't imagine ponies eating meat -- at least not in this setting). Given that the officers' population isn't unnecessarily large, a good portion of such armor could with appropriate treatment be passed down through generations. And there exists the outside world, and little as your characters do know about it, it may not be entirely unknown to the organization as a whole. Q: Are the identities of the individuals Bearers of the Elements of Harmony known to the Cadets (like, that the Element of Laughter was a pink earth pony mare, Pinkie Pie)? A: I'd expect any respectable history book to describe the return of Nightmare Moon, the battle against Discord and the invasion of changelings into Canterlot in quite some detail. That's mostly what I meant by "some of the Equestrian history (...) up to and including the events of Season 1 [and 2] (the nation-wide important ones, at least)". [The fact that the Mane Six isn't by and far famous in the show] is pretty silly of the show, indicative, the way I see it, of the fact it is some kind of an animated show for kids. Irony aside, this plays pretty well off the argument I made during Avidity's classes: the ponies of Equestria don't understand strife. They are so rooted in their peaceful ways that they're more inclined to disregard warlike events than understand them. And the lack of recognition is honestly ridiculous in the show - Twilight isn't even recognized as a bucking princess in season four. Returning to the point, however. Even if the feats of the Mane Six went largely ignored in your typical pony's everyday life, that doesn't translate directly into what will be remembered by historians. Small matters and nameless ponies disappear in the abyss of the past; great deeds are remembered. Whatever amount of fame the Mane Six may have had in the days of Equestria is beyond the scope of history books, I'd warrant. But at the very least their names would have been remembered beyond any doubt. I'd venture to say the aforementioned events to be song- or at least poem-worthy, so there's a good avenue for the mares' appearance to pass through the ages. Although if we consider how diverse the coloration of Equestria's dwellers is, it wouldn't be too surprising if a matter-of-fact account included a color table for each of the described personae. Q: Why are the cadets training to be officers? As in, who will they command when they graduate? Obviously the cadets haven't graduated yet, but at the moment they seem to be being used as enlisted soldiers rather than officers. A: hink about it as a cultural difference in nomenclature. Like, every policeman is called an officer too, right? They are something above and beyond the normal society and this is the title that defines them as such. The training regimen (that the PCs have undergone) does not focus much on leadership. Perhaps the only one to have had some training focused that way would be Azure due to her talents pointing towards being somewhat of a tactician. Normally, these are the skills that are picked only by those chosen from among the graduates of the academy. If you'd like to look at it in other light, think of it thus: in the times of peace a society can afford to only sustain a small force of highly skilled professionals. Yet if something were to happen, these numbers would be insufficient and a draft from among the civilians would be required. Then the title of officers would perhaps get more of the meaning behind it that you look for in it. Not that a thought like that would have crossed the mind of anypony outside of the academy, and since no ultimate purpose of their training is known to the Cadets, they too would be unlikely to think of such dire circumstances. Q: In several places in the posts describing the world, the setting and the likes, it is said that Equestria has fallen. How then should the world be referred to? Why not Equestria? A: Hm. The way I envisioned it, Equestria indeed was the name of a (rather big) country, but there were lands beyond it, the location currently known as Pony Valley included. As to how the world would then be called... I'd wager that the need for a word beyond 'the world' comes from the necessity of differentiating it from other worlds... The dictionary informs me that Earth was called as such since circa 1400, so by and far the ponies should have a word too, especially since they are proven to have an extensive fiction market. This poses an interesting problem. If we looked at it from the perspective of pre-apocalypse Equestria, I'd be willing to accept the explanation that ponies believe their country to BE the world, or as close to it as makes no difference, and apply the same term to the whole thing. Other cultures living outside Equestria might have different ideas, but let's not go into worldwide linguistics here. (As an afterthought, this is exactly what has been presented during the Hearthswarming play episode I base so much of my headcanon on. That the ponies came into a new land and called it Equestria.) In the current situation... I'm tempted to say that since the country had fallen, the term was free to use and had been used to refer to the world as a whole since then. Because it's easy and a compromise. But it's also ugly, misleading and plain lazy. I've seen a couple people use the name Equus, but don't agree with this option. None of my own ideas have worked either, so here's the final verdict: I myself will most likely just use 'the world', but won't oppose anyone who chooses to continue using 'Equestria', as long as it doesn't cause unnecessary confusion in the matter.
  8. Pebble rose into the air, fulfilling its lifelong dream of defying the overwhelming forces of gravity. It soared upwards, battling the deemed-negligible air resistance and pushing ever onwards to its ultimate goal, the mission it had been given by a being it neither knew nor cared about. Perhaps had it not allowed the long-term relationship with his southern cousin Boulder to stagnate over the last millennium, there would have been a greater understanding of purpose and a possibility of mutual respect and gratitude between the two parties that in these circumstances remained ignorant of one another. Now, feeling his kinetic energy converted almost entirely into potential, Pebble braced itself for the inevitable impact that would rattle its hard yet not indestructible body and allow it to make a mark on a story far bigger and more important than it could have ever imagined over eons lodged in its stony microcosmos. Ping. Cirrus stirred, then smiled awkwardly and jumped down, either disregarding the projectile that bounced off her armor or missing it entirely. The tiny rock shard was thus left unheeded in an environment it didn't really like, already starting to wonder whether it wouldn't have been wiser to let dreams erode and stay home with its family. As they say though, the stone has been cast, and that's that.
  9. @@Colenso Rivers, @@SilverHeart, @@Once In A Blue Moon @@AzureNightLight Star smirked at Cat's last remark, mouthing the words 'right choice' as if to test them for herself. She then looked at her four volunteers, regarding them silently. "Four will have to suffice then," she said dispassionately and turned away from them to begin walking with purpose towards the marked entrance to the Sieve. "Come, let us waste no more time. Hardy..." she paused mid-step with her right front hoof raised, letting her head hang low for the moment, "...good luck, friend." With that, she continued onwards. Accepting the finality of their leader's decision, Midnight was the first to follow the winged unicorn's lead. As he went, the stallion cast a glance at the other two unicorn stallions of his unit, his expression puzzled more than hostile as he pondered what the weird relation between Star and Reverie meant and what it could lead to in the future. It wasn't before all the four ponies left the meadow and stepped onto the stony path declining into the ravine before a voice rang from above them and an anxious Cirrus appeared at the edge over their heads, making it clear who it was that had yelled for them to stop. Right as she made herself visible, Star turned her head sharply towards the beige mare. The intensity of her gaze caused the pegasus to back off a step and wince in expectation of equally sharp words to follow. As none came for a few seconds, she straightened up, steeled herself and opened her mouth to explain how it had been said they needed a pegasus to round out the group. Instead, it was Star who spoke up at that moment, but her tone was calm and respectful in stead of the anticipated rebuke. "I understand the hesitation," was what she said. "This is not an easy environment for a pegasus to cope with. Your sense of loyalty is most admirable," she added with a nod, for a moment catching the eyes of the general, who had positioned herself a little to the left from Cirrus to witness the exchange. "That means she agrees to your participation," hinted Hardy as for a long while the younger mare had made no move to continue downwards. Cirrus stirred, then smiled awkwardly and jumped down, gliding easily to the arrow made of broken crystal where Midnight and the four mares were headed. As she landed, she shot a sheepish smile at Silver and Midnight, the latter grinning in approval of this last-minute addition to their little task force. The huge violet mare led them as far as the mouth of the marked cave before stopping and turning around. "Azure," she addressed the only pony to have volunteered out of the older of the remaining units, "you appear to have a good grasp of the situation at hoof, and so I task you," here for a brief moment the green abomination of an eye focused directly on the white unicorn in question, "with leadership of this expedition on its way through the Sieve, at least until I am positive that its defenses have been sufficiently restored. Fear not," she added in response to the mare's alarmed look, "I shall impart onto you the extent of my knowledge concerning the navigation of this type of environment at the first fork we come upon. The only thing I ask is that I'm left in the middle of the formation and tasked with nothing, as it will require full focus from me to perform the necessary repairs on the walk, in such short time as well. I will remain conscious of you, albeit barely, so address me directly if need arises and I'll comply with the orders, but for the most part treat me as a liability." After a pause, she finished with an almost motherly air about her, "You can do it." If not for the creepy addition of her alien eye, she might have almost resembled the legendary princess Celestia as she was portrayed in literature. The anatomical detail in question dimmed visibly as the imposing mare looked away from them and began to channel her magic; a thing she apparently intended to give her undivided attention to on the march. And a spectacle it was: starting off as a slight whitish glow at just the tip of her horn, it began to shimmer in a multitude of colors as more of its length became enveloped in the radiance. In the end, more than half of Star's horn had lit up, emanating a literal rainbow of ever-changing hues of light. The focused look on the mighty mare's features, however, was a clear reminder that this was not a performance aimed at entertaining, but rather part of a serious task.
  10. Thanks for the input, you've moved my soul to before uncharted depths. I foresee a terrific future for you in the field of anonymous underage humor.
  11. @@Colenso Rivers, @@SilverHeart, @@Once In A Blue Moon @@AzureNightLight General Hardy smiled a grim smile that didn't quite reach her eyes in response to Carto's look, an expression that said 'you don't know what you're signing up for, but I like your attitude' painted on her face. Star didn't react to the first two, her gaze directed more through the volunteers than at them, her alien green eye shifting with a nervousness that showed nowhere else in the giant mare's physique. Midnight Rover stepped forwards next, slamming a hoof on his breastplate. "Close quarters or not, having a defender will go a long way. Plus, I'm rather impossible to be faked, what with the amount of metal I wear," the halfhearted quip went without a reaction from the superiors - Star didn't do as much as blink, in fact - but that didn't dissuade Midnight from continuing, as he surveyed the ponies from his unit, and thus, at the same time, took in those from the elder one as they were all interspersed in the clearing. "I'd dearly hope to be wrong, but I have a feeling that this little escapade might need medical supervision more so than the one originally planned." Again, no reaction from Star, although this time at least the general did nod her head a little in agreement. "I expect a proper caster would be a nice boon as well." At the last comment, Reverie looked up from his observation of the Sieve, instantly drawing Star's green eye to himself as the mare twitched. He managed to take half a step forwards before her voice stopped him dead in his tracks. "No," she said, turning to the surprised stallion, "not you." Looking back towards Midnight, she said as calmly as though she had taken active part in the conversation this entire time, "I agree. It would do well to round out the group with a pegasus; you never know when the advantage of having a flier might prove beneficial. That would make six ponies with me, a good number," she ended, turning her gaze back to general Hardy and disregarding Reverie's hurt look.
  12. @@Colenso Rivers, @@SilverHeart, @@Once In A Blue Moon @@AzureNightLight As everyone locked onto their down-to-earth tasks, everything seemed to point towards the day being rather uneventful, if not downright peaceful. It was an illusion that shattered like so much cheap glass a few brief moments after Cirrus had yelled "We've got incoming!" and pointed towards a shape approaching the camp at a breakneck speed, leaving behind it a bluish-green blur. It came from roughly the opposite direction than the one 'Unit A' has taken to not half an hour ago, which contributed largely to the widespread astonishment when it landed and turned out to be no one other than general Hardy. She reciprocated the confusion and asked a question. She then processed the answer for a total of two seconds. Afterwards... "What do you mean, they're with me?" she asked icily, her stance yelling that she was very willing to tear the slightly quivering officer in front of her to shreds. His axe lay forgotten on the ground as the colonel pressed his back into a tree and stood there, unable to break away from the piercing gaze of the commander's magenta eyes. He tried to respond, but failed to even open his mouth. When after a moment the mare spat "You fool!" and turned sharply away, he almost collapsed as his legs trembled and threatened to stop holding up the stallion's weight. "STAAAR!" the general yelled, her voice carrying over and echoing throughout the mountains, effectively negating any misconception that the mission should be in any way covert. Not waiting for an answer, if there indeed could be any, the mare glanced towards the Cadets frozen in the middle of whatever they had been doing prior to her arrival. As she spoke again, her tone was that of a calm command again, even if the hardness of her gaze betrayed an underlying anxiety. "All pegasi with me," she ordered simply, "we still stand a chance of intercepting the changeling and our kidnapped unit before they reach the Sieve. As for the others, pack up posthaste and await further orders from Star, but more than anything be ready to leave quickly and march hard." With that, she spread her wings, jumped up, flapped her wings once and called, "To the air!" As a few doubtful looks turned to colonel Twine, he snapped, "You heard her, go!" displaying a sudden burst of anger that overtook him. Whether it was directed towards himself or the general was unsure, but as the pegasi took wing and sped off, he began to mutely do just as Hardy had instructed, collecting his tools and then strapping a load of wood to his back, all the time sporting a grim look that dissuaded any conversation. @@Colenso Rivers, @@SilverHeart, @@Once In A Blue Moon @@AzureNightLight PREEMPTIVE EDIT TO AVOID THE LOATHED MERGING METHOD Before anypony had time enough to react in any way beyond seeing to the fulfillment of the general's terse orders, Star alighted in the midst of their preparations, coming from the same direction as Hardy had before her. For a while, she just stood at the outskirts, not interrupting the officers, merely observing them. She lingered on the colonel first, and although her expression was devoid of emotion, the stallion winced and broke the eye contact, starting to busy himself with helping the Cadets load the firewood onto their backs. He was however quickly stopped by the mare's silent command, "Leave the wood. It won't be needed." The winged unicorn's gaze then easily fished out Reverie, the unicorn straightening as he caught her eyes, but she continued to scan the group, lightly shaking her head as she finished and sighing silently. "Triple rank, we press hard over a short distance," Star's voice carried as little emotion as her features betrayed when she spoke, once she saw everypony ready to go. "I'll explain the situation on the way. Twine brings up the rear. Move out," she ended, still keeping the calm, commanding tone to her speech. She went first, stepping onto the path the oldest unit of the Cadets had gone down what suddenly seemed such a long time earlier. At first, she moved at an easy marching pace, letting the officers fall into places in the formation behind her. Without ever looking back, she nonetheless knew exactly when that had been accomplished and accelerated immediately, bringing them to a lively trot down the mountain path, for now thankfully quite flat and packed, allowing for this increase in tempo. Despite her promise, she kept silent as they sped onwards. Only later did she speak, once the path reached a steep decline, where the company had to pause as officers needed to climb down one by one. Standing a little aside and overlooking their efforts, she began, "From what I gather, earlier today one of the units has been led away from the camp by a changeling impersonating the general. While their demise is unlikely, the abduction is a certain - barring Hardy being able to cut off their escape," she paused for a long time afterwards, closing her eyes and scanning the horizon while the downwards struggle of the thankfully-unburdened infantry continued. For the longest time, she just stood there, seeming to have forgotten about the world, but as the last few ponies began their descent, she stepped forwards almost absentmindedly, free-falling for a moment before catching air in her wings and hovering over their heads. She pointed the direction the path now took, currently with a steep incline to the left and a similarly precautious drop to its right. "Double file now, standard marching speed. Watch your hooves, there will be a lot of gravel on the path." The journey continued and now Star kept to the air, continuing her speech as the column reformed and resumed the stroll. "There is no easy method of differentiating a changeling from the person they're impersonating," she admitted, her voice easily carrying to all the officers, "but there are a few possibilities. For one, while most changelings will be able to incorporate clothing items into their guise, they may omit things they overlook: some flaw of the material, a stain, a decoration. Furthermore, while visually convincing, these clothes remain immaterial and will often fail to react properly to things like gusts of the wind, getting caught onto something or stepped upon - none of which seems particularly useful given the practical nature of your attire, but should be kept in mind nonetheless. Illusionary metal surfaces may fail to reflect sunlight or do so improperly, and the more intricately designed items may be recognized as looking downright fake." The path slowly widened, then turned a corner and a view opened in front of them of a wide, thick forest, making it impossible to judge what lay beyond it. A keen eye would be able to spot a pegasus dropping from the air where it had been hovering before the visual contact had been made. As the terrain now allowed, Star spurred them almost to a gallop, while she easily kept pace in the air and continued her lecture. "What is more," she said, "the illusion of sameness is only superficial. While a changeling's looks may be convincing, it will not display the same movement patterns, speaking habits and generally lack the idiosyncrasy of the imitated individual, even if the timbre of the voice may be unrecognizable. The transformation provides a changeling no knowledge beyond that it already had, too, so a tried and true method of ascertaining the identity of a pony you'd suspect not to be themselves is asking a question to which the answer would not be known to any outside force." The footpath led them straight towards a nigh-impenetrable wall of trees, but as they approached, Star alighted again and entered an unmarked trail that nonetheless allowed them to follow her without breaking the lines. The final part of the explanation was grave, and for the first time since she appeared in the morning, there was a hint of bitter emotion to Star's voice. "The reason you are being informed of this only now is there should have been no possibility of this area being infiltrated this deeply by the changelings and thus there was no hurry in relaying all the information at once. All this is of course no excuse for anypony who would have known what I've just told you before." Although she didn't deem to look back, Twine winced with a pained expression from where he was tailing the group. Walking through the dense woods had the upside of their pace slowing down greatly, allowing them to catch a breath after the forcible march, but the tension only grew as silence reigned, despite how pleasant a day it would have been in any other circumstances. Thankfully, after no more than a few minutes they got through to a clearing opening onto the beginning of a steeply deepening ravine beyond which the forest continued on a level ground. Scattered in the open were the pegasus officers, including general Hardy herself, standing on the edge of the crevice. Looking past her it was possible to view the opposite side of the downwards pass's wall. Its sponge-like surface, pockmarked with holes from top to bottom which ranged from openings so small it would be difficult to stick a hoof inside to cave entrances wide enough for more than one pony to go in side-by-side made the Sieve's name self-explanatory. The wall - increasingly high as the ravine's floor's drop continued - looked like this as far as it could be seen. "Casualties?" asked Star matter-of-factly, stopping next to Hardy and looking down into the Sieve. The armored pegasus shook her head. "None, as expected. But there is something you should really see," she pointed a hoof down, towards one of the bigger openings in the rock. A small pile of shattered crystal pieces had been gathered there, making it easier to notice what lay next to it: a smattering of the same material arranged into the distinct shape of an arrow, pointing towards the gaping hole. "Could it have been-" the general began to ask, but the answer cut her off. "No." Star was frowning, looking intently at the arrow and the depths it pointed towards. The silence stretched, the general's wings fluttering slightly in anticipation, until she couldn't contain the question any longer. "What happens now?" "I go after them, of course," there was no hesitation before the answer came. Star looked sideways onto the other mare and added, "Alone." A look of mixed hurt and outrage flashed in the pegasus' eyes. "No!" she snapped, accentuating that with a stomp of her hoof. "No?" Star looked curiously down at her interlocutor, appearing surprised. When the smaller mare didn't back down, she nodded slowly. "No, not alone. But alone, too." Not giving the general any time to process this response, Star turned towards the Cadets who spectated this odd exchange. "The tunnels through these mountains, including those opening onto the ravine before you, have once housed entire hives of the changelings," she informed them calmly. "While that isn't true anymore, the creatures know their way through them, and as such are capable of navigating them in order to get to the plains more quickly than by the way of the mountain passages we've been following. If there is to be any hope of catching up to the kidnapped unit, that is the way that needs to be used. However, as speed is vital, I will only be taking a select few volunteers with me on the chase, while the rest of you will carry on down these known trails with the superior officers." She paused for a moment, letting the information sink in before she added, "More than anything, I require somepony with a good sense of direction and orientation in terrain, as on the way I will need to focus on restoring the breached defense crystals more than leading you, lest Ponyvale come to trouble whilst we're gone. Decide quickly," she ended, turning to Hardy, who nodded her approval of the plan.
  13. Yes yes, I'm here, shaking off the fortnight of freedom and digging through the same amount of buildup at work. Due to the second part, expect no update today, but tomorrow we should get back on track and properly start regaining steam.
  14. @@Colenso Rivers, @@SilverHeart, @@Once In A Blue Moon @@AzureNightLight Cirrus smiled back, stretching a little before she too climbed to her hooves and began to make herself look presentable. "Mmmm, it was warm and soft, not like most other nights," she replied softly, presumably speaking of the dream's nature. "I could get used to it for sure." After a while of companionable silence, as she was rolling up her blanket and strapping it onto her pack, the pegasus murmured, "I wonder what this Sieve is." On the other side of the encampment, Midnight Rover yawned mightily, looking towards the sky with a blissful smile and mumbling to himself, "Now this is what I'm talking about." After an indulgent moment of lying back, he rolled to his hooves and proceeded to make a few simple exercises to stretch himself before beginning to put on his heavy gear. Toad and Rabble Buster had been among the first to move towards the treeline, a few dozen meters from where the fires were being secured, seeing their superior officer already putting his back to cutting down wood they would be taking as fuel for the coming night. They were soon joined by several others, including Comet Chaser and Verdant Vine, the two already in the middle of another friendly spat. Gale Wind, finding mostly everything being done already, for now dug out two apples from her satchels and wondered over to the lone sentry left at the cliff's edge - Reverie, as it happened - and offered one to him while gazing over the vast expanse of the world unfolding in front of her and munching on her own fruit. Although she said nothing about it, it was clear to any attentive observer from the anxious flutter of her wings how eager the mare was to take to the skies in this new environment. "Leave me be, rainy," the unicorn responded to the offer, a little belatedly. He too had his eyes pasted on the distant horizon as he spoke. "Go see to them instead," he added, waving a hoof in the vague direction of the camp. Gal shrugged, but did as he suggested and soon found herself fighting back a squeal of glee as Viridian Skies repeated the colonel's order for a few pegasi to do a short fly-over of the camp and take a look around it from above.
  15. @@Colenso Rivers, @@SilverHeart, @@Once In A Blue Moon @@AzureNightLight The gravity of Rose and Steel's revelations put everypony in a quiet, contemplative, and in a few cases, quite dejected state of mind. Whatever conversations there were soon died down as the overall mood and exhaustion of the long day sped all the soldiers towards sleep, the officers finding themselves traversing the dream world almost as soon as their eyes were closed. This time, however, something was out of place. An almost imperceptible difference that nonetheless gnawed at the back of the observer's feeling until they managed to reach the conclusion that what made this experience so vastly incomparable was actually being there. Not merely spectating events as they unfolded in front of an immaterial specter that was a dreaming pony's mind, but the perception of physical presence within the scene playing out. Not necessarily in person, intangible as the concept of self is in the state of dreaming, yet as a person, a living being taking part in the action. With the itch scratched, the conclusion promptly began to fade, more of the scene materializing itself in its place... You look around yourself curiously. Two rows of comfortable plush seats, scenic windows and most of all, a rural landscape moving behind the glass panes makes it all too clear you’re sitting in a train car. It’s pretty crowded, too: no less than three mares are sitting on the nearest vacant spaces, with another two right across the walkway. Interestingly enough, there seems to be nopony else in the same wagon, which, paired with a fuzzy feeling inside you probably means these are not just random ponies you’re sharing the travelling space with. A supposition confirmed without delay as a hoof is wrapped companionably around your shoulder and a voice reaches you from the left, “Chillax, Twilight! Whatever it is that you’re supposed to do, you’re gonna ace it easily!” You turn towards the speaker, a cerulean blue pegasus mare, and admire her most unusual rainbow-colored mane, jutting roguishly over her magenta eyes. Feeling for some reason like you’re going to drown in these unless you avert your gaze quickly, you proceed to inspect closely the remainder of your company. Sitting across from you is a glamorous white unicorn, her violet hair corkscrewed artfully over her head. She nods approvingly to what has been said and looks at you warmly, trying to boost your confidence along with the other mare. Why is that, though? You can’t recall what would have you stressed enough for both of them to fret over you so. On the other hoof, you don’t remember coming onto this train either, so that might not be the best course of thought to follow. Next to the fashionable unicorn sits an earth pony mare so pink it’s hard to believe, her hair puffed up and tangled wildly, appearing sticky even if such observation is completely unbased. Perhaps the fact she’s intently devouring cupcakes - consisting in more than half their volume of frosting - contributes to that deduction, however. She, at least, appears to have no intention of comforting you. “Thank you, everypony,” you hear yourself speak calmly, your eyes sliding quickly along the five mares. “It’s just that... there is a lot riding on this job, and I don’t just mean that super-important test this all is…” “Shucks, Twilight, you’re more nervous about it than a chicken in a flight contest,” one of the mares from across the walkway laughs, a hint of a tease in her voice. Her wide-brimmed, well-worn cowboy hat rests easily on the back of her head and she’s stretched comfortably over her seat, presenting an athletic, orange-tinged figure and flicking her braided blonde tail absently. “Do as Rainbow tells ya and let it be.” The last of your company, sitting directly to your right across the walkway, opposite the country mare, nods and says “Yeah” so silently you aren’t even sure the words really left her mouth. Her coat is sunshine yellow and half of her face is hidden beneath a bang of her delicate pink mane. “Anypony asked for cool drinks?” asks a young male voice from the direction of the entrance to the car you’re all seated in, but as you turn towards the speaker, he adds, "Morning call! Up, up, all of you!" in the baritone of colonel Twine. The officers began to stir, looking around themselves blearily and taking in bits and pieces of their surroundings: the bonfires gone cold, the elements of equipment strewn around, the few cooking utensils left lying in the open, the two unicorns seating alert at the edges of the camp as sentries. As they were coming to, a lively exchange could be heard from the direction whence the colonel's wake-up call came. "- a group this big. Take the unit, uh..." general Hardy's voice lost its magisterial edge as she asked lamely, "How are the units called again?" "They aren't," admitted the stallion calmly. "There never was any reason to attach names to them." "Right," Hardy couldn't hide the surprise from her voice, but as befitted an officer of her rank, took it in stride. "I'm taking unit A-" a pause and a short groan betrayed lack of understanding from her interlocutor, "the eldest one," she explained irritably, "to scout forwards up to the Sieve. We will wait for you there, hopefully with a meal if something can be foraged. Units B and C stay with you to clear camp and gather firewood for tonight. Do not overburden them, we will be out of the mountains by tomorrow." "Yes, ma'am!" replied Twine, then went on to relay the orders unto the soldiers, by now awake enough to not really need it, but militairesse oblige. Soon after, the newly-dubbed unit A disappeared down the winding mountain track and the others found themselves put to work around the camp, as per the general's instructions.