Bari

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Bari last won the day on December 12 2012

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About Bari

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  • Birthday 08/31/1993

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

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    In the endless movement of time, why argue the finer points?
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  1. Asteria was delighted to see the glow return to Wraith's eyes. She smiled back at the cat when he did. It seemed whatever she had done, it had caused him to brighten up. Literally. His voice was filled with so much positive emotion, it make her a little excited. She almost squeaked when the cat mentioned the power of friendship. It was as though Wraith could see right into her soul. Asteria felt a little scared when the ground started moving, but she gathered her focus and listened to Wraith's words. Her heart skipped a beat when the cat mentioned Lapis, the train, and their destination. How did he know about all that? She couldn't recall telling him about it, and she didn't remember Magicon saying anything, either. Though, Magicon had been alone with the cat, but Magicon didn't trust him as far as she could tell. The red stallion seemed too strong willed to concede information to a perceived enemy. So how did Wraith know? She bit back a remark, though. But just for the moment. The idea of many adventures made her heart do another backflip. “Reunion? Ya mean meeting up again in my world? I'm pretty sure a big talking cat would draw more attention than one might think necessary.” she said with a glint of pure curiosity in her eyes. She thought about all the places they could go. Not too many came to mind, since there was still the whole “big talking cat” thing. She continued to listen, though, hoping Wraith would come up with an idea she'd like. Something seemed odd about what Wraith was saying. Did the cat work on a ship? She had once heard that cats were kept on ships to catch any mice or rats that had sneaked aboard, so it seemed plausible. And there were far too many choices. She tapped her head a few times before speaking again. “How about a whole day of fun? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and loads of stuff in between! Maybe we can go to the carnival? Or an arcade? Something positively fun is the only option!” she exclaimed. She smiled brightly and approached the cat. She wrapped her forelegs around the cat's neck and hugged Wraith. “I'm glad we're friends. You're a whole lot more fun than Lapis.” As she felt his warm fur against her face, she was suddenly reminded of something that had bothered her a little while ago. “Say, how did you know about Lapis, the train, and Las Pegasus? I'm pretty sure I didn't tell you about them.” She released the cat and sat close to him, looking up at Wraith with eyes wide with interest. The expression on her face was rather passive, as if she didn't know what to think. How much did Wraith know? Why did he know these things? In her mind, she felt the easiest explanation was probably the right one, though. Magicon may have said something without thinking. And she herself might have mentioned Lapis at least once. Wraith seemed like a smart creature, capable of piecing things together. But it still didn't fit exactly. Lapis was somewhat confused as to why Midnight had laughed. And the way she spoke seemed cheerful, as if she was amused and delighted. Lapis listened inquisitively, his attention heightened. He was quite relieved he'd get some amount of answers. Wandering around in the dark not know where he was going, what he was after, or who he was with was a tad unnerving. The order of importance seemed fair enough, so he didn't say a word about it. Lapis grimaced a little when Midnight revealed the cat had probably only taken Asteria on a whim. Some of what she said confused him, jumbling up his thoughts some more. Lapis realized this was actually all too much for him, and he refused to let it make his head spin. How could a cat be in more than one place at once? He nodded and listened, hoping he'd at least understand something. He began to wonder who could have brought her here. And to what ends? At the realization his guide lacked a cutie mark, Lapis had to do a double take. Normally, he didn't stare at other ponies' flanks, not unless some color out of place caught his eye. So, he had simply missed such a crucial detail. He was beginning to think he wasn't a very good researcher after all.... He just listened after that, not exactly liking what he was hearing. How could these other scribes just disappear? Was it some sort of contest, where stronger scribes destroyed weaker ones, or did this realm wear at them? His mind boggled at the implications of either theory. His thoughts were cut short when Midnight decided it was his turn to answer a question. “Yes, I can swim. It's a standard practice to teach traveling researchers at the Guild the basics of survival. I'm pretty sure it isn't a very good idea to send ponies out into the world without enough knowledge to avoid death.” he replied, chuckling softly. “So, I guess we'll take your shortcut if we have to.”
  2. Lapis was a tad startled when the cat had started laughing, but he had still been able to tell his riddles without wavering. Though, in the pit of his stomach, he wondered if this all would buy enough time. By the time he had finished, he studied the cat while watching Midnight from the corner of his eye. Bringer confirmed his fears that the riddles were too easy. But when the cat answered, Lapis did his best not to break down in a fit of laughter. He didn't get a single one right, and the answers the cat had made up were completely ridiculous. But he didn't laugh. This wasn't a game. It was a distraction. One that had probably gone on for maybe only 5 minutes at most. Lapis truly hoped that had been enough time for his guide. Lapis braced himself as the cat drew near. He wasn't a fighter, and this thing probably wasn't really a cat. If he drew his sword, Bringer would probably have gotten him halfway through the motion. That would be a very poor way to die. As Midnight spoke, though, Lapis felt she had gotten enough time after all. Lapis watched with wide-eyed amazement as their aggressor disappeared through a hole in the ground. He listen with mild pride as the mare congratulated him. He didn't think Bringer would have actually given them the time they needed. Midnight explanation of this place got his gears turning. There was so much he didn't know about this place. If only there were a way he could learn just a little more. He didn't have a use for the knowledge, but it bothered him nonetheless. Lapis followed after his guide dutifully, trusting in her abilities to get Asteria back for him. “Well, if you insist.” he said mildly, holding back some excitement when she told him now would be a good time for questions. Maybe he'd get some answers that would make this all a little more clear. “First off, what was that thing? I saw what I'm assuming is the same cat back on the train, and that one didn't talk. Or at least, it didn't feel the need to say anything. Why did it take my filly? Do you have any idea as to why? And would it be alright to ask about you personally?” Lapis said the last question carefully. He had come to realize some ponies would rather hit him than say something about their lives. “I mean, who are you, exactly? Perhaps this isn't the time, but I've had these past several minutes of being in this world to clear my head. I'm not always the most clear headed of ponies, evident by the fact I followed after you with little protest....” Lapis looked ahead towards their destination. Up ahead was an impenetrable darkness. Whatever lay ahead could have been anything. He shifted his gaze back to Midnight, a little interested in watching her. His emotions were in a bit of a tangle, but his words did little to reflect it. “What did you mean by that place back there being a training ground? Also, there was an empty spot on your bookshelf back in your study. Was there supposed to be a book there? And what about your home? Why were there empty rooms? And what about the other scribes? Are they still around?” he said, suddenly realizing he'd asked too many questions at once. He took a deep breath, maybe two. He picked up his pace a little to catch up with the mare. “How did you end up in this world? Were you born here? And that book I had written in. What purpose did it hold? And what did you do back there with the cat? And if we become desperate, what exactly will you try?” At this point, Lapis had run out of steam. His head started clouding up again, and couldn't think of any more questions. He choose to just stop talking for now and hear what answers Midnight had for him. He just hoped he hadn't asked too many questions. For now, though, he walk beside her, enjoying her company. Asteria listened carefully to Wraith as he spoke. It was nice to know she had given the cat another first. The smile remind her of one she'd seen the princesses wear. Somewhat royal and almost calming. She felt a little silly for promising to do something blindly, but she hadn't confirmed it yet. Or at least, she didn't think she had. It didn't matter. She had basically promised to make a promise a moment ago. Asteria's heart began to beat faster as Wraith told her there was nothing to worry about. “T-the m-most important thing I will ever do...” she stammered softly. Wraith continued to make sure she was at ease with this decision. But was what he want just that? To touch him on the nose? She giggled a little. The did sound simple, easy, and probably not dangerous. Unless of course Wraith wanted to eat her hoof.... But there was no time to worry about that. Wraith's words spoke to her heart. Something so simple, yet it could mean so much. What did this little tap mean? Was it truly something more? “Okay, Wraith. I promise I shall do this for you.” she said, eyes sparkling. I'm not afraid, she thought to herself, I can do this. Slowly, she reached out and moved her soft purple hoof towards the large cat that sat crouched before her. This small gesture. This little movement of her foreleg. Who knew what it meant to the cat? To Asteria, it was just a bit of trust. She wanted with all her heart to trust Wraith. Why? She still found no answer. She just did things without thinking, yet thought it all over again and again. These thoughts bounced around in her head a thousand times in the short span of time it took for her hoof to finally make contact with Wraith's nose. And yet, it felt like forever to the filly. “Boop.” she said very softly, almost afraid that she might screw something up with the mere utterance. She took back her hoof, this time it only feeling like the seconds it took instead of the eternity from moments before. “That's it, right? Now what? Are we going to talk some more?” Asteria asked, head twisted to the side ever so slightly. And yet, the minute gesture was filled with so much hope and curiosity.
  3. After he had finished telling Midnight what she wanted to know, Lapis watched the mare and studied her as best he could. It seemed as though the blade had been pulled back a little bit while he had been speaking. This made something in his chest flutter for a second. They both stood there, staring into each other eyes, but then it seemed Midnight had made whatever decision she needed to, and returned the sword back to where it was. The mare announced it was time to move out. Lapis took in her explanation with a quick nod. It made perfect sense to him, somehow. Midnight approached a desk and retrieved from within it a dagger. “Hmm, I don’t suppose you have something for me, do you? Maybe something like what you're carrying?” he said, meaning the saddlebag, not the dagger. But she merely tossed him the sword after explaining why she had it. A bit surprised, Lapis did his best to catch it, almost dropping it on the ground. Doing his best to mimic how Midnight had strapped on her dagger, Lapis took the strap and swung it over his neck and let it rest on his left shoulder. After fiddling with it for a few seconds, it fit snuggly. He doubted he’d be needing it, and he certainly only had the barest idea of how to use it, but Midnight had been kind enough to loan it to him, so he might as well take it. Lapis laughed silently about being a ‘sluggish pony’. Back home, speed was important in case of monsters or cave-ins. So he was fairly certain he could keep up with a brisk pace. The mare smiled at him before quickly switching to a serious expression. Lapis followed her as she made her way to the door to the outside. He glanced briefly from side to side, taking in his hostess’s home. It seemed a simple place, basically what he’d have. As they got to the door, Lapis felt a slight chill run along his spine. Outside the door was the ruins of a village. But not just any ruins. Something didn’t sit right with Lapis. This village almost looked familiar. But not. The buildings were all of a style unfamiliar to him, and yet he recognized them for what they were. This place seemed like the ruins found near Vanhoover. Except, despite the state of this place, it was far more intact than what was found buried deep in the snow and tundra long forgotten. And Midnight’s word did not help to ease his sudden unsureness. He chose to stop thinking about it for a bit. It was best to focus, especially since Midnight felt like filling up the intervening time of their journey with talk. But Midnight decided to start by insulting him. It certainly made him feel bad. Though, the words seemed to hold much truth. He felt he could accept them instead of denying them the way he would have any time before now. “Gee, I didn’t know it was like that. Well, it’s good to know where I need improvement.” he mumble to himself, not knowing if the mare could hear him. He kept up pace with her, following her movement as exactly as he could. His main focus was getting Asteria back. That was it. But Midnight clearly felt he needed to know some things. With a quick twist, she was facing him, and Lapis fought back a startled yelp. Her words spun around in his head, mostly seeming a bit too much for him. He merely took in the information for later study, if at all. At this point, he realized this was too much to study as they went along, so he made himself just follow and listen. As they came to a building and entered it, the cold seemed to subside. The darkness was warm and inviting, like sleep. But he fought the urge to drift. This place was also creepy. Not exactly a place where one is supposed to sleep. Especially the scratching noise that bothered his guide. Midnight kept on talking as they went a different path, and Lapis tried to make sense of it. She was probably telling him all this because it was of some importance. Suddenly, they were at another door, and Midnight seemed uneasy once more. As they made their way through the room, a soft noise talked to them. It urged them to take a dip in the water, which was probably a bad idea. Lapis turned a bit, despite Midnight’s warning, to see the source. It was the cat from earlier. And from when Lapis wrote in the book. Lapis made to turn away, trying not to process what it meant, but Midnight stopped moving completely. As the cat spoke, a few things clicked in his head. The mare beside him hopefully had some sort of plan if she was going to have him deal with the cat. Either way, he needed to do something. “So, I’m not crazy? There really is a large talking cat that has my filly? Say, you, Bringer. What do you need her for, anyway? To make you cupcakes or something? Or write notes for you? I honestly can’t see what you’d want from her. Now, riddles and jokes, right? I don’t know if I can, but let’s just go for it.” Lapis said a tad amused at this situation. After a point, one gives up trying to make things work in their head how they’re supposed to go. Lapis tapped his chin a few times, trying his best to remember the joke book he had read once not too long ago while waiting in line at a bookstore. “What did the cat say when he lost all his bits? I’m paw! What’s more clever than a talking cat? A spelling bee!” he said, feeling incredibly stupid. These jokes were awful... He hoped the riddles he could think up would be at least a little better. “How about a few riddles? I’ll name 3 and see if you can answer them, alright?” He cleared his throat and recited some of the riddles he knew. “What goes around the world but stays in the corner?” he said, realizing this one might be a bit easy. “No sooner spoken than broken. What is it?” This one was probably easy, too. “If you throw me from the window, I will leave a grieving wife. Bring me back, but in the door, and you'll see someone giving life! What am I?” he asked, thinking this one might keep Bringer busy long enough for Midnight to do whatever it was she had planned. Dreamer watched with patience as to what Bringer was up to. He faced her, grin widening. It was both strange and amusing at the same time. The cat’s voice came from all around her, so she didn’t know if what she faced was really the cat. His words confused her. They didn’t make much sense. It was clear that Bringer wasn’t readable after all. How wasn’t she a normal pony? She was pretty sure was as normal as they came. Or something. What could Bringer mean? And what did he want to trade? Just questions? And then, she was Asteria again. And the cat before her was Wraith. What a strange name. But wasn’t any name strange to those who were unused to it? And Wraith wasn’t darkness. If that was true, then Asteria hadn’t broken her promise to Scarlet yet. She really hoped Wraith wasn’t lying again. She simply nodded along to the cat’s words, absorbing them as they came. Bringing things together, what an odd but interesting idea. All of it sounded lovely, and somehow possible, too. Could she, a little filly, really help someone like Wraith? “Well, okay.” she said, as though she hadn’t even given it a thought. Was she being reckless? Was this really the best course of action? Were there other options she was unable to see? But she couldn’t answer any of them. No one else was here with her to provide an answer, either. So she simply had to accept. “We are friends. Friends help friends when they need it. What kind of friend would I be to refuse? It’s nothing dangerous, right? And nopony will get hurt at any point? If you can guarantee that, I will promise to help you, Wraith.” Asteria said, heart swirling with uncertainty. What could she do that Wraith could not do himself?
  4. Lapis felt a bit silly as Midnight addressed the issue of the sword. She was just a writer. Though, he had honestly asked to know if this area was dangerous or not. Perhaps he should've just asked plainly. But either way, Midnight made no mention of something along those lines. He'd still have to ask, clearly this time. As the mare approached the sword, it seemed as though her voice took a slightly dangerous edge to it. The beginnings of worry entered his gut. He feared he had offended his hostess. He was about to express an apology before she actually drew the thing from its sheath. It appeared to be a marvelous looking weapon. Its gleam held his eyes. He watched both the sword and its mistress together as one, still listening to the mare. In only a moment, the blade was at his neck. Lapis' eyes went wide with fear for a few seconds. There was a big difference between being cut and being obliterated. If Midnight intended to kill him, he doubted he'd come out the winner. The way she explained her ownership of the sword made him feel as though Midnight expected him to try and hurt her. But why would she think that? She told him to not move. To stay calm. Maybe this was a test. He could pass a test. At least, he hoped he could. Dying now would mean he couldn't go after Asteria. So it was in his best interest to cooperate. It was true, though. He could see the blade alright. It was a sharp piece of metal aim at his throat. A lovely work of craftsmanship. He wondered briefly if its metal was extracted from Grass Valley or any of the neighboring mines. He would have asked, but it was clear he should have been focusing on the issue at hoof, and not a silly sword. But the thing had caught and held his eye. He did need to know why a writer would have a sword. And then, he thought about her words. She almost seemed irritated he had gotten distracted. Or maybe that he had regained his composure so quickly. Sometimes he forgot it was normal to stay one emotion for a while. Underneath his cold exterior, he was something of a mixture of emotions at all times. And of course, Asteria had been foalnapped before. Not that it happened always, but it wasn't something especially new. He hadn't been himself while writing. Or maybe the idea she was in some other world he could not reach affected him deeply. He truly did not know. Emotions were not his specialty. Books were. If Asteria were here, she might have been able to tell him what was going on with him. But since she wasn't, finding her quickly was the best course of action. Now was the time to answer questions. Always questions. Life was full of those. And he seemed to be the one who needed to answer them. Why didn't he get answers? It mattered not. At least for the time being. Trying his best not to lean forward, or even move at all, Lapis spoke as clearly as he could. “I'm not really sure where the words I wrote came from. I'm not sure of much things in regards to the book. You see, it was an almost empty book. It.... It called to me. Midnight, I've never told anyone this, but I feel I need to if I am to explain properly. My cutie mark. It is a closed book. It is closed because there are no words on its pages.” Lapis tried to stop himself, but holding it in for all this time was wearing away at him. “I am much like an empty book. And as I wrote in this book with so few words, the pictures came to me. I just wrote, the pencil guided by some sort of half dream. So, beyond the two ponies I recognize, Asteria and Magicon, it makes very little sense indeed. Of course, I perfectly understood the first chapter I had wrote. That had actually happened to me. I was there, at least. If I may ask, who do I remind you of? And I know little of dreams. I think they're just simple images that come to mind while asleep. From much of the nightmares I've had, I'd say they're unhelpful.” Lapis said thoughtfully. The presence of the sword was making him a little shaky. He tried to act casual, though. Worrying about it would only make it harder to speak. “I also know little about dragons. I fled from one once, and that's about it. Unless you mean scholarly. I've read a few books on them, if only to prepare myself in case of an unfortunate encounter. I'm not a dragonologist, though, so please don't quiz me.” Lapis said in a failed attempt at humor. He felt a bit of heat on his cheeks and hoped Midnight wouldn't notice. “Although, I was told a story about a dragon. And a guardian of some sort as well. It was only yesterday, so I shouldn't have too hard a time relating it if you wish.” He took a deep breath and summarized Dusky's story for Midnight. He felt as though she might know it, though. “Other than that, I really don't know much else.” Just like Midnight's eyes, Lapis' were a swirl of emotions. Except his were a mixture of fear, confusion, curiosity, and admiration. But his expression might have been described as one of embarrassment. Dreamer watched with concern as Bringer disappeared. Her ears perked up as the cat began to speak. It seemed alright that her answer was wrong. It had amused Bringer, and that was of a higher value. Dreamer hadn't thought of the Ocean of Nightmares as something one would even conceive of eating. But maybe Bringer secretly wanted to eat it? And then gain its powers! But she shook her head. That was a silly idea. It saddened her that Bringer was unable to taste food. Bringer's longing almost broke her heart. Almost. She still needed to remain separate from darkness. But was Bringer darkness? The cat's voice grew nearer. Dreamer tried not to shiver. She fought back the urge to reach out and hug the cat. This was growing to be bothersome. She was almost confused with herself. Why did she feel so much sympathy for Bringer? What did she owe Bringer? Or for that matter, what did she owe Scarlet? How much did her promise mean? Her emotions were not making sense. She waited for something to happen. Something always seemed to happen when Bringer disappeared. The voice had gone silent. Suddenly, darkness invaded Dreamer's eyes. Where had the light gone? Everything seemed to stop, as if the Ocean itself were holding its breath. A deeper shadow passed by, and Dreamer thought it was Bringer. The floor shifted, and behind her, she felt something like sandpaper go up her back. She shivered this time. What in the name of Celestia was it? Thinking back, she remembered that cats had rough tongues, and Dreamer blushed a little. Bringer had licked her. Was it some sort of sign of affection? She thought on it for a good while before Bringer had decided to speak up. Although, it might have only been a few seconds. She was starting to lose track of time in this nightmare realm. Dreamer thought on it for a moment. What kind of experiment would it be? She had a feeling it might not be something safe. How does one test if something is real? By causing it pain, no doubt. She was still uncertain about Bringer. Maybe not a friend, but was he really a foe? He hadn't treated her as kindly as she would have liked, but it was better than other times she'd been captured. This honestly wasn't the first time someone decided to take her somewhere against her will. It came with the territory of investigating paranormal things. Wackos usually were interested in them. But that didn't matter right now. She had been asked another question. She thought on it for a few moments. “You know, I don't like labels. Why must you use terms like ‘light' or ‘dark'? I feel like they give you less room to be you. I mean, sure, I'm a unicorn filly. Those are labels, but I like to ignore them when possible. Why should any one thing define an individual? To me, Bringer, you are you. Not a shadow, or light, or even darkness.” she said almost triumphantly. “Say, do you think I could ask a question? Bringer, what do you think of me? Do you like me? Would you like me to be your friend? If you say no, I'll understand.” She watched him now. The cat's eyes were flickering with mischief. What could it mean? She hoped this new question he had asked had not been a trick.
  5. Bringer had yawned. It didn't seem like a very good sign. And the fact that it felt part of him was fading worried Dreamer as well. What did it mean? She didn't think she could very well ask. Or could she? She'd have to wait and see. After she had finished, she watched the cat with the same curiosity. She listened closely as he came to her eye level. It seemed as though she was right in her reading of him. Bringer was a beast of twilight. Dawn and dusk. If what he said was the truth. But where did that place him? He was still tied to the shadows. Scarlet had asked her not to have anything to do with darkness. So she kept her feelings neutral despite her growing interest. Bringer mentioned a “him”. Him who? Who was it that banished Bringer? And how could he not know who Bringer was if he had banished him? Such puzzles required answers. But maybe if she waited long enough, she'd get answers. Dreamer tried to keep a sense of where Bringer was as he circled her. Though she doubted knowing where the cat was would help here. He had come from one of the pillar. And that didn't bode well. She listened and contemplated Bringer's words. It all sounded somewhat normal. Up until the cat got to food. The cat came before her again, this time a little too close. But she dared not move. What does Bringer eat? Ponies, elks, birds, kitty chow? So many choices. But Bringer wasn't a normal animal. He was a dream creature. Did that make a difference? Do dream creatures eat dreams? So many questions, and she was the one who had to answer. She had to answer now, though. She'd wasted enough time as it was, though it had been barely a few seconds. “I'd say you eat anything and everything. Why limit oneself to meat or cream? Why not anything that comes to mind? Say, do you suppose you could eat trees, or even mountains? Surely you can do many things.” Dreamer said filled with a bubbly enthusiasm. Dreamer stared at the cat now, facing him full in the face. His eyes were so dim, and a single tear had escaped from his eye. Was something the matter? She simply had to know. “Bringer, is something wrong? Are you not having fun? What's wrong with your eyes? And why do I see that a tear has run down your face?” she asked, voiced tinged with some concern. Sure, he was keeping her here against her will, but Dreamer still had a heart. If something was the matter, she simply had to know. She made to touch him, but pulled back. She didn't know what would have happen if she had completed the motion. She was willing to, though. Although, the promise she had made Scarlet echoed in her mind. The mare sat next to him and draped her wing on him once more. Lapis listened tentatively. Her voice was friendly, that much was certain. He was right about who she was, and that made him feel a bit better. And she didn't care that he had stained her book. Truly a relief. Her words empowered him. He began to realize he was getting nowhere lamenting the loss of Asteria. Wherever she was, she'd need a calm and collected Lapis Lazuli. He drew in a deep breath. He was resolute. He watched as Midnight left his side to check out Dawn's journal. She looked concerned at its contents. Whatever was wrong with it, it clearly bothered the mare quite a bit. She let a out a short lived sigh that was cut off before it could make much of a sound. This began to worry Lapis. He was about to ask before he was interrupted. She was beside him once more, and the wing she wrapped around him was more like a tight grip than a hug. The next moment he was on the ground of a strange place. Slightly annoyed, he lifted himself up and listened to Midnight explain a little. She gestured at the room, and he took it all in. It was a simple room. One of a pony who clearly spent more time at her desk than asleep. However they got here didn't matter. She might've had some sort of artifact or something that had transported them. His eyes lingered on the sword for more than he'd have thought he might. It looked like a beautiful object. Maybe he could persuade her to let him see it. He listened to her, nodding in thought. She was a writer of some special sort. And not the only one. But what was this place? Midnight moved in front of him, and he listened more intently. He made to speak, but was cut off once more. What the mare had to say seemed somewhat important. Lapis shook his very much perplexed. It seemed as though he was in the world of fairy tales. And he suspected it wasn't one of those friendly ones where the hero kills the dragon and goes home with the princess. No, it felt like one of those older ones where the story ended with the hero cursed or maimed. But he let the thoughts leave his head. Midnight Angel had asked for him to not dwell on it. he quickly returned to the question he had been asked. “Alright, you know about the meeting with Dawn, I suppose. Afterwards, I was taken aside by Vim along with Springer. That you must know as well. Vim immediately instructed Springer to go to his room. Then Vim asked me what had been going on aboard the train. I don't know if you wish to know the details, so I'll skip them for now.” he said evenly. He was feeling a bit like himself. What he had written in the book felt dim at the moment. He felt he shouldn't talk in too mundane a fashion, though. “Then he told me he had a book in his room which reminded him of what I had told him about Dusky's story. I'm sure you know that, at least. As we made our way to his room, Vim had spotted Dawn and realized she wasn't in her room. He then directed me to accompany him in searching the mare's room.” Lapis took a moment to get the thoughts in order. “Inside we found a large black cat. A panther, most likely. It watched us with what felt like a bored expression. Vim blocked it while I searched the room. In the corner on the ground, I found a note and a bottle of invisible ink. And inside a chest, I found the book. Is this enough detail? I don't think I can explain it any better.” he said as his eyes were drawn back to the sword. The sword might have been nothing special. But why would a writer keep one with her? “Say, do you mind if I see that sword? And if you don't mind my asking, why do you own one? Are there monsters or bandits here that you must fight to maintain peace?” he asked, thinking his question was a little silly. But who knew in the land between Dream and Nightmare? It sounded ridiculous, but why would Midnight lie to him? It was easier to just believe that he was now in a world he had only read about briefly in a few musty texts.
  6. Lapis sat there silently, staring at the page before him. In his mind, the line between fiction and reality was blurring. Whatever he had written, it was now true to him in his mind. Some small part in his head tried to rationalize. She's alright, it said, you're just losing your mind. But Lapis refused to listen. “Lies.” he whispered bitterly. At the corners of his eyes, the pinpricks of tears began to sting. Why was he crying? He was taught tears were a sign of weakness. That everyone will die at some time. In fact, not once in his entire life did he lament his inevitable demise. But the thought that someone so precious to him was in grave danger drove him to tears. Why did he think it true? Why? Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a pegasus mare was by his side. He looked at her, mind reeling. Who was she? What just happened? Wouldn't he have heard the door to the room open? Oh, but it didn't matter. Someone had come to comfort him. Which was odd since how could anyone know that the emotionless Lapis Lazuli Ore was slowly losing his mind? He stared at her for a good long moment, tears slowly making their way down his face. Her appearance gave away her name. She was like an angel. A midnight angel. That much was certain from her coat and mane. That was what the book said. Midnight Angel, author of the book in which he wrote a tale of strange danger. And.... mother of Dusky? But his thoughts were cut short the moment she spoke. Her voice was so delicate and soft, yet completely level and calm. That did it. The wall holding back his tears broke. With what remained of his senses he did his best to not hurt the mare as he reached out and hugged her like a child who hadn't seen his mother in years. Which might be altogether true. He tried not to squeeze her too hard as the words came out in a shaken manner. “Asteria, my precious filly. I have lost her to who-knows-where...” he sobbed. Taking a moment to realize he had neglected to introduce himself, he took a deep breath and attempted it. “How short sighted of me. I am Lapis Lazuli....” But he stopped and sighed. This was no time for the full speech. If his muddled thoughts were true, then Asteria was not in a happy place. The tears had almost subsided, and he was starting to feel he was holding onto Midnight Angel for too long. Carefully, he disengaged himself from the mare. He did his best to hide the creeping blush as he tried to recollect his thoughts. “Can you help me find her? If it'll help, she was with a red stallion with a cape. And asking a few question might help me calm down.” he continued, feeling childish yet fighting the impulse to deny it. “Who are you, anyway? Are you Midnight Angel, writer of this book?” he murmured, pointing at it. Upon the page he had left open, there were several tear stains. He looked back towards her, guiltily. “I didn't mean to damage your book. And, erm... Would you happen to know what has been going on aboard this train? That's another thing that's been bothering me. All this nonsense has rattled my mind.” He let out a soft sigh and lay on the floor. He didn't have the energy to say anything more. He just let the silent tears fall down his cheeks. Asteria beamed once Bringer confirmed her suspicions. But then his voice was everywhere and nowhere, saying words that shook her to the core. Then Bringer addressed all the questions in the order she had asked them, starting with the question of name. She happily accepted her new name. It was more fanciful than her true one. Dreamer, pony of dreams. For a brief second, her mind was elsewhere. She was with Scarlet, and they were having fun, building worlds and playing games. But it was all cut short. She listened to everything with a growing sense of fear. With each sentence, Dreamer grew more and more frightened. Bringer even announced that the time was up, and she was still here. She felt ready to curl up into a little ball and pray to something. Celestia, Luna, Discord even. Anyone anywhere who could take her out of this place with its mysterious cat who spoke words of terror. She could barely understand what Bringer said, now. The words merely slapped against her ears. And then it all caught up with her as she was grabbed and thrown. She landed at another pillar which became Bringer. The big cat pinned her to the ground, and Dreamer felt close to wetting herself. The claws were delicate, though. They merely held her in place. She tried to relax but failed. Dreamer merely stared at the beast above her. Whatever interest she had for the creature faded away as the realization hit her. There was no way out of this. Would she give this cat the satisfaction of continuing to chat with it? Maybe, though, it would let her live a little longer if it wanted to still chat. So she'd keep Bringer talking until he became truly and utterly bored. It would be useless to squirm. Then, the cat let her go, and she made to hide behind the nearest pillar as she had done moments before. But the cat stopped her. Maybe he was right. Hiding was pointless this time. And he had questions for her? She was almost too delighted to answer. It meant the cat still had some use for her. Prolonging her demise seemed silly, but her will to live was very strong. Anything that might help had to be explored. But Bringer hinted at her abilities. She gave a start, but tried to speak again. “Yes, this new name is lovely. Dreamer suits my tendency to daydream, eh? And I think you are just a large cat. Cats are all the same, big or small. It just depends on what they eat, is all.” Dreamer stated, suppressing a rather loud gulp she felt inclined to make. “But other than that, you are different. You are a predator, yes, and you do what you can because you must. It is in that that you are different. You aren't a real cat in the normal sense. You are a dream creature of immense power. And this bores you. You want something more.” Dreamer had no idea what she was doing. For all she knew, this might make him angry or at least more bored. But she just kept talking. “You desire all. What you cannot have, you will have anyway. You are sad. You do not have all just yet. You feel it is what belongs to you. You are the cat, lying in wait. Waiting for your chance. And that's not evil, exactly. A living creature desires food, water, love, shelter, sleep. And you desire all like a normal creature desires what it needs. You need all to be happy.” Dreamer concluded, shivering slightly. If this was it, at least she left this world doing what she loved. Learning and growing. Though, if what she said wasn't true, then she was at a loss. Oh well....
  7. Lapis noticed that a very brief change had come over Vim before disappearing. Perhaps he had misheard him? The eyes of the older stallion darted back and forth, as though looking for something. Lapis feared Vim may have lost the key to his room, effectively leaving them in the corridor. Vim shook his head, looking ill at ease. Before long, Vim was checking Springer's room. Lapis followed along silently. As Vim scanned the inside of the pegasus's room, Lapis felt a growing sense of displacement. They were off track. They were to go straight to Vim's room. And yet here was the conductor, inspecting the room of the assistant conductor as if expecting there to be something of value in there. During the search, that was one of the first places they had been. Unless Vim knew something Lapis did not, this was altogether pointless. Vim turned back towards him and quickly explained his thoughts, or at least, what he wished to tell Lapis. But he seemed so relaxed. It would be a waste of effort to not accept it at face value for the time being. With a flicker of excitement and a nod, Lapis watched as Vim unlocked his door and glanced about, as though making sure nothing was amiss. The tension in Lapis' chest was building at this point. Thankfully, Vim went straight for the book he spoke of. Lapis eyed the well crafted tome with admiration. Never before had he seen something like it. Sure, there were books out there with similar bindings and covers, but this one almost seemed to emanate a strange feeling. Lapis watched as Vim opened the book and flip through the pages. Finally, the older stallion got to the page he wanted. But before their eyes was nothing more than a blankness that almost mocked them. Lapis took a deep breath. For all he knew, this might have been the book he sought since last night. But once again nothingness of wordless paper stared back at him. The first time, he had considered it a matter of course. It made sense Dawn would hide what she wrote. It was likely she was paranoid. But who could've gotten in here? To what end did blanking out the pages of this book achieve? Oh what a tangled web we weave.... Lapis shook himself. Whatever this meant, it was important. Unless Vim was an insane old stallion who lost whatever sanity he had long ago, which Lapis doubted, something sinister was going on. Vim certainly wasn't looking too happy. His nervousness was quite visible the moment he sighed. Clearly wishing to see if there were any words at all in this beautiful yet useless book, Vim flipped to the first page. Upon it, words stood out, and for a second, the tension in Lapis' chest released. Lapis read them silently, taking it all in. At first, it seemed to be simple history. Something any historian worth his bits would know. If the old tales were true, then so was this. It was just a mere echo. But as he read further, Lapis started to get confused. It was a jumble of words, honestly. If one were to apply this to what Dusky had told Lapis, they might have tried futilely to connect them. As it was, Lapis did try. It almost clicked. Dusky had told of a guardian. With a little imagination, maybe it were true. But all it felt too symbolic. He felt the urge to just turn away. He didn't though. The final part caught his eye. Something was off. Why did this feel familiar? Didn't something like this happen only half an hour ago? Lunch; fruit sandwiches to be exact. A meeting of importance? But why did it stop? If one were to think this was talking about what Lapis thought it was, why didn't it go on from here? Frantically, Lapis read the author's note. That did it. It mentioned a blue mare. Dawn, perhaps? What did it all mean!? Vim was at a loss as well. He turned to the next page to find one last author's note. Lapis read this one as well, hoping for something of use. It yielded none. Was this another dead end? As Vim spoke, Lapis' heart sank further. His only lead took him to this. Another mystery. More unanswered questions. Right up there with “Where was Trixie?”, “What was up with Springer yesterday?”, and “What was wrong with Dawn?”. For some reason, it was starting to get to him. He took very deep breath this time. Why was he losing his calm? Vim was preparing to leave, instructing Lapis to figure out the book. As the older stallion made his departure, he hesitated. And then, Vim told the blue earth pony something that frayed his nerves. Asteria and Magicon were missing. What could have happened to them? Did Dawn kill them? No....no. That was unlikely. Two unicorns against one. The odds were in their favor. Hopefully. But then, where could they have gone? This was becoming more and more annoying. Vim left then with a firm order that Lapis get to the bottom of things. He sighed deeply. What was he to do? All alone in Vim's room with two empty books, a blank sheet of paper, and a bottle of something that had to be invisible ink. What were his option? Could he even do anything? He thought back. The section he had read was left unfinished. Did that mean something? Other than the unfinished chapter, there were two author's notes. The only logical conclusion was to finish it, right? Surely, he had been there, right? Right?! He could just finish the chapter. And maybe even the next one. That was what the second note had said. It was an outline. A vague one, but an outline nonetheless. What else could he do? Vim expected something. Even this odd idea was something. Vim would understand. Hopefully. Without too much haste, Lapis looked about the room for a pencil. In no time at all, one was found. He took a deep breath again. He'd been doing that far too many times over the last few minutes. But he had to remain calm. He began where chapter one ended. It seemed as though it were the part where he himself had confronted Dawn. Unless he was mistaken, and in truth all this nonsense had screwed up his mind. But nevertheless, he did as the note instructed. He did his best to convey it neutrally, allowing both sides to have their emotions felt. And he was sure to describe Dawn in a positive way. She was unstable, yes, but still a lovely mare. Within him, he found the words needed to express the meeting's importance. Which was a bit difficult since the note had expressly stated not to overwhelm the reader with repetition of what was most likely already stated. Or at least, so he hoped. There was no indication that the events leading up to the meeting were explored in an earlier story. He merely tried his best to gesture vaguely with the words he could muster. And then, he drew the meeting to its tension filled conclusion. He had to guess at what all others involved were feeling at the time, but he felt he did an alright job. He got to the part where Vim stepped in and had escorted he himself and Springer away. Lapis sighed. This was to be the end. He'd leave this part off at a cliffhanger since the chapter was called “The Meeting”. And the next chapter seemed unrelated to what happened after the meeting. Unless..... Unless this book were some sort of magical thing. Yes, that had to be it. Then surely it knew what happened to his lost friends. Maybe it wanted him to guess. Lapis' mind was starting to lose its grip, though. His imagination, some of which he had to suppress to do his job properly, ran wild with ideas. Who was to say they were still on the train? Asteria had been there when Dawn spoke of the light in Springer's room. She'd have wanted to go immediately. But she wasn't foolish. She'd take someone she felt was strong and that she could trust. Magicon, of course. Why else would he go missing as well? So it hung together. Asteria and Magicon had gone to Springer's room to investigate the light. But they weren't there when Vim checked. That meant something had to have happened. Maybe.... (And now, something in Lapis truly was losing its grip.) Maybe something took them away. To somewhere else. He shook his head, trying to clear it, but it was no use. The thoughts started to tumble out. Maybe they met odd creatures. Something urged him to remember Springer again. That there might have been two of him. But why stop there? Why not three Springers?! All that he knew left him. All this time, he had barely learned a thing. He had wanted answers. All he got were more questions. Even now, at this dead end, there were barely any clues. But he wrote anyway. Three Springers, all of them in the place the unicorns went. One small and regal, the other sly-eyed and deceptive. Both equally dangerous. Games, yes. There had to be games. Why not? The author's note specifically stated nonsensical things were to happen. So why not a game or two? Ones with consequences and prizes. Oh, but Magicon and Asteria were both smart, clever, and resourceful. Surely they couldn't lose. Springer would judge, too. Lapis was certain of it. And on and on he wrote, things making a little less sense with each sentence. The two had gone to some sort of dream world, and Asteria was suddenly a mother, and so was Magicon. A ruby red griffin and the big cat from before. Thoughts and dreams melded together with memories until it somehow remained sensible. It didn't make sense to write, but to read, it wove a delightful little story. But then his train of thought left him and his sanity returned to him. He blinked his eyes a few times. He hadn't finished the chapter, but nothing new would come to mind. The sly-eyed Springer, who had at some point morphed into the panther, had just taken Asteria away to a dark place of pillars. Lapis, though in control of himself again, felt worried. Wasn't this just nonsense? Surely Asteria was safe somewhere. Right? But what if she was nowhere? Vim didn't find her, and Lapis doubted he would. So where was she, then? He took in another breath. For some reason, it felt as though he hadn't been breathing while he wrote the second chapter. At the edge of his mind, though, he believed it were true. Could the filly he cherished so dearly outsmart the sly-eyed cat? He whispered to himself, wondering what he was to do, “All I want is answers. Answers and..... my dear little Asteria......” Asteria watched Scarlet with pure curiosity. A tear had escaped the left eye of the colt, and her heart felt odd. It was heavy, and yet it sung with something akin to joy. He turned away from her, raised a hoof to his eye, and let the tear sail away before it changed to a falcon. The filly watched it for a few minutes, almost missing the powerful change that came over Scarlet. By the time she had turned back, she had caught the last moment, briefly glimpsing the green colt before it was gone. In the colt's place was the griffin Asteria had described, right down to the last detail. It was as though she had stepped right out of Asteria's imagination. Suffice it to say, the filly was astounded. The majestic griffin turned to face her and spoke words that made her feel bubbly inside. She had picked the perfect form, it seemed. And her love was returned, as well. She didn't really know what to feel. This was all too much, honestly. But she took it in stride. Scarlet went further to explain what it meant. Those words she spoke. How they had the power to create. It were as though this world could be a blank book. She could take her quill and write in new things. Or at least, that was what Scarlet had implied. But Asteria assumed that it was done now, and she wouldn't get to create again, or at least, not until later. And it came as a bit of a surprise that Bringer and Scarlet were friends. Although, it fit. It wasn't out of the ordinary, truly. Oh, but her heart sparked again as Scarlet told her the prize she could win next was to be that power mentioned moments before. And together, they could share this place. A beautiful world of light as mother and child. But it came with a warning. Scarlet's power was not unlimited. For a second, Asteria thought she meant there was limitation or an end to the energy. No, instead, it was a true limit. One that held the power back. Darkness and shadows would soil the light. Cause it to dwindle. Asteria heard every word Scarlet spoke and took it all in, trying to remember the smallest details. It seemed so very, very important somehow. Even if she couldn't understand it fully herself. Then, it was time to go. Scarlet told her not to tell anyone else of what they spoke of, especially not what the prize was to be. But something seemed off. Why had Scarlet mentioned both the telling and the giving if there had only been telling? But the thought vanished in the instance they had teleported. She had still been listening, though, and had heard the final warnings. She would have to avoid the shadows completely. Soon, they were back in the field with Bringer and Magicon. Fun time was over. It was now time to play a game. Bringer was sceptical about Scarlet's new form, and was rather annoying in observing it. Asteria watched it all and listened as well. It bothered her. But her expression reflected curiousness. Her curiosity intensified as Bringer changed as well. In a flash, he was no longer a simple clone of Springer. What stood in his place was a rather large cat. Asteria's eyes glittered with fear and interest. The cat spoke in a mystical voice, one that made the bones shiver. This was apparently Bringer's true form or such. At least, that was what Asteria assumed normal meant. Either way, the growing sense of fear mixed oddly with her curiosity. Scarlet announced more rules, and the teams were split. It seemed as though Asteria was to hide from Bringer. It made her wonder. Wouldn't Bringer eat her or something once Scarlet was gone? Bringer didn't seem the one to play fair. But she felt the need to trust someone who was to be thought of as her child, at the very least in this instance. With that, the game began, and with one more flash, she was in the room Bringer had made. She looked about, quite confused. This place was odd. Dreadfully odd. Nothing but pillars and an ominous feeling in the air. In no time at all, her eyes rested upon the panther. Beyond it was an ocean, but Asteria didn't focus on it. Bringer wasted no time in denouncing the rules, as Asteria had expected. It became quite apparent that the cat had bent the rules. So if the rules didn't apply, did she still have to hide? The cat urged her to hide. Then he denounced Magicon next. That he could have tried to make sure things didn't come to this. But it was in the past now. Asteria felt a coldness in her chest. The cat was distracted. Idly so. It was just making conversation. Passing the time. Did Bringer even care about this game? And again the cat urged her to hide. This time she did, but she didn't go very far at all. There were pillars everywhere, and she was relatively small. The nearest one would do, especially if Bringer was focused elsewhere. She carefully when behind it, still quite near to the panther. And on and on it spoke. The words held meaning, and Asteria did her best to understand. Bringer wanted her to hide. That would be obeying him. And he wanted conversation. Easy enough. She felt it would be unwise to go far. That would show weakness, the third thing. Three simple rules, though they weren't presented as such. The panther might leave her be if she followed them, right? His disinterest had to mean something. And finally, the one thing that stuck hard in her mind. This was Bringer's home... She was literally in his den. If he wasn't going to look for her, though, she could maybe relax where she was, only a few feet away and behind a pillar. And outside the walls was the Ocean of Nightmares. A place whispered about only in long forgotten fairy tales. And not even Bringer could control it. If anything she read was true, it was a miasma of hatred and fear. If a mortal ever dared look into it for more than the briefest of seconds, the nightmare would destroy their mind. or at least, that was what it said in the stories. And she didn't want to know what would happen is one actually fell into it... Either way, she was technically safest exactly where she was. Bringer didn't care one way or the other about her, as long as she stayed out of the way. But of course, the panther wanted dialogue. It must be a long wait, then. Either way, she needed to say something. Bringer spoke one last time, voicing all of Asteria's thoughts and more. She took a very, very, very deep breath. She was alone in a box of pillars with a panther at the bottom of what must have been the Ocean of Nightmares. She suppressed a nervous giggle. It was exactly as she would expect from a nightmare. Sadly, she felt the old ‘dream a better dream' method would be useless here. Scarlet herself stated dreams and nightmares aren't the same. So, if in fact Scarlet had given the power of creation to her, it was entirely useless here. Only one option remained. Have a chat with a cat. She cleared her throat. “First off, do you still wish to have the name Bringer, or would you prefer a new one? I don't think Bringer fits a cat. I'll pick a new one if you want, or you can yourself, since you choose your new form.” she said almost idly. It was just a formality. What to discuss? Just ask questions? “Tell me about yourself, Bringer. Where were you born? Do you have parents, a family? Or maybe I'm being trivial?” She tried to maintain a tone of curiousness and a touch of awe. “You know, you're a lovely creature to behold. Were you born that way, or did you choose it? And is this in fact the Ocean of Nightmares?” She tried not to look towards the panther for fear of what she might see. She was well aware now that Bringer's claim of not coming to find her might have been a lie. Bringer lies, that much seemed true. He may as well be sneaking up on her now. But if she could get him talking, maybe he'd be too engrossed to try? “You are friends with Scarlet, right? How did you two meet? Did you two have fun together? Why are Magicon and I here in this world of dreams and nightmares? What does Springer have to do with any of this?” she asked, still maintaining the inflection of interest. The cat's aura was only so readable. Much was guessing. But she continued to try her best. Whatever he was waiting for, it must have required trickery to get to. Why else bend the rules if he could have just gone and done it himself? Why now, and not later? How long was she to be kept here? Would she ever see Scarlet again? Or for that matter, would see ever see Magicon, or Ambrosia, or Key Gear, or even Lapis again!? Her voice lent none of her worries. It remained level, but not exactly jovial. “So, I guess you're waiting for something other than the game to end, right?” The risk of death that hung in air lingered in a different way. There was no guarantee at all. Back in the dream world, there was the chance to lose or win based on careful rules. Ones made with care. But apparently not enough care since Asteria was trapped in this situation now.....
  8. Lapis stood in the corridor, a little nervous. He had just sneaked out of Dawn’s room. The very pony who had threatened his life not even half an hour ago. But this time, he didn't have Asteria or any other pony nearby. Vim might be too late to throw himself into the way. Thankfully, Vim came flying out of the door to Dawn’s room, laying in a slump. He repressed a laugh as the conductor got up and checked to make sure he had all his things. Lapis peered towards the door, seeing that it was closed. Vim turned towards him, appearing to be a bit out of sorts. Vim voiced Lapis’ concerns and amplified them. He resisted the urge to sigh. Despite Vim’s clear irritation, his eyes shone with what one could not mistake for anything but amusement. This conductor was certainly an affable stallion. One who knew ponies well. Certainly the kind of pony who did his job well and may make a helpful friend. He followed after Vim, eyes glowing with promise. He'd need a pony like Vim if ponies like Dawn were about. Lapis nodded as he watched Vim fiddle with his keys. “Certainly, Vim.” he said before taking a deep breath. He felt he needed to do this quickly, especially since the stop at Dawn’s room was only by chance. The real objective was within Vim’s room. “I found three items of value. One note, a bottle of ink which I am lead to believe is invisible ink, and a blank book. First, I must explain a bit. During my time in school, I was taught many things that could help in investigations. One such thing was hidden messages. I was familiarized with the scent of invisible ink. Of course, it’s nothing too special, but it is very useful, especially since it may be helpful in this instance. “You see, not all messages can be revealed the same way. Sometimes one uses lemon juice, or heat. Other times, magic is involved. It would be safe to say magic may be what hides this ink, if I am correct in assuming what I have so far.” Lapis mused thoughtfully. “Asteria was instructed a bit in the art of uncovering messages during her albeit short time at one of the Researcher’s Guild institutes. It wasn't too important to give her the full training since she is merely my assistant. She would learn much more in the field. But I digress. “The fact I found the ink may mean the book and the note hide something. It is reasonable to believe that what they hide may be important, and you yourself have seen that Dawn may not be a simple medic. I wish not to jump to too many conclusions, so without further chatting, perhaps we may go into your room and see this book you mentioned? We can locate Asteria later.” he said while looking about, afraid that one of Dawn’s cats may very well lurk in the shadows. From this point onward, Lapis would look over his shoulder whenever he could. Until any and all messes were sorted out, Lapis was possibly in danger. Beside her, Asteria felt Magicon radiate confidence and fear. He both believed in her and felt she might fail. The rules had seemed simple enough. And Springer would judge, so the truth would have to prevail. The green pegasus was much like an automaton. He was efficient and had to do what would align with his standards and such. That was what she felt from his motionless form. But Bringer and Sprout were almost unreadable. Bringer seemed eager to see her fail, but Sprout gave off the impression he'd be alright either way. As long as Bringer didn't get too much pleasure from it. And then with a simple “I like it.” from Sprout, Asteria felt a bit of relief. Her relief strengthened once Magicon agreed. That was two objectives cleared. But Bringer didn't look like he was about to let her win. The purple-eyed Springer had an aura of malice about him. It was faint though. Reading these two was not especially easy. Bringer went about a silly song and dance about how neither her nor Magicon had given a reason for their answers. Asteria had merely spoken from the heart. There was no way to explain it. But Bringer made a mockery of the beautiful name by parading it about. She felt on the verge of a pout. Nearby, Sprout wasn't any better. The young Springer suddenly released the real Springer to allow him to do his job. Asteria’s eyes widened as Springer was filled with burning emotions. It was an angry born from frustration towards another’s disrespect of one’s morals and code. Soon an exchange exploded between the green stallion and Sprout. The colt remained calm, and Springer forged on, making his stance clear. By the end of it, Asteria was declared the winner, and she let out the breath she had unconscious had been holding. It seemed as though it were time to play the next game. But Bringer would have none of that. He childishly disputed the claim, which caused the fur along Asteria’s spine to stand on end. Had Bringer truly sabotaged the game? Thankfully, Springer spouted out a bunch of made up stuff, which was sufficient enough to make everything clear. The game was truly over. Whatever came next, Asteria felt Springer could judge it properly. Or so she could hope. Springer seemed as though he had to push for the truth. Sprout was then upon the ground, literally rolling with laughter. The colt seemed pleased. Asteria’s breath caught in her throat. Was she really to receive such an interesting prize? It seemed too good to be true. Or at least, subjectively good. She could feel Magicon’s uneasiness. His thoughts escaped her, though. Whatever it was that bothered him at the moment would have to remain unknown. Scarlet turned back towards Bringer and announced he was to pick the teams. And Bringer, as though reading Asteria's mind, assigned the teams how she had secretly wished. Scarlet explained the rules, which seemed simple enough. But Asteria probably didn't need to know those rules since she was not on Magicon’s team at the moment. In a flash, the green colt was beside her, and then they were gone. In the split second that she was unaware of reality, a thought went through her mind. What if Scarlet had lied? What if this were to be some form of doom? But her doubts vanished when the two arrived in a field of clouds high above in the sky. A feeling of warmth started to spread through Asteria’s body. For some reason, she almost felt at ease. In truth, she could have stood on a cloud before, but this was honestly the first time she had done so. She gently settled down onto the fluffy white surface. It bothered her a bit that Scarlet would be unable to save her if she made a mistake, but she would not have exactly expected he could have in the first place. Scarlet turned towards her while speaking in a manner tinged with longing and boredom. Asteria gave a slight start. Conjure up a new form for this colt who was willing to think of her as his mother? The thought delighted her, but she didn't speak immediately. After a moment of introspection, she spoke tentatively. “Well, being a mini Springer is boring. So maybe a new form could be very fun indeed. And since we're up in the sky, a flying creature would be best. You're already a pegasus, so that’s not an option. A dragon would be too big. How about a griffin?” She looked straight at the colt with a odd feeling in her heart. This young pony, who looked not too much younger than her, filled her with a sense of love. She was now his mother. Asteria, mother at only 15. She suppressed a giggle. But nevertheless, the colt seemed to invite her feelings. She began again, this time more confidently. Her very words hinted at the suddenly obtained maternal emotions. “Yes, a griffin. One deserving of the name ‘Scarlet’. A standard brown body, medium paws and claws. Delicate talons, careful in how they grasp. Crimson red plumage accenting your head. Blue eyes as deep as the ocean. The tuff of hair at the end of your tail a reddish-brown. A beak like that of a kite. Body not too much bigger than a young mare in size. And...” she paused for a moment, a little nervous to say what she had in mind. “And, female. Is that alright, Scarlet? I mean, you appear male at the moment, but maybe you'd enjoy being physically female? I've always thought a female can be more graceful than a male.” Asteria smiled broadly, hoping her description was good enough. She didn’t know if she had missed anything, but she had tried to cover everything that came to mind when one thought of a griffin. And then, as though she were pushed forward, she came close to Scarlet and hugged him. The colt felt so warm, so soft. She hugged a bit tighter before letting him go. “Scarlet, I am your mother now, and I love you.” she said almost automatically. She truly had no idea what had come over her. But truthfully, she didn't exactly hate it.
  9. Asteria watched as Sprout approached with his head low. She wondered what it was he wanted. But before the younger Springer could get any closer, Bringer landed in front of the both of them and quickly displaced Sprout. Bringer spoke it such a joyous fashion. He was so happy with her questions and suggestion, it seemed as though this would be a fun time indeed. Bringer went straight into answering Asteria questions. Bringer immediately became courteous, bowing before her and taking upon an accent of high class. Asteria eyed Bringer in wonder. It was like in the stories. Bringer was like her in a way. A pony without responsibilities. This world was his after all. That much was clear. Asteria resisted the urge to giggle when Bringer proposed the notion that her mane matched Magicon's fur. Asteria noticed Sprout was watching them, clearly not at ease. Unhappy, one might say. A curious sight. At least Bringer liked his name. It did suit him. Any other name would only have detracted from his nature. A silly pony. Not always a good thing, but for the time being, a neutral party until the time came to be proven one way or the other. But her attention was drawn to Bringer fully once he revealed that he had lied. This wasn't a dream? Then why was the concentration of aura so great here? But she was well aware of the realness of this place. The fact that this wasn't a dream plane only made it more difficult. If this were something else, then Asteria was no more powerful here than at home, if not weaker... She listened very carefully as Bringer outlined the rules. They seemed sound enough. But why couldn't Springer be allowed to speak? He must know something. It was the only reason you'd silence someone. And yet, they might need him for something, so they kept him alive. If that was how it was going to be, only progression would reveal more answers. Bringer was having too much fun rolling around on the ground. The purpled-eyed Springer got up again and announced there would be a demonstration. Which wasn't all that necessary. There was grass beneath their hooves. Asteria could feel it. The rain only served to be a show of power. To show them that Bringer was the one in charge. Sprout had shielded Springer, which perplexed Asteria. His sudden shout caused Bringer to end the rain, which was a welcome relief. Asteria shook herself a few times to shed the water. Bringer began to get things moving, but then Sprout cut him off. It was the first time Sprout had showed any character, truly. Sprout was the leader. It didn't seem strange, though. Like a young prince and his overzealous advisor. Asteria felt the basic aura imagery between the two. It was all she got. So, Magicon would pick the game if he gave Sprout a new name? Did he know how to be fun? But it was better he choose. Asteria would not be able to pick a game unless she knew what the kind of choices were. She didn't want Magicon to be a guinea pig, but this was how things were going. Sprout seemed deliberate in his words. Each one was structured to cause certain feelings. So Bringer wasn't fun? Sprout didn't like his name? And she had won the first game? The first two would have to be fixed, while the lasted needed to be celebrated. Once Sprout was finished, he turned towards Asteria, not exactly eager about it. He didn't like her. If she wasn't positive she had to remain outwardly happy and cheerful, she would have pouted theatrically. Somepony not liking her wasn't a bad thing. You can't win 'em all over. But she would try her darndest. At least Sprout, or Yet-To-Be-Renamed, as she remarked in her mind, wasn't mean enough to refuse her the congratulations she deserved. Questions were always the best. The chance to learn more is a wonderful idea. And she would get a prize, too! She started feeling excitement. Whatever could it be? Sprout explained the nature of prizes, then revealed that her prize was to be the answers Bringer didn't give her. Not much of a prize, but better than nothing. She'd been hoping for a hat. They were ponies, or at least, they were at the moment. They were the opposite of dream eaters. They were made of dreams. Was it true? Their auras were not exactly clear in her mind. If they were made of dreams, then they could will whatever they wanted to be seen. But then Sprout began to ramble. It really didn't matter what was real or not. Asteria had known this was a plane of existence the moment she felt the grass. Only Luna could go into dreams, right? So only a fool would wholly believe this were a dream. But why did Sprout want her to eat the food so badly? Truthfully, she wasn't hungry. While making the sandwiches, she ate more than she had prepared. Key Gear had probably not noticed. There was no harm in not eating the food here, hopefully. Sprout turned back to Magicon, stating his challenge was switched. He was now to pick a game without having to give Sprout a new name. How odd. Asteria could only listen while Magicon was given his choices. It sounded a bit complex. But that was that. Whatever he picked, they would have to play if they planned on seeing what any of this meant. When that was done, Sprout looked at her from the corner of his eye. He explained that she was to play another game. He explained all the rules, and she did her best to internalize them. Finally, after everything was explained, he fully faced her, expecting an answer. Throughout the entire thing, Asteria's smile never wavered once. This was a new world, wasn't it? That means the old rules didn't apply. A whole new adventure, and the smell of looming death and worse hung in the air. Not in the literal sense of course. But like how aura worked. What would Sprout like? What would Magicon like? What would Bringer not like? Sprout liked the color red. He was a lover of questions and fun. In some ways, he mirrored Asteria herself. But it didn't simply rely on Sprout alone. He can love the name to bits for all she cared. And Magicon would probably accept anything with some integrity. But what about Bringer? Sprout said Bringer wasn't fun. Would a fun name work? What made a name fun? Asteria felt a bit clueless. She was tempted to just call him Question Marks and leave it at that. But what if Bringer liked the name? Sprout might like it, since it begged questions, right? She looked thoughtful for another moment. Maybe she should work at the color aspect. What was red? Rose were red. But Sprout appeared to be a male, and Rose was a feminine name. But really, who was to say? Asteria doubt the Springers were really Springers. But she decided not to wonder what they really were. So a gender neutral name was best. But what? What?! What name would be the right one? Lapis would have told her not to worry. So she didn't. His eyes. Their eyes. Lapis and Sprout both had red eyes. Asteria stopped thinking. She met Sprout's gaze. It was now or never. If this was the wrong choice, then she was never going to win. She doubted she could ever come up with another name. She just hoped Magicon would like it. That Sprout would like it. And that Bringer wouldn't like it. Those were the rules. They pounded against her mind. She smiled and spoke with a voice filled with hope. "I think I have a new name for you. You know, I'm a bit like your mother, eh? Giving you a name and all. How does 'Scarlet' sound to you? Scarlet is a wonderful shade of red. What do you all say?" She let any doubt empty from her heart. It was out of her hooves now. Whatever came next would be either success or failure. But that was okay. This world was something new. How many ponies could say they had gone to a whole new world? One with a different set of rules. She could just feel it in the air. Here, only by playing these games could they hope to win. She smiled contently and happily. It was such a beautiful place, wherever this was.
  10. Lapis followed faithfully behind the bold conductor, all his trust resting on the older stallion. Lapis gazed about as they passed through the dining car. Only one thing caught his eye. Arcanel was speaking with Dawn. Lapis was fairly certain she'd still kill him, and probably Magicon as well, the moment she got the chance. Lapis himself didn't truly care either way. There wasn't much he could do if she tried to kill him again. But if she offered some form of friendship, which was rather doubtful, he'd accept it with caution. As they made it out of the parlor car, Vim noted that Dawn wasn't in her room, making it the perfect chance to investigate. It was certain Dawn's cats would be in there, and Vim could hold them off or something. Lapis was used to it. A strong member of the community would usually offer their protection so that he could look into thing in peace. He watched as Vim unlocked and opened the door. Lapis brushed off what Vim said. It was the same thing as always, which he accepted without a word. Lapis was well aware of the danger of the unknown. Cats were always the most clever of opponents. Claws, teeth, and so very, very intelligent. Nothing a scholar should actually have to deal with. The two of them entered the room to find it absolutely dark. Lapis' red eyes flitted about trying to pierce the depth, quickly getting used to it. In the mines, one got used to the dark very quickly indeed. Unfortunately, Vim adjusted the curtains and the room brightened, and Lapis had to adjust his eyes again. The room was littered with medical supplies of all sorts. Nothing of value, perhaps. His eyes scanned the room up and down before resting on the bed. Lapis' eyes widened and resisted the shock of it hitting him. Upon the bed rested a rather large cat. It's black fur was so deep in color, it almost blinded the earth pony. Lapis smiled nervously and moved into the room itself. Wasn't it true animals could sense fear? Lapis shook himself. This beast was nothing more than a simple predator. It relied on instinct and other such things. If it needed to kill him, it would have easily knocked over Vim. Despite what Vim said, it was doubtful he could actually fight a cunning beast. But Vim would be able to distract it. Lapis was the one who needed to look around. Lapis took in a deep breath. The cat was nothing to worry about so long as Vim kept its eye. So the room was his, and his alone. What could be in here, anyway? Lapis went around, picking things up and looking beneath them. Nothing that stuck out. Upon the shelves, several medical books rested. Not one he had not seen before was there. Besides the large cat and the odd amount of darkness when the two had entered, one could have easily believed Dawn were nothing more than a simple medical pony. Like every room on the train, or at least that was what Lapis assumed, there was a map of their country on the wall. But this one was marked in several random places. There was no pattern to it whatsoever. Lapis rolled his eyes when he tried to look on the ground and only found cat toys. It stood to reason where all these things came from. There were quite a lot of things here. Did Dawn have them with her when she got on the train? Lapis didn't know. But as luck would have it, he finally found something in a corner of the room. A note and a small bottle. Uncapping it, Lapis took in its scent. It was the familiar smell of ink, but with a hint of other things. There was no doubt about it. This was invisible ink. There was no mistaking its mystical smell. Lapis took both items and placed them where he could find them once a final sweep was done. He went around again, still not finding anything. But he had almost forgotten. There was a chest in here. He approached it, checking to see if there were any traps. To the best of his abilities, he could find none. So, taking a deep breath, he opened it. Inside, he found a book lying on top of a pile of junk. Lapis immediately went for it and closed the chest. This may have been the book he had been looking for. But the cover held the words 'Journal' printed in typeset. The book was probably of some value, but most likely not the one he wanted. He flipped through the pages, all of them blank. Either it was yet to be used, or things were not as they seemed. Taking the book with the paper and the ink, he faced Vim. "Sir, I do believe I am finished. Now, perhaps we should go to your room to analyze what I found? This room is messy, and there is a large cat on the bed. Not what I would call a pleasant place to be. Also, there was the book you mentioned." Lapis announced, eyes watching the cat. Despite what one would have said, to Lapis it didn't seem like a panther. A cat was a cat, through and through. No matter how big, all cats operated the same. The size was the only thing that determined what it would do, though. And this cat was very large. There were many a beast larger, but none Lapis had dealt with inside a train car passenger's room were this big. Lapis walked to the door, eyes barely leaving the guardian of Dawn's room. "Vim, as you are most likely well aware, you are bigger than I, and as such, should follow after me into the corridor. You know, to avoid the beast striking me when my back is turned. You understand, I hope. If you need me, I shall be by your door." Lapis said from the doorframe before leaving Vim's sight. Asteria looked around Springer's room. It was so neat and efficient! Springer was sleeping soundly, so Asteria and Magicon moved forward quietly. On a shelf, a soft red glow pulsed gently. It seemed like such a neat little thing. She wondered if it meant anything. Her unspoken question was answered quickly as the light engulfed them, blinding them almost. She felt the touch of Magicon's hoof on her own. She smiled broadly. He wanted to protect her. Such a nice stallion. Soon, they could see again. And what a sight it was! Everything seemed the same, and yet, not. Springer looked like a deflated balloon, and that was kind of creepy. Besides that, a shadow and a book were in the room, and in no time at all, the two became Springers. Asteria blinked a few times. What was going on? Was this a dream world? The entire room oozed with symbolism, so it was almost a guarantee this was something special. But as with most things, she couldn't really make sense of all the ideas in her head. All she could do was understand, and yet not understand. She could feel Magicon go stiff next to her when Springer with light purple eyes addressed him with familiarity. That was rather odd, but she gave it little thought. There were 3 Springers. How would she distinguish between them in her thoughts? Asteria needed a name for them. Springer with light purple eyes said buddy a lot, so she would call him Bringer. Yeah, the perfect name. The other she would call Sprout because of his size. Once that was done, she prepared herself to face whatever it was they wanted. Everything wanted something, and this was too strange to be normal. It was clear Bringer was some type of dream entity, most likely the one in charge here. Especially since he could change the world around them. Bringer gave Sprout the order to refill Springer. Asteria watched with much curiosity as the younger pony went to task. Springer didn't look too happy. Something would have to be done about that. Bringer addressed the two of them separately, and Magicon seemed to be having difficulty making sense of things. But Asteria was almost at ease. This world was made of aura. It simply emanated with it. It was up to her to make sense of things for poor Magicon. Unlike her, he was probably questioning things too much. You just have to go with the flow. It was her turn to speak, so she moved away from Magicon and stood in front of him. It was up to him to do something if diplomacy failed. Asteria smiled and began to answer. "Why yes, I do indeed love to have fun. But mostly because there isn't anything else when it comes right down to it. I don't go to school, nor do I hold a real job. I have all the time in the world. A game would be nice, but so would questions. You know what is most fun? When you get to do everything! Why choose when you can have both? Oh, my name. You wanted that, right? I am Asteria, from Forelock Grove. And I am fairly certain I am not Magicon's child. You do realize he's too young to be, yes? You're quite a silly pony. Also, do you and your friend have names? Unless you would like to hear the names I've already given you?" she said before pointing to each of them and saying the name she thought up. "You can be Bringer, and you can be Sprout. Get it? I got your names from Springer's. Also, because of what I've seen from you both so far. Bringer of dreams, and Sprout 'cause you aren't as big as Bringer." But then Asteria became concerned. "Why can't Springer speak? This is his world or something, right? What are you two, anyway? Are you ponies, or something else? If you're not ponies, then are you dream eaters? Oh, I have so many questions, but perhaps you could just answer my first few?" she panted, a little out of breath. The food all looked lovely, but she didn't know what to make of them. In dreams, food wasn't food. Or if it was, you never actually ate it and felt full. But if it wasn't, then it would probably do something to the body. "So, what kind of games do you play? Two on two would work best. And Springer could be the referee. So, you know, that's a good reason to let him speak, eh?"
  11. Silver Ore smiled smugly once the Steel Monolith was in place and unpacked. Now that it was taken care of, he could march right up to his bossy cousin and show her that he was a much better leader than her. Why, he could even interrupt the stupid seminar. That would definitely get on her nerves. But in the corner of his eye, he spotted the barrack the mayor was hiding in. Was she not brave enough to stand beside him while he got this blasted machine into place? He made his way there in a run of a trot. He pushed his way past any and all who got in his way. It seemed like this were some sort of press conference or something. Why? Wasn’t there a seminar elsewhere in the city? It didn’t make much sense to Silver. Without giving her even the chance to address him, Silver called out to the mayor. “Yo, Marmalade. I hope you noticed what we did out there. Now that that’s done, I’m taking off. Unless you have something to tell me? ‘cause once I get out of here, I ain’t coming back today.” he said with a defiant edge to his voice. Several Weeks Ago, Fillydelphia Inside the local Researcher’s Guild building, Lapis Lazuli sat amongst the books of the institute’s library. Today was a slow day. No word from anypony in the field, and no new notices. So, there was nothing to do. No planning, no adventuring, just relaxing. Lapis liked to just rest once in awhile. Suddenly, a purple unicorn filly tackled Lapis to the ground. Thankfully, he was undamaged. “Asteria, what have I told you about not attacking me?” he asked while getting up before dusting himself off. She only stared for a few moments before blushing and looking away. Lapis merely sighed and tried to figure out why she had done such in the first place. “Asteria, surely there must have been a reason for that, right? Did you mean to show me something?” She nodded several times. “Uh huh, yeah!” she replied. The purple filly reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a letter with Lapis’ name written on it in bronze print. He knew right away it was from his family. It was traditional to mark their letters with that color of ink. He wasted no time in opening it, fearing the worst. His parents weren’t the youngest of ponies, and who knew what could've happened while he was gone. He stared at it, scanning it a few times. Despite being from his older sister, it was not bad news. In fact, one might consider it good news. It detailed the Equestrian Ore Festival at Vanhoover, along with the discovery of the Metrozium ore. “Well, this is certainly interesting. Asteria, are you up for some fun at a festival?” he said carelessly. He realized his mistake too late as the young pony almost jumped on him again. With a quick hoof, he stopped her short. “It’s not for a few weeks, so calm down, alright?” Today, Vanhoover Lapis listened and watched his older sister orate. It was quite impressive, but his expression remain impassive. Conversely, Asteria was as excited as all the others in the crowd. She wasn’t exactly showing it, but he could feel the electricity in the air. This ore was certainly a strange subject. Something to look into if he got the chance. And then, Beryl concluded her performance. The crowd went wild, as though they had been a balloon slowly filling with water until it burst. Up on stage, Beryl Ore was still taking it all in. Never before had she had so many cheer for her. but really, they were only excited about the Metrozium. They didn’t actually care for the deliverer of the news. She soon dismissed the notion, but the feeling lingered a bit. “Alright, if anyone has a question, feel free to ask away.” she announced in an all encompassing voice. She scanned the crowd for the blue stallion she called brother. If he was here, he would most certainly ask far more questions than she could answer. But when she found him, he was just sitting there, watching. Was Lapis bored? Were her words not good enough? He was such a strange stallion. She dismissed that as well. Nickel took this moment to get out into the crowd and approach his older brother. “So, this is the young miss Asteria you wrote home about, eh? She’s kind of cute. I’m Nickel Ore, Lapis’ brother, by the way.” he said smiling broadly. Asteria blushed and giggled. She was unused to someone her near her own age calling her cute. It seemed somehow silly. “Yup, that’s my name. Nice to meet you, Nickel Ore. Lapis told me about you already.” she replied in a friendly manner. Nickel smiled as well, but he wondered what exactly Lapis had told her. Lapis watched slightly annoyed. What was Nickel up to? Well, it didn’t matter at the moment. “So, the seminar appears close to over, so I think going out into the festival would be a good idea.” he said getting up. The two younger ponies followed after him, abuzz with talk of the festival and what they could do. Eventually, they ended up at Bonzo’s acrobatics show. Today seemed like it was going to be a fun day. Misty Leaves waited on a bench at the Vanhoover train station, patiently awaiting the detective. She was clad in the armor of a minor city guard, since that was her job after all. It was somewhat unclear to her why they needed a detective. Was the ‘Dead mine’ such a big deal? She rarely paid attention to the news, so she was kind of in the dark. She blew out air in anxiety, which rustled the tuff of her short purple mane that stuck out from underneath her helmet. What did they even need her for? Did they expect there to be monsters? The most she handled was the infrequent troublemaking minotaur, or wayward wild animal. Did she have what it took to take down whatever may lurk within the mine? No use in worrying, though. This was a mission she took, voluntarily, on behalf of the city. No chance she could back out. Not that she would, though. Vanhoover was her duty to protect. As it was for any of the other city guards. Soon, the train pulled up, its sides gleaming in the sun. Misty quickly got to her hooves to receive the detective. It was likely the fellow wasn’t all that strong, so she needed to get a good judge of his prowess. According to the intel, his name was Kerry Bog. It seemed like an odd name to her. After the stallion got off, Misty took the chance to look him over. He was an earth pony, beige and brown. He didn't have much color to him. Though, his shirt marked him as unique. It was odd for a pony to wear clothing without purpose. She doubted he was into fashion, and a dress shirt offered little protection. So why with the shirt? If she had a chance, she would certainly ask him. Wasting no time, she made with introductions. “Hello detective Kerry Bog. I am Misty Leaves, city guard of Vanhoover. I have been instructed to escort you to the Dead mine, and, in the event of hostile force, protect you. I’m sure you must be tired after your train ride, so if you will please come with me, we can have lunch together.” she said before trotting off. She stopped and turned her head back to say, “And, if we have time, maybe we can enjoy the festival?” She gave him a friendly wink and then continued walking. In only a short time, Misty arrived at an outdoor cafe near the festivities and took a seat. A waiter came up and asked, “ What'll it be, Misty?” She thought for a moment. “A cup of tea and a few doughnuts.” she said without taking a look at the menu. “So, Bog, what'll you have?” she asked once he arrived. As soon as he finished ordering, she took this as a chance to get to know him. “Mind if you tell me about yourself? Since we'll be working together, we may as well become somewhat familiar.” Among the hustle and bustle of the crowd, a lone earth pony stallion stood without any goal in mind. He was brown, his hooves a lighter brown. His mane and tail were a steel blue. And his violet eyes shone with joy. Vanhoover, the site of one of the biggest festivals of the year! Who wouldn’t be excited? The stallion looked all around him, taking it in. Sweat dripped into his eye, and it was clear something needed to be done about cooling off. In no time at all, he spotted an ice cream tent. Licking his lips hungrily, he approached. Once inside, he was surprised to find only two mares. “Business slow today?” he asked in a rich baritone. “Well, that’s kind of sad. I would have thought this heat would drive them to your lovely little tent. How sad. But nevermind that. I am here to purchase a cone. One mint please.” He produced a few bits and waited for the mare to fulfill his order. He decided to turn towards the only other pony in the tent. “Why, hello there. My name is Trench Digger. And who might you be?” he asked politely. This mare appeared to be the amiable sort. Perhaps that assumption held true when one actually spoke with her. Not too far from Trench Digger, another stallion of note was making his way towards the stage to view the concert. This pony held himself with a slightly more sophisticated attitude. He was a dark cyan unicorn, his dark gold mane and tail well groomed. His purple eyes scanned the crowd. So many ponies here today. All of them here to have fun. It was a joyous sight. It almost warmed his heart. But a crash distracted him. Turning to find the source, he was met with the unpleasant sight of a pegasus with a heavy looking backpack on the ground, with another pony standing near him. It was clear the white pegasus had knocked the other over, but perhaps not out of malice. The blue pegasus appeared to be a musician, and the lover of music within him pushed him to introduce himself. “I’m sorry, but do either of you need any help?” he asked with a refined accent. “I see that you are carrying a lot of things, and maybe you’d like a helping hoof? Oh, I seem to have forgotten to tell you my name. I am Weaver, a simple clothes maker of little fame. And what are your names?”
  12. Lapis watched as Vim merely scanned the notes. Lapis looked perplexed for a good long minute before the conductor spoke up. At first, Lapis had thought Vim couldn't read his notes. Were they poorly written? But once the the older stallion had explained, Lapis was at a bit of a loss. Wasn't this the third time a pony had recognized the words written upon the notepad? How very odd. The importance of Dusky's words seemed to be diminishing. Lapis listened carefully, though. Any information on the dark stallion was of use. Dusky's mother had no cutie mark? That was rather strange. Who ever heard of a pony without a cutie mark? And yet, she was still able to find a destiny. A true testament to the strength found in willpower. Although, Lapis was clueless to the mare's story, but an unspoken guess was harmless. The point of the matter was, Dusky's mother had written the story. It was then likely to assume Dusky had been mistaken or something. It was unlikely Dusky was insane. Maybe what little sleep the stallion got wore at his mind. Still, it was to be seen what the truth was. Vim mentioned the existence of odd locations. That of course was true. Throughout the wilderness of Equestria, forgotten settlements dotted the land. It was almost hard to believe how old they were. But perhaps these ones Vim spoke of were special? His guts tingled the way they did when the hint of something new entered his mind. Vim continued, however, unaware of Lapis' growing anticipation. Maybe if he found something revolutionary, they might dedicate a library to him or something. Or something else of equal honor. Anything was good. Preferably the library, though. Vim had seemed to be daydreaming, or something like that, at same time as himself, so Lapis phased back in almost exactly when Vim got back on track. Lapis stared blankly for a second. Vim had the book? Could that mean it was merely a story book? What worth was it then? Vim highlighted the fact that Dusky had mentioned it for a reason. That much was clear. And so was the path before them. Reading, what marvelous idea. It was probably a good idea to get the notes sorted out once and for all. "Yes, that is a satisfactory idea. Surely the book will shed some light on whatever it is Dusky was trying to get at. It all seems silly, though. Ah well. And I promise to withhold the information from others until such a time as the knowledge is no longer dangerous. As I was before, I am still now. Ready as ever. If you will kindly lead the way, we can get right to it." Lapis said with a growing sense of purpose. Time to start collecting more data. Asteria's glee wavered when Magicon suddenly frowned. Had he decided to not be her friend? She was sure the stallion would enjoy the company of an energetic filly. Had she read him wrong? Magicon just stared off into space, clearly deep in thought. Asteria grew tense with each moment. Just looking at his eyes she could see they were distant. She quickly become curious. Why would he need to put so much thought into it? Why not just tell her to buzz off or something? Well, maybe not. He seemed the civilized pony. A stallion of culture. He probably would have dismissed her idea of coming along with him politely. Perhaps for her own safety? But she'd been out into the world enough times to keep on her guard for magic and such. Plus, Magicon would be with her. And he was a strong pony. After what seemed like forever, Magicon finally turned back to her. Asteria watched his eyes. They were full of promise, of ideas. A curious request yet unspoken. He looked like he saw use in her. It almost mirrored her own desires, or at least, the perceived emotions did. She listened to his words with bated breath. The fact that he had need to say 'danger' so many times made her heart flutter. "Oh, it'll be alright. Lapis is understanding. I mean, I'll be with you, won't I? You look like a capable unicorn to me!" she replied as quietly as she could. "And don't you worry, boss. I can keep a secret. So, let's do this thing." she whispered as best she could. She took a deep breath to calm down. With that done, she got up and followed after Magicon. It would be his job to lead the way.
  13. The fact that Magicon had smiled was proof enough he was tolerant towards young ponies. Asteria felt confident she could make a new friend. "Yup, my name is Asteria. Thanks. I guess I'm sort of smart. Well, Lapis was up last night talking with Dusky. Like, really late. That's what he told me, at least. And just judging from his expression. But I'm sure the threat of death must have woken him up." she answered, "I guess he seemed fine. I dunno. He worries me sometimes. And Dawn was using a whole bunch of magic? Wow, that does seem kind of odd." Asteria considered Magicon's opinion of Lapis' actions. Getting to the heart of the matter saved the most time. It didn't mean he had to risk his life though. It seemed alright now at least. Everything worked out okay. Or at least as okay as the situation permitted. She should just calm down. What was one mishap? Everything was okay. "Well, you're right. Lapis proved that Dawn is unstable. So, can I come with you to check out that light? That could be fun." she said, glowing with enthusiasm. Lapis made his way down the train corridor, Springer behind him. Lapis expected little. It was best to keep his thoughts neutral. When they caught up with him, Vim was smiling. Lapis didn't know what it meant. Springer began to explain, while Vim tried to stop the unrested pegasus. Finally, Springer stopped long enough for Vim to say some things. They were curious things which were too complex to make sense of. Lapis didn't even feel the gentle poke. Dusky passed them, and Springer darted off. Lapis was barely paying attention. The sooner the matter cleared up, the sooner he could look into finding out about that light. Then it was Lapis’ turn. The conductor wasted no time in debunking his own nonsense. The hearty slap almost unbalance Lapis, but he stood firm. This was an amiably pony, one given to physical familiarity. Lapis was caught between being put off and being drawn in by Vim’s friendliness. As Vim turned serious though, Lapis straightened up. Dawn was dangerous, that much was certain. But it was doubtful the other passengers could see that. Lapis had an understanding of the mind. The others would assume Lapis was wholly at fault, the thought that it was wasn’t normal to blast others into oblivion from only one bad confrontation never crossing their minds. Unavoidable. Lapis knew in time he would be vindicated, though. Lapis didn’t see how he could have knocked her out. Was he supposed to jump across the table and pin Dawn to the ground? Even if that had worked, it would have made him out to be the insane one. All at once a terrible idea. Vim had the right idea, but maybe he didn’t see the way some of them looked at Lapis. And the idea that Asteria would have been powerless shook Lapis deeply. Having relied on her for so long had given him what seemed to be a false sense of security. It was a good thing Vim smiled once more. Lapis had been about to go to his room and contemplate. That would have been rude though. Vim wanted to know what was going on. A reasonable desire, since this was his train after all. Lapis took a deep breath and detailed the events of the yesterday and today before and after the magic show, including what Asteria had told him. When he had finished, Lapis found that he hadn’t really explained the notes all that well. “If you will excuse me a moment, sir, I should retrieve my Dusky notes.” he said before running to Asteria’s room. Inside, it was a bit of a mess. Asteria liked to just leave her things on the ground, but it wasn’t too hard to find her saddlebags. Lapis deftly reached into it and pulled out the notepad. He took it in his mouth and sped back to Vim. “Here you are, the details of Dusky’s story. I’m not sure what you can make of it, but all the same, you may find it useful. I think I left the Springer note within his room. I seem to have been a bit careless. And as to what you can do about any of that, I’m not really sure. Stopping the train again would be a waste of time, and I don’t think you can kick Dawn off the train anyhow. So, for the time being, we should make our way to Springer’s room, then to Dawn’s. Should I inform my comrades, or will we just go for it? Either way, lead the way.” he concluded, the excitement building up again.
  14. Lapis knew this was going nowhere. The mare was merely growing angry. Her horn began to glow, and it was clear this meeting was at an end. He watched with indifference. If he was going to die, so be it. It was unlikely he would, though. Asteria was with him. She always did something to fix the problem. The thing was, Dusky had kept him up for far too long last night. Lapis was out of sorts. Normally, he could at least maintain the illusion of patience, intelligence, and the actual demeanor of a researcher. He'd gone and made a fool of himself. Lapis let out a bored sigh and readied himself for either the cold, painless release of death, or some escape plan. Behind him, he could feel the anxiety of his comrades. They probably thought they could stop Dawn. Luckily, Dawn broke down into a fit of tears. Lapis felt a pang of guilt, but she was not going to affect him. Lapis prayed he'd get more sleep tonight. No more all night interviews or whatever. Her apology was....necessary? It wasn't her fault. An out of sorts pony had questioned her very existence. But Lapis knew apologizing himself wouldn't do much. She probably had plans of revenge or something. Or not. Best to just keep an eye on her. But she answered his final question all the same. A light? Like in Springer's dream or something. He would have to investigate as soon as he was free to. He may have to apologize to his comrades, which of course would seem silly. Would they honestly believe he was merely exhausted? He himself would view it with suspicion, despite its truth. Springer forgave Dawn. Most likely a good idea. But the green pegasus was full of far too many words. Thankfully, somepony interrupted the stallion. Lapis turned to face the origin of the noise, only to see the smiling face of the conductor. Lapis tried not to look downcast. He knew Vim was not fond of unicorn, so maybe he was going to give him a medal? No, that'd be too fortuitous. Perhaps he planned on putting Lapis in some sort of train jail? He shook his head lightly. He was beginning to sound like Asteria. Logic dictated it was one of two things. Either Vim was going to commend Lapis, or reprimand him. If it was the latter, he knew the Researcher's Organization would hear of it, and Lapis would receive a demotion. Truly embarrassing. The director of his branch would surely give him a lecture on proper sleeping habits. Or, more likely, knowing when to sit back and have others do the investigating for him. The director would understand having to stay up all night doing research. Springer got up after a lackluster attempt to do so. As he began to follow Vim, he stopped long enough for Lapis to gather his thoughts and join him. What he whispered in Lapis' ear neither relieved him nor worried him further. Springer didn't specify. It could mean anything, and Lapis wished to remain hopeful. A smudge on his record would be very annoying. Asteria's eyes widened in pure horror as Dawn's horn started to glow. Asteria wasted no time in preparing her mind for what was to happen next. She would tackle Lapis to the ground, erect a barrier, and hope for the best. The teleport spell took too long for her to cast to save them both. She didn't let it show, though. After the initial fear, she settled back into her seat. No one would hurt her friend, adoptive brother, and mentor. Her face was almost a mask of grim determination. She did her best to look innocent, since she knew Dawn could be watching. Asteria knew she was bad news the minute she saw her. Dawn did nothing to conceal her aura. Perhaps she knew nothing about them? Either way, Asteria was ready. But it never came. Instead, Dawn simply broke down. Asteria lost all energy at the sight of it. Dawn was just a poor misguided pony. She didn't know she was dangerous, obviously. If only Asteria could help her by getting her to one of those special magic facilities that helped unstable unicorns, maybe she could improve. Dawn was still a bad pony, but only because Lapis had provoked her. Asteria pouted a bit, but reaffirmed her stance. Lapis was technically her boss, and if he died, she'd have to make a complicated report back at HQ. Not fun. And then they'd send in a new team to properly research the matter. And then what? Where would she go? Home? That place was boring. So she quickly readjusted herself in case Dawn planned to strike while their guard was down. Her ears perked up. Somepony had cleared their throat. Turning around shyly, she saw the conductor. Big boss Vim himself. Asteria merely shot him a nervous smile. He was more concerned about the stallions than her. It was likely he didn't actually see her, despite the fact she blocked Lapis from his view. Well, almost. She wasn't all that big compared to Lapis, or Vim either. Vim was a very big pony compared to her. Her eyes widened in awe. Big ponies were tough. Tough ponies got jobs done. She loved it when jobs got done. But what could he want? Was he going to tell Lapis he did a terrible job? Was he going to want to see the director? Oh no! That would hurt poor Lapis' pride. Nothing she could do about it, sadly. Instead, she got out of the way so Lapis could get out. She prayed whatever happened, Lapis could at least remain on the train. By the time Lapis was out of sight, a white pegasus stallion was at the table. Asteria looked at him, a perplexed expression spreading across her face. Who was he again? She couldn't recall meeting him exactly. And he was trying to comfort Dawn. A noble effort, perhaps a good one. Dawn needed help. Serious help. If one pony could drive her to attempted murder, then things had already gone too far. It was a wonder the white pony couldn't see it for himself. Not important, though. Asteria needed to put a little distance between her and Dawn. Turning to see the table the stallion had come from, she saw the red unicorn, Magicon. "Oh, hey there Magicon. How are ya? Say, how tolerant of young ponies are you? Ya know, 'cause I am one and stuff. I don't want to bug you, but I would like someone to chat with if it's not any trouble." she said cheerfully as she approached him before taking a seat. "You've been working with Lapis, right? Didn't you notice how tired he was? Why did you let him do the questioning? Also, why was Lapis questioning Dawn, anyway?" she asked in a bit of a flurry before stopping herself abruptly. "Oooops... I didn't mean to barrage you with a bunch of questions. You don't have to answer any of them if you don't want to. I can just sit here and be quiet." she apologized while levitating a nearby sandwich to eat. Taking a few bites, she watched Magicon with a barely veiled curiosity. He was a rather imposing unicorn, but not like Dusky. This pony's aura was almost unreadable. It spoke volumes about his prowess. Definitely an interesting pony, to say the least.
  15. Lapis held back a grin as Dawn began answering his questions. Asteria worked away as she took notes. He would have to inquire about what Dawn had thought was in Springer's room. And the glint he had seen in Dawn's eyes did not worry him greatly. What exactly did she want though, in that brief flash? Her agreement only revealed her need to seem at ease. Lapis did not actually expect hidden motivation. He literally wanted to just prod and see what fell out. He wasn't disappointed so far. In truth, he disregarded much of what she said. It was exactly what an innocent pony would say. If it were true, it was completely useless. If it were false, then it meant she was a liar. But giving it any mind wasted resources. He just sat there silently and she wasted her breath. It was more than enough to convince him of some innocence. There was no way for him to know if what she said was true or not, though, so it didn't matter. But then, Dawn did what Lapis was waiting for. He had hoped she'd lose her cool. It was well worth the risk, it seemed. He could feel the tension in the air. Magicon, Springer, Arcanel, and perhaps a few of the other ponies. Their eyes were on him. Watching him for his next move. And he would happily oblige. Dawn's challenge fell on deaf ears. Lapis would most certainly not call Magicon. Luckily, the unicorn stayed at his seat. If things got messy, Lapis would have to sidestep his way out of it. As things were though, Lapis remained calm. A small grin crossed his features. "No, I will most certainly not call Magicon to the table. And you seem to be awfully defensive. I merely noted a few things. And I only wished to get to the bottom of things. You were a viable cause, and I do apologize if I am incorrect. Also, it seems as though you presume my questions posed to you were asked of me by Magicon. While that may be true in the sense I was chosen to do the asking, it does not negate the fact this was all very much my idea." he said evenly. "I also doubt Magicon is afraid of you. Why must you assume such things? You're just a medical pony. I guess I was mistaken in questioning you. But I must ask one more question if you will allow it. What did you think was in Springer's room?" Asteria watched with curiosity after the last notes were taken. She was also aware of the feeling emanating from some of the ponies nearby. It made her shiver. She didn't like this feeling at all. They wished to hurt Lapis? Or something. It wasn't clear. But Lapis seemed to be in command of himself. He showed no fear. Did he really plan this, though? And how would Dawn react? She tried not to worry. Lapis was a smart pony.