DARING DO BAKES A CAKE
By Lucky Dreams
The night had to go perfectly but already it was veering towards disaster.
Daring Do wished that she could be trapped in a dungeon with the walls closing in, or stuck in quicksand, or panicking in the bowels of a sinking ship—in short, a situation she could deal with. Cooking, on the other hoof, was something where she was completely out of her depth. She wiped the sweat off her brow as her gaze shot between the photo of the green bean casserole in ‘Anypony can Cook’ and then at the monstrosity that had greeted her when she had opened the microwave. Daring poked a spoon in it. It made a squelching sound, and she caught herself thinking that H.P Hoofcraft himself couldn’t have dreamt up such a nightmare. If it had sprung to life and oozed out of the house, it wouldn’t have surprised her.
Give her strength. Give her an ancient temple filled to the brim with deadly booby traps. It would’ve been less stressful than this.
The kettle began to whistle. The bubbling mixture in one of the saucepans started to boil over and smoke rose from the edges of the oven. She needed to slice some carrots but she couldn’t find the chopping board because the counters were covered in pots, pans, knives, forks, dirty dishes from three days ago and dirty cups from three weeks ago. Daring Do bit her lip. Maybe, just maybe, cleaning up first would have been a good idea.
As she rummaged franticly through the mess she accidently hit the tape player on.
everything that’s wonderful is what I feel when we’re together...”
“Shut up!” Daring shouted, smacking the off button. However, the player was faulty so all this achieved was to make the music louder than ever.
that’s how this refrain goes, so come on, join in everypony...”
A timer started to ring, but what was it for?! The soup? The garlic bread, the potatoes?
Suddenly, she realised that it wasn’t simply smoke that was pouring out of the oven but thick black fumes of failure. In one swift movement Daring opened the oven, praying that it wasn’t too late.
“No! No, no, no!”
The cake was ruined, reduced to a scorched slab of disappointment. The timer was still ringing. The kettle was still screeching and Daring held her head in her hooves. “Ay yi yi. What next?”
The smell of burning wafted into her nostrils, making her wince. But it wasn’t the cake. Dreading what she was about to see, she glanced down, her eyes widening in horror. Her mane had been set alight by the stove.
Daring gasped. Rushing over to the sink she dunked her head in the water without a moment’s hesitation, ignoring the thin green film which had formed over it—a result of putting off washing the dishes for far too long. It was only after she had lifted up her head and sighed in relief did she take a good look at the water. There were bits of hay floating in it, along with several other things that could be best described as ‘miscellaneous.’ She reached a hoof to her soaking face, picking off a soggy bit of food which was stuck to her cheek.
everything that’s wonderful is sure to come your way...”
“Maybe I should just get a take out,” Daring said to herself. She spat out a piece of hay.
Night fell, bringing with it relentless rain which beat down upon the city of Hoofington. Daring’s neighbourhood was always quiet around this time. It was a haven of anonymous little houses where she could rest after her adventures, and the homes were all detached and the lawns much too big. It was the sort of place where everypony knew everypony else... Daring aside, who liked to keep to herself. Nopony ever dreamt of stopping by hers for a chat. Nopony ever walked up to knock on the door and say hello.
Listening to the pitter-patter of rain against her windows, Daring Do breathed in deeply. It calmed her. It reminded her that by this time tomorrow dinner would simply be a memory, washed away like water down a drain. “It’s going to be fine,” she told herself in the tone of one who didn’t believe a word they were saying. “You’re going to tell her the truth and it’s going to be quick and it’s going to be fine. You’re the mare who found the Sapphire Stone and rescued the Griffon’s Goblet! This is nothing. You’re going to be fine.”
Sitting on the sofa in her combined living and dining room, she stared at a china vase resting on a nearby desk which was dimly lit in the light of the streetlamp outside. It was a very pretty vase. It was as white as snow, was decorated with elaborate patterns, and even in the gloom it was something to behold. She could only hope that it would be good enough. It had sure as anything cost enough.
Daring stroked her tail absentmindedly, wondering briefly why she was sitting in the dark. Then again, perhaps it wasn’t worth wondering about after all. The thought of getting up was almost too much to take, too much to bear. Nerves would get the better of her if she stood up, she just knew it. She’d become jittery. She would start to pace and before long would find it impossible to sit back down.
The clock on the mantelpiece cut through the sound of the rain. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Daring adjusted the bronze pin badge on her flowing red dress. The badge was circular and there was a little compass engraved on it identical to her cutie mark, though one look was enough to tell that it was older by far than the mark on her flanks. The badge was beaten and weathered. She fiddled with it again, twisting it around a minute amount, and then she twisted it yet again, and again and again.
Daring Do glanced out the window in the hopes of seeing a carriage but there was nothing but rain.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
The rain grew heavier and she was stroking her tail so hard that she felt she might accidently tear it off. Sweat trickled down her brow. She wiped it away and resumed caressing her tail, more frantically than ever before.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
She glared at the clock—it was always getting jammed like this—then once more peeped out of the window. There was no sign of any carriage. Daring drew back the curtain and fixed her eyes on the vase once more.
“What’s taking so long?”
No sooner had she asked the question to herself, the doorbell rang and her stomach somersaulted. She lifted herself off the sofa. As slowly as she dared she walked out of the living room and into the corridor, navigating her way past stacks of papers as tall as a pony. There were boxes there too, as well as big wooden chests and mysterious looking cases. Outside, Daring heard an impatient hoof being tapped on the floor. She approached the front door with the air that it was in danger of bursting off its hinges.
“Well come on,” came a muffled voice. “I haven’t travelled a hundred miles to wait in the rain, Junior.”
Don’t call me that, thought Daring Do. With one last gulp she finally opened the door to greet the disgruntled pony waiting on the porch.
“H-hello,” Daring said to her mother with a smile which fooled no-one. “Pleasant j-journey?”
Her mother tutted. “Pleasant journey my hoof. Are you going to take my coat or not?”
It was the voice of somepony who not only had lived through everything that life could hurl at her but who had been distinctly unimpressed with the entire ordeal. Daring’s heart beat a little faster, a dull pain plaguing her head. Typical, she thought. Not even in the house and she’s already finding things to complain about.
“Don’t you give me that look,” Daring’s mother snapped. “And why are all the lights off, hmm? Don’t tell me you’ve been mooching around in the dark this whole time, Junior.”
Faster than Daring could say ‘don’t call me that’ her mother let herself into the house, flicked on the light and hung her raincoat on a peg on the wall. She was a very small mare, an earth pony bent double with age. Her mane and tail were white. Her cutie mark was of a cane and her brown coat of hair was faded. Behind her half-moon glasses however, her eyes were full of the same fiery vigour that her daughter had inherited from her. Old she may have been but she still possessed, much to Daring’s annoyance, a sharper mind than ponies half her age. She never missed a thing.
“You didn’t bother to vacuum the carpet for me?” she asked. “When was the last time you washed these skirting boards? Is that dust I see on this desk? For Celestia’s sake, I could write my name in that. How do live in this squalor?”
“It’s nice to see you too,” said Daring through gritted teeth.
“And what’s all this?” said her mom, tapping one of the stacks of paper with a hoof. “You promised me you’d cleaned up, you promised me over the phone. Yet this is what I find my daughter living like?”
“Mom, that’s not what I said at all. I said I’d come and visit you. It’s only ‘cos you insisted on—”
Her mother raised a hoof. “Use proper words,” she said. “If you want to say ‘because’ then say ‘because’. And you’re darn right I insisted. If this is the state of your house then I daresay it was a good thing that I did, hmm? I can see I’m going to have my work cut out for me tomorrow when we start cleaning up.”
“Mom, I haven’t seen you for over a year. Can’t we just sit down?”
“And what’s this you’re wearing?” said the old mare, grimacing at her daughter’s dress. “Did you even bother to iron it? Why would you buy such a tacky dress?”
“You got me this dress!”
Her mom blinked. “I did?”
For the first time since entering the house, Daring appreciated how old her mother was these days, how frail she looked, and the way she shook slightly, like the last leaf clinging to a branch caught in a winter’s storm. Though the expression lasted barely moments, for the short time it was there the confusion in her mom’s face was palpable, as was her frustration that she couldn’t remember buying the dress for her only foal. Daring Do sighed. Seeing her now and being reminded of how much she was getting on in years, Daring knew she had done the right thing in not telling her the news over the phone or in a letter. So what if the old mare could be perfectly beastly sometimes? Mom deserved to know the truth and she needed to hear it face to face.
Taking advantage of the lull in her mother’s relentless criticism, Daring said, “We can’t stand here in the corridor all night. I made you hay fries, your favourite!”
Daring’s mom sniffed and winced. “Take out?” she asked. It was remarkable how much contempt she could squeeze into two words.
Daring sighed again. “This way. Through here.”
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
With two ponies in the dining room, the silence seemed twice as deep and nerve-wracking. The seconds drifted by lazily, in no hurry to speed up and bring the night to the close that Daring so desperately wanted. She munched on her hay fries. Each time she bit down they crunched loudly, and from the opposite end of the table her mother peered at her disapprovingly. Chew quietly, every wrinkly old line on her face said. Eventually there came a point where Daring couldn’t take it anymore. “S-say,” she said to her mom. “Did ya hear the one about the pony, the frog and the albatross? ‘Cos it’s a good one alright! It’s... it’s um... yeah...”
Trailing off, she quivered under the look her mother gave her. Apparently the old mare didn’t care for jokes involving ponies, frogs and albatrosses. Daring pushed her plate away.
“You’ve half your fries left, Junior,” said her mom the moment she took her hoof off the plate.
“I’m not hungry.”
Her mom shook her head. “Think of all the poor unfortunate ponies out there tonight who have nothing to eat. And you’re still going to let your food go to waste? For shame, Junior. For shame.”
Daring scowled. Was it too late to boot out the old hag? If she were to order a cab, shove her mother in it and wave goodbye, would she have been within her rights to feel not even remotely bad about it? The thought brought to Daring’s face the first real smile she had experienced all evening, and for a second she was lighter than air. Oh sure, getting rid of her mom would’ve meant not revealing the truth, but then again would that really have been such a shame? Yesterday it had felt important to tell her mother the secret, but tonight not so much.
Mom’s stern voice yanked her out of her head. “I know what you’re thinking, Junior.”
Daring furrowed her brow. “What are you talking about?” she asked as innocently as possible. Mom responded with one of her famous frowns, the clearest reminder yet of why they rarely saw each other more than once a year.
Clenching her teeth, Daring forced herself to remember what her mom had used to be as opposed to what she had become in her old age. Strict? Yes, and a huge believer in discipline as well. But she had also taught Daring the difference between right and wrong and the importance of honesty. Mom had secured her that precious first post in Hoofington university. Even now, beneath her years of accumulated bitterness, her mom’s support remained unwavering (excepting that is of her hatred of the novels Daring had lent her likeness to). She deserves the truth, Daring thought to herself. Yeah, it’s hard and she’s horrible, but she’s gotta know. Just get it over with. She’s travelled a hundred miles and she doesn’t know why.
All the same it was a deeply unpleasant prospect, so Daring glanced around the room searching for a distraction, anything to put off the moment for as long as possible. A line of masks from the Zebra subcontinent lined the back wall, each representing a different animal: an elephant, a tiger, a monkey. On her desk was an ancient idol made from pure gold, recovered from the heart of an active volcano on the lost island of Antlerlantis, guarded by dragons and deadly traps (at the moment, it was being used as a paperweight). And scattered about on shelves and on the bookcase and propped up against the walls were all manner of fantastic objects: spears, swords, stone statues, a tapestry depicting the era before the Royal Pony Sisters. Each artefact represented a different adventure. Each one was a different memory, a notion that her mom, for all her smartness, would never be able to understand.
“Mom,” said Daring at last, drawing upon all her courage. This was the moment she had been working towards for almost a fortnight. “I’ve got to tell you something.”
“Tell me what? Why are you sweating?”
Daring’s heart beat like a drum as she opened her mouth, but at the last second her nerve abandoned her. “I’ve... I’ve... look! I got you a present.”
With a strained smile she pointed a hoof at the vase in the corner, however her mom was singularly unenthused. “Not even wrapped, Junior? Well I suppose it’ll have to do. Was that it? Was that what you wanted to tell me?”
A shiver crept up Daring’s spine. “Yep,” she said. “That was it alright.”
Her mom raised an eyebrow. After a heavy pause she asked, “What’s for desert?”
Daring gulped. “D-desert?”
“Yes, desert. You don’t invite a pony around for dinner—”
“I keep telling ya, I was gonna go to yours—”
“And then not give them desert,” finished her mom. “Didn’t you even think to bake a cake, Junior?”
Daring Do flapped her wings and folded her forelegs. “Don’t call me that,” she said.
Outside, the rain grew heavier. The way each drop smacked against the windows made Daring wonder if the weather team had decided to bring the scheduled thunderstorm forward a day early. She caught herself wishing that she could be a unicorn and that she had the power to light up her horn and vanish in a flash of magic, like lightning.
Her mom rose out of her seat. “I suppose if you need something doing then you have to do it yourself. I can’t say I’m surprised. Disappointed but not surprised. I seem to remember that the kitchen was at the end of the hallway, hmm?”
Daring gaped as her mom left the room. A few seconds later, from the kitchen, she heard the old mare rummaging through in the cupboards and complaining loudly about the mess, about the lack of organization and about everything else she could conceivably criticize. Daring dragged a hoof down her face. To be so petty as to make herself her own desert and make as big a show of it as possible! It was—
It was something she would never have done ten years ago, said a voice in Daring’s head. Just grin and bear it for both your sakes.
She gulped again. Now was the time to tell her mom.
Now or never.
“Junior,” her mother called. “Haven’t you ever cleaned up in here? Why, this kitchen has its own ecosystem! Where in Equestria do you keep the butter?”
Daring yearned to be outside in the refreshing rain or else locked alone in her bedroom, but if she put this off any longer, her mom would work herself into such a state that she wouldn’t listen to a word she had to say. Stopping only to readjust her pin badge and to grab the vase in her mouth—though she knew it was a fool’s hope, perhaps if her mother saw it close up then she’d appreciate it more—Daring left what remained of her dinner to go to the kitchen.
Mom had already cleared a large area on the counter, had a mixing bowl ready and was out of her dinner dress. Daring put the vase down on the counter. “Mom. I’ve got to tell you something.”
“Don’t loiter in the doorway. Help me look for the butter.”
“I used it all up. I already tried making you a cake this evening.”
“Well you didn’t try very hard did you? And I refuse to believe that you don’t have any butter left. There’s always some somewhere, Junior.”
The words cut into Daring Do like knives. Her eyes watered, and she wondered why was she putting up with this? What was the point? Just because this rotten mare happened to be her mother, that didn’t mean she had to feel any loyalty to her.
The realization made revealing the truth far more simple. “Listen,” said Daring, only to be ignored.
“Look in the fridge. Perhaps there’s some in there.”
“Mom, listen! I’m trying to tell ya something.”
“Don’t you have a pantry? Because if you don’t then you should really think about—”
Daring Do stamped a hoof. “Mom! I quit my job.”
The question of whether or not the storm had been brought forward was suddenly answered in spectacular fashion as a tremendous crash of thunder made the water in the sink ripple, and made the plates on the sides rattle. The rain picked up. Considering the sound it made, it would’ve been easy to mistake it for cricket balls being poured down upon the house. The wind roared. The lights flickered. Daring’s mother stood up, looking at her daughter as though she had been blinded her entire life and was only now seeing her properly for the first time. Daring’s chest heaved. Her cheeks were flushed.
When her mother replied, her voice was strained. “Quit your job? But... that’s nonsense, surely. You can’t have quit your job, Junior.”
“Don’t call me that.”
There was another roll of thunder, not as loud as the first but drawn out and ominous, a more dangerous sound by far. Daring’s mother opened her mouth as if to say something, however the words got lost in her throat.
“I quit,” said Daring before she could be interrupted. “I quit, I quit, and I’m not going back. I never wanted to be an archaeologist. That’s what you wanted for me.”
Her mom stood up tall. “Junior,” she said. “Everypony in our family have been archaeologists, going back five generations.”
Daring rolled her eyes. “What about the generation before that? You told me that they worked with weather. That’s what I want. I don’t wanna be stuck in some dingy library all the time, I wanna work outside. You know why my cutie mark’s a compass? I want adventure, that’s why!”
Her mother shook her head. “If those dreadful books are anything to go by then you get plenty of that already.”
“You know those stories aren’t real. They’re for kids! They were just an idea the university had to get foals reading, that’s all. It’s true what they say. Seventy percent of archaeology is done in the library and the rest is spent digging about in a grotty little hole. What’s the point of travelling the world if all I get to see is the inside of a pit? This is my life, not yours, and I don’t want to do that anymore.”
It was her mother’s turn to raise her voice. “What in Equestria are you going to do, hmm?”
Daring answered right away. “I’m selling the house. The university have agreed to buy all the artefacts off me so that’ll give me enough bits to keep going. Maybe I’ll get a job on a weather team, just for the time being as I figure stuff out.”
As the shock vanished from her mother’s expression, anger emerged to take its place. Her face turned so red that Daring could practically feel the heat coming off it from the other side of the kitchen. “No daughter of mine is going to work for the weather team,” she said.
“Get used to it. This is happening.”
Mom’s eyes flared. The argument appeared to be wearing her out so she leaned back on the counter, right up against the tape player, accidently switching it on.
everything that’s wonderful is what I feel when we’re together...”
As the melody washed over her, Daring realised that her eyes were still watering and that her nostrils were clogged. She must have been coming across as a huge mess, a pony who lived in a filthy house full of junk and with a kitchen that resembled a sewer. Good, thought Daring. Let Mom think that my life’s going to pieces. See if I care.
everything that’s wonderful is sure to come your way...”
Her mom attempted to regain her posture. “In the morning,” she said, fighting to keep her voice calm, “you and I are going to the university and you’re going to beg for your job back.”
A flash of Lightning. A boom of thunder. “No,” said Daring. “No we’re not. You can’t make me.”
“We’re going, Junior, and that’s that.”
“No. We’re. NOT!”
And that’s when the little peace that remained between them finally broke once and for all. Daring’s mother took a step forward towards her daughter, but stumbled. She threw out a hoof to steady herself, brushing against the vase and knocking it over. The two of them watched as the magnificent present fell through the air and smashed on the tiles, shattering into a hundred little pieces which scattered this way and that, under the oven, under the cupboards, and all across the floor. Both stood there as the song carried on much too cheerfully and as outside, the rainfall turned into a deluge. The old mare’s mouth hung open. Hot tears trickled down Daring’s cheeks.
Then Daring tore off her dress, ripped off her pin badge and held it over the rubbish bin. “Junior,” said her mom slowly, her voice barely audible above the sound of thunder and the rain. “Think about what you’re doing. That was a present for your sixth birthday and it’s been in the family for generations. You wouldn’t have your cutie mark if it wasn’t for that badge... show it some respect.”
Daring’s hoof quivered. Her face soaked with tears, she chucked the badge into the bin as hard as she could and then ran, trampling over her dress, knocking over stacks of paper in the hallway as she rushed past them. But she didn’t care. The night had given new meaning to the word ‘disastrous’, and the house was too small for them. She had to leave. She had to get out of there right that instant before she ended up doing something she’d regret.
There was a ringing in Daring’s ears. Kicking the front door open, she galloped into the rain, into the wind and the cold, and she didn’t look back. She dashed through the suburbs, forked lightning licking the ground hungrily, and thunder deafened her like a god was forging iron on an enormous anvil in the sky. The rain was like none she’d ever experienced, but she didn’t stop running until she was far away from her house, from the suburbs, and from the city. Only once she had come to a halt did she take in her surroundings. She had ended up on a bridge over a raging river in the dark countryside. When lightning lit up both the landscape and the inside of the clouds, it made the world feel utterly huge, like there was no end to it, like it stretched out for all eternity. The kitchen had been small, hot, and claustrophobic. Out here there was so much space that she felt lost in it, and it was easy to imagine that the storm was drawing power from her anger and misery.
A horrible thought gnawed away at her. What if her mom was right? What if she was rushing into this decision to give up her job?
You never wanted this life, she told herself. You wanted adventure. By Celestia, you even forced that poor stallion who wrote the Sapphire Stone to make things more exciting and add a villain and everything. Remember how annoyed the university were when they found out about it?
Despite everything, Daring couldn’t help but grin at the memory of it, albeit extremely weakly. It had been her finest moment. What the university had commissioned was a book about archaeology, to be written by a respected foal’s writer and with her acting as a sort of consultant and co-author. What she had given them instead was a rip-roaring adventure made up of her foalhood fantasies, and in the end she had done such a good job of hiding the truth that by the time the university found out, the books were already being shipped. The whole incident almost cost her job.
Until the money had started pouring in of course, almost all of it to the university. It was remarkable how little money she made from those books.
She shivered violently. She was soaked through and through and the world was a big scary place... but thinking about the novels helped remind that leaving was the right thing. What did it say about her that her greatest achievement as an archaeologist had almost nothing whatsoever to do with archaeology? What did it say about her that she had lied through her teeth to the university just to make sure they wouldn’t take away the one thing she had felt she was doing right? It had been eleven years since she had first stepped hoof in that lecture theatre on her first day of university, yet she was still wrestling with herself whether or not this was the right life for her. In a few years she would be thirty, then forty, then fifty and sixty. If she wanted to get out of this then now was the time.
She would rather be poor and happy rather than rich but spending another day in that job. Daring Do bowed her head, her tears lost in the rain.
If only her mom could have understood.
If only her mom could go back to being the mare Daring remembered from her foalhood.
“Mommy, what’s this?”
“This, Junior, has been passed down through our family for generations. Let me pin it to your shirt.”
Daring Do fidgeted. She hated being the only foal in school forced to wear clothes, however the way that this tiny bronze badge gleamed in the sun made her, for the first time ever, glad that she had a shirt on. The badge had a compass engraved on it. It made her think of adventure and treasure maps, desert islands, and big red crosses where ‘X’ marked the spot. She stopped fidgeting as her mom pinned it to her.
Just like that, an idea struck Daring, a marvellous thought that filled her with excitement. Imagine having a compass for a cutie mark...
“There,” said her mom after a moment or two. “You’re almost set. Put your hat on then you’ll look a proper archaeologist.”
Daring Do beamed as she put on the hat (it had belonged to her grandmother) and her mom gave her one of her rare smiles back in return. It was going to be a good day. Daring could feel it in her hooves.
How fortunate it was, thought Daring, that she always kept a spare key underneath the plant pot by the door. In fact, if she’d had the smallest chance to travel back in time and give herself a high hoof then she would’ve taken it immediately, because at the moment ringing the bell and having her mom answer was more than she could handle. Shutting the door behind her as quietly as possible, she shook herself down, water splashing everywhere, over the carpet and the walls and on all the papers. But she was past the point of caring. Maybe it would be best to bin all of her work. It wasn’t as if it was going to be missed.
And it wasn’t as if she was going be missed either. She doubted that her neighbours would be sorry to see the back of her, and so long as the novels kept coming out then the university wouldn’t think twice about her either. Daring could live with that, but what killed her was the thought that she could add her own mother to the list of ponies who wouldn’t miss her, because after tonight what chance was there of fixing what had broken between them? The more Daring had thought about it on the way home the more impossible it had seemed. The relationship had been strained enough as it was. Now it was smashed beyond repair.
It was with a heavy heart that she crept upstairs, grabbing herself a towel from the bathroom to rub her mane and tail with. She didn’t bother switching on the light as she entered her room. Five minutes later, she had wrapped her blanket around herself, and sat in front of the dull glow of her computer monitor.
Her body was still freezing from the storm and she trembled under her blanket. Even now, the rain continued to pound against her window, but she paid it no notice. Longing for something to take her mind off things, she focused all her attention on solving a puzzle in the game adaption of ‘Daring Do and the Raiders of the Lost Saddle’.
It was proving to be a doozy. The only way to advance through the game was to walk across a tiled floor, though no ordinary tiles. Each one had a letter on it, and if she didn’t correctly spell out ‘Celestia’ in Old Equestrian then it was game over. The tiles would crumble beneath her hooves, sending her digital-self tumbling into an endless void. Her eyes drifted in and out of focus as she stared at the screen and as she checked the clock next to the computer. It was almost three in the morning. A few precious hours were all that separated her from having to deal with her mother again.
... Except her mother was already in the room with her and was standing right behind her. “You know, Juni—Daring,” she said softly. “In Old Equestrian, Celestia starts with an ‘S’.”
Daring didn’t jump at her mother’s unexpected appearance. Instead, after a few seconds of watching the screen, she reached out a hoof and moved her character onto the tile marked ‘S’. Unlike her previous attempts, the floor didn’t collapse this time. The little sprite on the screen wiped the pixelated sweat off its brow and sighed with relief.
And the real Daring’s heart lifted, for it had been years since her mom had spoken to her like that. Could it be? Had a couple of hours to rest on the matter been enough to calm her mother down? There was only one way to find out. “This doesn’t change anything,” said Daring.
When her mom responded, her voice was warm, a far cry from that of the old mare who’d entered the house that evening. “I know, Daring. I know.
The words were followed by low thunder. Tearing her eyes away from the screen, Daring found her mom looking right back at her with a smile adorning her face. Weak though the smile was, it was enough to cause a lump to appear in Daring’s throat. “Mom, I’m... I’m sorry for shouting at you,” she whispered.
“And I’m sorry for everything else, but let’s forget about it now. I’ve got a present for you. If you’re embarking on a new adventure, you’ll need this. It’ll help you remember where you came from, no matter what you do or where you go.”
From seemingly nowhere, Daring’s mother produced the pin badge—it had been cleaned and polished to a high sheen. She placed it on the table. The lump in Daring’s throat was joined by a strange sensation building up in her chest, like fire or ice. Not knowing what else to do, she shoved the blanket off herself and threw her forelegs around her mother, who was quick to return the embrace. Neither of them could remember the last time they had properly hugged, but it didn’t matter. Not now. Not tonight.
“Don’t you dare run out on me like that ever again,” said Daring’s mom. “Honestly, weather like this... you gave me the fright of my life.”
“And don’t think you’ve gotten out of cleaning up in the morning. Goodness, look at the mess in here. You call this a bedroom? This is intolerable! I’m going to be having nightmares about this, you mark my words.”
Daring grinned. “Will do.”
Her mother seemed to be returning to her usual self, though with one or two changes. They let go of each other. “Goodnight, Daring,” said her mom with a wink.
Then she left, shutting the door behind her. The only company Daring had now was the sprite on the screen and the sounds of the storm, but she didn’t mind because her mom was right. Things would be different in the morning. A whole new adventure would be waiting for her, her greatest ever, and there were no boundaries anymore or secrets to reveal to anypony. She was Daring Do! Give her a dungeon with the walls closing in. Push her in quicksand and watch her escape. Witness her saving herself and the crew from the bowels of a sinking ship, and by Celestia, even throw a cookbook at her. When she was as light and as free as she felt right now, there wasn’t a single thing in the whole world that she couldn’t do and she could be anything that she wanted to be, adventurer, traveller, or even something as simple as joining the local weather team.
But for now, it was time for bed. Daring Do switched off her computer. In the darkness, she slumped onto her mattress, wrapped herself in the blanket and listened to the pitter-patter of the rain against the window. She fell asleep smiling.
Adventure was everywhere.