An unfamiliar earth pony with a sherbet green pelt glanced up from behind the bar in bleary-eyed surprise as Indiana thundered down the stairs and demanded, “Where’s that dog thing?
“Flint? I think he’s chained up in his kennel outside, next to the wall…” The mare was about to say more, but Doctor Jones was already out the door and gone. Of the two likely suspects, Flint was top of his list. It was possible that Starfire had managed to extract the Medallion of Shadow from Indiana's pocket without the archeologist noticing, but the gangly canine actually had something approaching hands.
The courtyard outside was lit by the eerie bluish glow of the inn’s magical lamps. The lights cast strange shadows, throwing Indiana’s outline on the wall in contorted, monstrous form as angry strides took him across the gravel expanse to the pitiful little shelter near one wall.
Looking like the result of some Paleolithic tribe’s first efforts at architecture, the shelter was made of a few wide slabs of rock placed together against one wall to form a crude lean-to. Flint’s blunt brown muzzle peeked out of the cave-like darkness of the kennel. The diamond dog sat up as he saw Doctor Jones’ rapid approach, tearful green eyes widening to contrite terror. “Oh, no! So sorry! So sorry…”
“Don’t ‘sorry’ me!” roared the archeologist. “Give it back right now!”
Flint looked worried. “Uh… Indiana sure?”
Was Indy sure?! Of course he was sure. “NOW!”
Looking miserable, the diamond dog pulled himself out of his kennel and gingerly stuck one clawed finger down his throat. He gagged. “Just… one minute…”
“…What the hell are you doing? Did you eat it?!” Indiana winced. The diamond dog had a large maw, but definitely not wide enough to fit the entire artifact down in one piece. Wait… were they even talking about the same thing? “Flint, what are you trying to give back to me?”
Flint gagged again. “Indiana’s pet snake! Flint thought it was dangerous, so Flint ate… Not realize it important!”
“My pet—?!” Doctor Jones’ hands clenched and unclenched as he tried to regain his footing in a conversation that had somehow spun completely out of his control. How hard could it be? The ape-like creature was obviously easily cowed. Threaten him, get the medallion back, and have an early breakfast. Not that difficult. “Now look, you mangy mutt…”
Flint’s floppy ears drooped all the more as he hung his head. “Flint said Flint sorry…”
“I don’t want the snake, I want the medallion you stole from me!” growled Indiana, looming over the cowering diamond dog.
“Flint no have medallion. Wait… ‘Medallion?’ Indiana has Medallion of Shadow?!” Ears perking up, Flint blinked his emerald eyes in surprise. Suddenly, the creature was on its paws and lumbering up to Indy with a delighted spring in his step. A heavy iron chain linked to a collar around his neck clinked and rasped across the gravel of the inn’s courtyard with every movement the diamond dog made.
“Yes the… How did you know what it was called?” If Flint was trying to convince Indiana Jones that he was too stupid to have stolen the artifact, it was working. But if the diamond dog was as stupid as he sounded, how did he know the name of an obscure and apparently powerful artifact? “And where did you put it?”
“Flint know! Flint help Daring Do, and she looking for it! She tell Flint to keep ear to ground,” the creature said. He glanced around nervously, jowls flopping, and then leaned in with a conspiratorial whisper. “…But Daring not really mean that. Really mean listen. So Flint listen. Nopony pay attention to dumb little Flint.”
Now the diamond dog had given Indiana two things to wonder about. The first and biggest one was unchanged: where was the Medallion of Shadow? But it was quickly becoming apparent that Flint didn’t have it. The second thing burst over the archeologist with the suddenness of at thunderclap. That name seemed so familiar… but why? “Flint? Who’s Daring Do?”
A wide smile stretched across Flint’s muzzle. “Daring Do wonderful… She pegasus pony. Treasure hunter! So amazing. So nice…”
It was as if someone was walking over Indiana’s grave. Or to be more accurate, trotting over it on little pony hooves. The odd dream came back to him in a rush as Flint gabbled about happy experiences helping the treasure hunter with her quest. The images from his interrupted dream were crystal clear in the archeologist’s mind, almost as solid as his own memories.
“…She pay Flint to help, even! Five whole bits! That more than Flint make in week! At this rate Flint have own inn in no time,” the diamond dog babbled, clapping his paws delightedly at the thought.
“Flint,” interrupted Doctor Jones, arresting the happy creature’s fantasies of entrepreneurial success. Perhaps there was an easy way to find out whether the strange dream was just a coincidence. Hadn’t some other creature been after the medallion in his dream? “Did Daring tell you if anyone else was after the Medallion of Shadow?”
“Daring say—wait. Indiana being very friendly to Flint,” Flint observed, giving Indiana Jones a look that the diamond dog probably thought was calculating. “Indiana not angry at Flint about pet snake anymore?”
Pet snake? The—oh. Right. Indy shook his head. “As far as I’m concerned, Flint, you can eat any snake you find. Just tell me what I want to know.”
“Yay! Then hire Flint, please.” The diamond dog held out one furry paw expectantly.
The change in the creature’s behavior was nothing short of breathtaking, leaving Doctor Jones scrambling to catch up. “What?”
“Mister Penny Wise say he not run charity. Penny Wise best innkeeper Flint know,” the diamond dog reasoned aloud. “If Flint want to be good innkeeper someday, then Flint not run charity either!”
For a moment Indiana considered pulling out his whip and putting it to use. Instead, he smiled. The smile turned into a chuckle, and the chuckle into a full laugh. Pulling out his coin bag, he placed one shining gold piece in Flint’s paw. “All right, Flint. I like that. Now, about my question.”
“Yes,” Flint replied, nodding once.
The pleased expression on Indiana’s face froze. “…Yes what?”
“Yes, Daring Do told Flint whether anypony else after Medallion of Shadow,” the creature said. His paw came up as if to suggest that more information would require more payment.
Now Doctor Jones’ smile had been replaced by an annoyed scowl. His hand brushed against the bullwhip at his belt. “Don’t play games with me, Flint.”
“Only kidding, only kidding! Flint make joke!” The diamond dog’s waiting paw was back on the ground so quickly, it nearly blurred. Flint grinned, his short tail wagging nervously.
Indiana let his hand drop away from the whip again. He laughed humorlessly. “Ha ha. Well?”
“Daring think cultists using Medallion of Shadow in rituals. If she take it, they after it to get back,” Flint explained. “And Daring Do really worried about big blue dog-monkey thing being after it, too. She say his name is… uh… Owwiesote?”
“Ahuizotl,” Indiana corrected automatically. A hulking blue monstrosity with beady yellow eyes and a tail like a third arm filled his mind’s eye. He shifted uncomfortably. He’d read about the ‘water dogs’ in ancient Aztec legends… but this was no simple mental fancy. It was like he was recalling something he’d seen in person. He could almost hear the creature’s voice as it snarled threats at him. Jesus, what was happening to his brain?
“Yes, yes, Owwie… er, what Indiana said,” Flint agreed. “Daring think he might have minions after artifact too. Ask me to help watch for them.”
“Did Daring say what to look for?” Doctor Jones thought back to the snake that had become Flint’s late night snack… and the missing artifact. Were the two connected? It could have been a coincidence, but…
Flint simply shrugged. “Said to look for big kitties but also others. Other than that, not know. Sorry.”
“So as far as you know, I could be working for Ahuizotl,” the annoyed archeologist pointed out. So far Flint’s information was the worst value for money Doctor Jones had gotten since this ridiculous adventure began—and that included that time in Ankara when a biplane pilot had refused to give Indy his fare back after the aircraft’s engine had died on the runway… At least then he’d gotten some exercise as he beat a refund out of the greedy Turk.
Laughing, Flint shook his head. “Hah, Indiana even funnier than Flint! Of course Indiana not working for bad guys. Indiana like... like Daring Do!”
“Yeah?” Indy said skeptically.
“Both have silly hats! Must be alike,” the diamond dog reasoned, grinning at his cleverness. Flint’s smile faded when he noticed that his newfound friend wasn’t joining him in his amusement.
Instead, the brown-furred creature found a pointing finger inches from his nose. Doctor Jones kept his voice measured and calm. “Flint, if you’re going to work for me, you need to remember one thing…”
“Y-yes?” The diamond dog took a step away from the finger and found himself backed up against his kennel.
The archeologist took a step forward, still looming over his latest ally. “Never insult the hat. Got it?”
“Flint got it.” The diamond dog’s ears drooped.
“All right,” Indiana said with a satisfied nod. He glanced up and squinted in the first light of day. Like anywhere in the mountains, the dawn had come rapidly, taking the courtyard of the inn from the eerie blue-white of the lanterns to the golden flush of early morning in mere minutes.
Talking to the diamond dog had already burned enough of the newly arrived daylight. If Flint didn’t have the Medallion of Shadow, that left one other likely suspect. The archeologist turned to go, giving the brown-furred creature his marching orders. “Flint, if you hear anything about this Ahuizotl guy, Daring, or that cult in the mountains, you tell me. Understand?”
“Flint understand,” murmured Flint. He whined slightly as Doctor Jones began to walk away.
Indiana Jones looked back. Flint was still huddled by his shelter at the end of his chain, sitting on his haunches and giving the archeologist the kind of puppy eyes only a canine can manage. Indy sighed. “Fine.”
The heavy chain crunched into the gravel as Indy unhooked it from Flint’s steel-studded collar and let it drop. Bewildered, Flint stared at the limp chain and up at the archeologist’s grizzled face. The diamond dog sat where he was for a moment.
“Come on, mutt. You want to help? Great. Just don’t get in my way.” Doctor Jones pivoted on his heel and started walking back to the inn. Club-like tail wagging happily, Flint hurried to catch up.
* * *
The white dome of Daring Do’s pith helmet rose slowly over the ridgeline, followed shortly thereafter by the mare’s dark pink eyes. She peered down at the distant rectangle of the inn compound and tried to pick out the dark shapes of the brown-robed mercenaries. She counted… seven? No wait, there was one more. Daring watched him step out from behind one of the large self-moving wagons or ‘trucks’ that had brought even more mercenaries as they rumbled into the compound a few hours before. Eight, then. And Celestia only knew how many inside the buildings.
Daring sighed and ducked down again, hidden by the solid mass of the hills above the river valley. When the adventurer had escaped the inn earlier in the day, she’d done just what Richard Brooks had said. The cartographer had told her to head downstream to the next town—‘Kisaba,’ or something—and to meet up with him if he should escape. She’d started down the river... but fleeing just hadn’t felt right.
Daring Do wasn’t stupid. Pride wasn’t going to keep her from running from a fight if she had to do it. But leaving somepony behind? That was different. No matter how Brooks felt about it, there was no way Daring could just fly off and forget about the cartographer… especially when she compared how he’d acted with how she’d behaved.
The pegasus’ ears drooped as she thought about how little trust she’d put in Brooks. Even though he’d known that Daring Do had lied to him by omission, trying to hide that she had the Medallion of Light, Brooks had selflessly held back Jägermeister and his thugs to give her time to escape with the artifact. The knowledge of her betrayal sat in the mare’s stomach like a rock, dragging her earthward with its guilty weight. The only thing to do was to save the cartographer from his well intentioned self sacrifice… and Daring knew just how she could do it.
Daring was usually not one to make overly involved plans, but with a big flightless biped to rescue she would have to make an exception in this case. The basics of one had already formed in her mind. All she would have to do is burst into the compound while nopony was looking, find Richard Brooks wherever he might be kept, fly him or help him run out to the truck, and drive it away. It would be perfect. What could go wrong? …Besides a million little things, each of which would guarantee failure. The pegasus sighed. This was why she rarely made plans.
Looking at the hulking shapes of the trucks again, Daring Do was reminded of the time she’d been dragged along behind one in eastern Bulgaria. Wincing, she shook her head. Not only was the memory unpleasant, but it was wrong. Well, wrong was not exactly the correct word to use.
Throughout the day the gold-pelted mare had been having sporadic visions of old adventures in the Himalayas and beyond. But they were adventures she’d never had. All of them had her acting in ways no pegasus in her right mind would behave. Daring Do didn’t even know what a motorcycle was, let alone how vault over a ravine in one to escape angry, rifle-waving squads of Bolivian militia. Yet the memories were somehow now in her head alongside more normal memories such as that awful date she had gone on in defiance of her father back in Arizona… no wait, that wasn’t hers either.
Rubbing her head with both forehooves, Daring growled in frustration. Fine. Enough with stupid worries about memories and stupid Indiana Jones and whatever was going on with him. She had bigger concerns at the moment—like a cartographer who certainly wasn’t going to rescue himself.
Daring Do shifted impatiently from hoof to hoof, trying to keep her near boundless energy in check. The smart thing to do would be to wait until nightfall when she could sneak in undetected. That would offer her the best chance of success at getting Brooks out before—oh to the moon with it.
Checking to make sure the Medallion of Light was still firmly under her pith helmet, Daring readied her legs and jumped into the air. She skimmed over the downward slope into the valley, trusting in her speed to avoid notice as she rocketed along just a hair’s breadth away from dark rock outcroppings, gravel-like scree, and scraggly dark green bushes. The treasure hunter weaved, dodging taller boulders and staying as low to the ground as she could manage. In only a heartbeat she was at the base of the inn compound’s outer wall. Now for step two…
In the inn compound far below, Hans Jägermeister puffed on a foul-tasting cigarette in annoyance and surveyed the incompetent preparations of what might be laughingly called his troops. The swarthy natives never ceased to provide the Nazi agent with proof of their status as Untermenschen. Several thugs lounged in the shade, sending out infrequent patrols to check outlying buildings or the mountain inn’s perimeter wall. Some were even huddled in a loose circle playing some sort of game with a few dice. Typical.
Lip curling in disgust, Hans started forward. He might be saddled with these sub-human excuses for soldiers until his long-awaited reinforcements made the trek up from Kisaba, but he would sooner bed a Jewess than tolerate such unprofessionalism even from creatures such as these. With one hand loosening his pistol in its holster, the dark-coated man started forward—and paused.
Something fast moving, a gold and black blur, had flitted across Jägermeister’s peripheral vision. It had only been visible for an instant. The flicker of a multi-shaded gray tail around the corner of a building could have been a trick of the light… but the German didn’t think so. He waved the mercenary captain over to his side. The creature had the audacity to try a salute, which Hans ignored. Instead, he grabbed the man’s collar and jerked the mercenary’s ear close to his mouth to hiss, “She’s here… You know what to do. Don’t fail me again.”
“N-no failure,” agreed the nervous thug. The mercenary captain hurried off as soon as his employer released his grip. First that horrible American ‘archeologist,’ and now this… horse-thing. Every day, the heap of gold bullion and Reichsmarks that he’d taken to get this job seemed less and less adequate. Breaking up the dice game, he started giving orders to his men in an urgent whisper.
Daring Do peered up at the main inn building from her hiding place behind some traveling merchant’s oxcart. She felt lucky to have gotten so far so easily. She’d barely had to sneak at all, and nopony had so much as given her movements a second glance. If these had ben Ahuizotl’s minions, the pegasus was certain that she’d already be in a fight for her life. Good thing this Jägermeister’s guards were less attentive. Or perhaps just had poorer senses of hearing and smell.
Making sure she was unobserved, Daring flitted up to the roof of the inn and landed lightly. All was as she’d hoped: the roof was entirely innocent of any of the brown-robed guards, and the weathered wooden square of a trap door offered an easy and stealthy entrance to the building below. Then again, maybe not everything was as the adventurer hoped. She tugged in annoyance at the trap door, but it refused to budge. It didn’t seem to be locked or barred; it just wouldn’t open. The pegasus tugged harder. The sun-bleached wood of the trap door remained firmly in place. Exploring all options, she tried pushing instead. Still it remained resolutely shut.
“Oh, buck this,” muttered Daring Do, ascending into the air a few body lengths and diving straight down. The trap door exploded into splinters as the ballistic pegasus crashed through it, landing heavily on all fours in a shower of dust and shattered wooden planks. So much for a stealthy entrance.
Correctly assuming that her forcible entry had been detected, the gold-pelted mare took only a split second to take in her surroundings before launching herself at the surprised guard who stood near a door at one end of the hall. The man barely had time to call for help before two rock-hard hooves thudded into his chest and slammed him into the wall. With a strangled gasp he crumpled to the floor.
Daring winced at the unconscious mercenary before her. Great. There was the first kink in her plan. Now she would have to open the door herself. Cursing under her breath at the oversized scale and inconvenient fixtures of the inn, the mare fumbled at the doorknob with her hooves. It was no use, and she could hear more shouts as guards outside hurried towards the inn from all parts of the compound. This was going to be close.
With an irritated grunt Daring Do turned, planted her forehooves on the floor, and cocked her hind legs to buck a hole in the door. The pegasus’ muscles bunched like coiled springs.
“Hiyyah!” Daring cried, her back legs snapping out with all the whip-crack strength that the athletic mare could muster. Her hooves hurtled towards the door at near the speed of sound. The door opened.
“Aaah!” yelped the surprised mare. Without the wooden barrier of the door in their path, Daring Do’s hooves met empty air and continued onward, taking the surprised treasure hunter with them as she went tumbling into the room.
Twisting acrobatically, Daring rolled back to her hooves as she came to a stop. Her wings flared as she braced for further combat—only to see Brooks staring down at her with his one good eye, massaging his wrists absently as he worked life back into his extremities. A chair and some broken straps lay on its side in one corner of the room. On the floor was the prone and apparently unconscious body of another mercenary.
“Daring!” cried the cartographer, almost as shocked as the adventurer herself. “What are you doing here?!”
“I’m here to rescue you!” Daring Do snapped, feeling a bit put out. She’d heroically risked herself to sneak in and to beat up the guards to rescue Brooks, and now he was bothering her with questions like that? “Although you don’t look like you need my help. You’re not even tied up!”
“I told you, I was going to try to escape and meet you in Kisaba!” the man retorted, scowling. He winced as the expression put unneeded pressure on his black eye and the abrasions on his face. “But we have to get out of here! You didn’t bring the Medallion of Light with you, did you? Right into Herr Jägermeister’s clutches?”
“Er…” Daring Do patted her pith helmet and its precious cargo, belatedly checking to make sure that both were still in place on her head. Thankfully, they were. The pegasus’ gaze drifted around the room avoid the cartographer’s irritated one-eyed glare. Leaving the artifact somewhere had seemed like a bad idea at the time, but she could see Brooks’ point.
Richard sighed and shut the door, barring it. He turned back to Daring and headed for the window. “Well we’d better get out of here, then. And fast.”
Daring Do certainly hadn’t expected the nervous cartographer to be taking charge of his own rescue like this. “Wait—how are you going to get down with the door closed? We’re on the second floor.”
“With that,” Brooks said, turning to point at a long, knotted rope made from the bed’s sheets and ratty woolen blanket. “I was just about to climb out the window when I heard that commotion outside… I thought it might be you.”
“…Oh.” Daring paused for a moment, listening to the sounds of the furious guards pounding up the stairs. Well, that tore it. She took to the air. “AlrightBrooksgreatjoblet’sgo!”
“Just a minute while I—gah!” Richard never got to finish whatever he’d been about to say. He turned back to Daring Do just in time to see the pegasus zooming towards him. Misunderstanding her intent the cartographer threw up both arms to defend his face, but the mare crashed into his chest instead. Looping her forelegs under his arms, she pushed forward with another powerful flap of her golden-feathered wings and sent the pair careening towards the window. Brooks barely had time for a second surprised shout as he crashed through the wooden shutters.
Humans are not aerodynamic by any stretch of the imagination. Surprised ones with flailing arms and minds unprepared for the abrupt freedom of flight, even less so. Nevertheless, Daring Do’s desperately beating wings somehow kept both her and her struggling passenger aloft as she arched downward and banked left towards one side of the inn’s perimeter wall.
Brooks screamed as the clearly crazed pegasus suddenly let go of him. He somersaulted through the air and landed in a pile of grain sacks with a grunt. From the main inn building came the sound of breaking wood and confused shouting as the guards managed to break down yet another one of the inn’s doors to find the room entirely empty save for the prone form of one of their own.
Grinning infuriatingly, Daring alighted next to Brooks just as the cartographer was climbing off of his impromptu landing pad. He staggered to his feet and glared at her. “What the hell do you—”
“No time! Get in the truck!” interrupted the smiling pegasus as she darted towards the big, flat-sided vehicle. She wrenched open the door and climbed in, plunking down in the seat. Brooks stared up at her. She stared back. What was wrong with him? “What? Get in the truck! We have to get out of here!”
“…How do you expect to drive that thing?” Brooks asked pointedly as he climbed up into the cab. “Move over.”
“Oh. Haha… Right.” Daring’s ears drooped as she shifted into the passenger seat. Once again, her memories were playing tricks on her. She was sure she could remember learning to drive one of these things back in her early teens...
When the truck’s big diesel engine roared to life, every guard in the compound turned to see the vehicle thundering towards the gates. The tall wooden gates were closed, but Brooks gunned the engine and the truck sped up. Daring ducked. Brooks followed suit as bullets crashed through the cab at head level. The vehicle lurched as it bowled through the gates, and then they were out of the compound and on the road.
Grunting with the effort, Brooks slewed the wheel to the left and downshifted, sending up a spray of gravel as he practically flipped the vehicle. The engine thrummed even louder than before as the truck turned and accelerated down the rutted dirt road. A few more rifle bullets cracked through the truck’s cab, but soon they were out of sight of the inn in the twisting, turning mountains. The cartographer took a deep breath and wiped some nervous sweat from his brow. “All right, I think we’re safe for the next minute or two.”
“Whoo, yeah!” Daring whooped, waving her forelegs gleefully. “What do you think? Bet your friend Indiana never managed that, hah!”
“It was a rather… Daring escape,” the cartographer allowed in a deadpan voice, giving the pegasus a nod before glancing nervously at the rearview mirror. “But we’d better start worrying about them following us. They had some more trucks in the compound.”
“Hah! Good one… But no, I don’t think they will. Not any time soon anyway.” Daring tipped her pith helmet forward and began to lean casually back in her seat.
Brooks shifted gears and slewed the truck around another hairpin turn in the road. “Why not?”
Peeking out from under the brim of her helmet, Daring raised her forelegs and rested them behind her head. She chuckled. “Because, Brooks… somepony pulled out and threw away all the battery leads on the other trucks.”
“You never cease to surprise me, Daring. I think together, we’ll be able to keep the Medallion of Light out of Jägermeister’s hands.” Richard Brooks shifted gears again and pressed on the accelerator as the truck rumbled down the road. “Next stop, Kisaba!”