Something long, rough, and wet rasped across Indiana Jones’ grizzled face. Fetid breath worked better than smelling salts as Indy dragged himself back to a world filled with a general dull ache and seasoned with sharper, localized pains. The archeologist groaned and shoved upward, his hand pushing away the waterlogged weight of the snuffling diamond dog.
“Indiana! Indiana okay!” Flint yapped gleefully. Doctor Jones felt his world sway crazily as the diamond dog pranced with delight.
“Stay still, you simpleton! You’ll capsize us, and I’m already wet enough!” hissed Silver Trowel’s more cultured voice. Abruptly the rocking stopped and Flint whined apologetically.
Groaning with the effort, Indiana pushed himself up. His head throbbed and he could feel a swollen lump on the side of his scalp where he’d struck the wooden gunwale of the boat. He ignored his headache’s insistent pounding and took stock of his surroundings.
By some miracle, the three fugitives were still in their ill-fated boat. Stretching credulity further, the little craft seemed to be floating sedately in a quiet eddy somewhere on the same mountain river as before—at least, as far as Indiana could tell. Admittedly the boat was only ‘floating’ in the sense that its keel was not resting on the bottom; with water nearly filling the hull, only its wooden construction was keeping it buoyant.
Human, unicorn, and diamond dog were all soaked to the bone. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold yet, but by Indiana’s estimation it would be sunset in a few hours. Indy shivered at the memory of the frigid winds he’d faced the previous night. If he didn’t have shelter or at least a fire by sundown, a follow-up visit by the cultists would be the least of his worries. Indiana looked at Silver Trowel.
The pony archeologist saw Indiana’s glance and anticipated the question. “Well I’m no cartographer, but I estimate we’re a bit upstream from Polo’s Landing. It’s a pony town, mostly. We can get lodgings there… Hmm.”
“Why ‘hmm?’” Indiana asked. He fished his sopping fedora out of the water in the boat and let it drain for a moment before placing it carefully on his head. The hat drooped, looking as battered as its owner felt.
“Well I’ll fit right in and…” For a moment the unicorn trailed off, his head swaying drunkenly. He blinked and jerked upright again, wiping one fetlock across his muzzle. For the first time Indiana noticed small rivulets of crimson staining the green fur of the creature’s nose. “…Beg pardon. Where was I?”
The human winced. That looked unpleasant. “Trowel, are you all right?”
“Just a side effect of overusing my magic, I fear. No offense to the two of you, Doctor Jones, but you and Flint are not the lightest. Nor is the boat.” Silver Trowel grimaced and wiped more blood off his muzzle. “Let’s just say I won’t be doing that again any time soon.”
“Thanks,” Indiana managed. For all his apparent foppishness, the pony was a lifesaver—literally.
“Now, as I was saying. I’ll fit right in at Polo’s Landing,” Doctor Trowel said, making an attempt at cheerfulness despite his obvious weariness. “And the ponies there probably see diamond dogs regularly. But a… ‘human,’ I believe you said? Nopony’s ever seen anything like you. Not that I know of, at least. You look like a shaved diamond dog! No offense.”
Flint cocked his head to one side, his brow wrinkling. “But… nopony scared of Indy at inn.”
“No, makes sense. Travelers are a different breed,” Indiana said. Certainly if he’d been simply a college professor of archeology, he would probably have died of a heart attack after seeing only half the things he’d dealt with in his journeys across the world—and now beyond.
“Precisely so,” Silver Trowel agreed. “I propose that Flint and I go to town and secure lodging for us and a disguise for you. A diamond dog-sized robe should do the trick. As long as nopony looks too closely…”
“All right. I’ll stay here with the boat. Flint, you head into town with Doctor Trowel, get me a disguise, and meet me back here,” Indiana ordered. He counted out several gold coins from his dwindling supply and placed them in the diamond dog’s paw.
Flint nodded hesitantly, claws closing around the coins. “But what Indiana do while Flint gone?”
“Dry off,” came the succinct reply. “Now come on, let’s get out of the water.”
It took the efforts of both Flint and Indiana—the only members of the crew with appendages suited to the task and enough energy left to do the job—to haul the boat reasonably close to shore. Thankfully the water was reasonably shallow and it wasn’t as though they weren’t soaked to the bone already. With that task accomplished, Flint and Silver Trowel started downstream.
Casting around the bank, Doctor Jones busied himself collecting some reasonably dry-looking driftwood. Fortunately the flint and steel in his jacket pocket had managed to survive his recent drop over the falls and Indiana soon had a small but adequate fire going. He stripped off his waterlogged jacket and boots and laid them on some rocks, letting them drip dry. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the best he could do under the circumstances.
Indiana settled back, slowly drying in the waning light of the sun and waxing heat of the fire while he checked over his weapons and gear. With the recent events he was as bedraggled as he’d ever been. Heh, if only his old schoolmates from Cloudsdale could see him now. Breezy would probably faint dead away, and…
Pausing mid-reverie, Doctor Jones reviewed the path of his thoughts. The trail led, as it had so often recently, into terra incognita: another foreign yet familiar town. Another strange yet well-remembered name. Closing his eyes, Indiana dug through his memories back to his time in school. He’d often flipped through atlases and travel journals, dreaming of the day when he’d get to go out into the world and… no, that wasn’t right. He was sure his father had taken him all across the globe even from a young age. Well, what about his memories of Summer Flight Camp? That had been the—Indy craned his neck and looked over his shoulder. A flight camp of the type he remembered would be impossible to go to without wings.
Indiana groaned. This world was doing something to him; he could feel it. There, side by side with his actual memories of schooling and friends were strange, otherworldly memories—memories that would pop up when he least expected them. Doctor Jones stared at his hand, wiggling his fingers. Would he wake up one morning and be surprised that it wasn’t a hoof attached to a gold-pelted foreleg? So far the foreign recollections seemed to be in addition to rather than replacements for his real memories, but…
The archeologist shuddered and edged closer to his fire. He had to get out of here, and soon. And in all probability, the first step would have to be getting back the artifact so recently stolen from him by the cultists. Hopefully Flint and Doctor Trowel would be back soon with Indy’s disguise and good news.
Flint glanced nervously around the streets of Polo’s Landing. Even in the diamond dog’s wildest dreams, he’d never imagined there could be so many ponies in one place. Why, there might be over a dozen in this market alone! Polo’s Landing was huge. He’d been walking for five minutes at least and could only now see the other side of the town—no, the city!
“Sir! Can I interest you in—Ah, a diamond dog.” The street vendor, a cream-pelted earth pony with a dun-colored mane, quickly readjusted his sales pitch and shoved the tray of roasted vegetables to one side. “Ahem. May I interest you in some of these? Finest fried fish. Caught by griffins just today!”
Flint goggled at the salespony and his wares. Somepony wanted to talk to him? To sell something to him, even? The diamond dog’s tail started to wag a bit. The pony had even called him ‘sir!’
Misinterpreting the canine’s staring green eyes, the vendor shuffled his hooves. “Er, they might have been caught yesterday. This week at least, for sure. A bargain at two bits a skewer!”
The fish certainly smelled good. Flint wiped a bit of drool off his jowls. His stomach rumbled, reminding him of his nonexistent breakfast. The last thing he’d had to eat was that snake, and that hadn’t been very tasty at all. Perhaps…
The diamond dog looked down at the money in his paw and hesitated. Indiana had given him the strange coins, but they certainly weren’t bits. “Um. Flint want two skewers? But no bits. Only have these.”
“Oooh.” The street vendor struggled against the natural urge to grin as his latest customer carefully placed one of the coins on the stall’s counter. The specie was of foreign make, but looked twice as large as a bit coin. By the way it sang as it landed on the wooden counter, it was unadulterated gold. The earth pony dragged his face into a dour, concerned expression. “Well, that’s no good. I really prefer bits, but I suppose I could cut a deal if that’s all you have.”
A minute later, Flint was grinning ear to floppy ear, richer by two skewered fish and poorer by an equal number of Indiana’s heavy golden coins. He practically inhaled the first fish, chewing eagerly at the scraps remaining on the skewer and sighing in contentment. In the diamond dog’s estimation, it was easily worth twice what he’d paid for it. He was such a savvy businessdog!
Flint was just considering returning to the stand and trying his luck for a second pair of fish when he saw it. The massive orange-furred cat lurked in an alley, obviously waiting for something. Or somepony. The diamond dog continued on by as nonchalantly as he could manage, trying to ignore the way his hackles rose as he caught the tiger’s sharp scent drifting out into the road. Once past the mouth of the alley, Flint hurried to press himself against the nearest wall and frantically beat his brain into a sparking, sizzling frenzy of activity.
The diamond dog could distinctly recall what Daring Do had said about big cats like the one in the alley. They were working for Owwie… for Ow… for whatever that creature’s name was. The big blue ape thing. If that tiger was here, did that mean that the adventuring pegasus’ enemy was close by? Cautiously, Flint peeked around the corner. Something else was approaching the big cat from the opposite end of the alley. It was a pony, but in the dim half-light of the evening, identifying the newcomer was difficult. Leaning out a little further, Flint took a closer look—and received another shock.
Silver Trowel trotted nonchalantly up to the tiger as if he hadn’t a care in the world. He dipped his head in greeting and the big cat bobbed its head in reply. It held out a paw and growled inquisitively.
“Of course I got the medallion, you overgrown house pet. Do you have any idea what I had to go through to acquire this thing? Not only did I have to sneak into some strange creature’s room, wasting yet another charge on my emergency necklace, but I then had to fend off an attack by those cultists and—yes, fine. Fine.” Horn flaring, Silver Trowel opened his saddlebags and lifted out a cloth-swathed object. Silvery tendrils of magic pulled the fabric aside to reveal darkness. Tangible, metallic darkness. “There you are. The Medallion of Shadow. Happy now? Ahuizotl had best be very—and very generously—grateful.”
The tiger accepted the artifact and slipped it into a pouch that it looped over its powerfully muscled neck. Tail lashing, the feline growled something in its native tongue. Doctor Trowel smiled. “Ah yes, the famous Daring Do. I didn’t have to deal with her, actually. She seems to have disappeared—and good riddance. But have you ever heard of an ‘Indiana Jones?’”
The look of mute disdain the tiger gave Silver Trowel told the unicorn all he needed to know. Fighting down the urge to roll his eyes, Trowel chuckled. The big cats were so predictably prideful. Obviously Ahuizotl’s feline enforcer had never heard of the human archeologist. Not that it mattered. “Well never fear, I have plans to deal with him shortly. Although if you’d like to help I’m sure that could be arranged…”
Flint’s jaw dropped and he ducked back around the corner. Silver Trowel was working for the enemy?! He had to warn Daring Do! No wait. She was gone, nopony knew where. Well, he had to warn Indiana! But what about the medallion? In the diamond dog’s feverishly churning mind, a plan started to form.
Silver Trowel cantered cheerfully out of the alley and turned left. He’d sent Flint to do some shopping in this area. It had been annoying to fake more fatigue than he felt for so long, so the unicorn felt well rid of the beast. The big, dumb mutt was probably still here, wasting Indiana Jones’ odd coins on some frivolous thing or other. Well, neither the diamond dog nor his human friend would have to worry about that much longer.
The unicorn chuckled darkly. If only they knew. It had simply been too bad that Silver Trowel hadn’t been able to let the two foals drop to their deaths in that awful trip over the Flying Falls. If only he’d mastered teleportation spells. Ah well, even though he’d had to levitate the entire boat to save himself, it was worth it. This way he’d get to see the look of surprise on Indiana’s ugly, flat face before the tiger clawed it into unrecognizability.
Speaking of ugly, where was Flint? Doctor Trowel glanced around the market again. Surely a big brown diamond dog couldn’t be that hard to spot in a town populated mostly by ponies. The unicorn craned his neck to look over some of the stalls—and went down in a tumble of limbs as a breathless cream-colored earth pony crashed into him.
Silver Trowel climbed back to his hooves and glared at the offending stallion. “Goodness, sir! What is the rush?!”
“A thief! Big brown diamond dog! Stole all my fried fish, the mutt!” the wild-eyed salespony gasped. “Have you seen him? He came this way.”
Odd. And oddly suspicious. Flint hadn’t struck Silver Trowel as the thieving type, for all his stupidity. Unless… Wheeling around, the unicorn raced back the way he had come. When he got there, the alley was empty. Disconcertingly so. In Trowel’s experience, the tiger was a lazy creature at best. He would have lounged around for a bit longer without his master there to keep him on his toes. But instead, the big cat had vanished.
A quick search of the narrow side street provided worrying clues in the form of broken wooden skewers and small fragments of fish. The clues formed a trail leading a little ways down the alley. When Trowel followed it, the crumbs of what must have been a delicious and unexpected snack for the tiger led to an enclosed alcove at one side of the narrow pathway.
Silver Trowel groaned and pressed a hoof to his suddenly aching forehead. Why, oh why was it so hard to find good help these days? The powerful jungle cat lay unconscious in the shadows, stretched out for all the world like a poorly-made tiger skin rug. In his mouth was the last of the fried fish. And around its neck, the pouch containing the Medallion of Shadow was conspicuously absent. With a snarl of rage, Doctor Trowel kicked the tiger back to consciousness. “You mangy foal! Which way did he go?!”
Flint ran down the street, shifting fluidly from a frantic two-legged sprint to a more natural four-legged lope as he weaved and dodged through the evening traffic. He jinked right, narrowly avoiding a donkey and her cart. He skidded around a corner and nearly tipped over an unfortunate trinket vendor’s stand. The fleeing canine reached a straight section of road and accelerated, vaulting over a surprised filly with a hasty cry of, “Sorry!”
The diamond dog’s lungs and muscles were aflame with exertion, but his jowls were still pulled back in the widest grin he’d ever worn. It had worked! It had really worked! The stupid cat had fallen for it, and now the medallion was his! Which was to say, of course, Indiana’s and Daring Do’s. Obviously. Now all he had to do was evade Silver Trowel and the tiger and get back to Indiana Jones in time to warn the human, and—
Rounding another corner, Flint slammed into a solid wall of feathers and fur. The diamond dog whined as razor sharp talons bit into his shoulders. “Ow! Let Flint go!”
The biggest griffin Flint had ever seen glared down at him and clacked its beak. One lightning-fast paw snatched at the diamond dog’s stolen bag and held it high. It turned and looked up, its voice a rasping croak. “Brother Starfire, is this the one He has chosen?”
“Yes, Brother Gustav… This is His companion,” replied an all too familiar stallion.
Flint stared in shock as the green-robed, red-pelted pegasus glided down to land on the cobblestones. How was this possible? “But… but Starfire’s wing!”
“My faith in the Brotherhood of the Snake makes me strong,” Starfire replied with a confident smile as he flexed his miraculously healed appendage. “Surely you know are aware of that, considering you—Ah, and it seems you have the Gate of Souls as well? It is as we have foreseen.”
Gustav’s claws dug deeper into Flint’s shoulder, precluding any escape as the griffin used his other paw to open the bag and reveal the darkly gleaming artifact inside. Both cultists hissed and bowed slightly at the sight. Passing the satchel reverently to Starfire, Gustav asked, “What should we do with His companion, Brother?”
“Why, bring him with us of course! What better final test for Him than to leave Him with the thief, with His betrayer?” The pegasus took flight, chuckling happily. Carrying his whining, struggling cargo, the griffin soon followed.
“Well… Well… Blast!” Down below on the street, Silver Trowel groaned. His angry eyes peered skyward, tracking the two cultists until they were no longer visible. It was clear from the trajectory that the pair was taking Trowel’s prize and the unfortunate Flint back up the valley. Most likely to the Temple of Shadow.
The tiger at Doctor Trowel’s side yowled in annoyance. The unicorn turned and glared at the feline, but the gears of his mind were already turning. “All right, you flea-bitten creature, here’s what we’ll do.”
Back on the bank of the river, the flickering fire provided the only light in the blackness of a mountain night still waiting for the moon to crest the craggy outline of the Ridgebacks. Cleaning his revolver by the flickering orange glow of the fire, Indiana Jones sucked absent-mindedly at a fish bone left over from his meal. The river fish hadn’t been the worst thing he’d eaten in his travels, certainly. Doctor Jones spun the pistol’s cylinder and nodded in satisfaction as it turned easily.
Clattering hooves on the rocky approach to the riverbank prompted Indiana to reload the newly cleaned revolver as quickly as he could. He crouched behind a rock and readied himself. He relaxed slightly when Silver Trowel came into view, but tensed again as he caught sight of the pony’s distressed state. The unicorn looked like he’d just barely won a race with Hell itself. Wild, rolling eyes swiveled to spear Indy with a panicked gaze as Trowel gasped out, “T-they have him!”
“What? Who has who?” Holstering the pistol, Indiana hurried to steady the unicorn before Silver Trowel collapsed. The pony was shaking, dripping with the sweat of his headlong flight.
“Th-the snake cultists,” moaned Silver Trowel. He coughed and wheezed for a moment, trying to catch his breath. “They grabbed Flint. He was shouting. Shouting something. I may have misheard, but I think he said he’d found the Medallion of Shadow?”
“The Medallion of Shadow?!” Indiana echoed, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice. “The mutt found it?”
“And now the cultists have him! That horrible red pegasus, Starfire—he grabbed poor Flint and flew away! I think they… I think they may be taking him back to their temple. We’ll never find him now!” Legs finally giving way, Silver Trowel sat with a thump. His eyes stared pleadingly at Indiana Jones. “I can’t even imagine what they must be doing to him.”
Indiana’s jaw tightened. He’d seen enough cults in his day to have a good idea of what Flint would be looking forward to at the cultists hands. Or hooves. Or claws. In his imagination, the diamond dog’s sightless eyes stared accusingly at the man who had lured him out of his abusive but relatively safe job and gotten him killed.
“No,” Doctor Jones said slowly. “I think I have a pretty good idea of where they’ve taken him. First, do you know where we can hire some muscle?”
“‘Muscle?’ Oh! Some soldiers of fortune, you mean!” Silver Trowel exclaimed.
“Yeah, those.” Indiana picked up his jacket. It wasn’t quite dry yet. Eh, good enough. He shrugged it on.
The unicorn nodded with a slight smile. “Fortunately, I already anticipated that. One moment.”
At a shrill whistle from the pony, two dark shapes crept into view. The big predators’ eyes glittered in the firelight as they started circling the human and unicorn. Indiana’s hand went automatically to his whip. First cultists, and now this?
“Oh! No, no, Doctor Jones. These are friends,” the unicorn protested
The tiger nodded and seemed to grin. The yellow-eyed panther raised a paw as though to wave. And just when Indiana thought that nothing else in this crazy world could surprise him. He turned to Silver Trowel. “Can they talk, too?”
“Hah hah, no. They don’t speak Equestrian, although they seem to understand it. But I think you’ll find that their actions speak quite loudly enough,” the unicorn replied with a slight smile.
“Well, Doctor Trowel, can your friends lead me back to Penny Wise’s inn?” asked Indiana, tugging on one boot. It was dry, nearly. At least it didn’t squish as much as it might have. He pulled on the other. It was just as dry, unfortunately.
“What? No, but I can…” Trowel struggled to his hooves and swayed tiredly. “Just needed a bit of a break, you see. Good as new. Woah!”
Indiana found himself steading the unicorn again. “You look half dead.”
Silver Trowel found the strength to nod. “True. But be that as it may, you need me, Doctor Jones. I can get you to the inn. You and my friends can do the rest.”
“All right. I’m not just going to leave some poor kid to those bastards. We’re going to get Flint back, or my name’s not Dar—Indiana Jones, damn it. Let’s go.” Extinguishing the fire, Indiana turned to go. In the darkness behind him, one predatory grin spread across three faces as Silver Trowel and the two big cats leered at the human’s back.
* * *
“Why did I do that? Why did I do what? Make sure we escaped?” Richard Brooks asked with another incredulous laugh. The lights from the instrument panel of the aircraft cut strange shadows across his grinning face as he took a step forward.
Daring Do took a step back. She could feel her feathers ruffling as her wings rose, trying instinctively to make her seem bigger and more threatening. Despite her body’s involuntary efforts, the mare was still less than half the size of the human who loomed over her. Glaring up at the cartographer, Daring demanded, “Why did you shoot that man? He didn’t do anything to us!”
“So that’s my fault?” Brooks snarled, waving back to the cockpit as he took another step towards Daring. “Our idiot pilot up here was the one who didn’t want to leave! We would have been captured!”
“We could have escaped again!” Daring Do snapped back. Her heart pounded. Her ears were flat against her skull as she looked up at the man she’d thought was a friend. She took another few steps back, staying out reach. Now she was in the narrow corridor between the crates.
This far from the cockpit Brooks was little more than a green-edged silhouette in the darkness. Enough light filtered back into the cargo area for Daring Do to see the cartographer’s face twist into something between annoyance and anger. “You mean you could have escaped. I still have a black eye from my last run-in with the Nazis, in case you forgot. Not this time. And I got us away. Bang! Problem solved.”
‘Bang, problem solved?’ That was too much. It was as though someone had taken the jumpy and sporadically heroic human Daring Do had come to know and replaced him with a monster. Why, when she’d first met him in Baghdad and he’d signed on to help… Daring shook her head. Not now, stupid memories. Not now! “And where did you even get that thing? You said you didn’t even own a gun!”
“I—” Richard Brooks hesitated. He had said that, hadn’t he. “Oh yes. I got it off the guard when I was trying to escape the inn. I thought it might come in handy. And it did!”
“You thought it might come in handy,” Daring echoed, thinking of the mother-of-pearl-inlaid handle. Suddenly it seemed achingly familiar…
Yawning, Daring pushed open the door to the hotel room. It had been a long and fruitless day trolling the dens of the various rumor-mongers in Baghdad. None of her efforts thus far had brought up any signs that the Nazis had actually found the Medallion of Shadow. Maybe the Army Intelligence men were wrong. Either way, the adventurer couldn’t afford to wait any longer when her true goal, the Medallion of Light, lay so far to the east.
Daring Do casually tossed her fedora onto the bed and glanced over at her roommate. Coincidentally, the little mapmaker was heading to the same area that Daring was. Finding him trying unsuccessfully to find a flight heading east had been a stroke of luck. “Hey, Rich. Found anything?
“…Now look,” Brooks said distractedly, still hunched over his desk working on something or other. “The reason why I was going to the Hindu Kush was to make maps of the area. If there were already reliable ones, I wouldn’t need to go in the first place!”
“What, none at all?” Frowning, Daring sauntered over to see what the cartographer was laboring over so intently. On the wooden surface of the desk lay the pieces of a .38 caliber revolver. The light of the evening sun glinted off the blued surface of the weapon. The weapon looked dark and professional save for the shifting riot of colors of the mother of pearl on the pistol’s grip. “Very nice, Brooks, but I’m not letting you tag along so you can play cowboy. What do you have for maps?”
Richard Brooks looked annoyed. “I’m not ‘playing cowboy.’ This was a gift from my father. Besides, it might come in handy; you never know.”
“Fine. Just don’t blow a hole in yourself with it,” Daring laughed. “Or in me. Now, the maps?”
“I wouldn’t—you know what? Fine.” Grumbling, the cartographer reassembled his pistol, reloaded it, and stuck it carefully in one pocket. He turned to a stack of books and started to open the first one. “Here, this is what I’ve been able to get…”
Daring Do reeled as she surfaced from the memory. Brooks was still talking, his voice almost an angry shout so that he could be heard over the aircraft’s laboring engines. “…Nothing to say now, Daring? How about, ‘thank you, Brooks, for saving my black-and-gray tail?’”
“You lied to me,” hissed Daring Do. She backed up again. The cool breeze blowing through the cracks around the edge of the cargo door did nothing to cool the heat of anger flowing through her. “You lied to me, Brooks.”
“What?! Name one time when I lied to you!” Brooks yelled, waving his arms in a gesture of hurt innocence.
“You didn’t get that pistol off the guard, Rich. Back in Baghdad you said that it was a gift from your father,” Daring growled.
Even in the near-darkness of the aircraft’s cargo compartment, Daring Do could see the color drain from the cartographer’s face. He seemed to deflate. For a moment, the pegasus almost felt sorry for him.
“No. It can’t be…” Now it was Brooks who took a step back as he stared down at Daring Do in wide-eyed horror—horror that quickly turned to rage. The cartographer fumbled in his pocket and drew the revolver again, thumbing the hammer back. “I don’t believe it. And even with a name like ‘Daring Do’ and that ridiculous pith helmet. I mean I had my doubts, but still. You almost had me fooled this entire time, Doctor Jones.”
Daring Do blinked. “What are you…? You think I’m your friend?”
“Friend? You’re no friend of mine, you freak! Just a competitor to stupid to know who I really was! I don’t know what you did to yourself with that weird medallion, but what better proof that it has power than you? The great Indiana Jones, a squeaky-voiced little horse with wings! Hah!” Brooks gestured with his pistol. “Now hand—sorry, ‘hoof’—over the Medallion of Light and maybe I’ll just sell you to a zoo instead of shooting you and having you stuffed and mounted.”
Daring Do leaped, her forehooves striking desperately at the human’s revolver. Brooks’ finger tightened on the trigger, but by the time the thought became deed, Daring’s swinging leg had already ensured that the pistol was already pointed towards the ceiling. It thundered in the narrow confines of the aircraft and punched a hole in the fuselage.
The cartographer was just bringing the pistol down again for another shot when his hand met Daring’s hoof coming the other way. The weapon spun free from Brooks’ suddenly numb grip. Howling in pain, he grabbed for the pegasus. She darted out of the way and his arms encompassed only empty air.
“You won’t get away, ‘Daring Do!’ You have nowhere to run!” Brooks dove forward, trying to tackle the mare. Instead, he landed heavily on the aluminum grating of the floor. Wheeling around, Daring gave the human both hooves to the face. His head jerked back with the force of the blow. He slumped forward and lay still.
“Brooks?” Daring turned to face the human again but stayed where she was, panting with exertion. What was she going to do now? She couldn’t get the artifact to Canterlot. She couldn’t return home. The cartographer had been the only one who had even talked to her without also trying to kill her… Well, until recently.
Surging into motion, Richard Brooks lurched forward and made another grab at Daring Do. His hand smacked into the side of her head, knocking her back a step—and sending her pith helmet sailing into the back of the aircraft. The Medallion of Light went with it, tumbling and clanging metallically against the aluminum grating of the compartment’s floor.
Daring Do turned tail and hurried after the artifact. One hoof scooped up the pith helmet. Another slammed down on the skittering silver disc, and not a moment too soon. Cold wind from the edge of the cargo door whipped at her tail as she picked up the medallion and placed it under her retrieved hat. She started to turn—and then a shadow fell over her, blotting out the wan moonlight that had been streaming in through the aircraft’s windows.
Brooks dragged himself up by the handle of the cargo door, glaring daggers at the little pegasus pony at his feet. He reached out with a snarl. “I’m going to—”
Kicking out with two powerful hind legs, Daring Do caught the swaying human in the knees. He screamed and tumbled backwards, landing heavily against the aircraft’s door. With a screech of fatigued metal the aluminum gave way and Brooks tumbled backwards into the hungry blackness of the night sky. One flailing hand grasped desperately for a handhold and found Daring’s wind-whipped tail. With a yelp of surprise the pony found herself jerked off her hooves as she was tugged out of the plane by the screaming cartographer’s momentum.
The icy slipstream slammed into Daring Do like a hammer, leaving her gasping for breath as she tried frantically to right herself while keeping a tight hold on her helmet and the treasure it contained. She plunged downward, but she didn’t do it alone. Richard Brooks was still there, shrieking in fear and keeping a death grip on the adventurer’s tail.
Kicking out viciously, Daring managed to free herself from the flailing human. She tried to angle her body and to spread her wings to turn her fall into a glide, but avoiding a painful crash was out of the question. It was already too late to do more than slightly reduce her speed as the dark shape of the mountain rushed up to meet the mare’s plummeting body.
Brooks landed first, his screams cutting off abruptly a heartbeat before the tumbling pegasus crashed on top of him. Daring Do cried out in agony as her legs folded on impact. She felt sharp jabs of pain all over her body with the impact of every rocky outcropping as she started to roll down the mountain. Mercifully, everything went black.
It seemed like only moments later that Daring surfaced to a world of dull pain. Opening her eyes, she groaned as the harsh yellow light of the morning jabbed needles into her brain. Oooh… that had been some landing.
“Why, Fräulein Do… Still with us I see,” said a quiet, slightly accented voice. It was Hans Jägermeister.
The greeting wrenched Daring Do back to full consciousness. She moaned again as she tried to raise her head. Every muscle ached. Every bone ached. She felt like she’d been run over by an entire pack of diamond dogs. She tried to speak. All she could manage was, “Brooks.”
“Herr Brooks? Why, how touching for you to show such concern for a traitor like him. I can’t say I was sorry to lose him, though. He was an unreliable asset.” When Daring’s head jerked up in surprise the Nazi agent laughed. “What, you didn’t know? Why yes. He was working for me. You didn’t think he was really just a cartographer, did you? Hah. Still, his little maps and his little letters were helpful. Up until you showed up, at least. At the end, it seems, he was playing his own game…”
“Is he…?” The pegasus tried to stand up, only to find that she couldn’t move. Her legs were bound together with rough, fibrous cord in a series of loops and knots that would take forever for her to escape. She started working on them all the same, ignoring the protests of her battered limbs.
“Dead, yes. And yet you are not. An impressive specimen of your species, Daring Do. Whatever that species might be…?” Jägermeister trailed off leadingly.
“Pegasus pony,” Daring muttered. She tried to move her wings. Nothing seemed to be broken, but the feathered limbs were bound just as tightly as her legs. Not that she would have been able to use them at the moment anyway. Her captor had learned well from previous experience; the windows of the small and airless room were shuttered and the door was closed tight.
“Like the Greek myths? Fascinating. Ah, I see you have noticed your wings. I thought it would be less harmful than clipping them. And of course, if you are too troublesome we have other, more permanent solutions.” Hans smiled sincerely and patted the bulge of the pistol at his hip. “But I would very much like you to survive our trip back to Germany. We could learn much from studying you. You might even survive.”
A/N: Yup, Brooks was a bad guy even if he was apparently betraying EVERYBODY and not just Daring and Indy.
This next bit is just to head off (hopefully) any kind of arguments on the subject in the comments... I normally wouldn't do this but hey.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you a bit about Brooks. All we got as a warning for Walter Donovan in Last Crusade was, a SURPRISE I’M BAD AND AM AFTER THE GRAIL WITH THE GERMANS explained with, “Didn’t I say, ‘Don’t trust anybody?’” Here at least I gave you:
-Conveniently escaping JUST as Daring arrives to rescue him, having minimal bruises etc
-Not particularly beat up / injured by Hans or his men despite the fact that the lack of apparent trap at the inn made it obvious that he hadn’t talked (if he was a good guy)
-“gee I don’t even know if I want Indy back!”
-unexpectedly high level of competence / badassitude for a guy who draws maps for a living (then again you could say the same thing about Indy I guess), especially at the roadblock in Kisaba
-the ‘shoot the pilot; now we can leave’ thing (one of my favorite bits with him)
True, he did let Daring go, but if he was working for himself and trying to keep the medallion away from the Nazi agents so that he could get at it later, that still makes sense. I just didn't have a good time to have him sit down and explain his plan in detail, so basically I left it unexplained. Perhaps I shouldn't, but if you haven't noticed I HATE EXPLAINING THINGS in the narrative if I think I can avoid it, ha ha.
I have to admit, it didn’t even occur to me to make him an American agent of some kind. That might have been interesting. Oh well; too late now. Yup, just working with the Nazis and then for himself.
Anyway, we’re on the home stretch now, if it wasn’t already obvious.
As an entertaining aside, one of the pre-readers pointed out to me that Flint’s plans to steal the Medallion of Shadow back from Ahuizotl’s tiger probably look something like Rukia’s crayon drawing plans from the anime Bleach and now I can’t un-think it -_-