by Gabriel LaVedier

Twinkie- Attacking the Darkness

Sugarcube Corner was quiet, and dark. All the areas were clean, all the equipment was put away, and all the staples were measured and ready for the next day's activities. The Cakes, all four, were up in their own living areas, parents reading bedtime stories to the twins. Cup and Carrot shared the duties of telling the giggling twins the tale of a gutsy jenny and a foppish unicorn.

Pinkie, however, was not up in her garret. She was in the shop's private party space, setting up a surprisingly small number of treats. She had bottles of soda sweating in tubs of ice, small trays of mini cupcakes, sandwiches cut on the diagonal, and even a pizza. It was a pizza Equestria, a thin and crisp crust topped with pure white cheese evoking a moon, sunflower petals in the shape of a sun, and orange peppers as the rays of the sun.

A medium-sized round table had been set up in the middle with two cushions on either side. The table was covered in papers, dice of various facets and a big paper screen, covered with pictures of fantastic landscapes, odd creatures and lurid, but clean, depictions of stallions in brief armor.

Twilight was sitting placidly behind the screen, smiling as she watching Pinkie setting up the room. “Please thank the Cakes again for letting us use this room for our regular Catacombs and Creatures games. It's so nice of them.”

“Oh they know we need the space and the peace, and we always clean up,” Pinkie said, zipping a pizza cutter through the pizza, cutting it into eight large slices.

“I should pay something, some kind of small fee or the like just to show my gratitude. I should start leaving a tip,” Twilight said, levitating over a slice of pizza on a paper plate and bringing along a bottle of apple soda, popping the top in transit.

“They don't need it, but they'll be happy about it,” Pinkie came over with several paper plates, mostly of cupcakes, but also with two slices of pizza. She pulled a gigantic, and complex, crazy straw out of her mane and deftly slid it into Twilight's bottle of soda.

“At least I remember to pay for the food. You always outdo yourself. This pizza Equestria smells delicious!” Twilight said, taking a hearty bite out of the pizza and using her magic to slowly pull it back, the cheese pulling out in long, stringy strands.

“I've gotta do good, it's for my marefriend! And it's for our super fun games of Catacombs and Creatures,” Pinkie cheered, gobbling up a few cupcakes, then taking a long sip on her straw.

Rather than complain, Twilight brought over another soda and took a dainty sip. “I have all the scenarios here. Pick one of your characters and we'll start from where they last left off.”

Pinkie shuffled through the papers and gathered up a few of them, arranging the rest into a neat pile by her side. “Here we go. The earth pony sorceress.”

“Mmm, a challenge indeed. But worth it if you can pull it off. We'll get right to it,” Twilight said, pulling out a book containing the adventure from a knapsack. She then hit the room with a spell to muffle any potential noise, so as not to disturb the Cakes.

- - -

“You are still along the road out in the dusty wilds. You attempted to track the Arch-Magus Gloaming after her capture but lost the trail long before. You followed the most promising traces as far as you could, but the trail has, at last, gone cold. What are you going to do?” Twilight asked.

“I'll put on my robe and wizard hat!” Pinkie loudly declared.

“Good, now you're properly attired with the enchanted items and have a slight bonus to your magic rolls, which you can really use,” Twilight said.

Gâteau the Pink stood proudly on the long road, peering at the crossroad that passed through it and out into the flat, featureless, dusty distance. She was a robust earth pony, dark pink in color with a very bright, neon pink mane made of millions of fluffy curls. She stood taller and more broadly muscled than the average pony, yet she was not decked out like a standard burly warrior. She wore a pink wizard hat with bright yellow stars, and a similarly colored robe. She also had small bags attached to her robe, and a large knapsack on her back. Also sitting on her back was a small, glassy-eyed and toothless cragodile, her familiar, Chewy.

“Remember, your mission remains the same. Arch-Magus Gloaming has been kidnapped by the mysterious and mythic Blood Prince. There's no indication what the Blood Prince plans to do with the Arch-Magus but the rumors that have risen are quite terrible,” Twilight noted.

“Umm, why is the bad guy a prince?” Pinkie asked. “There's only one prince out there, Prince Blueblood, and we all know he's a really great stallion. Shouldn't it be a Marquise? That Morning Star was pure evil.”

“This was made a while ago, and in Canterlot. There were no actual indications that Blueblood was anything but annoying. But, exaggeration is sometimes part and parcel of creativity,” Twilight explained. “I've seen a newer remake of this module, and the villain has been changed to the Marquise of Madness. I should probably buy the new version sometime.”

“Yay! More fun times!” Pinkie cheered.

“Well, Chewy, looks like the trail ends here at the crossroad,” Gâteau said to her familiar, who just blinked, one eye closing a bit before the other and opening before it as well. “Looks like I'll need to use some of my amazing powers of observations and magic. Time... to look for traps, hidden compartments and miscellaneous hidden objects!”

“Pinkie! I know I shouldn't be interrupting like this but... that's for inside structures. And you're not a rogue, so you're trying to use just the magic portion. Not only would it be improbable, there's simply no use for it,” Twilight said.

“A-ha! You've forgotten,” Pinkie said, rustling her character sheet and pointing out an element. “Here! I spent almost all of my really cool background points on being Fortuna-touched. Now I'm more resistant to chaos magic and I get to have improbable things happen now and then. Plus I have those random wild magic mishaps but that's not important right now.”

“Well, roll your dice for that skill and...” Twilight used her magic to rolls dice behind the screen. “Try to beat the imposed improbability.”

Pinkie shook her dice and tossed them with a sharp cry. “Did I do it?”

Twilight shook her head in disbelief. “Amazingly, you did. There was no real scripted resolution for this. Wait, I know...”

Gâteau brushed the dust from an unassuming-looking lump by the side of the tail, mostly in a ditch. It was a small metal-banded wooden box that jangled faintly as she lifted it. Opening the lid revealed a small pile of coins and a folded bit of paper. “I knew it, Chewy! Searching for things always works. It's how I keep finding my missing shoes.”

Unfolding the paper showed it to be a map of the area. Some quick thought resolved the landmarks and towns, and gave her a location of the crossroad. The Blood Prince's keep was clearly marked as not unbearably far away. On the back was some writing, in an overly formal script. “Here is your payment for this act and a map to my keep. Memorize it and for Chaos' sake destroy it. I don't need visitors. Tell nopony of what you have done or you will regret it.”

“Chewy... this might be important,” Gâteau said to her mostly idle cragodile. “According to this map, all we need to do is keep going, turn a few times, and we're there.” She galloped off on the indicated road, head held high and eyes fixed on the horizon.

With the suddenness of lightning, Gâteau's path was interrupted by a roaring, hissing and bleating blur of fangs and horns. The sorceress managed to roll out of the way of the ambushing beast, who set herself up as a deadly roadblock. She was a chimera, her tiger head and front body having white rather than orange parts, the goat rear body and head having a creamy color and cashmere coat, and the snake tail having a cobra hood. The tripartite being glared at Gâteau with all three sets of eyes.

“You will not pass us,” the tiger head growled, snapping its saber-toothed maw.

“We have been charged to stop all interlopers,” the goat added.

“My sisters and I will defend the Blood Prince to the end. You must slay us to pass,” the cobra head hissed, lashing forward and snapping at Gâteau.

Gâteau seemed wary, but not overly worried by the intimidating creature. She looked on it with some serious interest then perked up considerably. “Oh! So you work for him. When do you get off work? I'll come back then.”

The three heads looked to one another in confusion, shoulders shrugging where applicable. “We... don't get off work. We are bound by duty and his power to defend the path to the keep from those not allowed to go,” the tiger head explained in an intimidating snarl.

“Oh, I see. No break time or anything like that? Well, can I hire you for a while?” Gâteau asked with a pleading blinking of her eyes.

“H-hire us? We told you, we are the loyal servants of the Blood Prince! We dare not defy his will and his word,” the snake said.

“Well what's he paying? I'll pay you so if he docks your pay you don't lose out,” Gâteau said cheerfully.

The trio of heads looked to one another, seeming baffled. “Dock our pay?” The tiger asked.

“How does one dock pay? Like a ship?” The goat asked.

“Wow. He doesn't give you regular pay per hour on a competitive basis?” Gâteau asked.

“We have no idea what any of that means,” the cobra asked. “We are not given pay in the sense you may mean. We serve because of his great power and control. He commands and we obey. What else is there?”

“I could pay you with real money! I found a big box of it. And I don't want to carry it around. Plus I can give you a big cheesecake,” Gâteau said cheerfully, digging around in her pack.

“Cheesecake?” Twilight asked.

“I stopped at that suspiciously familiar bakery and looked around. I could have bought a cheesecake,” Pinkie said.

“But I don't remember you doing it,” Twilight noted.

“Right here in my equipment. 'Baked good',” Pinkie said, pointing to her sheet.

“That could be anything from a cake to a cookie to bread,” Twilight said.

“Then time to roll the dice and collapse the waveform,” Pinkie chirped.

“That's... that's entirely right. Wow. I'm impressed Pinkie. That's exactly the way to explain how you resolve this uncertainty,” Twilight said, rolling up some dice.

“You talk in your sleep. It's really dorky. And cute!” Pinkie said happily, rolling up her own dice.

“Wait... you have a cheesecake?” the goat asked, skeptically.

“A cheesecake? You would betray the great and terrible Blood Prince for a cheesecake? I knew you were fixated on cheese but really...” The tiger grumbled.

“Come on,” the cobra insisted. “We're starving out here. That crazy fool often fails to feed us like he promised. A cheesecake and box of money is better than nothing. We're not actually loyal to him. Are we? I'm just here to be with family.”

“I feel no loyalty to him. But I'm afraid of him,” the goat noted.

“Grrr... fine,” the tiger finally said, swiping at the ground. “Present us with your cheesecake.”

Gâteau finally finished digging through her pack and pulled out a simple cheesecake. It was just the cake and a crust, with no decoration. She passed it along to the sisters, along with the box of money. “Here you go! Think you could take me to the keep?”

The three sisters attacked the cheesecake with a hungry passion, gobbling up huge mouthfuls of the delicious pastry. They polished it off very quickly, all three of them giving a satisfied, simultaneous belch. The tiger patted their stomach gingerly and nodded. “Alright. It seems like a bad reward. You give us this cake and we take you to your doom. But you wanted it.”

Gâteau leaped onto the chimera's back, whooping loudly and pumping her hoof in the air. “Then let's go go go!”

The chimera looked stunned for a moment, then shrugged and dashed off along the dusty trail. They covered the distance extremely quickly, ending up in front of a very anomalous location. After passing a subtle magic barrier there suddenly appeared a huge, imposing keep.

The high walls of the outer bulwark were made of a strange black stone shot through with veins of rusty red. It was high and imperious. So far as it could be seen it was all angular and unfriendly. Spikes of dark metal studded the top of the walls, and fierce statues of unknown monsters leered from the ramparts. Around one corner there appeared a huge gatehouse, a set of dark wooden doors banded with iron stood closed and imposing. Before them was some huge, ax-wielding armored figure.

The chimera skidded to a halt and motioned with her head. “Here we are. The keep. I really hope you escape intact, you're very nice,” the tiger said.

“But if you don't, thank you very much for the cake, and a big box of money,” the goat added, bleating happily.

“Farewell!” the cobra called out as the three of them dashed off into the distance.

“Well she was nice, wasn't she, Chewy?” Gâteau asked of her blank-faced cragodile, getting another odd, off-timed blink. She casually hopped up to the front gate, and observed the strange figure.

It appeared to be a giant suit of armor built for a griffin, with front hands and bare rear toes for claws. However, there did not appear to be anyone within. The impersonal visor showed only darkness, and the small gaps around the limbs showed the same darkness. It was made of dark-toned metal, with strange designs carved into it. It was studded with glowing gems, which seemed to pulse in a heartbeat rhythm. The ax was tremendous, on a long pole, made of black metal shot through with red veins, the face of it wickedly sharp, the back a single large, pointed hook.

“Oh wow! Is there anyone in there?” Gâteau asked, knocking on the armor's chest.

The armor moved suddenly, bringing the ax down in a warming motion. “No,” the armor intoned hollowly.

Gâteau peered at the huge thing. “So does that mean you're magical?”

“Yes,” the armor replied, slamming the butt of his ax down solidly.

“So can I get in there, foil the Blood Prince and rescue the adorable Arch-Magus?” Gâteau asked.

“No,” the armor answered.

“Can you say anything other than 'yes' and 'no'?” Gâteau queried.

“No,” the armor said, adding an emphatic shake of its head.

“Do you always have to answer?” Gâteau asked.

“Yes,” the armor replied.

“What color is the sky?” Gâteau asked quickly. No response seemed forthcoming. “You only have to answer yes-or-no questions, right?”

“Yes,” the armor rumbled.

Gâteau tapped at her chin, thinking for a moment. She finally snapped her head up and looked to the armor. “This statement is false. Yes?”

The armor at first seemed to not respond to the question. Then a small whine started to shriek from inside the depths of the metal. The glowing gems started to throb faster and fast, flashing wildly as the whine increased in volume. There finally came a tremendous screech, as stressed metal reaching the breaking point. The gems all shattered with a huge flash, and the head of the thing literally blew off its shoulders, launched high into the air to land with a clatter beside the deactivated armor a moment later.

“That's amazing, the Liar's Paradox!” Twilight squealed. “Did you read that book on formal logic that I gave you?”

“Nope! It was hard, and there weren't any pictures showing examples. Miss Smarty Pants gave me some help in logic, because she said that you might like it if I had some logical background. And it was fun to see all the examples like all ducks are birds but not all birds are ducks. Hehehe. Ducks,” Pinkie said.

“Oh, I forgot. You need a basis and examples to learn the fundamentals. Sorry,” Twilight said sheepishly.

“It's okay! You do it because you love me and that makes me so happy,” Pinkie said with a smile.

Gâteau pushed her shoulder against the huge doors and started chanting ominously. Magical power surged through her body and her muscles briefly pulsed. Her strength magically pumped for the moment she pushed herself up against the doors again, and slowly forced the giant things open, allowing her entrance to the keep.

The gatehouse loomed over Gâteau's head as she passed through, swallowing her up in a strange, magical blackness. She made her way confidently through the dark, with a straight and sure step, each clop sounding once and then being lost in what sounded like an infinite emptiness.

One step saw her leg disappear past an indistinct barrier, and she threw herself forward, casting herself back into the harsh light of the wasteland, but inside the massive outer wall. She was inside a huge courtyard, with the main keep proper at the far end of the space. The ground was bare dirt covered in scraggly weeds and tufts of dead grass. Likely it had once been a lawn but neglect and indifference had turned it into a waste like that outside the walls.

There was, however, a great deal of greenery between Gâteau and the keep. A huge hedge stood before her, with an opening in it showing off more green within. From the looks of it, it was a hedge maze, and it extended quite a ways. “Well, Chewy... looks like it's going to be another giant hedge maze. That's the third one this year...”

Gâteau boldly galloped into the maze and pressed her left shoulder against the leafy wall. She dashed on and maintained her position, turning left over and over again. She noted that it wasn't a normal, solid-walled hedge maze, but had numerous breaks, where the leaves were gone and showed the bare, twisted trunks of the shrubs like prison bars, revealing other parts of the maze. There looked to be a central area with a kind of patio.

There were also topiary creations, giant representations of various animals that were depicted in various positions. Gâteau continued to dash along the maze, her strategy slowly but surely leading her towards the heart of the maze. “Looks like we're gonna...” Gâteau started to say, looking back at Chewy when she noticed one of the topiary rabbits shuddering and seeming to turn towards her.

There came a grumbling and a roar, all the topiary creations pulling their roots from the ground and turning on Gâteau, a wicked red light shining where their eyes would be. While rabbits, ducks and mice made out of shrubbery wouldn't normally be intimidating, but they were roaring wildly with wicked claws that looks like the claws of timberwolves, and leafy mouths full of thorny teeth.

Gâteau skidded to a halt and turned on the collection of animated topiary. She adjusted her wizard hat over her determined features and pointed a hoof at the running creatures. Mystical energy coursed through her body as she drew a magical sigil in the air and drew in a tremendous breath. The magical energy coursed through her and into her chest, glowing brightly for a moment. Her mouth opened and a wave for force rushed out as she screamed, “Ni!

The front-line topiary monsters screeched in shock and distress as the magical wave washed across them. They were instantly defoliated, branches and trunks standing like skeletons and trembling in the air. All the stricken figures slowly tilted over and fell heavily to the ground. Those that had not been affected continued to come forward, undeterred as they stepped over the leafy remains of their compatriots.

“Looks like we've gotta do this the hard way...” Gâteau said to Chewy, snorting and scraping the ground with a hoof. She charged over to the approaching deciduous beasts, charging a spell under her breath. Yellowish swirls of magical energy wrapped around her body, growing darker and darker as she ran.

Just a small distance from the nearest creature she dropped down and slid along on her wizard robe. She reached a hoof out and touched the root of each topiary monster, the dark yellow energy jolting off into the creatures. The roots withered, growing wizened and sere. The withering moved up each creature, the wood pulling tight, creaking and crackling as it pulled in and the leaves fell off. They shrieked mightily and the magical light went out in their eye-analogs as they fell, withered and twisted.

Gâteau huffed and leaped back up to her hooves, brushing the dust off of her wizard robe. “Earth pony magic. Growing good food and drying up bad plants, all at once. Guess it should be good from here on out, Chewy,” she said to her cragodile, returning to the path towards the center.

She finally found her way to the center of the maze, finding a large central space with a patio-like area made of the expected black stones shot with rusty red, filled with deep gouges and nicks, as well as numerous flaky, rusty stains. There were several ornate stone seats facing the patio, including one that was especially ornate, full of metal spikes, metal rings and inlaid dark gemstones. Chains hung off of it and a down pillow was laid on the seat.

Behind the patio and seating area was another cleared space of black stone. It went up in several tiers, forming a circle of steps onto what almost looked like a dais, topped with a simple, white wooden gazebo. The very sight of it sent Gâteau into a defensive stance, reaching into her pack to extract a staff that was a bit longer than the pack itself. The staff was made of what looked like wood and stone grown together, the head having a hook from which dangled a glowing magical gem.

Pinkie rolled a die and smiled brightly. “I did it! Surprise preparation!”

Twilight rolled herself and chuckled. “Well, your initiative was certainly good enough. But would Gâteau know to get herself ready like that?”

“Gâteau knows better than to be caught off guard. She knows there are enemies, thanks to the topiary monsters. So she'd be prepared,” Pinkie said.

“But this monster?” Twilight asked.

“She's heard the legends. Her background said she had learned about all kids of monsters,” Pinkie explained.

“Very well. You're on the defensive, and won't be taken by surprise, and can get in the first strike if you want. Decide what you'll do and then either roll for attack or move to a better position,” Twilight said.

Gâteau touched her chest and scribed a sigil on the ground, a glowing field spreading over her flesh. “I know you're there! Face me you coward!”

At first there was only a kind of heavy silence, then a low, rumbling growl shook the ground. A tremendous roar followed, the wooden beams of the gazebo groaning and whining as they trembled and moved. They pulled themselves out, the wooden railing around the thing stretching out to form rudimentary legs and arms, while two brass embellishments on the roof opened to reveal two evil eyes which glared down. The wooden floor split open to reveal nails that looked like a row of deadly teeth.

“This guy is nuts! He keeps a wild gazebo in his hedge maze patio! And he never bothered to clean up all that spilled punch on the floor over there. He'll attract insects. Wait... insects...” Gâteau mused. She barely managed to roll out of the way of a rapid attack by the gazebo, which made the magical field around her waver lightly.

The gazebo was slow and lumbering, attacking with its wooden arms and gnashing its nail teeth. The brass eyes also crackled with electricity, sending off lighting bolts every few strikes. Each attack missed, mostly, either hitting very near Gâteau or glancing off the magical field, which started to show cracks along the magical surface.

Through the assault Gâteau never retaliated. She merely spent her time dodging and digging through her enormous pack. She finally extracted what she had been seeking, a wooden plaque with a single, unassuming-looking bronze termite on it. She held the plaque aloft and gave an inarticulate shout, which caused the bronze termite to glow and vibrate. The power within it surged and crackled until it, and the plaque, exploded in a flash of magical light.

The gazebo shielded its eyes from the flash of light and resumed its attack, scoring a tremendous hit that cracked Gâteau's magical shield. Before another blow could be delivered there came the buzzing of thousands of wings. The sound reached something deep in the Gazebo and it turned suddenly, something like fear on its wooden features.

The sky was alive, nearly darkened by a swarm of termites. The winged terrors zipped down into the center of the hedge maze, drawn by the summoning and the sights of the gazebo's tasty wooden body. The limbs flailed and thrashed around, swatting dozens of termites at a time but missing more. The voracious little beasts chewed the body of the gazebo with a famished hunger.

The gazebo screamed and thrashed around, brushing its limbs over its body to try and sweep the vicious creatures off of its form. One particularly hard sweep cracked the weakened wood, the limb falling to the ground and falling victim to the jaws of the termites. The rest of the gazebo collapsed shortly after, the screams growing fainter and more stuttering until it finally went silent.

A short time later the termites flew off once again, leaving nothing by the brass eyes and the nail teeth. Gâteau picked up a brass eye and one of the nail teeth, stuffing them into her pack. “You never know when that might come in handy, or when we might need to trade for stuff,” she said to Chewy, before making her way out through into the other half of the maze.

She continued to use her technique of keeping her left shoulder to the maze wall, and emerged from it a moment later, fazing the high doors to the keep itself. The main building was as darkly imposing as the outer walls, looming like a black cloud over Gâteau's head. The doors were dark wood banded in rusted iron with small spikes protruding from the metal rivets holding the bands on. She pushed open the creaky doors and stepped into the keep.

The whole place was very drear, but had a kind of 'savage opulence' to it. The angular designs and severe architecture were joined by grand portraits of the Blood Prince in many powerful situations, mostly battle but also posing with great treasures or over defeated foes. Armor suits of many kinds stood around the main hall, along with many racks of exotic weapons, some of them looking quite well-used. Furniture was restricted to things made of wood and metal, designed for the sake of appearance and intimidation rather than comfort. Several doors were in evidence around the hall, including one at the top of a set of stairs.

“And here's where the magic happens, Chewy. The magic of... thinking about where the Arch-Magus might be. Let me see...” Gâteau tapped her chin before she pointed a hoof at a door then moved to another, brightly saying, “Pinky, inky, tinky, food, bake a cake and frost it good, it it flops then try again, pinky, inky, tinky, den!” Her hoof pointed to a large opening in the left wall, which seemed to have a vaguely downward slope.

Her hooves echoed on the stone floor as she made her way down the gentle incline. As she went she passed numerous objects that seemed to have no real significance but were displayed as though they were important, with stands and some plaques that she didn't stop to read. Glass goblets, a hooded robe, a soup bowl that smelled really bad and looked really dirty, a dusty, broken barrel. “This guy really needs to hire a decorator. It's not that his keep's ugly, there are junkier places. But all this stuff is weird and boring. And that soup bowl needs a wash,” she commented to Chewy.

The bottom of the incline showed off one last object on display, a waterlogged, warped but probably still-usable one-pony wooden wagon. It would have sufficed as a traveling home for a single pony or a small family. She peered at it as though seeking some recognition, but then shrugged and walked on into a darker area.

The area above had been lit by sunlight and magic gems. The area into which she walked was illuminated by blazing torches, which cast wavering, insufficient light. There was not much to see, however, just cramped passages and barred rooms. It looked to be a dungeon, filled with cells that were empty. The only things within were piles of straw, old buckets, empty bottles of wine, and the occasional scattering of nondescript bones. In one she found an unbroken, and full, bottle of mead, which she slipped into her pack, looking shiftily around as she did so.

She had almost reached the far side of the dungeon when a pleading voice called out, “Help! Please! I see you there! Please help me!”

Gâteau ran towards the sound of the voice, finding herself facing a cell that was not empty. Inside was a unicorn, wearing nothing but a pair of gold-rimmed pince-nez spectacles. She was a brilliant light purple, like the horizon just a moment after the sun sets, when the night sky is still light, with a mane and tail of a much darker purple, more akin to the sky on a bright night. She was standing with her hooves pressing on the bars of the door, seeming dirty and scuffed but not badly injured.

“Arch-Magus Gloaming, I presume,” Gâteau said, casting a critical eye over the unicorn. “If not, you're in a lot of trouble.”

“N-no, I am the Arch-Magus,” Gloaming said, rattling the bars of the cell. “Who are you? I thought the Royal Palace would send guards.”

“I'm Gâteau! Gâteau the Pink, gentlemare sorceress, professional baker, one-mare band performer, adventurer, story collector and single. My favorite color is pink, I enjoy parties, sweets, magical things and long walks in the country. I'm free later on this week once I do this rescue thing. Oh, wait, you're the one I'm rescuing! Silly me. So once we're done with this rescue thing want to go to dinner?”

“A-are you... are you... hitting on me now?” Gloaming asked, giving Gâteau an incredulous look.

“Well, um...” Gâteau said, suddenly losing some of her confident swagger and scraping her hooves. “Is it... working?”

Gloaming blushed a little bit and looked away some. “Well... it's making me feel a little better, to think that a very beautiful sorceress would take a liking to a boring scholar. And I'm a mess, too!”

“I think you look really pretty,” Gâteau said with a bright smile. “We all get a little dusty when we fight topiary and gazebos.”

“But what about the royal guards?” Gloaming asked. “Shouldn't they be searching for me?”

“They're looking, but the Blood Prince created a lot of chaos when he took you. And he did it in secret before the big reveal. They had no clues and had to spread themselves out thin. They offered a reward and brought in adventurers like me to find you. I caught the trail, and followed it right here to you,” Gâteau said, with a smile and a small air-kiss towards Gloaming.

Gloaming blushed again and giggled softly. She then slipped down from the bars and stepped away. “You have to get me out of here, please! Pick the lock and help me get out.”

“Or...” Gâteau turned around and suddenly thew a powerful kick at the lock, her earth pony strength shattering the old, neglected metal and causing the door to loudly squeak open. “I could do that. So... why does the Blood Prince want you, anyhow?”

“He never explained it to me but... he... he said he'll keep me for one hundred and twenty days!” Gloaming wailed.

“Well that's not so bad at all, at least you know,” Gâteau said.

“And then... he will...” Gloaming leaned in to softly whisper to Gâteau, whose eyes started to go wide.

“Ummm... Twilight? You say you're supposed to whisper but... you're not whispering,” Pinkie said.

“Yes... well, see... the text says they want me to invent a long string of terrible happenings, and they even offer suggestions, then end it with, 'and wear my skin like a coat.' But... no. Just no. That's not happening,” Twilight said firmly.

“What kind of suggestions do they give you? I can figure out a reaction from that,” Pinkie said.

“They recommend something like, 'He will put me in a barrel of wine and seal off the opening' or 'He will lock me in a small room without sanitary facilities and feed me copious amounts of food,'” Twilight recited.

Pinkie gagged softly and nodded her head. “I can barely deal with having to use an outhouse, and I only do so in a real emergency. That sounds horrible. But now I know.”

Gâteau gagged a bit and turned away with a shudder. “That's terrible! And he took you just so he could do that? Well he sounds completely loco in the coco!”

“How dare you?!” A booming voice cried from the far side of the dungeon.

“Oh no! It's him!” Gloaming cried, grabbing onto Gâteau's flank and hiding herself. The action made the sorceress smile proudly and brush a hoof on her chest.

“A mere earth pony daring to speak to me in such a manner? How disgusting!” The owner of the voice came into view, a blood-red unicorn stallion with a black mane. He wore a tuxedo jacket that looked to be made of pony skin, and was covered in dried blood that stood out like rusty scales on his form.

“Really?” Pinkie asked in a deadpan tone.

“It's in the book, I didn't write it. I know we know that Prince Blueblood isn't a bigot or a killer. But think of it like this, this isn't Blueblood in any sense. He's an evil monster that is nothing at all like any pony we know, so don't keep comparing the two. It's pretty clear the Blood Prince wouldn't marry a donkey, least of all a palace maid, so... just keep that in mind,” Twilight said.

“You impudent little dirt pony! You date to presume to wear the trappings of a magic-user? Magic is for unicorns and none else!” the Prince screamed.

“That's not true at all! All creatures have magic, all can use it in some form, and all can be taught to use particular forms of magic,” Gloaming said from behind Gâteau.

Gâteau looked at the Prince for a moment before she broke out into a fit of high-pitched giggles. The look on the Prince's face, which had been sour before, turned downright curdled as he was laughed at. “You! Why are you laughing? How can you laugh at a model of pony perfection? I am mighty, and you will respect me!”

Gâteau laughed on for a bit longer before she wiped a tear from her eyes. “I'm sorry! But your face... your face is hilarious! And you're so serious! Look how grim you look and how much you're yelling.”

“You... you are not merely impudent but you are ignorant! You know nothing of the look and bearing of a superior, of perfection! That is I! It is why my word is law and my dictates always right. It is why I have taken the Arch-Magus. This treasonous mare betrayed all of unicorn-kind and must pay for her transgression in the manner I demand,” The Prince asserted strongly.

“Well... what did she do? She seems to pretty... I mean, too kind and sweet and adorable... I mean, too good to do something that bad,” Gâteau said, a blush coloring her cheeks.

“She has done evil against us all. She has collected spells that could be used by other races, and promised to teach them. She would be handing power to lessers, to inferiors, to nothings! Powerful magic, in the hold of pieces of dirt. Disgusting and contrary to nature,” The Prince snarled.

“Ummm... how is that?” Gâteau asked. “I've always had magic. It's how we grow food and stuff...”

“Bah! Petty tricks! Useful, fumbling club-hoofed outpouring of magical force that unicorns may exploit for glory! Real magic, powerful magic must be the domain of unicorns. If unicorns lose control of their exclusive magics they lose their hold on power. If they lose their hold on power the dirt-races and filthy lesser species will rise. If they have no awe of unicorns they have no need for the iron hoof of the absolute nobility,” The Prince explained.

Gâteau looked on the Prince with great incredulity, as though he had started speaking a foreign language. “Um... unicorns haven't ever ruled like that. And the nobility was always kind of overpowered. We have free elections for things, and nobles can have their titles taken away for being really mean.”

The Prince received the news with spluttering and stammering, his outrage robbing him of the ability to speak. Gloaming stood up and whispered to Gâteau, “One of his rages; he is known for fits of pique. We need to distract him and escape.”

Gâteau reached into her pack and dug around for a little bit. When she found what she wanted she gripped it firmly then pulled one of the small pouches from her attire. She flung the contents of the pouch at the Prince's face and then yanked a broom from her pack and rammed the sweeping end into the Prince's stunned features. “Tap sand! Broom in the face!”

The Prince's frustrated, pained and outraged screams formed the background sound for the escape of the two mares. “He sealed off much of my power but I can teach you one spell, a very advanced spell for your race! We need something to help us escape because...”

“You dare?!” The Prince roared. Magic surged through his horn and crackled over his body. His savage, blood-spattered form swelled and grew, pressing against the dungeon cages and the roof. He loomed grandly and released a tremendous roar.

Gâteau led Gloaming out of the dungeon and was about to get her up the incline when the wagon caught her eye. “Wait! If you get in there I can pull you! Being an earth pony has lots of advantages.”

“Then I know the spell,” Gloaming said, leaning down to touch her horn against Gâteau's head, a wave of powerful magic passing through to her. “The Iron Chariot spell. Immediate activation once you focus on the power. I'll teach you the process properly later on. Once you hitch yourself up you cast it and it will protect the wagon and you from many obstacles and give you increased stamina and pulling strength.”

Gâteau got herself into position and began to secure herself to the waterlogged wagon, first throwing her pack onto the wagon. She made sure the straps were tight, while giving Gloaming time to get in. “Everyone ready? Cute Arch-Magus? Chewy?” The Prince's angry roar got the attention of both mares and forced Gâteau to concentrate. “Hope so! Here we go!” Magic surged through her body, wrapping her and the wagon in a glowing field of crackling magic.

“No! That is a disgusting aberration against nature!” The Prince roared, crashing through the dungeon entrance, body grossly swollen and distorted, his face twisted in rage.

Gâteau threw herself into the straps and pulled, shocked by the ease with which she drew along the rather junky wagon. It seemed to weight nothing and she ran with magnificent ease, even though the wheels were warped and rusted. She still wobbled it as she went up the incline, knocking over every item on display and destroying them as she passed.

She pulled a hard and seamless turn at the top of the incline, aimed for the entrance to the keep. The doors slammed in her face but she had a full head of steam and couldn't stop. She rammed into the doors and bashed the iron-banded wood to pieces. “Whee! I love this spell!”

“Careful! The potency decreases the more obstacles you destroy and the farther you run!” Gloaming shouted. She then screamed as the keep practically exploded, the giant form of the Prince screaming in rage. “We need to stop him but my magic is still locked!”

“You will not flee from me!” The Prince screamed. His magic surged, the very land seeming to warp. The hedge maze pulled itself farther and farther, stretching higher and longer and wider, the walls of the keep similarly flowing out of sight. The shrubbery grew spinier, becoming wrapped with rose vines. “I will teach you the painful price of insolence!”

“Throw Chewy!” Gâteau yelled, crashing through the far side of the hedge maze, hammering her way through the walls.

“Throw what?” Gloaming asked.

“My familiar, Chewy!” Gâteau replied. The little cragodile was sitting on the wagon beside the pack, looking bland as things crashed around him.

“O-okay...” Gloaming said. She was uncertain what the placid thing could do but had some faith in her rescuer. She picked up the small, stony creature in her hoof and heaved him with all her might towards the huge form of the Prince.

Chewy slapped onto the Prince's face and clung. For a moment nothing seemed to happen, besides another out-of-synch blink. Then he turned into a furious whirlwind of stony vengeance. His rocky claws ripped at the giant stallion's face, while his heavy tail whipped around and battered at the flesh all around him, his rough and sandpapery skin grinding away at him.

The Prince roared tremendously, and shook his head, attempting to dislodge the angry, attacking creature. His magic flashed but he was too distracted to target him. A lot of his magic started to waver.

“I'm getting some power back!” Gloaming called.

“Reach into my pack and pull out the Herring of Doubt!” Gâteau called, gamely ramming her way through the walls of the expanded hedge maze, not even noticing.

“What?! You have the Herring of Doubt?! Where did you get the Herring of Doubt?!” Gloaming asked, while digging through the pack, which seemed a lot deeper than it should have been.

“I found it in a random store! The price was surprisingly reasonable for a legendary artifact. If you have enough magic back, use it!” Gâteau shouted.

Gloaming finally found the artifact and extracted it from the pack. It was a flat piece of red metal, in the shape of a herring and painted like one as well. She wrapped it in an aura of magic, which just barely seemed to hold the heavy-seeming metal. She let out a cry as she hurled the metal fish like a boomerang, guiding the spinning fish up towards the Prince's head.

The Herring of Doubt cleanly sheared through the base of the Prince's horn, doing the job the legends described. With a blast of magic and a rippling aftermath the horn fell to the ground and the Herring flew off towards the keep. “The Herring!” Gloaming cried.

“Leave it! How else to legendary magical artifacts get into random ruins and tombs? Someone has to use them and leave them behind!” Gâteau called back.

“No! My only source of pride and what made me special and mighty!” The Prince wailed. He threw his head one last time and cried out pitifully. His body crackled with dark magic as he shrank, twisting and writhing in agony. One flick of his head threw Chewy off and flung him back onto the wagon, right back in the place he had been before.

The shrinking prince was rapidly left behind as Gâteau pushed her way through the last of the hedge maze. She rushed her way into the gatehouse, finding only a dusty arch rather than the unnatural darkness she had found before. Once she was out the front gate the ground started to shake and there came a tremendous rumbling, like an avalanche.

Gâteau finally stopped running skidding to a halt as her Iron Chariot spell finally faltered and vanished with a flash. She turned to look at the imposing, evil keep which shuddered and trembled. The stones cracked, clouds of dust flying into the air. The loose stones fell to the ground in a rumbling cascade, leaving the imposing symbol of wickedness nothing more than a pathetic pile of black stone.

Gloaming came down from the wagon with a slow, trembling step, looking at the keep with disbelief. “Y-you did it! You saved me, and you rid the world of the Blood Prince! That was amazing!”

Gâteau detached herself from the wagon and posed rather proudly. “Thanks! I owe it all to Chewy, intensive study and being born with amazing powers.”

Gloaming laughed lightly and slowly approached Gâteau. “You know... umm, we don't need to go back right away...”

Gâteau smiled brightly, and nodded to Chewy. “Best death-keep ever!”

- - -

“And I think we should stop there!” Twilight cried suddenly. She knocked around a few bottles of soda as she slapped the book shut.

“Awww, but why? We were just going to get good. I'll bet that Arch-Magus knows a spell to turn the wagon into a bed!” Pinkie said happily.

“Y-yes... I would imagine so. That's why I think this would be more appropriate to continue in bed. We don't need to roll dice for... what Gloaming and Gâteau are going to do,” Twilight said with a blush.

“You mean have lots of yummy sex?” Pinkie ask, with characteristic bluntness.

“Er, yes. That. And really... it's more fun when we can lie down, and enjoy our... roleplaying,” Twilight said, with an attempt at a seductive tone and look.

Pinkie held up a paper with an '8' drawn on it. “You're trying too hard, but you're cute so I can't give you a low score.”

“Now now, I've been through school. I take the grades I earn and accept the scores on any test,” Twilight said.

“Awww, but I want you to be happy,” Pinkie said, getting up and snuggling with Twilight.

Twilight sighed happily and kissed at Pinkie's ear. “I'll let Spike have the library to himself. I like your room a lot, though the greatest portion of that is because you're there.”

Pinkie pulled up another paper, with a '10' drawn on it. “From the heart. Now that I can really love.”

Twilight used her horn to gather up the objects in the room, putting away dice, stacking books and papers, and arranging dirty dishes. “I shouldn't have started, we need to clean up. The Cakes are already being generous.”

Pinkie released Twilight and started zipping around the room, sweeping the crumbs and such from the food. “Two ponies make light work.”

Twilight smiled brightly, levitating the dirty dishes and empty bottles, while stuffing the trash into a trash bag she had brought with her. “I'll put these in the dish-washing area, then come back to help you.”

“I'll be done by then! You can take your books and things upstairs,” Pinkie said cheerfully, already done with most of the room.

“At least let me help you with the leftovers,” Twilight laughed. “I want to help.”

“And that's why you'll always be my special somepony,” Pinkie said with a smile.

Twilight blushed again and made her way into the kitchen area. It had been another brilliantly successful night of Catacombs and Creatures. She could hardly wait for the next game, since they tended to end in a similar fashion every time.