CHAPTER 12: Disturbance
The part of the town they first entered seemed rather desolate, with only the wind and the light snowfall to greet them. It was better this way, Twilight decided. They'd be able to get a feel for the ponies living here and how to deal with them at a distance.
As they progressed further in the city, several ponies passed them by without a word or even a second glance. Unlike in Ponyville, where everypony was open and friendly, these ponies seemed cold and withdrawn.
“What are we looking for, exactly?” asked Applejack.
“Somepony to talk to, who looks like they know what's going on. Or at the very least looks like they'd be okay with talking to us.”
Her ears pricked at a distant clanging. The others shrugged. It was as good of a place to go as any other. Once they got closer, they saw that the noise was coming from a blacksmith's shop, where a white unicorn was bustling around with the superheated metal.
“Just a moment,” came the gruff reply. The red-hot metal piece dipped into a bucket that had ice chunks floating in it, which melted almost immediately, steam rising into the air with a sharp hiss.
The unicorn turned around, wiping sweat from her forehead onto her apron, which was as black from the soot and grime as the snow was white. Her mane was a royal purple, but was pulled back in a messy clump and so streaked with ashes you almost couldn't tell. “Whaddya want?”
“We were wondering where to get some information about the surrounding area.”
“It depends on what you want to know. Information isn't cheap.” She held out a hoof.
Twilight raised a brow. “You want... payment?”
“Well of course. You're taking time out of my work schedule, which I could be using to make money. I'll give you everything you need, but you'll have to pay me first.”
Twilight sighed. “Listen, we just got here, and I don't have any mone- no wait, maybe I do.” She turned to her saddlebag and pulled out four bits. “Will these do?”
The blacksmith picked up the coins, looking them over. “Looks like real gold. But these aren't spurs...”
“The local currency. Since you're obviously foreign, tell you what. I'll help you exchange your money. Any more of those?”
Twilight pulled out six more bits. She usually carried about ten around in case she ever wanted to splurge on the go.
“Alright, I'll take four of these as payment, for both the exchange and the information. The rest, based on the current value of gold should come out to about twelve spurs.”
The smith handed Twilight the coins, pocketing the bits.
“If it's general knowledge you're looking for, you'll probably want to head down to the pub. It's down that way. Somebody down there can help you. Tell them I sent you and they'll help you with anything.” The unicorn craned her neck, looking past Twilight. “Miss Pin- hmm? Oh, sorry, I guess I thought you were somebody else.” Twilight turned around, Pinkie still straight haired and seemingly disinterested. She turned to Twilight, and gave a slight smile.
“I have one of those familiar faces, you know? Makes it easier for me to make friends.” Pinkie batted her eyelids to make her point.
“I suppose...” said Twilight, still unconvinced. She turned back to the blacksmith. “I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?”
“I didn't. You didn't ask, nor have you introduced yourselves.”
“Um, we're just travelers passing by.”
“Travelers? We don't get those very often, with the current political situation.”
“Current political situation?”
The blacksmith stared at them like they were crazy. “Geez, how have you made it this far? The kingdom's in complete disarray. Each city has declared its independence as a city-state, and there are constant border clashes. To say nothing of the scumbag griffons constantly harassing the border cities, which we have the distinct dishonor of being amongst. Been good for business though, I can't deny that.”
“Where did you come from? Do you know anything? A smith's main money is made in weapons. Sure, some have those firearms, but they can't be mass-produced without shared commerce between cities. People want blades, and I can't blame them.”
Twilight decided to play along, thinking she didn't want to bring any further attention to the group than had already been paid. “Ah, of course. So, about that name?”
“Temperament. Best smithy in town. Well, the only smithy in town but my products beat anything any of the other cities can come up with. If you need armor, weapons, repairs, anything, come to me. I'll do it all. For a price, of course. I even work in enchanted metal, but that's a little more expensive, but hey, it's extra labor.”
“I'll definitely keep it in mind. Thanks for your help, Temperament.”
“No need to get personal.” Temperament turned away and began to work on the metal again. As she did, Twilight caught a glimpse of her cutie mark. Three very familiar diamonds. After raising a brow, Twilight trotted away, her friends following after her.
“Alright, so we need to find this 'pub.' So, look at the shop signs, I suppose.”
This part of Moon Pool was much more active than the outskirts had been, but little more attention was given. In one alleyway, Fluttershy noticed a bone-thin dog. “Oh, come here you poor thing. Have your owners not been treating you right?”
The dog gave Fluttershy a doleful glance, and slunk off into the shadows.
“Don't be afraid, it's alright.” She stepped closer and closer, cooing softly. The dog began to growl in return.
“What? Oh no no no, I'm here to help. Sssh, it's okay.”
The dog let out a bark and darted forward, snapping at Fluttershy's outstretched hoof. The yellow pegasus squealed in fright, and leaped into the air, her wings catching her fall. The mutt turned tail and ran down another alleyway, and out of their sight.
“Wait! Come back!”
“Fluttershy! Leave it alone!”
“But no creature's ever turned down my help before! And I haven't seen one who needed my help so badly in such a long time!”
“Your heart is in the right place, but we just don't have time for it right now. Perhaps on our way back.”
“But I... that didn't feel right.”
“I'm sorry, but we have to be more worried about Luna than a grumpy dog.”
Fluttershy gave one last, sad glance down the dark alley. “Okay Twilight.”
“I found the pub!” called Pinkie Pie.
The building was larger than most of the others, and chatter and clattering could be heard from inside. The sign near the front door was emblazoned with a picture of a tankard, with white lettering that said, simply enough, 'Moon Pool Pub.'
“Looks a lot like the Salt Lick in Appleoosa. Do we knock, or just walk in?”asked Applejack.
In answer to her question, one of the townsfolk pushed through their group, opened the door and stepped inside.
“Hmph. How uncouth, he didn't even say excuse me.”
“We don't know what he's been through Rarity,” reminded Applejack. “Maybe he had a tough day.”
“I suppose that would explain it, but it doesn't excuse it.”
“Let's just get inside, shall we?”
The friends stepped inside, Spike jumping off of Twilight's back as she shook the snow off her cloak. They were greeted by the warmth of a fire off in the corner, the smell of fresh food, and some strong odor that Twilight couldn't quite place.
“Shut the door, would ya? You're letting out the heat.” The pony behind the counter pointedly looked at Rainbow Dash, who was closest to the door. She shut it quickly.
Twilight stepped forward to the counter, which had a few shady characters sipping out of tankards. Most of the patrons were at the tables scattered around the room, speaking quietly as if afraid anypony would overhear them.
“So, what do you want to drink?”
“Actually, we're here for information, we've been sent by Temperament.”
The bartender's ears perked up. “Oh, you're one of those ponies, eh? What do you want to know?”
“We're looking for a friend.”
“Aren't we all? Well, anyone in particular?”
“Well, they've been kidnapped, by a shadowy creature called the Metaspectre.”
“The Metaspectre, eh? Hmm... I can't say I've heard of it. But if you're looking for shadowy creatures with shadowy dealings, you'll want to talk to Spectral Slash. She's over there.” The bartender pointed to an empty table in the corner.
“Uh... the table's empty.”
“Heh, that's just what she wants you to think. Look harder.”
Twilight focused, and a pegasus melted out of the shadows. She was slumped over onto the table and seemed to be asleep, hoof still in the handle of her drink.
“Oh. Thank you very much sir.”
“You can thank me by buying a drink.”
Twilight frowned. “Fine, what is there?”
“We have cider, beer, straight up vodka, ale... you name it. None of that fancy prissy stuff though.”
“I'll take the cider, I suppose.” Having never heard of any of the others, she thought it was safe to go with what she knew.
“Good choice. Half a spur for the drink, though I suppose I could cut you a deal and say two for you and your six friends since it's your first time here.”
Twilight pulled out two of the spurs she had acquired out of her saddlebags. She held them out for the bartender.
The bartender turned them over, inspecting every inch. “You look foreign. And you said you were sent by Temperament? Heh. What'd you pay for these?”
“Um, currency from my land. Each coin is an ounce of gold. She gave us twelve 'spurs' for six.”
The bartender gave a chuckle. “Just like Temperament, taking advantage of the new ones... You got scammed. Not as terribly as usual though, so she must have taken pity on you. No denying she's good at what she does but she'll stoop to any level to get a bit more cash.”
Twilight groaned. Just her luck, to run into a scammer in the first five minutes in this town.
“Sorry kid. She does give good info though. This is exactly where you want to be, and Slash will know exactly how to help you. It was cider, right?”
He scooped up two of the spurs and threw them into the register, and began filling seven tankards. “Here you are.”
Twilight levitated the drinks telekinetically, and walked over to the table where this 'Spectral Slash' was sitting, dodging chairs and other patrons along the way. Their target was wearing a tactical suit similar to the one Twilight had worn when she unneedingly infiltrated the Canterlot Library for the time travel scroll. Spectral Slash, however, was wearing a utility belt and some sort of goggles on her head, her face obscured by the table and a hood.
The group gathered around the table. “Hello?”
“Excuse me, Spectral Slash?”
A light snore met her words.
“Um, maybe we should come back later...” suggested Fluttershy.
Rainbow, never one to be kept waiting, jumped onto the table. “Hey! What's your deal? How can you even sleep in this noise?” She reached out and tapped the apparently lifeless pony.
Faster than she could believe, Rainbow was thrown onto a neighboring table, spilling tankards and launching food in the air, much to the indignation and protest of their owners. Dash felt the cold metal of a knife at her throat. Suddenly she realized what those crossed knives on the wall could mean. Death.