• Published 18th Mar 2012
  • 21,478 Views, 622 Comments

Whip and Wing - Fernin

Daring Do & Indiana Jones battle each others' enemies in a race to save their worlds and themselves.

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Ch 4: Theft

Daring Do yelped in surprise as Brooks roughly snatched her up and lurched into motion. Swearing up a storm—at least, Daring assumed they were curses from his tone and the way he kept repeating himself—the man sprinted back down the hall towards her room. Behind them she could hear Jägermeister’s shouts and the sounds of his minions pounding up the stairs.

As soon as they were through the door, Daring struggled free. “Let go!”

“Sorry… But help me here, quick!” Brooks wasted very little breath on apologies as he locked and barred the door and started shoving furniture in front of it. The much smaller pegasus helped as best she could, shoving at the room’s chair and helping the cartographer drag a heavy chest into place. The door and makeshift barricade shook a bit under heavy blows by the thugs on the other side, but held firm.

With a grin, Richard Brooks dusted off his hands. “Well, that should hold them for a—”

The report of the rifle was positively ear shattering inside the confines of the inn. A ragged, splintered hole had been blown through the door at about Brooks’ chest level. The horrified man stared at the spot with a sort of dazed frown on his face. If he’d been standing a bit to one side…

On the far side of the door, a second shot rang out, this time followed by a groan and the sound of a collapsing body. Hans Jägermeister snarled, “Nein, Holzköpfe, I want them alive! The rest of you, break down that door! NOW!”

Leaning heavily against the barricade, Brooks grunted with every blow made by the brown-robed mercenaries trying to break in. “I’m sorry, Ms. Do. Indy usually—umph!—handles things like this, not me… You need—uh!—to get out of here, quickly!”

“But… what about you?” Daring asked worriedly. The shuttered window did look attractive, that was true… but the pegasus had never left an ally in the lurch.

“You’re—umph!—more important than I, Daring,” the cartographer said hurriedly, his entire body shaking with the effort of holding back their enemies. “You can fly, and you have—umph!—the Medallion of Light!”

Daring Do’s eyes widened. “How did you know that?!”

“I saw—umph!—you put it in your hat when I came in… I can understand—uh!—why you didn’t trust me, but trust me now! We can meet up later! You need to get out of here,” Richard snapped. Sweat was dripping down his face as he strained to hold up under the increasingly heavy blows. Some of the wood around the doorframe was starting to crack.

“But I can carry you! Well, a little ways at least!” the guilty mare protested, ears drooping. And here she hadn’t trusted Brooks.

“Then—umph!—who would hold the door? The free world depends on it!" Brooks grinned for a moment, but his levity quickly faded with the sound of more mercenaries pounding up the stairs. The door shook harder with every blow.

"If I survive, you can—uh!—meet me near Kisaba! The town—umph!—south of here, on the plateau! Just follow the river… But stay hidden! Go!” with that last shout, Brooks turned and put all his weight into holding up the pile of furniture that made up the hasty barricade. A spot in the middle of the door exploded into splinters as a rifle butt crashed into it and broke partway through.

Leaping onto the bed and to the window, Daring Do crashed through the shutters and took flight. A few of the Nazi’s mercenaries fired at her from the ground, but the hasty efforts were wasted. By the time the door finally gave way and the brown-robed guards piled into the room the pegasus was long gone, out of sight over the nearest mountain ridge.

Brooks tasted blood. The final death throes of his barricade had sent him sprawling across the floor. He started to pick himself up, but the prodding of a rifle muzzle in his back kept him down. The cartographer stayed where he was and listened to the measured tread of footsteps approaching at a slow, regular cadence.

A pair of well-polished jackboots filled Richard Brooks’ field of view. He raised his head to peer up at Hans Jägermeister’s serene and beatific face. The Nazi bent down to the cartographer, still smiling. “Why, Herr Brooks! ‘Hi there,’ as I believe you Americans like to say. So nice to see you again…”

* * *

Indiana Jones soared through the sky, banking around a towering cumulonimbus cloud and zooming over small white puffs of cumulus. He’d always liked dreams like this one, where the ground was rolled out below him like a beautiful brown and green patchwork quilt. The freedom of flight was more liberating than almost anything else… even traveling the globe.

The archeologist caught sight of a densely clustered city of white marble, pushing up narrow towers into the sky from its precarious perch on the edge of a high-peaked mountain. There it was… Canterlot. With luck, that was where Indy would find what he sought.

Rather than dip down now and let the gradual drop in altitude bring him gently to the city gates, Indiana continued on, enjoying the bracing cold of the near-stratospheric altitudes at which he cruised. Just when he had nearly entered Canterlot’s airspace the archeologist angled down sharply, diving straight for the narrow strip of stone that was the bridge into the city. Wind whipped past his face so quickly that Doctor Jones had to hold his pith helmet on with one hand or risk losing it.

The two gate guards looked up, sunlight glinting off their golden armor as they heard the growing roar of Indy’s rapid approach. At the last possible moment he slowed, sending up a great cloud of dust as he landed lightly on the road. The archeologist trotted forward, chuckling inwardly at the discomfiture of Princess Celestia’s royal guards. “Afternoon, gentlecolts.”

One of the white-pelted pegasus ponies glared in response to Indiana’s cheeky grin. His armor glittered just that little bit more than was normal even in the spit-and-polish royal guards of Equestria’s capital city as he raised one wing to bar the archeologist’s way. “Look, you can’t just do that! You just about entered Canterlot airspace in direct violation of the—”

“Quiet, Private,” interrupted the older and more experienced guard before the enthusiastic colt got himself into trouble.

“But—” The younger guard started to protest, but a quick glare from his sergeant silenced the pegasus. With a sheepish look, the guard private lowered his wing and returned to staring blankly into the distance.

Turning back to Indy, the guard sergeant nodded politely. “Please, go right in. It’s not every day we meet a famous adventurer.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Indiana said, grin widening as he continued on past the two guards and into Canterlot proper. Good. At least somepony around here knew who he was. He’d worried that being away so long would make these boring city dwellers forget the greatest treasure hunter in Equestria… The archeologist’s thoughts trailed off with a sense of vague bemusement. The greatest treasure hunter in where, again? And hadn’t he always hated that term?

The streets of Canterlot were bustling as usual, filled with unicorns and the occasional pegasus. There were even a few earth ponies, though that last group mostly kept their heads down and worked hard, doing the chores that were necessary yet too boring or demeaning for the upper crust elites to do for themselves. Indiana snorted. It was even worse here than in Cloudsdale… wherever that was.

A steady climb through the city finally brought Indiana to his goal: the Great Library of Canterlot. The tall edifice seemed almost as impressive as Princess Celestia’s palace itself, looming forbiddingly over the city. Stone ponies, griffins, and dragons glared down as the archeologist approached, watching him silently as if to judge his worthiness to enter. Indiana Jones paid them no mind. Instead, his unhurried gait became an excited canter as he nearly sprinted up to the doors and slipped inside.

The great library’s entrance area was like the nave of a massive cathedral, its high and vaulted ceiling dwarfing Indiana as he walked up to the reception desk. When he tipped his helmet politely to the dark blue unicorn waiting there, she nodded in acknowledgement and went back to reading. Indy waited. After a moment the mare’s eyes widened and she looked back up, shocked recognition written across her face. “Oh wow, it’s you! We got your letter a little earlier this week… Did you really fly all the way here from Dragonia in just two days?!”

“Sure did. You won’t find many faster than these babies,” Indiana replied smugly. He glanced back proudly at his outspread… hmm. There was nothing there. For some reason he’d been expecting wings. Well, no matter. He had bigger concerns in mind. “All right. I was told you had some books I was looking for, Ms..?”

“Oh, call me Midnight, please,” the unicorn simpered. It seemed Indy had a fan. “And yes, they’re right this way, if you’ll follow me…”

A short time later Indiana was eagerly blowing dust from the ancient tomes and pouring over their contents. This felt oddly comforting… almost familiar to Indy in a way that the rest of his strange dream was not. Doing research in a library seemed natural, but everything else? Something was subtly wrong.

Trying to focus on the task at hand, Doctor Jones skimmed through the pages of a book on ancient religions of the Ridgeback Mountains. Marking the page, he turned to another—a catalogue of magical artifacts. He stared down at the two books, comparing the entries for… what were they called again? The ‘Medallions of Day and Darkness..?’ Ah, here they were: the ‘Medallions of Light and Shadow.’

Indiana sucked air nervously between his teeth and read the pages again. This must be what Ahuizotl was planning. The ability to ‘walk the worlds with but a single step’ sounded powerful, even without the added and less frequent tales of demon summoning. With the means to teleport anywhere he wanted to go, the weird ape-dog creature would be just that much more difficult to stop. The archeologist shuddered to think of what his most persistent enemy could do with the twin medallions. Nopony’s relics would be safe. No components for the beast’s evil spells would be beyond his reach. Indy doubted that the artifacts were an end in themselves, but as a means to an end…

More books allowed Doctor Jones to dig up even more proof of his original assumption. Ahuizotl’s minions were probably already on their way to the Ridgebacks, eager to find the Temple of Shadow and retrieve the Medallion of Shadow to support their master’s latest schemes. It was just too bad that Indy’s informant hadn’t known more about their mutual enemy’s search for the Medallion of Light. Still, some information was better than none and the archeologist could only be in one place at a time no matter how fast he might be.

Indy thanked Celestia that he’d found that less-than-completely-loyal henchman hiding out in Dragonia. The poor creature had been on his last legs after the punishment he’d received at Ahuizotl’s claws… but he’d showed no sign of the pain as he eagerly told Indiana all that he knew about his former employer’s plans. It hadn’t been much, but at least—

The sound of hoofsteps behind Indiana Jones jolted the engrossed reader out of his thoughts and sent him whirling, hands up to receive an attack. He blinked. “Oh… Midnight. It’s you.”

“Can I get you anything? You’ve been reading in here for hours, so I thought I’d, um, see if there was anything I can help you with…” The blue-pelted mare tossed a bit of errant mane out of her eyes. Yes, Indiana could definitely see that he had a fan.

Doctor Jones chuckled and shook his head. “No, thank you. You’ve been very hospitable. But is there something I can help you with?”

When Midnight’s eyes sparkled with excitement, Indiana could see he’d guessed correctly. She nearly tripped over her own hooves, rushing forward until the archeologist and unicorn were but a short distance apart. The librarian bit her lip for a moment but finally drummed up the courage to ask, “Well… I’ve always wondered. Why do you travel all over the world? Why fight horrible creatures like Ahuizotl and crawl through dungeon after dungeon in search of dusty old magical trinkets?”

“Why?” Indiana shrugged. He wanted to explain the high calling of archeology, the need to preserve the relics of the past for the education of the future. He thought about describing the criminal behavior of treasure hunters, destroying priceless evidence of history for personal gain… But what he found himself saying was, “Because it’s fun!”

“‘Fun?’” repeated Midnight, echoing Indiana’s own incredulous thought.

“Yeah, fun! I’ve always had a taste for adventure. It’s a win-win situation for me. I get out of stuffy places like Canterlot and Cloudsdale and get to see the world,” Indiana enthused, his mouth moving entirely at odds with his own mental processes. “I can kick Ahuizotl’s freaky-tailed behind and see the way the world was before we ponies came in and made everything so…”

“So..?” the librarian prompted.

“So orderly,” finished Doctor Jones, making the word sound like a curse.

“But… what about the higher calling of archeology? What about preserving our past for future generations?” The astonished mare couldn’t quite let go of the idea that her hero was just in it for laughs. Neither, honestly, could Indy.

Indiana found himself shrugging again. “Yeah, that’s good too… but the adventure’s the best part. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Besides, what kind of answer did you expect out of a pegasus named ‘Daring Do?’ I—”

Indiana Jones tumbled out of his dream and almost off his too-small mattress as the sound of shouting and urgent struggles dragged him back to consciousness. In an instant he was wide awake, straining to see in the near complete darkness of his room. Furniture clattered in the middle of the floor as something kicked the chair, sending it against an unseen wall.

Something swung out of the darkness and crashed into Indy’s jaw, knocking his head back. It felt like he’d just been hit in the face with a mallet. With the white sparkles of pain the only light he could see, Indiana kicked out with both feet. His heels struck something meaty. It went tumbling with a surprised shout. Pressing his attack, the archeologist dove forward, hands outstretched to grapple with his unseen opponents.

Touch, hearing, and smell were the only senses available to Indiana as he wrestled something furred and muscular to the floor. With a grunt of anger it wrenched itself free. A blunt object slammed into the archeologist’s side. Before the attacker could draw it back for another try, Indy grabbed the weapon in a crushing grip and twisted, trying to wrench it out of his assailant’s grasp. The weapon felt oddly soft and fragile under his grasp, and his opponent screamed in anguish.

As if on cue, the door burst open. A shimmering, silvery glow seemed to bathe the world in light, and the surprised archeologist found himself rising into the air with his limbs immobilized by a nebulous cloud of tingling nothingness. Beside him floated a groaning pegasus and some sort of dog creature. In the doorway stood a unicorn, the horn on his head shining brilliantly and spitting out sparks like a flare. The newcomer spoke first, his voice a clipped British accent somewhat blurred by sleepiness. “I say! What are you three doing at this time of the morning?!”

“I’d like to know the same thing. This is my room,” Indiana retorted, glancing down at the floor that was still several feet away in defiance of all natural laws. He looked up again to see the glow surrounding him mirrored on the horn of the unicorn. A unicorn. A god-damned unicorn. What was next, a—no, he’d thought that before about unicorns after the pegasus, and look what had happened. It was as if someone up there was mocking him.

“Oh. Quite.” After an awkward silence, the unicorn nodded his head slightly and Indy found himself lowered until his feet touched the wooden planks of the floor. Solid ground had never felt so good. Abruptly, the silvered nimbus around Doctor Jones winked out. The other two combatants, however, remained glowing and airborne.

“Now. The… unicorn… asked you a question,” Indiana growled, glaring at the floating creatures.

Looking at the two, Doctor Jones realized he had seen the pegasus before. The red-pelted stallion—what was his name? Starfire?—was the one who’d served up that watered down ale when Indy was speaking with the innkeeper earlier in the evening. The pegasus pony seemed half-mad with pain, one wing dangling uselessly at his side. “My wing! Ooooh, my wing! That dumb mutt’s the one you should have attacked, not me! Oh, spirits…”

Indiana Jones turned to the ‘dumb mutt’ to hear his side of things. The canine monstrosity seemed to be a slender and undersized thing, a cross between someone’s bulldog and an ape. His green eyes glared across to the red-pelted pegasus as its long, slippery tongue lolled out at full length. Wait, no. That wasn’t a tongue at all.

Leaping away with an exclamation of disgust, Indiana got as much distance from the snake as he could manage. Still hanging in the air, the dog-ape chewed on his impromptu meal, slurping noisily with a mixture of anger and supreme embarrassment on his face. After a moment the creature sucked the rest of the snake’s limp tail into his mouth like some sort of disgusting noodle and whined, “Flint not a dumb mutt! What Starfire doing in here so early, anyway?!”

Starfire groaned again and glared at Flint, gathering the strength to speak. Before he could answer, the sound of clattering hooves filled the hallway. A panting Penny Wise nearly collided with the dark green unicorn as he crowded into the room. He glanced around the room, his eyes widening as he caught sight of the tableau of destruction. The innkeeper glared at everyone and demanded, “Well?!”

Flint and Starfire struggled against their almost certainly magical bonds. Flint’s jowled face was contorted in fear as he strained to get away. The red stallion mouthed half-coherent threats. Reaching up, Indiana grabbed both creatures through the silvery field that surrounded them and pulled, slamming their skulls together. The canine whimpered and the pegasus fell silent save for the sound of his breath hissing through clenched teeth.

“Well?” asked Indiana, turning to the innkeeper. “Is this how things usually go at your inn, Penny Wise? People getting attacked in their beds at night?”

“Quite,” muttered the unicorn, shaking his head in disgust.

“I like what you’re insinuating, Indiana. I assure you, my reliable employees would never do anything like this…” The innkeeper turned to Starfire. His eyes widened. “By Celestia, what have you done to him?! His wing!”

“I’ll just… put him down then, shall I?” the white-maned unicorn said, looking awkwardly at the innkeeper and his winged employee. “Sorry, I’m not a medical pony, so…”

Starfire struggled to his hooves as the energy around him faded. He swayed woozily, waving a foreleg accusingly at the still-floating Flint. “I was cleaning when I saw that… dirt clod of a diamond dog slinking around up here… after his bedtime. When he snuck in here I got worried… about our guest’s safety, so I followed him. When I entered the room he attacked me. Little mutt!”

Flint’s green eyes went wide and he struggled all the harder against the silvery cloud around him. “Flint not do that! Flint go in after pony went in! After!”

Penny Wise snorted and turned to the unicorn. “Could you let him down, please, Mr. Trowel?”

“It’s Doctor Trowel, actually… but of course.” The glow around the unicorn’s horn abruptly cut out, along with the field around Flint’s brown-furred form. The diamond dog tumbled to the ground with a grunt.

In an instant, Penny Wise was nearly on top of the cowering Flint. His rock-hard hoof smacked across Flint’s muzzle and tore an anguished yelp from the creature’s throat. Any further whines of pain were drowned out by the innkeeper's angry shouting. “You miserable cur! One of my good employees is hurt because of you! Get out of here right now! I’ll come chain you up in a minute.”

“But Flint was… Flint goes! Flint goes!” The diamond dog yelped as his master’s hoof rose again. He loped off, lumbering out of the room like a small, emaciated gorilla.

Penny Wise turned back to Indiana Jones and sighed. “I’m… very sorry about that, Indiana. I don’t know why I put up with that thing sometimes. Too charitable for my own good, I suppose.”

“Sure,” Indy grunted. “Any idea what he’d be doing in here? Starfire?”

The pegasus shrugged, groaning again as the gesture sent a new wave of pain crashing across his nerve endings. “I… don’t know. Don’t ask me. I’m… barely standing right now. Can I go? Please?”

“Thank you, Starfire. Go see my wife; she’ll fix you up…” As the pegasus left, Penny Wise turned back to the shattered chair and the overturned chest and sighed. The damage wasn’t extensive, but it was another expense he didn’t need. Oh well. He’d just take it out of Flint’s pay for the next decade or so.

“I’m not paying for these damages,” Indiana said preemptively before the earth pony thought of asking. “And that was all self-defense.”

Penny Wise’s ears flattened against his skull. He looked hurt… a little too hurt. “I don’t know why you would even think I would do something like that. There will be no extra charge. Of course, I’m not replacing anything in here until at least dawn, either.”

“Fair enough. Good night, Penny Wise.” Indiana Jones watched the earth pony leave. Now, only the unicorn named ‘Dr. Trowel’ remained, still hovering by the door as if waiting for something to happen.

Straightening, Indiana got a good look at the unicorn for the first time. He’d half suspected it, and this just confirmed things. Dr. Trowel was the same creature who had jerked in surprise when Indy had mentioned being an archeologist. He was somewhat surprised he hadn’t noticed the horn on the unicorn’s head before, but the creature had been facing away in the common room. Oh well, that was neither here nor there.

Approaching the creature, Doctor Jones stuck out one hand. With a name like ‘Trowel…’ “I don’t think I thanked you properly. I’m Indiana Jones. Nice to meet a fellow archeologist.”

“How did you..? Ah, the name. Of course. Doctor Silver Trowel, at your service.” The unicorn offered one forehoof, which Indiana bent down to shake. “Glad to be of help. Though, truth be told, at first I was just here to give you a proper talking-to for being so loud at such an early hour of the morning.”

Indiana Jones simply laughed and sat down on his bed, the only piece of furniture still intact. Lucky him. He looked back to Silver Trowel. It was nice that the unicorn had showed up with whatever weird powers he brought to the fight… but it seemed a bit convenient that he and only he had arrived in the nick of time. Waving the pony archeologist inside, Indy said, “Here, come in. I’d offer you a chair… if I still had one.”

“Hah, very droll,” Trowel commented. Resting on his haunches in a relatively clear area of the floor, he smiled. “Well I really should be getting back to bed, but I might as well say hello. So what brings you to the Ridgebacks?”

“Like you heard in the common room—I’m here to do some field work on ancient cults,” Indiana said. “No luck so far, though. Penny Wise doesn’t think so, anyway.”

Silver Trowel scratched his chin thoughtfully with one hoof. “Well, in my experience, innkeepers tend to overinflate their knowledge somewhat. I know I for one have heard some very interesting rumors of some sort of cult to the north of here. It was called the… Brotherhood of the Snake, I believe. They used to be prominent in this region, but vanished from all records... eh… a few hundred years ago. Nopony knows why, although I suspect Equestria’s expansion into this area during that time period may have had something to do with it.”

“Hmm,” Indiana grunted appreciatively. Interesting, so in some ways the history of this place was similar. He was tempted to ask more about ‘Equestria.’ The name had shown up on the map he’d been perusing, but…

“I’d be interested to know more about your research, Doctor Jones. But honestly, I confess I’d be interested to know more about you,” the unicorn admitted with a friendly smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever come across one of your species before. What are you? Where are you from?”

That seemed a safe enough question to answer, and the creature’s reaction might be informative. “Me? I’m a human. I’m from all over… but right now, Marshall College.”

“Marshal College,” Trowel repeated. “So, a center of learning. And where is that?”

“Oh, back in the States. In Cant—in Connecticut.” Doctor Jones’ brow wrinkled in puzzlement. He felt all right after the few hours of sleep he’d gotten, but he must have been more tired than he thought to stumble over his words like that. Where had the name ‘Canterlot’ even come from?

Hiding his growing sense of confusion, Indiana went on the offensive. “What about you, Silver? Cults, or something else?”

“Nothing as interesting as that. Just passing through, I’m afraid. I thought I might see an old friend of mine on the way, but sadly we seem to have missed each other.” Silver Trowel sighed, but the sigh transformed into a massive yawn. The unicorn covered his muzzle with one hoof. “Oh, do forgive me. I had best return to bed.”

“Don’t let me keep you,” replied Doctor Jones.

Silver Trowel turned to go, but paused at the door. “One word of advice, from one archeologist to the other… You seem like the civilized sort. This area probably isn’t anything like where you’re from. Celestia knows, the Ridgebacks aren’t like proper Equestria…”

“Yeah?” Indy prompted when the helpful unicorn trailed off.

“Well, you’re your own stallion, Indiana. But if I had found two of the innkeeper’s employees in my room while I was asleep, I would be checking to make sure my hooves and horn were still attached. Not everypony here in the Ridgebacks respects property the way we do in… more civilized areas.” With that, Silver Trowel yawned again and excused himself, shutting the door quietly behind him.

Indiana listened for the sounds of the unicorn’s retreating hooves until a door farther down the hall opened and closed. All was silent and dark again in the room. He could almost hear the silent slither of (hopefully) imaginary snakes. Turning on his mattress, the archeologist pushed open the heavy wooden shutters to let in some light. The blue glow of the strange lanterns filled the room, casting odd shadows on the walls as Indy surveyed the wreckage of the room

Out of long habit, Doctor Jones had checked his room thoroughly before taking off anything or going to sleep. Even in the poorly built inn, there was no way for the snake to have gotten here… unless it was placed. Indiana lit the somehow still undamaged candle and bent low, examining the floor again. It was still free of any cracks or holes through which a snake might have slipped. Still, it didn’t hurt to check again. He held the candle closer to the bed, checking underneath.

The flickering yellow light revealed a small spray of red—spatters of blood from the recently devoured snake dotted the floor. Hmm… If Indiana thought about where the diamond dog’s head was positioned when he bit into the nasty thing, it must have been… right next to Indy’s bed.

Well, Indiana wasn’t going to get any more sleep tonight. By his estimate, it was practically dawn as it was. Moving briskly, the archeologist began collecting his things and pulling on discarded bits of clothing. As a final check, he patted his pants to make sure the Medallion of Shadow was still safely hidden. He patted again. Still nothing.

Exploding into motion, Doctor Jones searched desperately through the folds of the blanket and under the bed. He searched the room from end to end and came up empty. It was missing. The Medallion of Shadow was gone. Snarling in frustration, Indiana rammed his fedora onto his head and jerked open the door to his room. He had better find the artifact again, and fast… and he had a good idea of where to start looking.

A/N: Once again, thanks to Sebbaa for help with Hans' German.

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