• Published 21st Sep 2013
  • 2,475 Views, 148 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Ashes - Relyet

Another Fallout Equestria Sidestory. Two ponies walked across the wasteland, trying their hardest not to be heroes, not to make friends, and not to change the wasteland.

  • ...

Chapter 7: Buried Treasure

Fallout Equestria: Ashes


Chapter 7: Buried treasure

We'll dig up the box! We know it's full of precious booty; Burst open the locks! And then we'll say hooray!

"Lumi!" Air Heart yelled up at me.

"Don't call me that!" I shouted as I twisted in the air, kicking at whatever had grabbed me. Whatever turned out to be a thick, thorny vine that recoiled from my kick, dropping me into the middle of Iron Will's lawn. I saw more vines all around me, flailing in the air and snaking across the ground.

"What should I do?!" He yelled. I looked back and saw him standing in the doorframe wide eyed and petrified. Crunch had already raced out the door after me and was fighting his way through a wall of smaller vines with tooth and hoof.

"Nothing, stay there!" I shouted, and reached out with my magic, but the vine twisting in front of me wriggled and slipped loose, diving in at me. I jumped away and it's thorns raked my side, then it turned around and came in for another swipe. I tried to dodge again and tripped forward, some smaller vines had looped around my back legs. I kicked at them while the bigger vine laid anther slash across my back, then coiled around my middle. I scrabbled at the ground as it started to lift me again, and saw something sticking out of the dirt a few feet away. I reached out with my magic and pulled them towards me, slashing at the vine.

Granted, two old garden trowels made poor weapons, but they got the job done well enough, and eventually the vine dropped me rather than continue to get cut up. I landed on my hooves and crouched, ready for the next attack.

I checked on Crunch in between cutting away smaller vines that tried to trip me again. He was still stuck only a few feet from the front porch, wrestling and stomping as many tendrils as he could. He wouldn't make it in time before these old tools broke, so I had no choice.

"Air Heart! Bring me my sword!" As much as he'd improved from the terrified pony I'd bought back in Pyresteady, I doubted Air Heart would stand a chance against this whatever-it-was, but he could still be useful. He turned and took the handle between his teeth, then started to drag it out the front door, gouging a line in the wood as he went. "Faster!" I kicked at the vines with my forelegs and swung the little shovels as hard as I could, but I was making no progress towards escaping.

"Nnnngh, it's heavy!" He grunted through his teeth. Worse yet, as soon as he stepped off the porch and into the dirt, small vines started to creep over his hooves and he yelped, dropping my sword.

Oh, by Discord's fluffy eyebrows, I was going to die because of this shrimpy pegasus. "Crunch, go back and help him!" I was too busy watching them, and brought the trowels up to block the large vine much too late. It smacked against my head, knocking away the tools and sprawling me on my side. Then it was around my legs, all four of them, and I was hoisted into the air again.

I got an upside down view of Crunch and Air Heart though. Crunch stood over Air Heart and stomped out the vines, then they both looked up to me when it seemed safe. "My sword! Bring it closer!" I shouted, and Air Heart tried again to hold it up as high as he could. I reached out, but my magic couldn't grip it strongly enough at that range, and I was being pulled even further away all the time.

"I can't do it!" Air Heart yelled in a panic.

"Use your wings, you jackass!" The coiling vine had advanced up my legs and was now squeezing around my torso. I could feel the thorns raking at my bare flesh each time I wriggled, but I could hardly care about that now.

I saw him flinch at that and spread his wings slightly "B-b-but..."

Well, I tried asking nicely, but I really didn't want to find out where this vine was taking me. "Crunch! Boost!" My large companion nodded and loomed over Air Heart "And don't you dare drop my sword!" I called to the confused and scared pegasus.

"What?!" He gasped as Crunch slipped his forehooves under him and reared up onto his hind legs, holding him aloft. Then he tossed him with all his strength and Air Heart came soaring toward me, sword clenched tightly between his teeth.

Crunch's aim was true, and Air Heart sailed close enough that I could snag my sword from his teeth and bring it around in an arc, cleaving through the thick black vine. "Take this, vile weed!" I don't know if it heard me, but I definitely felt a certain satisfaction as the vine split in two, the section wrapped around my body immediately wilting away. Right after that I felt a certain pull of gravity, and got ready to tumble back towards the earth.

I didn't tumble, and I noticed two turquoise hooves clutching me under my forelegs. "I g-gotcha! I actually gotcha!" Air Heart shouted behind me as he started to descend. But I was not having any of that, as I started kicking my rear legs and swaying in his grip.

"Let me go!"

"W-what! Just relax, I've got you-"

"Let GO!" I shouted and brandished my sword in the air. He let go.

I tumbled the last ten feet to the ground and landed on my back. He touched down next to me and leaned over me "What is your problem?!"

I didn't have time for that, so I rolled over and jumped to my hooves, turning to face the vines. Now that I was armed I could find the source and maybe kill it. Several of the tiny ones seemed to just spring up from the dirt, but the larger ones were protruding out of bushes or uncoiling from the nearby fences and trees.

A pair of thorny vines flailed at me and I backed up into Air Heart, slashing them away. "Don't let them touch you! Back up!" He gasped and instead of backing up, flapped his wings and jumped high, dodging the third vine that swung from behind. Of course the vine just kept coming and landed a stinging lash across my flanks, then coiled around my tail and tried to lift me into the air once more. Before I could finish my curse, Crunch landed on the vine and stomped it flat "And where have you been?"

He rolled his eyes at me, then pointed skyward. Air Heart was still flying, he didn't seem to know how to stop now, as he swooped and looped away from swiping vines, yelling all the while. "Helpmehelpmehelpme!"

"Get back down here!" I called, but I saw then that he wasn't able to. Every time he tried to turn back towards us and the house, more vines swooped in and turned him back, causing him to fly further and further off.

Towards a squat little bush dotted with purple berries, out of which the largest of the vines were coiling. "Look out!" I shouted just as the leaves parted down the middle, and the whole bush split into what could only be a mouth, dripping with fluid and rimmed with thorns. Air Heart was flying right over it when he saw it and shrieked.

Then I heard the sound of breaking glass and looked up at the house. Abattoir was flying through the air, raining glass shards down from the window she'd just jumped through. I don't know if plants had the ability to be surprised, but the way almost all of the vines snapped up to point at Abattoir seemed to indicate so. She fell right into one of the thicker vines and hooked one hoof around it, her momentum carrying her forward on the flailing black limb.

"Ooooooehooooeohhhhhh~!" She opened her mouth and let out a strange wordless yell as she swung, and crashed into Air Heart, snatched him very nearly from the jaws of planty death. I was momentarily impressed.

Then her vine seemed to regain control of itself and started to wriggle and flick. She was holding Air Heart with her other leg, so she couldn't do anything but let it whip her back into the air, and straight towards us.

They separated in the air, and Crunch reared up again, this time to catch Air Heart. I was briefly taken with the notion to see what kind of smear Abattoir would make on the ground. Then I reached up with my magic and caught her in the air. She spun in circles with the excess momentum, and came to a stop with her eyes spinning in opposite directions. "Nice catch~" She giggled at me.

"Back inside, now!" I barked. Crunch tossed Air Heart onto his back and I carried Abattoir along in my magic, jumping the length of the porch and skidding to a stop in the entrance hallway. I dropped Abattoir and slammed the front door shut, then for good measure I levitated over one of Iron Will's trophy shelves and propped it against the door.

For a long while, I just stood there and listened. I heard my companions breathing heavily behind me, but that was all. When tendrils didn't start shooting up out of the floor and walls, I figured we were safe. Relatively.

"Well, good news, Air Heart" I said calmly as I turned around. "You get your wish, we'll all sleep here tonight."

Air Heart slid down off Crunch's back with some difficulty, it was quite a long way back to the ground from there, then he tried to reach his hoof out to me as I trotted past. "W-wait, you're hurt. I need to look at all of you and make sure you're alright."

"No I'm not. I'll see you in the morning. Sleep well." I snapped curtly after crossing the livingroom to the basement door. I slipped through it and shut it behind me before Crunch could follow, and descended the wooden stairs into darkness to wait for the sunrise.


I didn't come back up until I saw pale sunlight streaming through a tiny window in the upper corner of the basement. I followed the sounds of voices to the kitchen I'd seen earlier and found Air Heart, Abattoir, and Crunch sitting at Iron Will's table over bowls of mushy brown goop.

"-and I got the wheel off, but before I could get the spare the whole thing started rollin' away, went right into a crate full of mines! So it totally wasn't my fault... Oh, mornin' Lumi, you almost missed breakfast. Oatmeal!" She gestured at, then buried her face in, the bowl of slop.

"I'm not hungry. Don't take too long, I'm going to see if the front door is clear." Air Heart started to say something but I raced back down the hall before he could get it out. I stopped in front of the trophy shelf I'd used to block the way and slowly started to remove it. Last night I'd just grabbed the whole thing and flung it against the door, trophies and all, but now I had to concentrate to drag the whole thing out of the way without dropping something.

I opened the door and peeked out onto the lawn. It was bright and hot and exactly the way it was when we arrived, minus one single bush. But no sign of flailing death vines. I shut the door with a click and rested my head against it for a moment to think.

I almost took his head off when Air Heart suddenly spoke up right behind me. I whirled and had drawn my sword before I realized it was him, and shook my head a few times "What?"

"I said, some of this is yours." He waved at the rug that was laid out in the entrance hall, particularly at some dark red splotches. "Crunch's too, but I definitely know some of it is yours, you were standing right next to me last night, and you had all these scratches and cuts from the thorns." He raised his hoof and pointed at me. "But there's nothing there now, not even scars. Not from that, or from the bullet I shot you with a few days ago, or the one from the bandit yesterday..." He narrowed his eyes at me and dropped his hoof again. "So... you must have healing magic, right? Is that why you have so many spare potions?"

I realized I still had my sword out, and struggled to lower it back to my side before I could answer calmly. "Do you remember our conversation, about questions?"

"I just want to know if-"

"No, you don't want to know this. I'll say it one more time; Stop asking me questions." He furrowed his brow and started to speak again, and I desperately growled "Please. Stop asking." He looked so shocked I thought he might faint "Just go finish your breakfast before Abattoir comes looking for you."

He stared at me for a moment, then closed his gaping mouth and nodded in silence. I watched him trot back down the hall towards the kitchen, then I wandered into the living room myself and took a seat on the still luxurious looking couch. "Two pleases in less than two days, what am I becoming?" I thought out loud with a shudder.

Once breakfast was done the three of them joined me. I had spread the map out on the coffee table and tried to plan out a route. Air Heart was still giving me looks, but I ignored him for the time being and turned to Abattoir. "Show me that map again." She held her PipBuck out and I studied the two images. My map only showed the town, and our destination was a fair distance south. "Is that a road?"

I tapped the screen at a thick dashed line that curved out of the bottom of the town and snaked south, running right beside the little arrow. Air Heart squinted, then looked at my map and shook his head. "No, I think it's this." He pointed to one of the buildings at the edge of the town where a pair of silver lines met. "That says South Station, so those must be the railroad tracks. Of course, must have been important back then, getting to and from the mines."

"So, get to the depot, then follow the tracks. Simple!" Abattoir snatched back her leg and raised it dramatically.

"You're simple. Let's get going then." I folded up the map and headed for the door, ignoring Abattoir when she leaned over to loudly whisper at Air Heart. "Somepony should have eaten breakfast, she's grumpier than usual~!"

And so we set out into the suburban wasteland again. Everypony seemed a little tense stepping off the porch onto the lawn, but after I went first and stomped around a bit to show them, they hurried along and we returned to the street.

We managed to make it to the end of the street before they struck up conversation, but at least Air Heart took the hint and it wasn't about me.

"So, what do you think that thing was?"

"A very grumpy bush! Lumi, that's what you're gona turn into if you don't cheer up a little."

"I have no idea, I've never fought anything like that."

Air Heart chuckled a little at that. "I thought you were supposed to be the most experienced here?"

"I am. I've just never taken any jobs that involve killer shrubs. Remind me to smack Cactus Flower when we get back to Cliffside."

"But she warned us about them!"Air Heart exclaimed, briefly rising a short distance off the ground.

"Not good enough, no one with half a brain would have taken that warning seriously."

"You're just mad because it got you first." Abattoir said, trotting backwards and grinning at me.

I didn't answer right away, because I was busy thinking. I'd spent most of last night thinking too, and still hadn't come to a decision I liked. On one hoof, these two bumbling ponies had risen to the occasion when an unknown enemy attacked and managed not to botch it, and I had to say something. On the other hoof, I didn't want to give them the wrong idea, I was already in way too deep. Saying anything now could tip the balance and I'd never be rid of them. I gave a sigh and raised my gaze.

And again found Abattoir's own eyes inches from my face "WHAT!" I shouted, backing up.

"Toldya." She said to Air Heart over her shoulder, then to me. "You stopped walkin', I thought you fell asleep behind your mask. You suuuure you don't want any breakfast?"

I groaned and swatted her away, nodding "Yes, I was just... thinking about something."

"Like whaaaat?" Abattoir persisted.

I looked at her, and Air Heart waiting behind her, and took a deep breath. Then I bowed my head and forced out the words. "Your skills in battle have been... a great assistance to me, and I must extend my... nngh... humble thanks." I raised my head again and looked at them.

They both looked completely baffled. Even Abattoir's grin seemed to have shrunk, and neither of them said anything for a long while.

"Is that how you say 'thank you'?" Air Heart eventually asked with a tilt of his head.

"Are we gona have to go through that every time?" Abattoir added.

"Yes and no and shut up, don't get used to it." I sighed and started trotting again. They both exchanged glances then shared a laugh, following beside me when I passed them. They had gotten the wrong I idea, I was going to regret this, I could already feel it.


We left the upper scale neighborhood behind without any trouble, plant or otherwise, and followed a road into a stretch of abandoned and heavily looted shop fronts. Only then did we start to encounter other ponies again. Raggedy bands of scavengers who watched us pass from across the street, or hungry eyed bandits who quickly lost their appetites once they got a closer look at us. Grinder and his gang must have been an exception over these common thugs if they were scared away so easily.

After drifting south for a while, Abattoir led us out through a gap in the row of buildings, and we were looking out at the sprawling San Palomino wastes again. But much more importantly, we were looking down at two pairs of train tracks that disappeared off to the left and right, ringing the lower edge of the town.

"Ta-da~" Abattoir waved her hoof over the tracks, then hopped up onto one of the beams and flipped forward to stand on her forehooves. ""We're almost there, I can feel it."

"It almost seems too good to be true." I replied as I stepped up to stand in the middle of the tracks, following Abattoir and her peculiar wobbly gait.

Air Heart hesitated a moment, looking up and down along the tracks before joining me on them, with Crunch guarding the rear as usual. "You say that like you expect something bad to happen. Maybe you're afraid of that curse afterall?" He teased.

After a quick glance around for any random stacked piles of junk, I shook my head. "Absolutely not. Curses don't scare me, especially imaginary ones." But that did remind me of Air Heart's own numerous fears, and of a question of my own. Apology incident aside, the conversation this morning hadn't turned sour, maybe it was worth the risk. "So, let me ask you something. When I first saw you, you always seemed just two steps away from a nervous breakdown. How and why did a pony like you end up in the Enclave military?"

He didn't give any answer for a long while, and I looked back to make sure he hadn't fallen off the train tracks or something, and saw him looking absently down at the ground with his cheeks red. "Uhm... well... you know your, uh, thing. About questions? Can I do that too?"

Surprising, but maybe not unexpected. I shrugged and faced forward. "I guess so. It's nothing I need to know, just found it strange."

"I don't want to sound as bit-er... as... grumpy as you do when you say it, but I just really don't want to talk-"

"It's fine, Air Heart. I don't need to know." And I figured that was the end of that. I really didn't need to know, and had no reason to pressure him for information. He fell silent too and for a moment we just followed upside down Abattoir.

"I had to go. For my family." He squeaked quietly. "And technically I wasn't fully in the military, remember? I was on my... third day of basic, you know, when I overheard... s-something I shouldn't have, and I... well you know the rest from there."

The rescue team went down to the surface after his sister's distress beacon went off, the ship he stowed away on was captured in the crossfire. I knew the rest. "You've got really bad timing."

Abattoir craned her neck back, an upside down grin on her face. "No wonder that bitch was so mad at you."

"Captain Cloudy is not a bitch!" Air Heart protested way too quickly. "She just has a temper."

Abattoir and I just gave him silent looks for a moment. "...She kicked you out. Of the sky."

"Yeah... yeah..." Air Heart trailed off, Abattoir went back to leading the line, and I let the silence stretch on. I started trotting again and Air Heart followed.

Nopony else had any more to say until the train station came into view. Abattoir pointed it out then tried to get us to race her there, then took of galloping towards it. We let her win.

It was a simple, flat, one storey building, old fashioned and mostly wood. It sat between the two pairs of tracks, with wide open platforms on either side and a dusty waiting room in the middle. We found Abattoir in that waiting room when we caught up, looking through a rack of faded postcards. "You ponies are sooooo slow."

"Shut up. Stop sitting around, we still have a lot farther to go."

Abattoir waved her hoof vaguely behind herself "Ticket booth's over there, I'm lookin' for a train schedule..."

I followed her hoof to the far wall, where a row of windows sat in the wall at the head of a short maze of decaying velvet ropes. One of the windows was smashed through, and a lone skeleton lay dangling half in and half out. I trotted around the barriers and peeked through the window. Some scattered pre war bits lay on the floor outside the window, in a long dried puddle of the unfortunate ticket pony's blood. I peered though the remains of the window and carefully reached through, tapping a button set into the counter. There was a grinding, churning noise and a moment later, a yellowed piece of paper was spit out of a slot in the counter.


I plucked the paper out with my magic and trotted back to the waiting Abattoir, Air Heart, and Crunch. I dropped the ticket into Abattoir's lap. "Here, let's get going."

Abattoir scooped it up in her hooves and looked puzzled at it, then turned the look on me with the most serious face she could muster and said, "Lumi, there's four of us, we're gona need more tickets..." I swiped at her head and she yelped, falling over on her side, grinning up at me. "Okaaaay, okay! I just wana rest a bit, it's soooo far out there still."

She groaned and flailed her hoof at the door, and the platform, and the tracks beyond. "It's not even noon. Get up, if we've got a lot more ground to cover, I want to pick up our pace." Abattoir groaned again and flopped onto her back, so I reached out and jabbed a hoof into her side. She stuck her tongue out and blew a raspberry at me. I huffed and turned away. "Fine, you can rest here, good luck, we'll see you later."

I trotted past Air Heart before he could protest, but Crunch cut me off at the door and gave me a stare. "Come on, she's practically begging us to leave her behind." I protested and tried to step around him, but he mirrored me and stepped in my way again, raising an eyebrow. I stepped the other way and found him blocking me still. "You got a better idea?!" I snapped up at him.

Crunch snorted and trotted around me, stood over Abattoir for a moment, then lowered his head and heaved her up onto his back, where she lay sprawled like a sack. "Woooah nelly... at least take a gal out for dinner first!" She kicked and giggled.

Okay, problem solved. Maybe we'd make better time, now if only we could get...

I turned to look at Air Heart, who'd been watching quietly from the doorway. He met my gaze and blinked, leaning back slightly "W-what?"


An hour or so later, we were still running along the train tracks. 'We' was only Crunch and myself. Abattoir was still enjoying a bumpy ride across Crunch's back, taking time to direct us towards the mysterious arrow her PipBuck projected, and Air Heart was reluctantly flapping along beside us. Every few yards he'd slow down to glance around at the barren hills and approaching mountains, then when he fell too far behind he'd scrounge up enough courage to put on a burst of speed and catch up.

"Are you absolutely sure there's no one out here to see us?" Air Heart asked, for the hundredth time.

"Yes." I answered back for the hundredth time. I kept the edge out of my voice, as I was in a good mood. Running full out like this, we were covering more distance in less time than we'd been able to in almost a week. It'd been a pain talking Air Heart into taking to the air, but I convinced him that he was safely away from prying eyes, being so far out of town. His reservations about flying where anyone could see still baffled me, but I was in no position to pry.

"Oh, oh, I think we're almost there!" Abattoir sat up suddenly and pointed between Crunch's ears. I could see what she meant, ever since the train tracks had turned sharply and started heading straight south, we'd been steadily approaching one of the larger clusters of mountains. And now I could see where the tracks curved to run along the base of one of them, and even started to spot some buildings nestled amongst the rocks.

"See? If we'd done this in the first place, it wouldn't have taken us three days to reach Cliffside." I pointed out as I started to run faster.

"Two days!" Air Heart called from somewhere above me.

"Whatever." I grumbled and focused on running.

Soon we were slowing down and coming to a rest in an old settlement set between the tracks and the mountains. Another, much simpler train station marked the spot where the train would have stopped to be loaded up with gems or whatever was being mined out of here way back then. Now it looked deserted, but not much more so than any other area of the wasteland. Stepping off the tracks, I could see rows and rows of long buildings with different signs posted in front of them, and discarded tools and gravel littered the ground. The little mining town was much bigger than it'd looked from far off, and it took us a while to navigate back to the mines. When we got there, I saw that the town had been built so the walls of the mountain enclosed it on three sides, with the way we came being the only way in or out.

What I didn't see was a way into the mines. There were several openings in the rock face framed with wooden supports, but they were all overflowing with loose boulders. "Well, this might make things difficult." I said, kicking ineffectually at one of the piles.

"I guess the mine was closed down a long time ago." Air Heart shrugged, back on the ground again.

"Doesn't matter, we're getting in there. Abattoir!" I shouted, because she'd disappeared again somehow. A moment later, she stuck her head out a window in one of the long buildings.


"Which of these mines do we need to open?"

She swept her head from left to right and rubbed her chin for a moment, then pointed. "The big one in the middle?" I didn't like the questioning tone in her voice, but I followed her hoof to one of the overflowing mines, lowered my head, and started using my magic and hooves to shift the smaller rocks. A moment later Crunch was on the other side heaving away the ones I left behind.

I looked up after a few minutes and found Air Heart and Abattoir looking at me. "What? You want to help?"

"That's going to take forever." He pointed out how little progress we'd made.

I shrugged and went back to digging "Better stop wasting my time then."

He sighed and sat down to watch. "There's got to be a quicker way. You should rest a bit after all that running, we can think of something."

"I'm good. Help out or stay quiet." I heard somepony climbing up the pile of rocks and thought he might have decided on help. But it was Abattoir I saw, grinning at me and kicking rocks away.

"I know a song that might help us work faster!" And before I could shove a rock in her mouth, she started rocking her head side to side. "We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in a mine the whole day through~" She began prancing in between knocking pebbles away. "To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we like to do~"

I slid back down to the ground and glared at Air Heart "Fine, start thinking of a quicker way, immediately." He snorted and laughed at me, covering his muzzle with a hoof and shaking his head.

"I know a waaaay~" Abattoir called from the top of the pile. I rounded and drew my sword at her, and she snickered. "Okay, I know another way, not the song." I lowered my sword slightly and motioned for her to continue. She grinned and cocked her head towards me. "Weeell, how d'you think the ponies back then got these mines open in the first place?"

"Get to the helpful part." She rolled her eyes and dipped her head into her saddlebag, plucking out a long red stick of dynamite and grinning even wider around it. "Where'd you get that?" She spat the stick out and pointed back at the buildings.

"Found a big box of 'em in there!" then she dug out a little hole between two rocks and shoved the stick between them.

"That's actually not a bad idea. Go get the rest then." Abattoir started back down, but Air Heart rose to his hooves in alarm.

"Oh, Abattoir, you're bleeding!" I looked again, and Abattoir looked herself over quizzically. Air Heart met her at the bottom of the pile and pulled out her foreleg, and I saw the trickle of blood streaking down it. "One of your cuts from the plant fight must have reopened, here. Lumi, let me take care of her, you can find the dynamite, right?" He said while he fussed over the wound, drizzling some of his water over it.

"Don't call me that." Was all I said before I turned and trotted back to the one building I'd seen Abattoir hanging out of. Inside I found a dusty interior, decorated with some desks and scattered chairs, and several lockers filled with old faded jumpsuits and helmets. I kept looking, and came into a smaller back room with several shelves full of shovels and picks and other digging tools. And finally I spotted several crates marked with three black symbols, and inside them, dozens and dozens of ruddy red sticks.

First I pulled down a pair of shovels, then scooped out about a dozen sticks of dynamite and a spool of fuse. Back outside I found Air Heart wrapping a short length of bandage around Abattoir's leg.

"-be more careful. Your other wounds look fine, but if they open again, try and notice and let me know, okay?" Air Heart looked sternly into Abattoir's eyes.

She rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out "Okaaaay, but it's no big deal, I didn't even feel that one... Hey, since I was a good patient, do I get a cookie?"

"I... uh... don't have... uhm-oh! Look, Luminescence is back, yes, let's focus on her. Welcome back!" Air Heart smiled at me and waved as I approached with the supplies. He eyed the hovering sticks of dynamite warily. "Are you sure it's safe to carry them like that?"

I was about to return with a snide comment, but then I realize he might actually be right, but maybe not for the reasons he thought. Either way, I released my magic and let the dynamite drop to the ground. That only made Air Heart yelp and duck for cover. "Oh, relax. Abattoir, you and Crunch set them up at the entrance."

Crunch took two sticks between his teeth and carried them back to the blocked mine entrance and Abattoir followed behind balancing one stick on the end of her nose, with Air Heart raising his head up from the ground at the sight of it. "That's really really dangerous you know! Have either of you ever handled explosives before?"

"We've known ponies who have, and dynamite is simple enough. I thought you didn't know anything about explosives anyway." I said as I started unwinding a length of fuse.

"I know they explode! And you shouldn't drop them or bite them!" He gasped out as Crunch scooped up another pair in his teeth and trotted away.

"Relax. You've seen how he eats, a little dynamite wouldn't hurt anything."

Air Heart chortled and nodded, then blinked and stared up at me. Tentatively, he said "Was that a joke?"

Dear Luna... I smacked my hoof against the side of my head and groaned "I need something to kill soon..."

Air Heart scoffed "Oh stop that. It wasn't that bad." That hardly made me feel better. Luckily the return of Crunch and Abattoir halted that conversation.

"All set!"

"Good, take this and jab it into one of the sticks." I held out the length of fuse and she took it in her mouth. When she returned, we all started backing up, and I spotted a nearby heavy minecart that would be perfect to duck behind. It was a bit of a tight fit with all four of us back there.

"How're we going to light it?" Air Heart asked. For a moment, I thought I might have made a very big mistake, then it dawned on me, and I levitated out the igniting talisman. I don't think they had a clue. "Okay, brace yourselves." I held the fuse over the tip of the triangular talisman, and concentrated, pushing my magic through the faint runes. In a second, the tip let out a tiny jet of flame, and the fuse caught.

I watched as it burned its way up the path towards the pile of rubble and explosives. Air Heart, somehow, decided now was a good time for some conversation. "Still, I wonder why the mines had to be closed like this in the first place. It's such a big mountain, could it really have gone dry?"

I shrugged, keeping my eyes on the fuse. Was it moving slower? Just hurry up and explode! "Who cares?"

"And why all this with the rocks? I can see maybe wanting to keep ponies out for their own safety, but this seems... excessive."

I looked up from the fuse at that, thinking. We'd come across abandoned mines before, hadn't we? Usually there were just a few boards across the entrance. Maybe something was wrong here. I'm sure I could think of one or two reasons somepony would block up a cave. Too late to think about it now though...

"Maybe it's got somethin' to do with these signs?" Abattoir posed the question innocently, holding up something in her mouth. It was a metal signpost, weathered and beaten, but the panted image was still easy to make out. It was a crude depiction of a grey-green creature, with a long snout full of pointed teeth, and painted over with a large red Ø.

"Where did you find that?" I asked with a jolt.

"It was laying next to the big pile ah' rocks. Why, y'think it's important? I was gona take it home and hang it on my wall, but then I remembered I don't have a house..."

"You idiot!" I whipped my head around, searching for the fuse. It was nearly at the base of the rock pile. Much too late to think about it now. I swore, repeatedly, under my breath as the spark climbed the rocks. "Get ready..."

The sparkling vanished down a tiny crevasse, and I held my breath.

And held it.

And held it. I didn't want to let it out. I couldn't move, all I could do was think Don't say it. Don't either of you say it.

"Huh, must have been a dud..." Damnit Air Heart!

"Son of a-"


The blockage evaporated in a cloud of dust and flying rocks. We all ducked behind the minecart as pebbles rained down around us. After a moment of silence I dared to lift my head and survey the area. The entrance had been cleared, and nearly obliterated. It was now a smoking hole that very little sunlight was spilling into. I saw no movement but the dust and smoke being carried into the air.

"Crunch, watch my back." I didn't wait for acknowledgment before creeping out from behind our makeshift barrier. Keeping my belly low to the ground and my ears alert for suspicious noises, I slunk closer and closer to the cave.

I reached the shadowy entrance after what felt like hours, peering into the depths of the mountain. Two gleaming orange orbs peered back at me and snarled.

"Shit!" I cursed and tumbled to the side a hair before the creature leapt out and tried to tackle me. Rolling to my hooves and drawing my sword, I rounded on it and shouted "Stay back, I've got this."

The creature turned to face me, a broad hulking monster on four stout legs, it looked like an oversized armadillo armored in plates of rock. It opened its maw an snapped at me with rows of jagged black teeth, throwing out sparks and making me jump back.

"What is that?!" Air Heart cried out in shock.

"Stoneback! Very dangerous, very hostile." I replied, and lashed out to stop it from gaining more ground "Keep back, I've got this."

With a roar, the stoneback reared up on its hind legs and swiped at me with its powerful front claws, spraying up dust and gravel when it came crashing back down. I dodged under the swings and skidded about to face the creature's side, delivering a wide slash. The backs were the most thickly armored, but the legs were weaker, and my blade was heavy. There was a grating noise as my steel broke through the thinner plating and sunk into the stoneback's foreleg, drawing a furious screech from the beast.

I wrenched my sword back out again in time to bring it up and jam it between the creature's snapping jaw when it came in to bite at my head. I grunted, and poured on my magical grip as its hot breath wafted over me. Before it could dig its claws into the ground and really bear down on me, a twisted my blade and slashed inside its mouth. The stoneback roared blood and reared again, and I ducked in to stab up into the joint where its foreleg joined its body as quick as I could. Blood splashed over me and I dove out of the way as the enraged beast came crashing down.

As I'd hoped, its wounded leg crumpled and made it tip off balance on its left side. I raced in on its right side and used a combination of sword and hooves to keep pushing it. It started to thrash its tail and snap its fangs, but I gritted my teeth and dug my hooves into the dirt, and slowly a gradual tilt turned into an full on flip, and the creature tumbled over onto its back in a mess of thrashing claws.

I lifted my sword up high and stabbed down into the stoneback's unarmored belly, over and over again, until it stopped moving. I took a few steps back and caught my breath. Turning, I trotted back to the rock where they were waiting. Crunch was keeping an eye out for others, and She was looking at me with her brow furrowed. "We must be getting close to the water, if the stonebacks built a nest this close."

"What?" She asked. I shook my head hard and looked again. Air Heart was standing in Her place, looking confused. I cleared my throat.

"I mean... there must've been stoneback nests in the mountains. That's why they closed them off." He kept looking at me critically. I looked away and tried to clear my head out with another shake. Couldn't let this get out of hoof now.

I looked back at my group and found Abattoir with her head pressed against the ground. I waited a moment, debating whether I really wanted to know, before sighing. "What are you doing?"

"Somethin' comin'" She mumbled. Then I felt it too, a rumble under my hooves. Crunch was staring at the wide open hole we'd blasted in the mountain. I raised my sword again.

"If it's more stonebacks, I might need your... help, again." I said with hesitation. That hesitation troubled me more than the growing rumble did.

I turned out to be half right. It wasn't more stonebacks, but I would need their help. The rumbling grew and grew, until a wave of geckos burst forth from the mine entrance. They were a paler and smaller sort I'd never seen before, and they ignored us completely, just kept running out into the desert. After they were gone silence fell again, and I exchanged a glance with Crunch.

The sound of scraping rock drew our eyes back to the cave. A massive snout poked itself out of the darkness, and behind it came a single stone back, much much bigger than I'd ever seen. Its beady eyes surveyed the mining yard and the corpse of the other stoneback, before locking onto us. It sucked in its breath and let out a piercing roar that had all four of us wincing back, and then it charged. Despite carrying what looked like a small mountain on its back, the king sized stoneback moved with shocking speed.

"Move!" I shouted, and we all scattered. Abattoir and Crunch to the right, I to the left, and Air Heart shot screaming into the sky. The creature was momentarily confused about which of us to pursue. I took that chance to duck in and try a few swings at its leg. It was the size of a tree trunk, and my strikes only tore off small chips of rock while doing relatively little damage. So little, in fact, that it chose to turn and chase after Crunch and Abattoir instead.

"Shit" I hissed and ducked as it turned around, its tail barely missing me. The usually thin, whiplike appendage was also covered with several rocky growths, making it swing like a club. Then the stoneback was off charging after my companions, and I ran after it. "Air Heart!" I called, scanning the sky for signs of the pegasus. He soared in from behind me, wobbled a bit, then dropped to his hooves and ran after me.

"W-w-what?" He panted, making me lose a little confidence in my plan. I levitated a few sticks of the leftover dynamite in front of him and he squeaked, falling back a bit.

"I need you to take these and fly up there!" I pointed up at the rampaging stoneback and Air Heart's eyes grew wider still.

"Are you insane! I c-c-can't, it's the size of a sky waggon!"

I skidded to a stop and he bumped into me, falling on his rear. I turned and dropped the sticks into his lap "You can, and you will, you're the only one who can reach." He cowered a little and I groaned "Come on. What about that stupid book that you read, did it wear off or something?"

He lowered his eyes, then took a deep breath and jumped to his hooves "Y-you're right, I... I can't let this... giant rock monster push me around!" He said with forced enthusiasm.

"Don't get too reckless. Just take the dynamite and get up on its back. Look for cracks or plates, anyplace you can shove a few sticks, then get out of there." I helped him load the explosives into his saddlebags.

"How are we going to light them?"

"You let me worry about that, now go!"

He looked to the sky and chewed his lip a moment. "Promise you won't watch me too close-"

"Go!" And he went, flapping his wings and taking to the air. It wasn't the speedy ascent I'd seen him pull off on the roof, but it wasn't the pathetic half crippled bobbling in the air I'd first seen him display either. Oh well, a little progress is still progress.

Meanwhile, I returned to chasing the stoneback. Abattoir and Crunch had run to one of the far walls of the mining complex built into the mountain and scattered again, and the creature was choosing to go for Crunch. He was the largest, after all, probably the most filling if it got its claws on him.

I needed to get its attention on me, though, and that would probably require pissing it off. I was still thinking about ways to do that when I caught up to it from behind. Its rock stuffed tail swung dangerously as it ran, forcing me to keep my distance or risk being stuck by it. After watching it swing by a few times, I got an idea, and galloped faster to bring myself in range. I ducked under it once, then again, waiting for it to lag just right.

Finally, the tail came swinging at me and I jumped, spreading my legs and leaping onto the flailing appendage. I latched on and felt it carrying me through the air. It was not unlike being dragged around by the killer vines, come to think about it. But I didn’t have time to think about it, I had a job to do. Turning my back to the rest of the creature, I focused on the tail. It was spotted with rock, but I could still see large gaps of flesh beneath.

Making sure I had a firm grip on it, I levitated my sword up over my head and started hacking into the section of tail I was sitting over. It gave a meaty CHOCK and the creature I was riding stumbled. Before it could recover I lifted my sword and brought it down again and again. The flesh tore, helped along by the heavy rocks weighing it down, and with a final powerful swing, I severed the tail and sent it tumbling to the dirt.

Then the monster kicked out with its back legs and I was tossed up off its tail and into the air. I had a brief glimpse of a startled looking Air Heart clinging for dear life to its mountainous back, before I crashed down amid the rocks.

I rolled to my hooves in time to see the stoneback turning to face me, furious and snorting. And there I stood over its severed tail. It drew back its head and let out another ear splitting roar, and I wondered for the first time if what I'd done was a good idea.

My question was answered beyond a doubt when the stoneback snapped its teeth together, throwing up a wave of sparks, then exhaled a wave of flame at me. I cursed and dived aside, rolling behind an overturned minecart and, despite myself, letting out a laugh.

I was still laughing when Air Heart appeared from above, panting and looking frazzled. "What... what's so... funny?!" He demanded, and I stopped myself.

"This solves our 'lighting the dynamite' problem."

He gaped at me and threw his hooves into the air "Y-you knew it would do this? And you sent me up there with a bundle of dynamite?!"

"Not exactly. I'd heard stonebacks were a species of dragon, but I've never seen one do that. Doesn't matter now, regroup with the others and don't let it see you." I didn't give him a chance to say anything back, as I jumped out into the open again, shouting to the still furious flame spewing beast. It spotted me and I ran in the opposite direction, checking to see Air Heart galloping back to find Crunch and Abattoir.

I led it back across the mining yard, occasionally feeling heat licking at my backside, all the way to the opposite end of the yard just to be safe. Then I skidded to a stop and rounded on the charging brute, making sure I stowed my sword. I would need all my magic for this. The stoneback stomped up in front of me and snarled, thinking me cornered. It sucked in its breath and snapped its teeth. The air filled with sparks, then the flames washed over me.

My horn was ready, and I reached out and latched onto the burning air, reaching inside and taking hold of it. The flames shimmered emerald in my magical grip, and followed the movements of my horn. I reared back, dragging the fire over my head like a whip, turned them back around and crashed them into the stoneback's er... stone back. My magic dissipated and the rest of the fire guttered out, leaving behind several conspicuously sparking spots all across the rocky surface of the creature's back.

It was then my brain once again caught up to my plan and I realized I was standing in range of a (hopefully) deadly explosion. With seconds left to space and a confused stoneback looming over me, I spun around in search of shelter and spotted one of the many forgotten minecarts. I ran full tilt towards it and grabbed onto it with my already taxed magic, slamming into it with all my weight. It tipped, achingly slow, finally crashing over onto its side. I hopped over onto the opposite side and kept pulling. The heavy metal cart slammed down around me with a sound like a drum. It was heavy, hopefully heavy enough, I thought as the seconds ticked by.

Then my shelter shuddered and resounded like a gong, and tried to clamp my hooves down over my ears to block it out. While I waited for the ringing to fade, I felt the ground quake under me. I took that as my cue to take a peek outside and check on my handiwork.

It took much more effort to get out from under the minecart than it'd taken to get under it in the first place, but eventually I emerged and surveyed the yard. The first thing I saw was the stoneback, sprawled on its side with its back a smoking ruin. Crunch trotted up to me and gave me an impressive grin. I shrugged and waved a hoof, muttering, "Nothing to it."

Abattoir and Air Heart were close behind him, both marveling at the fallen colossal stoneback. Then Abattoir started to laugh and bounded over to me, and threw her forelegs out. "That was awesome!" To my dismay, my magic was still too stressed from the fight to reach out and grab her, so for a brief moment I thought she was going to get me. Then I flailed out with my forehooves and kept her at bay, scurrying backwards and wishing I'd stayed under the minecart.

"Okay, okay, I get it, there's no need for that!" She kept laughing and fighting to get around my hooves, when Air Heart appeared over her shoulder.

"You know, I helped, I put the dynamite up there."

Abattoir turned her head and smirked "Oh, is somepony feeling left out? Get down here!" Then she jumped and tackled Air Heart and they both went down wrestling in the dirt.

I groaned and looked back up at Crunch "Ugh, break them up, we've got to get inside that cave before something else shows up." And I started to trot back to the blown open mine shaft.

But that was enough to make Air Heart struggle out of Abattoir's grip and shoot into the air. "We're still going in there!? After what just came out? What if there's more of those things?"

I looked back over my shoulder. "Then we know how to deal with them now."


The mine was dark. At first I was confused, but then Air Heart pointed it out to me.

"Hey, your mane," He said, tilting his head. "It isn't as bright anymore."

There wasn't any dodging around this one, so I tried to play it casually. "Happens when I use up too much of my magic at once. It'll be alright."

"Huh... that's not normal for unicorns, is it?"

"No." I said with a note of finality. He took the hint and went down a different track.

"Okay... well, that was a really impressive spell back there, with the fire. Can you create a fire wherever you want or something?"

"No!" I said, much louder than I wanted, the sound echoing off into the shaft ahead of us, and I took a deep breath. "No, I mean. I can control a source that exists already, and I can... heat some things up, but no, no fire."

"Could you heat me up a bowl of noodles?" Abattoir asked from up ahead, having turned on her PipBuck light when my mane didn't provide enough.


"Is that no, you can't, or no, you don't want to even though you totally could?"

"... No." I sighed and shook my head, glancing off at the side. I could see several holes in the mine wall, created by the stonebacks that must've invaded this place. So far we hadn't run into any, and I counted us lucky.

Then Abattoir stopped at a fork and spent several moments looking left and right and tilting her head, and I figured we weren't lucky enough. "What is it?"

"Can't figure out which way... gimmie a bottlecap, I'll figure it out."

I brushed her extended hoof aside. "What about the arrow? Or the map?"

She raised her PipBuck and looked at it "It says to go straight through the wall, and the arrows in the middle of nowhere." I looked at the map she held up, and the little arrow was indeed sitting in a square of empty blackness.

"Did you break it or something?"

She rolled her eyes "You can't break a PipBuck, duh."

I grumbled and turned "Air Heart, come and make sure this thing is working right." But the pegasus was standing to the side, squinting at the walls and ceiling. When he noticed all of us had stopped to look at him he jumped slightly.

"O-oh, uh, I was just... thinking. If they used this place to stash something, they probably hid it someplace secret so nopony else could find it. It wouldn't be on any map, I don't think."

"Then how are we supposed to find it?"

"Well, I did have an idea, but you probably won't like it..."

I shook my head "Just spit it out, this day has already tried my patience enough. Unless you're about to suggest we sing a song, I don't care."

Air Heart fidgeted at that and started to look around nervously, and I brought my hoof to the side of my head. "No... you can't seriously... your idea is a song?"

Abattoir appeared between us, grinning wordlessly.

"Well, not exactly. Not like what Abattoir sings. Just trust me." He waved his hoof, "Abbey, come here and let me see your PipBuck."

She obliged and he started to tap some buttons. First, he shut the light off, then a moment later, the little snippet from the radio we'd heard on the road, and again in Fiddle Sticks' home. The voice of Desert Rose bounced off the rock walls, then gave way to the song. Then the music started, that upbeat tune played by the stallion who'd hired us.

At first, we sat there in the dim cave and listened, and I was about to declare this idea a failure. Then the cave started to grow brighter. I looked around for the source and saw a glowing streak of blue colored light painted on the ceiling and leading down the right passage.

"What..." I started to ask while Abattoir moved off to follow the light. The trail seemed to glow more intensely the closer the music got, so we all started to follow her again.

"It was just a hunch, really, but Bluegrass was a unicorn with a talent for music, I figured he'd use music in his magic." Air Heart said as he craned his neck to look at the ceiling. "It must only work with the same kind of music, or instrument or something. Guess it's a good thing the gift for music was passed down through the rest of the family, huh?"

Silently, I nodded my agreement and waited to see where the trail would lead us.

After stopping several times to replay the song, or scare off some lurking geckos, the magical trail led us to a dead end shaft, and a pony sized fissure in the wall hidden behind some strategically placed rocks. Approximately pony sized, anyway, as Crunch had no hope of fitting through there, and we had to leave behind my sword and Abattoir's knife, and push our bags in ahead of us.

We emerged on the other side in a tall cavern. Abattoir turned on her PipBuck and I lit up my horn, bathing the two long forgotten skeletons in light. They laid across from eachother, one earth pony and one unicorn. The earth pony had the remains of a rusted knife lodged between his ribs, and laying by his head was the twin to the antique pistol I carried in my bag. Between the two of them sat a thick leather bound journal, and several piles of dull old coins sat scattered around the cavern looking forlorn.

Abattoir and Air Heart took in the scene in silence as well, while I dug out the carved box and scooped up the other pistol. It was heavily rusted , but now it was back where it belonged. I floated the journal over to Air Heart and he grasped it under his wing. "So... is this it then?"

"Looks like it. Hopefully that's got everything Fiddle Sticks wants, I don't think there's any more to find." I lowered my head to look the bodies over more closely one last time. Nothing but rags and scraps of whatever they'd been wearing at the time, I stood up to-

The earth pony looked at me. I jerked my head back and cursed when the flash of white and purple peering up from inside the skull caught my eye. I looked more closely and my breath caught in my throat. Abattoir came around beside me, startled. "What? What is that?"

"Something that shouldn't be here..." I hissed, reaching down and popping the orb out of the dead pony's eye socket and holding it up. It was a smooth sphere of white wood with purple sigils painted around its surface. It was his hoofwork, there was no mistaking it. How and why it was left here, I couldn't imagine, unless...

I realized Air Heart and Abattoir were staring at me. I dropped the orb into my bag and cleared my throat. "Okay. Let's get out of here."


The sun was starting to set when we emerged from the mine. Several of the pale geckos were swarming around the corpse of the massive stoneback. They stopped eating long enough to watch us pass, but otherwise gave us no trouble. We returned to the edge of the mining town and the small train platform before I called for a stop.

"I think we should take shelter here and head back in the morning."

"Really?" Air Heart and Abattoir said together with equal surprise.

"Yes. It'll be dark before we reach the city again, even if we run, and the desert is dangerous at night."

"This has something to do with that thing you found, doesn't it?"

I quickly realized why I found the orb where I had within minutes of leaving the cavern. Air Heart and Abattoir were endlessly curious about it. They were partially the reason we'd found that cave, so they were meant to find it as much as I was. I sighed and nodded.

"What is it?" Air Heart asked with his brow furrowed. "You said it shouldn't be there."

I dug out the wooden ball and looked down at it, rolling it across my hoof slowly. "It's... like a memory orb."

Abattoir came up close and squinted at it "That doesn't look like any memory orb I ever seen, I thought they were made of crystals?"

"The ones created by ponies are, but like a lot of things they developed during the war, the original idea was borrowed from the zebras."

That sure surprised both of them. Air Heart asked the next obvious question. "Okay, so if it shouldn't have been there, how did it get there?"

I glanced up at Crunch, but he was staring at the orb in my hooves as well. "Someon-... Somepony left it there for us."

"Who?" Air Heart raised his head, looking spooked.

I shook my head. He might have wanted to get these two entangled in our business, but I was going to draw the line somewhere. "It's not important to you."

He frowned and looked down at the sphere again. "Fine, fine... So, what are you going to do with it now? Watch it?"

"No. We're going to watch it." I said, starting to turn towards one of the abandoned bunk houses. I found Crunch standing in my way. "What?"

He furrowed his brow and shook his head sternly.

"Oh, now you don't want to get them involved in anything?"

He snorted once and shook his head, jerking it at the orb. I raised it higher for him to see, lowering my voice.

"If it was only for me, he would've left a regular one. I don't like it either, but it'd be more trouble to keep them out than to just show them. It's probably what he wants anyway."

Finally, Crunch stomped the ground and stepped aside. Looking back at Abattoir and Air Heart, I waved them on and we found our way into the old sleeping quarters.

"So, how are we supposed to watch it with you? Is there a spell or..." Air Heart started while I searched the interior for something fireproof.

"I told you, zebra memory orbs work differently. Ponies made theirs with unicorn magic, so only unicorns can use them, and then only one at a time. The zebras' were much more... efficient." I explained while I wandered into a bathroom and found an empty metal garbage bin. I pulled it out into the main room, then turned to one of the empty wooden bed frames and drew my sword. In a matter of seconds I'd reduced the frame to kindling. I filled the bin and searched my bag for the igniting talisman and lowered it into the bottom.

Within a few minutes I sat down before the small fire across from Air Heart and Abattoir. "Ready?" Air Heart exchanged a nervous glance with Abattoir and they nodded. I looked back for Crunch, but he was standing by the door. "Are you coming?"

He just stared back for a moment, then stepped out the door.

I sighed and pulled out the orb. I looked it over once more, then dropped it into the fire. It started to burn, and a thick white fog started wafting into the air. Air Heart started to cough, but I shook my head "It's safe. Just breathe slowly, let it work..."

"I'm feelin'... sleepy..." Abattoir murmured, slumping over on her side slowly. Air Heart mumbled something I couldn't make out and sprawled out on his belly. Meanwhile I could see the corners of my vision turning white. Mask or no mask, the fog was seeping into my mind. I lowered my head to the floor, the last thing I saw was the flames dancing in front of me, until everything blurred away and I saw nothing but white.

Footnote: Level up!

New Perk: Monster Hunter: You gain a 25% damage bonus when fighting oversized critters and beasts. Now get out there and hunt some wyverns!

Skill note: Explosives 15.

(Wewt! Just barely missed my 'by the end of the week' deadline. But at least I managed to keep the wordcount down to a more reasonable number, which is surprising for how much I had to get out in this chapter.
Anyway, on to the thanks! Thanks to KKat for the Fallout Equestria universe we all now live in, thanks to No One for the tips on keeping things on track, AND most importantly, thank all y'all for readin' so much, I just managed to reach past 200 views.
See y'all next time <3)