• Published 29th Apr 2014
  • 1,546 Views, 150 Comments

Pathfinder Ponies - terrycloth

Twilight Sparkle. Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy. Applejack. Pinkie Pie. Rarity. Sure, these names mean nothing to you now, but once these fledgling warriors join the Pathfinder Guild and become Adventurers, their destiny awaits!

  • ...

On the Road Again

Over the course of the next few days, the party of fey Adventurers took in the culture and atmosphere of the city – or at least, the market district. The party had enough random knick-knacks to sell to get a few hundred gold for each pony, which was enough to get Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie Restored to their proper state. Rarity and Fluttershy pooled their money for a wand of inflict light wounds, since trying to heal a ghoul with cure light wounds would go poorly. Nopony had enough to buy anything particularly valuable.

The primary focus of that time, however, was gathering information about potential jobs. It turned out that Fluttershy had the best luck on that front – she had a knack for seeming friendly and unobtrusive, and the ponies of the city opened up to her about everything that was going on. Applejack also knew some ponies who knew some ponies who knew what was going on, and managed to get a few leads.

One thing they both discovered was that the undead plague was hardly a secret, and hadn’t been for weeks now – nopony knew why, but the dead were rising in unprecedented numbers, to the point where it just wasn’t safe to go out at night, let alone go crawling around in the sewers. Most of the undead stayed in the sewers, and officially there had not been any surface attacks, but random people on the street near the inn were overheard talking about foals vanishing from their beds, with no sign of a body or of forced entry – what else could it be but incorporeal undead slipping in and taking them during the night?

Another possible job was as a guard or a weatherpony on a merchant ship. Both pirates and strange ocean weather were on the rise.

There were also the tasks posted by the Pathfinder Guild itself. The Drow to the south had gone incommunicado, with the last reports from agents in the vicinity being cryptic and worrying. The Unicorn Bandits were still causing trouble and obstructing the trade route from Bright Valley to Dream Castle. There were reported sighting of wild drakes harassing travelers in the pass between Crossroads and Rally. Lastly, the Black River coal mine on the edge of the Sleeping Forest was reporting acts of sabotage by an unknown party, although they blamed the Unicorn Bandits that operated nearby.

As far as the less legitimate jobs were concerned, a ritualist wizard was offering a large payout for Griffon primary feathers, and a ‘treasure hunter’ was hiring security for an expedition to a subterranean Gem Pony settlement that had been overrun by Diamond Gnolls hundreds of years ago, and was now mostly abandoned.

“My, those Unicorn Bandits are really becoming a problem,” Rarity remarked.

“If they’re really the ones behind the sabotage,” Twilight said. “What would bandits want with sabotaging a coal mine?”

“Oh, Twilight Twilight Twilight. Bandits are like children,” Pinkie Pie said, giggling. “They rob people and steal all their shinies, and what could be shinier than a diamond? And where do you find diamonds? In a coal mine!”

“Actually, you find the diamonds mostly on the salt flats near the coal mine,” Rainbow Dash said. When everypony looked at her, she elaborated. “We could see the Black River mine from the monastery – it’s the most polluted hellhole you can imagine. Nothing grows for miles around it, the lake next to it is completely poisoned, and the river where they dump their runoff literally runs black.”

“And the druids are okay with this?” Applejack asked.

“It’s not like –“ Twilight began.

“They don’t really –“ Fluttershy started.

The two stared at each other, then Fluttershy lowered her eyes, and Twilight explained. “Dream Castle surrendered to the Empire, so the Unicorns and Flutterponies that live in the forest don’t really have a say. The Black River coal mine is a vital part of Rally’s industrial might. All the druids can do is try to mitigate the damage to the forest itself.”

“Or form a band of bandits and try to sabotage the mine to shut it down despite the Empire’s wishes!” Pinkie Pie gasped. “We have a motive!”

“Indeed,” Rarity said. “Do you know what this means?”

“It means that the bandits are really becoming a problem,” Twilight Sparkle replied.

“Well, yes, but aside from that,” Rarity said. “It means we can do one mission – and get paid twice! Eeeee!”

“Well sign me up,” Applejack said. There were no objections.

The road north from Bright Valley was wide and safe, surrounded by farms and hamlets and well patrolled by the city guard. After a day of peaceful, uneventful travel, the party found themselves back in Crossroads.

The town hadn’t changed much, although the crowds had moved on. There had been no word of further Zebra aggression, although the rumor mill had brought the people of Crossroads the general gist of the party’s story ahead of their arrival. There had been reports of undead griffons lurking in the countryside, but so far they hadn’t attacked the town, or anypony else for that matter, and the pony giving the only eye-witness report appeared to be a long-time drunk.

“He’s been energy-drained,” Pinkie Pie whispered loudly to Rarity. Everyone in the inn turned to stare at her. “What? I didn’t say anything!”

“I tol – ah tol you I wasna liar!” the drunk earth pony mumbled as he cried into his ale.

“So… is there some kind of reward for taking down these griffons?” Rainbow Dash asked the barkeep.

The barkeep grumbled. “Not from old Joe there, that’s for sure. Darn deadbeat hasn’t even paid his tab in days.”

“He can’t even afford a Restoration,” Twilight observed. “By now the drain has probably set – it’d cost thousands of gold to fix.”

“So he’s drained FOREVER?” Pinkie Pie asked, her eyes going wide. “I was ready to slit my own throat and we were only drained for a couple of hours!”

“Sometimes death would be a mercy,” Fluttershy said quietly. “But it isn’t our place to provide it. He isn’t our prey.”

“I don’t wanna die!” Joe shouted at them. “Just want… no more pain…” he finished, trailing off into a mumbling babble.

The party stood around uncomfortably, trying to find some profit in the situation. Eventually, they gave up and went to sleep.

In the morning, Joe was missing – the barkeep suggested that he’d skipped town to avoid paying his bill, but wasn’t willing to offer a bounty to drag him back. “It’s not like I’d get any of it back,” he muttered. “Poor guy doesn’t have two bits to rub together.”

So the party set off on the north road, and tried to forget the whole unfortunate incident. Unfortunately, the incident did not forget them. They were walking along when Rarity, in the back of the party, looked up at the overcast skies, and noticed that one of the clouds was actually a lot lower than the rest of the weather.

“Ambush!” she called out, casting a spell to protect herself from arrows, lest history repeat itself a third time.

Unfortunately, the party was not attacked with arrows. Four flaming jars of alchemist’s fire fell through the cloud and splattered over them, setting Twilight, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity alight. As the bombs fell, a familiar cackle came from behind one of the low hills common to the region.

“Ah ha ha ha ha! So you thought you’d seen the last of the Great and Powerful Trixie?”

“Actually, we kind of figured you’d be back,” Pinkie Pie said.

Rainbow Dash leapt into the air, and scowled, “Can we make sure we kill her this time?” She vanished into the clouds, searching for the attackers.

Six Trixies appeared on the nearby hillside, and pointed their horns at the rest of the party. Noxious green smoke sprayed forth, billowing out and engulfing them in a stinking cloud.

“Nnnf, nnnnf!” Pinkie Pie said, kicking at the cloud but failing to dispel more than a tiny fraction of it. “Fine, be that way!” she said, lifting it into the air and dragging it where it couldn’t do any more harm. It was too late for Applejack, though, who was curled up and dry-heaving from the toxic fumes.

“Sounds like a plan,” Twilight growled as the cloud lifted off her, twirling her hammer and charging straight at Trixie’s position. Her weapon swept viciously through the herd of Trixies, popping two of the images but failing to hit the witch herself.

“Is that the best you’ve got?” Trixie asked, smirking, as a massive undead Minotaur, skin pale and peeling, loped up the hill behind her, and brought his battleaxe down on Twilight’s head. It rang off her helmet, and scraped off her pauldron, and failed to do any lasting damage.

“That the best you’ve got?” Twilight said right back.

While Macintosh circled around to get in position to charge the minotaur, tossing a javelin at one of the Trixies as he moved and popping another image, Fluttershy nosed into her saddlebag and took out a scroll, which she quickly read. The words glowed and vanished, and Applejack’s color returned to her.

“Thank ye kindly,” she said, then glanced up at the cloud, where the sounds of battle raged. “I’d better go help out Dash.”

A patch of grease appeared under the Minotaur, toppling him. Trixie glanced at her ally’s fall, and stepped back from Twilight, spraying her with a pair of night-dark beams from her horn that ignored the unicorn’s armor and clawed directly at her life force – and at her eyes, blinding her momentarily. The blindness actually turned out to be somewhat to Twilight’s advantage – flailing wildly at the general area meant she wasn’t distracted by the images, and she managed to land a solid blow. Pinkie Pie followed up with a bomb, popping one of the images, but splashing over the real Trixie, and engulfing her in a stinking cloud of her own.

The Minotaur slowly clambered to his feet, and took another powerful swing at Twilight while she was blind – but even blind, she was still coated in metal, and the axe rang loudly off her armor once again.

Then Macintosh made his move, lowering his head and charging at the beast – only for his lance to be turned away at the last second by an invisible field of force protecting the Minotaur.

“Ha ha ha ha! The power of friendship will vanquish your sorry band!” Trixie proclaimed. “Hey – stop that!”

But she was too late to react as Fluttershy fluttered up and lay her hoof on Twilight, healing the burns and restoring a bit of the vitality Trixie’s bolts had stripped from her.

“Consarn it, Dash!” came Applejack’s voice from above. “Watch your back, don’t let them – oh, no you don’t!” With a screech, a griffon came plummeting through the cloud layer to splatter against the ground.

“Oh, why didn’t I memorize control undead,” Rarity grumbled. The answer, of course was because she wanted to memorize multiple Glitterdust spells, so she hit the Minotaur with one of those, instead. This made it very sparkly, but failed to have any other effect.

Trixie’s spell worked much better, engulfing Twilight and Fluttershy in a cloud of spiraling sparks, bludgeoning and burning them mercilessly, and leaving the whole area a drifting cloud of ash.

“I don’t think we’re winning!” Pinkie Pie said, tossing a bomb at the undead Minotaur – splashing it with fire and setting the grease beneath it alight.

“We’re not fast enough to run!” Twilight shouted back, holding her breath as she dove into Pinkie’s cloud. Through the mist, only Trixie herself and one image remained, and Twilight swung her hammer in a wide arc through them both, popping one and leaving the other crumpled on the ground, unconscious. “Got her!” she called. “Focus on the minotaur next!”

The Minotaur, however, was busy focusing on the foolish pony who’d tried to lance him, taking softer but quicker swings, since he was sick of his axe rebounding off plate armor. The axe thunked into Macintosh’s chest, and the creature followed up by slamming himself into the pony – and as he withdrew, he took a bit of life energy with him, his wounds healing over as he drained his victim. Fluttershy squeaked and flitted over to heal her mount, as he took another feeble swing at the Minotaur, still failing to connect.

After some screeching from above, and more cursing from Applejack, the Purrsian dove out of the clouds, Rainbow Dash’s unconscious form clutched in her paws, blood from multiple wounds staining her fur. “There’s too feather-loving many of them!” she spat, “and dying made them a whole hay of a lot nastier with those swords.”

“I’m doing everything I can!” Rarity said, flicking a hoof at the minotaur, and impaling it on a pair of magical missiles. It didn’t even seem to notice. “But I can’t control any more undead without losing my moon wraith!”

“Have you considered using your moon wraith?” Pinkie Pie asked, as she tossed another bomb at the Minotaur.

“In broad daylight he’s helpless! Even the cloud cover doesn’t make it dark enough for the poor dear to come out of his basket,” she said. “I’m sorry, but – there’s nothing Xologrim can do for us.”

“It’s fine,” Twilight said, emerging from the cloud and swinging her hammer at the Minotaur from behind. “We’ve got this.” It looked like a solid hit – only to rebound uselessly off the invisible field, just like Macintosh’s lance. “I hope,” she added, staggering a bit as she recovered from the failed blow.

The Minotaur continued to focus on Macintosh, who seemed to be on his last legs – but still had enough fight in him to block the axe. He wasn’t fast enough to avoid the follow-up slam, and with yet more energy drained from him, he collapsed. Twilight didn’t even have time to swear before the looming creature swung around and dug into her side with his vicious horns, but she stayed standing at least.

Fluttershy whimpered at the sight of her protector falling – but it was clear who was the strongest. She circled around and healed Twilight again. “Please, don’t fail me,” she whispered, as she poured more energy into the unicorn, erasing some of her burns and bruises, and scabbing over the wound from the Minotaur’s horn.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the hill, three griffons swooped down out of the clouds, chasing Applejack – only to see a much tastier morsel, wearing only robes. They couldn’t charge after correcting their aim, so they landed on all sides of her, swords held ready. “Go ahead, wizard,” one of them sneered. “Cast a spell.”

“Mm,” Rarity replied. “I don’t think that will be necessary.” She lashed out with her clawlike hooves, and snapped with her new fangs, but the griffons just laughed as they easily deflected her blows. “Although I could be wrong… heh heh…” She hissed under her breath, “Applejack where are you!”

One of the griffons screeched as a dagger embedded itself in his spine. “Right here, Rares,” Applejack said. “Although I don’t know if it’ll be enough.”

“I’m coming!” Twilight shouted from the top of the hill, “Right as soon as I –“ Her hammer finally crunched through the minotaur’s invisible armor, splattering its guts and leaving it to collapse into a smoldering heap atop the burning grease patch. “Right now,” she said, giving a little laugh.

Pinkie Pie hit one of the griffons with a bomb, the splash somehow miraculously avoiding Rarity and Applejack. “Hey, it worked!” she said, happily, as the two stared at the flame spraying all around them in confusion. “I’m getting better at this all the time.”

The remaining griffons went to work on Rarity, giving up on interrupting her spells, and instead just hacking and slashing at her undead flesh. Intellectually, she knew that it wouldn’t take many more blows to end her undead existence, but strangely, she found herself unafraid – and the swords, which sliced slickly through her rotting flesh, didn’t hurt at all.

No fear, no pain. Truly, this was what she had always been meant to be. Still some distraction, having her body torn to pieces by brutish thugs, but she managed to regain her concentration, and tossed a bundle of glittering dust at her own feet – and it was the griffons’ turn to complain, as it got in their eyes, blinding them.

It wasn’t wise to be blind, with a rogue standing not five feet from your flank. The griffon might also not have been in any pain as Applejack gutted and beheaded it, but its bits weren’t moving afterwards.

The last griffon fell beneath Twilight’s hammer as she charged down the hill, and then everything was silent, except for the heavy breathing of the adventurers, victorious once again.

Rainbow Dash groaned, as she dragged herself to her feet under Fluttershy’s ministrations. “Urgh… they were a lot better than the last time we fought,” she groaned.

“Yeah,” Applejack said. “They did a number on ya, poprocket. Maybe next time we can charge in together?”

“Please at least tell me Trixie’s dead this time,” Rainbow said, shaking out her wings and examining them for damage.

Twilight trotted back up the hill and into the cloud of smoke. There was a sickening crunch, and a splatter, and then she emerged, blood and brains dripping from her hammer. “She’s dead.” She glanced around at the undead, who were obviously the same underlings they’d fought before, returned from the grave just like everypony else. “Although probably not for long.”

“Oh,” Fluttershy said, smiling. “I actually have a spell for that. I meant to use it on one of us, in case we wanted to be raised from the dead instead of coming back as a ghoul or a skeleton or something, but I think the Great and Powerful Trixie deserves to move on to her final reward. Don’t you?”

With her corpse sanctified, and stripped of everything valuable – and there was quite a bit of value – the Adventurers returned Trixie to Crossroads, where for a nominal fee, the priests were happy to ensure that she was buried in a sturdy coffin, deep beneath the sanctified ground of the cemetery. From the way the Magus had described the situation, this wasn’t likely to keep her from returning as an undead indefinitely, but even incorporeal undead were unable to pass through six feet of packed dirt to haunt the living. So, barring grave robbers, there she would remain.

Trixie had had enough gold on her to pay for restoring Macintosh before the energy drain set in deeply – the real reason they’d turned back right away. In addition, she had some fireworks she hadn’t had the time to use during the encounter, the gigantic magical battleaxe the minotaur had been wielding, which Macintosh thought he might be able to hold in his mouth with further training, several scrolls of cure moderate wounds, a magical cloak that Applejack claimed after she and Rainbow diced for it, and a strange magic rod which had to be identified. After a few minutes of concentration, Rarity was able to discern that it would allow three minor mind-affecting spells per day to affect undead as if they were living creatures.

“Sounds perfect for ya,” Applejack said. “I imagine that’ll come in real handy, what with all the undead you run with.”

“Actually,” Rarity said, “Enchantment spells have never been my area of expertise. This might be better in Fluttershy’s hooves.”

“Oh dear,” Fluttershy said, as the necromancer set the rod in her hooves. “I don’t know if I can pay you back for this…”

Rarity laughed. “Oh, I’m sure we’ll think of something.”