• Published 29th Apr 2014
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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!

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Roadside Attractions

The party set out north again the next morning, after healing up at the church services and resupplying. Before long they came to the previous day’s ambush site, which was mostly deserted. There were scorch marks from the fires, and dark patches on the road stained by blood and other fluids. The only creature left was the Griffon Applejack had beheaded, which was twitching – reanimated, but not reassembled.

As they made to pass, she opened her eyes. “Hey! Hey you jerks! Look what you did to me!”

“Maybe next time you can not try to kill us, and we’ll go easier on you,” Rainbow Dash said, stopping to glare at the animated head.

The griffon squirmed around, but couldn’t even roll herself over with only a few inches of neck muscle for locomotion. “It was just a job you dung muncher! That stupid unicorn paid better than anypony else.”

Fluttershy looked at the ground. “You were weak, and so you died. It’s the natural order.”

“I’m not dead!”

“Uh… ah hate to break it to you, but,” Applejack said, looking at the head, then over at the eviscerated body lying a few feet away. She did a doubletake when she saw Rarity sink her teeth into a rotting thigh and gobble down a chunk of flesh. “Oh, for pony’s sake, Rarity!”

Rarity gave a little pleasured squeal, and started shoveling rotting flesh into her mouth with her clawlike forehooves. “Ooooh, this is simply divine! I haven’t had properly rotted flesh in… well, ever!”

“What – what is she doing? What is she doing to my body?” the griffon asked, eyes rolling frantically. Rainbow kicked the head until it rolled to face the gory sight. “Stop it! Stop eating me!”

Rarity didn’t even slow down. “You’re not… *om nom nom* not using it anyway *nom nom nom* and I’m just so *riiip* *squelch* *om nom nom* so hungry!”

“Oh, Blaze’s teats… just kill me…” the Griffon head wailed.

Twilight seemed to consider it. “If we completely destroyed her body, would she still come back from the dead?”

Rarity paused in her gobbling long enough to answer, wiping off her bloody muzzle, ineffectually. “Oh, I’m certain she would – as an incorporeal undead, most likely. A shadow, wraith, or possibly a ghost?”

“Yeah, not gonna happen,” Rainbow Dash said. She punted the griffon head over the hill, shouting, “So long, beakbrain! Have fun watching the grass grow!”

“I hate you all! I curse you! Cuuuuurse youuuuu!”

There were no immediately obvious effects of the Griffon’s curse, as the party moved on. Heading north, the terrain became dryer and flatter, with less and less vegetation, until they finally came to the ancient shoreline which marked the edge of the salt flats. From that point on, there was nothing but dry white salt, with the road simply a series of ruts from wagon wheels, marked by a line of small stone posts.

By that point it was almost dusk, however. Fortunately, only a few hundred feet away was the spot where the road branched west to Rally, and there at the crossroads was a small rustic inn.

“Kind of suspicious, don’t you think?” Rainbow Dash said. “Right when we’re about to make camp, way in the middle of nowhere, there’s an inn?”

“We’ve done a normal day’s travel,” Twilight said. “We’re travelling at a fairly normal speed, and covered the normal amount of distance that anypony heading north from Crossroads would cover. Of course there’s an inn.”

“Yeah, but –“ Rainbow Dash started, then scowled. “I still think we should keep our eyes open. This could be a trap.”

“I’m sure we’ll be perfectly safe, with Rainbow Dash on guard!” Twilight replied, smirking. “Better keep an eye on the stablehands – you know half of them are secretly looking for ponies to kidnap and ship off to Goblin lands.”

Rainbow Dash kept an eye open as they approached, but the only suspicious thing about the inn was how few ponies seemed to be using it. The stables were empty, and while there was smoke coming from the chimney, there was no sign of anypony in the common room either, when she glanced through the windows.

As they entered, a frightened voice came from the kitchen. “Who’s there!” A glittering mane and pair of eyes peeked around the corner, followed by the rest of a young Gem Pony. “Customers? You’re just in time! I was about to lock up for the night.”

“Where’s everypony else?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I don’t know,” the innkeeper replied, darting around the room and closing the shutters on all the windows, while motioning for the others to come inside. “I don’t want to know. I just know that as long as I keep all the windows closed, it’s safe. They can’t open windows, or doors, and they only come out at night.”

“They?” Rarity asked.

“I haven’t seen them. You have to understand, I’m still here because I haven’t seen them,” said the Gem Pony. “My brother saw them. He opened the window just a crack, and peeked out, and then started gibbering and raving and then he went outside, and I never saw him again.” She shivered, and looked like she was about to cry. “But it’s okay. You got here in time, and all the windows are shuttered, and once we shut the door, we’ll all be safe until morning! Won’t that be fun?”

“Thrilling,” Rainbow Dash said, flopping onto a bench next to one of the tables.

The party all took their seats as the innkeeper – the acting innkeeper at least, since the rest of her family was apparently missing – went to the kitchen to start a meal for eight. The inn was brightly lit, with plenty of lanterns and a cheerful flame crackling in the hearth, but it was still far too quiet. The innkeeper had said that the enemy would be waiting, but there was no sound of footsteps, or of anypony banging on the shuttered windows, or of anything. It was just… quiet.

“Okay, I’m going to take a look,” Rainbow Dash said. “Ten gold says the innkeeper’s a loony.”

“I’ll take that bet,” Applejack said.

Rainbow Dash looked at Twilight, who shrugged. “What?” the griffon asked. “Not going to stop me?”

“If you start acting crazy, we can just tie you up,” she replied. “You managed to tie me up, after all, and I’m a much better fighter than you.”

Rainbow snorted, then turned and opened one of the shutters, just a peek – for a split second, then slammed them shut, rubbing her eyes.

“So I take it you owe me 10 gold,” Applejack said, reclining lazily on the table.

“Yeah yeah,” Rainbow Dash said. “There’s something out there, all right. Buck me in the head, they hurt just to look at.”

“What are they?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t know, some kind of weird-as-hay giant butterflies with glowing purple wings,” she said. “Lots of them, too.”

Rarity perked up. “Did the wings have black patterns on them, that seemed to move on their own?”

“You’ve heard of them, then?” Twilight asked, as Rainbow gave a tiny nod.

“Indeed I have,” Rarity said, giving a serious look from under her hood. “Gloomwings. Giant mesmerizing butterflies from the Plane of Shadow – living creatures, oddly enough. Nasty things. They confuse you if you look at them, and weaken you if you just happen to get close, and if they manage to defeat you, well! They implant you with their eggs. It’s quite fatal, once they hatch.”

“What would they be doing here?” Twilight asked.

“Harassing an inn, obviously,” Pinkie Pie said. “I mean, really, Twilight, that was so obvious even Rainbow Dash figured it out.”

“I did?” Rainbow Dash asked. “I mean, of course I did. It was obvious.”

Pinkie Pie just stared at the griffon. “Wow.”

“What?” Rainbow Dash said.

“Really, Rainbow Dash, how could you not pick up on that? She out and out told us,” Applejack said, shaking her head. “Wow.”

Rainbow blushed and covered her face with her wing. “Shut up! I didn’t mean it that way!”

“While I like teasing Rainbow Dash as much as the next pony,” Twilight said, “what I meant was, why are they here? Another portal? Some kind of planar weakness? This might be important!”

“Weren’t we ordered not to look into that sort of thing?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Twilight scrunched up her nose. “We should at least find out what’s going on, so that we can send a report.”

“Don’t worry, darling,” Rarity said. “Xologrim should be completely immune to everything the Gloomwings can do. I’ll send him out to find the source of these creatures.”

Twilight opened her mouth, then nodded. “Okay. That’s actually a really good idea.”

Rarity released Xologrim from his basket, after dinner, once everypony had retired to their rooms, and gave him his orders. Obediently, he set out to follow the Gloomwings back to their lair.

By morning, he hadn’t returned.

“You’d know if some critter had done him in, right?” Applejack asked.

Rarity sighed and shook her head. “No, I wouldn’t. I didn’t even know Sparky had been destroyed until you told me. The entire process is rather finicky, and the burden of tracking how powerful the undead I command are is entirely on my shoulders. But what could have destroyed a Moon Wraith? Certainly not a mere Gloomwing. He’s probably just being difficult.” She sighed again. “Intelligent undead are never fully under control. You understand, of course? It’s allegiance, not slavery.”

“I understand,” Twilight said.

Applejack frowned. “So he escaped then, you reckon.”

Rarity held her head up. “I’m certain he’ll be back soon. I’ll make sure to check my basket for him as we travel, and then we’ll have our answers.”

“Do you think we should go look for him?” Rainbow Dash asked. “They probably nest somewhere around here, and there’s not much around here.”

“I have faith in my servant,” Rarity replied. “We shall press on!”

So, with Rarity’s basket still empty, the party set out to cross the salt flats. According to the innkeeper, it was only a half-day’s travel to the coal mine, so there was little chance of being caught outdoors at night. There was also little chance of anypony sneaking up on them, since the salt flats were flat, and they could see for miles. The weather was still somewhat cloudy, but there were enough breaks in the clouds that a low-lying cloud like the griffons had used would be difficult to conceal. Their only opponent, therefore, would be boredom.

After several hours of walking, they spotted something on the road ahead – a dark lumpy mass from a distance, but as they got closer the keener eyed members of the party were able to recognize it as the burned remnants of a wagon.

“Bandits?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Bandits,” Pinkie Pie said, nodding.

“We should prepare for a fight, then,” Rarity said.

After casting their longer-lasting defensive spells, the party continued on. On reaching the wagon, they were able to find further evidence that it was the work of bandits – the wagon, as well as the dessicated corpses of the two earth ponies who’d been pulling it, were riddled with arrow wounds.

“Wait, arrows?” Twilight asked. “Unicorn bandits used arrows.”

“Unicorns can use arrows,” Fluttershy said. “You can use your horn.”

“We don’t, though. It’s stupid,” Twilight said. “It takes years of training, and we’re terrible shots.”

“Doesn’t take a crack-shot to hit the side of a wagon, or the earth pony pulling it,” Applejack said. “You can use a bow, can’t ya?”

“Well of course I can use a bow,” Twilight said. “I just don’t, because I’m a terrible shot, and it would be stupid.”

“Maybe you can tell the bandits that, and they’ll run up and fight us with daggers,” Pinkie Pie suggested. “Everyone knows that telling somepony they’ve been training their whole life to do something stupid always makes them reconsider their entire life and start over from scratch with a new career more in line with their critic’s preconceptions.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Fine. We have bow-using unicorns. Excuse me if I’m not shaking in my horse shoes at the prospect.”

“I can’t believe they just murdered these two guys and left them to rot,” Rainbow Dash said. “I mean, look at the wagon – they didn’t even take anything. They just burned it. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Pinkie Pie giggled maniacally. “Oh, you don’t need a reason to burn things, Dashie. Maybe they just didn’t have a good enough reason not to.”

Twilight glanced at the wagon, then back at Pinkie Pie. “Do you know something we don’t?”

Pinkie Pie nodded. “Lots of things!”

“Something to do with the wagon.”

“Well, I know fifteen different ways to set a wagon like that on fire,” Pinkie Pie said, resting her chin on her hoof. “And that’s just sticking to things we have at hoof.”

“Do you know which of them the bandits used?” Twilight asked, patiently. The patience was practically dripping off her in rivulets, and soaking into the salty ground.

“Boring old alchemist’s fire,” Pinkie Pie replied, after taking a closer look, and a long sniff. “You can smell the phosphorus.”

As the ponies examined the wagon, Rainbow Dash noticed a cloud approaching from the northeast. It was distant, but approaching fast – a dust cloud, like the one kicked up by a large group moving quickly. Her sharp ears could just barely make out the sound of ponies approaching at a gallop!

“Bandits at two oclock!” Rainbow Dash shouted, flapping up into the air to get a better look. As the rest of the party started to get into position – Rarity and Fluttershy taking cover behind the wagon – she swooped and dodged as a volley of poorly aimed arrows headed in her general direction. “And they’ve got bows!”

“Chaaarge!” Twilight cried, rearing up on her hindlegs.

“Waait!” Fluttershy protested, setting a hoof on Twilight’s armored flank, and casting a spell that made a strange crackling sensation ripple over the purple unicorn’s body as her hide toughened. She did the same to Rainbow Dash and Applejack, and then they were out of time – the bandits had arrived.

There were six unicorns, in a rainbow of pastels, but they were not wielding bows. The bows were held in the clutches of equally brightly-colored goblins, riding on the ponies’ backs. Ponies and goblins alike were dressed in shining armor with the symbol of a unicorn’s head proudly displayed. As the unicorns charged, swinging greatswords held in their teeth at Twilight, Macintosh, and Applejack, the goblins peppered the party with randomly aimed arrows.

Dash swooped down to flank with Applejack, breaking the hind leg of one of the ponies engaged with her, distracting it long enough for the rogue to slit the unicorn’s throat with her dagger, then leap up onto the dying pony’s head to maul the goblin rider.

Twilight focused on one of the riders first, slamming her hammer into his chest, and following through to break the mount’s back. Her goblin, like Applejack and Rainbow’s, managed to roll free of the falling pony and get to his feet.

Fluttershy put her barkskin spell on Macintosh, who flailed about with his lance but failed to do more than scratch his opponents’ armor. Seeing him in the worst state, Pinkie Pie tossed one of her bombs at his foes, engulfing all of them in a cloud of choking green smoke.

Rarity flung her own spell at Twilight’s foes, blinding the goblins as green sparkles clung to their eyes.

“Halt!” came a loud, high pitched voice from the still-settling dust cloud behind the bandits. Obediently, the bandits – the surviving bandits – backed off from the party a few feet, weapons held ready but not continuing the attack.

Another unicorn emerged from the cloud, this one sporting a pair of scaly green wings, and a strange curl to her horn. On her back rode a goblin festooned with shiny gems and bits of metal, obviously the leader. “You’re not merchants,” he said. “Or easy prey. What are you doing here, in Unicorn territory?”

“What are you doing here, goblin?” Twilight asked, scrunching up her nose. “Goblin lands are far to the north, past the orcish wastes.”

“They serve nature, just as we do,” said his mount. “With their help, we will throw off the chains of oppression, and end the depredations of the Empire’s minions! The Sleeping Forest will awaken at last!”

“Uh huh,” Rainbow Dash said. “And murdering random merchants is the best way to go about that?”

“Their deaths were regrettable,” the winged unicorn said, ears flattening a bit. “But we cannot allow the Black River mine to resupply!”

“So you are behind the sabotage!” Pinkie Pie said, pointing a hoof. “I knew it!”

“No!” The winged unicorn took a step back, looking frustrated. “No! There is no ‘sabotage’! The gem ponies have dug their own grave, and if they aren’t stopped it will be the doom of everypony on this continent!”

“Care to go into a little more detail on that, whirlybird?” Applejack asked.

The pony blinked. “Whirly --? My name is Wind Seed, not ‘Whirlybird’. And we’ve already said too much. You must turn back, and let us deal with the miners.”

“Or we could kill you all, and collect the bounty,” Twilight Sparkle said, hefting her hammer. “So far, you don’t really seem like much of a challenge.”

“Is this what has become of pony honor?” asked the goblin leader. “You would attack those who seek to save the world from the emperor’s madness, simply because one of his lackeys offered to pay you for it?”

“All who oppose the emperor must die,” Twilight said, with a grim smile. “Adventurers – charge!”

“Adventurers!” the goblin spat, as he raised his bow and put two arrows casually into Rainbow Dash’s chest, dropping her like a sack of potatoes. “No wonder our students couldn’t handle them.”

Wind Seed laughed. “Of course they’ll be no trouble for us, brother,” she said, then set her sword in her mouth as she charged at Twilight, who held her back with her shield.

The dismounted archers focused their fire on Fluttershy, who’d spent the interlude stabilizing the two downed unicorns and healing the party. “Get the healer!” one of them squeaked, but between them they managed only one solid hit.

The still-mounted pairs charged at Twilight, Macintosh, and Applejack, as before. The goblins were poor mounted archers, at least while their mounts were in motion, and the unicorns for their part were unable to gore the defenders with their horns.

Rarity made the ground beneath Macintosh’s opponents slippery, but the ponies were able to keep their feet and dodge his lance. They weren’t able to dodge Pinkie’s bomb, or the flames licking at their hooves as the patch of grease caught on fire, and one of the riders – who’d taken both bombs directly in the face – fell to the ground as a burning lump.

Twilight sized up her opponents, and decided to even the odds before dueling the bandit leaders. She swung her hammer powerfully at the weaker goblin/pony pair – only for the goblin rider to pull back on his reigns, making his mount rear up and place her head directly under the falling hammer. Her face – or what was left of it – was driven into the ground, and her nearly-headless body thrashed and spasmed in death, pinning the rider beneath.

Applejack was not prepared to face her enemies head on – not without Rainbow Dash to flank – and nimbly disengaged, leaping at the surviving rider harassing Macintosh. The goblin was nimble as well, however, and ducked out of her way before she could sink her dagger into his neck.

“And their tactics are abominable,” the chief goblin said, taking aim at Twilight next. “Don’t they know that we’re the real threat?” He loosed a pair of deadly arrows, one of which she deflected off her shield, the other penetrating her armor but failing to pierce her hardened skin.

“Servant of evil, you’ve slain my student, now taste my vengeance!” Leaf Wind proclaimed, her sword bursting into holy flame. Down it came, the power of righteousness behind it – and it rebounded off Twilight’s armor as if it was made of tin. “What? Impossible!”

“I am not evil,” Twilight responded. “I serve the Moon Princess, and the Emperor, and defend the weak – like the miners you harass, and the merchants you’ve murdered!” Down her hammer came, and while she failed to injure Leaf Wind, the bandit chief took a heavy blow to his shoulder.

Meanwhile, the lower ranking bandits failed to do much against Applejack or Macintosh. The pony bandits tried to edge around him, out of the grease fire, but the riderless one lost his footing and plunged into the fire instead – incidentally dodging yet another of Macintosh’s attacks. The other one accidentally moved to put his rider’s back to Applejack, who took the opportunity to tear out the goblin’s kidneys with her claws.

The dismounted archers had more success firing at Fluttershy, who’d tried to take cover behind the wagon but had left her flank exposed. As three arrows sank into her rear, she squeaked and pulled further behind cover. Pinkie Pie glowered at the pair harassing their healer, and left cover to get close enough to engulf them in another sickening green cloud full of fire and poison.

As for Rarity, she took the goblin’s words to heart, and tossed her last glitterdust onto him and his ‘sister’, blinding them both.

“Ahhh!” he screamed, “Leaf Wind, I can’t see, and the purple one hits like an ogre! Retreat! Retreat!”

“This isn’t over!” cried the blinded unicorn, as she leapt into the air and withdrew, flying off at a speed impossible for the party to match. “The Unicorn Bandits will save the world, despite your interference!”

Two unicorns, and one rider, followed suit, tearing off across the salt flats at high speed. The rest of the bandits were either dead or down – one puking up his guts from Pinkie’s cloud, another pinned under the corpse of his mount.

“Surrender or die,” Twilight said, to the one at her hooves.

“Surrender! We surrender!” the goblin squealed.

After checking on Rainbow Dash and making sure she wouldn’t succumb to her wounds, Fluttershy went around seeing how many of the enemy she could heal, as the rest of the party saw to securing them with hobbling ropes, and removing their weapons and other valuables.

In the end, only the pony whose head Twilight had crushed, and the goblin Applejack had all but disemboweled, were impossible to save, leaving the party with four unicorns and five goblins as prisoners. It was a bit unwieldy, but they were able to tie them into a chain that could move slowly along the salt flats – and it was only a short distance to the Black River mine.

The bandits’ equipment was very high quality, and uniform – none of the scavenged, low quality gear you’d expect traditional bandits to wield. Furthermore, the goblins all wore chain shirts made of mithril, obviously unicorn make. Somepony had paid a lot of money to equip them, more than they could possibly hope to recoup by looting random merchants. Particularly when they destroyed the goods instead of stealing them.

“Obviously, these aren’t real bandits,” Applejack said, glancing at the prisoners. “They’re a bunch of kids playing at being bandits.”

“We aren’t playing!” one of the prisoners protested. “Our cause is just!”

“Is that what the goblins told you?” Twilight said, scowling. “You idiots! Goblins enslave ponies! They have for thousands of years!”

“Ponies are the best horsies,” one of the goblins said. “Especially the red ones. They go fastest.”

“Yes yes, and they talk, not like the stupid lizards we ride back home,” another goblin chimed in.

“They’re our friends,” the unicorn said to Twilight. “Not our masters.”

“Your only master is the Emperor,” Twilight replied. “Perhaps you’ll have time in prison to meditate on that, before your execution.”