• 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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Working in a Coal Mine

The entrance to the mine had a few gem ponies on guard, but by far the majority of the forces on duty had their attention directed inwards. After passing through an old, mined-out section that now served as the mine’s office, the party followed the tracks to the edge of pony-controlled territory. The mine was mostly laid out laterally, the seam travelling north rather than running up and down, and they hadn’t descended very far by the time they reached the barricades, although they’d been walking for almost half a mile.

The gem ponies eagerly lent them a mine cart to carry back the bodies of the fallen – they already suspected that the ghouls were returning to undeath after being slain, since the attacks were relentless and the number of miners lost to the mists was not infinite.

“Just follow th’ tracks, and yew’ll git to the new tunnels soon enough,” Deep Bore told them. “Take care iffen ye decide to stray from the path. There be a lot of branches which did nae play out in the long run, and more than a few end in a terrible fate if ye nae be cautious, and ye all look like surface folk, so it’s not too likely ye even know how.”

“I’m sure we’ll manage somehow,” Rarity replied. “But thank you for your consideration.”

Macintosh was put on cart-pulling duty, as the strongest pony among them. For light, they’d been sold a set of lightstones at cost – functionless ioun stones enchanted to shed light, that could be set to orbit each adventurer’s head. They had a few sunrods for emergencies, but the gem ponies discouraged their use despite their lack of heat. Torches and lanterns, of course, were right out. They’d also been forced to take a rod of Sleet Storm, just in case they’d forgotten to leave behind some source of fire – if used promptly, it could prevent the coal from catching fire and permanently ruining the entire mine.

“I’ve got a spell I’d like to cast on each of you,” Rarity said, walking from pony to pony and casting the skin-tight Mage Armor on each, under their normal armor. “If this mist is incorporeal, this should help protect you. I can’t cast it on everypony, so I’m afraid Macintosh and myself will have to go without.”

“I’ll give everypony Barkskin,” Fluttershy said. “That should help against the ghouls. Um… sorry, Rarity, but I have to skip somepony, and I don’t think it would help you as much. Just try to stay out of their reach?”

Pinkie Pie tossed a glowing vial to Rarity, who caught it in her teeth. “Just in case,” she said, leaning close and whispering loudly into Rarity’s ear, “It’s an Invisibility infusion.”

“Thank you, dear,” Rarity said, tucking it into her robes in an easy to access pocket. “I hope it won’t come to that.”

“We should be able to keep them off you in these tunnels,” Twilight said, looking around at the maze-like warren of stone pillars and wooden supports. “Macintosh is on rear guard, and to get at him they’d have to climb over the cart. If they attack from the side, they might get in a quick strike, but you can hide behind one of us after that.”

“Are we done preparing yet?” Rainbow Dash asked, clawing at the ground. “Can we go now?”

“We’ve been going,” Twilight said. “Technically, we’re already there. The ghouls could attack us at any time – everypony keep an eye out!”

The mine continued to stretch out endlessly before them, staying more or less level, but despite their lack of stealth, the party was undisturbed. Rarity and Pinkie Pie occasionally heard the clip-clop of quiet hooves around them, but nothing came into the range of their light, or even of Rarity’s darkvision.

Until, finally, with their paranoia at its peak as they passed a major side-tunnel on their right, glittering eyes stared back at them from the darkness, in all directions.

“Dragon strike!” cried out Rainbow Dash, charging down the side tunnel at the eyes there. Her curled talon smashed right into the chest of a suddenly illuminated gem-pony ghoul, but it was wearing armor, and ignored the blow.

Twilight glanced nervously at the ghouls in front of her, and decided to wait for them to approach, rather than charging off and leaving the party. “Applejack, help Rainbow. Everypony else, don’t wander off!”

“There’s some to the left, too!” Pinkie Pie said, tossing a vial at them that did not explode, although the ghoul hit by it hissed in anger as the acid ate away at its flesh.

The ghouls charged, the two from the left clawing at Pinkie Pie to no effect, the two in front failing to even get within reach of Twilight Sparkle before being splattered against the tunnel walls by her hammer’s superior reach. Behind them, another pair clambered into the cart, delayed for a moment by the blockage, and to the right, the ghouls which Rainbow Dash had bravely put herself into claw’s reach of swarmed her with a flurry of blows, one of which slipped past all her defenses, and the magical spells layered to protect her, and scraped a thin cut down her side.

She froze, paralyzed.

“For pony’s sake, Dash!” Applejack said, launching into the air and throwing herself to the griffon’s defense, the dagger in her teeth slamming into an undead pony’s chest and sending it flying back to land in a motionless heap.

Fluttershy tugged a scroll from her belt, and quietly read the words on it, waving a hoof at Dash, who suddenly started moving again. “Please be more careful, I only had one of those.”

Macintosh shrugged himself out of his harness, and skewered one of the ghouls behind him with his lance.

“We’ve got this!” Twilight said. “They’re not so tough.”

Then, from behind each set of ghouls, a river of strange gray mist flowed along the ground, towards the defenders. Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie felt it flow around their legs, ignoring their armor, both mundane and magical, to suck out their vital fluids, leaving painful oozing wounds and staining the mist pink with their blood.

Another cloud of mist in back tried to do the same to Macintosh, but ended up pooled in the bottom of the cart instead, and failed to connect.

“Oh dear,” Rarity said. “These aren’t incorporeal, or even undead. I’m not sure how you’d fight them.” She swiped at the one devouring Pinkie Pie with her claws, and to nopony’s surprise, the flesh of the creature flowed around her claws, leaving no sign that she’d attacked. “It’s like trying to bite soap suds,” she remarked.

“I heard of this, I know I have,” Twilight said, as she took a step back and brought her hammer down on the mist, splattering it every which way, although the remains were still animate, and pulled back together. “Magic weapons work, but their weakness is fire!”

“On it!” Pinkie Pie shouted happily, fluttering back a step and engulfing the mist – and the ghouls – in one of her trademark fiery explosions.

“No!” screamed Twilight and Fluttershy in unison, as the walls and floor caught fire.

The ghouls and the mist continued to attack, but Twilight and Rainbow were able to keep from being further drained, and the mist near Rarity appeared to be paralyzed, as well as on fire, while the ghouls there attempted to flee from the sudden coal fire, one of them collapsing into a flaming heap before it could escape. Macintosh, holding down the rear, was drained, however. Rarity turned to assist him, and while she barely managed to damage the mist harassing him, it too was paralyzed by her ghoulish magic.

“Um… oops?” Pinkie Pie said, tossing a vial of freezing liquid to put out the fire, and finishing off the paralyzed cloud in the process. “I think I got it,” she said, just as Fluttershy engulfed her in a sleet storm from the rod.

Twilight splattered her cloud, this time for good, and then turned to go help Rainbow and Applejack, who were struggling. They’d managed to flank and dismember the remaining ghoul, but their cloud was almost unharmed. Fortunately for them, help was one the way, and they managed to dance around avoiding its blows until Twilight arrived to put an end to it with one solid blow from her hammer.

The remaining ghoul and paralyzed mist were easy enough to mop up. Fluttershy healed the hemorrhaging bruise-like wounds from the mist, and a dripping and miserable Pinkie Pie emerged from the Sleet Storm, completely soaked.

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” Fluttershy said to her, sternly.

The seven ghoul corpses were piled in the cart, but there was little left of the vampiric mist. Burned and oozing, the ghoul who’d run off was easy enough to track down a side passage, although following it had its own dangers – ghouls, even feral ones, were cunning, and would not be above leading the party into a trap.

“We’re supposed to clear the mine, so I guess we’d better finish the job,” Twilight said.

“If we’re following a trail there we’ll have a trail to follow back, at least,” Pinkie Pie noticed. “And yep! There’s a trail, clear as day.”

The others stared at the ground. “I don’t see it,” Rainbow Dash said, squinting.

“Just follow auntie Pinkie Pie,” the pegasus said, bouncing down the tunnel, following the nearly imperceptible trail of ooze.

Pinkie Pie led the party through a maze of twisting and turning passages, that eventually started looking less like a mine and more like a warren of tunnels dug by a pack of ghouls. Eventually the trail led to a large chamber, full of the corpses of gem pony miners, littering the floor. Was the ghoul among them?

“Nope!” Pinkie Pie said. “He’s hiding in that dark alcove. Fluttershy, can you flush him out?”

With a twang, the flutterpony’s crossbow bolt shot into the darkness, and the body of a ghoul slumped to the ground, impaled through the eye.

“Oops,” Fluttershy said. “I think I hit him too hard. He’s not running anywhere.”

However, the motion did attract the attention of the true threat in the room – from the shadows near the ceiling, where the party’s light failed to reach, dropped a massive pale caterpillar, bristling with writhing shadowy spines. It lunged at the dead ghoul, mandibles dripping a shadowy venom, and where it splattered over the body, nothing remained.

“Run,” Rarity hissed. “We can’t fight this.”

“Why not?” Twilight asked.

Rarity scowled, and continued in a subdued tone, “Its venom can turn us to shadow with a single hit, its bristles are poisonous and paralyze anypony trying to attack it in melee, and it’s very very tough and resilient. Not to mention that each of those bodies you see there is likely infested with another one of the creatures, just waiting for somepony to jostle it to burst forth and devour us.”

Twilight frowned. “So we lure it out into the tunnel,” she said. “Applejack can hide in a side passage and take sneak-attacks with her returning dagger. I can probably hit it with my hammer, and Macintosh with his lance, without getting stung by the bristles. Your Glitterdust spell can blind it, to keep it from biting us, and since the walls here are dirt instead of coal, Pinkie Pie can let loose with her fire. Rainbow… can continue to be useless.”

“I’ve got a potion that’ll make her immune to poison for a while?” Pinkie Pie suggested.

“Awesome,” Rainbow Dash said. “It won’t know what stunned the living daylights out of it, then.”

“Ah don’t like this, Twi,” Applejack said.

“If we kill it now, we can destroy these bodies before the other worms hatch,” Twilight said. “Otherwise, this mine is lost, and it’s vital to the Empire. We have to do this.”

“At least we get the drop on it,” Pinkie Pie said, tossing Rainbow Dash a glowing vial.

Rainbow, Macintosh and Twilight shouted to get the creature’s attention, lying it wait for it to approach, while the other four tossed firebombs, daggers, crossbow bolts and a glitterdust at it. The worm reacted slowly, and they had time for another volley before it emerged from Pinkie’s stinking cloud, retching and twitching from the sickening vapors. That meant it took a third volley before crawling off into the shadows to hide and recover -- but the glow from the glitterdust lit it up light a Christmas tree, and it had nowhere to hide except for the space behind the cloud from the bombs.

“I can go kick the smoke away?” Pinkie Pie offered, not moving.

“You would die,” Twilight said, matter of fact. “We can wait. Get ready to hit it again before it reaches us.”

Ten seconds later, the worm burst from the mist and charged at the waiting warriors, into another volley of fire and glitter and daggers. This time, it shrugged off the glitter and the choking smoke, but it was on its last legs as it finally came within reach of the warriors, and Rainbow Dash’s claw to the face knocked it back, staggered, at which point Twilight and Macintosh stabbed and hammered at it until they were sure it was dead.

“Piece of cake,” Rainbow Dash said, with a smirk.

“With a proper strategy, there’s no enemy we can’t overcome,” Twilight replied, a wide grin on her face.

“So… how exactly do we get rid of the rest of these bodies without settin’ em off?” Applejack asked.

“We get help,” Twilight said.

Unfortunately, the gem ponies were not amenable to Twilight’s original suggestion that they accompany the party into the mine to assist in dispatching any additional worms that might hatch in the process of disposing of the bodies. Fluttershy’s puppy dog eyes, and Applejack’s wheedling and threats, were all similarly ineffective – they’d lost too many ponies to take that much of a risk.

They did agree to construct a worm-proof barricade with arrowslits, and with the whole town working together, completed it in record time. Macintosh and Twilight hauled it down to the worm-infested side passage, and using borrowed crossbows strapped to their hooves, the party took their position. They fired a shot into each body, to see which were ready to hatch.

To their pleasant surprise, none of them were – and maybe none of them were ever infested. Instead, they got up and leapt at the party, but half a dozen ghouls that couldn’t even get at the adventurers through the barrier were easy enough to dispatch.

“We should burn the bodies, just in case,” Twilight said, once none of the undead were moving.

“We should burn all the bodies,” Pinkie Pie said. “If we’re worried there might be eggs in the ghouls that were lying on the floor, what’s to say there aren’t eggs in the ghouls that were running around?”

“Then what are we going to feed the guards?” Rarity asked.

“Can anypony check them for eggs?” Twilight asked. She looked around, but was met with silence. Finally, reluctantly, Pinkie Pie raised a hoof.

“I suppose I could as well,” Rarity said. “I’m not trained in medicine, but I’ve seen the insides of enough corpses.”

Between the two of them, they managed to satisfy themselves that the destroyed ghouls were not hiding the eggs of more Tenebrous Worms. If the Gloomwings had been infesting more bodies, they were stored in a different chamber.

They took the cart full of ghouls to the prison, and Rarity prepared to chop up the bodies as a feast for the dead guards, should they rise.

Pebble, however, was not amused. “You want to do what?”

“Please,” Fluttershy said, gently pushing him towards the door. “Rarity knows what she’s doing. Please, trust her – the miners have lost themselves, but there’s still hope for the guards.”

“It won’t be pretty,” Applejack said. “Maybe it’s best if you don’t watch. I give ya my word of honor, we won’t do anything to disrespect your dead.”

“But – she was going to –“ Pebble started.

Rarity interrupted him with a laugh. “Never watch an undertaker at work, dear. It’s never a pretty sight, but the end result is worth it, I assure you.”

Fluttershy smiled at him, and gently prodded him in the chest until he backed up far enough for them to slam the door.

“I hope this works,” Applejack said. “Or it’s going to be awful hard to explain away all the mess.”

“If it doesn’t, I’ll just sew them back together,” Rarity said, taking a bonesaw to one of the former ghoul’s limbs. “No harm done,” she added, over the sound of tearing flesh.