• Published 14th Apr 2012
  • 7,512 Views, 340 Comments

Daring Do and the Secret of the Fourth Wall - Ultra-the-HedgeToaster



Thrust into the world of her favorite book-series, Rainbow Dash finds herself dragged along for the ride of Daring Do's latest adventure. However, for Rainbow Dash, breaking the fourth wall may very well prove to be a learning experience.

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Chapter 2 - Of pegasi and predators

This chapter is available as a "synthesized" audio book:

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As usual, Daring Do woke to the first rays of the morning sun with a groan.

She yawned, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Even after all these years, she'd never quite accustomed to rising early.

It was simply an unpleasant necessity in her life as an adventurer.

After all, traveling at night – with predators on the loose, in the dark – wasn't exactly the smart thing to do. And in turn, making use of every minute of daylight was the logical consequence.

Apparently, her newly-fetched rainbow-maned companion didn't quite agree with her reasoning.

“Gimme five more minutes,” the mare slurred sleepily. For the sixth time, she edged away from Daring's prodding hoof.

Daring Do shrugged. This pony sure could sleep like a rock.

“Yeah, I know that feeling.” She sighed. “Ah, what the hay.” Giving her five more minutes probably won’t hurt.

Daring Do stepped outside the small cave that had provided them with shelter for the past couple hours and took a deep breath of fresh morning-air.

It smelled like... a lot of sweat and mud and dirt.

Daring looked down at herself. Yesterday's trek through the underbrush had left its marks. While she wasn't one to bother much with her physical appearance, even she could agree she needed some cleaning. She needed to refill her water-reserves anyway, now that there was another pony to take care of.

Working her way through the thicket, years of experience kicked in, telling her where to find the nearest source of water by following the subtle hints Mother Nature had to offer. That, or just follow the distinct sound of water splashing as it snaked its way around the local plant-life.

After a couple minutes, the adventurer reached a larger clearing, a wide, calm river crossing in its center. The water seemed fine, so she took a long sip before refilling several empty bottles she had stored in her jacket.

Before she got around to clean herself, however, she heard a sudden rustle coming from the other side of the river. She raised her head just in time to see a fully grown leopard step into the clearing.

For a total of ten seconds, they both just stared at each other. Oddly enough, the predator seemed to be just as taken aback as she was, surprise clearly written across its features. It probably had only come here for the same reason she did – water. Now it was confronted with the extra bonus of a pony-snack. Still, the expression struck Daring as odd.

However, she did not get any chance to further dwell on this thought. Ten seconds was all it took for the big cat to bare its teeth and leap into the water, quickly on its way to the other side of the stream.

Daring did not hesitate any longer, and did the smart thing – she turned on the spot and ran. The athletic pegasus may have been able to deal out some bucking, but leopards in general had sharp senses and without the element of surprise on her side, would likely dodge most attacks she threw its way.

Instinct told her to take flight, but she immediately regretted doing so. Almost instantaneously, she got herself tangled in the vines hanging low from the all-encompassing monster-trees. This prompted some rather unflattering curses from the pegasus-adventurer regarding the unusually clingy plant life in the area. Twisting and turning, Daring Do stretched her muzzle to bite down on a vine wrapping itself around her right hind-leg.

Breaking free of the flora's clutches, she glanced back only to see the leopard barely a few pony-lengths behind. Restraining herself from pursuing the literal approach of “fight or flight”, she zig-zagged through the underbrush.

Daring snapped back a tree branch to hit her pursuer – the leopard ducked under it. She kicked a rock in its general direction – the predator dodged that as well. She kicked up dirt in the leopard's face – that only agitated it.

Daring Do was proud to call herself a swift flyer. Back in the day, she’d even won her fair share of competitions. On hoof, too, she was quite agile – and she certainly had improved that skill throughout her adventures.

Despite this, as well as her attempts to slow its advance, the leopard was beginning to close the gap.

Daring grit her teeth and pushed herself to stay ahead in their deadly competition. Her eyes darted across the landscape, searching for an opening in the forest's canopy. She needed a place for take-off!

She winced – something sharp had cut a gash across her foreleg.

“Eyes on the ground, Daring.”

She couldn't risk tripping. Or smacking head-first into those nasty tree-branches herself.

Oh, and of course, she had to avoid the quicksand.

Wait... quicksand?

Her hooves met resistance, stopping her dead in her tracks. Before she had fully registered what was going on, it was already too late.

“Urk! Are you buckin' kidding me?!” She groaned. “Of all the – why is it always quicksand?”

Rapidly, she flapped her wings, trying to escape – but the quicksand just wouldn't let go. Was there a way to reach the edge and get out to safety? Of course not. She had practically galloped into the center of what could count as a small quicksand-lake.

A growl from behind reminded her of the other pressing matter at hoof. An icy chill went down the adventurer’s back. She was stuck.

The predator had won this race. It would come to collect its price any moment now – if she couldn't think of something, and fast...

But it was already too late.

There it was. Just a few meters away. Daring could see the hunger, the glint in its eyes as it crouched, preparing to leap.

But it didn't. For some reason, it just kept growling at her, pacing back and forth. Something kept it from attacking her.

The quicksand! The leopard wasn't too keen on taking its chances with the other force that his potential prey had fallen victim to. It couldn't reach her.

Well, that at least solved one of her problems – which ironically would be the cause of her untimely demise in its stead. That certainly put things into perspective. At least now she wouldn't die a quick, gruesome death. Not that the alternative of slowly drowning in sand was any better.

Now all she would have to do would be to somehow come up with a daring escape plan. Trouble was, she barely ever made plans. She just acted on impulse, or made due with what the situation presented her with. And right now, she had nothing. She was already stuck knee-deep in – any attempt to move would only accelerate her descent at this point. Of course, now that low-hanging vines or tree-branches would have come in handy, there were none to be found. Her wings were useless in this situation – and even if she did make it, the leopard could easily cycle around the quicksand-lake to pick up the hunt.

As if to crush her hopes of surviving even if she could get out of her sticky situation, a second leopard stepped into view. Even worse – it was then followed by a black panther.

“Oh, it's one of those days again,” Daring grumbled.

The first leopard snarled a greeting, and the two large cats' focus fell on the trapped pegasus.

They were smiling.

Realization dawned on her. These weren't just ordinary predators. No, now the first leopard's expression of surprise when stumbling into her made perfect sense.

“You're working for Ahuizotl!” She grit her teeth in barely suppressed anger.

This caused the cats' grins to grow even wider. Of course. Her adversary would often pay locals to do his bidding. Getting rid of her – whatever the means – would get them quite the paycheck.

She was surrounded on all sides. She was already half-submerged in quicksand with no means of escape.

She was out of options. She needed a miracle!

What she got was a rainbow. The only forewarning she had was the high-pitched whine of air-displacement – then a streak of rainbow quite literally burst through the underbrush.

The next thing she knew, two blue forelegs wrapped around her midsection, and with a slurping “plop”, the quicksand let go of her. Instinctively holding onto her hat, Daring Do and Rainbow Dash zipped right past one of the leopards.

The predator's gaping expression would've sent her into a laughing fit, had Daring herself not been so baffled by her last-minute rescue.

“You alright?” the blur of cyan and rainbow addressed her.

“Huh? Oh, yeah! Thanks for the lift!”

Daring shook off her surprise. Still being dragged along by Dash at break-neck speeds barely above ground level, she could hear the trio of predators roar far behind in frustration.

Darn, this pegasus was fast!

But her speed wasn’t even the most impressive feat. It was completely insane how this pony could just fly straight through the underbrush seemingly not even having to dodge any –

“Look out for that tree branch!” Daring yelled, prompting Dash to just look at her in confusion.

“What are you talking abou–”

*SMACK!*

“Outsch... Hey, where did that thing come from?!” Dash groaned, picking herself back up from the ground.

Daring found herself upside down – the impact had sent her rolling several meters. Trotting back to the other pegasus, she adjusted her hat and dusted off her jacket.

“Thanks again, Rainbow Dash. How did you even find me out there?” she asked, while helping her companion back to her hooves.

The other mare smirked sheepishly at the mention of “thanks” and opened her mouth to reply – only to close it again and blink a couple of times.

A roar in the distance caught both pegasi's attention. Looking back to where they had come from, Daring cringed.

In the heavily moist forest air, a still fading rainbow trail was clearly visible. This would lead those blasted cats right back to them!

“Well, I guess we'd better be off.” She leaped straight into a gallop, only to be halted when the other pegasus exclaimed in alarm.

Somehow, Rainbow Dash had managed to get herself wrapped up in vines from head to hoof-tip, two feet above ground-level.

Daring turned to help the pegasus get herself unstuck. Undoubtedly, she was allowing their pursuers ample time to catch up. But there was no way she'd ever leave anypony behind – not to mention Dash had just saved her hide!

As the two pegasi ran side-by-side, followed by constant growls growing nearer, Daring Do hastily sorted through their options.

Outrunning three leopards? Well, they could always try to, though their opponents had the obvious home advantage. And at least one of them had proven itself a rival to Daring's own running skills.

The both of them versus three predators – direct confrontation? She couldn't be sure of Dash's fighting skills, and their only chance would be to take them by surprise. However, the surprise factor was long-since gone, and an ambush required a decent hiding spot.

Not like leopards could follow their scent or anything. Oh wait.

They could try to lay a trap... No, there were three of them, a single trap would at best only catch one, two max. If they had more time, yes, they might have been able to place more than one trap, but another howl – dangerously close – quickly made her discard the option.

Unless of course they could steer the predators to jump off a cliff. Then again, if they found a cliff, they could just fly over and leave their pursuers behind. Not that she had seen a cliff anywhere nearby, obviously.

However, she saw something else. Through the thick tree cover, she caught a glimpse of a hill – just high enough to pierce above the line of monster-trees (and mushrooms). This would be their place to take off!

“That way!” she shouted to Dash, heading towards the hill.
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“That's not what I expected,” Daring cursed to herself as the hill came into sight. It was steep, impossibly steep, sticking out of the ground menacingly like a spear. Only its upper part was anywhere close to moderate in incline. It was practically not physically possible to climb to the top without proper equipment. Which she didn't have, because usually, pegasi didn't need it.

The unusually dense plant-life was, somehow, even more dense here. The entire lower half of the hill was completely covered in vines, overgrown in exotic plants and moss – even trees wrapped their roots and branches around the base of the hill.

Flight to the top was impossible.

As if she had read her thoughts, Rainbow Dash voiced a complaint of her own. “Ah come on! You've got to be buckin' kidding me! Where did all that stuff even come from!?” She gestured at the all-encompassing vines in frustration.

A paw snapping at her tail sent both Dash and Daring scurrying forward.

“Quick! There's a cave!” Dash pointed at a spot at the hill's west-side.

And indeed, Daring could just make out the slightest difference between the regular moss-, flowers-, and vine-covered stone wall and what seemed to be just vines hanging loosely supporting the other plants growth.

With the predator right on their tails it wasn't like they would be able to hide, but Rainbow Dash was already running towards the cave, and Daring Do had little choice but to follow.

It was dark, wet and gloomy, but Daring didn't hesitate for a moment. With barely a thought, she pulled out an oil lamp from her jacket and ignited it while the leopard – it was the one Daring had run into first – was still hot on their trail.

A sudden yelp from behind her caused the adventurer to falter. What was that?

Against better judgment, she turned her head – which turned out to be a fatal mistake. By a cruel joke of fate, the heroic adventurer, who had challenged death in every corner of the world, who had shattered villainous schemes countless times, had defied dangerous dungeons, perilous crypts and trap-filled tombs... tripped over a tiny rock she had not seen in the dark.

Daring's head slammed into the ground, hard. Pain shot through her skull, her eyes clenched shut from the impact. The oil lamp clattered to the ground some ways off.

Everything went fuzzy.

Through her eyelids, all she saw was the flickering light of her oil lamp. The only things she heard were the sounds of her heart pounding wildly in her chest, and hectic, ragged breathing.

Except... it wasn't her own breathing.

A tirade of curses slurred together into an indecipherable mumble as she blearily opened one eye – only to see the predator come into focus just bare hoof-lengths away.

Muscles tense, the familiar surge of adrenaline washed away her weariness. She readied her stance to give the leopard a hard time for its meal. She wasn't gonna go down without a fight!

Then she got a good look at the predator.

Eyes wide, ears pinned down, one paw held up as if frozen mid-trot, it stared off at something behind Daring Do, its face almost completely drained of color.

It… no, he was scared. Scared for his life.

Daring’s mind drew a blank. The expression of primal fear was so out of place on the apex predator, she didn’t know what to think.

The other two hunters stepped into the cave, snarling and ready to leap. Then they saw their fellow predator, huddling on the ground, shaking with fear. Their demeanor changed, just as quickly.

First, signs of recognition, disbelief, and then just sheer and blank terror!

And then, the three big cats just turned and ran. With their tails between their legs. And if Daring didn't know any better, it seemed the other two were trying to stay away from the first one. As if touching him could carry a deadly curse.

Daring Do felt a cold chill running up her spine. Where exactly had they stumbled into? What had they seen? What could possibly warrant such a reaction?!

Slowly, very slowly, Daring Do turned around, steeling herself for the worst...

...And then looked at a dumbfounded cyan pegasus. No big dragons or anything of the sort looming behind her, either.

There was nothing.

Nothing, except for a carving on the wall. Four simple geometric shapes.

It was both a positive surprise as well as disconcerting.

It was the ancient Mareican civilization's symbol for “death”. She had found an entrance to the temple she had been looking for.
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Author's Note:

Special thanks to Meta Four and Litho for help with editing. :pinkiesmile:

Chapter 2 revision performed: July 2016. Updated December 2016.