• Published 14th Apr 2012
  • 7,514 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 3 - Exposition

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

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The two mares walked through the dark tunnels of the cave in silence, the only source of light being the adventurer's oil lamp. With Daring Do in the lead, and no immediate threats in sight, Rainbow Dash found some time to reflect on recent events.

Her thoughts drifted back to last night, when everything finally had fallen into place.

At first she had just stared at it, trying to blink herself awake from what she just had come to terms with wasn't a dream. Closed her eyes, opened them again, thinking that she'd imagined it.

But there it had been, undeniably – the Mare in the Moon.

And, just like that, getting back home or even sending a message to Ponyville had become a lot more difficult. Not enough that she was in some far out jungle in Luna-knows-where, now she'd also have to add time travel to her schedule.

And then she'd remembered something. It didn't come up too often – but the “Daring Do”-books were set sometime mid-last century, not in present day.

Now Dash had two possibilities to consider. Both were equally unlikely, but one of them just made sense. As much sense as it could, anyway.

Either, she somehow had been flung into the past, into a distant jungle she couldn't remember seeing on any maps, waking up right next to a pony that wasn't supposed to exist, or she had mysteriously entered the world of the “Daring Do”-book series.

Now she could even recall why the name “Mareican jungle” had struck a cord. She vaguely remembered it being mentioned in the preview for the latest book, the one she had been about to read before reality had decided to play a prank on her behalf.

It was too bad that the preview had been all too hazy – the foreknowledge certainly might've proven useful in her situation.

And come to think of it, that was another thing that had been bothering her, ever since Daring Do had unintentionally pointed it out.

How did she even find her? How had she even known Daring Do had been in danger?

She'd jerked awake, whisked away from sweet dreams of flying with the Wonderbolts, and just known Daring Do was in a precarious situation with no way out.

Without second thoughts, she'd flown straight out of the cave to come to her aid.

And that brought up another detail. Where did all those vines suddenly come from after she had rescued Daring Do? She had been able to fly just fine before!

“So, Rainbow Dash, where are you from, exactly?” Daring Do's attempt at small talk shook Dash out of her musings.

“Ponyville,” she answered without giving the question a second thought.

Wait, did Ponyville even exist yet?

Dash cringed. Apparently, the name didn't strike Daring Do as familiar. “Uhm... near Canterlot. Right next to the Everfree Forest.”

“Oh,” was all Daring said at first. “Pretty long way from here,” she added after a pause, involuntarily making Dash cringe yet again. She didn't need to be reminded of how far away from her friends she was right now. Or half a century away. Or in another plane of reality altogether.

“So... what brings you here?”

This gave Dash a pause. She didn't have the faintest clue how and why she was here.

And somehow, it struck her as unwise to tell the pony standing before her that, where she came from, they were just a character in a book-series.

Generally, if you told somepony that, they'd label you as insane.

Which was pretty much the last thing she wanted Daring Do to think of her.

Best to omit certain details of the truth, then.

“Well, uh, I dunno... magic mishap, or something.” She shrugged. “One moment I'm off to visit one of my friends in town, next thing I know I wake up in a jungle.”

“And 50 or so years in the past. In another universe” was what she didn't say.

Judging by Daring's expression turning from surprise to sympathy, her earlier “odd” behavior was now excused.

“Woah. Never heard of a unicorn powerful enough to teleport you across half the world.”

Great. Another reminder of how far away she was from home.

“Yeah, Twilight's got quite the thing for magic. Magic itself is her special talent,” she responded almost automatically.

“Although... It can't have been Twi, she was still at the library when I went to Sugar Cube Corner,” Dash thought to herself.

“Still, wow. I mean, wow. I sure could use somepony who does teleportation spells like that.” For a moment, Daring Do's expression darkened. “Certainly could use the head start...”

That last comment threw Dash's impulse-response off for just long enough to realize that casually name-dropping Princess Celestia as Twilight Sparkle's personal teacher might not be such a great idea after all.

Asides from the obvious bragging, it was still half a century before Twilight Sparkle – or any of her friends, or herself for that matter – were even going to be born!

If they even were going to be born in this... reality or whatever the hay this was. The thought once again gave her the chills.

And things could get awkward if Daring Do started pointing out holes in Rainbow Dash's story.

Pointing out holes in her story...

Dash pondered for a moment, and curiosity got the better of her.

What if she asked Daring about something that wasn't mentioned in any of the books?

“Say, how did you get your cutie mark?” She pointed at the depiction of a compass rose imprinted into the adventurer's hindquarters.

Daring Do's perplexed expression made her realize how blunt and out-of-the-blue the question must have come off as.

Of course you didn't just randomly ask somepony how they got their cutie mark.

“Horsefeathers!” Dash silently cursed to herself. ”So much for making a good first... err, second impression.”

“Urk, Dash, what's gotten into you?” She face-hoofed inside her mind. “This is Daring Do, for crying out loud! Don't blow this!”

“Uhh... I got mine, when I did a Sonic Rainboom...”

Somehow, this riveting retelling of a pivotal moment in pony history utterly failed to instill the appropriate sense of awe in her conversation partner.

“Uh, you know?” Dash gestured wildly with her hooves for emphasis. “The Sonic Rainboom? Breaking the sound barrier? Giant rainbow explosion in the sky?”

When that still didn't break up the awkward gap in their conversation, Dash elaborated.

How she had stood up to defend her timid friend, Fluttershy, against some bullies in flight camp. The race challenge, and how she had not only won, but pulled off a move prior to that day only heard of in legends! That her talent lay in the very nature of flying itself, the love for the feeling of air under her wings, the need for speed, and the amazing stunts she could pull off!

Daring stayed silent for a moment, then gave a rather brief answer.

“Happened when I first got my hooves on a very precious artifact. Had to evade all kinds of dangerous critters and stuff.”

Dash sensed there was more to it – there was just something about the way Daring had said those words – but Dash decisively didn't press the issue.

After all, a cutie mark story was something very personal, and not everypony liked to share theirs.

But at least the awkward silence was over.


Her cutie mark...

It had been a while since she had thought of that.

The image of a golden compass rose against a dark green background was so omnipresent in her everyday life that it hardly even registered anymore.

Daring's thoughts drifted back to childhood memories, her father who she barely had known. It had been a dark and stormy night, when she set out on her quest, and –

She was shaken out of her reveries, when Rainbow Dash slammed her body into her side with full force.

“Hey! What are you –”

ZZZZZINNNG!

The characteristic noise of a spike trap closing in right behind her cut Daring Do off.

“Woah!” Daring's eyes widened in surprise, inwardly scolding herself for letting her guard down. “Thanks, I totally didn't see that one coming.”

Rainbow Dash silently stared at the spikes.

“...Neither did I,” she quietly muttered to herself.

Daring wasn't sure what to make of the remark. Probably stress, considering their near-death encounter.
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From this point on, the narrow tunnels of the cave became more easily discernible as the entryway to an underground temple, laced with traps every couple of steps.

And what nasty traps there were!

In her time, Daring had seen the inside of many forbidden catacombs, countless holy and probably less holy shrines – when the cult that had built it had served the god of Chaos and Disharmony, it wasn't “holy” in her book – and this temple had everything.

(Well, almost everything. She honestly doubted she'd ever again encounter a pitfall filled with flesh-eating piranhas swimming in steaming hot chocolate, while razor-sharp candy-cane spikes were descending from the ceiling, which itself was covered in some dripping goo that had incapacitated her flying abilities at the time.)

From the classic spike-traps, spears shooting out of the walls, the ground opening up to reveal a pit filled with hungry alligators... You name it, it was all here!

Daring knew of several different temple archetypes. Asides from different construction styles, layouts or traps to be expected when facing a specific type of temple, there were those that were designed to 'test' anypony that dared to enter... and then there were those that just tried to keep everything and everypony out no matter what.

This definitely was one of the latter kind.

A wide gap in the ground filled with lava made her pause to consider where exactly the lava might be coming from. The thought was quickly dismissed as the two pegasi simply flew to the other side.

That was strange. Whoever had built this place clearly didn't want any intruders to get through, yet, it didn't seem to be built with pegasi in mind.

Pegasi taken aside – considering that she had heard rumors about a few feral griffon tribes living somewhere in the southern parts of the jungle, the lack of security against winged intruders struck her as rather inconsiderate.

The solution to at least part of this mystery turned out to be rather simple, and non-lethal for once.

At one point, the tunnel suddenly came to a stop, only a very small crawlway allowing for passage. No adult griffon would be able to fit – but a pony could squeeze their way through just fine.

With the two of them working their way through the tight corridor single file, Daring Do was constantly on edge. Should there be yet another spontaneously opening floor tile or a set of spikes springing up in front of them, they had no real way to evade it. Still, she urged Dash to keep behind by a few meters, in case any of them should require some extra space to dodge something.

A number of suspicious rills in the walls did not go unnoticed, but passing them didn't seem to trigger any traps.

The narrow tunnel stretched on for quite a while, interspersed with the occasional random turn, rather more of a concession to natural circumstances than intentional design.

“Geez, how long is this thing?!” Daring muttered out loud.

Lucky for her, she found out when the next corner revealed an exit to a larger chamber, this time dominated by brick architecture as opposed to naked stone walls.

“Phew, I thought my wings were going to fall asleep.” The pegasus wearily flapped the sore appendages and stretched her back, briefly leaning against the wall for support.

A sudden “CLUNK” from behind made her spin around. The tunnel space she had just crawled out of had been sealed off by a solid rock wall – and Rainbow Dash was still inside!

A muffled shout of “Hey! What gives?” coming from the other side pretty much confirmed that Dash was alright, but Daring asked her anyway.

“You okay, Rainbow Dash?”

“Urk! My tail's stuck,” Dash shouted back. “Some rock or whatever came shooting out from the ceiling! ...It's hard to tell in the dark.”

Wait, so there was more to the trap than just this wall at the end of the tunnel? But what good was a trap that only got triggered from the outside?

Unless...

Daring looked over the wall she had previously leaned on, and indeed – one of the bricks in the wall stuck out slightly. A small push, and the rock-wall slid back up, soon followed by a dust-covered pegasus entering the room.

“It's a sealing mechanism.” Daring Do pondered out loud. “Whoever built this place had wanted to have the option to shut everypony out when inside – as if the death traps weren't enough already!”

“Heh.” She couldn't help but chuckle. “Clever placement for the trigger, actually. If somepony managed to follow one of the monks – or whoever used to serve in this temple – up to this point, they could still trap the intruder in the tunnel.”

On a whim, she searched for the trigger to shut the entrance. With a resounding “CLUNK”, the only apparent exit was closed.

“Hah! Let's see how Ahuizotl's gonna get in here now.”

Turning her lamp towards the room, Daring took notice of several torches sticking out from the walls. Most of them were soaked – water was dripping in from some point in the ceiling – but she managed to find a usable one. She ignited it, and gave it to Dash, who accepted it wordlessly.

Holding up her own light-source, she inspected her surroundings.

To her left, there were several intricate carvings, etched into the canvas of a row of stone tablets embedded into the wall.

Most of the carvings had been damaged to some degree or another; the water running down from the ceiling was ever-so-slowly eating away at the art.

The first carving showed a group of ponies to the right, taking a protective stance against a group of indistinct creatures to the left. Curiously, to the ponies' right, there was a depiction of their symbol for “death” that Daring Do had already noticed at the cave entrance. There was also another symbol Daring Do did not recognize. It appeared to be a flag, probably the symbol of their society, waving in a non-existent breeze.

The next picture was not a very pleasant one. While the details had been washed away by a flowing river of water drops from above, and the entire lower half of the image was missing, it clearly depicted a devastated battlefield. Groups of ponies, griffons, and even one or two grown dragons could be seen – apparently lifeless, or otherwise incapacitated. And looming over everything, there was, again, the symbol for “death”.

Daring grimaced for a brief moment, then moved on to the next picture. It probably wasn't a good sign that the first thing the Mareicans wanted somepony to see upon entering was an illustration of ponies going to war.

There was a gap in the wall, and some debris on the floor indicated that part of the stone tablet had fallen off. The rest of the tablet showed a group of ponies wearing masks and ceremonial robes that covered the entire body.

What caused Daring Do to groan and apply her left front-hoof to her face was the detail that every pony shown in the carving was carrying a small orb either depicting the deadly symbol, or what appeared to be their national flag.

Within just a couple of minutes, her opinion of the “Great and Wise” Mareican civilization had dropped significantly. The impression she got from this did not match up with her research at all.

Okay, there was always the chance she wasn't getting the full picture, or was misinterpreting things. Maybe the flag even had a different meaning altogether. After all, she couldn't rightfully judge this entire civilization on the spot, at the very least not just by looking at the first three stone carvings she came across.

And indeed, the next image broke the chain of death and other questionable symbolism.

Or, rather, the image after that or perhaps the one thereafter, as a huge chunk of the wall had slumped down into a pile of rubble on the floor.

Scratching her head, she noticed the absence of pegasi in the picture. None of the pony-shapes were specifically carved to resemble unicorns either.
Going back to the previous images didn't show any pegasi or unicorns either, not that she could tell for sure with the many broken pieces and water-damage.

A closed society of earth ponies, perhaps?

Come to think of it, this would indeed line up with her research.

Just recently, new dating methods had revealed that artifacts found in the Mareican mainlands were much older than previously thought. Eight thousand years at the very least, if not more. As such, the Mareican civilization predated not only the union of the three tribes, but even the three tribes themselves.

Not much was known about those early days of recorded history. But one thing was certain. The Mareicans had been... exceptional.

In an era when many scattered groups of ponies had just been using the most basic of metal tools, they had already mastered mechanical contraptions the likes of which had only been rediscovered mere centuries ago.

Some of the traps she had just escaped from were perfect proof of that.

One of the discovered artifacts that was causing historians' brains all around the world to overheat was, in fact, a pony-sized mechanical clock, gear wheels and all.

So far, nopony had found an explanation for the spectacular – no pun intended – anachronism.

And then, on top of that, there were legends of a powerful artifact.

It was just so exciting!

At heart, Daring Do was an adventurer, always out for a thrill, no doubt. But also, she often found herself amazed by cultures that had come and passed, long before Equestria was even founded.

Sheepishly, she remembered a time when a young daredevil wannabe-adventurer desperately had tried to hide her interest in archeology, believing it to be “nerdy”. Nowadays, she was even publishing her own articles on the subject.

Shaking herself from her reveries, she strove for the next stone tablet.

The carving showed the same general scenery, except that the ponies had vanished. The image entirely focused on nature – meaning mostly trees and giant mushrooms. There may have been birds, too, but the well-preserved condition of the previous carving did not apply here. Over all, there was a huge circle, straight lines splaying out from it in a circular pattern identifying it as the sun.

The next tablet gave Daring pause. It was the same landscape, but the mood of the first few carvings had returned. There were no ponies, no trees, no vegetation, nothing. Looming over everything was, once again, the Mareican symbol for “death” – this time taking the place of the sun itself. Daring wasn't entirely sure what to make of this. The Mareican civilization had vanished at some point, likely fallen victim to a disease. At least, that was the working theory.

Whatever carvings had come after that had not stood the test of time. All that remained was a pile of rubble on the ground, where the small river of water droplets vanished into unseen holes in the floor.

Daring Do decided to move on, and see what lay ahead of them.

Only then, she realized that she hadn't heard a single word from Rainbow Dash for quite a while. She turned to see the other pegasus standing at the opposite side of the room, staring off at nothing in particular.

“Rainbow Dash, are you coming?” she addressed the absent-minded mare.

“Hmm? Yeah, sure...” Dash replied, apparently shaken out of her thoughts.


It still bothered her how she had even gotten here, how it was even possible that she was walking side-by-side through some buried underground structure with her favorite fictional character become flesh. But as they resumed trotting deeper into the temple, Dash's thoughts kept going back to that first trap.

She really hadn't seen it coming. There had been something, like a strong itch at the back of her skull, a sense of unease pushing itself to the top of her mind from the depths of her subconsciousness. And then she had jumped to shove Daring Do out of the way before the spike trap could squash them both.

It was almost like...

“No,” she told herself, sternly. “That's... that's not it.” She almost would have compared the experience to her hyperactive, party-enthusiastic friend's “Pinkie Sense”.

But she had seen something out of the corner of her eye. She hadn't been able to grasp what it was at the time... but now, it was crystal-clear.

It had been... letters. Words. A sentence. Something along the lines of “... the characteristic noise of a ... spike trap closing in right behind ... Rainbow Dash slammed her body into ...”

And then she had acted, before the trap was even visible. She had known what was going to happen, before it happened.

She... she had read the next paragraph.
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Author's Note:

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

Chapter 3 revision performed: July 2016. Updated December 2016.