• Published 23rd Aug 2016
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Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes - totallynotabrony



It's time for the annual Royal Guard training exercise. A ragtag crew playing bad guys has to go up against the entire rest of the Guard.

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Chapter 9

They returned to Ponyville with a hearty breakfast at Scootaloo’s friend’s place in mind, but instead received a slice of humble pie. Apple Bloom informed them that wanted posters with their pictures had gone up around town.

“They said it was for a Guard trainin’ exercise, but to be on the lookout for you,” Apple Bloom told them.

“How could they have known it was us?” Dew asked.

“Somepony in Canterlot must know who we are,” said Chalice. “Lieutenant Mirror didn’t use our names on the letters she sent, so even if they were intercepted they couldn’t identify us.”

“Could it be somepony she’s working with in the exercise planning group?” Melon speculated. “They’re supposed to be uninvolved and neutral, the game masters, but who else could have come up with our names?”

“We also haven’t received any more mail from her,” said Scootaloo. “Maybe she’s figured it out, too.”

“How could we get a message to her?” Melon asked the group.

“Can I help?” offered Apple Bloom.

“That might be breaking a rule, having civilians do our work for us,” said Melon. “Not that we haven’t gotten your support - thanks for that, by the way - but actually doing our bidding definitely isn’t allowed. Especially now that they’ve got their eyes on us.”

“We could go to Canterlot,” said Scootaloo. “They’d never suspect us to be right under their noses.”

“There are also a lot more guards and they’ll probably be more prepared,” Chalice pointed out.

“But they’d never suspect it.” Scootaloo grinned. “Heck, maybe we can be literally under their noses and stay in the caves under the castle.”

“Canterlot would also give us a chance to pull off one last big job before the end of the exercise,” said Melon.

“Speaking of that, we should do another one as we go through Ponyville,” said Dew.

“I remember that Colonel saying he was staying in the hotel,” said Melon. “We could leave a ‘letter bomb’ for him.”

“He almost burst a vein last time,” chuckled Scootaloo. She frowned. “He was really angry. You think he went out of his way to figure us out and put up posters?”

It was a possibility. “We’ll play it by ear and be more careful,” said Melon.

After breakfast and a nap, the four of them thanked Apple Bloom for the hospitality and set out for Ponyville. It was after lunchtime but not yet quitting time, so the risk of running into the guards anywhere but the town hall seemed remote.

They stopped by the hotel and left a cheeky note for Colonel Desk Jockey. On the way out of town, they passed within a block of the town hall. Even at that distance, and with the crude nature of the hastily-drawn posters, it was easy to tell who was who. Surprisingly, there was a fifth one that listed Sergeant Cross Fit.

“I didn’t think I looked that fat,” observed Melon.

“They got my mane color wrong,” Chalice deadpanned.

“My nose doesn’t really look like that?” Dew worried.

“I wonder what it’s all supposed to mean,” said Scootaloo as they followed the road north out of town. “The extra poster for Fit.”

“It means they don’t know it’s only us,” said Chalice. “Maybe they know Wash Margin supplied the red team, but not who’s on it.”

It was an interesting observation, but not a particularly helpful one. The blue team, in Ponyville at least, now had their names and pictures. There was no telling who else had that information. Now, even showing their faces could put them at serious risk.

“Something I was wondering,” said Dew. “How did they get that?”

“If we were real-life bad guys, they wouldn’t just have our names and pictures on file,” said Melon. “They’d have to take the time to figure that out. And I can’t think of any evidence we’ve left behind that could have identified us so quickly.”

“They can’t have identified us,” said Chalice. “If they had, they’d know Sergeant Fit isn’t with us. Somepony went outside the exercise to look up the station that supplied the red team and get the records of everypony who works there.”

“And they know Lieutenant Mirror isn’t with us because she’s with the exercise planners,” said Melon. “So if I had to take a guess, Colonel Jockey probably went to one of the other planners and asked, or demanded, to know who he was up against.”

“Well, at least we know one thing,” said Dew. “If they’re breaking the rules but still haven’t beat us, we must be doing something right.”

That was good for the mood of the team. Almost good enough to forget the long walk to Canterlot that lay ahead.

The afternoon sun progressed into evening, and they entered Canterlot shortly after dusk so the darkness would help them stay incognito.

After the walk, they were all hungry. A grimy diner at the edge of town seemed like the best bet. It was not well traveled, and not near a guard station.

The downside of their choice was that the place tended to attract the kind of clientele who the guards might very well be interested in. If it came to that, Melon had been in fights before, and the three others had at least gone through training. Fortunately, nopony disturbed them while they talked quietly over a quick meal of greasy food.

“So we’re still headed for the caves?” Scootaloo asked.

“Right. The story is, we’re on a big archaeological dig, if anypony asks,” Chalice reminded her.

“What if they ask what we’re looking for?” Dew said.

The four of them fell silent for a moment.

“Maybe…” Chalice frowned and looked up. “I remember something about the lost treasure of Pants Fightswell. He was credited with creating the first complete map of Equestria. He's rumored to have killed seven dragons. He helped build the original castle in the Everfree Forest.”

That guy?” said Scootaloo.

Chalice nodded. “In more than a decade of traveling Equestria, it’s only natural to assume he amassed a number of interesting and valuable things, from killing dragons and taking their hoards if nothing else. So when the royal family moved to the new castle in Canterlot, it’s only logical that their, and of course his, material wealth was moved with them. However, the Canterlot castle is bigger and at that point Pants had died of old age, so the new castle didn’t go up nearly as quickly as the old one. They stored the stuff in the mountain caves under the castle in the meantime, and rumors are that most of it is still there.”

“Any truth to the rumors?” Melon asked.

“If those things haven’t been found by now, I’m guessing no.” Chalice shrugged.

“It still sounds like a good story,” said Dew. “‘The treasure of Pants Fightswell.’”

“If you believe that, then I’ve got some nice oceanfront property to sell you in Appleoosa,” said a patron from another table, a rather scruffy pegasus stallion wearing a tricorn hat.

“Sir, we are professional archaeologists,” said Scootaloo, puffing herself up. “We believe in everything until we prove unable to find it.”

Melon choked down a laugh, instead adding, “And how.”

The heckler turned away. The four of them paid their bill and left the diner.

It wasn’t hard to find the caves under the castle. The hard part was trying to find a good place to sleep. Rocks weren’t known for their forgiving nature.

With Dew and Chalice lighting the way, the group ventured inside. The caves weren’t heavily traveled. Most Canterlot residents saw them as the damp, dank, dirty passages they were and avoided them.

They went far enough in to hide themselves from the entrance. They could plan their next mock attack in the morning. That is, if any of them managed to sleep a wink that night on the cold, uneven rocks.

Author's Note:

Pants Fightswell was created by Hooves Like Jagger