• Published 29th Jul 2016
  • 1,995 Views, 28 Comments

Daring Doodle Donkey - The 24th Pegasus

Daring Do is one of the greatest explorers in Equestria, but who taught her everything she knows?

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A Daughter

A Daughter

“Hey, you doing alright?”

Cranky puffed and wheezed as he hiked up the side of a ravine. The air was warm and almost dripping with moisture, and the donkey was drenched in sweat. Thick jungle foliage threatened to obscure his hoofholds on the rocky ravine, but Cranky was a donkey, and that meant he never lost his hoofing. Ever. Or so he liked to claim.

About a hundred feet above him, a khaki face peered down from a ledge. No longer a filly, Daring had grown into a lively and beautiful young mare, with the tone and build of a pegasus who had spent as much time climbing and hiking as she had flying. Though her face had picked up a few scars and blemishes from years of adventures, it was still a pretty one, able to draw out adventurous young stallions in the many, many towns the traveling pair stopped in along the road. Cranky certainly knew the struggles of that firsthoof, as he had to chase away a good number of them, though he knew that there were others who’d slipped past his defenses in the middle of the night to share some kissing and touching with the khaki mare. At least he trusted Daring to never take anything farther than that. She was too proud of her freedom and didn’t let herself get attached to any one place or any one pony.

But that was neither here nor there, and all Cranky wanted to do at the moment was swat the bemused face looking down at him from higher up the side of the ravine. “I’m getting older, okay?” he grumbled, shifting the bags on his back and redoubling his efforts to scale the ravine. “I don’t move as fast as I used to.”

Daring chuckled and watched him struggle up the slope for a few more minutes. “You want me to grab your bags? I have wings, you know.” That only earned an irritated grumble from Cranky, which made Daring whoop with laughter. “You’re stubborn as a mule. You know that, right?”

“Both of my parents were proud donkeys,” Cranky retorted. “I’m no mule.”

Daring rolled her eyes and spread her wings. Before Cranky was even aware of what she was doing, she’d already silently glided down the face of the ravine, careful to avoid the branches and thick foliage of the jungle, and landed right behind him. In one smooth motion, she plucked one of the heavy bags off of the donkey’s back and shouldered the weight, sizing it to fit around her significantly smaller frame. Cranky shot her an irritated glare, but it quickly melted away to reveal the appreciation hidden underneath. One after the other, the pair of travelers wordlessly scaled the ravine until finally they made it to the flat ledge where Daring had already piled her supplies.

“This,” Cranky panted, “is a good place to make camp.”

“Please, we could’ve gotten to the top of the ravine if we really wanted to,” she said, waving toward the amber glow of the sun in the west. “We still have another three hours of daylight. We could make it even at your pace.”

Cranky found a mossy rock to sit down on and grunted. “Don’t forget who had to wait for who when I first took you with me.”

“Yeah, but that was years ago,” Daring said, grabbing one of the bags and poking through it. She dug out a few split pieces of firewood, some tinder, and some kindling. “I could hardly even fly straight then. Though you did good with teaching me how, despite, you know, not having wings of your own.”

The donkey just shrugged while Daring built a fire. “I’ve met a lot of pegasi in my life. Guess something rubbed off on me.” Leaning forward, he waved his hoof dismissively. “And it’s not like you were without flying buddies of your own. You spent half the time we were in Los Pegasus causing mischief with your friends above the clouds while I was searching for her.”

Daring chuckled. “Yeah, I guess I was a hoofful then.” After taking a second to admire her work, Daring nodded and left the wood alone for the time being. Next she focused on setting up their small tents, putting them on opposite sides of the fire pit she’d scraped out in the middle of the clearing. “I’m glad we got tents instead of lean-tos,” Daring said. “Those mosquitos are nasty.”

“And you’re the one who wanted the lean-tos in the first place,” Cranky said, smirking at Daring from his rock.

“Well, I’d never been in the jungle before. I just didn’t want to carry all the extra weight.”

“This is why you listen to your elders, kid.”

Daring snorted, her breath knocking aside a strand of sweaty mane hanging in front of her nose. “Oh, so you finally admit that you’re old?”

“Not old enough to settle down and retire,” Cranky said, crossing his forelegs and frowning. “There are still too many places left to search. I won’t give up until I’ve looked everywhere.”

Daring pursed her lips, though she kept her back toward Cranky. Unfortunately, Cranky knew the pegasus too well to not notice the silence that followed, and sighing, he patiently looked across the clearing at Daring. “I know you think we’ll never find her, Daring, but I won’t give up. She’s out there somewhere.”

The pegasus turned around and rested on her haunches. “You’ve been searching for almost twenty years, though. Equestria’s a big place; you could go searching for another twenty and never find her.”

“Then I’ll search twenty years more.” Rubbing his muzzle, Cranky looked up to the sky, reminiscing on the memories of that night. “We had something special that happens once in a lifetime. Honest-to-Celestia true love. Maybe one day you’ll be lucky enough to know what that feels like. I just hope you never have to have it torn away from you the next day.”

The khaki mare frowned. She hated when Cranky got like this. She opened her mouth to say something, but the donkey was already lost in his thoughts, and she knew there wasn’t anything she could do to shake him out of his melancholy. It made her feel useless, and above all, Daring hated feeling useless. She’d gotten enough of that back in Glacier Point.

Glacier Point… she shuddered and whipped her head back and forth. The less she thought about her hometown, the better. The six years she’d been traveling with Cranky had been the best of her life. She wouldn’t have given them away for anything. Not even to have her parents back. That was just an old wound that had healed with time, and she had the donkey sitting across from her to thank for that.

“I’m going to go gathering,” Daring announced. She surveyed their campsite, making sure that there wasn’t much left to be done, and smiled at Cranky. “You can get the rest?”

Cranky waved a hoof. “I can still do my share of the work. You don’t have to fawn over me.”

“Just making sure I can blame somepony if I find ants in my pillowcase again,” Daring teased, smirking. Then, spreading her wings, she galloped toward the edge of the cliff, saying, “I’ll be back before sundown!”

“Remember what I taught you!” Cranky hollered after her. “Watch out for pythons! And poison dart frogs! And—!”

“I know, I know!” Daring shouted back, even as her wings carried her further away. Cranky swore that he saw her shaking her head as she plunged beneath the canopy in search of some plants to supplement their rations.

It took almost two hours, but Daring returned to their campsite just as Cranky started to get worried. Flaring her wings in what Cranky knew Daring thought was a flashy and cool entrance, the young khaki mare landed right in front of Cranky and dropped a bag stuffed full of greens and berries at his hooves. “You’ll never believe what I found!”

Cranky poked through the bag Daring had collected, noting the colors and textures of the fruits inside. “Avocado, camu camu, and cacao? Not bad.” He pulled out a few camu camu fruits and popped them in his mouth, letting the sweet and tart wash of citrus prick at his tongue. “These are great in vitamin C. Highest concentration of any fruit.”

“You’re like an encyclopedia, seriously,” Daring teased, joining Cranky on the rock. “You know everything.”

The donkey merely shrugged. “Well, I wouldn’t say I know everything so much as I have a great memory. Once I see it, I won’t forget it.”

“No wonder you like to go through the library of every town we stop at.” Grinning, Daring reached into another saddlebag and pulled out a rolled piece of paper. “But I found something even better than fruit,” she said, passing the roll to Cranky. “Take a look!”

Cranky unfurled the roll of parchment and spread it across his lap. It was a rubbing of some intricate carvings Daring had found while she was out. He recognized several equine figures gathered around a central one with its forelegs outspread, while radiant energy seemed to glow from around it. “You found Mareyan carvings?”

Daring beamed. “Yeah! They were right across the river from a bunch of camu camu plants. I almost didn’t see them at first, but then I saw the gold!” She craned her neck down and pulled out a necklace she’d hidden underneath her shirt, letting the hoof-worked gold glint in the fiery sunset. “I think it was a burial ground or something like that!”

“Not quite,” Cranky said with a shake of his head. Pointing to the figure in the middle, he elaborated. “The carvings tell me that it was a shrine of sorts to a sun goddess. The Mareyans gave her jewelry and other offerings so that she would continue to raise the sun for them. She was their most important deity.” Pointing to the necklace around Daring’s neck, he added, “I’m surprised it hasn’t been looted by treasure hunters yet if you were able to find that. Who knows what else is there?”

That question had Daring fidgeting in excitement. “Can we go look tomorrow?” she asked, resting her hooves on Cranky’s shoulder. “I love treasure hunting!”

Cranky chuckled and patted Daring on the back. “That’s in the complete opposite direction of where we need to go, kid. Besides, I’m sure the Mareyans would appreciate it if you left their treasure where they put it.” Daring pouted and frowned at her necklace, fidgeting with the small golden sun on the end of a silver chain, and Cranky nudged her. “Don’t worry about flying back there to put that back. Consider it a birthday present.”

A huge grin broke out over Daring’s muzzle, and she leaned against Cranky. “That’s right! It’s my birthday! I completely forgot!” Laughing, she nuzzled the donkey. “I can’t believe I’m seventeen now!”

“Enjoy it while you have it, kid,” Cranky said, rubbing her neck while he supported her weight. “Forty-three’s not as fun as it sounds. The years only seem to go by faster and faster.”

“Heh. Yeah, I bet.”

They fell into easy silence for almost an hour, simply watching as the sun finally went down and the sounds of the night began. Daring idly played with her new golden necklace, admiring the skill that had gone into making it, and occasionally pressing the soft metal to her lips to simply feel the cool surface in the remains of the hot day. Only when she began slapping at the mosquitos plaguing her did she finally stir from Cranky’s side, muttering profanities under her breath.

“Start the fire,” Cranky said, lazily plucking a mosquito off of his foreleg and crushing it on the rock underneath him. “The smoke will keep them away.”

“That’s what you said last night,” Daring grumbled as she dug through her bags for a fire striker. “I still got bit like nopony’s business. And those stupid ‘magic mosquito repellant’ coils didn’t do anything.”

Cranky shrugged, watching as Daring expertly created a coal, then grew the coal into a crackling fire. Much better than when he’d first found her. “We were in the middle of the jungle then. There are more mosquitos there than on the side of a ravine. They’ll tend to stay away from open spaces so the bats don’t pick them off, and the smoke will chase away the rest.”

“I hope so,” Daring said as she stepped away from the fire, stowing the fire striker and flint back in her bag. “It’d really suck to get malaria on my birthday. Worst. Present. Ever,” she added, chuckling quietly.

“This is why we get vaccines,” Cranky said. At Daring’s disgusted look, Cranky simply shrugged. “Trust me on this one, kid. I know needles aren’t your favorite, but getting sick is much, much worse. You should be lucky to live in a day and age where we have medicine like this.”

“Or we could see a healer,” Daring said, sitting down across from Cranky with the fire between them. “You know, magic is pretty good at getting rid of disease.”

“Magic is expensive. And even if it wasn’t, do I look like a unicorn to you?” Cranky asked, pointing to his forehead.

Daring waved a hoof. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. There aren’t exactly a whole lot of traveling doctors.” Then she grimaced and shuddered, rubbing a phantom pain near her shoulder. “Doesn’t make needles any better, though.”

They fell silent, both staring at the fire and pretending they knew how to read the flames. The buzzing of grotesquely large bugs and the trilling of little tree frogs filled the night with noise. Daring would occasionally flinch at the flutterings of a bat, and Cranky spent several minutes trying out different spots on his rock to find something more comfortable.

Eventually, Cranky cleared his throat and looked at Daring. “Hey, kid.”

Daring’s ears perked toward him first, followed by her eyes, then her face. “Hmm?”

Cranky gestured to one of his bags lying next to his tent. “Go get the black bag. I’ve got a little something for you for your birthday.”

The pegasus’ eyebrows raised a little. “Oh? Even with the necklace?”

“I didn’t know you were going to find something better than what I could give you,” Cranky said with a shrug. When Daring opened her muzzle to protest, Cranky held up a hoof. “Don’t worry about it, kid. Just go open your presents.”

Extending her wings, Daring fluttered over to the bags and opened the black one. After pawing around in it for a few seconds, she let loose a surprised gasp. When she turned away from the bag, she had a thick journal in one hoof and a pith helmet in the other. Grinning from ear to ear, she held them up to Cranky as if he’d never seen them before. “Oh, thank you! This is awesome!”

Cranky smiled. “I know how you love reading those adventure stories of yours. I figured you’d enjoy the chance to write your own just as much. You’ve always had a knack for storytelling.”

Daring flipped the hat onto her head and gently set the journal down on her bag so it wouldn’t get dirty. “And the hat?”

“So you can keep the sun out of your eyes,” Cranky said. “A mane’s good, but it doesn’t last forever,” he added, rubbing the rapidly thinning hair on his scalp. “And, well, what’s an explorer without a hat of some kind?”

The mare’s eyes practically glowed, and flying over to Cranky, she sat down next to him and wrapped him in a big hug. “I love it. Thank you so much, Dad.”

Smiling, Cranky returned the hug and nuzzled Daring’s neck. “You’re welcome, my little Daring Doodle. Happy birthday.”