• Published 3rd Jan 2017
  • 2,868 Views, 185 Comments

Daring Do and the Secret of the Sunken City - 8686



Years ago, Daring Do discovered an ancient city, and a strange lock she couldn't open alone. A while ago she met Rainbow Dash. Now it's time to go back and uncover the secrets she once had to abandon.

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The Secret Epilogue: Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow

I turn with a flourish, head raised heroically, flipping my mane to give it that extra, dramatic flair. The bright spotlight directly overhead pierces the blackness shrouding the rest of the stage with a shaft of intense, white light, almost blinding to me beneath it. Still I hit my mark, gaze sternly at Purple Smart, and tell her not to give up. Daring Do will find a way out of here, and get her and Bravely Blue home safe, just as she promised!


The spotlight dims to half-brightness and over the loudspeaker a new, masculine voice is heard, accented and thick with threat, with the reverb dialled up a little to simulate the echo from the cold stone walls of the dank pit myself and my unfortunate companions have found ourselves trapped within. The audience collectively gasps. They know whose voice that is.


I look upwards in horror and then put on a grim face. I turn to the crowd, deliver the final, defiant line of the scene, and the spotlight goes out casting everything into black.


The stage-lights come up and the applause is rapturous. The entire stadium erupts into cheering, screaming and stamping as a thousand flashbulbs staccato like sparkling diamonds. I stand centre stage with Purple Smart, (Silver Screen) and Bravely Blue, (Twice Bright) either side of me. We link forelegs and take our bows with broad, happy grins, and the already deafening applause grows even louder. We bow a second time and then all three of us pick up a rose from among the dozens thrown by those in the nearest rows, blow a kiss to the crowd, and make our way from the stage into the wings, where Dervish is waiting with a pleased smile.


We wait until we’re out of sight of the crowd and then the three of us turn to each other. None of us can keep a straight face, and it’s Silver Screen who cracks first, bursting into jubilant giggles and throwing her forelegs around us. Twice Bright and I follow suit and soon the three of us are hugging, the sense of relief palpable. I know we’re all professionals, but Las Pegasus is the biggest and most expensive show on the tour, and it has just gone off without a hitch. Whew!


Okay, I can see a lot of you are surprised to see me here. I guess I’d better get you caught up, huh?


So a lot happened after the terrifying, almost-getting-fired meeting with the Executives that I told you about. Things started changing. Subtly at first, and only for the better. For whatever reason, the whole ethos around the Publishers’ handling of the Daring Do franchise seemed to shift a little. Whether it was because of that meeting, or whether the Execs figured the ‘Real Daring Do experiment’ had run its course – or a little of both – suddenly the whole contrivance of a real Daring Do living in Equestria wasn’t the flavour of the month anymore. In fact, it was almost like they were trying to distance themselves from it, slowly, carefully. The schedule became less brutal, most of the shows more relaxed, and I wasn’t required to stay in character all day afterwards anymore. I got more time away to spend with my family and I saw Dervish – my favourite Suit – more often, eventually to the point where he was the only Suit ever sent to monitor the performances. Even the big centrepiece shows (or, if you’re cynical, extended trailers and advertisements for the next book,) became focused on the entertainment they provided, not fastidiously propogating some weird, parallel continuity. Suddenly my name – my real name – even started appearing on the billing. I wasn’t ‘Daring Do, in person’ anymore, I was Footlight appearing as Daring Do. I can still remember the first time I saw it printed like that. My jaw hit the floor.


Bit by bit, the intensity of everything got dialled back. I found myself once again playing the part of the adventurer I loved to read about when I was little, not actually trapped living her faux life. I found myself enjoying the performances more and more. And one morning, when I woke up refreshed with a wide, happy smile, I realised... I loved it again.


It was never playing the character, or entertaining the crowds that bothered me. It was the sense that, every time I wore that shirt and put on that hat, I was telling the world that I was okay with Daring Do being the real pony and Footlight being the piece of fiction. But it just doesn’t feel like that anymore. Footlight is her own pony with her own friends and her own career, and the Publishers respect that now. So you know what? When they offered me the piece of paper again, I signed it. For the first time in a very long while I put my name on that contract not because I thought I had no choice, but because I knew I did. Because I knew I could have walked away, but it was genuinely what I wanted. That was liberating. And believe me, they weren’t expecting it. I can still see that Suit’s face. Priceless!


Oh, and speaking of my friends? The Execs were as good as their word. Ponyville is on every tour. In fact the Ponyville show is next week, and I’ve already had a letter from Twilight saying they got the invitations I sent, and that they’ll be there, front row centre. I can’t wait. I really want them to meet Twice Bright.


That name might ring a bell with some of you. She was the first Daring Do, before me, who the Publishers cut loose when she broke her leg during one of their own performances five months after landing the role. They made a huge mistake with that, and were rightly torn apart by the media for it. But they couldn’t undo it. By then they’d already come to me in desperation because they had dates booked in and obligations for Daring Do that they simply couldn’t put off for six weeks while Twice Bright healed.


Twice Bright’s career kind of fell apart after she got given the sack, and she never recovered the level of fame she once enjoyed on Bridleway. When the Suits told her in her hospital bed that they were legally permitted to terminate her contract, the writing was on the wall. And as if getting that news before she was out of hospital wasn’t bad enough, before that day was even out she had been unceremoniously dumped by her agent – a bullish, uppity sort named Svengallop who abandoned her sinking ship to go manage some other rising star. A singer, I think. Whoever that was I feel sorry for them because, from what I know now, it’s pretty apparent that he was a big part of Twice Bright’s widely talked-about ‘attitude problem.’ Under his management, her haughty, prima-donna reputation preceded her wherever she went, and hard-working ponies like Argento often suffered the sting of her demanding, entitled tongue. (He still never talks about it.) But when he ditched her there was nothing to fuel or sustain the brutish, diva façade she’d manufactured and it soon fell away to reveal that, actually, there was a nice pony underneath, and one that had been trying to get out for a while. But without the contacts necessary to promote herself, and with a reputation for being ‘difficult’ that wasn’t entirely her fault, she was reduced to taking less and less glamorous roles and, eventually, bit-parts, walk-ons, and even filling in as an extra or understudy in whatever productions she could find.


As for me, it had always been a background source of guilt that I’d essentially landed my dream job only due to the misfortune of another. So, after my meeting with the Execs, when I realised they were actually listening to me for once, I snuck back and, heart-in-mouth, made one more demand.


They had to bring Twice Bright back on board somehow. It was never right that they just cut her loose like that and they needed to make it up to her. And they said yes. Instantly, humbly and without hesitation. I think they were secretly glad that I’d been the one to make the suggestion. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that the reason they had never approached her before was because they were afraid there might be some bad blood between her and myself. And, if truth be known, I was scared of that too. But that didn’t stop it from being the right thing to do. So when the Executives agreed, but on the condition that I had to be the one to make the offer – as Footlight, not Daring Do, that would be insensitive – I plucked up the courage, went to Manehatten, and tried to find her.


And after five years of living on the acting equivalent of scraps, she really had changed.


I found her backstage one evening working as a stagehoof, quietly undressing the set of My Fair Filly. And as soon as she laid eyes on me, she recognised me. We’d auditioned at the same time and been on the same shortlist after all, and she obviously knew all about me getting the role. When her eyes locked with mine I was terrified. I was afraid that she would be enraged at me for stealing her job away and, with it, her career, her life; reducing her to what she had become. And when she saw me... she was afraid. Afraid that I’d come to gloat and rub my success in her face. Because in that moment, I could see it in her eyes... that was all it would have taken to break her.

I told her instead that I’d come because I wanted to help. And she smiled. I smiled. We cried. We made friends.


So Twice Bright is on the payroll full-time, filling in whatever roles she needs to on stage. She’s exceptionally versatile and she’s lost none of her talent in those five years. She was famous for a reason. For this tour she’s Bravely Blue – Daring Do’s pegasus sidekick and officially a recurring character! (One whose personality reminds me so much of Rainbow Dash it’s untrue.) She loves playing her, but it gets even better than that, because after this tour is over Twice Bright gets to play Daring Do herself! For the next six months she’s finally going to get the chance to take on the role she was always supposed to. And after that? We’re gonna share it.


For me, I’m leaving for six months for Bridleway. I’m playing Long Mane Silver, the villainous pirate in the stage adaptation of Treasure Atoll. The Publishers have sanctioned it and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’ll be a nice change of pace to play the villain for once, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do: step outside of Daring Do for a while and go do some real acting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m coming back – I’ve got a contract to fulfill. But I figure I just need a break from the character for a bit. And if the time comes that I do decide to move on permanently, the Publishers will have Twice Bright willing, able and ready to go. They can’t say fairer than that. I’m not saying I’m thinking about it yet, but it’s nice to remind myself I’m carrying on because I truly want to, not because I feel obligated to or because I’d be leaving the Publishers in the lurch if I left.


Back to the here-and-now, and the hug breaks up. Dervish congratulates us all with a friendly smile and ushers us towards backstage and our dressing rooms. He makes impressed-sounding noises and, with a grin, reassures us that the Publishers will be getting yet another report of an exemplary performance. The three of us pretend to scoff and begin to playfully criticise each other. There’s a lot of laughing and playful shoving, and Dervish is part of it.


It’s strange. Me, Silver, Bright, Dervish and Argento – the core players on this tour – we’ve all become really close. Like a family. And the closer we’ve got off stage, the better every performance has become on it. This... this was how it always should have been. All of us ponies working together to pull off something amazing, not separately and consigned to our individual miserys.


Our dressing-rooms are three of the stadium’s borrowed offices lined up along one corridor, and adorned with our character’s names as opposed to our own – an odd holdover from the days when the pretense that the characters were real was still going strong, but a fun one. I leave Silver Screen at Purple Smart, and bid adieu to Twice Bright as she enters Bravely Blue. The goodbyes are only temporary – the four of us – we three plus Argento – are all meeting up for dinner at the restaurant once we’ve cleaned our make-up off and stored our costumes. Daring Do is the last dressing room, right at the end of the corridor on the left, and Dervish walks with me to it.


We’re halfway along before I even realise that there’s another Suit stood outside of it, as though a sentry. I look in puzzlement to Dervish and he catches hold of me, motioning me to stop before we’ve reached the door. He’s got a slightly guilty look in his eye.


He says he’s sorry he couldn’t tell me before, but he’s only just found out himself, and this is only for my ears, not my co-stars’. A celebrity – he’s no more specific than that – arrived during the show and demanded to see me. And it’s not a demand the Publishers can refuse. Before I can articulate any sort of question we walk on and reach the door. The Suit guarding it proffers me a scroll and a quill, with a stony face.


I’m officially very confused now, but Dervish and I have worked together enough that I trust him. He might be a Suit himself, but I honestly believe that if it ever really came down to the choice, he would protect me over lackeying for the Publishers.


I peer at the scroll. It’s a bespoke NDA – that’s Non-Disclosure Agreement for those not in the know. Essentially, if I sign it, I’m promising that I mustn’t disclose any of what goes on inside the room, or even mention that I’ve had a meeting at all. Above all else, it says at the bottom, the identity of the pony I’m about to meet is to be kept absolutely confidential.


My mind is racing. The fact that they’ve gone to the trouble to draft a specific document covering this one meeting is very far from normal. And the stipulations within it... well, warning bells are ringing left right and centre. But I take a deep breath. Dervish wouldn’t allow this if he thought anything bad might happen to me. And the Publishers have never ever put my safety at risk before. To do so now would be to go against everything I know about them. They’re just not like that. Suddenly fear takes a back seat to curiosity and I begin to wonder who is in there, waiting? Waiting for me?


A celebrity, and one the Publishers daren’t refuse at short notice? To my mind the only ponies that could wield that kind of influence are the Princesses. I gasp and for a moment I get excited. Could it be Twilight? She’s a Princess now, after all. Maybe she’s here to surprise me! Maybe she brought Rainbow Dash too! Then I think it through. The Princesses don’t do cloak-and-dagger. They’re open and honest, and why would Twilight need to swear me to secrecy with a contract?


My curiosity is burning so fiercely that I’m writing my signature on the scroll without really making a conscious effort to do so. Footlight. It’s done. The Suit rolls up the parchment in perfunctory manner, and then steps smartly aside, making no other movement. The door is in front of me, but no-one’s forcing me to walk through it. It’s my choice.


I give Dervish one last look and he gives me a solemn nod. I take that as an indication that he knows what’s going on and that, while not happy about it as such, he knows that everything will be alright once it’s over. I nod back, and place my hoof on the handle.


The door opens, I step through, and it closes behind me.


The room is dark. Gloomy. Coming in from the brightly-lit corridor outside, I can’t see a thing. There’s only a single ceiling lamp that’s now lit, casting a pool of light into the middle of the room, but one which doesn’t reach the walls or even my dresser. I hear a loud, solid click and realise it has come from the door at my back. The Suits have locked it. My blood turns to ice in an instant and I instinctively turn, my eyes darting to the handle and my heart thumping like a jackhammer. When I see it, relief comes in a slow wave and my breaths become calmer and less shallow. There’s a quick-release catch on the inside of the door. I can leave whenever I want. I haven’t been locked in... the rest of the world has been locked out. Whoever this is really doesn’t want our meeting to be interrupted.


I turn back to the room, my eyes starting to adjust, and just as I think I’m able to pick out the faintest, ghostly silhouette of a pony sat on the far side of the room, beyond the edge of the light, a voice speaks to me.


“Who are you?”

It’s low and hard-edged, but recognisably female and it’s not exactly what I’d call threatening. More... annoyed?


I draw myself up a little and swallow hard, determined not to stammer. I tell the voice that my name is Footlight, and there’s only the slightest quiver to my reply.


“Really?” says the voice from the dark. “I’ve heard you go around calling yourself Daring Do.”


That’s put my back up straight away. I play Daring Do, but I’m not Daring Do. Not anymore. I have my own life now, and those that know me know that this is still a touchy subject. They also know that I have a pretty short fuse, and right now mystery-mare over there – with her needlessly dark room and her locked door and her NDA – is tossing lit matches all over the place.


I just about manage to keep a lid on my temper, and I wonder at the same time if that was actually some kind of hint. Am I supposed to be meeting her as Daring Do? Is this some impossibly-rich, influential – and probably spoiled – fan who wants a private audience with her hero? It would have been nice if the Suits could have told me, but then the general rule has always been that while I’m still in costume, I’m still in character.


So it’s my fault. I’ve done this the wrong way, haven’t I? I should have started at Daring and gone to Footlight if the situation called for it. Maintain the illusion...


I feel a prickle of anger, hot on the back of my neck and at the back of my throat. That was always my mantra, before. I was always Daring Do because the situation never called for Footlight. No-one ever wanted to talk to Footlight until... until Twilight Sparkle. And now I’ve just caught myself blaming myself for telling that pony who I really am instead of who I’m really not!


I feel like I’m regressing, in danger of becoming the meek, downtrodden Footlight who lost five years of her life enslaved to a figment of somepony else’s imagination. Well, that won’t happen. I have friends now. Friends like Twice Bright and Argento. Like Twilight and Rainbow Dash. Friends who value me for me. My anger simmers but instead of letting it boil over I use it as fuel for the fire of my confidence. It blazes bright, driving back the shadows of fear.


I still haven’t replied, and that pony – whose silhouetted outline is resolving into something vaguely familiar – is clearly waiting for some kind of reaction from me. Well, I haven’t exactly done a great job at keeping my powder dry on the I’m Daring Do front, but I’ll respond as I should. As Footlight, and with the truth.


I forthrightly tell the pony-with-too-much-time/money/clout that I’m a character-actor who plays the role of Daring Do at the request of the Publishers, but that I’ve been doing it for a long time now and if she was hoping for a meeting with her, well, I guess she’s got one. I’m the closest thing there is to a ‘real’ Daring Do in all of Equestria.


I think I see the ear of the other pony twitch and flick, and I get the general impression from the rest of her body-language that my response has only annoyed her more. Finally she stands and speaks again.


“No, you’re not.”


The pony shifts, and finally steps forward into the light. What the...? Oh. That’s good. That’s actually very, very good.


It’s like looking at a living mirror. The shade of the coat, the shape of the hair, the detail on the cutie-mark... all exceptional. I’ve seen cosplay before of course, but this is next-level stuff. This is Argento-level, professional quality we’re talking here, and surely not cheap. The hat actually looks like a real pith helmet and properly war-torn, and the shirt is of a better quality even than my costume. This pony looks even better than Rainbow Dash did when Argento made her up as Daring Do, and I didn’t think that was possible! She’s as close to story-accurate as I’ve ever seen. Indistinguishable from every piece of promotional material, and I would know. After all, whenever you’ve seen Daring Do on a glossy poster or a book-cover... that’s me in the photograph.


Unless the reason her getup looks so professional is because it is professional. Has Argento made her up? Is this some kind of gag, or joke? Or... ah. Maybe the Publishers are recruiting. They might have finally decided they need understudies or gap-fillers for after I leave for my six-month sabbatical, in case Twice Bright gets sick or something. What if I’m here to evaluate this candidate, see how she handles the role? Could that be it?


That theory only fits half the facts, but in this context the other half don’t make sense anymore. If this is a celebrity, it’s certainly one I don’t recognise. I step forward and to the left, off to the side so I can get a better view, looking her up and down, appraising. I’m no less impressed by what I see. And then... she does the same. Now that I’m fully under the light she casts a judgmental, critical eye over me with a faint scowl etched in place. We sort of end up half-circling each other a wary distance apart, like two pugilists about to enter the fray but unsure who’s throwing the first kick.


There’s a tiny pause, and she draws breath. “You plant your hooves too wide when you turn, you flip your mane too much, your voice is a semitone too low, the last line was all wrong, and there’s to be absolutely no mention of pistachio ice-cream from here on out.” She frowns at me dangerously. “Got it?”


My jaw hangs open a little and I feel my own brow crease into a frown. My temper flares again and my teeth clench hard. And I realise I’m not even going to try and hold it back. I’ve tried to be polite, but now... might as well make my feelings known.


Pistachio ice-cream was a mistake I regret making, but it’s canon now and I’ll mention it whenever I need to! I did not get the last line wrong, I followed the script! And before she asks, no, the script doesn’t imitate word-for-word the dialogue in the book, they never do. They’re interpretations, designed to give the flavour of the scene to the audience to build interest, so they’ll buy the book and see what happens! And as for the rest of it? I lock her gaze and scowl. How dare she? If this was a fan telling me there were things she didn’t like about my rendering of the character that would be fine. I’d listen. But her! She waltzes in here out of the blue, made-up to look like me, Suits somehow in the frog of her hoof, NDA agreement at the ready, into my dressing room, and starts telling me how to do my job!? A job I’ve been doing for over five years now! Who the hay does she think she is!?


Somehow she’s completely unmoved by the verbal tirade I’ve just set upon her, standing still, calm, and unflinching as a stone.

“I’m A. K. Yearling,” she says.


What?


No. Sorry, but no. If this was ridiculous before, now it’s absurd. That is not A. K. Yearling. I mean, I’ve never met A. K. Yearling – which is to say whenever I’ve asked I’ve always been politely told ‘no’. About the only thing I know about her is that that’s not the name she uses all the time. But I’ve always had my theories. My favourites were either that she was some shy-but-exceptionally-talented filly working feverishly out of a too-small apartment in Manehatten, or more conspiratorially, secretly one of the higher-ups in the Publisher’s organisation, using a pseudonym to work behind and the machinery of Hoofprint to get rich off. But none of my theories were as dumb as this. A. K. Yearling doesn’t make herself up as Daring Do. Whoever this pony is, she’s either very confused, or very...


How... did she know about the line?


No, really. How? The book isn’t even out yet, and won’t be for another week. There are exactly two advance copies between the three of us and right now Silver Screen and Twice Bright are using them both. There’s no way she could know that the line I said isn’t the line in the actual novel.


Unless she wrote it.


A Celebrity, that the Publishers daren’t refuse, and a meeting needing a bespoke NDA. The bottom falls out from my stomach and I feel it lurch. That’s... A. K. Yearling? She’s here, talking to me. And she’s made herself look like...


Oh. My stomach lurches again and I feel a bit dizzy because I can see it now. Now that I’m closer and she’s fully in the light. Now that I’m really looking for it. That’s not greasepaint. That’s not hair-dye. A. K. Yearling actually looks like that. Like Daring Do.


When did that happen? When did it turn out that I was the one who’d walked through the looking glass?


A. K. Yearling actually looks like Daring Do.


That’s... so sad.


I feel a tremendous wave of pity. I had always thought that A. K. Yearling was a brilliant, talented author, able to bring an amazing, original character to life. But now, on this side of the mirror, suddenly Daring Do is nothing more than a self-insert. She’s a straight-up wish-fulfillment fantasy foisted on us by the pony in front of me. How could I not have seen it? It was so obvious in retrospect. The constant stream of amazing, heroic things she’s supposedly done earning her the adoration of all should have been a dead giveaway. The fact that everything in those books was so outlandish, unbelievable, incredible was never a problem before. Now, all of a sudden, it smacks of hubris.


Pity turns to anger. Because I believed in that character. I loved that character, once! Ever since I was small! She was my hero! And now I find instead that she’s... this?!


Anger turns to rage, and all hope of control is gone. Because Footlight lost five years of her life to Daring Do. I endured years of crushing schedules, sticky jungles, nosey interviewers, and show after show after show after show! And it was all thanks to her! Every stupid stunt she wrote to make herself sound impressive, I had to perform! Every insect-infested wilderness she threw in to make herself sound exotic, I had to do a photo-shoot in! Every piece of geeky minutiae she inserted to make herself sound smart I had to memorise! And I was always alone! For five years A. K. Yearling was literally the author of my misfortune, and she didn’t even care! I was alone for five years, trapped living her character’s life instead of my own, and she couldn’t give a flying feather about me just as long as it sold more self-aggrandising books! I did what I was told; everything she wrote, all to promote her! And because once, by accident, I told the world that I happen to like pistachio ice-cream, all of a sudden it’s all not good enough?! Well if you’re the author and you look like that, WHY WEREN’T YOU DOING IT ALL?! WHY DID I HAVE TO SUFFER?!


I let loose an inarticulate scream of fury, and there’s the briefest, most satisfying look of surprise on the face of ‘Daring Do’ as I launch myself at her.


My body hits her, hard, and I send her tumbling onto her back. I come to rest on top, muzzle to muzzle with her, screaming half a decade’s worth of anguish and vitriol into the face of pretty-much the most famous and widely-read author in Equestria. This might seem like an over-reaction but then, when your past includes the time you once hurled an epic tirade of abuse at the faithful, prize student of the Princess of the Sun right in front of the Princess of the Sun, there aren’t too many ways to top that. This is nothing.


That’s not to imply that I’m not certain that I’m going to be regretting this in very short order. I am really not a fighter. Still, there is a part of me that’s quite proud – and extremely surprised – that I’m winning. If the pony underneath me was really Daring Do, or even had half her skill, I’d have been beaten senseless by now. Except, you couldn’t really call this a fight. For one thing she’s just lying there. Motionless. She’s not trying to fight back. Hasn’t even shifted or raised a hoof. And for another, I’m pretty sure I’m completely incapable of actually hurting anypony, (at least physically.) So far my attacks have amounted to a vigorous grabbing and shaking of her shirt lapels while screaming – and now crying – in her face. My tears stain the green fabric in a few places. It’s happening again. Always does. The tsunami of rage that once seemed unstoppable was just a normal wave. It inevitably breaks on the shore and recedes, leaving nothing but naked despair beneath. I’m not yelling at her anymore. I’m wailing, then sobbing, then crying in silence. I give a few more token pulls on her shirt-lapels and then I slump, defeated. And she hasn’t had to move a muscle.


With a sudden urgency the door to the room unlocks and opens. Light from the corridor outside spills in as the two Suits hurriedly enter. They gaze at the scene before them in wide-eyed horror, and I can only imagine what they’re seeing. Me, pinning the pony that basically counts as their employer to the floor with my hooves close to her throat. Yeah... this is pretty bad. But before they can make another move, or even open their mouths to speak, the pony underneath me beats them to it.


“I asked for no interruptions.”


The Suit-that-isn’t-Dervish pipes up, saying that they heard a lot of screaming, and then a crash, and then everything went quiet, so they thought—


“We’re talking,” she says calmly but curtly. She says nothing else, but it’s immediately clear that she wants them to leave and lock the door again. Dervish gives me a quick, worried look, but I give him a subtle, I’m okay nod – although I really don’t think I am – and both Suits leave. One more reluctantly than the other. The door lock clicks once more.


Now that I’m slightly more with-it I can feel a pressure on my stomach. I realise with a dawning sense of dread that it’s her back hoof. When I tackled her and landed on top she must have bent her hindleg and drawn her hoof up before my weight fell on her. It’s pressing against my barrel, her rear leg like a coiled spring ready to buck me off and send me crashing into the dresser against the far wall before my wings could stop me. No wonder she was so calm. For a second there I actually thought I was winning, but she’s been in control the entire time, waiting. And now that I’ve realised that, she’s about to make sure I regret it. Any second. I just about manage to articulate the pitiful apology I would have made anyway, and brace myself.


And nothing happens.


Weird.


Waiting yields no reaction at all. So slowly, very carefully, I start to lift myself off her. I know that as soon as she realises I’m trying to avoid being kicked across the room it’ll prompt her to do just that, but I can’t stay here forever. Again, nothing happens. I manage to clamber off her prone body without incident and her hindleg relaxes.


She rolls over and moves to get up, but I’m there, next to her, and I offer her a forehoof. It seems like the least I can do, and to my surprise she takes it and I pull her back to her hooves. I’m very, very ashamed of myself right now, and I mumble another short but sincere apology.


She gives me a little frown in reply, but I get the impression that she’s not mad as such. I can’t read her but it’s like she doesn’t think that what just happened is anything she needs to hold against me. I’m pretty sure I would think differently if I were her.


“Let’s clear the air,” she says and the frown deepens. “I never agreed to you. Hoofprint never even consulted me, they just went ahead. When I found out what they’d done I had more important things to worry about, but I was never exactly happy knowing you were out there. I thought you were an opportunist, trying to fool ponies into believing you were me, taking the credit for my work and doing who-knew-what to Daring Do’s image for your own ends while my back was turned.” She sighs a sigh that I recognise as a guilty sigh. I’ve sighed that sigh before. A lot. “I didn’t understand, okay? Twilight said you’d been through a lot, and it’s obvious she was right. And rather than resenting you all this time it seems like I should have been thanking you instead. The crowd loved you out there, and everyone I spoke to said that that’s not a fluke. I can’t quantify how much interest you’ve created in Daring Do just by being in the public eye for me but judging by what I just saw, it might well be massive. What if it’s only thanks to you that I had enough money to make it to Tenochtitlan? That whole valley might be roasting right now. I’ve heard you know Daring back to front and inside out, and you really do look the part. I can see you’re working hard to do justice to the character, not usurp her for yourself. And... trust me on this... I know how difficult it can be to try and be two ponies at once. I understand. Still... if what just happened there is any indication, it’s a good thing there isn’t gonna be any combat. I don’t have anything like the time it would take to train you to move like me in a fight.”


Wait, was that more criticism of my performance? I know I can’t actually fight my way free from a wet bag in real life, but she should see some of the choreography work that goes into our fight scen— hold on, did she say Twilight?


“I was never talking about your performance on stage. Far as I’m concerned, your interpretation is solid. I’m talking about tomorrow night, where ‘interpretation’ ain't gonna cut it.”


Yes, but she mentioned Twilight and— wait, what was that about tomorrow? There’s no show tomorrow.


“You really should learn to ask your questions one at a time. But yeah, Twilight. You and I have a couple of mutual friends. Good ones, too. In fact, in more ways than one, they’re why I’m here.”


Before I can respond to that she casually moseys over to my dresser and starts poking a few things around. “What did you think of the book?” she asks. The hard edge to her voice is gone now, become something softer and more genuine.


I... well, okay, thrown me off track a bit, but I’ll answer. I tell her the truth – I loved it, far-fetched stuff aside, but think it’ll be divisive among the fans who think Daring should stay a lone-wolf. Personally I really like that fact that Daring Do has friends now. I think in that respect at least it’s an improvement on Ring of Destiny, where I always felt the supporting character was introduced too late in the narrative to really get to know her. This makes up for that in spades. I really like that she brought Bravely Blue back, and I just love Purple Smart! They both remind me so much of my Ponyville friends it’s scary. Plus, from a purely selfish point of view, I like working with other actors on stage. I quietly-hopefully wonder aloud if Daring Do might have more adventures with them in the future?


“It’s possible,” she admits levelly but pretty noncommittally. “You say you want Daring Do to have more adventures with other ponies? Well... careful what you wish for.”


She finally turns away from the dresser, facing me again, and there’s a determined glint in her eyes and a devilish smile on her lips that’s classic Daring Do. She draws a quick breath. “Tomorrow night there’s an auction in Monte Cartlo. Dr. Caballeron is selling off two ancient journals recovered from one of the oldest cities ever discovered. Aside from the dust-jackets they come in, everything about them is fake. One is a collection of notes on the city that I wrote myself – I don’t care about that. The other one is a book that he’s claiming was written by a foal from the city before it fell. That one I need back. Now, normally I’d just charge in there, take out the dozen-or-so security ponies, and make off with the book. But... there’s a safer, easier, more civilised and much less violent way for me to get it, and I’d rather not hurt ponies I don’t need to. Unfortunately, for the plan to work I have to be in two places at once. So I need another me. Or rather, I need someone who can completely convince another pony they are me. I need a pony who speaks, acts, walks, knows and is Daring Do,” she says with a smirk. “Know anyone like that?”


Whoa whoa whoa. Hold on. Back up a sec. What does she mean ‘Caballeron’ is holding an auction. He’s not real!


She gives me an odd look at that. Next she digs around inside her shirt pocket and retrieves a crumpled piece of paper and spreads it on the dresser. It’s a flier for an auction hosted by Dr. Caballeron PhD in Monte Cartlo tomorrow evening.


But he’s not real! He’s like me – an actor on the Publisher’s payroll, hired to put in the odd appearance in public. Those lectures he gives? That poster? The occasional articles in the paper? That’s just clever publicity. He’s not a real pony! There isn’t a real auction! And those books she’s describing, they’re the ones from the novel aren’t they? They’re not real either!


“Kid?” she says, leaning in close. “He’s real. It’s real. They’re real. It’s all real.”


I... But... I... But that doesn’t make sense! And even if it were real, this book she’s talking about, Daring Do thought it was the worst thing she’d ever read. She said so in the narrative! Why would she risk this to get it back?


“Because it wasn’t mine to give away.” She gives another one of those guilty sighs. “Rainbow Dash gave it to me to look at. And it was awful... just awful. But that’s not the point. It’s her book, and I had no right to put it in Caballeron’s hooves. I’m just trying to do right by my friend. And... maybe tweak the Doc’s muzzle a little in the process,” she finishes with a tiny grin.


I... it’s Rainbow Dash’s book? But then that has to mean... Bravely Blue... and Rainbow Dash... but does that also mean that Twilight and Purple Smart are...!


“You said yourself they sounded familiar,” she says, her grin getting a little wider.


My stomach lurches again and I feel the colour drain from my face. This rabbit-hole goes very deep indeed, doesn’t it?


“Hey, whoa, easy there, you don’t need to look like that. I can guarantee you’ll be safe. Like I said: just keep your hooves a little closer together, raise the pitch of your voice a tad and don’t flip your mane like that. We’ll be identical. Baby steps: right now, all I need is you – and whoever does your make-up – on the train to Monte Cartlo leaving in ten minutes. We’ll go over the plan on the way and if you’re not happy you’re totally free to walk when we get there. But if we pull this off, you and me... this is gonna be awesome, and they’ll never figure it out! So. Are you in?”


Me and Argento? On a spur-of-the-moment, romantic trip to exotic, coastal Monte Cartlo? Embroiled in a caper full of mystery and intrigue? With the actual, real-life Daring Do? (I just said that last sentence again in my head and it still sounds weird. About five minutes ago I thought I was the ‘actual real-life Daring Do.’ About three minutes ago I wanted to kill the actual real-life Daring Do, but we’ll gloss over that. Funny how some friendships start.) And all I have to do is do what I’ve been doing almost every day for over five years?


This... doesn’t sound so bad. In fact it sounds fun.


I’ll get Dervish to apologise to Twice Bright and Silver Screen for me – looks like Argento and I won’t make it to dinner with them tonight.


Of course... there is one condition.


She wasn’t quite expecting that, and she raises an eyebrow. “What condition?”


I give a grin of my own. Pistachio ice-cream! If we’re going on this trip then I get to introduce her to pistachio ice-cream, and if she tries it and she loves it and it becomes her favourite ever ice-cream then I am totally off the hook for what happened in Cursed Casket. (And a few other things.)


She draws herself up and frowns at me. Then it passes and her determined, confident smirk returns. “Okay. Deal,” she says as her smirk widens into a full grin.


I grin right back.


I get the feeling that when I see Twilight and Rainbow next week, we’re all gonna have a lot to talk about.

Comments ( 22 )

I was about to untrack this.... You sly bastard. :rainbowwild:

Omg I love this connective epilogue so f:yay:ing much.

7879069 This is why I don't un-track completed stories.

7849238

I really enjoyed I Wish I Had Met You Yesterday, so I was happy to see the callback.

(begins reading secret epilogue)
(smiles broadly)

Well, that just made an already great story even better.

Excellent job all around. I appreciate all of the effort you put into this... well, this book. I eagerly looked forward to each new chapter every day.

As always, your characters are in character, the atmosphere fits right in with the actual show, and I have no problem whatsoever envisioning this story taking place before "Stranger Than Fan Fiction." As I read the scene in which Caballeron had his short-term memory erased, I suspected that it occurred in order to reconcile this story with "Stranger than Fan Fiction," but I was fine with that. And the circumstances leading up to that moment felt like they were always a part of the story, so I don't think your hammer marks were too noticeable.

I only wish I could give you more than one upvote. Thank you for writing this!

Oh man I love this! You have to write a spin off of this chapter. By the way this was a great ending as well.

Hey, if it's possible maybe write a sequel of another Daring Do adventure with different companions for Daring Do? Like Starlight, Discord, CMC, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Trixie and etc?

It would be neat to see what you can come up next but anyways thank you for a great story!

So... if that wasn't sequel-bait, I don't know what is.

Hhmmmnn crown of unity? Allows others to see inside of some other ponie's head. Wonder if the 7th stone of harmony from camp everfree might very well be the stone of unity of the EG world. Wonder if the stone of unity in your story was meant for Sunset Shimmer in ponyworld.

Hiest! Hiest! Hiest, Hiest Hiest! Hiest Hiest!

7879694 A good idea but i'd add Ditzy Doo/Derpy hooves to that list.

This was great and I haven't even read "I wish I knew you yesterday" yet but I am going too because it looks like a good story. Doctor Caballeron has certainly found a devious way to quickly earn money for those books. He could do it the proper way but he's clearly too lazy for that.

This was so much fun to read. I love your depictions of Daring Do and Caballeron. The settings, the details, the puzzles; everything was fleshed out beautifully. Do you plan on doing anything further in this universe?

ok this is the first story of 8686 I have followed.
I found this when it hit the feature list and I will say I was not sure about it.
I do like daring do but this is not normally my kind of story.

dam was I wrong this story is well planed out it flows super good and is fast passed.
I have passed it along to a author I am close friends with as I know he will enjoy it and at the same time he uses daring do in one of his story's as a back ground pony.
I will be watching 8686 and looking for new story's.
Harts Fire

Haven't read this yet, but just wanted to check this first: Is it in the same universe where Footlight plays Daring Do on stage?

This may be the most criminally underrated story I've read in a very long time. 140 likes? That's it? I barely got sleep reading this page turner!

Thanks for the great read. Glad I stumbled upon it, and I'll make sure to recommend it when I can.

That was awesome.

This is now the definitive Daring Do story for me. All amazingly well done. I'm amazed they were able to sink their own city, rendering their sundial still visible.

The epilogue, it just screams out for a sequel. Please, let there be a sequel in the works! Thank you for sharing this magnificent piece of fiction.

This story will forever stay in my mind. Friggin' amazing!

The part that got me the most was that Windego ending though... I'm still getting chills! :twilightoops:

I really loved this story, it was well written and Rainbow and Twilight were really in character. There is however one gaping plot hole that has bugged me.
How did Celestia's father remove a solitary crown and get out of the gauntlet?
I get that the two kings could have escaped in the same way that our heroes did after they had completed the gauntlet and the Bad king found that the crown of Harmony was missing, but there is no way that the good king could have got down there and removed the crown of harmony the day before the trial.

Other than that I was completely engrossed with the story and would love to see some form of continuation.

8617930

Perhaps I should have done more with this, but at the time I felt I didn’t want to stall the pace and bore the reader with explicit instructions of how the Good King (I never had a name in mind, but let’s call him Wenceslas for now) retrieved Harmony. For me, it was enough to know that it was possible and that I had one way of making it work in my head. The fact that it’s bothered some readers and been viewed as a plot-hole indicates that I might have been wrong to leave it out entirely.

If you’re really interested, here is the way I envisioned it working, though be warned, there’s a definite fox-chicken-grain vibe going on.

Wenceslas and Summer Sun go to the platform in the dead of night, bringing basic equipment with them. They descend to the catacombs and tackle the gauntlet together. They retrieve both crowns and return to the start, where they use them to unlock the table. Once the mechanism is released, the table should return to the surface... but using ropes they brace it instead. Wenceslas and Summer Sun then run the Gauntlet again, in order to replace Unity on its pedestal. Finally they return to the table, release their tethers and return to the surface, with Harmony in tow.

Why didn’t Wenceslas just take both? Harmony was his but Unity was not, and he wasn’t a thief. Taking Unity back to the pedestal at the end of the gauntlet would also, in his mind, allow him to deceive his brother for the longest possible time, giving the evacuation the best chance at succeeding. And there might have been a kind of poetic justice element to his thinking as well, wanting to see his brother’s face at the end when he saw one crown and not two, and realised what had happened.

But that’s just one solution. Like Daring says, after a thousand years we’re not supposed to know every detail of what went down, so any other theories might be equally valid.

Hope that helps. Please don’t stop unpicking plot-holes though – it keeps me on my toes. :pinkiehappy:

10535379
You do know who is talking right? Idiot doesn't do him justice. Celestia and Luna won't even bother with jail, dungeon, or a trail.

They'll just vaporize him. And who is going to tell them no?

10536923
That's not how personal unions work. If the lost kingdom continued in its legal existence, and was not annexed, its laws would continue in force separately from Equestrian law even if its crowns and Equestria's both sat upon C and L's heads. Canada has its own constitution and laws separate from the United Kingdom despite both having the same monarch, for example.

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