• Published 3rd Jan 2017
  • 2,801 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.

  • ...
4
 185
 2,801

1: The Game Begins

“Here, let me do the leg-work for you!” quipped Daring Do as she flung another kick at her assailants, sending one flying and crashing into a small group of his cohorts, knocking them to the ground. That only left a dozen or so to deal with.


Two of them tried to rush her with a net made of vine, but a jump and a single flap of her wings carried her safely over them and they ended up tripping, falling, and tangling themselves up in their own would-be trap.


Five or six more flung themselves at her, jumping on her and hoping to pin her with their combined weight, but Daring was too strong. She used her momentum to whirl around, sending those that had grabbed her sailing through the air like drops of water cast off a spinning top.


Then the remaining foes stood back, and Daring squared up to them. “Had enough already?” she challenged. But instead of rushing her they parted, standing aside to allow the approach of another of their number. Their Champion, she supposed, for he stood easily twice as tall as all of the others.


...


A heavy sigh accompanied a muffled scrape as Daring pushed her typewriter away, a slight disgusted grimace on her lips. Yeah, and he still only came up to my chin. Her eyes meticulously scanned the previous few paragraphs for flaws, and judged them all sorely lacking when it came to anything approaching intrigue, peril, or astonishing feats of bravery. Her scrapbook lay open on the desk beside her, containing all of her hoof-written notes and with a quick glance she concluded that, based on what was in there, the following few paragraphs weren’t going to have those things either, no matter how well she conspired to word them. The Pygmy-Goat tribe of Gruff had been far from her most fearsome of adversaries.


And their mythical, ancient treasure had turned out to be a mere bauble. Sacred to them, perhaps, but in the wider context lacking any measure of archeological or historic value. Ultimately she had chosen not to acquire it, made peace with the tribe’s elders in highly anticlimactic fashion, and there had been a large feast in honour of the pony-warrior from foreign shores. Good food, actually. Music hadn’t been bad. She sighed again and massaged her brow with a hoof.


None of this made for a gripping tale, and she fancied she could hear the reviews already. ‘With her latest novel, Yearling invites readers on a journey of monotony and tedium at the end of which they will be forced to conclude that nothing has actually happened.’ Tough to argue with.


But she had little choice but to forge ahead with it. Her excursion to the isle of Gruff might not have been her most scintillating adventure ever, but in terms of fodder for a new book it was all she had.


Her eye came to rest on the recent, awful paragraphs still nestled in her typewriter... and suddenly the thought of just wantonly plowing through such a mundane episode made a little bile rise in the pit of her stomach, and she felt queasy. She leaned back on her stool, took a deep breath through her nose and closed her eyes. Time for a break.


Forsaking her own ramblings she turned instead to somepony else’s, carefully pulling yesterday’s newspaper out from beneath the scattered scraps, notebooks, maps and documents strewn everywhere over her writing desk. She unfolded it and spread it flat, flipping absently through the almost-current news stories, searching for anything of interest. Equestria had once again been saved from certain destruction while she wasn’t looking. Nothing to get too excited about. Date for this year’s Grand Galloping Gala announced. She wasn’t going. Royal baby news. Admittedly cute, but still not her cup of tea. She skimmed and scanned page after page of otherwise uninteresting text until, on page eight, one tucked-away article caught her eye, beneath a small photo of a familiar face.


Renowned Archeologist Announces Expedition.


Oh... what was this?


Famed Archeologist, Dr. Caballeron PhD, has announced he is to lead an expedition to the remote Mustang Mountains. Speaking at the University of Maressachussetts today, Caballeron told reporters that he has uncovered evidence pointing to the location of what he stated may be one of the oldest and most significant ancient cities in Equestrian history. Declining to elaborate further, Caballeron simply stated he would let his findings speak for themselves upon his return. The University has pledged to fund his trip and a small team of students will accompany him on the expedition which is set to depart tomorrow.


Daring’s eyes narrowed. The Mustang Mountains? Oh, why was that familiar? She’d been there, hadn’t she? Years ago. Wasn’t that where she’d found...?


Her head snapped up to the shelf above the writing desk. It held copies of her previously published works, each one paired with a scrapbook containing her original notes from each excursion. She reached up and took the battered notebook on the right-hand end, left slightly separate from the others. On the cover she had simply written, Failed Expedition.


She brought it down and flipped quickly through the pages. It was all there. Mustang Mountain range. Gigantic cavern. Ancient, ancient ruined city.


The two-pony mechanism.


Daring felt an angry frown darken her brow as she looked again to the printed text of the newspaper article, and Caballeron’s smarmy grin in the small associated black-and-white photograph. Caballeron had found something out about the city. Enough to learn where it was. Perhaps enough to learn what it was.


How? When her own research had come up entirely empty? After her escape she’d spent months scouring history books for clues and found nothing! It was as though all trace of the city had been erased or something.


Yet somehow Caballeron had located answers she never could, and he would use them to claim the find as his own. More than that, with other ponies along he’d have the ability to open the mechanism and take whatever treasure or secret it guarded! Daring’s scowl deepened.


Oh no you don’t. That is my discovery!


She did a few quick mental calculations. If the newspaper was dated yesterday and Caballeron was leaving Maressachussetts today, it would take him most of a week to reach the mountain range. With wings, she’d be there in less than half the time. If that city hid a secret, she was going to learn it before he could steal it!


Somehow.


She returned her attention to her old scrapbook, to the pages where she described every method she had tried to open the mechanism. But she had been typically exhaustive in her efforts and there were no ideas she could think of now, even after all this time, that she hadn’t made mention of in her notes. There would simply be no way for her to release it on her own and that was just a fact. So... if she did this, she was going to need somepony else with her.


She almost shuddered at that conclusion. She worked alone. That was how she liked it. It was how she had always liked it. Having somepony else along meant you had to watch your back constantly – a nuisance at best. And when you didn’t ever need to count on someone else, you never had to worry about getting let down. Simple as that.


But now, suddenly, ‘alone’ just wasn’t an option. Not if she was going to succeed.


Unfortunately – unlike Caballeron it seemed – her cup did not exactly runneth over with ponies she could call on for help. In fact, with a little pang of frustration, she realised that the first names that came to mind were actually those of adversaries who would rather see her entombed in said city than aid her.


Daring gritted her teeth and threw her head back, letting out a long, frustrated sigh through puffed cheeks. The alternative was a hireling. A tavern lowlife of some sort whose loyalty and discretion were measured only in direct proportion to the amount of bits she would offer, and who would inevitably betray her as soon as he sensed the greater opportunity. She could plan for it, of course. Heck, past experience meant that she could likely predict down to the second the moment that they would turn. She wouldn’t be caught out. But... it was the fact that she would have to plan for it that was the frustrating thing; the fact that she had no other option, whereas it seemed Caballeron merely had to clap his hooves and reprobates flocked to him, eager to offer their scurvy services in twisted, yet somehow loyal, allegiance. Maybe it hadn’t ever been an issue before, but it was slightly galling to think that he had that come so easily to him, but in spite of all of her previous adventures, she’d never even crossed paths with anypony who wouldn’t likely sell her out for a bigger bag of bits. She huffed as her gaze once more found the shelf above the desk, with all her previous books lined up in no real order. Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone. Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore. Daring Do and the Fate of Aquastria. Daring Do and the Ring of Destiny. Daring Do and the...


Wait.


With care, she plucked Ring of Destiny from the shelf and brought it down. There, on the limited-edition illustrated cover, Daring Do alongside another pony. A boisterous pegasus she’d met on that particular adventure. Oh, it had been some time ago now. But nevertheless as she interrogated her memory for information about the mare it returned with only good things. No apparent inclination toward treachery. No noticeable propensity for greed. A little clingy perhaps and Daring seemed to recall she’d had a tendency to try and be too helpful, especially at first, but in the end that pony had seemed like someone she could...


Trust?


Work with, she allowed grudgingly.


She still didn’t like it. Other ponies just complicated things that were best left simplified. And there was always the possibility that she’d misremembered how genuine that other pony had seemed to be. This could easily end in disaster if she wasn’t cautious.


But another grimace found her lips as her gaze flicked between the taunting newspaper article and her uninteresting notes on Gruff Isle...

Unfortunately, it’s really not like I have a better choice.


Scraping her stool back hurriedly, she stood from the writing desk. Things to do. Now she had a detour to make which would cost her at least a day. But as long as she moved quickly she and her travelling companion should reach the mountains while Caballeron and his cronies were still busy trekking through the forest. That would give them more than enough lead time to finally succeed where she’d failed all those years ago, and put her rival’s nose out of joint to boot.


Heh. Wouldn’t he be surprised when he found out she’d beaten him to it? Twice!


She pulled her saddlebags from the hook on which they hung and began packing her usual supplies, organising and arranging her equipment in the same, practised way as always whenever she ventured out on a sortie. She tossed in the Failed Expedition scrapbook too – she might want to refer to it, and always better to have it and not need it than the alternative. She buckled her bags closed and strode towards the front door of the small, secluded cottage. Just as she opened it she turned, her eye catching on the typewriter and the half-finished page of text still within. The publishers weren’t going to be happy that she’d missed another deadline but... they’d get over it. A mysterious city? A race against time? A tentative alliance and a sinister villain? Already this felt like a more interesting adventure than Daring Do and the Goats of Gruff Island. The Publishers would forgive her.


Taking her pith helmet and seating it firmly atop her head, she left the cottage and closed the door behind her.


The game was ahoof!