• Published 13th Sep 2018
  • 2,449 Views, 162 Comments

Alternate Beginnings: Year Six - Doug Graves

Herd Apple continues to grow, both out and up, as Doug meets a few more colorful characters.

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17 Black Devotion

In the middle of the hive the heavy air reeks of sweat and body odor. Zecora quickly searches the orange honeycombs, her eyes darting back and forth over the innumerable cubbyholes for a virgin queen larvae. At the same time, her hooves dump gallons of the foul smelling honey into one large jar after another, the full jars finding their way back into her saddlebags. She grins as she spots her quarry, delicately plucking the royal jelly and larvae out of one of the honeycombs. She smirks at the small insect, a smaller jar containing the writhing creature. Finished ransacking the hive, she turns, poking her head out of the otherwise deserted area, gasping as she watches four earth ponies break out of the jungle below.

"Why, hello there!" calls the earth pony in the lead, his black slicked mane ignoring the falling rain. Doug is standing still, a slight turn of his head not visible as the bees swarm around him. The four creatures in front and one above shine brightly despite the bees between them. Dr. Caballeron says, "Slow going?" addressing the column of bees, unsure if this is the creature that took his ring or if it might know where to look.

Withers, the white stallion, nervously says, "Um, boss? Are we sure?" The other two earth ponies shuffle back and forth, slight nods at their compatriot's question, glancing around at the cacophony of raindrops hitting the leaves and ground.

Dr. Caballeron shakes his mane, "Stand your ground!" He turns back to the swarm of bees, "Now, I don't know if you happened to find a certain golden ring of mine, but I want it back. Now." He smirks, taking a threatening step forward, his henchponies quickly following suit and growling menacingly.

A white pith helmet sticks out of the low hanging branches, a brown muzzle following soon after. Daring Do mutters to herself as she readies her whip, trying to figure out the situation and when she can steal the ring back from whichever pony or creature has it. But, she needs to find the ring first, and it's obvious none of the ponies have it. Her eyes narrow as she spots the zebra in the hive; what sort of game is happening here?

Dr. Caballeron laughs, "Ah, a creature of few words, I see. Well, I have traveled a long way for this ring, and I am not leaving here empty hooved." He paces back and forth, his eyes narrowing at the swarming statue. "Then, let me make it worth your while, mister... bee creature. I will set fire to you and your hive unless I find the ring in my possession."

Doug raises one arm, pointing the bee covered limb at Dr. Caballeron. He bellows in as deep a voice he can manage, "I am the Dread Pirate Roberts!" The ponies in front of him glance at each other, Dr. Caballeron giving a nervous laugh. Doug continues, his ominous tone growing louder, "There Will Be No Survivors!" Up above, Daring Do disappears into the foliage, barely peeking out at whatever this new monstrosity is. Better to let those ponies figure out what it can do.

Dr. Caballeron laughs, "Okay, that's a nice act. Now, hoof over the ring, and nopony gets hurt." His henchponies slowly back off, Dr. Caballeron quickly saying under his breath, "Stand your ground!"

Doug raises both arms to the sky, Zecora gasping and reaching into her saddlebags. She throws a bit of green powder towards him. It strikes the ground, a large puff of green smoke billowing around his feet as he shouts, "THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS TAKES NO SURVIVORS! ALL YOUR WORST NIGHTMARES, ARE ABOUT TO COME TRUE!!"

The four ponies back up, hundreds of the bees swarming around Doug breaking off at the sudden appearance of the smoke cloud. Their buzzing mixes with the ponies' screams, the soft earth trampled as the three ponies dart around, trying to avoid their pursuers. Dr. Caballeron shouts, "Stand Your Ground!" to no avail, the stomping of hooves retreating in three directions, an angry grunt from the doctor as his henchponies flee into the jungle.

One arm lowers to Doug's side as he takes a stride forward, the other pointing ominously at Dr. Caballeron, more and more bees flying off his rapidly shrinking body, deeply chanting, "THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS IS HERE, FOR YOUR SOULS!" The bees swarm further out, a few drawing close to the brown pony. Dr. Caballeron decides he has finally had enough, frantically withdrawing and shouting, "I'll get you for this, Daring Do!"

Doug stands there for a few seconds, the sound of hoofsteps receding into the jungle. Zecora nimbly jumps down the tree, evading the sweat bees as some of them return to the hive, others continuing to congregate around Doug. He turns, looking at Zecora, "So, what now? And who is Daring Do?" Doug turns, looking up at the trees above, the shining white pegasus visible through the foliage, one arm pointing up, "And, who is that staying up there? Another one of that guy's henchponies?"

A rustle from the trees above, the brown pegasus poking her head out. She grunts out as she drops to the floor, hovering above the mud, "Hey! I'm not with those goons."

Doug swipes a hand, clearing away the fumes still emanating from his nose. "Rainbow Dash!" he exclaims, moving forward slightly. The pegasus slowly backs up, Doug realizing he is still covered in bees. And stinks to the high heavens. "Oh, um, right. Also, Rainbow, what happened to your voice?"

Zecora moves a little closer as Daring Do says, a quizzical look at the weird creature shedding bees in front of her. "Um, why do you think I'm, uh, Rainbow Dash?" At the zebra's blank stare and the swarm of bees still moving over Doug she says, "Ugh, sweet Celestia you stink. I hope, for your sake, that's some sort of curse." The zebra slips behind Doug, reaching up and undoing the clasp on his pack.

"You're not?" Doug swipes the air again, squinting at the pegasus standing in front of him. "There's more than one mare with such a beautiful prismatic mane and tail?" The soft clink of glass on glass comes as Zecora deposits the full glass bottles, her saddlebags now considerably lighter while the large backpack settles lower on his back.

"I'm flattered you think my mane is prismatic," Daring Do says, her tail swishing back and forth, "But's it's just there in black and white. And, I guess, gray, but that's really a combination of black and white." She sighs, "At least the dialogue will look better in the book. Anyway, um, I'm looking for one of the Rings of Scorchero. Big gold thing. You seen it?"

Zecora shakes her head as she steps away from Doug, a few of the bees following her and the slight stench she acquired, "On this magical artifact, I am sorry, but it must lie with another quarry."

Doug says, "Wait, I might have. Is this it?" He takes the pack off of his back, shooing away a few of the bees and setting it down, backing off a step.

Daring Do looks at him, backing up slightly. "This some sort of trap? Nopony trusts somepony this quickly. And just on their word."

Doug shrugs, "Well, that's probably as good an indicator you'll get, right? If you don't want it, well, so be it." He goes to reach for the pack before Daring Do holds up a hoof. The pegasus warily looks around before taking a cautious step forwards.

No traps are sprung, and Daring Do nervously reaches a hoof over, unzipping the pack and digging around inside the pitch black container. The rustling of flowers and the clink of glass on glass before her face lights up. She grins, trying to pull the heavy golden ring past the glass jars before a shouted laugh from behind startles her. The three turn, gasping as Dr. Caballeron and his henchponies exit the treeline again.

"You were bluffing!" Dr. Caballeron announces, "I knew it! I knew you were bluffing! You were working with the esteemed Daring Do all along!" The four earth ponies fan out, each of them a mean look on their muzzle. "And your trick to scare us away, you thought it was oh so clever, didn't you? Well, it has merely allowed us to witness the location of the ring." He sneers wickedly, "Dead or alive, I don't care, but I will have that ring! Get him!"

"You know what I'm thinking?" Daring Do smirks, brandishing her whip. The loud crack as it snaps out, an inch away from Bill's muzzle, the brown earth pony startling back.

"I hope it rhymes with fun," Doug says, pulling the pack onto his back.

Zecora stomps her hooves on the ground, a threatening look in her eye. She stares down Rogue, the gray earth pony stalling as they circle around each other, "Your choice to rhyme may bore, of all the choices you could pick more," the earth pony hesitates, wary of some sort of spellcraft from the strange creatures, "But I can think of only one, and that word is, simply, RUN!"

Doug and Zecora turn tail, dashing away as Daring Do laughs to herself, "You know, that's the word I was thinking of! But their-" she dodges Rogue, one of the earth ponies, as he tries to tackle her, "Hey! I'm trying to write the story here!" She casually sidesteps Bill's charge, both of them recovering and making their way into the jungle. "You don't want yourselves painted like the doo-"

Daring Do lets out a loud 'oofus' as she is tackled into one of the growing puddles by Dr. Caballeron, her muzzle smeared with mud. She spits out a bit of dirt, cringing in pain as he smirks above her, "You know, Miss Do, if you spent less time monologuing and more time executing your plans this would be less of a problem. After all, you remember the time with the Crystal Skull?"

"Oh, jeez, not this again," Daring Do moans as Withers ties her up. "Ow, watch the wings!" She flinches again as he secures the knot, her wings incredibly sensitive for some unknown reason.

"Sorry, Dare," he says, Dr. Caballeron glaring at him. "Just gotta, you know, make sure you don't escape again."

"Indeed," Dr. Caballeron continues, "After all, it was quite possibly one of the most epic struggles I have ever been a part of, the time I made out with the crystal skull."

"That's what you did with it? Eww," Daring Do smirks, following Withers as the three race into the jungle, their journey continuing upwards, the rain getting heavier as their hooves squelch in the mud.

"That is not! Ugh, please, I thought you wrote for children? How is that where your mind goes?" Dr. Caballeron glares back, staring at Daring Do.

"Hey, uh, might want to watch where you're running," Daring Do says, the three barely skidding to a stop before they would have toppled off a cliff into the raging river winding through the Rambling Rock Ridge. "Yeah, um, I'm pretty sure nopony wants to go in there. At least cat four," they glance down, spotting Bill and Rogue running along the canyon edge, trying to follow something in the water below. "And only somepony completely suicidal would dive in there."

"And why is that, Ms. Do? I swam a category four rapids before, if you remember, when I took the crystal skull from you. Upstream, no less!"

"Okay, that wasn't a cat four rapids, that was you in a boat. And we were going downstream. And these rapids don't stay cat four, they turn into cat five as you near the waterfall." She looks up, "And with this rain, it'll be at least a cat six, probably the entire way down." She stops, a hoof to her chin, "And then there's the waterfall."

"So, then, I hope your friends decide that you are more important than that ring very quickly, or you will all be taking a very short flight at the end of this voyage." Dr. Caballeron points a hoof to the waterfall in the distance, "Because otherwise, very soon, you will all be tumbling down! Just like you did when I took the crystal skull from your hooves!"

"Um, pegasus over here." Daring Do tries to flap her blue dotted wings, wincing in pain as she pushes, still restrained by the rope. "Ow. What the heck did you do to these ropes?" She glances at Withers, the earth pony shrugging, before she looks back at Dr. Caballeron. "Oh. Right. You were saying?"

Dr. Caballeron ignores her, galloping in sight of Doug and Zecora. The two are paddling hard against the current, trying to find a spot on the solid rock walls that they can grab onto and stop from coursing down the rapids. Doug has one arm firmly locked around Zecora's neck, helping keep the struggling zebra's head out of the water as his legs try to find purchase against the many smooth rocks in their way. Their deadly journey finally comes to a pause as Doug finds a good angle balancing against two rocks, one leg on each, Zecora desperately holding on as the water threatens to push them over.

"Well, you two, it seems we are at an impasse! You are no match for my brains, and I am... wait, I am plenty of a match for you! I suppose I can offer you a deal!"

"I really just want to go home!" shouts Doug, "Can you promise me that?" He maneuvers Zecora, the zebra now between him and the rock, her denser body riding lower in the water.

"No, Roberts! Don't do it! You must save the Ring of Scorchero, you mustn't let it fall into the hooves of Ahuizotl!" Daring Do cries, struggling against the ropes.

Doug shouts, "Who are you talking about? And I really want to make it out of this alive!" His body bobs up and down, his legs tensing against the rocks, the last two semblances of safety between them and a six hundred foot drop.

Dr. Caballeron laughs, "A wise choice, Roberts! I have plenty of rope over here."

Doug nods, waving an arm, "Yeah, sure, that's great! Throw me the rope!" The other holds onto Zecora, the zebra whinnying in fear.

Dr. Caballeron continues, yelling, "But, I do not expect you will accept my help! Because I am only waiting around to kill you!"

Doug shouts, "What? I don't think you're supposed to do that. Or tell me that you're going to do that."

Daring Do retorts, "Yeah, and I thought I was bad with the occasional slip of the tongue."

"Oh, please, Miss Do." Dr. Caballeron shakes his head, "You thought there were extra dimensional aliens, that time I acquired the crystal skull from you!"

"Hey! I was proven right about that! The device beamed up one alien, putting it somewhere in Equestria. I'm sorry I thought they were archaeologists." Daring Do pouts, looking to the side as Dr. Caballeron turns towards her.

"And your breaking of the device, preventing all of us from learning its secrets?" Dr. Caballeron stamps a hoof, glaring at Daring Do. "Think of what we could have gained from such a device! The knowledge! The profits!"

"Hey, um, I do not suppose you could speed this up? Even if you're only waiting around to kill us?" Doug yells. "I'll take pretty much any guarantee, or no guarantee! I just don't want to die falling from that gigantic waterfall over there. I only trust it slightly less than I trust you!"

"Oh, please, is that all you think of?" Daring Do paws the ground, "The bits you could get from selling something?"

"Really, Miss Do?" Dr. Caballeron laughs, turning to gaze at the stranded duo. He taunts, "And you are so much more noble with, what, your idea that everything belongs in a muse- Aaaah!"

Daring Do rears back, bucking Wither in the side. The white pony stumbles back, coughing loudly as Daring Do charges Dr. Caballeron. The surprised brown pony grunts as her head and shoulder impacts his side, knocking the two over the edge of the cliff. Daring Do tries to flex her wings but the movement is extremely painful, the ropes still tied around her and refusing to come loose. The two scream for their lives as they plummet down the steep ravine, the raging water below eager to devour them under white waves.