• Published 10th Jun 2021
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Celestia Goes West - DungeonMiner



Retirement has not been kind to Celestia. Pushed by boredom, she disguises herself as an average pony, and she heads west. Unfortunately, she's picked up a traveling companion that was not a part of the plan.

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Chapter 11

“Last time on Dive into the Sapphire Depths!” Ivory proclaimed as she sat at the head of the table. “The party met up for the first time and signed up as members of the Adventurer’s Guild. As a part of the paperwork, and a bit of pushing from Dreadmane—”

“I have no regrets,” Luna replied.

“You named yourselves the Shadewalkers and earned your first mission for the town, to scout out the entrance of the eponymous Sapphire Depths.”

“I still think our name is a little too edgy,” Platinum muttered.

“I doubled down,” Luna said in her defense. “If being ‘edgy’ as it is called is a style, then I shall embrace it.”

“Being edgy is—”

“Hey, hey,” Rolling interrupted. “We had this conversation. We’ve talked about it, and we’re moving on. The five of you find yourselves standing outside the sapphire-encrusted cave entrance in the shadow of the mysterious tower, holding your various weapons and tools.”

“I still think we should hire some minions to start setting up a base camp,” Sundance said.

“And I say, Miss Abyssinian, why would we do that?” Ivory asked as her griffon paladin. “We’re only here to scout out the entrance.”

Sundance glanced at her. “First,” he said, speaking in a soft, Manehatten-accented, slightly sleazy-sounding voice, “the name is Luckstep, remember it. Second, you can’t tell me that the town isn’t going to try and make sure we stay here forever after what happened in—”

“We said we wouldn’t discuss that.”

Sundance lifted his hooves in surrender. “Regardless, they see this as a chance to get rid of us just as much as anything else. Mark my words, they’ll keep sending us back here just to keep us out of their hair.”

“I’m sure.”

Luna smiled before she pulled Caramel aside. “What does thou think they speak of?” She asked in Dreadmane’s voice.

Caramel glanced at the other two ponies across the table. “The choirboys?” he asked.

“One of them is female.”

“If you’re a choirboy, you’re a choirboy,” Caramel said as Shadesong. “And who knows what they’re talking about. Could be going on about how the stars don’t align or whatever they believe in Abyssinia.”

“Perhaps,” Luna replied, still in character. “Truth is, however, that I wish to know if they are going to take this dive into the caverns seriously. As thou say, they seem to be in their own world when it comes to our current situation. I simply hope they are as ready as we are.”

Caramel nodded. “I can agree with you on that. In my experience, anycreature too obsessed with gods and their faiths can be a little unreliable.”

Luna raised an eyebrow before narrating. “Dreadmane says nothing as thee say so, but eventually, she nods and steps away.”

Caramel smirked. “Shadesong shakes his head as you go and mutters something.”

Rolling turned to Platinum. “What’s Brightflame doing during this time?”

“Reading, probably,” Platinum said. “It looks really weird too because he’s reading a lot of pony books, so they are tiny in his massive minotaur hands.”

Luna smiled as the party eased back into the game. Tonight was going to be fun.

She closed her eyes, released a breath, and smiled as she imagined what Dreadmane had to be seeing right now.

---☼---

Dreadmane stood at the mouth of the sapphire cavern and blinked. The sunlight reflected off the blue gemstones into her eyes, making it difficult to see, and made it nearly impossible to pierce the cave’s darkness.

It always got in her eyes.

The mare with a coat as black as raven’s omen turned to see the other members of her little party surrounding her. Shadesong, the navy-blue pegasus that nearly stuck to any surface he came across, stayed low to the ground as he approached Hercule the griffon and Luckstep, the Abyssinian. Luckstep herself slowly paced across the small clearing in front of the cave, already planning out the campsite that she insisted would be the best thing to build. Hercule watched and listened as the feline continued on about the various pros and cons of a camp, but even Dreadmane could tell that he was attempting to be polite.

Dreadmane didn’t have the patience to be polite. She had more important things to do, like slay whatever evil lay in that cavern, get paid, and return to the tavern for more booze, wenches, and swains. The mare with a mane as white as death’s smiling face turned to the minotaur reading beneath the shade of the trees and approached. The giant creature didn’t even notice her until Dreadmane was nearly upon him. “Minotaur,” she called, addressing him with all the grace of a great club, “dost thou know the ways of the ancients, the ways of the unicorn mages?”

The minotaur blinked. “I-I do,” he said, his voice soft. “I, uh, was using spells during… ‘the incident.’”

“I remember. Have thee any knowledge on the secrets of the cavern?”

“Um...maybe?” he said, pushing a pair of massive glasses up his snout. “I can’t say what’s for sure in there, but if my mentor’s theories are correct, there might be a high-concentration of magic-reactive crystals that—”

“Then let us not waste any more time,” she replied before she marched to the cavern entrance.

Brightflame shot up. “Wait, are you going now?” he asked.

The mare with a horn that brought death to thousands—

---☼---

“You’re level two, Luna. Calm down,” Rolling said.

---☼---

The mare with a horn that brought death to hundreds—

---☼---

“Level two,” Rolling said.

---☼---

—brought death to a few dozen in border skirmishes with opposing tribes that gave her enough proficiency with her various weapons, but otherwise was not noteworthy in any way pushed toward the cavern entrance with purpose. She didn’t bother looking back as she heard Brightflame scramble after her.

“Aren’t we going to wait for the others?” Brightflame asked nervously as he glanced down at her.

“They’ll follow along,” she replied. “I doubt that they’ll let us get whatever treasure lies in there without at least trying to follow along.”

Brightflame hesitated.

“Dost thou not wish to study these gems? I imagine that they could create powerful magical items.”

Brightflame chewed his lip. “You’re...not wrong.”

“I know I’m not. The Abyssinian and the griffon are wasting their time talking about setting up a camp, even though we have no money to do so. They’re content to sit and talk about that for a few minutes, but we have more important things to do now.”

“Okay,” the minotaur said before glancing around. “But just the two of us?”

“We might need the pegasus heathen,” the mare who suffered a thousand deaths remarked.

“He’s a heathen?”

“That’s how it seems, but that matters not. If thou could bring the pegasus here, we can probably get started enough for the other two to actually begin moving.”

“Okay,” Brightflame said before glancing back at the pony that looked like he was trying to sink into the ground. “How do I bring him over.”

Dreadmane blinked as she looked up at him. “Thou art a minotaur. Pick him up and carry him. He’s not going to be able to do much about it.”

Brightflame opened his mouth before closing it and glancing back at Shadesong before he nodded. “I...I suppose I can do that.”

The mare whose cutie mark was colored by the blood of those she loved watched as the minotaur slipped away. Despite her suggestion, Brightflame did not simply pick up the thief but merely spoke with him, whispering words under his breath that only Shadesong could hear.

Not long after, the two made their way back, and Dreadmane smirked before she called out to the other two members of the party. “We are going in!”

Both Luckstep and Hercule glanced up just in time to see them disappear into the cavern.

Dreadmane smiled. “They looked so surprised.”

The cave narrowed as they moved in, but the crystals seemed to shimmer with a dim, blue light despite that. Before long, the three of them found themselves nearly single file in the near darkness.

Dreadmane drew her greatsword, and the blade nearly shone white in whatever reflected light it could catch.

“I do not like this,” Shadesong whispered. “I’m going to try and scout ahead, see if there’s any sign of something going on.”

Dreadmane nodded and motioned him forward before she heard the clinking of armor from behind them.

“I say, what are you doing?” Hercule asked.

“Are you crazy?” Luckstep asked. “We hadn’t set up a base of operations yet! By the Paw, you ponies know better than this, don’t you?”

“You weren’t moving,” Dreadmane replied. “We do not have the time to sit by and let the moon rise without some offering to give the lady of the evening.”

---☼---

“I still think it’s super weird that you decided to be your own god,” Ivory said.

“Thou say so,” Luna said with a smirk, “however, I, as an authority on what Luna would know and feel, can say for certain if certain efforts of divine intervention would be approved.”

“You get one,” Rolling said. “I don’t care if you’re literally the goddess in the book and in the world. You’re only getting one of those. If you were cleric, maybe, but you’re not even a zealot yet.”

“As we agreed,” Luna said, smiling the whole while.

“Regardless, you are speaking Hercule’s language,” Ivory said.

---☼---

“Perhaps that may be the case, but I say that rushing into the entrance doesn’t seem to be a better course of action.”

“Besides, setting up a base camp is essential for return trips. You need supply lines to establish long-term adventuring and—

“There’s something up ahead.” Shadesong’s voice whispered from ahead of them.

They all spun to the source of the voice before finally finding Shadesong hiding by the various rocks and crystals.

“What did you find?” Dreadmane asked, being the first to recover.

“There are several tunnels that are bored into the walls. Something’s in the walls, and it might know we’re here.”

Dreadmane grinned. “Then we might as well prepare ourselves.”

Hercule drew his own blade, followed by Luckstep preparing her hand ax. Brightflame fumbled as he hastily grabbed his spellbook and wand while Shadesong readied the knives he hid in his wings.

“How do we want to spring the trap?” Dreadmane asked. “Do we want to try and outsmart them, or…?”

“If they have the numbers, then I say that splitting up will only have us surrounded on multiple fronts. We should stay together.”

Nopony else responded.

“Then together we go.”

They moved forward, creeping best they could, though Hercule’s mail armor clinked and chinked with every step the griffon took. Shadesong pointed out the holes first, half as tall as a pony and about as wide. They’d be difficult to fit through, despite that none of the party lowered their weapons. They knew better.

A net of chains dropped from above them, and monsters squealed as they began rushing them from the tunnels. Brightflame panicked and cast a spell at the first thing that popped out of the tunnel, and four magical bolts of energy slammed into a small, reptilian bipedal creature that nearly blew apart under the attack.

More of the monsters flooded the room, squeaking and squealing as they raised spears. They roared in victory as they pierced hide, and Brightflame took a blow to his gut that left him doubled over.

Shadesong attacked the monsters, but the net kept him pinned, and his attacks uselessly flailed in the air.

Dreadmane decided that she’d have to do something drastic. “In Luna’s name!” she roared as her vision went red, and she charged forward. She tore the net off the others, still tangled in the chains as she rushed down the hall, turning into a battering ram against the monsters.

They turned and ran, rushing out of the way of the mare that had become the storm.

Luckstep raised a paw to Brightflame, and healing magic began knitting the flesh back together under her touch while Hercule stood tall in front of the monsters. “Now, I say, that is not proper behavior.”

The griffon brought his sword down in a single, powerful swing and bisected the creature.

The remaining creatures screeched in fear, and one began to break before the others in the party recovered.

Brightflame unleashed a cone of fire, burning the monsters into burnt husks. A handful of the screeching reptiles tried to attack again, stabbing with spears. Or course, now freed from the net, the party managed to defend themselves better, while the monsters in the back all attacked the still-bound form of Dreadmane, but while their spars stabbed into the mane, she seemed to shrug them off.

Shadesong moved next. He slashed at the monster closest to him with one of his knives, digging the blade into its neck, just above the collar bone. Tearing the dagger away, he rushed down toward Dreadmane and stabbed another one of the beasts before he tried to rip it off of the chained-up mare.

The mare who knew death like a brother stood beneath the net and began swinging her own greatsword in terrible, reckless arcs, and the razor-sharp blade split the reptilian ambushers with ease.

Luckstep turned and cast another spell, and another one of them dropped to the ground grasping his head as whatever the cleric cast took hold.

Hercule ended the fight with another single attack, separating the head from the last monster, and the room quickly grew quiet.

“How’s everyone doing?” Luckstep asked.

“I’m... I’m going to be okay,” Brightflame said.

“Dreadmane?” the feline priest asked.

Still gritting her teeth, she took a deep sigh and let her rage fall away. “I will be fine. They did little to stop me.”

“Sorry I wasn’t able to grab the net off of you,” Shadesong said. “I’ve been working on getting faster, but it’ll take a while.”

---☼---

“What dost thou mean by that?” Luna asked.

“When we hit third level, I’m going to take the thief subclass,” Caramel responded. “I’ll be able to use an object as a bonus action, and Rolling ruled that things like putting a fire out or removing a net off yourself or somepony else would count as using an object. It makes the thief a really powerful support role, and I wanted to try that out.”

“I see,” Luna said. “So Shadesong should be able to remove something like the net with ease and let Dreadmare better focus on her attacks.”

He nodded.

Luna smiled wide. “This is good to know.”

“Okay, okay,” Rolling said. “You can strategize when you want, but right now, you need to get to level three, and considering I did enough damage to you to kill one of the other players, you might need to worry.”

“I thought thee said I only took ten damage?” Luna asked.

“I halved your damage for you since you were raging.”

Luna’s eyes went wide. “Oh.”

Ivory snickered, and Luna glanced at her before turning back to the table. “Well, then, um...Dreadmane then proceeds to cough up some blood because she is far more hurt than I thought.”

Sundance shook his head. “I cast cure wounds on you for...eight damage.”

“Thank you,” she said before marking her hit points on her sheet.

Rolling glanced up at the alicorn. “For the record, for the first few levels, I keep track of when you have resistances and give you half damage for new players. Would you prefer it if I let you keep track of that? It means you’re responsible if you forget.”

“I shall manage, thank you,” she replied.

“Okay,” Rolling said before making her own note. “So, you continue forward, traveling down the long hallway.”

“I scout ahead again,” Caramel said. “I head down the hallway before letting the others know to hang on, waiting for me to come back.”

Rolling nodded. “Stealth check, please.”

“Natural eighteen for a twenty-seven.”

Rolling looked up at him. “Are you sure you’re level two?” she asked.

“I’m a rogue,” he replied as his only defense.

Rolling sighed. “You continued forward into a new room. Again, the stone is rough cut and pitted, with natural sapphire-like crystals poking into the room at awkward angles. Tunnels dive into the uneven stone, a sign of even more of the strange reptilian monsters that—”

“They’re kobolds,” Caramel said.

“Well, of course, they’re kobolds,” Rolling said, “but—”

“Are you going to tell me that my character has never even heard of a kobold before?” Caramel asked.

“We have a new player here,” Rolling said. “This is the chance to present all these things with a new sense of mystery and wonder.”

“I…,” Luna began, “I knew they were kobolds.”

“You did?” Rolling ask. “Did you read the bestiary too?”

“Oh, no,” Luna replied. “However, thou must remember that I was around when the stories of goblins were used as ghost stories, and morality plays. I am surprised that they grew scales in these later years. Normally they had been described as having hair that smelled of onions.”

She smiled as she looked over at Rolling, pleased that something finally wandered into her area of expertise.

“Um,” Caramel said. “Luna…”

“Yes?”

“Kobolds and goblins are different things.”

Luna blinked before slowly turning to face the unicorn. “Pardon?”

“While etymologically, they started as meaning the same thing, the words slowly began to mean two different creatures. ‘Goblin’ became the word we used to describe the green, hairy creature that you’re more familiar with, while ‘kobold’ became the word to describe the similar but distinctly draconic creature of griffonian folk-lore.”

Luna blinked, and sighed. “Wonderful, I can’t even be right about history anymore. It’s not as though I have much else to be an expert on.”

“It’s alright,” Caramel said. “The differentiation is mostly because of the game.”

Luna sighed. “Ah, well. It’s not the first time I’ve realized things have changed. Are ye aware of the time I tried to abolish Nightmare Night?”

Ivory blinked as she glanced across the table. “But that’s your holiday.”

“It’s complicated,” Luna said.

“Complicated enough that we can wait until after the game?” Rolling asked.

“That...that is fair. Onward, master of games, thou wert describing the new room.”