• Published 10th Jun 2021
  • 1,322 Views, 133 Comments

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 2

Marble Venture had his nose stuck in a book.

In his defense, his job was to have his nose stuck in a book, and few books dealt with the Lusitanpec ponies that could give him pause. However, the giant totem of five hundred pony skulls certainly did get his attention.

Unearthed nearly half a century ago, a broken obelisk of skulls had been discovered not far from the Lusitanpec ancient capital of Lusititlian. Its discovery initially proved a theory that the “barbaric” earth pony tribes of the western jungles were a bloodthirsty and warlike race, but this was then disproved a few years later. The natives of Lusitano in the Tricorner Villages, the descendants of the Lusitanpec ponies, discovered evidence that suggested that the ancient civilization, while well protected, and operated by a powerful military, had little-to-no interest in expansion.

In fact, the Lusitanpec ponies were more inclined to be traders, as they had access to several large gem veins of emeralds that proved to be a perfect quality for making spell matrixes. Records of complex, clay-engraved, proto-hieroglyphs in the neighboring village of Ponypeii furthered that claim, as they mention literal tons of gems being traded for food, weapons, and finished enchanting gems.

This evidence, in turn, verified the possibility that a relic such as the famed Sword of Lusitano existed. Until recently, it and anything like it had been widely regarded as fantasy written by that A. K. Yearling mare.

How she kept managing to guess right baffled Marble. Her luck would run out one day, and she’d finally publish something so off the wall no one in their right mind would say the name “Daring Do” in a classroom ever again.

Marble set aside his frustration and returned to the mystery in front of him.

Every single hypothesis had been shot down, despite what the various professors claimed back at the University, who clung to their theories like lifesavers thrown out at sea. So why then? Why have a giant totem of five hundred skulls just outside the temple in the capital? It wouldn’t make for a suitable warning since it sat at the heart of their empire. An enemy force wouldn’t see it until they were already on the doorstep of conquering the seat of their power. As previously stated, while they had a powerful army, the Lusitanpecs did not have a culture built around their warriors, so it wouldn’t be the equivalent of a statue to anypony’s glory or something similar.

So why?

“It was a monument.”

Marble blinked and looked up from his book at the owner of the voice that just interrupted him. A pale yellow unicorn mare stood at the door to his train cabin, with a mane only a few shades of blue away from his own. She stared at him with pale magenta eyes and smiled. “Pardon?” he asked.

“The totem was a monument to the fallen soldiers and allies that helped Lusititlian in their border skirmishes.”

Marble blinked. “And where did you get this information?” he asked.

She shrugged. “I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it?”

Marble blinked again. “It makes sense?” he asked. “I suppose so. Congratulations, you’ve just solved a mystery that lasted for the better part of fifty years. How were we so blind?”

Her smile disappeared, and the mare rolled her eyes. “Sorry to bother you, then,” she muttered before she turned and continued down the rumbling train cars.

Marble twitched his nose with a snort before he sighed. Crazy mare. Thinks she can just waltz in and solve nearly half a century of questions. What next? Perhaps she’d like to tell us that the sunken city of…

No wait, Hippogriffia had been discovered. Well, the lack of a metaphor didn’t mean he had no point.

Still, he probably could have handled that better. Yes, the mare didn’t have any right to try and solve something so clearly out of her field of expertise, but he didn’t need to be a jerk about it. Besides, something about her seemed familiar, and it would be his luck that she was the wife of the head of hippopology or something.

Setting his book aside, he stepped out of the cabin and moved to call out to her when the train car jumped. He nearly fell, throwing out his wings to steady himself, but the mare stumbled into the side of the carriage.

The luggage above her, a heavy burlap sack sitting precariously on the edge of the luggage compartment, began to shift, teeter, and fall. Marble spread his wings in an instant and shot down the hall. He slammed into the unicorn and crashed them both into the car door, saving her from the falling luggage.

“Ow!” The mare yelled beneath him before he was enveloped in a magical aura and thrown off of her. “I get it! You don’t want any advice, but you didn’t need to attack me over it.”

Marble stumbled back as the mare shoved him back, and he turned. “The bag,” he muttered and pointed back at it. She followed his hoof to the bag, which was revealed to be stuffed with letters.

Marble winced. “It was reflex,” he muttered.

“Well, thank your reflexes, I might have gotten a papercut otherwise.”

Marble splayed his ears flat against his head but didn’t say anything. He deserved this one.

The mare shook her head and moved on to the next car, and Marble sighed as he moved back to his cabin. “Sorry,” he muttered far too late.

He’d spent too much time in old ruins. One too many traps went off, and...he pushed the thought away and crawled back into his cabin. He opened up his book back to the page with the totem and began to continue to read.

A chime rang over a small speaker system, and a voice that sounded like a grown stallion talking into a tin can spoke. “Next stop, Canterlot station.”

Marble sighed. Well, with any luck, he’d never see that mare again. After all, he was heading to the frontier. You’d have to be an actual nutjob to head out there. Or you’re stuck babysitting a bunch of college students because your expertise is vaguely and tangentially related to their first archeology trip.

He sighed and turned the page.

Why did that mare look so familiar?

---☼---

Lady Luna watched the gate of the manor house. A swarm of paparazzi and press ponies clung to the iron bars like flies. She didn’t need to go out today, she reminded herself. She could try this tomorrow, early on when the ponies were hanging around her home like a thick fog.

On the other hoof, she needed to make sure that the press wasn’t going to suspect something when they didn’t see Celestia for days on end.

She sighed. This used to be so much easier when they had to send out news by a crier.

Bracing herself, Luna took a deep breath, cursed her sister’s timing, and stepped out the front door.

Flashes of light nearly blinded her as ponies began immediately snapping pictures. She cursed this strange need for the perfect lighting for these photographs. What happened to portraits? They were far more pleasant for the subject, not to mention so dependent on those infernal flashbulbs.

She kept walking forward, re-earning the title of “the Dauntless” once more in her mind and strode to the gate. Bringing out her best scowl, she walked right up to the gate, threw them wide open, and stared down at the mob of reporters in front of her. Even though she now matched their height, she still managed to tower over them through her demeanor alone.

“Are you done?” she asked in a low but dangerous tone.

The ponies around her gate hesitated. Questions died on their lips, and the cameras and their flashes slowed.

Luna mentally sighed again. Those three words had so much more punch when ‘you’ was a formal word she and her sister reserved for those who really got on their nerves. Lucky, she had a dangerous reputation that most ponies still didn’t know how to react to.

The reporters split before her, leaving her a clear path to stride down. The silence wouldn’t last long, but it would give her a moment of peace that she would gladly be thankful for. She walked forward onto the sidewalk and managed to get three yards away before the reporters slowly followed.

Luna marched imperiously down the street and didn’t even look back as she marched down to the nearby strip mall. She needed to sell this idea to the press just so that no one else would question her about it. If not for that, she would have simply teleported to the Barns and Noble just to be done with it.

One of the reporters gathered enough courage to catch up and shoved a recorder into Luna’s face. “Lady Luna, what is your opinion on Princess Twilight’s proposed budget plans?”

“I am on the way to the store,” Lune answered. “And I am not to be stopped or distracted.”

The reporter blinked and nearly stopped on the sidewalk by the total bluntness of Luna’s comment but hurried to catch up when her peers began to follow her example. “What are you shopping for, Lady Luna?” one of the reporters, a pegasus that flew over her head, asked.

“I seek a book for mine, sister,” she replied.

“What kind of book?” Another reporter asked. “A book of magical secrets? A book of ancient wisdom?”

“A book from the book store,” she replied. “I am not sure why. I did not ask, nor do I intend to.”

The reporters all began writing that down.

“Lady Luna, Vanhoover Gazette! Do you have a—”

“I am going shopping,” she interrupted. “I am not dealing with affairs of state, I am not working with any politicians or nobles beyond my immediate family, and I am certainly not starting a demonstration. I am simply doing my sister a favor, as she is going to be indisposed for some time.”

“Why? What is she doing?”

“I don’t know,” Luna said. “Perhaps she will tell me when she leaves her room?”

Celestia locked in her room, working on something that she didn’t even share with her sister? That was a juicy thought to them, she knew. No reporter in their right mind would let that information sit. How could they not print that story?

The more experienced reporters proved who they were by sending out their aides to begin reporting the information they had before pulling out notepads to write down all the details. The ones who didn’t know any better took the story as it was and rushed back to their various hovels to begin to share what they just heard.

Luna nodded and continued on. With her makeshift entourage cut in half, and the ones following her now quiet, she could finally enjoy her walk.

Silver Shoals sighed around her like it was spring again. The one thing Luna absolutely loved about this town was how cool it was. The North Luna Ocean brought freezing water from the north down this way, which left this entire shoreline cool in the summer, and absolutely freezing in the winter. Celestia wasn’t the biggest fan of winter, what with the short days and being cold, but Luna loved it.

She felt the wind play through her mane as she walked down the sidewalk to the store. The Barns and Noble bookstore welcomed her, and Luna wandered the aisles for a bit.

The reporters followed behind, taking notes as she checked the titles.

Luna continued to pretend to check the spines before she finally picked a book at random and moved to the checkout line. The reporters, meanwhile, scribbled furiously in their notebooks and began to disperse, getting the information they needed to their respective papers as quickly as they could.

Finally alone.

Luna sighed and considered returning the book to its spot before leaving but decided against it. She came all this way. Luna might as well commit to the part. She did, though, finally, take a good look around the store before noticing something odd.

Inside the store sat another store.

She heard of the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of ponies, but a store in a store seemed excessive. It appeared to be a coffee shop, which, at least, seemed appropriate for a bookstore. The stall with the shop had a large glass counter filled with confectionaries of various sorts, and now that she noticed it, the smell of the coffee began to waft under her nose.

She eyed it for a moment more before she sighed and walked over. She came out this far. She might as well grab a cup for herself, just to make the trip worth it.

The stallion at the counter, a unicorn with a caramel-colored coat, blinked as she approached and quickly straightened himself. “Hello, how can I help you?” He asked in a smooth voice.

“One Lungo dropped into a mocha with a red-eye chaser, please.”

The stallion blinked.

When he didn’t move, Luna raised an eyebrow. “Would that be a problem?”

“Uh, no ma’am, it’s just...surprising.”

“I’ve built an extreme resistance to caffeine,” she explained.

“I see,” he said, getting to work. He began preparing the three servings of espresso and gathered the cream, milk, and chocolate. “Has today been hard, or…?”

“What dealing with the press?” she asked. “A minor headache. Everything else turned out fair enough.”

He nodded and continued to make the caffeinated monstrosity of a drink before he motioned to the book in Luna’s magical grasp. “I wasn’t aware you were into Ogres and Oubliettes.”

Luna blinked before looking down at the book. The words “Ogres and Oubliettes Core Rulebook 4th edition” stared back at her. On the lower half of the cover, she saw a pair of ponies armed with a sword and a very difficult-looking spell fighting a giant, armored ogre.

“I...uh...bought it for my sister,” she replied.

“I wouldn’t have figured she was into roleplaying games,” he said.

“It...surprised me as well,” Luna replied.

“If...uh...if you don’t mind me saying so, if she needs a group, we’ve just finished a campaign and need a tank.”

Luna blinked. Half of those words made sense to her. If this was a game made to mimic wars, then the term campaign made sense, finishing said campaign. As for tank? Well, she’d heard of the wooden, mobile, cannon-carrying vehicles, but if this was a game, then indeed there would methods of making such a purchase in the game?

“I will let her know,” she replied.

The stallion handed her the monstrosity she ordered. “Here you go.”

“Thank th—Thank you,” she said. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr….?”

“Caramel. Caramel Swirl.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Swirl,” Luna said, hesitating for a fraction of a second as she tried to use the right word. “May a good day follow you and fare you well.”

He nodded, and Luna sipped at her drink before getting back in line to buy the book of Oubliettes and Ogres, though how the two were related still confused her. After purchasing the rulebook, which cost her too many bits in her opinion, she returned home.

She set the book down on the desk of her study and thought about what to do next. She could return to the book of military engagements that occurred over the past millennia she left if only to allow her a better understanding of the political position of Equestria in the modern-day, but...well...that wasn’t her job anymore.

She signed before eyeing the book.

She cracked it open to the table of contents. A dizzying list met her, and she blinked at how much there was. Luna gazed over the information before seeing the words “What is a roleplaying game?” and turned to the indicated page.

“The Ogres and Oubliettes roleplaying game is about storytelling in an idealized, ancient world much like Equestria in the days of adventure. In an Ogres and Oubliettes game, each player creates an adventurer (also called a character) and teams up with other adventurers (played by friends). Working together, the group might explore a dark dun­geon, a ruined city, a haunted castle, a lost temple deep in a jungle, or a lava-filled cavern beneath a mysterious mountain. The adventurers can solve puzzles, talk with other characters, battle fantastic monsters, and discover fabulous magic items and other treasure.”

Luna read on. She learned about the Game Master and his role in the adventure. Luna read about the classes and the different kinds of adventurers that led the world. She even read about strange dice with different numbered sides. Luna discovered a grimoire of spells that existed solely for this world.

She read and read, and read, all the way until the sun rose the following day.

She read the core rulebook cover to cover, and when she finally closed it, she realized with a growing sense of excitement and anxiety that it sounded like something she would absolutely love to try.

Luna blinked as she stared up at the window of her study. The morning sun shone down on her from the eastern sky, catching her eyes and forcing her to blink bloodshot eyes.

“Need to talk with Twilight,” she muttered. “She shouldn’t raise the sun so soon.”

Luna glanced back at the cover of the book and smiled. She needed to try this at some point. Maybe she’d try playing a rogue or a wizard. Something interesting, indeed.

Her eyes began to close, and she jolted awake. She needed to go to bed, but she was also required to play this game as soon as possible. That meant that after she slept, she needed to head back to that store-within-a-store and speak to that Caramel pony again.

First, though, she needed to—

And that was as far as she got before Luna dropped in the middle of the hallway, fast asleep.