• 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 5

Luna smiled at Rolling Ivory and Caramel as they sat at the table. “Is this table too small? Unfortunately, I have only read the book, so I do not have a frame of reference for how large your map shall be.”

The earth pony that introduced herself as Rolling Ivory blinked as she looked down the length of the massive dining room table and nearly gaped. “Well, I prefer something a little...smaller. Mostly so that I can reach everything, your Ladyship.”

“Please,” Luna said. “It is not befitting that thee, as Game Master, refer to me by my title. Although thou hast come to my home, I am approaching thee for the opportunity to play.”

“I’m sorry,” Rolling said, “I just feel like I should be, since, well….”

Luna nodded. “Is there something that would make thee more comfortable?”

“Um, well,” she began. “I don’t think so; I guess I just need to work on it,” she muttered.

“Very well, but if thou need anything, please let me know. But thou sayst thee would prefer a smaller table?”

She nodded. “Otherwise, I need to get up and carry the minis all the way across the table to set them up.”

“A smaller table then,” Luna replied before leading them through the manor to the library. The room had several smaller tables that might suit her potential Master of Games. Hopefully, one of those would be a better option.

“Um...Lady Luna,” Caramel said, speaking up for the first time since he arrived. “Are you sure you want us all here? We...uh...well, I mean no offense, but some of the things on your walls look, well, magical maybe, and what if we accidentally break a vase or something? What’s worse, what if we touch something and turn into a cat or something?”

Luna shook her head. “That’s nothing to worry about. The items we have here are not innately magical. Beyond being expensive mementos of our times as rulers or before, they are mundane and easily fixable with magic. So guests are not a worry.”

They stepped into the library. “I hope one of these tables will suit thee, Rolling.”

“Oh yes, these are way more manageable.”

“Wonderful, now please, tell me what I can do to convince thee to let me join thy game.”

“Well,” Rolling said as Luna led her to a table with a few chairs sitting around it. “Well, you’ve read the book, right? How much?”

Luna’s brow furrowed. “What dost thou mean? Are not books meant to be read in their entirety?”

Rolling blinked. “You read the whole thing? Cover to Cover?”

“I skipped the index,” Luna admitted.

“Well, you’re doing better than most of my players,” she said, giving Caramel a side glance.

“I read the important parts,” he muttered in his defense.

She rolled her eyes. “Well, you’ve certainly got my attention at this point, Lady...er...Luna. Most ponies I know only read eight pages at a time.”

“That seems an odd choice.”

She shrugged. “Ask my players. So what character did you have in mind?”

“Well, I suppose the question is what sort of game did thee have planned? I have a Zealot Barbarian idea that would do well in a more combat-focused game, though not as much in a more politically-minded one.”

“Intrigue is fun, but we just finished one of those, so a Zealot Barbarian sounds amazing,” Rolling replied. “Which deity did you want to follow?”

“Well, who else?” Luna answered, motioning to herself.

“A bold choice,” Rolling said with a smirk. “Being your own god.”

Luna shrugged. “It is the writers’ fault for deciding to make Celestia and I goddesses in the book. It’s flattering but untrue.”

“Well, let me then bring you up to speed. I have a mega-dungeon planned. It’s been several years in the making, and it’s been carefully designed to teach a player how to play the dungeon, so it should make an easy first game for a new player. Do you have dice?”

“Not as of yet. I have some knucklebones, but they’re not numbered, and it seems unfair for me to them considering that only I could interpret them.”

“I have a box of extra dice. You can use those until you can get your own set.”

“Many thanks,” Luna said, dipping her head slightly.

“I do have some house rules, but we’ll worry about that when it’s actually time to play.”

“So can I then assume that I shall make it to the ‘actual time to play?’” Luna asked.

“Well, you’ve certainly impressed me. We do have a few more details to work out. Will you be able to play Saturdays? We play basically from noon all the way till midnight.”

“I’m officially retired. I can make it without worry.”

“Then I’ll have to talk to the others about coming here, does your magical gate work for the pizza delivery guy?”

“It most certainly does,” Luna replied. “I was surprised that the newspaper did not run an article about how my sister and I enjoyed a four cheese pizza three months ago. It seems that the ponies in charge of choosing which articles to run have some standards.”

“That reminds me,” Caramel said. “What are we going to do about the crowd out front. I don’t really want to be investigated by a mass of journalists because I’m invited to your manor every Saturday.”

“We have a few options,” Luna said. “There is the tunnel which you can take that opens up to the basement, or you could collect somewhere, and I can try teleporting you all in, though I should note that I’m better and Mind and Image spells than body spells.” She leaned back in her chair for a moment. “I might be able to ask Discord to set something up, though it might require a favor for him, which could always be dangerous.”

The other two ponies glanced at each other.

She tapped her chin. “I suppose we’ll need to discuss this further. For now, however, do ye have any other questions for me?”

Rolling and Caramel glanced at each other.

“Honestly, I want to hear about this Barbarian,” Rolling said.

Luna smiled. “Her name is Dreadmane Moonkissed….”

---☼---

Celestia couldn’t believe it. Marble was here.

He was here on the ship, going to the same wilderness that she was. How on earth had this happened? What chthonian primal had she angered that forced this terrible coincidence to fall on her?

At the very least, they both seemed to have the same idea of treating each other. Simply ignore each other’s existence.

So they passed through breakfast without a word, and they continued on their own separate business. Then, finally, lunch came around, and the college students finally began to emerge from their various cabins, many nursing hangovers that they tried to nurse with their water ration, mostly unsuccessfully.

Celestia decided that her “peers,” the professors and chaperones, would be the sort of ponies that Sunny would prefer to speak with, and so spent most of the afternoon on the deck, talking with the relaxing professors.

Dr. Dry Bones, the head of archeology of the University of Canterlot, greeted her with a smile. “You must be the Royal Conservation mare, yes?” the elder unicorn asked.

“I am, thank you for asking,” she answered, shaking her hoof.

“Pleasure to have you aboard. It’s good to know that the new royal enjoys conservation as much as the old did, eh?” the old mare asked.

“It is nice to know that I have some job security,” Sunny replied.

“Honestly,” the unicorn continued, “I wasn’t sure that the new Princess had the same appreciation for the fonder, older things, but it seems Celestia rubbed off on her.”

Sunny nodded, though her inner Celestia frowned. That was a little unfair to Twilight, though, she supposed in Dr. Bones’s defense, she didn’t really know the new Princess personally. “I mean, Princess Twilight was her student for a while. I’d be surprised if something didn’t rub off on her.”

“I suppose,” the graying unicorn sighed. “Still, the new Princess has to prove herself, and she has very big horseshoes to fill.”

“I thought she proved herself when she stopped Tirek, Cozy Glow, and Chrysalis? Do you not agree?”

“As far as defensively? I agree completely,” Dr. Bones replied. “I doubt security has dropped at all since Princess Twilight took over. In fact, there’s reason to believe it’s gone up since the coronation. No, Princess Twilight has proved herself more than capable of facing outside threats, but it’s internal, political threats that I am more worried about. After all, Cozy Glow, the same filly that tried to destroy Equestria, was a student at her school. The sentiment then is how can anypony trust her when she was not able to see such a problem form right under her nose.”

Sunny nodded. “Ah, but Celestia missed threats as well.”

“She did, to be sure,” Dr. Bones agreed with a nod. “However, Celestia does also have the advantage of time. She might have missed a few things in the past decade, but centuries before that had nothing but peace. Ponies are more likely to remember those centuries of peace as they watch Discord or what have you rise to power. They’ll be more forgiving. Besides, there’s probably a powerful sense of nostalgia on her side as well. I mean, it’s only this last year that we’ve had ponies that were born that never lived under Lady Celestia, possibly since the days of Equestria’s founding. Those millennia of work do sit in her favor, certainly.”

Sunny nodded. She expected as much. Still, it was nice to hear that at least her old subjects felt safe under her successor.

Her eyes glanced up, and she saw Marble standing not far away, glaring at her before he moved on to the following table.

“What on earth did you do to get on Marble’s bad side?” Dr. Bones asked, curiosity filling her voice.

“It’s a long story,” Sunny answered. She hesitated a moment before continuing, “Let’s just say that we rubbed each other the wrong way the entire way here.”

“That’s a first,” Dr. Bones replied. “Most ponies get along with Mr. Venture just fine.”

“I’m sure,” she replied. “What does he do, though? Why is he on this trip?”

“Mr. Venture is something of a guide. He’s helped various universities across Equestria help dive down into all kinds of temples and ruins all down the frontier. As a result, he’s a bit of an expert in disarming traps, not to mention incredibly well versed in Lusitanpec culture and history.”

“Which is why he knew so much about the great skull monument of Lusititlian,” Celestia thought with a snort. “I’m sure he’s a great historian.”

“He’s passable. If you want a real historian, you want his sister, Vanilla Float. That mare could run circles around some of my best archeologists.”

“Is she not here?” Sunny asked.

“No, not right now, though I’m not sure why. I sent both of them invitations,” Dr. Bones said. “Maybe she just wanted to sit this one out? Who knows?”

Sunny nodded. “Well, maybe she should have come. Maybe I could have been friends with half of the wonder team.”

“It’s possible,” Dr. Bones said. “Honestly, I thought she was the pricklier of the two, but you never know, I suppose.” The doctor checked her watch. “Ah, I hope you’ll excuse me, but I have to give my students a lecture so that they realize that this trip isn’t a school-funded vacation trip.”

Dr. Bones gave Sunny a nod as she left, and Sunny returned it with a smile before she sighed. “I guess I don’t have much else to do, then.”

She toyed with the idea of listening to Dr. Bones’s lecture. Still, if she were honest, Celestia probably couldn’t stop herself from snickering at the basic mistakes and assumptions the entire archeology community made. Sometimes they made such incredible leaps in logic, it baffled her.

She once told one of the historians what actually happened on a dig he was working on, and the stallion looked so...disappointed that puzzle had already been solved that he walked away in the middle of uncovering the main chamber of a fallen Pegasopolian ruin. Since then, Celestia decided she’d only throw them a bone or two after decades of work. She tried to give Marble the key on the monument, but he just wasn’t interested, apparently.

No, it looked like Sunny better find something else to do for now. With a sigh, she stood and walked back down the lower decks. She didn’t have much she could do in her room, but the unicorn could enjoy the hammock for a few more days before she started really roughing it across the jungle for who knows how long.

A nap would do her good.

She moved her down the stairs and into the shaded—if warm—rooms of the ships. The chugging engine thudded in the background, surrounding her as she walked into the bowels of the boat, and Sunny turned into the hallway that held her room.

Marble was there. He stood right outside her door, almost like he was waiting for her.

She stopped, and the pair glared at each other down the hallway. Neither of them gave an inch of ground. Neither turned to provide the other right of way. Instead, they both stood, staring at each other and waiting for them to move.

“Mr. Venture,” Sunny greeted cooly.

“Ms. Smiles,” he answered back.

A moment of silence passed as they continued to glare daggers at each other. “Is there something I can help you with?”

Marble stared back at her. “You’re currently blocking my way to my cabin.”

Sunny blinked and glanced at the door. Cabin 39 stared back at her, and she realized with horror that she shared a wall with the only pony she had a terrible relationship with on board. “What a terrible coincidence,” she said dryly. “You’re standing in front of mine.”

He glanced at her door and came to the same conclusion if the frown that grew on his face was any indication. “That is unfortunate.”

They both stared at each other again, almost like nobles in a duel, waiting for the other to make one, just one, singular flaw in the form to capitalize on.

Eventually, after another long moment, Sunny spoke. “I,” she began, “apologize. My treatment of you during the train ride was not respectable nor reasonable. I should not have done that, and I am sorry.”

Marble stared at her a moment longer before he nodded. “I accept your apology.”

Sunny waited.

Marble said nothing.

“And you?” Sunny eventually said.

“I already apologized,” he said. “On the second train ride.”

“I suppose you did.”

They stared at each other for a moment longer before Sunny took a step forward. Marble took a second before he mirrored her, moving toward her. They glared at each other as they passed, staring daggers at each other as they passed. Finally, they pushed their way into their own rooms and shut the door behind them.

Sunny frowned as she walked into her room before she shook the thought away. While Celestia secretly enjoyed the opportunity to choose to hold something against a pony without the political pressure to forgive as the benevolent Princess, Sunny might have been holding onto it a little longer than she needed to. Her little feud was becoming ridiculous, especially because Marble could have been incredibly useful, as he had all the expertise in diving into ruins would have served her well.

Well, it was too late now.

She set the problem aside and turned to her hammock before smiling. She had some rest to store up.

---☼---

The mare stood on top of the old pyramid. Ancient, earth-pony stone surrounded her in a monument of a power that these ancient ponies had somehow stolen from her.

It didn’t matter anymore, though. She was so close now, so close to finally having what should have always been hers. Yet, even now, the ponies working for her ripped through the temple. Each and everyone was searching for secrets these earth ponies stole and hoarded, which they kept from her.

Her single wing fluttered next to her as she stood, trying to catch the wind that blew past her.

Any moment now, and she’d finally be what she was always meant to be. She hadn’t felt this alive since she discovered the location of the Staff of Sacanas, but this time, there was no self-proclaimed “Storm King” to take it from her before she arrived. She’d finally have what she always wanted.

“Lady Dusk,” a voice said behind her, and she turned to see a massive mandrill, a strange creature from a far-away land that stood twice as tall as the average pony. It bowed to her. “Your ‘sons’ have found something.”

“Is it the Couatl Feather?”

“No, but it is the vault.” The beast’s voice resonated in her body, reaching low like a deep baritone but somehow grander. Whenever he spoke, his voice always sounded a bit too loud and a bit too deep in a pony’s ear.

“Good, make sure that the excavation goes well. There shouldn’t be any problems from here on out.”

“There is but one problem,” the mandrill corrected softly. “Crimson.”

Dusk sighed. “What does he want now?” she asked.

“He claims that you have no intention of paying them and that even if you did, your quest would not provide enough to satisfy them.”

Dusk frowned. “Fine then, if Crimson Facade doesn’t want my generosity, then perhaps he’s not deserving of it.”

The mandrill smiled, revealing massive fangs under a colorful face. “Shall I deal with him?”

“Do,” Dusk said simply.

The mandrill smiled wider and began to laugh as he backed away. “Of course, Lady Dusk.”

As he descended down into the darkness of the pyramid below, his laughter echoed out from the pyramid, cutting into the night of the jungle in his deep, resonating, resounding voice.

It almost drowned out the screams.