• Published 10th Jun 2021
  • 1,320 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 8

Water tickled his hooves.

Cracking open an eye, Marble found himself staring up at a cloudless blue sky, spotted with seagulls that cried happily in his ears. Forcing himself to sit up, he saw the crabs that had been watching him intently scurry away with fright at the sudden movement. Sand, whose gritty irritation he had been unaware of up until now, ground against his coat and skin, making every movement slightly painful and annoying. Another wave hit the shore and strained to reach him before touching his hooves and then falling back into the sea.

Marble glanced around. The beach stretched on for miles and miles to his left, going off into the distance until the shore bent away and hid the rest from view. In front of him lay the ocean, so incredibly vast that the only thing that could block his vision was the horizon. To the right stood...well, it looked like a hut built from thin branches and palm fronds. It had no walls, but the roof appeared sturdy enough. Marble blinked as he looked at it before he turned to face his back, where the jungle rose before him like a wall of verdant anger.

It barely surprised him when Sunny walked out of that towering wall of plant life, carrying some fronds behind her in her magic. “Oh, you’re awake.”

“Yeah,” he croaked. “Thanks for getting me up.”

Sunny shrugged but smiled. “I tried, honestly. You were out. Now that you are up, go wash yourself off and come inside for some breakfast.”

“Breakfast?” he asked.

Sunny glanced back at him. “You know how they say not to grab your belongings when you’re evacuating?”

He nodded.

“Well, I brought mine, and I have some food in there. Of course, I did find some Water lily roots and some Taro roots. All we need to do is boil those, and we’ll have ourselves some good soup.” She held up the plants, revealing a strange, brown root and a long, strange black tube.

“Are those...edible?” Marble asked.

“Of course,” Sunny replied. “I wouldn’t pick them otherwise.”

Marble raised an eyebrow. “And, uh, how did you find those?”

“I have magic specifically to find these kinds of plants,” she explained. “Getting them is a simple as pulling them out of the ground.”

Marble blinked before he sighed and wandered to into the water. Water washed over him, cleaning the sand off of him while he stared at the tent. Sunny was beneath the palm frond roof, tearing apart the leaves of a frond into thin strips before she set them onto a pile of wood before she pulled a flint and steel from her bag.

He watched as she began to light a fire and split the taro and water lily into small chunks that looked like Sunny had chopped them to pieces, even though she didn’t use a knife. She began to boil water in a small cauldron. She slipped the parts of the roots into the pot.

He had no idea where she even got the water. It couldn’t be seawater; that would ruin the soup.

Marble continued to think about what she was doing as he finished washing. Now clean, he walked out of the sea, free of sand, though his wet hooves just collected more with every step he took. At the very least, he didn’t have it grinding against every joint in his body, though.

As he stepped under the shelter, the smell of something sweet wafted under his nose, and he glanced down into the pot.

“Do you like potatoes?” Sunny asked.

Marble blinked. “Yes? Who doesn’t?”

“I met someone who doesn’t,” she replied. “Taro tastes a lot like a potato, with a little sweetness added to it.”

“And water lily?” he asked.

“Like sweet chestnuts,” Sunny said, stirring the pot. “There are other ones that are bitter, but they’re still good to eat.”

“How do you know this?” Marble asked.

“Long years of study,” she replied.

“You just studied different kinds of edible plants?”

Sunny glanced up at him over the pot of soup. “I need to know what’s around me when I jump hooves first into the jungle,” the unicorn replied. “I wouldn’t have gotten very far without that.”

“Sure…” he replied.

They stood silently for a moment or two.

“It’s going to take a while,” she said. “Soup doesn’t cook that fast.”

“Okay,” he began. “I guess I’ll…” he started before blinking. He had no clue what else to do.

“Why don’t you check the beach?” she asked. “Check around the bend and see if anything. Maybe one of the lifeboats washed ashore.”

He nodded. That was at least something he could do. He left the small tent and began moving down the beach, watching the shore as the sea crashed softly into the sand.

They had to find their way back to civilization, so he had to start looking for any signs of a ship. If one of the lifeboats made it, they could get that seaworthy and sail it down eastward along the shore. That would work, that would work well. The only big issue was food and feeding everypony on the ship, even though each lifeboat came with supplies to last a week at sea, but that depended on the passengers having some discipline.

But, now that he thought about it, if Sunny could keep finding them food like the soup she was making, then they could keep the supplies packed just in case. They might even make it all the way without having to eat any of the packaged meals. That might make the whole trip worthwhile.

Marble traveled down the shore and walked down to the bend in the coast. He had to climb a rock, but as soon as he crested the boulder, he frowned.

Miles and miles of empty beach met him. He saw nothing as far as he could see until another bend in the shoreline hid from him one more time. Marble sighed. “Great,” he muttered before he turned back to the makeshift shack that Sunny built.

He marched back to the little hut, shaking his head the entire time before he finally got returned.

“Soup’s ready,” Sunny said with a smirk before she handed him a wooden bowl.

“Did you pack extra bowls?” Marble asked.

“That’s a coconut,” she replied. “I flavored the soup with some, but I don’t want to overdo the coconut. It’s a laxative, you know?”

Marble raised an eyebrow as she poured some of the soup into her makeshift bowl. “How’d you get it so smooth?”

“Magic,” she replied. “I basically sanded the shell down until it was smooth. No real trick there.”

Marble glanced at her a moment longer before he sipped at his soup. Like Sunny predicted, it was sweet, but the flavors of chestnut, potato, and coconut were there as well, hovering in the background of the soup.

He ate it, but it was perhaps too sweet to eat every day, but he wasn’t going to complain right now, it was food, and now that he started eating, he realized how famished he was.

He gulped down his bowl faster than he wanted and held it out for a second serving. Sunny complied, pouring him more and then filling her bowl a second time. Between them both, they emptied the cauldron, leaving almost nothing inside.

“So, what did you find?” she asked before sitting down on the sand.

Marble did the same. “Well, nothing much. There’s nothing on this beach or the one past the bend there. I think we’re out of luck.”

Sunny sighed. “And here I hoped that you’d have a way to get back without me.”

Marble blinked. “What?”

She glanced over at him. “Oh, did you think I was trying to get back?” she asked. “No, no, no. I’m heading into the jungle still.”

“Why?” Marble asked. “Why would you ever think of doing such a thing?”

“I mean, I came out here to do this job,” she replied. “I was going to explore the jungle with or without a bunch of college students following me.”

“The ship sank!”

Which just means I’d have to get back to Equestria on my own,” she replied. “That’s not that difficult.”

Marble felt his mouth drop. “Are you actually insane?” he said. “This is one of the most inhospitable environments in the world! Are you aware of that?”

“That’s why I’m here,” she replied. “I love a challenge.”

The small, self-satisfied smile on her face left Marble speechless for a long moment. How...how could anyone actually think like this? This mare was off her rocker and probably had just escaped from an asylum somewhere. What’s worse, now he was stuck with her. Celestia help him.

“Sadly, since you didn’t find one of the lifeboats, I guess that means you’re stuck with me, and while I know I can take care of myself, I’m not sure bringing someone along is the best move.”

“That’s the sanest thing I’ve heard you say all day,” Marble said.

She glanced up at him, annoyance obvious in her eyes. “Do you want the help getting back or not?” she asked. “I decided that I’m going to go out of my way to take you back to Equestria before I continue with any of my explorings. So if you want my help, then I suggest that you keep your comments to yourself.”

Marble narrowed his eyes. He...he probably couldn’t get back without some help. Even if he flew all the way there, he’d need to stop for food and rest, neither of which he could provide himself, considering that Sunny was the only one with supplies. Besides, he never thought of himself as a tremendous long-distance flyer. Sunny probably was his best bet, at least until he managed to get within a few miles of the frontier.

On the other hoof, he really wanted to snark at her.

Finally deciding against it, he waved for Sunny to continue.

She nodded, smiling again. “So, since I still want to explore, and you need to get back to civilization, I’ve come up with a compromise. We’ll head through the jungle, going north, and while we go, I’ll collect a bunch of supplies, and then we’ll push our way back east until you’re confident you can make it back on your own.”

“And why are we going to try and cross the entire jungle?”

“A couple of reasons, actually,” Sunny replied. “First, we’re on the south side of isthmus, or peninsula, or whatever. That means we’re getting sun almost the entire day with no shade except what we make. We’ll have some humidity to work with since the ocean is right there, but we’ll still be hit by the sun day in and day out the entire time. If we head north, though, the trees will help shade us as we walk, and we won’t exhaust ourselves every day we’re there. Which means we take less time getting you where you’re going.”

Marble pressed his lips together in a thin line. That...she had a point there.

“Second, a lack of water. While I was able to find some in a pool back there,” Sunny said, pointing to the treeline, “we can’t depend on that every time we move down the shore. We don’t have the time to purify the water ourselves, though we could certainly do it over a campfire if we’re patient enough. So, cutting through allows us to collect clean water as we go, which we’ll need if we’re going to spend weeks heading east along the shore.”

Another point.

“Third,” she began, “while I can continue to raid the jungle for some food somewhere, that’s still a trip I need to make into the jungle, and if I am too exhausted after walking in the hot sun all day, then you are going to be the person in charge of finding food. Do you like your chances?”

Another excellent point.

“But it’s the jungle,” Marble said. “Between the quicksand and all the dangers you yourself mentioned just yesterday, why on earth would you think it’s a good idea to go in there?”

“Because I’m a professional,” she replied simply with a smile.

“And that’s supposed to put me at ease?”

Sunny rolled her eyes. “I’ll bring up the point about how you need my help one more time.”

Marble groaned. “Fine. We’ll cut through, but if I die, I’ll haunt you for the rest of your natural life.”

Sunny smiled at him. “Duly noted.”

Marble kept frowning.

Sunny glanced back into the jungle. “Since we’ve spent most of the day sitting here already, we probably should wait until tomorrow before heading in. I’ll see if I can’t get us some supplies. In the meantime, see if you can’t find some large coconuts.”

He raised another eyebrow.

“I have a canteen, do you?” she asked.

“And you’re going to turn the coconuts into canteens?”

“Of course, that’s the easy part,” she said. “It already holds liquid, the most you need to do is drill a hole and stick a spigot in it if you really want to, but I’m sure you can work with just a hole.”

Marble stared at her, trying to gauge if that was an insult or not.

She didn’t really give him enough time, though, as she quickly made her way back into the treeline. Left alone again, Marble sighed and began looking for coconuts to gather.

---☼---

Marble watched as the sun began to set for the night as Sunny drilled a hole into one of the coconuts and then slipped in a shoot of hollowed-out bamboo to form a spout. She sealed it with some tree sap and then stopped up the new spigot with another section of bamboo.

“There you go,” she said, handing him the third coconut canteen. “Those three should hold enough water for you.”

Marble nodded and slipped them into his makeshift bag made of woven palm leaflets. “I just hope they’re as watertight as you say they are.”

She shrugged. “If the bamboo plant I found was larger, I could have made a bunch out of the individual sections. The coconut would do, though.”

“Good to know,” he replied.

Sunny stood before hanging up a hammock onto two of the supports. “You have some fronds to sleep on over there. It should be fine for tonight, but you’ll have to come up with some way to sleep while we’re in there.”

Marble sighed before glancing up at the little shelter Sunny constructed. “Are you sure this will hold?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if another storm comes through?”

“You think another storm like that’s going to happen?” she asked. “That doesn’t seem likely considering the sky right now.”

Marble blinked. Did...did she not know? Did she somehow not understand. “You...you know that storm wasn’t natural, right?”

“What?” Sunny asked, sitting up in her hammock.

“That storm had no warning. The pressure was high all day. There shouldn’t have been any storm at all. The wind was coming toward us, which meant that there had to be enough of a pressure change that pegasi would typically be the cause.”

“You’re saying ponies caused this?”

“They had to have. Wild weather patterns don’t work that way. Somepony had to have done it.”

“So you think that somepony was moving the weather over here and caused the storm?”

“N-no,” he said. “Weather flows from high pressure to low pressure areas. And pegasi can only move pressure around, which means they’d have to take the pressure from over the sea and move it over the jungle. We would have seen them.”

Sunny blinked before slowly nodding. “I see. Something caused the storm, something unnatural, and probably something hostile, or at least apathetic to other ponies.”

She glanced around the hut herself, as though realizing the structural integrity might not be as sufficient as she hopped.

Marble watched her for a moment before she frowned. “Well, it’s not like it’ll hurt us if it collapses on us. No real reason to change that now, though.”

“You think?”

“It’ll be fine,” she said. “It doesn’t matter either way.”

“Alright. Again, if I die, I’m haunting you.”

“Duly noted,” Sunny said with a sigh. “Now, just go to bed.”

---☼---

“Thank ye for coming everypony!” Luna said as she walked the ponies over to the basement with the secret tunnel. “I had so much fun, and I learned so much.”

“Oh, it’s our pleasure, Luna,” Rolling said. “I’m happy you enjoyed it.”

Caramel walked at the back of the group, watching as they made their way down the long hallways. Smiling, despite himself. The game had been fun, and they managed to level up to level two all within the first session.

“I’m just happy that nopony had to squeeze past me every ten seconds,” Platinum said, flying beside them. “Seriously, though, you play a great barbarian.”

“You do,” Ivory Sunlight added. “In fact, you’re an amazing roleplayer. Are you sure this is your first time playing?”

“It is, I simply...have a knack for it, let’s say,” she replied.

“I’ll say you do,” Sundance muttered. “Though, I think maybe bringing an actual greatsword to the game might be a little...much.”

“Dost thou think so?” Luna asked. “I thought I helped me better get into character.”

“It might, but it’s a little terrifying, honestly.”

“I suppose thou might think so,” she replied. “It was smaller on me a year ago, but without that frame of reference.”

They arrived at the basement, which Caramel honestly would have called a ‘wine cellar’ instead of a humble basement, but that wasn’t his business.

“Well, I hope ye have a wonderful night, and I pray that the trip down the tunnel isn’t, well, ‘spooky’ I believe the term to be.”

“Well, it helps that it’s well lit and dry and clean,” Rolling said. “It’s certainly not the creepiest tunnel I’ve ever been through.”

“I am glad to hear it.”

Luna opened the secret door, and the lights turned on automatically, buzzing as they came to life.

“I...um,” Platinum began, “I have a question for you, Luna.”

“What?”

“Why...why do you keep using ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’ it feels weird that you’re trying to be so formal with us.”

“Oh, I’m—”

“She’s trying to be informal,” Caramel interrupted.

Everypony turned to him.

Caramel sighed. “Thou is the informal version of ‘you,’” he explained. “It was typically used between friends and family, while ‘you’ was used in polite situations. As time went on, ponies became more and more worried about insulting each other by acting too informal, so there was a general movement to ‘you’ as a default word. When Luna is using ‘thou,’ she’s trying to speak on our level. That was the whole point of the Royal Canterlot Voice. It was meant to put ponies of a lower station at ease.”

Everypony blinked.

“I took two years of linguistics in college,” Caramel replied.

“Thank heavens!” Luna said, smiling wide. “Somepony understands! Oh, thank thee, Caramel, for whatever suffering thou endured during those years.”

“You know that’s the first time someone worded it that way,” Caramel said, “and that’s fairly accurate.”

Luna smiled, and Caramel couldn’t help but smile back.