• Published 27th Mar 2024
  • 420 Views, 39 Comments

Parks and Wilderness - stphven



A routine monster hunt goes wrong, stranding a lone guardsmare in the desert.

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Chapter 2 - Tranquility

I am Private Fruit Punch, and I am melting.

“Ahhhh, this hot tub is so good.”

I was a bit disappointed to find that Tranquility Springs doesn’t actually have any hot springs. But this is a pretty nice consolation prize.

Seriously, after slogging through the desert in my armour all morning, this feels amazing. The tub is just a simple wooden barrel filled with hot water, but already I can feel my muscles loosening and my eyelids getting heavy.

The nice little stallion who runs the nice little hotel has been super accommodating. No doubt glad that the Royal Guard have finally arrived to deal with the town’s monster problem. Whatever that is. I should probably figure that out at some point.

“Hey, sarge?”

“Hmm?”

Lazily opening an eye, I spot my new crystal pony sergeant resting on a wooden bench on the other side of the washroom, methodically washing her bushy blue mane with her unicorn magic. She’d declined the offer of her own hot tub, opting instead to soak her hooves in a small pool of cold water. Odd mare, but whatever floats her boat.

“So, uh, what kind of monster are we hunting here, anyway?”

She continues to focus on lathering and rinsing as she answers, her voice even and measured.

“We’ve had reports of an unidentified creature scaring the locals. So far it hasn’t caused any real harm, so until we know more we won’t be hunting anything. No point unnecessarily antagonising it. For now, our job is to observe and advise.”

“Aww, and I was hoping to see the big scary monster hunter use her big scary sword on a big scary monster.”

The big scary monster hunter in question snorts in amusement, and begins drying her mane. With her armour and sword replaced by a fluffy pink towel, the turquoise unicorn looks a lot less intimidating than she did this morning.

“Sorry to disappoint, but the Parks and Wilderness Guard aren’t the macho monster hunters rumour would have you believe. Most of the work we do is to minimise the chance of dangerous encounters.”

Laaame!

Perfectly reasonable, but still lame!

“In fact, should we encounter anything truly dangerous, standard procedure is to retreat, call for reinforcements, and engage with overwhelming numerical superiority. Seeing as we are the only Royal Guards for miles around, I’m afraid that’s not going to happen.”

“Heh. Damn. I wanted to see how you use that monster of a sword of yours.”

Glacier’s weapon is almost as long as I am!

Granted, the standard issue Royal Guard spear is longer, but couldn’t be more than a third of the sword’s weight.

“Magic, mostly.”

Well that just makes me more curious! Unfortunately, sarge doesn’t seem interested in volunteering more, and frankly I don’t have the energy to press for details. I'm enjoying this tub way too much.

Oh well. I'll bug her about it some other day. When I'm not half asleep.

I sink further back, watching the wisps of steam curl up towards the wooden ceiling. The sounds of Glacier’s drying stops, and I hear her lay back and sigh contentedly. Hazily, I realise this is the first time she’s stopped working and relaxed all day. Even after arriving at Tranquility Springs, she went directly to speak with the mayor, the sheriff, and one or two other important ponies, before organising our lodging.

(In my opinion, a shower ought to have been our first stop.)

I have to admit, she’s got impressive stamina for a unicorn. Not to be tribalist. I wonder, are all sergeants are just naturally tough bastards? All mine have been. Still, I was starting to get a liiittle worried for her out in the desert. She didn’t let it show, but it must have been Tartarus under that thick northerner coat. Tough bastard or not, dehydration and heatstroke cause more injuries per year than any monster. It seems odd to me, sending a northerner to deal with a desert problem.

That train of thought lazily pulls another question into focus. Eventually, I work up the effort to break the comfortable silence.

“So... Does the PWG normally send you guys out solo? One monster, one mare, that kind of deal?”

I hear Glacier sigh before answering.

“No, this is… not standard deployment. Typically investigations are performed by a whole squad of specially trained Parks and Wilderness Guard. We - my previous squad - were tasked with investigating the disturbance at Tranquility Springs. En route we received an urgent summons to deal with a sudden chimera problem.”

Ooh, they deal with chimeras? That's pretty cool.

“The detour was pretty far out of the way, so our CO decided to send me on alone to act as an interim advisor to the local guard.”

“Ha! Must have been quite the surprise to find there was no local guard.”

“Pfff. No kidding.”

We share a chuckle at that. Due to some sort of mix-up, the entire regional guard detachment had been called off to Celestia knows where just days before Glacier was supposed to meet them in Appleloosa.

Granted, the detachment is only like a dozen ponies or so. Deserts don’t normally need a lot of guarding.

I was just finishing my cross-training with the nearby Appaloosa buffalo, so it made sense I was called in as a temporary replacement. What’s ridiculous is that I'm apparently the only replacement they could find in time. And they couldn’t even give me a concrete answer on when to expect reinforcements. My meeting with Sergeant Glacier at the train station would have been hilarious if it weren’t so awkward.

Heh. A single monster hunter, in a region she can barely survive, advising a lone guardsmare, who’s not even supposed to be here, on how to defend a town neither of them are familiar with, against a threat nopony knows.
Yep, ridiculous is right.

Still, Glace seems pretty sensible. If the two of us are just chasing up rumours around town until backup arrives, we’ll be perfectly fine...

Unless a big scary monster attacks.

...That might be pretty cool though.