Daring Do & Indiana Jones battle each others' enemies in a race to save their worlds and themselves.
The Medallion of Light and the Medallion of Shadow are some of the most powerful yet obscure artifacts of antiquity. Created by a now-vanished cult of assassins, the two devices together give their bearer the incredible power to walk the worlds with but a single step.
Nefarious forces are closing in on both artifacts, and very little stands in their way. Heinrich Himmler's agents covet the medallions for the greater glory of the Third Reich. Ahuizotl's simply want their master to get what's coming to him: the world, and everything in it.
With the fate of all good people and ponies in doubt, one thing's for certain: saving two worlds would be one hell of an adventure. And if adventure has a name, it must be Daring Do… or is that Indiana Jones?
Will our heroes win the day? Find out in... Daring Do and the Medallion of Shadow! Or, Indiana Jones and the Medallion of Light!
NOTE: there will be some violence in this story, but nothing more than you would expect to see in an Indiana Jones movie-- so I didn't check the "gore" content box.
Loose rocks and fine gravel crunched underhoof as Daring Do alighted as softly as she could on the mountain path. The adventuring pegasus wheezed for a moment, glad of the chance to catch her breath after her harrowing flight through the mountains. She stood stock still, waiting cautiously for any sounds of alarm from the gray, squat shape of the nearby temple. The mare’s dark pink eyes searched the empty windows of the forbidding edifice, but she saw nothing—no sign of watching guards, no sign of surprised cultists, and most importantly no sign of Ahuizotl or his minions. Excellent.
Daring Do started forward, treading lightly to keep the sound of her hoofsteps masked under the moaning of the mountain winds. The skies boiled with high, churning clouds and occasional flashes of lightning. It was not a good night to be out for anypony, and especially not for anything on the wing.
While thunder growled through the heavens, the golden-pelted mare flashed a quick grin at the helpful storm brewing above her. Nopony would think that even a brash and reckless adventurer would brave the skies on a night like tonight, but nopony else knew what Daring knew about the nature of her current search. If Ahuizotl got his claws on that medallion before she did, getting slammed into the unyielding side of a mountain by vicious gusts of wind or blasted from the sky by a bolt of lightning would be the least of the pegasus’ worries. Taking advantage of another peal of thunder, she cantered forward and reached the temple’s main gates.
Forty hooves tall and made of unyielding and weathered oak, the doors to the Temple of Shadow loomed over Daring Do as she trotted up the last few steps. She passed through the forbidding space between the gate’s guardian statues, ignoring the frozen snarls of the grotesquely twisted griffins. Reaching the threshold, she paused. The doors were slightly ajar, open just wide enough to admit a single pony. Perhaps the adventurer was not as unexpected as she had hoped?
After a quick scan to ensure that the opening was free of any obvious trap, the pegasus vaulted through the door in one fluid motion. She landed on all fours, wings flared as she readied herself for the attack—but nopony was there. The wind whistled through the partially open doorway as if following Daring inside, but nothing else stirred save for the thick cobwebs waving gently in the breeze.
“Hmm,” Daring grunted, adjusting her signature pith helmet and folding her wings back to her sides. The pegasus knew she couldn’t relax yet—not until she and the Medallion of Shadow were both safely back in Canterlot.
A long, dark corridor matched the carefully memorized diagrams in Daring Do’s mind. She took a step forward, straining to see through the omnipresent gloom. A quiet chuckle escaped the pegasus’ lips as she murmured, “I guess they really do take the name ‘Temple of Shadow’ seriously.”
Every book Daring Do could find about the mysterious temple and its fabled artifact told of terrible curses to anypony who brought lights into the temple’s inner sanctum. Of course, such ancient curses were unlikely still to exist without a unicorn or other spell caster to renew them from time to time, but stranger things had happened. Besides, Daring was a professional adventurer. She’d make ‘do.’
Chuckling mentally at her pun, Daring Do crept along quietly, scanning the area around her for the usual nasty surprises that awaited any treasure hunter in places like this. The rough-hewn gray stone of the floor was filled with suspicious cracks and holes, all promising a world of pain for anypony unlucky enough to trigger the booby traps waiting within. She nimbly sidestepped a carefully concealed pressure plate. Not for the first time, the pegasus wondered if there was somepony out there crawling through tombs and dungeons to ensure that the hinges on the spike pits were in good working order. What would a trap maintenance cutie mark look like..?
The idle thoughts did nothing to ruin Daring’s concentration as she vaulted over a pit and landed lightly on the other side—dodging out of the way just in time as a hidden bronze blade sliced through the air where she’d stood and retracted back into the ceiling. Nasty. She’d have to remember that one for later.
A dim yellow glow at the far end of the corridor suggested that somepony in the temple was more interested in watching his step than in ancient threats of dire curses against bringers of light. Daring Do moved closer, glad of the extra illumination despite the grim warnings. Hey, it wasn’t like she was going to get cursed for using the lights somepony else had brought. She peeked around the corner, muttering softly to herself. “Hmm… I wonder if that’s the trap maintenance pony?”
If it was the theoretical trap maintenance pony, he’d brought friends. Lots of friends. The wide, vault-ceilinged room was full of a milling press of bodies flickering and shifting in the dim torchlight. Ponies and diamond dogs and other creatures all faced the center of the room. The crowd may have been unidentifiable in their long, flowing green robes, but Daring Do could identify them instantly from the droning, atonal chanting and the rhythmic, synchronized swaying.
“Cultists,” Daring Do groaned to herself. She’d suspected as much. It was a horrible thing, being right all the time. “Why always cultists?”
“Brothers and Sisters!” shrilled a thin, reedy voice from the gathered throng. “The conjunction is near! Soon, if we are worthy, the Old Ones will return for us…”
Tuning out the rest of the crazed ranting, the pegasus glanced around the room and tried to plan her next move. Cultists all said things like this. Sometimes they were even right. But was this even the right place..?
As Daring Do surveyed the green-robed congregation, something caught her eye. Glittering dully on pedestal in the center of the cavernous room was the Medallion of Shadow. There was no question about it. The plate-sized half disc had a strange metallic sheen unlike anything the adventurer had ever seen before. Even from this distance, she could tell that she’d finally found the object of her quest. And the minions of Ahuizotl were nowhere to be seen. She’d won the race. Daring allowed herself a quiet smile.
Even if the cultists were the only thing standing between Daring Do and victory, they were still a problem… but one that the experienced adventurer knew how to deal with. A quick glance around the darkened entryway to the temple’s inner sanctum revealed a few extra robes folded neatly off to one side. Like the ones on the cultists in the ceremony, they were a vibrant green with an embroidered snake emblem slithering across the fabric. Daring’s smile widened. She tugged on the foul-smelling robe, flipping up the hood to conceal her charcoal mane and signature pith helmet.
A few moments later, another robe-swathed cultist joined the massed throng. Groaning the atonal chants slightly slower than everypony else, the newcomer followed her brethren in their languid, swaying dance around the raised dais and its artifact. Each rotation brought Daring closer to the middle of entranced congregation and closer to the dark gray treasure on full display at the center of the mob. Soon, the Medallion of Shadow would be hers.
* * *
Doctor Henry “Indiana” Jones winced as an incautious step sent a baseball-sized rock spinning across the path. The stone reached the edge of the precipice to his right and dropped, clattering loudly as it struck various outcroppings on its trip down the windswept mountain. The archeologist froze for a moment, listening for any sign that his approach might have been detected. Fortunately, there was none.
Indiana Jones started moving again before the frigid gusts of wind ensured that he was frozen in more ways than one. He’d been forced to leave his thick wool-lined coat behind in his room at the inn. Under the circumstances, a stealthy and unexpected exit was worth more than the comfort of cold-resistant clothing. This was hardly the first time that the archeologist had braved frostbite, and it likely wouldn’t be the last. As long as he kept moving, he’d be fine. Pushing his fedora down a bit against another blast of icy wind, the shivering man trudged up the slope, crested the ridge—and saw it.
White, polished stone glittered by the faint and fleeting light of the storm-crossed moon. A faint smile ghosted across Indy’s wind-burned face as he examined the tableau below him. There it was… the Temple of Light. If the manuscripts and clues he had painstakingly collected were right, that was where the archeologist would find what both he and Hitler’s lackeys sought: the Medallion of Light.
Creeping slowly down through sharp-edged rock formations and onto the path leading up to the temple, Indiana Jones made a careful search of his surroundings. The area seemed safe enough, but it was by no means uninhabited. Flickering torchlight streamed out the slightly open door of the white stone structure.
Who would the archeologist find inside? It could be temple monks, busily performing rituals that had lasted through the centuries. It could be common traders or bandits, taking up shelter on an unpleasant night during their travels through the Hindu Kush. It could even be some of Himmler’s butcher boys, lying in wait for Doctor Jones and already in possession of the second half of the artifact that would let Hitler’s eager armies simply appear out of nowhere in the streets of Paris, Washington, D.C. or London. There was only one way to find out. Readying himself for a fight, Indiana stepped through the door.
Warm yellow light from the flickering torches greeted Indiana Jones as he looked around the entryway. Despite its remote location and advanced age, the ancient monastery was entirely innocent of dust or cobwebs. Stepping through the door was more like walking into the foyer of a museum kept up by accuracy-obsessed caretakers rather than the dilapidated ruins Doctor Jones was used to seeing. Despite himself, the archeologist started to relax.
The faint hiss of steel slicing through the air sent Indiana into motion, adrenaline burning in his veins. By the time the viciously sharp blade slashed through the spot where the archeologist had been, he was already diving forward and tumbling across the cold stone floor. Doctor Jones rolled to his feet, pistol sliding out of its holster as he finally caught sight of his foe.
The brown-robed man closed the distance with his scrambling victim before the surprised archeologist could bring his pistol to bear. One foot whipped out and sent the partly raised firearm skidding across the smooth floor. Indy ducked sideways and heard a metallic clank as the descending double-bladed knife wedged into a crack between two of the stone slabs. Swearing in some unidentifiable tongue, the man jerked desperately at his trapped weapon.
Surging upwards, Doctor Jones slammed one swinging fist into his opponent’s chin. The swarthy man’s teeth clicked together as his head jerked backwards. He stumbled, giving the archeologist time to get his footing.
Still gasping for breath, Indiana followed up his punch with a brutal knee to the man’s stomach. He threw his opponent hard towards the floor and turned to sprint for his pistol. The dazed fighter went down, falling forward past Doctor Jones. As the robed man crumpled to the floor, he let out a strangled scream. Panting, the archeologist reached his firearm and turned to squeeze off a shot—but there was no need.
Indiana Jones’ fallen opponent lay still. Too still. Moving carefully, the archeologist approached his foe and turned the man over with one cautious foot. Somehow, the guard—or whatever he was—had fallen onto the raised end of the double-bladed knife. It was still stuck firmly in the floor, stained with the blood of its former owner. A bright red pool was already sliding into the cracks between the stones as the smooth floor eagerly drank the fallen man’s lifeblood.
Re-holstering his unfired pistol, Doctor Jones started a careful search of his vanquished foe. The man had very little on him: a bit of the local currency, a small bottle of some foul-smelling alcohol, and… “Oh, great. Reichsmarks.”
Indy looked around, seeing the Temple of Light with new and even warier eyes. He’d given his pursuers in town the slip, but their agents had gotten here ahead of him after all. He was expected.
Any sensible man would have turned around right then and there. The archeologist sighed, rubbing one hand across his stubble-coated chin. He couldn’t turn back now. According to the government agents who had contacted him, the Nazis were making no effort at all to search for the Medallion of Shadow… a sure sign that they already had it, or didn’t think they needed it. Indiana Jones ground his teeth. He had to do this, foolish as it was. Well, he’d been in worse spots.
Moving quickly, Indiana began to strip the body of his former opponent. Thanks to the dark color of the robes, the stain of its ex-owner’s blood should pass without notice, hopefully helping its new owner to do the same as he snuck through the temple.
Doctor Jones walked down the corridors of the Temple of Light as quietly as he could, head down and hood shrouding his face. He strode down a dimly lit hallway, turned a corner—and nearly ran straight into two brutish thugs clad in robes much like the man who had attacked him. It took Indiana a split second of frozen surprise before he remembered himself. Bobbing his head and grunting a hasty greeting, the disguised archeologist hurried past and continued on his way. One of the guards made an unintelligible comment about raw recruits. The other laughed. Both continued on their way, oblivious to the outsider in their midst.
Finally after what felt like hours of twisting, turning passages, Indiana Jones reached the center of the temple. According to the texts, the innermost shrine of the Temple of Light was a large, circular room with a high ceiling that opened at the top to let in the light of dawn. The archeologist looked up. The domed ceiling stretched up into a circle of black nothingness, almost too high for the anemic, jaundiced light of the torches to reach. The distant howling of the wind seemed slightly louder here, and the torches’ flames guttered slightly in a breeze that had been mostly absent during Doctor Jones’ quiet trek through the temple. This certainly seemed like the place.
The curved white stone of the room’s walls seemed to focus all illumination into the center, where an ornate pedestal sat on a raised dais. The pedestal seemed to glitter as reflected torch flames danced on the surface of the plate-sized silver emblem that lay there. Even from this distance, Indy could identify the Medallion of Light. It was here. Nearly within his grasp. But something had to be wrong. Something always went wrong at times like this.
Doctor Jones swept the huge room carefully with his eyes, trying to pick out any signs of the ambush that had to be waiting for him. Nothing was there. The chamber was entirely innocent of guards. There were no obvious traps—although of course, the archeologist knew from painful experience that ‘no obvious traps’ did not mean ‘no traps.’ There weren’t even any snakes. Had the stealthy journey from the mountain inn to the temple gained him the element of surprise after all?
Delay was getting the increasingly suspicious archeologist nowhere. A clock had started ticking the moment he’d failed to find an adequate hiding place for the dead guard’s body. Hell, a clock had started ticking the moment he’d left the inn. If he wasn’t back soon, someone would notice. If Indy’s vanishingly small number of allies noticed his absence, well, that wasn’t a complete disaster. But if his enemies found out, he would be fending off attacks all the way back to the United States and likely beyond. Better to go in now, while he was ready, than to get caught sleeping later.
Footsteps ringing unnervingly loud in his ears, Doctor Jones started forward. He moved with apparent lack of hurry, keeping up the pretense of nonchalant belonging for as long as possible in case some easily deceived watcher was waiting for him to make his move. He was across the floor and stepping onto the dais now. He was at the pedestal.
Indiana Jones paused for a moment and looked down at the shining half-disc of gold before him. The design seemed almost to swirl and change as the light of the torches flickered on the Medallion of Light’s raised surface. The archeologist scrutinized the pedestal, looking for signs of hidden mechanisms. He needed a repeat of that incident with the boulder in Peru like he needed an extra hole in his head.
Astonishingly, the stone pedestal and its priceless treasure seemed entirely un-trapped. Doctor Jones could hardly believe it. All he had to do was reach out and—
“Ah, Doctor Jones, I presume.” In contrast to the soft and unthreatening tone of the German-accented voice, the metallic click of the safety on the Nazi agent’s pistol was very loud and threatening indeed.
Indy raised his hands. He sighed and turned around slowly, already suspecting whom he would find pointing the pistol at him. He was right. “Guten tag, Herr Jägermeister.”
“Guten tag,” the tall German replied with a chuckle. Keeping his pistol trained on the waiting archeologist, the man in the long black coat waved with his other arm. Brown-robed guards by the dozens filed into the room, brandishing pistols, rifles, and the cruelly double-bladed knives that Indiana’s first assailant had used.
The Nazi agent smiled. Everything was going according to plan. All was in order. “Oh, Doctor Jones. Surely you did not think we would not notice you taking leave from that cozy little inn? The Reich’s eyes are everywhere.”
“I should have guessed. Well, Hans, you’ve got me. The Medallion of Light is yours.” Indiana talked slowly, stroking Jägermeister’s ego and playing for time. Moving his hands cautiously, he dropped his hood. The archeologist was going to need his field of view clear for what came next, and it wasn’t as though the bloodstained robes were of any use as a disguise now.
“The Medallion of Light is mine? Of course it is, Doctor. It was mine all along. I simply wanted to make sure that I had you as well,” Hans agreed. His grin widened. “Well? Aren’t you going to take the medallion?”
It should not have been possible for Indiana Jones to become more suspicious than he already was. Somehow he managed. “What? Why don’t you take it?”
The German’s laughter echoed in the high-ceilinged chamber. “Oh no, Doctor Jones. I think you should do the honors. After all, you led us here. Besides, do not forget who has the pistol in his hand, and who has it pointed at his head.”
Indiana Jones turned around again and faced the pedestal. The mirror-like glitter of the Medallion of Light seemed somewhat less alluring now if the Nazi agent didn’t want to snatch it up just yet. Taking a deep breath, he reached out with his hand… and stopped a mere hair’s breadth from the artifact. What the hell was that?
Strange shadows swam before the astonished archeologist’s eyes. The room seemed filled with vague, moving shapes all swirling in a circle around the dais. There, immediately opposite Indiana, was a shape clearer than the rest. Crouched low on the far side of the stone pedestal, it wavered and grew more distinct. Slowly the shape sharpened into focus, and Indiana Jones saw—
* * *
Daring Do stared up at the hulking creature on the opposite side of the pedestal. She’d managed to sneak to the center of the cultists without anypony noticing. Trusting her luck to hold, the pegasus had taken a few steps out of the crowd onto the dais. The congregation of cultists droned and swayed around her, their unnerving liturgy rising to a fevered shout. She needed to hurry. Soon, one of them might notice that the adventurer’s hurried movements were more than just the over-enthusiastic devotion of a recent convert.
But now this… thing was there, floating threateningly on the far side of the Medallion of Shadow with one clawed arm outstretched. Could Daring risk getting closer to the strange ethereal beast? She hesitated.
Behind Daring Do, a diamond dog cultist caught sight of her and howled a warning. Others took up the cry and soon every eye in the room was focused on the adventurer. The pegasus’ breath quickened. No! Not when she was so close! She had to get the artifact before Ahuizotl, and nopony—nothing—was going to get to it first!
* * *
Indiana Jones felt his heart thudding in his chest as he watched the four-legged apparition approach the Medallion of Light. It seemed to be staring up at him, gleaming eyes peering out from under some sort of hood. The archeologist’s teeth grated. He hated dealing with the occult. Why couldn’t legends be content to stay legends? Why did they have to become real?
When the dark creature lunged forward, Doctor Jones reacted. Almost without a conscious decision on his part, Indy’s arm shot out and grabbed the Medallion of Light. He grasped it firmly and began to jerk it away, ready to throw himself out of the shadowy thing’s path.
* * *
When the towering dark shape stretched forth its arm, Daring Do leaped into action. No weird shadow-creature was going to get her prize. She bounded forward, teeth clamping firmly onto the metallic half-disc of the Medallion of Shadow.
For both adventurers, the world exploded. Indiana Jones threw up his free hand to shield his face. Everything was brilliant white. He swore and squeezed his eyes shut. When it made no difference, he opened them again. At least, he was sure that he had. The only thing that felt real was the heavy feel of the artifact in his hand. Looking down his arm, he could somehow still see the Medallion of Light—and the creature on the other side of it.
Daring squeezed her eyes shut against the sudden flash of searing white light, but it didn’t seem to matter whether she had her eyes closed or not. She felt like she was floating… not the normal feeling of weight perfectly balanced on her wings that she got in flight, but as if gravity simply wasn’t a concern. The only real sensation she had was the feeling of the Medallion of Shadow between her teeth. She looked up—and stared at the tall biped on the other side.
“Who are you?” Indiana asked.
“Who are you?!” Daring managed to ask around the edge of the artifact between her teeth.
As soon as the questions were out of their mouths, both adventurer and archeologist felt an unpleasant pulling sensation. The twin medallions seemed to be sucking at them, pulling them in. There was a feeling of speed and falling. Both artifact-holders felt the sudden yet not painful impact of their bodies crashing together. There was another flash of brilliant light, and then nothingness.
A/N: Thanks to dragozon for catching my error on "Reichsmarks" vs " Deutschemarks"
Daring Do blinked away the spots in front of her eyes and fought to stay upright as a wave of nausea crashed over her. What was going on? She had been… talking with somepony? Her head throbbed as though her brain had just swollen several sizes larger than it should be. Her mouth was full of the taste of metal, although that at least was normal considering that she had clamped her teeth onto the half-disc of the medallion. She shook her head to clear it and glanced around. The only thing that kept her jaw from dropping at what she saw was her iron will to keep hold of the Medallion of Shadow.
The dark gray stone and vaulted ceilings of the Temple of Shadow’s inner sanctum had been utterly transformed. Flickering torches hung on walls of polished white stone in the airy, circular room. The howling mob of cultists was silent. This was not because they were overawed by the sudden flash of magical light, but because they were simply not there any more. In their place stood a confused group of creatures—the same sort of hulking biped who had nearly snatched away Daring’s prize. The pegasus wasn’t sure whether that was an improvement or not.
Rubbing its eyes, the closest of the creatures glared around in the room and focused on Daring. It stared, seeming almost as surprised to see her as she was to see it. Then it screamed. “Was ist das?! What is that thing? It has the medallion—schießen sie! SHOOT IT! Schnell!”
The shrieking creature pointed one of its long forelimbs at Daring Do. Before the mare could react, there was a small flash of light and an ear-shattering explosion. The adventurer winced as something smacked into the ground near her hooves and sprayed sharp stone splinters into her pelt before whizzing off with a buzzing sound like an angry, oversized hornet. Daring leaped back, wings flaring as she tried to take to the air.
Daring Do’s breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t fly! Her wings shifted awkwardly, their movement arrested by the clinging green robe. What had been a clever disguise was now a deadly prison. A second explosion from one of the other creatures sent another enraged hornet whizzing by the pegasus’ ear. What kind of magical weapons were the creatures using?!
Were those guns? Daring had seen something like the bipeds’ weapons back during that business with the Crystalline Chalice. That diamond dog—what was his name? Sport?—had attacked her with something that flung small stones at lethal speed. But that had only been a prototype, and these creatures had so many! How was it possible that-! Any further confused wonderings went to the side as another bullet cracked past the adventurer.
With no place to hide and no way to escape, Daring Do had only one option: attack. She might have been more comfortable fighting from the air, but years of treasure hunting meant that she was no slouch on the ground. Hooves clattering and adrenaline singing in her veins, the desperate mare galloped forward and leaped, slamming her front hooves into the chest of the dark-clad biped who had first fired at her. He shouted in surprise and went down, the strange gun spinning out of his claws and clattering across the smooth white stone of the floor.
All right! That was one. The adventurer’s hoof thudded into the prone creature’s throat and left him gagging as she jumped to one side. Daring Do rolled, avoiding more gunfire and moving so fast that she practically left a streak in her wake. One of the brown-clad creatures on the opposite side of the room screamed and fell, a dark spot staining his robes as an incautiously aimed shot missed its mark.
Deciding that guns were obviously too dangerous, the brown robed bipeds whipped out ugly-looking double-ended knives. A single over-eager beast rushed forward, howling some inarticulate war cry as it threw itself at Daring. She dodged the swinging blades—but only just. Suddenly an idea occurred to the beleaguered pegasus. She grinned and tried to taunt the creature around the medallion in her mouth. “Hmh! Cmn’t gmt mmm!”
With a glare of hatred, the creature leaped forward again, weapon swinging even faster than before. The others were converging as well. Daring Do would have only one chance to get this right. She exploded into motion.
As Daring’s attacker swung his knife down, the pegasus dodged… but only just. Hissing through the air slightly too late, the singing blade missed the mare’s flesh. Instead, it caught the edge of the cultist robe as it trailed a split second behind the pony’s movements. The snake-embroidered green cloth parted under the sharp metal edge and a long gash opened in Daring’s former disguise.
Laughing in triumph, Daring Do spread her wings with explosive force. The weakened cloth of the cultist robes tore neatly and sheeted off the pegasus, leaving her free at last. The exultant pony leaped into the air and darted out of reach.
With angry shouts and even a few thrown knives chasing her charcoal-colored tail, Daring beat her wings for altitude and soared upwards towards the top of the dome. She took the opportunity to slip the medallion under her pith helmet for safekeeping. Mouth finally free for a proper taunt, the grinning mare shouted, “Hey, you creeps! Tell Ahuizotl that Daring Do said ‘better luck next—whoah!’”
Chips of rock and masonry dust exploded in a stinging cloud next to Daring Do’s head, cutting off the pegasus mid-taunt. She darted out the large opening in the roof as a second bullet from the recovered dark-clad creature zipped past her wing. Hans Jägermeister stared up at the empty hole to the sky and slowly lowered his still-smoking pistol. He quickly transitioned his angry glare to the captain of the mercenary guards. “Du Dummkopf. You let her get away! Find her. Find her now!”
“But… How?” the swarthy mercenary stammered, struggling with both an unfamiliar language and the bizarre events of the past minute. He quailed and waved his hands placatingly as the German’s pistol came back up, its barrel looking as large as the muzzle of a cannon. “We find! We find!”
“Ja, you’d better,” Hans snarled. “How many creatures like that can there possibly be in the Hindu Kush?”
Hans Jägermeister didn’t bother watching what the guard captain did next. The dim-witted subhuman nodded desperately and started shouting commands to his shocked men in the babble that the locals had the audacity to call a language, but the German wasn’t listening. Instead he stared back up at the sky and massaged his aching throat. What was that little horse creature? Hans had never seen anything living move so fast. Perhaps if she could be captured alive, he might have two prizes to give to the Reich. The German smiled. Yes, that would be perfect. He could just imagine the looks on his superiors’ faces when he handed them not only the Medallion of Light, but also… what had the creature said her name was? Ah yes. ‘Daring Do.’ That only left the nagging question: what had happened to Indiana Jones?
Far above the plotting German, Daring Do tumbled through the roiling maelstrom of winds and angry clouds. Wings flapping, she fought desperately for control and altitude as the roaring currents of the sky whipped her this way and that. The wind was even colder and more forceful than it had been when she’d entered the Temple of Shadow. Simply staying in the air was a struggle as the pegasus battled the combined fury of the elements, the howling of the frigid wind, and the near irresistible pull of gravity.
With the burn of adrenaline fading and leaving leaden fatigue in its wake, Daring Do knew she needed to find her way to shelter as quickly as she could. She glanced at the dark shapes of the mountains below, waiting for her finely tuned navigational skills to help her orient herself. Everything seemed completely new and unfamiliar.
All right, things could look very different in the dark. If not the ground, Daring would use the constant sky. She’d had navigated by the stars and the moon before. The mare looked up, waiting for boiling clouds to clear long enough for her to locate the moon and get her bearings. But when the silvered disc finally showed its face, it was the visage of a complete stranger. The exhausted pegasus could only stare in mute incomprehension. Where was the Mare in the Moon? No, a better question: where was Daring Do?!
The sinking feeling in the adventurer’s chest had nothing to do with the way she was losing altitude, but losing altitude she was. The pegasus mare rode an air current back away from the jagged teeth of the mountain ridge before she ended up splattering herself across the rocky hillside. She hovered as best she could and glanced around, looking for any sign of habitation. Wherever the disoriented mare was, she had to get out of this storm before things got any worse.
A faint yellow glow to her left drew Daring’s attention. Light twinkled from a small collection of buildings ringed by a tall wall and clinging to a dark precipice. A long, light strip of land that might have been a narrow road crawled up the valley going past the little cluster of blocky structures. Intermittent moonlight and the golden glow of the torchlight sparkled intermittently off the churning surface of the mountain river that tore down the valley past the inn and its road. That looked like as good a shelter as any, so the pony angled towards it and struggled as best she could towards her goal.
Fifteen minutes of flying filled with sudden drops and close encounters with the landscape left Daring Do even more exhausted than before. She nearly collapsed when her hooves touched down in the courtyard of the mountain inn. The pegasus trotted slowly up to the largest building and hammered on the door. The portal was nearly as large as that of the Temple of Shadow. But unlike the temple’s gates, the door to what must have been the main part of the inn remained shut and the windows dark. Daring hammered tiredly on the door again, but there was still no response.
Grumbling under her breath, Daring Do circled the large structure, looking for another entrance. Tonight was not a good night for the adventurer. Every door was barred and unresponsive to knocking. Every window was closed with heavy wooden shutters. It looked as though the pegasus was going to have to brave the elements and sleep outside. She’d been in worse states, but…
The ghost of a smile flickered across Daring’s face as she found what she was looking for. Above her was a second story window, its open shutters shifting slowly despite the force the howling wind was putting on them. A short burst of flapping strained the mares’ already taxed muscles, but let her scramble over the windowsill and into the inn. Thankfully, the room was empty and it had a bed! This would do for now. Tugging at the shutters, the pegasus managed to pull the window closed and shut out the mountain gale.
Only the barest hint of light seeped through the window now and into the room, but it was enough for Daring Do to take in the room properly. In vague twilight the mare’s dark pink eyes surveyed her temporary lodgings. With everything twice as large as it needed to be, this was probably a room the inn provided for creatures like those odd bipeds she’d escaped from not long before. Hopefully this room didn’t belong to one of the ones who had attacked her. She’d have to be on her guard, especially since the door to the rest of the inn didn’t seem to be barred.
Daring Do yawned hugely. Now that the icy blasts coming down from the mountain weren’t chilling her and keeping her awake, the built up fatigue of her adventures was catching up to her rapidly. She had intended to get inside and rouse the innkeeper to pay for a room now, but her Bits would likely be just as good to him in the morning.
Even with the foul smell that lingered over its heavy woolen blanket, the crackling straw mattress of the bed felt almost as soft as a fluffy white cumulus to Daring’s exhausted body. The pegasus sighed in relief and wormed her way under the covers. Thank Celestia. She was victorious yet again. Tomorrow she could get an early start and have the Medallion of Shadow back in Canterlot in a few days at most. The bone-tired pegasus slid the artifact out from under her helmet to take a look at her prize once again.
When the blood froze in Daring’s veins, it had nothing to do with the temperature of the room. She stared down at the glittering half-disc between her hooves. It glittered in the wan ambient light of the inn. This wasn’t the Medallion of Shadow at all. If its shining silvered surface was anything to go by, this was the artifact’s twin: the Medallion of Light. But that was impossible! The mare could have sworn that the medallion hadn’t left her teeth the entire time until she slipped it into her pith helmet, and certainly nopony could have switched it while she was in the air.
This was worse than a simple setback. This was a disaster! How had… Daring’s drooping eyes widened as she remembered the blinding flash of magic that had brought her to this strange place. Ahuizotl had been seeking the Medallion of Shadow to allow him to cross the world in a single step. Was she somewhere else now, even farther beyond the borders of Equestria than when she’d started? It couldn’t be. There was no place in the world where the moon looked like the one she had seen fleetingly in the cloud-streaked sky. The exhausted mare thought back to the shadowy shape that had reached for the medallion at the same time as she. Was that one of Ahuizotl’s agents too?
Questions whirled in Daring Do’s mind, but her energy was nearly gone. The pegasus felt her eyelids dragging downward and her head bobbing forward as she struggled to maintain coherent thought. Finally, she gave up. These were important questions, but could wait for the morning. With another yawn, the golden-pelted mare slid the newly gained Medallion of Light back under her helmet. Daring settled into an uneasy sleep.
* * *
As Indiana Jones rubbed spots away from his eyes, the sound of groans and pained exclamations assaulted his ears. What was going on? That had been strange. He could remember grabbing the Medallion of Light, and then a feminine voice saying… something?
Indiana’s vision finally cleared and he stared out into a scene out of some kind of fairy tale. Everything had changed. Where once the room was adequately lit and built of shining white stone, now the woefully small number of torches barely managed to illuminate a rough-hewn gray chamber that was little better than a glorified cave. The high dome had been replaced by a claustrophobically near vaulted ceiling. And most pressing of all, a Nazi agent and a few dozen mercenaries had been replaced by a multitude of… things.
A confused clamor filled the air. Some of the green-robed creatures rubbed at glittering eyes with heavily clawed paws. Others were covering their face with what looked more like hooves than hands. Indiana Jones was sure he caught the glint of torchlight off the beady eyes of some sort of beaked horror. The archeologist was no stranger to the unholy and supernatural, but so much of it at once was a blow to his mental equilibrium. He knew he should react and do so quickly, but instead he simply stared. The recovering mass of creatures stared back.
Guessing he had perhaps another few heartbeats of peace, Indiana Jones forced his body into motion. The dark hole of a doorway on the far side of the room beckoned to him. If he moved quickly, he might be able to get out while every…thing… was still frozen by surprise. Slipping the Medallion of Light into one pocket of his leather jacket, the archeologist started forward.
That did it. A rasping voice broke the temporary astonished peace. “A demon! It has the Gate!”
“Retrieve the Gate of Souls!” shrilled another when Doctor Jones quickened his pace. As if they were but parts of a single organism, the crowd rushed forward.
Indiana Jones surged into action. One of the larger monsters was nearly his size. It leaped into his path, paws raised. The human’s fist cracked out to crush the beast’s sensitive canine nose and it went down, howling in pain. A snarling horse thing hurried forward only to receive a boot to the side of the head that sent it sprawling across the rough stone floor in a heap.
Now the inhuman multitude was coming at the embattled archeologist all at once. He lashed out against a few, sending them and their allies tumbling away, but that was only the first fleck of spray ahead of the crashing wave that was the mob’s attack. Despite his huge size advantage, there was little Indiana Jones could do against such numbers. One dog-like creature grabbed at his arm. Something too short and shadowed for the man to see clutched at his leg. The green-robed monsters piled on, biting and kicking and howling in anger to bury the fighting human under their weight. For a moment it seemed as though they might triumph, but then that moment passed.
Shouting his defiance, Indy surged upward and whirled, swinging a little horse creature to knock back everything else within reach. The living bludgeon shrieked as Doctor Jones let go, allowing the thing’s momentum to send it caroming into its fellows and knocking them down like so many bowling pins. The archeologist sprinted through the hole left by the tumbling horse-thing’s trajectory and headed for what he hoped was the exit as fast as he could go.
The mob was quick to give chase as Indiana tore through the shadowed passages leading away from the main chamber. He was making good speed—and then as his foot slammed down, he heard a wholly inappropriate noise for an ancient and cave-like passageway: a soft mechanical click. Oh, no.
Indy threw himself forward headlong in the darkness of the hallway as something shot out of the rock behind him and buried itself in the opposite wall. The archeologist started to climb to his feet, only to have his hand touch another pressure plate. A series of darts hissed through the air in rapid succession, tugging at his bloodstained robe and nearly snatching the fedora from the prone man’s head. The halls here were packed more thickly with booby traps than anywhere else he’d been. Moving was… probably not a good idea.
Unfortunately, moving was the only thing Indiana could do. The pack of monsters was catching up; he could hear them roaring up the passage. Hoping that his reaction time was faster than the trap designers had prepared for, the fleeing man stood up and began to run the gauntlet. He took a few steps forward. Axes dropped from the ceiling, slicing the air like lethal pendulums but just missing the hem of the archeologist’s robe as he managed to leap not under, but over the swinging blades.
A pit trap bristling with spikes yawned open in front of Indy’s feet. To his pleased astonishment, the trap seemed only to be a few paces wide. Stretching his legs, he leaped over the gap in a single running bound. The running man’s breath rasped like sandpaper in his throat as he dodged through a forest of spikes that shot up from the floor. He ducked and dove past a cloud of bats that boiled out of the ceiling. Whirling and weaving like a maddened dervish, Indiana Jones hurried through the trap-lined corridors of the transformed temple.
Screams filled the air behind the fleeing archeologist as the more enthusiastic pursuers began to encounter un-sprung or reset booby traps. Indiana Jones rounded a corner, dodged a too-slow circular blade that slid out of one wall at knee level, and continued running. It was amazing. Things never went this well when hightailing it through trap-filled corridors away from angry mobs of natives.
Indiana’s train of thought broke off for a moment as his steps triggered another shifting of ancient gears and pulleys. The floor ahead of him dropped open, rough gray rock disappearing suddenly as a pit opened. It would have been impossible to jump over… if Indiana Jones had been a man two thirds as tall as he really was. Every single booby trap seemed to be built with someone much shorter in mind. Almost grinning now, the archeologist sped up and prepared to vault over the too-narrow gap in the floor.
Actually, only nearly every single trap was built for someone shorter than Indiana Jones. As he approached the pit, his toe caught a nondescript lump in the rough-hewn floor. Fast as lightning, a long blade dropped from the ceiling in front of him. The sprinting archeologist had just enough time to twirl sideways out of the way—a move that sapped his forward momentum. With a horrified shout, he tumbled into the pit and slammed against the far wall. His fingers scrabbled at the ledge... and he dropped. The floor slammed shut behind him, and there was only darkness and the sensation of falling.
Surprisingly enough, the pit was neither bottomless nor filled with spikes. Doctor Jones yelped in agony as he landed heavily on the unseen floor. Pain shot up one leg and he collapsed, groaning.
Indiana Jones lay still for a few moments, trying to rise above the pain to get a feeling of his surroundings. Cool sand and rock below him. Nothing above. No sounds save for his own breathing—no hissing of snakes, no skittering of tiny chitinous legs, and no slow grind of closing walls or rising spikes. Wherever he’d landed, it didn’t appear to be deadly. At least, not right away.
First things first. Tugging off the ratty and bloodstained robe, Indy grasped the fabric with both hands and tore off a long strip. He wrapped the cloth around his throbbing ankle, partially immobilizing the sprain. There, that was better. He checked his pocket. The heavy weight of the half-disc medallion was still there. All right. Next the archeologist reached up to his head—and found his hand resting on his skull without the comforting interruption of his fedora.
Once the short respite gave Indiana his breath back and his ankle stopped hurting so badly, he pushed himself up and began to search his surroundings slowly and carefully with one hand. After a few cautious movements he found what he was looking for and moved his fingers slowly over the surface of the fedora. It seemed no worse for wear. Thank goodness. The relieved archeologist placed the hat back on his head and started probing the rest of his environment in earnest.
With agonizing slowness Indiana Jones explored the lightless pit. Rough stone surrounded him on all four sides. In the darkness his hands met smooth, strange shapes piled haphazardly against one wall. Rocks? Dropping one experimentally resulted in a hollow rattling sound. Bone, then. The archeologist wasn’t the pit’s first victim.
Indiana felt over the bones on the off chance that his fellow victim might have been carrying something useful. The archeologist wrinkled his brow in puzzlement at the strange shapes that passed under his hands. This wasn’t the corpse of a human. Had some animal fallen in, or..?
Grasping what could only have been a hoof, Doctor Jones thought back to some of the weird and bestial creatures that had attacked him and chased him into this trap. Had he stumbled across a tribe made up of several previously undiscovered species? Tales of strange and wonderful creatures filled every tome of mythology but, up until now, their existence had been mere conjecture and fairy tale—even for those like Indy who operated on the fringes of traditional archeology.
Indiana dropped the bones. Whatever it was that he’d found, it wasn’t helping him get out of here. He put aside thoughts of cryptozoology for the moment and looked up. It was a pointless gesture for a man who couldn’t see his hand even if he waved it in front of his face, but at least it helped him to stretch his neck as he thought about his next move.
With only a bit of soreness and a sprained ankle, Doctor Jones could tell he probably hadn’t fallen far. The rough finish on the sides of the pit meant that he might be able to climb out the way he had come in. But without any light source, it was impossible to tell whether opening the trap door from the underside was even doable. The archeologist decided to delay scaling the sheer walls until he ran out of other options. Instead, he continued to run his hands over the rough walls of the pit. “Come on… Come on… Hah!”
There it was. Along the side of one wall, the groping man could feel an unnaturally straight crack rising vertically in the rock. Indy’s fingers ghosted over the smooth-chiseled edge of the crack until it reached a corner where the line turned ninety degrees. A bit more, and the so-called crack turned again. He’d found a cleverly concealed passage. It seemed somewhat small, but sliding along through a cramped tunnel on hands and knees was vastly preferable to starving to death or risking a second fall trying to climb out through the mouth of the pit. Now, the trick would be finding the door’s catch. If there was one.
A roughly circular depression cut into the rock at shin height caught the attention of Doctor Jones’ questing fingers. This could be his way out… or it could be the trigger for a particularly malicious trap. With starvation as the most likely alternative to trying his luck, the archeologist pressed the concealed switch. The soft click set rumbling machinery in motion and a gust of air blew past Indiana as the passageway opened.
Still wary of booby traps, Indiana groped for the bones and came up with what was probably a long leg bone. He bent nearly double to crawl into the passage. The unlucky creature’s bone tapped softly against rock as the cautious archeologist explored the route ahead of him with his makeshift cane. Progress was agonizingly slow, but steadily the quiet efforts took Doctor Jones further away from what could have been an unpleasant end.
Having nothing to do but pull himself forward and tap out the path in front, Indy occupied himself by reviewing the strange events of the recent past and trying to inject some kind of logic into his bizarre day. The temple he had fled through seemed nothing like the one he had entered but an hour before. Strange and nightmarish creatures had appeared, replacing the threatening but still unquestionably human enemies who had menaced the archeologist before he had touched… the Medallion of Light.
As if responding to his thoughts, the medallion in Indy’s pocket clanked dully against the rock wall of the constricted passage. Indiana Jones felt for it, making sure it was still firmly in place, and continued moving. His thoughts swirled around the legends of the artifact. A yellowed page of Latin text, translated from an even older one of Sanskrit, had spoken of the twin medallions’ powers. They could let their owner travel the world in a single step.
A chill ran down Indiana’s spine even as he continued crawling through the narrow tunnels. Just where had he ended up? How was the half-disc of ancient metal in his pocket connected with these strange events? And most importantly, if the archeologist was in fact a world away… how could he get back?
There was a lot of time for Indy to mull over these questions as he dragged himself along, muscles burning with the constant exertion of the day. With the poisons of fatigue sapping his will, he felt himself slowing down. Finally he stopped. In the sunless tunnel through the heart of the mountain the archeologist had no way of knowing what time it was, but his body was nearly ready to give out. It was time to bow, however temporarily, to the inevitable. Indiana Jones settled himself as comfortably as he could in the rock and closed his eyes, trying to rest.
In the tomblike stillness of the passage, a faint breath of cold air washed across Doctor Jones’s upturned face. His eyes snapped open again, although it made no difference. Another cool zephyr ruffled the adventurer’s sweat-slicked hair. If there was fresh air, that meant…
Suddenly desperate for an escape from the claustrophobia of the tunnel, Indiana discarded his ersatz probe. The leg bone rattled on the stone floor as Indy crawled by it, making for the source of the breeze as fast as he could. It only took him a few more minutes of effort to reach the end of the tunnel. He broke out into open air and shivered, immediately chilled to the bone by the howling winds. Perhaps discarding the bloodied robe had not been a good idea after all. Having just escaped from the clammy grip of the mountain, the archeologist found himself considering returning to its wind-blocking embrace. He needed to find shelter, and fast.
A glimmer of cold blue light caught Doctor Jones’ searching gaze. Hat clamped firmly on his head with one hand and the collar of his leather jacket turned up against the wind, the archeologist struggled down the side of the mountain towards what could be his doom, but would hopefully be his salvation. The exertion of his movement kept at least the minimum amount of warmth in his flesh as Indy neared the lights. It would have to do.
The steady white-blue lights glowed as bright as any electric lamps back home in the States—almost as bright as the floodlights of the airfield at Kisaba... and yet there was no thrumming mechanical roar of a diesel generator to be heard. The lanterns simply hung from the walls, silently pushing back the darkness. They ringed a surprisingly mundane collection of structures much like the ones Indy had so recently left before scaling the forbidding mountains to the Temple of Light. On the far side of the structures, a long ribbon of rugged trail unrolled into the darkness in both directions along side the rumbling torrent of a rushing river. Somehow he had arrived at what looked like an inn.
Fighting back exhaustion, Indiana Jones loosened his pistol in its holster. If the inhabitants of this inn were as friendly as the ones he’d met back in the temple, he would need it. He shifted his weight, testing his ankle. It was holding up well despite the earlier sprain; perhaps it wasn’t as badly injured as he’d thought. Good. Taking a deep breath, he stalked up to the gates of the wall surrounding the compound and hammered on the sturdy wooden planks.
It was several minutes of knocking and increasingly annoyed shouting before a view slit finally slid open in the heavy wooden gate. Blue eyes glared up from the vicinity of Indy’s navel. A gravelly voice carried through the thick wood of the portal and over the howling wind. “You’re a tall one, aren’t you. What do you want?”
So, they used English here. Indiana wasn’t even going to ask how that worked. English-speaking or not, the speaker behind the door was trying to establish dominance. That wasn’t going to happen. The archeologist kept his voice as curt and harsh as the doorkeeper’s. “A room.”
“You woke me up out of a sound sleep on a night like this to answer the gate of my inn instead of timing your arrival before sunset like a normal pony, and you can’t even be bothered to say—” The innkeeper’s irritated tirade broke off as Doctor Jones jingled a leather bag filled with coins, clanking it meaningfully next to the view slot. The eyes on the other side of the door glittered and the voice reformed itself into something fractionally more polite. “Oh, well that’s different then. Just you?”
“Just me,” Indiana agreed and added, “But I’ll have some friends coming by in a few days.”
The lie was safely impossible to disprove. In Indiana’s experience, strange travelers who journeyed through the Hindu Kush alone and with money made tempting targets. Hopefully the implication that someone might look for him if he went missing would help delay any thoughts the innkeeper might have of doing away with his newest guest to save on the cost of providing room and board. Then again, these definitely didn’t seem like the mountains Indy was used to.
When the innkeeper finally opened the door, his eyes widened even further. So did Indy’s. The archeologist had simply assumed the voice behind the door belonged to someone shorter than the norm. Instead, he found himself staring down at a brown-pelted horse creature much like some of the ones he’d so recently fought in the strange passages of the temple. The little horse creature returned the stare and let out a low whistle. “By Celestia’s flank, what are you?”
“I could ask the same question,” Indiana muttered. The cold night sent a gust of icy wind through the tired archeologist’s clothing. He shivered for a moment, weighing his options.
“So are you coming in, or..?” the strange innkeeper prompted, shifting from foot to foot—no, from hoof to hoof.
Indiana set his jaw and forced his hand to drop from his holstered pistol. Whatever the hell this thing was, it wasn’t attacking him. Ducking his head, he stepped in through the gates and looked around the compound. There didn’t seem to be any more of the green-robed creatures waiting in ambush here. The graveled courtyard inside the perimeter wall glowed blue with the same strange lights that hung on the walls. A few buildings, none more than a single level tall, clustered almost randomly around a larger two-story structure. It looked much like any mountain inn Indiana Jones had seen in his travels, with the exception that everything was slightly undersized and it seemed to be run by something the archeologist would have expected to see in a petting zoo.
“You haven’t answered my question,” the small brown horse prompted. “I like to know who I’m dealing with when I meet a new face. And yours is… ha ha… very new. No offense meant.”
“I’m a paying customer. One who might pay a bit more if you started answering questions instead of asking them.” Indiana said flatly. He jingled his bag of coins again. The coins inside clinked alluringly against each other.
The fires of avarice kindled anew in the little innkeeper’s eyes. Suddenly eager to please, the little horse—almost more of a pony, really—hurried to shut and bar the gate. With an ingratiating grin, the little creature waved one foreleg towards the tallest structure in the compound. “Of course! Right this way, gentlecolt. Please, follow me.”
Shaking his head, Indiana Jones followed the little pony towards the inn proper. He kept his gaze active, darting from one shadow to the other as he looked for any signs of a trap. The archeologist had dealt with many bizarre and unexpected things, but this was definitely high on the list. He chuckled trying to imagine what else might be sharing the inn with him. Perhaps a mermaid on holiday from the sea? Or maybe a dragon.
Perhaps this was just some kind of strange dream and when Doctor Jones woke up he’d be staring down the barrel of Hans Jägermeister’s luger once again. That was a thought. But until then he would have to take things as they came. Once the archeologist got over the fact that he was speaking with a miniature talking horse, it really was no different than dealing with the usual venal rabble of mountain folk. That would help. But one thing was for sure… this promised to be an interesting night.
A/N: AND SO IT BEGINS HAHAHAHAHA....
Since I'm sure I'm going to get some comments on the Mare in the Moon thing, I'll go ahead and preempt them now. As Indiana Jones' setting is in Earth's past, Daring Do's setting is in Equestria's past. So for her, there has been no return of Nightmare Moon, no use of the Elements of Harmony to purify Luna, etc. So there's still a Mare in the Moon and its absence from the face of the moon would be remarkable for her.
Anyway. More will be up as the pre-readers get through it.
edit: Thanks to Sebbaa for fixing my German grammar here
“I’m Penny Wise, the most hospitable earth pony you’re likely to find on the trail to the northern reaches,” the innkeeper explained as he trotted up to the largest of the buildings in the compound.
Indiana Jones kept his mouth shut and his eyes open as he crouched slightly to follow Penny Wise through the door and into the main room of the inn. The dark, ugly-smelling common room was like a hundred others the archeologist had seen throughout his travels. A smoky fire in the large fireplace at one end took the edge off the chill of the evening while small clustered groups of travelers used hot drinks and alcohol to take the edge off everything else. The innkeeper used one hoof to wave Indy over to a low bench and equally low table. Taking a seat opposite, the brown-pelted creature sat and waited expectantly, his lips suddenly sealed.
Moving deliberately, Doctor Jones withdrew his bag of coins and laid one on the table. It clinked dully, the light of the fireplace reflecting off its shiny golden surface. The innkeeper simply sat. Another large golden coin joined the first. Penny Wise yawned hugely, his malodorous breath doing nothing to improve the stench that already hung in the room. Grumbling, Indiana pulled out a third coin. Finally, the horse-creature nodded slowly and slammed one hoof onto the table. “Starfire! STARFIRE! A drink for our guest.”
“Coming, Mr. Wise!” called a nervous, reedy voice. Hooves clattered on the wooden floor as what Indy could only describe as a pegasus hurried into view with a tray balanced on his outstretched wings. Indiana stared. He’d been joking to himself outside the inn, but here was a creature straight out of ancient legends. What was next? Unicorns?
The red-pelted creature of myth cantered up to the table and slid the tray awkwardly onto the space between his employer and the archeologist. Using his mouth, the diminutive winged horse placed the frothy mugs in front of the seated pair. “H-here you are.”
“Good. Take care of these,” Penny Wise directed, pushing Indy’s golden coins to the young stallion.
“Of course, s-sir.” The pegasus nodded and took the coins, but his eyes kept flicking back to stare at Indiana.
When Starfire continued to linger, Penny Wise made shooing motions with one hoof and ordered, “Go on. See that the mutt gets a room ready for..?”
“Jones. Call me Indiana Jones,” the archeologist said, his mind still whirling from the latest surprise. He swirled the odd beverage in his mug, taking a cautious sip. It tasted like a weak sort of ale. The drink didn’t seem to be poisoned...
Leaning forward to regard his drinking companion, Indy took another sip of his beer and thought about what to say next. Now he had shelter for the night in this strange menagerie. And in front of him Indiana had an apparently willing font of information. The archeologist stared searchingly at the blue eyes of the innkeeper. How reliable was the information, and where to start? ‘Where the hell am I’ didn’t seem like a good place to start if he wanted to avoid being seen as an easy mark.
Penny Wise shifted uncomfortably. The look on the hulking creature’s face was difficult to read. What was this ‘Indiana Jones,’ and what was he doing here? Whoever he was, the tall male was obviously up to no good. What kind of a name was that to use, anyway? Clearly it must be fake. It wasn’t any of the innkeeper’s business what his customers got up to, but knowing could be... profitable. Keeping his voice casual, the earth pony said, “So, Indiana. You wanted some information. I’m definitely the stallion to talk to if you want to know about these parts. Owned this inn for a good ten years. Was there anything you wanted to hear about in particular?”
“I’m an archeologist. I’m studying… ancient religions of this… This area,” explained Doctor Jones. He hesitated slightly, realizing that he didn’t know the local names, but forged ahead. “What can you tell me about cults or monasteries in this region?”
At the edge of his vision, Indiana saw a slight movement. When he had mentioned his profession, a white-haired head had jerked up for a split second in the depths of the common room. Someone had been eavesdropping, and had not liked what he’d heard. The archeologist let one hand drop casually to his side and rest on his pistol as he took another drink from the mug of watered-down beer. He added, “I also need an up-to-date map of this area if you have one. Mine was lost in the storm.”
“Good thing you found us then,” Penny Wise commented. The earth pony slid one hoof around the mug and hoisted it to his muzzle, taking a long pull before he continued. “I can get you a map. And as for cults… I’m proud to say that we don’t have anything like that here in the Ridgebacks. Only Princess Celestia’s light shines here.”
“Of course,” Indiana Jones agreed. He’d come across many excellent liars in his life. Penny Wise wasn’t one of them. “But remember I’m not looking for current cults. Ancient ones are what I want.”
“I… don’t think this area has ever had anything like that,” the innkeeper stated flatly. Penny Wise cringed inwardly. If ‘Indiana’ persisted, the poor foal was putting his hoof right in it. Should the creature continue to press his luck, there was nothing to do but get as much money out of him as possible before the inevitable.
“Uh-huh,” Indiana grunted, taking another pull at the ale.
Still, let it not be said that Penny Wise didn’t give his clients good advice—a living customer was a potential repeat customer. The brown-pelted pony made one last attempt. “I’ve been here for ten years. If there was anything like that around here I would have heard something, I’m sure. You might want to try further down the valley for cults. I hear there’s a small tribe of griffins near Polo’s Landing; you might want to check there. Is there anything else I could do to help?”
“Well, that’s too bad. It sounds like I’ve been wasting my time here, but thank you anyway.” Doctor Jones sighed in feigned dejection and finished off the last of the drink. “I’ll probably be staying here a few more days to rest, and then I’ll move on. Polo’s Landing, you said? Guess I’ll go there.”
As Indiana pushed himself up and stretched, he surveyed the room. A dark green pony with a white mane was thoughtfully sipping some steaming beverage. He—Indy was fairly sure it was a he—had his back was to the human. That was the creature who had reacted when Doctor Jones had said he was an archeologist; Indy would bet two weeks of remedial history lectures at Marshall College on it. Continuing on, the watchful man caught the glint of a green eye in the shadows of a doorframe as its owner ducked out of sight. Hmm. So he had not one, but two watchers.
Behind the archeologist, Penny Wise cleared his throat. “Excuse me, Indiana… but I need you to pay in advance. That’ll be… another ten of those coins you’re using, unless you have Bits.”
“Make it five,” came Doctor Jones’ reply. The price was exorbitant. For ten of the heavy gold coins, he could have eaten like a king for a week at any inn in the Himalayas. The archeologist was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to collapse into bed… but if he paid the asked price without bargaining, it would only encourage more attention than he was likely already getting.
“Nine, then,” Penny Wise countered. “I’m a reasonable pony.”
“Seven, with meals included. Eight if you have a map of this area,” returned Indy. He stared down at the… earth pony, was it? The innkeeper stared back.
After a long pause Penny Wise’s muzzle split in a large, blunt-toothed grin. He offered a grudging forehoof, which Indiana bent down to shake. The pony nodded. “All right, Indiana. Let’s see those coins and I’ll get you the map.”
In only a short time, Indiana Jones found himself in a cramped, dank room with a barely adequate bed. He rolled up the stiff parchment of his new map. It was true, then. Either the map was a clever and detailed forgery, or he was somewhere entirely outside of his previous experience. The roads, rivers, and names of towns… everything was new. It… the archeologist’s thoughts trailed off as he yawned hugely. Maybe he should study this more in the morning when he was fresh.
Working by the weak light of the room’s single candle, he tugged off his boots and set them next to the bed. Next the archeologist slid out of his jacket and hung it on the back of a half-sized chair. He reached into one of the jacket’s pockets. Now to put the Medallion of Light somewhere safe so that—
The metallic half-circle in Indy’s hands was not the Medallion of Light. Pulse racing, the archeologist stared at the object. He’d been robbed. Somehow in the frantic hours since his unexpected escape from the Nazi agent, the true artifact had been switched for this imitation.
…Or was it an imitation? Indiana Jones ran the object through his hands, marveling at the way its dark metallic surface still reflected the candlelight. He thought back to his hasty flight from the temple, the long dark crawl through the tunnel, and the events in the common room of the inn. At no point had anyone had hold of him long enough to steal the original or to slip in a replacement. Seasoned by a lifetime of adventure, the archeologist would have noticed. But if it wasn’t some sort of a fake, what then?
Indiana recalled the legends telling of the twin medallions. They had allowed the ancient cult that created them to ‘walk the world in but a single step.’ Considering the unfamiliar mountains and strange new creatures all around him, Indy had little doubt that that had happened. Assuming he really was awake right now instead of sleeping.
Contemplatively, the exhausted man glanced down at his twisted ankle. It felt a bit better than before, but still shot twinges of pain up his leg when he shifted it wrong. That wasn’t normal fare for a dream. It would be best to assume he was awake for the moment until evidence suggested otherwise. He’d seen spirits, or angels, or something come from the Ark of the Covenant. After seeing something like that, was it really reasonable to reject apparent reality out of hand just because a few oddly familiar mythological creatures showed up speaking perfect English..?
Looking down at the medallion again, Indiana tilted it in his hands, letting the flickering light of his candle play off its surface. With everything else that had happened today, pickpocketing and clever replacement seemed somehow less likely than the alternative: that he was holding not a fake Medallion of Light, but the true Medallion of Shadow. The artifact hadn’t left his person the entire time, from the flash of brilliant illumination in the Temple of Light through his desperate struggle with monsters and his climb through the bowels of the mountain.
But so many questions were still unanswered. If this was the Medallion of Shadow, where was the Medallion of Light? Where they two ends of the same transportation system? Were they a single artifact that would flip back and forth between light and darkness each time it was used? Thanks to the thorough efforts of the Mughal empire, Indiana knew he was probably going to have to find out for himself.
Regardless, there was nothing that the exhausted Doctor Jones could do about it at the moment. The best thing for him now would be some sleep. Indy slid the Medallion of Shadow into his pants and settled back into the bed. His feet stuck over the end of the mattress and the blanket was far too short, but it beat dying of exposure or lying on the floor. Snuffing the candle, the archeologist tipped his fedora over his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
* * *
Something was strange about this dream. Daring Do could feel the vague sense of wrongness as she scratched out another key phrase on the chalkboard—‘The Silk Road.’ Behind the pegasus, a student coughed. She kept writing. He coughed again, obviously trying to get her attention. Finally he resorted to using her title. “Uh, Professor?”
Daring Do lowered the chalk and adjusted her glasses. When she turned to face her class, she found herself peering down her muzzle at the smiling face of a bright young man in the front row. What was his name? Ernest something, right? She looked at him in askance. “Yes, Mr. Prior?”
“Professor, I had a question…” Ernest Prior trailed off for a moment, waiting expectantly. His hand was still raised.
Not for the first time, Daring regretted that the Dean was still making her teach Archeology 101. What kind of students were they letting into Marshall College, now? What was wrong with the office of admissions? Pressing one hoof to her muzzle, the professor of archeology waved her student on. “I gathered that, Mr. Prior. Go ahead.”
“Well, I was wondering. You’ve told us so often about how seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. But I think we’d all like to hear about the other thirty percent of the time…” The young man trailed off hopefully. Daring Do pursed her lips in annoyance. She’d heard that some of the students were sniffing around behind her back, trying to find out more about what she did when she went ‘on sabbatical’ to Mayan ruins, to supposedly peaceful dig sites in east Africa, or the like.
“Of the last thirty percent,” the gold-pelted mare replied, “Ten involves being waist deep in an excavation site, trowel in hand.”
Ernest’s smile wavered a bit but he still managed to prompt, “And the other twenty percent, Professor?”
“Travelling to the dig sites and back. And crating up potsherds to take back home for study,” Daring Do said with a shrug.
The young Mr. Prior frowned. Obviously that was not the answer he’d been hoping for. “But—but what about the chases through the jungle? The gunfights in ancient ruins? The—”
With a cheerfully annoying jangling noise, the ringing bell cut short the rest of the over-enthusiastic student’s protest. The young adults hurried out of the lecture hall. Daring resolutely ignored some of the girls’ attempts at sultry ‘come hither’ looks. Raising her voice to be heard over the combined chatter of the students and clatter of the bell, the pegasus called, “Don’t forget, the test on archeological digs relating to the fall of the Mughal Empire is next Tuesday. I’ll be in my office today from five to eight this evening if any of you have any problems…”
The last of the crowd of students left and the bell cut off, leaving Daring Do in peace. She sucked in a relieved breath and let it out slowly. It took a moment before she realized that Ernest was still in his seat. Taking off her glasses, the pegasus ate up some time polishing away a light coating of chalk dust with the edge of her jacket. The gesture felt vaguely off, as though someone else was performing the motions. Her brow wrinkled in puzzlement.
When Ernest remained resolutely in his chair, it became clear that he wasn’t simply waiting for the press of bodies in the halls to clear. Daring Do looked at her lingering student and asked, “Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Prior?”
“Professor, I don’t understand you,” complained the frowning Ernest. “You… I mean, look at everything you’ve done! And you sit here in this classroom and tell us how boring archeology is.”
“I’m teaching archeology as it’s supposed to be,” Daring responded coolly. “If you’re looking for excitement in the world, mister, don’t expect to get it handed to you while you sit comfortably in a classroom. Go join the Army, or sign on with the Merchant Marine, or go on a safari or something. You aren’t going to get any adventures here listening to a lecture in a classroom in Connecticut.”
“But—” the student protested.
Daring took a few steps across the lecture hall, looming over the young man. Her voice remained flat and calm, but something in her face made Ernest Prior’s eyes widen. “And when you finally have an adventure, don’t expect to be able to just turn it off and go back to a normal life when you’ve had your fill. You don’t find adventure…”
A knock at the door interrupted the pegasus before her rising voice became heated. She and Ernest both glanced up as a reserved man in an ill-fitting black suit peeked his head in the door and nodded to her. Daring Do nodded back and turned to the suddenly nervous student. Her voice was flat and emotionless again as she concluded, “…Adventure finds you.”
“Excuse me, Doctor. A minute of your time?” prompted the newcomer.
Daring waved the man in. She’d been expecting this. “Sure. The young man here was just leaving.”
When Ernest had departed, Daring Do leaned against the long lecturer’s desk by the chalkboard. “All right. What can I do for you?”
“Yes. Uh… I represent…” the man paused, glancing around the room as if to check for poorly hidden eavesdroppers in the otherwise empty classroom.
“U.S. Army Intelligence?” Daring suggested.
The incognito officer seemed worried. “Yes, I’m Captain Clarke. How did you know?”
“I think the Army only budgets for two types of cheap, ill-fitting suits,” Daring observed, waving a hoof at the plainclothes Soldier’s attire. “They have the gray one and the black one. You’re wearing the black. Practically a uniform in itself. Also, Colonel Musgrove sent a letter telling me you were coming.”
“…Oh. Then you know why I’m here.” Looking nonplussed, the officer tugged a manila envelope out of his briefcase and passed it, unopened, to Daring Do. She accepted it and tugged it open deftly with one hoof.
Looking over the documents, Daring Do shook her head. The Medallions of Light and Shadow were hardly new to the experienced archeologist. Thinking aloud, she said, “The Medallions were supposedly created by some kind of cult deep in the Hindu Kush mountains. They were never a large empire, but in their area they were very, very powerful. It took the Mughal emperors over seventy years of near continuous campaigning to finish rooting them out when the cult started threatening India’s connection to the Silk Road. After the fact the Mughals actually tried to destroy all record of the cult’s existence; they didn’t want anyone knowing how such a small group had given them so much trouble.”
“That’s interesting, but… not exactly why I’m here. Supposedly the cult could use the Medallions to travel the world instantaneously?” prompted the officer, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. Daring Do sighed. This was the Ark of the Covenant all over again. Never mind the history, all the Army had been worried about was if the Ark could shoot death rays.
“Yes, to ‘walk the world in but a single step,’ was how one document put it. I think there was also some mention of summoning demons to do their bidding. But if you’re concerned about the Medallions being some ancient super weapon, I don’t think you have to worry. If there were stories about the cultists raining fire from the sky or causing rivers to flow with blood, we would probably have some record of it despite the Mughals’ efforts,” Daring commented, rolling her eyes. “So what precisely does Hitler want with them?”
Captain Clarke shrugged. “Nothing. We’re not even sure that he knows they exist. But Himmler does—and he’s been sending his agents looking everywhere for the Medallion of Light.”
“But not the Medallion of Shadow? I thought the legends said you needed both or they were just pieces of oversized jewelry.” Daring put two reproduced pages side by side, examining the sketches of the two artifacts to refresh her memory. One was a half disc of shining silver. The other was made of some unknown substance, but supposedly ‘dark as the night.’ Both looked like they would fit neatly together to form a dichromatic whole about the size of a dinner plate.
“The Nazis may already have the Medallion of Shadow. We haven’t seen any references to looking for it the traffic we’ve intercepted,” Captain Clarke admitted, running a hand through his thinning hair. “I can’t emphasize enough how serious this is. If this is in any way like that incident with the Ark, we could end up with jackboots marching down the street of any free city in the world in the blink of an eye.”
“I doubt it. If the Medallions were that powerful, you would think the cult would have destroyed the Mughal Empire instead of the other way around,” Daring observed with a shrug. She stared down at the other pages the Army officer had provided. One of them contained a map referencing a few possible locations for the medallions. All were clustered in the forbidding mountains of the Hindu Kush and the even more treacherous Himalayas.
Clarke frowned. “We don’t really want to take that chance.”
Well, the lectures to dull if adoring students had been getting on Daring Do’s nerves lately. And it had been more than a year since her last sabbatical. She shifted from hoof to hoof, comparing long, cold nights on mountain trails versus a toasty evening in her lounge at home. There was really no choice but one. “All right. I’ll look into it.”
Captain Clarke hurried forward and clasped Daring’s hoof, shaking it gratefully. “Thank you, Doctor. We’ve arranged for transportation. Just let me know when you’re ready.”
Daring thought about the long office hours she’d be spending waiting for Archeology 101 students to ask repetitive questions about Delhi, questions already answered several times over during her lectures. “I’m ready now; let’s go. And Captain? Don’t call me ‘Doctor.’ Call me—”
“Indiana Jones,” Daring mumbled as she sat up, surfacing out of a sound sleep and still wrapped in the foul-smelling woolen blanket. Someone was calling her name… at least, it sounded like her name… and hammering on the door.
“Jones! Indiana! Doctor Jones!” hissed the voice of the unseen visitor. “It’s me! You’ve got to open the door! Open up!”
“What? What do you want?” Blinking her eyes in bleary confusion, the disoriented pegasus leaped down from her bed and trotted over to the door. She worked awkwardly with her hooves, trying to rotate the knob. The mare finally managed to work the latch about the same time she was awake enough to realize who she was and what she was doing. But by then it was too late.
The door swung open, sending the pegasus tumbling back into the room as something large, panting, and bipedal rushed inside and slammed the door behind him. The tall creature leaned on the door and babbled out panicked sentences between gasps. “Oh, Indy. Thank goodness you’re safe. When you didn’t come to breakfast this morning I feared the worst. I’ve heard that Jägermeister is in the area, and I’m sure it won’t be long until he finds us here! I… Indy?”
Daring Do said nothing for a moment. Picking herself up from where she had fallen, she straightened her utility shirt and retrieved her pith helmet from where it had landed when she’d gone rolling across the wooden planks of the floor. The Medallion of Light sat near the bed, reflecting the rays of the early morning sun streaming through the cracks in the closed shutters. The mare quickly slid the silver half-disc more firmly into the helmet’s crown and flipped her headgear back into place above her gray-hued mane. Had the creature seen..?
Having composed herself, Daring glared up at the intruder. Since he’d come to the door calling out somepony else’s name, this room wasn’t as vacant as she’d hoped. She probably wasn’t supposed to be in here. Best to keep the male off balance in case he started asking uncomfortable questions. “Who are you and what do you want?”
It didn’t seem like the intruder was in any state to reply. With a strangled sound that hardly passed for a coherent response, the biped sat down with a thump on the room’s oversized chair. He mumbled to himself as he stared at the pegasus. “What..?”
Talking to somepony with her neck craned nearly to its full extent was not the least bit comfortable for Daring Do. Leaping up onto the bed to equalize the height difference somewhat, the rudely awakened mare started her morning ritual. No gabbling furless biped was going to frazzle her now, not after the night she’d just had.
“Impossible… Completely impossible…” Still mumbling to himself, the biped reached out with one paw and poked Daring’s forehoof. She shifted back a bit, but he leaned forward and grabbed her with both hands.
“Quit that!” Daring shrilled, knocking the creature’s grip loose with a quick smack of her hoof. “Do that again and you’ll lose the arm.”
Shifting back on the mattress a bit, Daring Do put herself out of the creature’s reach in case he tried to grab her again. She kept watch on the biped in the chair while carefully preening the feathers of one wing. Her visitor’s face went through a range of emotions, finally settling on blank disbelief at what he was seeing. He eventually managed, “Am I dreaming..?”
“No,” Daring Do said flatly. She glared. If this was some kind of pick-up line, the beast was going to be leaving the room with two horseshoe-shaped indentations in his face.
“What are you? Who are you?!” the creature asked. The questions were slightly more pertinent this time.. not that Daring Do intended to give her guest an answer until she got some of her own.
“Nuh-uh. You first.” Still preening, Daring straightened a few disheveled primaries and gave her visitor a defiant look.
There was a pregnant pause during which the creature seemed to be collecting his thoughts. He pinched himself a few times and rubbed his eyes once or twice. Daring simply continued grooming her wings, plucking out a few feathers too damaged to be salvageable. Finally the creature replied, “Brooks… I’m Richard Brooks. I’m a cartographer. And… are you sure I’m not dreaming?”
“No, you’re not dreaming. Stop asking that. And… I’m Daring Do,” the pegasus announced.
Daring Do waited for the moment of recognition. This was usually when anypony she met would say something like, ‘not that Daring Do,’ or, ‘by Celestia’s beard, you mean you’re her,’ or even ‘I know! And now as my master Ahuizotl commands it, you shall die!’ Instead, all the mare got was a blank look. Well if the pegasus hadn’t been certain whether this was just some previously unexplored part of her world or a different one entirely, now she could be sure… after one last try. “Adventurer? Treasure hunter extraordinaire? The most traveled pegasus pony in Equestria?”
“Er… Nice to meet you.” Brooks held out one hand gingerly. Daring shook it. When the cartographer pulled his hand away, he stared at it as though it was about to fall off. Thankfully for him it remained attached.
The two sat silently for a moment. Daring continued preening, starting now on her other wing. She kept her gaze on her visitor. There was something going on behind the creature’s eyes, but she couldn’t quite figure out what. His face was too strange… It was almost like a pony’s but just different enough to make it hard to guess at his thoughts.
Finally Brooks spoke again. “Look… Ms. Do. I’m not like Indy. I don’t do this kind of thing all the time; I just make maps. Hell, I don’t even own a gun! Can you please explain to me why it is that I came in here to find Indiana Jones and found, well, you?”
“‘Indiana Jones?!’ Ow!” Daring Do yelped in pain. Her head had jerked up at the mention of the strangely familiar name, making her yank out a few feathers that should have stayed right where they were. Looking regretfully at the dark gold quills plucked before their time, the pegasus mare bit her lower lip in thought. Where had she heard..? Oh. Her dream! That weird dream. She said, “I’ve never met him. I’m not even from this world, I think. And as to why you found me here, I just climbed into this room because the window was open and I was cold and tired.”
The cartographer was silent for a moment, mouthing the words, ‘not even from this world.’ He took a ragged breath and let it out slowly. “Goodness. Are you absolutely sure that—”
“No,” Daring interrupted, “You aren’t dreaming.”
Brooks chuckled in embarrassment. “Right. I’m sorry, Daring Do… but that’s a lot to take in.”
“Yeah, well, you run into a lot of weird stuff in the adventuring business,” Daring commented with a nonchalance she didn’t actually feel. Better to turn the conversation back to other things—like the mysterious ‘Indiana Jones’ who had featured so strongly in her dream. “So who is this Indiana? And why were you looking for him?”
Richard Brooks glanced around as though making sure nopony else was in the room. “Daring… what do you know about the Medallion of Light?”
Once again Daring Do was reminded of the oddly disconcerting vision. Where had all that stuff come from? Where was ‘Marshall College?’ Who was ‘Colonel Musgrove?’ The pegasus had heard of bizarre things happening in dreams, but this definitely took the cake. Especially since that hadn’t been how she’d gotten started on her quest for the Medallion of Shadow. Why, she’d been… She’d…
Daring felt a headache coming on. She could still see her normal memories—interrogating that traitorous thug who’d worked for Ahuizotl, the library in Canterlot, and the like—but at the same time she could recall the desire for a temporary escape from her professorship and especially Archeology 101. She’d been glad of the excuse to get away and to travel the world again… to get out of the good old U.S. of A for a little while… Even though now that she thought about it she had no idea where the U.S.A. was.
Groaning in frustration, the pegasus pressed her forehooves to her head. Daring Do knew she wasn’t some college professor. Sure, she spent her fair share of time in libraries, but she’d never taught a course in her life. Except now in addition to what she knew to be true, she also remembered with absolute certainty teaching one earlier this month on a college campus she’d never heard of, and to students she’d never seen before. What was happening to her mind?
“Daring? Daring Do? Are you all right?” Brooks asked urgently.
Shaking her head to clear it, the pegasus glanced up to see Richard’s puzzled face peering at her. “Er, Sorry. The Medallion of Light. You wanted to know what I knew about it? Well… it’s an artifact. Goes with the Medallion of Shadow. Together they, um, they let somepony teleport even if they’re not a unicorn. Some cult called the Brotherhood of the Snake enchanted the artifact centuries ago.”
There was a shocked silence. Richard Brooks stared down at the gold-pelted mare and said, “That’s… a lot of information for the non-expert to have. Were you looking for it, too?”
“No, I was looking for the Medallion of Shadow,” Daring explained.
“The Medallion of—Do you have it?!” Richard Brooks exclaimed, jumping excitedly to his feet.
“No. I don’t have the Medallion of Shadow at the moment,” sighed Daring Do. Well, the statement was completely accurate. She followed up the not-quite-answer with another truth. “I need to find it before Ahuizotl gets it, though, or Equestria may be in danger.”
The adventurer watched for any signs that Brooks recognized the name of one of her most persistent foes. He didn’t seem to… or he was too busy showing his agitation about the mention of the artifact. “Incredible! So you’re searching for the same set of artifacts as we are… Look, Ms. Do—you may be in terrible danger.”
“I’m no stranger to that,” the mare said with a rueful laugh.
Brooks frowned and shook his head. “No, Daring, I’m serious. Doctor Jones and I have had an evil man—a Nazi agent called Hans Jägermeister—on our trail for weeks. I fear he might have something to do with Indy’s disappearance. I don’t think he thinks I’m a threat, but…”
“Hmm… Tall biped? Blond mane, blue eyes? Runs around in a dark coat shouting things like, ‘snell?’ Or was it schnell?’” Daring rubbed her chin, thinking back to the angry creature that had attacked her alongside his minions in the temple.
“Yes! That’s him. Had a run in with him already?” Robert looked nervous. “I’m glad you’re all right… Um, you didn’t happen to see Indiana, did you..?”
The pegasus shook her dark-maned head. “No, sorry. I don’t even know what he looks like, but I don’t think so. Not unless he was one of the ones helping this ‘Jägermeister’ shoot at me.”
“Hmph. No, then. Ah, well. I’m glad you got through that all right, anyway,” Brooks said with a smile. He chuckled. The chuckle quickly turned into a hearty laugh.
Daring’s ears flattened in irritation. Was Richard laughing at her? “What? What’s so funny?”
“You know, Daring…” The cartographer wiped away a tear from one eye. “For a minute there when we first met I was half convinced that you were Indiana Jones under some kind of bizarre curse.”
“Hah. You’re kidding, right?” Daring Do wasn’t sure whether she should be amused or insulted… or concerned. In the back of her mind, the strange double memory nagged at her. She laughed nervously.
Richard Brooks shrugged. “I know, I know. A silly thought. But seeing you was a bit of a shock. In any event, we had better get going before our good friend Herr Jägermeister finds us.”
“All right. Lead the way.” The Medallion of Light felt heavy under Daring Do’s pith helmet. Should she tell her new ally about it? Had he seen it when it lay exposed for a few surprised moments? Probably not.
The smart thing for Daring to do would be to play her cards close until she got to know this Brooks character better. While he was the first biped who hadn’t actually tried to kill her, that didn’t really make him all that much more trustworthy than the rest. The adventurer would have to keep a close eye on her latest friend.
In the meantime, Daring Do had bigger concerns. What, precisely, had happened to bring her here? How could she return? And was the strange foreign memory a one-time event? She certainly hoped so.
The pegasus mare and her much larger companion walked slowly down the hallway. Brooks glanced around as though he feared being watched, but nopony seemed to be around. In fact, the inn was a lot quieter than Daring Do would have expected from her travels. She jumped into the air and hovered next to her companion’s head to whisper, “So what now?”
“Gah!” Brooks leaped sideways, slamming into the wall with a thump. He clutched at his chest, breathing hard. “Don’t do that!”
After a moment, the annoyed Daring settled back onto the floor. “You can’t tell me that really scared you. Didn’t you say you work with an adventurer? So. What now?”
“Look, I just didn’t realize you could… Fine.” Scowling from the sting of having his manhood questioned by a miniature female horse, Richard took a few steps further down the hall and peered around the stairs. “If there aren’t too many people in the common room, I think we can just go down these stairs and right out the front door…”
“We’re just leaving? But what about this Indiana Jones you keep talking about?” Daring Do asked, eyeing her nervous ally. If this archeologist friend of Brooks’ knew about the medallions, maybe he would know what was happening to her memory and why she’d just had one of hers replaced with what might have been one of his. Better yet, he might know how the displaced pegasus pony could get back to the normal world.
Keeping his voice low, Richard stepped out to get a better look down the stairs at the room below. “I don’t think we’re going to find him hiding in this inn, and he isn’t—”
Daring didn’t get to find out what Richard thought Indiana wasn’t. With a crash, the inn’s front door caved in as several brown-robed thugs burst into the common room. Behind them rang the angry barking of a familiar voice. “Search everywhere! Find them! Schnell, you fools!”
“I recognize that voice! That’s one of the ones that attacked me!” Daring hissed. Before Brooks could react, the pegasus darted out from behind the wall for a better look. She glared down the staircase just in time to see the dark-coated Nazi agent stride into the common room over the shattered remnants of the inn’s front door.
Jägermeister looked up, and his blue eyes met Daring’s pink ones. He smiled. “Guten Tag, Fräulein Do…”
Daring Do yelped in surprise as Brooks roughly snatched her up and lurched into motion. Swearing up a storm—at least, Daring assumed they were curses from his tone and the way he kept repeating himself—the man sprinted back down the hall towards her room. Behind them she could hear Jägermeister’s shouts and the sounds of his minions pounding up the stairs.
As soon as they were through the door, Daring struggled free. “Let go!”
“Sorry… But help me here, quick!” Brooks wasted very little breath on apologies as he locked and barred the door and started shoving furniture in front of it. The much smaller pegasus helped as best she could, shoving at the room’s chair and helping the cartographer drag a heavy chest into place. The door and makeshift barricade shook a bit under heavy blows by the thugs on the other side, but held firm.
With a grin, Richard Brooks dusted off his hands. “Well, that should hold them for a—”
The report of the rifle was positively ear shattering inside the confines of the inn. A ragged, splintered hole had been blown through the door at about Brooks’ chest level. The horrified man stared at the spot with a sort of dazed frown on his face. If he’d been standing a bit to one side…
On the far side of the door, a second shot rang out, this time followed by a groan and the sound of a collapsing body. Hans Jägermeister snarled, “Nein, Holzköpfe, I want them alive! The rest of you, break down that door! NOW!”
Leaning heavily against the barricade, Brooks grunted with every blow made by the brown-robed mercenaries trying to break in. “I’m sorry, Ms. Do. Indy usually—umph!—handles things like this, not me… You need—uh!—to get out of here, quickly!”
“But… what about you?” Daring asked worriedly. The shuttered window did look attractive, that was true… but the pegasus had never left an ally in the lurch.
“You’re—umph!—more important than I, Daring,” the cartographer said hurriedly, his entire body shaking with the effort of holding back their enemies. “You can fly, and you have—umph!—the Medallion of Light!”
Daring Do’s eyes widened. “How did you know that?!”
“I saw—umph!—you put it in your hat when I came in… I can understand—uh!—why you didn’t trust me, but trust me now! We can meet up later! You need to get out of here,” Richard snapped. Sweat was dripping down his face as he strained to hold up under the increasingly heavy blows. Some of the wood around the doorframe was starting to crack.
“But I can carry you! Well, a little ways at least!” the guilty mare protested, ears drooping. And here she hadn’t trusted Brooks.
“Then—umph!—who would hold the door? The free world depends on it!" Brooks grinned for a moment, but his levity quickly faded with the sound of more mercenaries pounding up the stairs. The door shook harder with every blow.
"If I survive, you can—uh!—meet me near Kisaba! The town—umph!—south of here, on the plateau! Just follow the river… But stay hidden! Go!” with that last shout, Brooks turned and put all his weight into holding up the pile of furniture that made up the hasty barricade. A spot in the middle of the door exploded into splinters as a rifle butt crashed into it and broke partway through.
Leaping onto the bed and to the window, Daring Do crashed through the shutters and took flight. A few of the Nazi’s mercenaries fired at her from the ground, but the hasty efforts were wasted. By the time the door finally gave way and the brown-robed guards piled into the room the pegasus was long gone, out of sight over the nearest mountain ridge.
Brooks tasted blood. The final death throes of his barricade had sent him sprawling across the floor. He started to pick himself up, but the prodding of a rifle muzzle in his back kept him down. The cartographer stayed where he was and listened to the measured tread of footsteps approaching at a slow, regular cadence.
A pair of well-polished jackboots filled Richard Brooks’ field of view. He raised his head to peer up at Hans Jägermeister’s serene and beatific face. The Nazi bent down to the cartographer, still smiling. “Why, Herr Brooks! ‘Hi there,’ as I believe you Americans like to say. So nice to see you again…”
* * *
Indiana Jones soared through the sky, banking around a towering cumulonimbus cloud and zooming over small white puffs of cumulus. He’d always liked dreams like this one, where the ground was rolled out below him like a beautiful brown and green patchwork quilt. The freedom of flight was more liberating than almost anything else… even traveling the globe.
The archeologist caught sight of a densely clustered city of white marble, pushing up narrow towers into the sky from its precarious perch on the edge of a high-peaked mountain. There it was… Canterlot. With luck, that was where Indy would find what he sought.
Rather than dip down now and let the gradual drop in altitude bring him gently to the city gates, Indiana continued on, enjoying the bracing cold of the near-stratospheric altitudes at which he cruised. Just when he had nearly entered Canterlot’s airspace the archeologist angled down sharply, diving straight for the narrow strip of stone that was the bridge into the city. Wind whipped past his face so quickly that Doctor Jones had to hold his pith helmet on with one hand or risk losing it.
The two gate guards looked up, sunlight glinting off their golden armor as they heard the growing roar of Indy’s rapid approach. At the last possible moment he slowed, sending up a great cloud of dust as he landed lightly on the road. The archeologist trotted forward, chuckling inwardly at the discomfiture of Princess Celestia’s royal guards. “Afternoon, gentlecolts.”
One of the white-pelted pegasus ponies glared in response to Indiana’s cheeky grin. His armor glittered just that little bit more than was normal even in the spit-and-polish royal guards of Equestria’s capital city as he raised one wing to bar the archeologist’s way. “Look, you can’t just do that! You just about entered Canterlot airspace in direct violation of the—”
“Quiet, Private,” interrupted the older and more experienced guard before the enthusiastic colt got himself into trouble.
“But—” The younger guard started to protest, but a quick glare from his sergeant silenced the pegasus. With a sheepish look, the guard private lowered his wing and returned to staring blankly into the distance.
Turning back to Indy, the guard sergeant nodded politely. “Please, go right in. It’s not every day we meet a famous adventurer.”
“Thank you, Sergeant.” Indiana said, grin widening as he continued on past the two guards and into Canterlot proper. Good. At least somepony around here knew who he was. He’d worried that being away so long would make these boring city dwellers forget the greatest treasure hunter in Equestria… The archeologist’s thoughts trailed off with a sense of vague bemusement. The greatest treasure hunter in where, again? And hadn’t he always hated that term?
The streets of Canterlot were bustling as usual, filled with unicorns and the occasional pegasus. There were even a few earth ponies, though that last group mostly kept their heads down and worked hard, doing the chores that were necessary yet too boring or demeaning for the upper crust elites to do for themselves. Indiana snorted. It was even worse here than in Cloudsdale… wherever that was.
A steady climb through the city finally brought Indiana to his goal: the Great Library of Canterlot. The tall edifice seemed almost as impressive as Princess Celestia’s palace itself, looming forbiddingly over the city. Stone ponies, griffins, and dragons glared down as the archeologist approached, watching him silently as if to judge his worthiness to enter. Indiana Jones paid them no mind. Instead, his unhurried gait became an excited canter as he nearly sprinted up to the doors and slipped inside.
The great library’s entrance area was like the nave of a massive cathedral, its high and vaulted ceiling dwarfing Indiana as he walked up to the reception desk. When he tipped his helmet politely to the dark blue unicorn waiting there, she nodded in acknowledgement and went back to reading. Indy waited. After a moment the mare’s eyes widened and she looked back up, shocked recognition written across her face. “Oh wow, it’s you! We got your letter a little earlier this week… Did you really fly all the way here from Dragonia in just two days?!”
“Sure did. You won’t find many faster than these babies,” Indiana replied smugly. He glanced back proudly at his outspread… hmm. There was nothing there. For some reason he’d been expecting wings. Well, no matter. He had bigger concerns in mind. “All right. I was told you had some books I was looking for, Ms..?”
“Oh, call me Midnight, please,” the unicorn simpered. It seemed Indy had a fan. “And yes, they’re right this way, if you’ll follow me…”
A short time later Indiana was eagerly blowing dust from the ancient tomes and pouring over their contents. This felt oddly comforting… almost familiar to Indy in a way that the rest of his strange dream was not. Doing research in a library seemed natural, but everything else? Something was subtly wrong.
Trying to focus on the task at hand, Doctor Jones skimmed through the pages of a book on ancient religions of the Ridgeback Mountains. Marking the page, he turned to another—a catalogue of magical artifacts. He stared down at the two books, comparing the entries for… what were they called again? The ‘Medallions of Day and Darkness..?’ Ah, here they were: the ‘Medallions of Light and Shadow.’
Indiana sucked air nervously between his teeth and read the pages again. This must be what Ahuizotl was planning. The ability to ‘walk the worlds with but a single step’ sounded powerful, even without the added and less frequent tales of demon summoning. With the means to teleport anywhere he wanted to go, the weird ape-dog creature would be just that much more difficult to stop. The archeologist shuddered to think of what his most persistent enemy could do with the twin medallions. Nopony’s relics would be safe. No components for the beast’s evil spells would be beyond his reach. Indy doubted that the artifacts were an end in themselves, but as a means to an end…
More books allowed Doctor Jones to dig up even more proof of his original assumption. Ahuizotl’s minions were probably already on their way to the Ridgebacks, eager to find the Temple of Shadow and retrieve the Medallion of Shadow to support their master’s latest schemes. It was just too bad that Indy’s informant hadn’t known more about their mutual enemy’s search for the Medallion of Light. Still, some information was better than none and the archeologist could only be in one place at a time no matter how fast he might be.
Indy thanked Celestia that he’d found that less-than-completely-loyal henchman hiding out in Dragonia. The poor creature had been on his last legs after the punishment he’d received at Ahuizotl’s claws… but he’d showed no sign of the pain as he eagerly told Indiana all that he knew about his former employer’s plans. It hadn’t been much, but at least—
The sound of hoofsteps behind Indiana Jones jolted the engrossed reader out of his thoughts and sent him whirling, hands up to receive an attack. He blinked. “Oh… Midnight. It’s you.”
“Can I get you anything? You’ve been reading in here for hours, so I thought I’d, um, see if there was anything I can help you with…” The blue-pelted mare tossed a bit of errant mane out of her eyes. Yes, Indiana could definitely see that he had a fan.
Doctor Jones chuckled and shook his head. “No, thank you. You’ve been very hospitable. But is there something I can help you with?”
When Midnight’s eyes sparkled with excitement, Indiana could see he’d guessed correctly. She nearly tripped over her own hooves, rushing forward until the archeologist and unicorn were but a short distance apart. The librarian bit her lip for a moment but finally drummed up the courage to ask, “Well… I’ve always wondered. Why do you travel all over the world? Why fight horrible creatures like Ahuizotl and crawl through dungeon after dungeon in search of dusty old magical trinkets?”
“Why?” Indiana shrugged. He wanted to explain the high calling of archeology, the need to preserve the relics of the past for the education of the future. He thought about describing the criminal behavior of treasure hunters, destroying priceless evidence of history for personal gain… But what he found himself saying was, “Because it’s fun!”
“‘Fun?’” repeated Midnight, echoing Indiana’s own incredulous thought.
“Yeah, fun! I’ve always had a taste for adventure. It’s a win-win situation for me. I get out of stuffy places like Canterlot and Cloudsdale and get to see the world,” Indiana enthused, his mouth moving entirely at odds with his own mental processes. “I can kick Ahuizotl’s freaky-tailed behind and see the way the world was before we ponies came in and made everything so…”
“So..?” the librarian prompted.
“So orderly,” finished Doctor Jones, making the word sound like a curse.
“But… what about the higher calling of archeology? What about preserving our past for future generations?” The astonished mare couldn’t quite let go of the idea that her hero was just in it for laughs. Neither, honestly, could Indy.
Indiana found himself shrugging again. “Yeah, that’s good too… but the adventure’s the best part. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. Besides, what kind of answer did you expect out of a pegasus named ‘Daring Do?’ I—”
Indiana Jones tumbled out of his dream and almost off his too-small mattress as the sound of shouting and urgent struggles dragged him back to consciousness. In an instant he was wide awake, straining to see in the near complete darkness of his room. Furniture clattered in the middle of the floor as something kicked the chair, sending it against an unseen wall.
Something swung out of the darkness and crashed into Indy’s jaw, knocking his head back. It felt like he’d just been hit in the face with a mallet. With the white sparkles of pain the only light he could see, Indiana kicked out with both feet. His heels struck something meaty. It went tumbling with a surprised shout. Pressing his attack, the archeologist dove forward, hands outstretched to grapple with his unseen opponents.
Touch, hearing, and smell were the only senses available to Indiana as he wrestled something furred and muscular to the floor. With a grunt of anger it wrenched itself free. A blunt object slammed into the archeologist’s side. Before the attacker could draw it back for another try, Indy grabbed the weapon in a crushing grip and twisted, trying to wrench it out of his assailant’s grasp. The weapon felt oddly soft and fragile under his grasp, and his opponent screamed in anguish.
As if on cue, the door burst open. A shimmering, silvery glow seemed to bathe the world in light, and the surprised archeologist found himself rising into the air with his limbs immobilized by a nebulous cloud of tingling nothingness. Beside him floated a groaning pegasus and some sort of dog creature. In the doorway stood a unicorn, the horn on his head shining brilliantly and spitting out sparks like a flare. The newcomer spoke first, his voice a clipped British accent somewhat blurred by sleepiness. “I say! What are you three doing at this time of the morning?!”
“I’d like to know the same thing. This is my room,” Indiana retorted, glancing down at the floor that was still several feet away in defiance of all natural laws. He looked up again to see the glow surrounding him mirrored on the horn of the unicorn. A unicorn. A god-damned unicorn. What was next, a—no, he’d thought that before about unicorns after the pegasus, and look what had happened. It was as if someone up there was mocking him.
“Oh. Quite.” After an awkward silence, the unicorn nodded his head slightly and Indy found himself lowered until his feet touched the wooden planks of the floor. Solid ground had never felt so good. Abruptly, the silvered nimbus around Doctor Jones winked out. The other two combatants, however, remained glowing and airborne.
“Now. The… unicorn… asked you a question,” Indiana growled, glaring at the floating creatures.
Looking at the two, Doctor Jones realized he had seen the pegasus before. The red-pelted stallion—what was his name? Starfire?—was the one who’d served up that watered down ale when Indy was speaking with the innkeeper earlier in the evening. The pegasus pony seemed half-mad with pain, one wing dangling uselessly at his side. “My wing! Ooooh, my wing! That dumb mutt’s the one you should have attacked, not me! Oh, spirits…”
Indiana Jones turned to the ‘dumb mutt’ to hear his side of things. The canine monstrosity seemed to be a slender and undersized thing, a cross between someone’s bulldog and an ape. His green eyes glared across to the red-pelted pegasus as its long, slippery tongue lolled out at full length. Wait, no. That wasn’t a tongue at all.
Leaping away with an exclamation of disgust, Indiana got as much distance from the snake as he could manage. Still hanging in the air, the dog-ape chewed on his impromptu meal, slurping noisily with a mixture of anger and supreme embarrassment on his face. After a moment the creature sucked the rest of the snake’s limp tail into his mouth like some sort of disgusting noodle and whined, “Flint not a dumb mutt! What Starfire doing in here so early, anyway?!”
Starfire groaned again and glared at Flint, gathering the strength to speak. Before he could answer, the sound of clattering hooves filled the hallway. A panting Penny Wise nearly collided with the dark green unicorn as he crowded into the room. He glanced around the room, his eyes widening as he caught sight of the tableau of destruction. The innkeeper glared at everyone and demanded, “Well?!”
Flint and Starfire struggled against their almost certainly magical bonds. Flint’s jowled face was contorted in fear as he strained to get away. The red stallion mouthed half-coherent threats. Reaching up, Indiana grabbed both creatures through the silvery field that surrounded them and pulled, slamming their skulls together. The canine whimpered and the pegasus fell silent save for the sound of his breath hissing through clenched teeth.
“Well?” asked Indiana, turning to the innkeeper. “Is this how things usually go at your inn, Penny Wise? People getting attacked in their beds at night?”
“Quite,” muttered the unicorn, shaking his head in disgust.
“I like what you’re insinuating, Indiana. I assure you, my reliable employees would never do anything like this…” The innkeeper turned to Starfire. His eyes widened. “By Celestia, what have you done to him?! His wing!”
“I’ll just… put him down then, shall I?” the white-maned unicorn said, looking awkwardly at the innkeeper and his winged employee. “Sorry, I’m not a medical pony, so…”
Starfire struggled to his hooves as the energy around him faded. He swayed woozily, waving a foreleg accusingly at the still-floating Flint. “I was cleaning when I saw that… dirt clod of a diamond dog slinking around up here… after his bedtime. When he snuck in here I got worried… about our guest’s safety, so I followed him. When I entered the room he attacked me. Little mutt!”
Flint’s green eyes went wide and he struggled all the harder against the silvery cloud around him. “Flint not do that! Flint go in after pony went in! After!”
Penny Wise snorted and turned to the unicorn. “Could you let him down, please, Mr. Trowel?”
“It’s Doctor Trowel, actually… but of course.” The glow around the unicorn’s horn abruptly cut out, along with the field around Flint’s brown-furred form. The diamond dog tumbled to the ground with a grunt.
In an instant, Penny Wise was nearly on top of the cowering Flint. His rock-hard hoof smacked across Flint’s muzzle and tore an anguished yelp from the creature’s throat. Any further whines of pain were drowned out by the innkeeper's angry shouting. “You miserable cur! One of my good employees is hurt because of you! Get out of here right now! I’ll come chain you up in a minute.”
“But Flint was… Flint goes! Flint goes!” The diamond dog yelped as his master’s hoof rose again. He loped off, lumbering out of the room like a small, emaciated gorilla.
Penny Wise turned back to Indiana Jones and sighed. “I’m… very sorry about that, Indiana. I don’t know why I put up with that thing sometimes. Too charitable for my own good, I suppose.”
“Sure,” Indy grunted. “Any idea what he’d be doing in here? Starfire?”
The pegasus shrugged, groaning again as the gesture sent a new wave of pain crashing across his nerve endings. “I… don’t know. Don’t ask me. I’m… barely standing right now. Can I go? Please?”
“Thank you, Starfire. Go see my wife; she’ll fix you up…” As the pegasus left, Penny Wise turned back to the shattered chair and the overturned chest and sighed. The damage wasn’t extensive, but it was another expense he didn’t need. Oh well. He’d just take it out of Flint’s pay for the next decade or so.
“I’m not paying for these damages,” Indiana said preemptively before the earth pony thought of asking. “And that was all self-defense.”
Penny Wise’s ears flattened against his skull. He looked hurt… a little too hurt. “I don’t know why you would even think I would do something like that. There will be no extra charge. Of course, I’m not replacing anything in here until at least dawn, either.”
“Fair enough. Good night, Penny Wise.” Indiana Jones watched the earth pony leave. Now, only the unicorn named ‘Dr. Trowel’ remained, still hovering by the door as if waiting for something to happen.
Straightening, Indiana got a good look at the unicorn for the first time. He’d half suspected it, and this just confirmed things. Dr. Trowel was the same creature who had jerked in surprise when Indy had mentioned being an archeologist. He was somewhat surprised he hadn’t noticed the horn on the unicorn’s head before, but the creature had been facing away in the common room. Oh well, that was neither here nor there.
Approaching the creature, Doctor Jones stuck out one hand. With a name like ‘Trowel…’ “I don’t think I thanked you properly. I’m Indiana Jones. Nice to meet a fellow archeologist.”
“How did you..? Ah, the name. Of course. Doctor Silver Trowel, at your service.” The unicorn offered one forehoof, which Indiana bent down to shake. “Glad to be of help. Though, truth be told, at first I was just here to give you a proper talking-to for being so loud at such an early hour of the morning.”
Indiana Jones simply laughed and sat down on his bed, the only piece of furniture still intact. Lucky him. He looked back to Silver Trowel. It was nice that the unicorn had showed up with whatever weird powers he brought to the fight… but it seemed a bit convenient that he and only he had arrived in the nick of time. Waving the pony archeologist inside, Indy said, “Here, come in. I’d offer you a chair… if I still had one.”
“Hah, very droll,” Trowel commented. Resting on his haunches in a relatively clear area of the floor, he smiled. “Well I really should be getting back to bed, but I might as well say hello. So what brings you to the Ridgebacks?”
“Like you heard in the common room—I’m here to do some field work on ancient cults,” Indiana said. “No luck so far, though. Penny Wise doesn’t think so, anyway.”
Silver Trowel scratched his chin thoughtfully with one hoof. “Well, in my experience, innkeepers tend to overinflate their knowledge somewhat. I know I for one have heard some very interesting rumors of some sort of cult to the north of here. It was called the… Brotherhood of the Snake, I believe. They used to be prominent in this region, but vanished from all records... eh… a few hundred years ago. Nopony knows why, although I suspect Equestria’s expansion into this area during that time period may have had something to do with it.”
“Hmm,” Indiana grunted appreciatively. Interesting, so in some ways the history of this place was similar. He was tempted to ask more about ‘Equestria.’ The name had shown up on the map he’d been perusing, but…
“I’d be interested to know more about your research, Doctor Jones. But honestly, I confess I’d be interested to know more about you,” the unicorn admitted with a friendly smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever come across one of your species before. What are you? Where are you from?”
That seemed a safe enough question to answer, and the creature’s reaction might be informative. “Me? I’m a human. I’m from all over… but right now, Marshall College.”
“Marshal College,” Trowel repeated. “So, a center of learning. And where is that?”
“Oh, back in the States. In Cant—in Connecticut.” Doctor Jones’ brow wrinkled in puzzlement. He felt all right after the few hours of sleep he’d gotten, but he must have been more tired than he thought to stumble over his words like that. Where had the name ‘Canterlot’ even come from?
Hiding his growing sense of confusion, Indiana went on the offensive. “What about you, Silver? Cults, or something else?”
“Nothing as interesting as that. Just passing through, I’m afraid. I thought I might see an old friend of mine on the way, but sadly we seem to have missed each other.” Silver Trowel sighed, but the sigh transformed into a massive yawn. The unicorn covered his muzzle with one hoof. “Oh, do forgive me. I had best return to bed.”
“Don’t let me keep you,” replied Doctor Jones.
Silver Trowel turned to go, but paused at the door. “One word of advice, from one archeologist to the other… You seem like the civilized sort. This area probably isn’t anything like where you’re from. Celestia knows, the Ridgebacks aren’t like proper Equestria…”
“Yeah?” Indy prompted when the helpful unicorn trailed off.
“Well, you’re your own stallion, Indiana. But if I had found two of the innkeeper’s employees in my room while I was asleep, I would be checking to make sure my hooves and horn were still attached. Not everypony here in the Ridgebacks respects property the way we do in… more civilized areas.” With that, Silver Trowel yawned again and excused himself, shutting the door quietly behind him.
Indiana listened for the sounds of the unicorn’s retreating hooves until a door farther down the hall opened and closed. All was silent and dark again in the room. He could almost hear the silent slither of (hopefully) imaginary snakes. Turning on his mattress, the archeologist pushed open the heavy wooden shutters to let in some light. The blue glow of the strange lanterns filled the room, casting odd shadows on the walls as Indy surveyed the wreckage of the room
Out of long habit, Doctor Jones had checked his room thoroughly before taking off anything or going to sleep. Even in the poorly built inn, there was no way for the snake to have gotten here… unless it was placed. Indiana lit the somehow still undamaged candle and bent low, examining the floor again. It was still free of any cracks or holes through which a snake might have slipped. Still, it didn’t hurt to check again. He held the candle closer to the bed, checking underneath.
The flickering yellow light revealed a small spray of red—spatters of blood from the recently devoured snake dotted the floor. Hmm… If Indiana thought about where the diamond dog’s head was positioned when he bit into the nasty thing, it must have been… right next to Indy’s bed.
Well, Indiana wasn’t going to get any more sleep tonight. By his estimate, it was practically dawn as it was. Moving briskly, the archeologist began collecting his things and pulling on discarded bits of clothing. As a final check, he patted his pants to make sure the Medallion of Shadow was still safely hidden. He patted again. Still nothing.
Exploding into motion, Doctor Jones searched desperately through the folds of the blanket and under the bed. He searched the room from end to end and came up empty. It was missing. The Medallion of Shadow was gone. Snarling in frustration, Indiana rammed his fedora onto his head and jerked open the door to his room. He had better find the artifact again, and fast… and he had a good idea of where to start looking.
A/N: Once again, thanks to Sebbaa for help with Hans' German.
An unfamiliar earth pony with a sherbet green pelt glanced up from behind the bar in bleary-eyed surprise as Indiana thundered down the stairs and demanded, “Where’s that dog thing?
“Flint? I think he’s chained up in his kennel outside, next to the wall…” The mare was about to say more, but Doctor Jones was already out the door and gone. Of the two likely suspects, Flint was top of his list. It was possible that Starfire had managed to extract the Medallion of Shadow from Indiana's pocket without the archeologist noticing, but the gangly canine actually had something approaching hands.
The courtyard outside was lit by the eerie bluish glow of the inn’s magical lamps. The lights cast strange shadows, throwing Indiana’s outline on the wall in contorted, monstrous form as angry strides took him across the gravel expanse to the pitiful little shelter near one wall.
Looking like the result of some Paleolithic tribe’s first efforts at architecture, the shelter was made of a few wide slabs of rock placed together against one wall to form a crude lean-to. Flint’s blunt brown muzzle peeked out of the cave-like darkness of the kennel. The diamond dog sat up as he saw Doctor Jones’ rapid approach, tearful green eyes widening to contrite terror. “Oh, no! So sorry! So sorry…”
“Don’t ‘sorry’ me!” roared the archeologist. “Give it back right now!”
Flint looked worried. “Uh… Indiana sure?”
Was Indy sure?! Of course he was sure. “NOW!”
Looking miserable, the diamond dog pulled himself out of his kennel and gingerly stuck one clawed finger down his throat. He gagged. “Just… one minute…”
“…What the hell are you doing? Did you eat it?!” Indiana winced. The diamond dog had a large maw, but definitely not wide enough to fit the entire artifact down in one piece. Wait… were they even talking about the same thing? “Flint, what are you trying to give back to me?”
Flint gagged again. “Indiana’s pet snake! Flint thought it was dangerous, so Flint ate… Not realize it important!”
“My pet—?!” Doctor Jones’ hands clenched and unclenched as he tried to regain his footing in a conversation that had somehow spun completely out of his control. How hard could it be? The ape-like creature was obviously easily cowed. Threaten him, get the medallion back, and have an early breakfast. Not that difficult. “Now look, you mangy mutt…”
Flint’s floppy ears drooped all the more as he hung his head. “Flint said Flint sorry…”
“I don’t want the snake, I want the medallion you stole from me!” growled Indiana, looming over the cowering diamond dog.
“Flint no have medallion. Wait… ‘Medallion?’ Indiana has Medallion of Shadow?!” Ears perking up, Flint blinked his emerald eyes in surprise. Suddenly, the creature was on its paws and lumbering up to Indy with a delighted spring in his step. A heavy iron chain linked to a collar around his neck clinked and rasped across the gravel of the inn’s courtyard with every movement the diamond dog made.
“Yes the… How did you know what it was called?” If Flint was trying to convince Indiana Jones that he was too stupid to have stolen the artifact, it was working. But if the diamond dog was as stupid as he sounded, how did he know the name of an obscure and apparently powerful artifact? “And where did you put it?”
“Flint know! Flint help Daring Do, and she looking for it! She tell Flint to keep ear to ground,” the creature said. He glanced around nervously, jowls flopping, and then leaned in with a conspiratorial whisper. “…But Daring not really mean that. Really mean listen. So Flint listen. Nopony pay attention to dumb little Flint.”
Now the diamond dog had given Indiana two things to wonder about. The first and biggest one was unchanged: where was the Medallion of Shadow? But it was quickly becoming apparent that Flint didn’t have it. The second thing burst over the archeologist with the suddenness of at thunderclap. That name seemed so familiar… but why? “Flint? Who’s Daring Do?”
A wide smile stretched across Flint’s muzzle. “Daring Do wonderful… She pegasus pony. Treasure hunter! So amazing. So nice…”
It was as if someone was walking over Indiana’s grave. Or to be more accurate, trotting over it on little pony hooves. The odd dream came back to him in a rush as Flint gabbled about happy experiences helping the treasure hunter with her quest. The images from his interrupted dream were crystal clear in the archeologist’s mind, almost as solid as his own memories.
“…She pay Flint to help, even! Five whole bits! That more than Flint make in week! At this rate Flint have own inn in no time,” the diamond dog babbled, clapping his paws delightedly at the thought.
“Flint,” interrupted Doctor Jones, arresting the happy creature’s fantasies of entrepreneurial success. Perhaps there was an easy way to find out whether the strange dream was just a coincidence. Hadn’t some other creature been after the medallion in his dream? “Did Daring tell you if anyone else was after the Medallion of Shadow?”
“Daring say—wait. Indiana being very friendly to Flint,” Flint observed, giving Indiana Jones a look that the diamond dog probably thought was calculating. “Indiana not angry at Flint about pet snake anymore?”
Pet snake? The—oh. Right. Indy shook his head. “As far as I’m concerned, Flint, you can eat any snake you find. Just tell me what I want to know.”
“Yay! Then hire Flint, please.” The diamond dog held out one furry paw expectantly.
The change in the creature’s behavior was nothing short of breathtaking, leaving Doctor Jones scrambling to catch up. “What?”
“Mister Penny Wise say he not run charity. Penny Wise best innkeeper Flint know,” the diamond dog reasoned aloud. “If Flint want to be good innkeeper someday, then Flint not run charity either!”
For a moment Indiana considered pulling out his whip and putting it to use. Instead, he smiled. The smile turned into a chuckle, and the chuckle into a full laugh. Pulling out his coin bag, he placed one shining gold piece in Flint’s paw. “All right, Flint. I like that. Now, about my question.”
“Yes,” Flint replied, nodding once.
The pleased expression on Indiana’s face froze. “…Yes what?”
“Yes, Daring Do told Flint whether anypony else after Medallion of Shadow,” the creature said. His paw came up as if to suggest that more information would require more payment.
Now Doctor Jones’ smile had been replaced by an annoyed scowl. His hand brushed against the bullwhip at his belt. “Don’t play games with me, Flint.”
“Only kidding, only kidding! Flint make joke!” The diamond dog’s waiting paw was back on the ground so quickly, it nearly blurred. Flint grinned, his short tail wagging nervously.
Indiana let his hand drop away from the whip again. He laughed humorlessly. “Ha ha. Well?”
“Daring think cultists using Medallion of Shadow in rituals. If she take it, they after it to get back,” Flint explained. “And Daring Do really worried about big blue dog-monkey thing being after it, too. She say his name is… uh… Owwiesote?”
“Ahuizotl,” Indiana corrected automatically. A hulking blue monstrosity with beady yellow eyes and a tail like a third arm filled his mind’s eye. He shifted uncomfortably. He’d read about the ‘water dogs’ in ancient Aztec legends… but this was no simple mental fancy. It was like he was recalling something he’d seen in person. He could almost hear the creature’s voice as it snarled threats at him. Jesus, what was happening to his brain?
“Yes, yes, Owwie… er, what Indiana said,” Flint agreed. “Daring think he might have minions after artifact too. Ask me to help watch for them.”
“Did Daring say what to look for?” Doctor Jones thought back to the snake that had become Flint’s late night snack… and the missing artifact. Were the two connected? It could have been a coincidence, but…
Flint simply shrugged. “Said to look for big kitties but also others. Other than that, not know. Sorry.”
“So as far as you know, I could be working for Ahuizotl,” the annoyed archeologist pointed out. So far Flint’s information was the worst value for money Doctor Jones had gotten since this ridiculous adventure began—and that included that time in Ankara when a biplane pilot had refused to give Indy his fare back after the aircraft’s engine had died on the runway… At least then he’d gotten some exercise as he beat a refund out of the greedy Turk.
Laughing, Flint shook his head. “Hah, Indiana even funnier than Flint! Of course Indiana not working for bad guys. Indiana like... like Daring Do!”
“Yeah?” Indy said skeptically.
“Both have silly hats! Must be alike,” the diamond dog reasoned, grinning at his cleverness. Flint’s smile faded when he noticed that his newfound friend wasn’t joining him in his amusement.
Instead, the brown-furred creature found a pointing finger inches from his nose. Doctor Jones kept his voice measured and calm. “Flint, if you’re going to work for me, you need to remember one thing…”
“Y-yes?” The diamond dog took a step away from the finger and found himself backed up against his kennel.
The archeologist took a step forward, still looming over his latest ally. “Never insult the hat. Got it?”
“Flint got it.” The diamond dog’s ears drooped.
“All right,” Indiana said with a satisfied nod. He glanced up and squinted in the first light of day. Like anywhere in the mountains, the dawn had come rapidly, taking the courtyard of the inn from the eerie blue-white of the lanterns to the golden flush of early morning in mere minutes.
Talking to the diamond dog had already burned enough of the newly arrived daylight. If Flint didn’t have the Medallion of Shadow, that left one other likely suspect. The archeologist turned to go, giving the brown-furred creature his marching orders. “Flint, if you hear anything about this Ahuizotl guy, Daring, or that cult in the mountains, you tell me. Understand?”
“Flint understand,” murmured Flint. He whined slightly as Doctor Jones began to walk away.
Indiana Jones looked back. Flint was still huddled by his shelter at the end of his chain, sitting on his haunches and giving the archeologist the kind of puppy eyes only a canine can manage. Indy sighed. “Fine.”
The heavy chain crunched into the gravel as Indy unhooked it from Flint’s steel-studded collar and let it drop. Bewildered, Flint stared at the limp chain and up at the archeologist’s grizzled face. The diamond dog sat where he was for a moment.
“Come on, mutt. You want to help? Great. Just don’t get in my way.” Doctor Jones pivoted on his heel and started walking back to the inn. Club-like tail wagging happily, Flint hurried to catch up.
* * *
The white dome of Daring Do’s pith helmet rose slowly over the ridgeline, followed shortly thereafter by the mare’s dark pink eyes. She peered down at the distant rectangle of the inn compound and tried to pick out the dark shapes of the brown-robed mercenaries. She counted… seven? No wait, there was one more. Daring watched him step out from behind one of the large self-moving wagons or ‘trucks’ that had brought even more mercenaries as they rumbled into the compound a few hours before. Eight, then. And Celestia only knew how many inside the buildings.
Daring sighed and ducked down again, hidden by the solid mass of the hills above the river valley. When the adventurer had escaped the inn earlier in the day, she’d done just what Richard Brooks had said. The cartographer had told her to head downstream to the next town—‘Kisaba,’ or something—and to meet up with him if he should escape. She’d started down the river... but fleeing just hadn’t felt right.
Daring Do wasn’t stupid. Pride wasn’t going to keep her from running from a fight if she had to do it. But leaving somepony behind? That was different. No matter how Brooks felt about it, there was no way Daring could just fly off and forget about the cartographer… especially when she compared how he’d acted with how she’d behaved.
The pegasus’ ears drooped as she thought about how little trust she’d put in Brooks. Even though he’d known that Daring Do had lied to him by omission, trying to hide that she had the Medallion of Light, Brooks had selflessly held back Jägermeister and his thugs to give her time to escape with the artifact. The knowledge of her betrayal sat in the mare’s stomach like a rock, dragging her earthward with its guilty weight. The only thing to do was to save the cartographer from his well intentioned self sacrifice… and Daring knew just how she could do it.
Daring was usually not one to make overly involved plans, but with a big flightless biped to rescue she would have to make an exception in this case. The basics of one had already formed in her mind. All she would have to do is burst into the compound while nopony was looking, find Richard Brooks wherever he might be kept, fly him or help him run out to the truck, and drive it away. It would be perfect. What could go wrong? …Besides a million little things, each of which would guarantee failure. The pegasus sighed. This was why she rarely made plans.
Looking at the hulking shapes of the trucks again, Daring Do was reminded of the time she’d been dragged along behind one in eastern Bulgaria. Wincing, she shook her head. Not only was the memory unpleasant, but it was wrong. Well, wrong was not exactly the correct word to use.
Throughout the day the gold-pelted mare had been having sporadic visions of old adventures in the Himalayas and beyond. But they were adventures she’d never had. All of them had her acting in ways no pegasus in her right mind would behave. Daring Do didn’t even know what a motorcycle was, let alone how vault over a ravine in one to escape angry, rifle-waving squads of Bolivian militia. Yet the memories were somehow now in her head alongside more normal memories such as that awful date she had gone on in defiance of her father back in Arizona… no wait, that wasn’t hers either.
Rubbing her head with both forehooves, Daring growled in frustration. Fine. Enough with stupid worries about memories and stupid Indiana Jones and whatever was going on with him. She had bigger concerns at the moment—like a cartographer who certainly wasn’t going to rescue himself.
Daring Do shifted impatiently from hoof to hoof, trying to keep her near boundless energy in check. The smart thing to do would be to wait until nightfall when she could sneak in undetected. That would offer her the best chance of success at getting Brooks out before—oh to the moon with it.
Checking to make sure the Medallion of Light was still firmly under her pith helmet, Daring readied her legs and jumped into the air. She skimmed over the downward slope into the valley, trusting in her speed to avoid notice as she rocketed along just a hair’s breadth away from dark rock outcroppings, gravel-like scree, and scraggly dark green bushes. The treasure hunter weaved, dodging taller boulders and staying as low to the ground as she could manage. In only a heartbeat she was at the base of the inn compound’s outer wall. Now for step two…
In the inn compound far below, Hans Jägermeister puffed on a foul-tasting cigarette in annoyance and surveyed the incompetent preparations of what might be laughingly called his troops. The swarthy natives never ceased to provide the Nazi agent with proof of their status as Untermenschen. Several thugs lounged in the shade, sending out infrequent patrols to check outlying buildings or the mountain inn’s perimeter wall. Some were even huddled in a loose circle playing some sort of game with a few dice. Typical.
Lip curling in disgust, Hans started forward. He might be saddled with these sub-human excuses for soldiers until his long-awaited reinforcements made the trek up from Kisaba, but he would sooner bed a Jewess than tolerate such unprofessionalism even from creatures such as these. With one hand loosening his pistol in its holster, the dark-coated man started forward—and paused.
Something fast moving, a gold and black blur, had flitted across Jägermeister’s peripheral vision. It had only been visible for an instant. The flicker of a multi-shaded gray tail around the corner of a building could have been a trick of the light… but the German didn’t think so. He waved the mercenary captain over to his side. The creature had the audacity to try a salute, which Hans ignored. Instead, he grabbed the man’s collar and jerked the mercenary’s ear close to his mouth to hiss, “She’s here… You know what to do. Don’t fail me again.”
“N-no failure,” agreed the nervous thug. The mercenary captain hurried off as soon as his employer released his grip. First that horrible American ‘archeologist,’ and now this… horse-thing. Every day, the heap of gold bullion and Reichsmarks that he’d taken to get this job seemed less and less adequate. Breaking up the dice game, he started giving orders to his men in an urgent whisper.
Daring Do peered up at the main inn building from her hiding place behind some traveling merchant’s oxcart. She felt lucky to have gotten so far so easily. She’d barely had to sneak at all, and nopony had so much as given her movements a second glance. If these had ben Ahuizotl’s minions, the pegasus was certain that she’d already be in a fight for her life. Good thing this Jägermeister’s guards were less attentive. Or perhaps just had poorer senses of hearing and smell.
Making sure she was unobserved, Daring flitted up to the roof of the inn and landed lightly. All was as she’d hoped: the roof was entirely innocent of any of the brown-robed guards, and the weathered wooden square of a trap door offered an easy and stealthy entrance to the building below. Then again, maybe not everything was as the adventurer hoped. She tugged in annoyance at the trap door, but it refused to budge. It didn’t seem to be locked or barred; it just wouldn’t open. The pegasus tugged harder. The sun-bleached wood of the trap door remained firmly in place. Exploring all options, she tried pushing instead. Still it remained resolutely shut.
“Oh, buck this,” muttered Daring Do, ascending into the air a few body lengths and diving straight down. The trap door exploded into splinters as the ballistic pegasus crashed through it, landing heavily on all fours in a shower of dust and shattered wooden planks. So much for a stealthy entrance.
Correctly assuming that her forcible entry had been detected, the gold-pelted mare took only a split second to take in her surroundings before launching herself at the surprised guard who stood near a door at one end of the hall. The man barely had time to call for help before two rock-hard hooves thudded into his chest and slammed him into the wall. With a strangled gasp he crumpled to the floor.
Daring winced at the unconscious mercenary before her. Great. There was the first kink in her plan. Now she would have to open the door herself. Cursing under her breath at the oversized scale and inconvenient fixtures of the inn, the mare fumbled at the doorknob with her hooves. It was no use, and she could hear more shouts as guards outside hurried towards the inn from all parts of the compound. This was going to be close.
With an irritated grunt Daring Do turned, planted her forehooves on the floor, and cocked her hind legs to buck a hole in the door. The pegasus’ muscles bunched like coiled springs.
“Hiyyah!” Daring cried, her back legs snapping out with all the whip-crack strength that the athletic mare could muster. Her hooves hurtled towards the door at near the speed of sound. The door opened.
“Aaah!” yelped the surprised mare. Without the wooden barrier of the door in their path, Daring Do’s hooves met empty air and continued onward, taking the surprised treasure hunter with them as she went tumbling into the room.
Twisting acrobatically, Daring rolled back to her hooves as she came to a stop. Her wings flared as she braced for further combat—only to see Brooks staring down at her with his one good eye, massaging his wrists absently as he worked life back into his extremities. A chair and some broken straps lay on its side in one corner of the room. On the floor was the prone and apparently unconscious body of another mercenary.
“Daring!” cried the cartographer, almost as shocked as the adventurer herself. “What are you doing here?!”
“I’m here to rescue you!” Daring Do snapped, feeling a bit put out. She’d heroically risked herself to sneak in and to beat up the guards to rescue Brooks, and now he was bothering her with questions like that? “Although you don’t look like you need my help. You’re not even tied up!”
“I told you, I was going to try to escape and meet you in Kisaba!” the man retorted, scowling. He winced as the expression put unneeded pressure on his black eye and the abrasions on his face. “But we have to get out of here! You didn’t bring the Medallion of Light with you, did you? Right into Herr Jägermeister’s clutches?”
“Er…” Daring Do patted her pith helmet and its precious cargo, belatedly checking to make sure that both were still in place on her head. Thankfully, they were. The pegasus’ gaze drifted around the room avoid the cartographer’s irritated one-eyed glare. Leaving the artifact somewhere had seemed like a bad idea at the time, but she could see Brooks’ point.
Richard sighed and shut the door, barring it. He turned back to Daring and headed for the window. “Well we’d better get out of here, then. And fast.”
Daring Do certainly hadn’t expected the nervous cartographer to be taking charge of his own rescue like this. “Wait—how are you going to get down with the door closed? We’re on the second floor.”
“With that,” Brooks said, turning to point at a long, knotted rope made from the bed’s sheets and ratty woolen blanket. “I was just about to climb out the window when I heard that commotion outside… I thought it might be you.”
“…Oh.” Daring paused for a moment, listening to the sounds of the furious guards pounding up the stairs. Well, that tore it. She took to the air. “AlrightBrooksgreatjoblet’sgo!”
“Just a minute while I—gah!” Richard never got to finish whatever he’d been about to say. He turned back to Daring Do just in time to see the pegasus zooming towards him. Misunderstanding her intent the cartographer threw up both arms to defend his face, but the mare crashed into his chest instead. Looping her forelegs under his arms, she pushed forward with another powerful flap of her golden-feathered wings and sent the pair careening towards the window. Brooks barely had time for a second surprised shout as he crashed through the wooden shutters.
Humans are not aerodynamic by any stretch of the imagination. Surprised ones with flailing arms and minds unprepared for the abrupt freedom of flight, even less so. Nevertheless, Daring Do’s desperately beating wings somehow kept both her and her struggling passenger aloft as she arched downward and banked left towards one side of the inn’s perimeter wall.
Brooks screamed as the clearly crazed pegasus suddenly let go of him. He somersaulted through the air and landed in a pile of grain sacks with a grunt. From the main inn building came the sound of breaking wood and confused shouting as the guards managed to break down yet another one of the inn’s doors to find the room entirely empty save for the prone form of one of their own.
Grinning infuriatingly, Daring alighted next to Brooks just as the cartographer was climbing off of his impromptu landing pad. He staggered to his feet and glared at her. “What the hell do you—”
“No time! Get in the truck!” interrupted the smiling pegasus as she darted towards the big, flat-sided vehicle. She wrenched open the door and climbed in, plunking down in the seat. Brooks stared up at her. She stared back. What was wrong with him? “What? Get in the truck! We have to get out of here!”
“…How do you expect to drive that thing?” Brooks asked pointedly as he climbed up into the cab. “Move over.”
“Oh. Haha… Right.” Daring’s ears drooped as she shifted into the passenger seat. Once again, her memories were playing tricks on her. She was sure she could remember learning to drive one of these things back in her early teens...
When the truck’s big diesel engine roared to life, every guard in the compound turned to see the vehicle thundering towards the gates. The tall wooden gates were closed, but Brooks gunned the engine and the truck sped up. Daring ducked. Brooks followed suit as bullets crashed through the cab at head level. The vehicle lurched as it bowled through the gates, and then they were out of the compound and on the road.
Grunting with the effort, Brooks slewed the wheel to the left and downshifted, sending up a spray of gravel as he practically flipped the vehicle. The engine thrummed even louder than before as the truck turned and accelerated down the rutted dirt road. A few more rifle bullets cracked through the truck’s cab, but soon they were out of sight of the inn in the twisting, turning mountains. The cartographer took a deep breath and wiped some nervous sweat from his brow. “All right, I think we’re safe for the next minute or two.”
“Whoo, yeah!” Daring whooped, waving her forelegs gleefully. “What do you think? Bet your friend Indiana never managed that, hah!”
“It was a rather… Daring escape,” the cartographer allowed in a deadpan voice, giving the pegasus a nod before glancing nervously at the rearview mirror. “But we’d better start worrying about them following us. They had some more trucks in the compound.”
“Hah! Good one… But no, I don’t think they will. Not any time soon anyway.” Daring tipped her pith helmet forward and began to lean casually back in her seat.
Brooks shifted gears and slewed the truck around another hairpin turn in the road. “Why not?”
Peeking out from under the brim of her helmet, Daring raised her forelegs and rested them behind her head. She chuckled. “Because, Brooks… somepony pulled out and threw away all the battery leads on the other trucks.”
“You never cease to surprise me, Daring. I think together, we’ll be able to keep the Medallion of Light out of Jägermeister’s hands.” Richard Brooks shifted gears again and pressed on the accelerator as the truck rumbled down the road. “Next stop, Kisaba!”
The common room of Penny Wise’s inn was every bit as dark and smoky as it had been when Indiana Jones had rushed through a short while before. The only real difference was the size of the audience that greeted the archeologist and his canine shadow as the two stepped through the door. Apparently most of the inn’s patrons from the night before had woken early and were already breaking their fast. Some sat silently, eyes focused on the meals before them. Others were slightly more active, their heads bent in quiet conversation with their fellow travelers. A general feeling of ‘sweet Celestia, it’s too early’ hovered over the room like a heavy, depressing cloud.
Heading straight for the unattended counter of the bar, Indiana banged his fist on the long-unpolished wood until someone called, “Just a minute!”
The sherbet green pony who had been at the bar earlier that morning cantered out from the kitchen, trying to balance a tray and several steaming bowls of porridge on her back. As she rounded the corner, the tray started to slide. The pony groaned and desperately tried to compensate. Indiana reached to steady the load—and jerked his hand back as a glowing silver field snapped over the entire tray.
“Thank you,” wheezed the weary mare, standing still for a moment to catch her breath.
Silver Trowel lowered the tray again and steadied it on her back. Smiling indulgently, the unicorn nodded and deftly levitated one of the bowls of grayish porridge onto the bar in front of him. “No thanks are needed, my dear. Better I help that than that my breakfast is delayed even further. No offense meant…”
“I’m really sorry, sir. We’re a bit short-staffed this morning,” the mare explained, ears drooping apologetically.
“Where’s that red pegasus? Where’s Starfire?” Indiana demanded.
“In bed, I think. He can’t work today. And at a time like this!” wailed the overworked pony. She shot Flint an orange-eyed glare as she added, “Something about an injured wing and not being able to move very well.”
“Oh dear,” sighed Silver Trowel as the inn’s frazzled employee hurried off to serve other customers. “That’s unfortunate. I was hoping for his help again in repacking my things.”
“Yeah, too bad. Have a safe trip anyway,” Doctor Jones replied dismissively as his mind spun furiously. He had bigger things on his mind than the doings of the somewhat posh pony archeologist. The green unicorn looked put out for a moment, but shrugged and turned back to his porridge. He prodded it with a floating spoon, barely disguising a look of faint distaste as the liquid seemed to shy away from the probing utensil.
Indy turned to Flint. “All right, Flint. Where’s Starfire’s room?”
“Er… Starfire’s room in side building near north wall. Why?” queried the diamond dog, head cocked to one side in puzzlement. But Indiana was already up and headed back out the door. “Hey, wait for Flint! We not get breakfast?!”
When the door had slammed behind the two and they were on their way across the graveled courtyard once again, Indiana glanced over his shoulder. “Flint, what do you know about Starfire?”
“Starfire a mule,” Flint growled. “He worst! Always kick Flint when Flint scrubbing floor, and—”
“Flint, I think he might have stolen the Medallion of Shadow,” interrupted the archeologist before Flint went off on another rambling tangent.
The diamond dog gaped. “Medallion stolen?! Oh no!”
“I just told you that fifteen minutes ago!” snarled Indy.
“Oh. Right. Flint got distracted.” Floppy ears drooping, Flint hung his head. After a moment, he brightened. “Well, that explain why Starfire in rush, earlier…”
Grabbing the door to what was supposedly Starfire’s home, Indiana turned back to Flint. “So which room is—wait, what? Who was in a rush?”
“Starfire in rush. Hurried out gate before Indiana talk to Flint,” Flint explained slowly. “H-hey, wait, Indiana! Where Indiana going?!”
It was entirely possible that Starfire hadn’t taken the artifact. Maybe the pegasus pony had been in Indiana’s room for entirely honest reasons that had nothing to do with the missing Medallion of Shadow. For that matter, maybe Starfire didn’t have anything to do with the snake Flint had eaten. And speaking of snakes, maybe it was just a coincidence that there were supposedly snake cultists to the north of the inn, in the direction of the temple Indy had escaped when he’d first come here. Maybe. Maybe Doctor Jones should hurry the hell up and get after the winged thief before it was too late and the medallion was lost once again.
On the bright side, Doctor Jones didn’t have to worry about Starfire getting too far ahead. Indy winced with the memory of the pegasus’ wing bones popping out of place during the fight in the darkened room. That would slow the pony down a bit. The archeologist remembered the time he’d injured his own wing in that crash a few years back. He’d been forced to go on hoof for a few days. That had been awful. But at least in this case it was somepony else, and Starfire’s grounding would give him the chance to… what was that again? Shaking the strange and alien thoughts out of his head, Indy turned to Flint.
“Flint, we’ve got a pegasus to track down. How good is your nose?” Not waiting for an answer, Indiana set his jaw determinedly and strode quickly out the gate. He was going to catch up with Starfire and get back the Medallion of Shadow if it killed him.
Loping along behind the human, Flint grinned toothily. “Oh, Indiana want Flint find Starfire? That easy. Flint know Starfire’s stink anywhere! Hah!”
“Good. Then go get ‘em,” Indy ordered.
The smiling diamond dog hurried to comply, going to all fours and snuffling at the ground. An instant later his ears perked up and he barked out, “This way! Indiana not worry! Flint has best nose of anypony at Mister Penny Wise’s inn!”
“Heh. Sure, Flint. I bet you… do…” Indiana said, trailing off as he looked up.
Flint took a few more steps and glanced back at Indiana Jones. The archeologist was still standing in the inn’s open gate, looking up the mountain slope beyond the excited diamond dog. Flint’s wagging tail slowed. “Indiana coming? Flint find Starfire extra quick!”
“No need, kid.” Indiana pointed. There at the top of the ridgeline was the small shape of a pegasus pony, one wing bound tightly to his side with bandages. Starfire glared down at the archeologist and his canine companion.
“Wow, Flint’s nose better than Flint thought!” commented the diamond dog. “Starfire found. No trouble at all!”
“Yeah,” the archeologist agreed half-heartedly as a wave of green-robed cultists poured over the ridge and towards the inn. “No trouble at all.”
* * *
“Daring? Daring Do?” Brooks’ voice tickled Daring’s ears, wrenching her out of fitful sleep. Judging by the wan and grayish light filtering down from the sky, it was near what passed for dusk here in the Hindu Kush. That meant the pegasus had been asleep for the better part of an hour.
“Huh?!” Sitting up quickly, Daring waved her forehooves as she tried to straighten her pith helmet with fingers she didn’t have. Ugh, another one of those weird dreams. Something about sitting in an office and… grading papers endlessly? The corners of the adventurer’s mouth curled in disgust. Yech. She’d never enjoyed scholarly pursuits even at the best of times. And now she was having nightmares about being a teacher?
The bone-shaking vibration of the truck’s engine was gone, its basso rumble no longer there to lull Daring Do back to sleep. They must have stopped. Fighting back a yawn, the treasure hunter peered around to orient herself. “Are we there? Is this Kisaba?”
“No, we’re not there yet. We’re still a few miles away from the town,” replied the cartographer. The truck was parked on the precariously narrow road winding through the mountains. Here, the rushing river alongside the track had cut deeply into the earth. Its foaming, frothing surface churned far below. An empty gulf yawned on one side of the road, promising a long fall for the vehicle and its unfortunate passengers if Brooks’ steering was anything less than perfect.
“Why have we stopped?” Fumbling with her seatbelt until she managed to unbuckle it, Daring climbed back onto all fours and stretched. The gold-pelted mare flared her wings and flapped them slightly to flex sleep-numbed muscles. The truck’s seat had been surprisingly comfortable in comparison to lying on the rocky ground, but sitting upright had left her with an awful crick in her back and had put one of her wings to sleep.
The cartographer leaned his head out the window and looked up the valley for a moment. Brooks nodded and turned back to Daring. “I think we’re far enough away from our brown-robed friends, now. Time for you to get in the back of the truck.”
Daring Do blinked. “What? Why?”
“I don’t want to attract any more attention than we need. A pegasus is not exactly a usual sight,” Brooks explained with a chuckle. “The villagers might not react well.”
Frowning, Daring thought back to the treatment she’d received so far. “What, you mean the way everypony but you has tried to kill me?”
“…Not so extreme. I think. But better safe than sorry. I’ll let you know when we get to the airport. It will be dark by then, so I think we’ll be able to sneak you on the plane no problem.” With that, Richard Brooks slid out of the driver’s seat and walked around to the canvas-covered bed of the truck.
“Look, that’s another thing. Why are we going to Kisaba, again?” called Daring Do, hopping out of the cab and following the cartographer to the back of the vehicle. “We’ve gotten you away from that Jägermeister guy. Far as I’m concerned we can… go… home.”
Daring trailed off, her words turning to ashes in her mouth. An ancient artifact was in her hooves and she’d shown the villains once again that she was not a pegasus to be taken lightly. Sure, it was the wrong artifact and a new and different set of villains, but still. Usually this was the point of the adventure where she would fly off into the sunset, make her way back to Canterlot, deposit her latest find in the royal vaults for safekeeping, and maybe spend a week or two lording it over her more sedentary acquaintances in Canterlot or Cloudsdale before flying out to do the whole thing over again.
But now, where would Daring go? Back to the strange ‘Marshall College’ and ‘United States,’ two alien places increasingly prominent in the confusing swirls of her unwanted extra memories? The treasure hunter sagged. Adventuring was fun, but normally there was the certain knowledge that she had a home to go back to, albeit one where she wasn’t going to spend much time.
Kneeling down, Brooks rested a hand on the distressed pegasus’ withers. “Daring, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for you right now. But it’s important to keep this artifact away from Hans Jägermeister and his ilk. I promise we’ll find a way to get you home, but first we need to get out of this country entirely and back to safety in the States.”
“All right,” sighed Daring Do. It wasn’t like she had a better plan at the moment, anyway. It might even be interesting. Every step she took, she’d be treading on terra incognita. Wasn’t that what she liked to get out of her adventures, anyway?
Brooks stood up again and lifted the canvas flap leading to the truck’s covered bed. The pegasus flitted up and landed inside. When the human chuckled, Daring speared him with an annoyed look. “What? Don’t think I’m all soppy just because I was thinking about things for a minute there.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” the cartographer said, laughing again. “I was just thinking. I wonder if sending you home will bring Indy back to us. That would almost be too bad.”
Daring Do’s head cocked in puzzlement. “Really? I thought you were friends.”
“Well it’s not that I don’t want Doctor Jones back. But I must say, you’re a lot more interesting to be around than he ever was,” the human confessed with a grin.
“Hmph,” Daring grunted uncertainly. How was she supposed to take that?
When Brooks closed the flap, the pegasus settled down and tried to get comfortable. The truck roared back to life and soon it was rolling down the road, jolting the grumbling mare with every unseen rock or pothole.
The texture of the sound outside changed and bone-jarring bounces became fewer in number as the truck entered what must have been Kisaba. Daring Do’s ears perked up as she listened closely to the sounds of normal life going on around her. She could visualize it all: the blocky mud-brick buildings, the little colts and fillies laughing and playing in the cool shadows of the evening, the older stallions sitting by the side of the road and watching the world go by as they waited for their wives or daughters-in-law to finish preparing dinner… It was hard to believe she wasn’t back in the borderlands of Equestria—at least until she peered out from a small rent in the canvas cover of the truck and spied the humans going about their evening activities just like the ponies in her mind’s eye.
Abruptly, the truck stopped. Daring climbed back to her hooves and flicked road dust off her utility shirt and out of her mane. What was going on out there? Straining to hear, the mare moved quietly over to another hole in the canvas.
Night was coming rapidly; it was a struggle for the pegasus’ dark pink eyes to see in what little light remained. She briefly caught the outline of oddly shaped helmets, and Daring could hear Brooks’ nervous voice as he conversed with somepony else. She also caught a smattering of a harsh and guttural language she’d quickly come to associate with gunfire. Everything pointed to one conclusion.
“Nazis,” groaned Daring Do. “I hate these guys.”
A/N: Okay, come on. You knew I was going to use that line sooner or later.
A bit of a short chapter today. That's just how it worked out. What's that? Shortest chapter on the day of a new episode? It's almost like I planned it or something. (Note: I didn't).
Also, guess what I just found out? Apparently it's considered archaic to put two spaces at the end of a sentence instead of one. I'm actually pretty surprised. Then again, I did learn to type on a typewriter rather than a computer, and that's where the "two space after a sentence" thing originated, so... Eh. I'm still going to do it when I type normally (like here), but I suppose I had better start doing it the "right" way in my stories. Dern kids and their new-fangled computer boxes. Why in MY day...
Richard Brooks glared at the German soldier who seemed to be in charge of the improvised roadblock. Pursuit from behind, the cartographer had expected... especially in the form of Jägermeister’s unpleasant and undisciplined mercenary rabble. But uniformed, well-armed reinforcements? Actual Wehrmacht soldiers? This was a nasty surprise. Brooks’ veneer of innocent annoyance at having his truck stopped was quickly flaking off to reveal a base of very real anxiety as he snapped, “Look, I don’t like what you’re insinuating, Sergeant. Half the trucks in the mountains look like this one. I bought this thing in Jalalabad three months ago!”
“And I am sure you have papers to prove it, Herr Smith?” Mouthing the false name Richard Brooks had given him, the German Feldwebel looked unconvinced. The dark metallic shape of the sergeant’s submachine gun dangled casually from a strap over his shoulder… but it was abundantly clear that the weapon could be brought up to turn the truck and its driver into Swiss cheese at a moment’s notice.
“Sergeant, how long have you been in the mountains of Central Asia? There’s basically no government here,” Richard fired back, desperately inventing as he went. The Germans had caught him flat-footed, stepping out of the side alleys and leveling their weapons at him like that, but for once fast talk seemed like it might be able to do the job. “Just got here today? I thought so. It’s a good day if you’re using actual currency to pay for things. Getting a receipt and registration paperwork? Hah! This isn’t the Reich or the United States.”
The Feldwebel hesitated. “Well…”
“I mean, take this old girl.” Brooks leaned out the window of the cab and banged the side of the truck. “Cost me five sheep. Five! Still, she’s served me well so far.”
Shrugging, the German said, “Well, mein Herr, I cannot disprove your story…”
It was working. Brooks grinned. “All right then—”
“So we will search your truck now. Please stay where you are and keep your hands on the wheel,” the Feldwebel finished. He gestured to his men. Another soldier with a submachine gun approached and raised the snub-nosed barrel until it was pointed at Brooks’ head. The German sergeant simply smiled and kept his weapon at his side.
“What?! You’ve got no right! No jurisdiction! This is my truck, and we’re not in Germany!” Brooks protested desperately. He could already imagine the hail of gunfire ripping through the canvas cover of the truck as the German soldiers found Daring Do.
“Ah, Herr Smith, we have all the right we need, right here,” the checkpoint’s Feldwebel said as he gave his weapon an affectionate pat.
Brooks had to stop this before it was too late. Reaching into his pocket, the worried man slowly withdrew the heavy weight of his revolver. If he was lucky, he might be able to shoot through the thin metal of the cab and kill the guard aiming the gun at him before the German fired. The sergeant would be next if all went well and… eh, after that, who could plan? Trying to keep his voice level—or at least, filled with righteous indignation rather than anxiety—Richard said, “Look, Feldwebel, you don’t need to do this. Surely your men are tired? Thirsty? Perhaps I can help.”
“Perhaps. After we check your truck,” the German agreed stubbornly.
Something thumped against the truck cab’s metal roof above Brooks’ head, but the sounds were easily muffled by the annoyed shouts as the Wehrmacht soldiers tried to work the rusted fasteners on the truck’s tailgate. The German sergeant glanced to the rear of the truck. “Was haben Sie gefunden?”
“Nein, nichts,” one of the soldiers yelled back. “Das Fahrzeug ist leer, Herr Feldwebel!”
Brooks allowed himself to breathe again and slowly slid the pistol back into his pocket. Somehow the Germans hadn’t found the hidden pegasus pony. He’d hoped Daring might have been mistaken for a dog or some other normal creature in the poor light of the evening, but, ‘nothing?’ Where was she?
“You were quite upset for a man with absolutely nothing to hide, Herr Smith,” the Feldwebel said to Richard with an accusing glare.
“We Americans value our privacy,” Brooks retorted with as much calm as he could manage. “Can I go now? I have to get to the airfield sometime tonight.”
Making a disgusted noise, the German sergeant nodded once and turned to his men. A few barked-out orders were sufficient to clear the obstructions. Soon, Richard Brooks and his stolen truck were once again rolling slowly down the road towards the airfield. He felt relieved, although he wasn’t sure he should be. Where had Daring Do gone?
A flicker of movement in the corner of the cartographer’s eye made him turn his head. “What the—? !”
Daring Do’s upside down face grinned at Brooks through the open window of the passenger side door. Using the hoof that was holding on her pith helmet, Daring Do cocked the headgear jauntily as if tipping her hat, winked, and ducked back out of sight. The roof of the truck cab thumped again as the adventurer took to the air. In a moment she had managed to clamber through the window and into the truck itself. “Whew! Close one. So what did they want?”
Brooks gaped for a moment—or at least, until his face broke out into a smile. “You... never cease to amaze me, Ms. Do.”
“Yes, yes. Well I am pretty awesome,” Daring Do commented, waving a hoof dismissively. Human and pony shared a laugh for a moment, but finally Daring speared Brooks with a questioning gaze and repeated, “So what did they want?”
Richard Brooks drove in silence for a moment before finally answering Daring’s question. “I’m not sure. That German sergeant seemed like he was looking for something… I don’t know what, though. Hopefully not us.”
Daring glanced out the truck’s window. The full moon was just beginning to peek over the cliffs, its silvery light providing a barely adequate illumination that seemed entirely outclassed by the yellow beams of the truck’s headlights. The night before, Daring Do had been uneasy with the alien globe—the way the shining disc was missing the usual unicorn head-shaped blotch. It seemed a little less shocking, now. The mare shifted uncomfortably.
A bright halo of light in the darkness ahead grabbed Daring’s attention—or perhaps she seized on it as a way to avoid thinking further on her spotty memories. She stared at the glow for a moment, watching as it resolved into a wide, flat expanse nestled between the steep slopes of the surrounding hills. “That’s the place?”
“That’s the airfield,” Richard confirmed, downshifting as he slowed the truck. “There’s a cargo plane leaving soon, and we’re going to be on it.”
“…A plane?” Daring asked. Unbidden, visions poured into the adventurer’s mind and filled it with big, straight-winged contraptions. She shuddered. The sheer idea of an adult pegasus flying not under her own power made Daring Do a bit queasy. Why, she hadn’t been on a plane since—
“Nnngggh,” groaned the gold-pelted mare as she pushed at her head with both forehooves, trying to banish the foreign thoughts.
Brooks glanced at his partner and watched her massage her temples for a moment. Putting the vehicle in to park, he patted the moaning pegasus pony. “Er… Daring Do? Are you all right?”
“I’ll be fine,” Daring said, sounding far more confident than she felt. She stared out at the airfield under the buzzing electric floodlights, fighting against the bewildering déjà vu. It was all like she remembered it—the long packed dirt expanse of what was probably the only significant flat land for 100 miles in any direction; the small collection of fuel tanks clustered about the gray half-cylinder of corrugated steel that served as a hangar and generator shelter as well as being the airport; the flat-sided, trimotor cargo aircraft already warming up its engines on the runway… The pegasus could remember climbing out of an aircraft just like that several days before. And yet she’d never even seen a plane before this instant.
Lost in thoughts that were not her own, Daring Do jumped when the driver’s side door opened and Richard Brooks hopped out. He gave her a grin that she tried to return. “I’ll be right back after I book us a ride. Smile, Daring! We made it.”
“Yeah…” Daring grunted. Watching the man hurry from the truck to the corrugated shelter gave the pegasus something to occupy herself other than wondering what was happening to her mind. That seemed to be distracting her well enough, but soon Brooks was inside the building and gone from view.
When somepony climbed out of the aircraft idling on the runway, Daring switched to watching him. The goggled, leather-clad crewman strode nonchalantly over to the fence near the gate—a reasonable distance from both his plane and the airfield’s fuel storage tanks. When he cupped his hands together, orange light flared and soon he was puffing smoke contentedly. Well, that was good. It was almost worrying how many pilots just smoked right next to their—the adventurer broke off the train of thought with a groan, rubbing her head again as if that would help drive the strange memories away.
Daring Do’s mind sparked and swirled with sights never seen but now recalled, words she’d never said, ponies—make that people—who were both complete strangers to Daring and intimate friends… to Indiana Jones. The new memories sat side by side with the pegasus pony’s normal ones, lying in ambush in her mind and waiting to jump up to surprise her with their eerie familiarity. Slipping off her pith helmet, the adventurer stared at the shining half-circle of the Medallion of Light. Was this artifact doing this to her? Was it a side effect of whatever had brought her here? Was it—
“I’m back! Let’s go!” cried Brooks, half out of breath from running in the thin mountain air. Glad of the interruption, Daring slid the Medallion of Light into her pith helmet, flipped the helmet back into place on her head, and hurried to follow the cartographer as he rushed across the packed dirt of the airfield.
Richard Brooks and Daring Do clambered into the aircraft through the cargo door. The interior of the plane was as austere as the exterior, lined with strapped-down crates and only a narrow corridor for the crew and its passengers. The two climbed forward to the cockpit and the cramped open spot that would be the passenger area for the flight.
The co-pilot stayed hunched over the controls for a moment, monitoring the engines’ power output. Finally satisfied, he nodded and turned to greet the aircraft’s latest addition to its cargo manifest. His eyes widened as he caught sight of Daring Do. The drone of the plane’s engines was absolutely deafening, but still wasn’t loud enough to drown out the co-pilot’s astonished shout of, “What is that?!”
“Who cares? Let’s go before they get here!” Brooks yelled back, pointing at the across the airfield to the fence. Several trucks were screeching to a halt at the airfield’s fence line. Almost before the trucks’ forward movement stopped, the ground around them was covered with armed men. The vehicles now parked at the edge of the airfield’s lights were familiar—and so were the men. Alongside the purposefully moving forms of the Wehrmacht soldiers were the milling rabble of the brown-robed mercenaries. And there at the edge of the group was the tall, black-coated shape of Hans Jägermeister. He was looking right at the airplane, his eyes almost seeming to glow in triumph.
The goggled crewman shook his head emphatically. “We’re not going anywhere without Jerry! And you still haven’t answered my question! What the hell is that thing?”
By the fence line, Jerry finished his cigarette and stomped out the smoldering butt. It was time to go. The pilot had been around the Hindu Kush for long enough to know when something exciting was about to happen, and what sort of exciting things should prompt a quick exit. This was one of those. He turned to go—and found himself staring down the business end of a rifle. The mercenary at the other end smiled and nodded a cheerful greeting.
Brooks groaned as he watched the little drama play out by the airfield gate. “Look, friend. The Germans have him. If you wait any longer, they’ll have us!”
“Hah, what are they going to do to us? We’re just pilots, and…” The copilot trailed off as a revolver appeared in Brooks’ hand as if by magic. Despite the fancy mother-of-pearl-inlaid handle, the gunmetal of the pistol was a workmanlike bluish black. It was a .38 caliber if the co-pilot was any judge, but it looked like a 5-inch howitzer as he stared down a muzzle only inches from his face.
“You’re going to fly now,” Richard said flatly from the other end of the hand cannon.
Daring stared at the cartographer in shock. It was like she was looking at a different man altogether. The nervous, shifty eyes were hard and cold. The hand Daring might have expected to shake like a leaf was barely wavering at all.
“You won’t shoot me. And we’re not going.” The co-pilot’s lip curled back in disgust. He growled his defiance slowly, biting off every word. “Not. Without. Jerry.”
“Here they come!” Daring announced urgently as she glanced out the cockpit window. The mare stretched her wings. This wasn’t going to be an easy fight, especially now that she had to worry about Brooks and the other noncombatants.
“Fine.” Sighing in annoyance, Brooks pulled the pistol away and wheeled to the cockpit’s open window. He aimed the weapon carefully despite the obvious futility of the gesture. Did the cartographer seriously intend to try fighting off nearly a platoon’s worth of enemies with a single revolver?
The pistol bucked in Richard Brooks’ hand as he squeezed the trigger. Across the airfield, a leather-clad man staggered and fell. The blood froze in Daring’s veins as Brooks turned back to the copilot, aiming the smoking barrel of his revolver back in the horrified co-pilot’s face. “There. Now it seems we’re only waiting on you. Right?”
A rifle bullet crashed through the side of the aircraft and shattered the window next to the co-pilot’s head. With a cry of anguish, the man jerked into motion and started throwing switches. The plane bucked and started rolling forward as another smattering of rounds cracked through the air and tore into the moving cargo plane’s fuselage.
Finally, the plane leaped off the end of the runway and dropped. Daring’s stomach lurched at the disorienting feeling of flight not under her own power. Through the plane’s cracked windshield she could see the craggy face of a mountain rising out of the darkness to meet them. They were going to crash!
Suddenly Daring Do was pushed into the floor as the thin mountain air caught under the metal wings and the aircraft rose and banked, barely clearing the rocky crags as it soared up into the sky. The mare gulped, trying to hold down her nausea. A pegasus, airsick? She’d never live it down.
As the aircraft and its solitary pilot rose through the black expanse of the night sky, Daring turned to Brooks. Her stomach turned for reasons that had nothing to do with the unnerving feeling of powered flight. The cartographer’s calm face looked demonic in the green glow of the cockpit’s instrument panel as he quietly pocketed the pearl-handled revolver and looked down at Daring Do. He’d just shot a man in cold blood.
“Brooks, why did you do that?” Daring managed.
“‘Why?’” the cartographer echoed mockingly. He chuckled, the corners of his mouth twitching up into a sneer.
* * *
Flint gaped at the oncoming cultists, his ears drooping and his tail between his legs. Pegasus ponies and griffins soared down, hooves and claws promising a painful and lingering death. The horns were already flaring on the heads of the smattering of unicorn pony cultists as rocks, spears, and even entire boulders lifted into the air glowing with evil intent. The earth ponies and diamond dogs galloped and loped forward, teeth flashing and snarls on their lips.
“Indiana! What we do?!” wailed the archeologist’s terrified companion. Indy laughed nervously—and was gone.
“Get in here, you dumb mutt! Run!” Doctor Jones shouted as he sprinted back into the inn compound. Taking one last panicked look back at the wave of brown-robed murder coming his way, Flint bounded after the fleeing human.
As soon as he reached the inn’s gates, Flint slammed them shut, hammering the crossbar into place and leaning heavily on the planks. “There! Safe now. Wait, where Indiana going?!”
The brown-furred creature looked so relieved that Indiana felt almost ashamed to ask, “Flint, what is that gate going to do for the flying ones?”
“Oh.” Looking crestfallen, Flint lurched back into motion to follow the retreating archeologist across the gravel courtyard.
“What’s going on?!” shrilled a mystified Penny Wise from the doorway of the inn.
“Nothing, Penny Wise! Just those cultists that you said—” A screech interrupted Indiana’s retort. He whirled to confront a diving griffin as the creature screamed down out of the blue. Whipping out his pistol, Indy aimed and fired. The winged creature jerked and careened towards one of the outlying buildings, crashing into the wall with a sickening thud. “—Don’t exist here.”
A pegasus pony swooped down, hot on the heels of the griffin. Penny Wise gibbered in terror. Indy took aim and fired again, swatting the creature out of the sky—and stumbling sideways as something heavy thudded into a glowing silver wall to his right. The shattered form of a third pegasus slid off the shimmering barrier, leaving a red streak as it collapsed into the gravel of the inn’s courtyard. The glowing wall suddenly dissolved into a cloud of improbably floating gravel that quickly dropped back to the ground.
Indiana glanced back to see Silver Trowel, his hooves planted firmly and his horn glowing silver. With well-used canvas saddlebags hanging over his back, the unicorn had clearly been interrupted in his moment of departure. The nimbus around Trowel’s horn winked out and he frowned at the broken body of the cultist at Indiana’s feet. “Egh, how distasteful. The cultists are closer than I thought they were, I see. Do you have any idea what the ruffians want?”
Good question. On the far side of the wall, Starfire politely took that moment to answer it. “Penny Wise! Open the gates! We have come to claim our own!”
The innkeeper’s blue eyes widened. He gaped at Indiana. “You… you stole from them? Oh, sweet Celestia, I don’t want to die!”
With a strangled cry, Penny Wise wheeled and started galloping towards the gate. Just as abruptly, a sharp crack split the air and the pony was face-first in the dirt with his legs lashed together. Indiana passed his whip to Flint and transferred his pistol back to his right hand. “Make sure he doesn’t move, Flint, or we’re going to have more than we can handle!”
The diamond dog nodded and was on top of his employer in an instant. When the innkeeper started to struggle, Flint snarled, “No! Bad Mister Penny Wise! Mister Penny Wise not let cultists in!”
“You stupid, brainless mutt! Let me go!” managed the half-flattened pony.
The diamond dog’s jowls flopped as he shook his head emphatically. “No!”
“Let me up now… or you’re… fired!” the trapped stallion wheezed.
“Flint… Flint never like working here anyway!” Flint retorted, looking hurt.
Magic sparkled on Silver Trowel’s horn as he threw a cloud of stones skyward, sending several impatient winged cultists swerving off their original vectors and back to relative safety on the far side of the wall. With his horn still glowing the unicorn hissed, “This is quite exciting but I think everypony is forgetting that we’re under attack!”
“You’ll never… outrun them! Let me go! Why should I die with all of you?!” Penny Wise begged. Flint growled and slammed the pony’s head against the ground again. The innkeeper whimpered and pointed towards the south side of the inn compound with a shaking hoof. “Fine. Just take one of the boats and go! Go!”
“Last chance, Mister Penny Wise!” called Starfire.
“Come on, Flint. Let’s go!” Indiana called, racing for the river with Silver Trowel. Flint tugged at the human’s whip and followed, leaving the battered Penny Wise to pick himself up and limp slowly in the direction of the gate.
The inn’s small dock housed several small wooden boats. After picking the least decrepit-looking of the lot, Indiana drew his belt knife and slashed the mooring ropes on the others. The rushing current of the mountain river quickly took the boats downstream. That should delay any non-flying pursuit for a bit, at least.
All three fugitives piled into the remaining boat. Silver Trowel eyed his new travelling companions as Flint wordlessly handed the leather bullwhip back to its owner. “I know it’s a bit late for me to say this now, but I do hope you know what you’re doing, Doctor Jones.”
Indiana simply grunted and cut the boat’s mooring rope and pushing off the dock. Bracing himself in the middle of the craft, he grabbed the small sculls and began rowing. With the combined efforts of the mountain river’s current and Indy’s rowing, the boat quickly picked up speed.
It wasn’t fast enough. Looking up between the steadily rising walls of the cliffs on either side of the river, Indiana could see the dark spots of the winged cultists in the sky. Indy stopped rowing for a moment and loosened his pistol, waiting for the inevitable attack.
“Hmmm, I wonder what they’re up to?” Silver Trowel wondered aloud, watching as the pegasus ponies soared overhead and continued on. The winged shapes flew a bit further down the valley and landed on the slopes. For a moment, everything seemed calm… until the little boat neared the spot where the cultists had landed.
Thunder pealed overhead—no, it wasn’t thunder. Atop the cliffs of the right bank, stones began to rain down. Soon boulders followed. The rocks crashed down the slopes and into the water, throwing up fountains of spray on one side of the violently rocking boat. Flint howled in terror, holding on for dear life as water splashed over the gunwales and started filling the little watercraft.
“Doctor Trowel! You’ve got magic, can you do something?” Indiana shouted over the near-deafening rumble of the rockslides.
“I’m trying, I assure you!” The unicorn swayed, trying to maintain his balance in the rocking boat. His horn blazed like an acetylene torch, sending silver tendrils in all directions. Some of the stones stopped falling momentarily. Silver Trowel gritted his teeth and opened eyes that glowed almost as brightly as his horn. More rocks shifted their trajectories, suddenly diving away from the little boat and its drenched passengers. Some of the boulders even rose, plummeting in reverse back onto the slopes.
A booming roar rang through the river valley. Even its echoes were so loud it could have been an artillery barrage. Flint moaned and covered his eyes with his paws as a huge mass of stones down the canyon ahead of them started a long, slow fall into the river.
The rockslide crashed into the water much too far ahead to be a threat to the boat or its passengers. Most of the stones—even some as large as a car—were swept away by the vicious current before Indiana and his companions floated anywhere near them. But one massive, house-sized boulder crashed into the riverbed and stayed. The river threw up great sprays of foam as it thundered around the edges of the gigantic rock. And it was directly in the little boat’s path.
Swearing, Indiana worked desperately at the oars to bring the little craft around the edge of the sudden obstacle, but the current was far too strong and the boulder took up nearly the entire channel. Fighting to be heard over the roar of more rockslides, Indy shouted, “Brace yourselves! We’re not going to make it!”
Silver Trowel fumbled with the straps of one of his saddlebags. Pulling out a dull gray stone on a thin silver chain, the unicorn used his magic to loop it around his neck and tighten the clasp. “Everypony! Grab onto me, quickly!
Eagerly responding to the voice of authority, Flint looped both arms around the unicorn’s neck. Trowel grimaced at the smell of wet dog, but stayed where he was. “You too, Indiana!”
After one last desperate tug at the oars, Doctor Jones turned to see that they were only seconds from striking the giant boulder. He quickly grabbed the unicorn. Wherever the current was going to wash them, they could at least get there together.
Taking a deep breath, Silver Trowel closed his eyes. The dull gray stone in the necklace around his neck started to glow. Indiana Jones glanced at it for a moment, but was far too busy watching the dark rock wall of the boulder as they rushed towards it.
Indiana cringed, gritting his teeth against the expected impact… and reality took a holiday. The boat’s prow hit the rock and simply kept going as though there was nothing there. In an instant, Flint had passed through the rock’s surface, then Trowel. Finally, Indy felt the rock zip past him, as insubstantial as a morning fog.
The darkness of the rock gave way to the brilliant sunlight. Doctor Jones stared back at the boulder. It looked every bit as solid as it had before they’d passed through it. He looked back to Silver Trowel. “How?”
“Magic amulet,” Trowel explained, patting the enchanted jewelry affectionately. “It’s quite rare, but quite useful for an archeologist like me. Gives me a few chances to escape a cave-in by simply trotting right out.”
“If Silver Trowel make us insub… insubstan… make rocks not hurt, why not use earlier?” demanded Flint. “Flint scared!”
“It, er, only has so many uses, my fine fellow. And you can let go of me now.” Trowel pulled away from the diamond dog and looked up. “It seems to be over.”
The unicorn was right. No more rocks seemed to be falling at the moment. Pistol in hand, Indiana scanned the tall slopes. Nothing showed itself. Flint glanced around, his ears swiveling this way and that as he asked, “Cultists gone now?”
“Not sure,” Indiana Jones muttered, still watching the heights. This had to be some kind of trick. It didn’t make any sense that the cultists would simply stop their attack. Despite Silver Trowel’s efforts, it wasn’t like the enemy pegasus ponies or griffins were going to run out of rocks to push off the cliffs. Why would they…?
Flint turned to look downstream, his head cocking in confusion. “What that sound? More rocks?”
Indiana heard it too—an incessant rumbling sound like an approaching freight train. His heart sank and he quickly re-holstered his pistol. With shaking hands he grabbed at the oars. “No, not rocks. Waterfall!”
“Oh, Celestia,” Shining Trowel groaned, pushing himself up from where he’d slumped in the bottom of the boat. “The Flying Falls. We’re heading right towards them!”
“Falls?! Why Silver not say so sooner?!” Flint moaned, emerald eyes wide in growing panic.
“I—I didn’t think of it,” whined the pony, his voice nearly cracking with the twin stresses of fatigue and growing terror. “Th- the road doesn’t follow the river along this part of the valley! “
Reaching his long arms over the side, the diamond dog began to splash furiously against the raging river’s flow. Flint beat at the water for a moment, making much noise but no noticeable progress. Finally he turned back to Silver Trowel. “Flint not strong enough. Silver! Use necklace!”
“That wouldn’t work! Magic doesn’t solve everything, you foal!” snapped the exhausted unicorn.
Doctor Trowel turned to their silent passenger. Indiana Jones’ knuckles were white as he gripped the oars, his arms working feverishly. The unicorn begged, “Doctor Jones! I’m still too weak. Please tell me you have an idea.”
Indiana didn’t answer. He was too busy rowing, fighting against a current that had so recently seemed to be an ally. The mountain river was merciless, sending ton after ton of flowing water downstream and dragging the watercraft and its helpless passengers inexorably towards the falls. With an explosion of frantic effort, the archeologist managed to edge the boat a few yards closer to shore. And then they went over the edge.
Staring one’s death in the face was not something that got easier with practice. With the mist and spray rising from the plunging river obscuring his vision, Indiana Jones closed his eyes. A scream tore itself from his throat as the little wooden boat dropped like a stone.
The trip to the base of the waterfall seemed to go on forever. Perhaps even too long. The plummeting fall felt almost like flying. Indy could sense ghostly wings spreading on his back, flaring in a vain attempt to arrest his descent. He could almost grasp the feeling of the slipstream rushing through his nonexistent feathers and mane…
Things should have ended by now. No fall took this long. With that realization, Indy’s eyes snapped open. His already churning stomach reeled further. They were still plummeting, but a silver nimbus surrounded everything. Flint gabbled something incomprehensible and shrill—and then they hit the water. Pain blossomed as Indiana’s head smashed into the gunwale of the boat and everything went black.
Yes, yes, I finally got Indy to use his whip. Funny thing, that. I was near the end of the story and realized, “oh gee… I titled this thing Whip and Wing and yet Indiana Jones hasn’t used his whip yet! Whooooops!” So I went back in and edited in some uses for it.
Something long, rough, and wet rasped across Indiana Jones’ grizzled face. Fetid breath worked better than smelling salts as Indy dragged himself back to a world filled with a general dull ache and seasoned with sharper, localized pains. The archeologist groaned and shoved upward, his hand pushing away the waterlogged weight of the snuffling diamond dog.
“Indiana! Indiana okay!” Flint yapped gleefully. Doctor Jones felt his world sway crazily as the diamond dog pranced with delight.
“Stay still, you simpleton! You’ll capsize us, and I’m already wet enough!” hissed Silver Trowel’s more cultured voice. Abruptly the rocking stopped and Flint whined apologetically.
Groaning with the effort, Indiana pushed himself up. His head throbbed and he could feel a swollen lump on the side of his scalp where he’d struck the wooden gunwale of the boat. He ignored his headache’s insistent pounding and took stock of his surroundings.
By some miracle, the three fugitives were still in their ill-fated boat. Stretching credulity further, the little craft seemed to be floating sedately in a quiet eddy somewhere on the same mountain river as before—at least, as far as Indiana could tell. Admittedly the boat was only ‘floating’ in the sense that its keel was not resting on the bottom; with water nearly filling the hull, only its wooden construction was keeping it buoyant.
Human, unicorn, and diamond dog were all soaked to the bone. Fortunately it wasn’t too cold yet, but by Indiana’s estimation it would be sunset in a few hours. Indy shivered at the memory of the frigid winds he’d faced the previous night. If he didn’t have shelter or at least a fire by sundown, a follow-up visit by the cultists would be the least of his worries. Indiana looked at Silver Trowel.
The pony archeologist saw Indiana’s glance and anticipated the question. “Well I’m no cartographer, but I estimate we’re a bit upstream from Polo’s Landing. It’s a pony town, mostly. We can get lodgings there… Hmm.”
“Why ‘hmm?’” Indiana asked. He fished his sopping fedora out of the water in the boat and let it drain for a moment before placing it carefully on his head. The hat drooped, looking as battered as its owner felt.
“Well I’ll fit right in and…” For a moment the unicorn trailed off, his head swaying drunkenly. He blinked and jerked upright again, wiping one fetlock across his muzzle. For the first time Indiana noticed small rivulets of crimson staining the green fur of the creature’s nose. “…Beg pardon. Where was I?”
The human winced. That looked unpleasant. “Trowel, are you all right?”
“Just a side effect of overusing my magic, I fear. No offense to the two of you, Doctor Jones, but you and Flint are not the lightest. Nor is the boat.” Silver Trowel grimaced and wiped more blood off his muzzle. “Let’s just say I won’t be doing that again any time soon.”
“Thanks,” Indiana managed. For all his apparent foppishness, the pony was a lifesaver—literally.
“Now, as I was saying. I’ll fit right in at Polo’s Landing,” Doctor Trowel said, making an attempt at cheerfulness despite his obvious weariness. “And the ponies there probably see diamond dogs regularly. But a… ‘human,’ I believe you said? Nopony’s ever seen anything like you. Not that I know of, at least. You look like a shaved diamond dog! No offense.”
Flint cocked his head to one side, his brow wrinkling. “But… nopony scared of Indy at inn.”
“No, makes sense. Travelers are a different breed,” Indiana said. Certainly if he’d been simply a college professor of archeology, he would probably have died of a heart attack after seeing only half the things he’d dealt with in his journeys across the world—and now beyond.
“Precisely so,” Silver Trowel agreed. “I propose that Flint and I go to town and secure lodging for us and a disguise for you. A diamond dog-sized robe should do the trick. As long as nopony looks too closely…”
“All right. I’ll stay here with the boat. Flint, you head into town with Doctor Trowel, get me a disguise, and meet me back here,” Indiana ordered. He counted out several gold coins from his dwindling supply and placed them in the diamond dog’s paw.
Flint nodded hesitantly, claws closing around the coins. “But what Indiana do while Flint gone?”
“Dry off,” came the succinct reply. “Now come on, let’s get out of the water.”
It took the efforts of both Flint and Indiana—the only members of the crew with appendages suited to the task and enough energy left to do the job—to haul the boat reasonably close to shore. Thankfully the water was reasonably shallow and it wasn’t as though they weren’t soaked to the bone already. With that task accomplished, Flint and Silver Trowel started downstream.
Casting around the bank, Doctor Jones busied himself collecting some reasonably dry-looking driftwood. Fortunately the flint and steel in his jacket pocket had managed to survive his recent drop over the falls and Indiana soon had a small but adequate fire going. He stripped off his waterlogged jacket and boots and laid them on some rocks, letting them drip dry. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the best he could do under the circumstances.
Indiana settled back, slowly drying in the waning light of the sun and waxing heat of the fire while he checked over his weapons and gear. With the recent events he was as bedraggled as he’d ever been. Heh, if only his old schoolmates from Cloudsdale could see him now. Breezy would probably faint dead away, and…
Pausing mid-reverie, Doctor Jones reviewed the path of his thoughts. The trail led, as it had so often recently, into terra incognita: another foreign yet familiar town. Another strange yet well-remembered name. Closing his eyes, Indiana dug through his memories back to his time in school. He’d often flipped through atlases and travel journals, dreaming of the day when he’d get to go out into the world and… no, that wasn’t right. He was sure his father had taken him all across the globe even from a young age. Well, what about his memories of Summer Flight Camp? That had been the—Indy craned his neck and looked over his shoulder. A flight camp of the type he remembered would be impossible to go to without wings.
Indiana groaned. This world was doing something to him; he could feel it. There, side by side with his actual memories of schooling and friends were strange, otherworldly memories—memories that would pop up when he least expected them. Doctor Jones stared at his hand, wiggling his fingers. Would he wake up one morning and be surprised that it wasn’t a hoof attached to a gold-pelted foreleg? So far the foreign recollections seemed to be in addition to rather than replacements for his real memories, but…
The archeologist shuddered and edged closer to his fire. He had to get out of here, and soon. And in all probability, the first step would have to be getting back the artifact so recently stolen from him by the cultists. Hopefully Flint and Doctor Trowel would be back soon with Indy’s disguise and good news.
Flint glanced nervously around the streets of Polo’s Landing. Even in the diamond dog’s wildest dreams, he’d never imagined there could be so many ponies in one place. Why, there might be over a dozen in this market alone! Polo’s Landing was huge. He’d been walking for five minutes at least and could only now see the other side of the town—no, the city!
“Sir! Can I interest you in—Ah, a diamond dog.” The street vendor, a cream-pelted earth pony with a dun-colored mane, quickly readjusted his sales pitch and shoved the tray of roasted vegetables to one side. “Ahem. May I interest you in some of these? Finest fried fish. Caught by griffins just today!”
Flint goggled at the salespony and his wares. Somepony wanted to talk to him? To sell something to him, even? The diamond dog’s tail started to wag a bit. The pony had even called him ‘sir!’
Misinterpreting the canine’s staring green eyes, the vendor shuffled his hooves. “Er, they might have been caught yesterday. This week at least, for sure. A bargain at two bits a skewer!”
The fish certainly smelled good. Flint wiped a bit of drool off his jowls. His stomach rumbled, reminding him of his nonexistent breakfast. The last thing he’d had to eat was that snake, and that hadn’t been very tasty at all. Perhaps…
The diamond dog looked down at the money in his paw and hesitated. Indiana had given him the strange coins, but they certainly weren’t bits. “Um. Flint want two skewers? But no bits. Only have these.”
“Oooh.” The street vendor struggled against the natural urge to grin as his latest customer carefully placed one of the coins on the stall’s counter. The specie was of foreign make, but looked twice as large as a bit coin. By the way it sang as it landed on the wooden counter, it was unadulterated gold. The earth pony dragged his face into a dour, concerned expression. “Well, that’s no good. I really prefer bits, but I suppose I could cut a deal if that’s all you have.”
A minute later, Flint was grinning ear to floppy ear, richer by two skewered fish and poorer by an equal number of Indiana’s heavy golden coins. He practically inhaled the first fish, chewing eagerly at the scraps remaining on the skewer and sighing in contentment. In the diamond dog’s estimation, it was easily worth twice what he’d paid for it. He was such a savvy businessdog!
Flint was just considering returning to the stand and trying his luck for a second pair of fish when he saw it. The massive orange-furred cat lurked in an alley, obviously waiting for something. Or somepony. The diamond dog continued on by as nonchalantly as he could manage, trying to ignore the way his hackles rose as he caught the tiger’s sharp scent drifting out into the road. Once past the mouth of the alley, Flint hurried to press himself against the nearest wall and frantically beat his brain into a sparking, sizzling frenzy of activity.
The diamond dog could distinctly recall what Daring Do had said about big cats like the one in the alley. They were working for Owwie… for Ow… for whatever that creature’s name was. The big blue ape thing. If that tiger was here, did that mean that the adventuring pegasus’ enemy was close by? Cautiously, Flint peeked around the corner. Something else was approaching the big cat from the opposite end of the alley. It was a pony, but in the dim half-light of the evening, identifying the newcomer was difficult. Leaning out a little further, Flint took a closer look—and received another shock.
Silver Trowel trotted nonchalantly up to the tiger as if he hadn’t a care in the world. He dipped his head in greeting and the big cat bobbed its head in reply. It held out a paw and growled inquisitively.
“Of course I got the medallion, you overgrown house pet. Do you have any idea what I had to go through to acquire this thing? Not only did I have to sneak into some strange creature’s room, wasting yet another charge on my emergency necklace, but I then had to fend off an attack by those cultists and—yes, fine. Fine.” Horn flaring, Silver Trowel opened his saddlebags and lifted out a cloth-swathed object. Silvery tendrils of magic pulled the fabric aside to reveal darkness. Tangible, metallic darkness. “There you are. The Medallion of Shadow. Happy now? Ahuizotl had best be very—and very generously—grateful.”
The tiger accepted the artifact and slipped it into a pouch that it looped over its powerfully muscled neck. Tail lashing, the feline growled something in its native tongue. Doctor Trowel smiled. “Ah yes, the famous Daring Do. I didn’t have to deal with her, actually. She seems to have disappeared—and good riddance. But have you ever heard of an ‘Indiana Jones?’”
The look of mute disdain the tiger gave Silver Trowel told the unicorn all he needed to know. Fighting down the urge to roll his eyes, Trowel chuckled. The big cats were so predictably prideful. Obviously Ahuizotl’s feline enforcer had never heard of the human archeologist. Not that it mattered. “Well never fear, I have plans to deal with him shortly. Although if you’d like to help I’m sure that could be arranged…”
Flint’s jaw dropped and he ducked back around the corner. Silver Trowel was working for the enemy?! He had to warn Daring Do! No wait. She was gone, nopony knew where. Well, he had to warn Indiana! But what about the medallion? In the diamond dog’s feverishly churning mind, a plan started to form.
Silver Trowel cantered cheerfully out of the alley and turned left. He’d sent Flint to do some shopping in this area. It had been annoying to fake more fatigue than he felt for so long, so the unicorn felt well rid of the beast. The big, dumb mutt was probably still here, wasting Indiana Jones’ odd coins on some frivolous thing or other. Well, neither the diamond dog nor his human friend would have to worry about that much longer.
The unicorn chuckled darkly. If only they knew. It had simply been too bad that Silver Trowel hadn’t been able to let the two foals drop to their deaths in that awful trip over the Flying Falls. If only he’d mastered teleportation spells. Ah well, even though he’d had to levitate the entire boat to save himself, it was worth it. This way he’d get to see the look of surprise on Indiana’s ugly, flat face before the tiger clawed it into unrecognizability.
Speaking of ugly, where was Flint? Doctor Trowel glanced around the market again. Surely a big brown diamond dog couldn’t be that hard to spot in a town populated mostly by ponies. The unicorn craned his neck to look over some of the stalls—and went down in a tumble of limbs as a breathless cream-colored earth pony crashed into him.
Silver Trowel climbed back to his hooves and glared at the offending stallion. “Goodness, sir! What is the rush?!”
“A thief! Big brown diamond dog! Stole all my fried fish, the mutt!” the wild-eyed salespony gasped. “Have you seen him? He came this way.”
Odd. And oddly suspicious. Flint hadn’t struck Silver Trowel as the thieving type, for all his stupidity. Unless… Wheeling around, the unicorn raced back the way he had come. When he got there, the alley was empty. Disconcertingly so. In Trowel’s experience, the tiger was a lazy creature at best. He would have lounged around for a bit longer without his master there to keep him on his toes. But instead, the big cat had vanished.
A quick search of the narrow side street provided worrying clues in the form of broken wooden skewers and small fragments of fish. The clues formed a trail leading a little ways down the alley. When Trowel followed it, the crumbs of what must have been a delicious and unexpected snack for the tiger led to an enclosed alcove at one side of the narrow pathway.
Silver Trowel groaned and pressed a hoof to his suddenly aching forehead. Why, oh why was it so hard to find good help these days? The powerful jungle cat lay unconscious in the shadows, stretched out for all the world like a poorly-made tiger skin rug. In his mouth was the last of the fried fish. And around its neck, the pouch containing the Medallion of Shadow was conspicuously absent. With a snarl of rage, Doctor Trowel kicked the tiger back to consciousness. “You mangy foal! Which way did he go?!”
Flint ran down the street, shifting fluidly from a frantic two-legged sprint to a more natural four-legged lope as he weaved and dodged through the evening traffic. He jinked right, narrowly avoiding a donkey and her cart. He skidded around a corner and nearly tipped over an unfortunate trinket vendor’s stand. The fleeing canine reached a straight section of road and accelerated, vaulting over a surprised filly with a hasty cry of, “Sorry!”
The diamond dog’s lungs and muscles were aflame with exertion, but his jowls were still pulled back in the widest grin he’d ever worn. It had worked! It had really worked! The stupid cat had fallen for it, and now the medallion was his! Which was to say, of course, Indiana’s and Daring Do’s. Obviously. Now all he had to do was evade Silver Trowel and the tiger and get back to Indiana Jones in time to warn the human, and—
Rounding another corner, Flint slammed into a solid wall of feathers and fur. The diamond dog whined as razor sharp talons bit into his shoulders. “Ow! Let Flint go!”
The biggest griffin Flint had ever seen glared down at him and clacked its beak. One lightning-fast paw snatched at the diamond dog’s stolen bag and held it high. It turned and looked up, its voice a rasping croak. “Brother Starfire, is this the one He has chosen?”
“Yes, Brother Gustav… This is His companion,” replied an all too familiar stallion.
Flint stared in shock as the green-robed, red-pelted pegasus glided down to land on the cobblestones. How was this possible? “But… but Starfire’s wing!”
“My faith in the Brotherhood of the Snake makes me strong,” Starfire replied with a confident smile as he flexed his miraculously healed appendage. “Surely you know are aware of that, considering you—Ah, and it seems you have the Gate of Souls as well? It is as we have foreseen.”
Gustav’s claws dug deeper into Flint’s shoulder, precluding any escape as the griffin used his other paw to open the bag and reveal the darkly gleaming artifact inside. Both cultists hissed and bowed slightly at the sight. Passing the satchel reverently to Starfire, Gustav asked, “What should we do with His companion, Brother?”
“Why, bring him with us of course! What better final test for Him than to leave Him with the thief, with His betrayer?” The pegasus took flight, chuckling happily. Carrying his whining, struggling cargo, the griffin soon followed.
“Well… Well… Blast!” Down below on the street, Silver Trowel groaned. His angry eyes peered skyward, tracking the two cultists until they were no longer visible. It was clear from the trajectory that the pair was taking Trowel’s prize and the unfortunate Flint back up the valley. Most likely to the Temple of Shadow.
The tiger at Doctor Trowel’s side yowled in annoyance. The unicorn turned and glared at the feline, but the gears of his mind were already turning. “All right, you flea-bitten creature, here’s what we’ll do.”
Back on the bank of the river, the flickering fire provided the only light in the blackness of a mountain night still waiting for the moon to crest the craggy outline of the Ridgebacks. Cleaning his revolver by the flickering orange glow of the fire, Indiana Jones sucked absent-mindedly at a fish bone left over from his meal. The river fish hadn’t been the worst thing he’d eaten in his travels, certainly. Doctor Jones spun the pistol’s cylinder and nodded in satisfaction as it turned easily.
Clattering hooves on the rocky approach to the riverbank prompted Indiana to reload the newly cleaned revolver as quickly as he could. He crouched behind a rock and readied himself. He relaxed slightly when Silver Trowel came into view, but tensed again as he caught sight of the pony’s distressed state. The unicorn looked like he’d just barely won a race with Hell itself. Wild, rolling eyes swiveled to spear Indy with a panicked gaze as Trowel gasped out, “T-they have him!”
“What? Who has who?” Holstering the pistol, Indiana hurried to steady the unicorn before Silver Trowel collapsed. The pony was shaking, dripping with the sweat of his headlong flight.
“Th-the snake cultists,” moaned Silver Trowel. He coughed and wheezed for a moment, trying to catch his breath. “They grabbed Flint. He was shouting. Shouting something. I may have misheard, but I think he said he’d found the Medallion of Shadow?”
“The Medallion of Shadow?!” Indiana echoed, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice. “The mutt found it?”
“And now the cultists have him! That horrible red pegasus, Starfire—he grabbed poor Flint and flew away! I think they… I think they may be taking him back to their temple. We’ll never find him now!” Legs finally giving way, Silver Trowel sat with a thump. His eyes stared pleadingly at Indiana Jones. “I can’t even imagine what they must be doing to him.”
Indiana’s jaw tightened. He’d seen enough cults in his day to have a good idea of what Flint would be looking forward to at the cultists hands. Or hooves. Or claws. In his imagination, the diamond dog’s sightless eyes stared accusingly at the man who had lured him out of his abusive but relatively safe job and gotten him killed.
“No,” Doctor Jones said slowly. “I think I have a pretty good idea of where they’ve taken him. First, do you know where we can hire some muscle?”
“‘Muscle?’ Oh! Some soldiers of fortune, you mean!” Silver Trowel exclaimed.
“Yeah, those.” Indiana picked up his jacket. It wasn’t quite dry yet. Eh, good enough. He shrugged it on.
The unicorn nodded with a slight smile. “Fortunately, I already anticipated that. One moment.”
At a shrill whistle from the pony, two dark shapes crept into view. The big predators’ eyes glittered in the firelight as they started circling the human and unicorn. Indiana’s hand went automatically to his whip. First cultists, and now this?
“Oh! No, no, Doctor Jones. These are friends,” the unicorn protested
The tiger nodded and seemed to grin. The yellow-eyed panther raised a paw as though to wave. And just when Indiana thought that nothing else in this crazy world could surprise him. He turned to Silver Trowel. “Can they talk, too?”
“Hah hah, no. They don’t speak Equestrian, although they seem to understand it. But I think you’ll find that their actions speak quite loudly enough,” the unicorn replied with a slight smile.
“Well, Doctor Trowel, can your friends lead me back to Penny Wise’s inn?” asked Indiana, tugging on one boot. It was dry, nearly. At least it didn’t squish as much as it might have. He pulled on the other. It was just as dry, unfortunately.
“What? No, but I can…” Trowel struggled to his hooves and swayed tiredly. “Just needed a bit of a break, you see. Good as new. Woah!”
Indiana found himself steading the unicorn again. “You look half dead.”
Silver Trowel found the strength to nod. “True. But be that as it may, you need me, Doctor Jones. I can get you to the inn. You and my friends can do the rest.”
“All right. I’m not just going to leave some poor kid to those bastards. We’re going to get Flint back, or my name’s not Dar—Indiana Jones, damn it. Let’s go.” Extinguishing the fire, Indiana turned to go. In the darkness behind him, one predatory grin spread across three faces as Silver Trowel and the two big cats leered at the human’s back.
* * *
“Why did I do that? Why did I do what? Make sure we escaped?” Richard Brooks asked with another incredulous laugh. The lights from the instrument panel of the aircraft cut strange shadows across his grinning face as he took a step forward.
Daring Do took a step back. She could feel her feathers ruffling as her wings rose, trying instinctively to make her seem bigger and more threatening. Despite her body’s involuntary efforts, the mare was still less than half the size of the human who loomed over her. Glaring up at the cartographer, Daring demanded, “Why did you shoot that man? He didn’t do anything to us!”
“So that’s my fault?” Brooks snarled, waving back to the cockpit as he took another step towards Daring. “Our idiot pilot up here was the one who didn’t want to leave! We would have been captured!”
“We could have escaped again!” Daring Do snapped back. Her heart pounded. Her ears were flat against her skull as she looked up at the man she’d thought was a friend. She took another few steps back, staying out reach. Now she was in the narrow corridor between the crates.
This far from the cockpit Brooks was little more than a green-edged silhouette in the darkness. Enough light filtered back into the cargo area for Daring Do to see the cartographer’s face twist into something between annoyance and anger. “You mean you could have escaped. I still have a black eye from my last run-in with the Nazis, in case you forgot. Not this time. And I got us away. Bang! Problem solved.”
‘Bang, problem solved?’ That was too much. It was as though someone had taken the jumpy and sporadically heroic human Daring Do had come to know and replaced him with a monster. Why, when she’d first met him in Baghdad and he’d signed on to help… Daring shook her head. Not now, stupid memories. Not now! “And where did you even get that thing? You said you didn’t even own a gun!”
“I—” Richard Brooks hesitated. He had said that, hadn’t he. “Oh yes. I got it off the guard when I was trying to escape the inn. I thought it might come in handy. And it did!”
“You thought it might come in handy,” Daring echoed, thinking of the mother-of-pearl-inlaid handle. Suddenly it seemed achingly familiar…
Yawning, Daring pushed open the door to the hotel room. It had been a long and fruitless day trolling the dens of the various rumor-mongers in Baghdad. None of her efforts thus far had brought up any signs that the Nazis had actually found the Medallion of Shadow. Maybe the Army Intelligence men were wrong. Either way, the adventurer couldn’t afford to wait any longer when her true goal, the Medallion of Light, lay so far to the east.
Daring Do casually tossed her fedora onto the bed and glanced over at her roommate. Coincidentally, the little mapmaker was heading to the same area that Daring was. Finding him trying unsuccessfully to find a flight heading east had been a stroke of luck. “Hey, Rich. Found anything?
“…Now look,” Brooks said distractedly, still hunched over his desk working on something or other. “The reason why I was going to the Hindu Kush was to make maps of the area. If there were already reliable ones, I wouldn’t need to go in the first place!”
“What, none at all?” Frowning, Daring sauntered over to see what the cartographer was laboring over so intently. On the wooden surface of the desk lay the pieces of a .38 caliber revolver. The light of the evening sun glinted off the blued surface of the weapon. The weapon looked dark and professional save for the shifting riot of colors of the mother of pearl on the pistol’s grip. “Very nice, Brooks, but I’m not letting you tag along so you can play cowboy. What do you have for maps?”
Richard Brooks looked annoyed. “I’m not ‘playing cowboy.’ This was a gift from my father. Besides, it might come in handy; you never know.”
“Fine. Just don’t blow a hole in yourself with it,” Daring laughed. “Or in me. Now, the maps?”
“I wouldn’t—you know what? Fine.” Grumbling, the cartographer reassembled his pistol, reloaded it, and stuck it carefully in one pocket. He turned to a stack of books and started to open the first one. “Here, this is what I’ve been able to get…”
Daring Do reeled as she surfaced from the memory. Brooks was still talking, his voice almost an angry shout so that he could be heard over the aircraft’s laboring engines. “…Nothing to say now, Daring? How about, ‘thank you, Brooks, for saving my black-and-gray tail?’”
“You lied to me,” hissed Daring Do. She backed up again. The cool breeze blowing through the cracks around the edge of the cargo door did nothing to cool the heat of anger flowing through her. “You lied to me, Brooks.”
“What?! Name one time when I lied to you!” Brooks yelled, waving his arms in a gesture of hurt innocence.
“You didn’t get that pistol off the guard, Rich. Back in Baghdad you said that it was a gift from your father,” Daring growled.
Even in the near-darkness of the aircraft’s cargo compartment, Daring Do could see the color drain from the cartographer’s face. He seemed to deflate. For a moment, the pegasus almost felt sorry for him.
“No. It can’t be…” Now it was Brooks who took a step back as he stared down at Daring Do in wide-eyed horror—horror that quickly turned to rage. The cartographer fumbled in his pocket and drew the revolver again, thumbing the hammer back. “I don’t believe it. And even with a name like ‘Daring Do’ and that ridiculous pith helmet. I mean I had my doubts, but still. You almost had me fooled this entire time, Doctor Jones.”
Daring Do blinked. “What are you…? You think I’m your friend?”
“Friend? You’re no friend of mine, you freak! Just a competitor to stupid to know who I really was! I don’t know what you did to yourself with that weird medallion, but what better proof that it has power than you? The great Indiana Jones, a squeaky-voiced little horse with wings! Hah!” Brooks gestured with his pistol. “Now hand—sorry, ‘hoof’—over the Medallion of Light and maybe I’ll just sell you to a zoo instead of shooting you and having you stuffed and mounted.”
Daring Do leaped, her forehooves striking desperately at the human’s revolver. Brooks’ finger tightened on the trigger, but by the time the thought became deed, Daring’s swinging leg had already ensured that the pistol was already pointed towards the ceiling. It thundered in the narrow confines of the aircraft and punched a hole in the fuselage.
The cartographer was just bringing the pistol down again for another shot when his hand met Daring’s hoof coming the other way. The weapon spun free from Brooks’ suddenly numb grip. Howling in pain, he grabbed for the pegasus. She darted out of the way and his arms encompassed only empty air.
“You won’t get away, ‘Daring Do!’ You have nowhere to run!” Brooks dove forward, trying to tackle the mare. Instead, he landed heavily on the aluminum grating of the floor. Wheeling around, Daring gave the human both hooves to the face. His head jerked back with the force of the blow. He slumped forward and lay still.
“Brooks?” Daring turned to face the human again but stayed where she was, panting with exertion. What was she going to do now? She couldn’t get the artifact to Canterlot. She couldn’t return home. The cartographer had been the only one who had even talked to her without also trying to kill her… Well, until recently.
Surging into motion, Richard Brooks lurched forward and made another grab at Daring Do. His hand smacked into the side of her head, knocking her back a step—and sending her pith helmet sailing into the back of the aircraft. The Medallion of Light went with it, tumbling and clanging metallically against the aluminum grating of the compartment’s floor.
Daring Do turned tail and hurried after the artifact. One hoof scooped up the pith helmet. Another slammed down on the skittering silver disc, and not a moment too soon. Cold wind from the edge of the cargo door whipped at her tail as she picked up the medallion and placed it under her retrieved hat. She started to turn—and then a shadow fell over her, blotting out the wan moonlight that had been streaming in through the aircraft’s windows.
Brooks dragged himself up by the handle of the cargo door, glaring daggers at the little pegasus pony at his feet. He reached out with a snarl. “I’m going to—”
Kicking out with two powerful hind legs, Daring Do caught the swaying human in the knees. He screamed and tumbled backwards, landing heavily against the aircraft’s door. With a screech of fatigued metal the aluminum gave way and Brooks tumbled backwards into the hungry blackness of the night sky. One flailing hand grasped desperately for a handhold and found Daring’s wind-whipped tail. With a yelp of surprise the pony found herself jerked off her hooves as she was tugged out of the plane by the screaming cartographer’s momentum.
The icy slipstream slammed into Daring Do like a hammer, leaving her gasping for breath as she tried frantically to right herself while keeping a tight hold on her helmet and the treasure it contained. She plunged downward, but she didn’t do it alone. Richard Brooks was still there, shrieking in fear and keeping a death grip on the adventurer’s tail.
Kicking out viciously, Daring managed to free herself from the flailing human. She tried to angle her body and to spread her wings to turn her fall into a glide, but avoiding a painful crash was out of the question. It was already too late to do more than slightly reduce her speed as the dark shape of the mountain rushed up to meet the mare’s plummeting body.
Brooks landed first, his screams cutting off abruptly a heartbeat before the tumbling pegasus crashed on top of him. Daring Do cried out in agony as her legs folded on impact. She felt sharp jabs of pain all over her body with the impact of every rocky outcropping as she started to roll down the mountain. Mercifully, everything went black.
It seemed like only moments later that Daring surfaced to a world of dull pain. Opening her eyes, she groaned as the harsh yellow light of the morning jabbed needles into her brain. Oooh… that had been some landing.
“Why, Fräulein Do… Still with us I see,” said a quiet, slightly accented voice. It was Hans Jägermeister.
The greeting wrenched Daring Do back to full consciousness. She moaned again as she tried to raise her head. Every muscle ached. Every bone ached. She felt like she’d been run over by an entire pack of diamond dogs. She tried to speak. All she could manage was, “Brooks.”
“Herr Brooks? Why, how touching for you to show such concern for a traitor like him. I can’t say I was sorry to lose him, though. He was an unreliable asset.” When Daring’s head jerked up in surprise the Nazi agent laughed. “What, you didn’t know? Why yes. He was working for me. You didn’t think he was really just a cartographer, did you? Hah. Still, his little maps and his little letters were helpful. Up until you showed up, at least. At the end, it seems, he was playing his own game…”
“Is he…?” The pegasus tried to stand up, only to find that she couldn’t move. Her legs were bound together with rough, fibrous cord in a series of loops and knots that would take forever for her to escape. She started working on them all the same, ignoring the protests of her battered limbs.
“Dead, yes. And yet you are not. An impressive specimen of your species, Daring Do. Whatever that species might be…?” Jägermeister trailed off leadingly.
“Pegasus pony,” Daring muttered. She tried to move her wings. Nothing seemed to be broken, but the feathered limbs were bound just as tightly as her legs. Not that she would have been able to use them at the moment anyway. Her captor had learned well from previous experience; the windows of the small and airless room were shuttered and the door was closed tight.
“Like the Greek myths? Fascinating. Ah, I see you have noticed your wings. I thought it would be less harmful than clipping them. And of course, if you are too troublesome we have other, more permanent solutions.” Hans smiled sincerely and patted the bulge of the pistol at his hip. “But I would very much like you to survive our trip back to Germany. We could learn much from studying you. You might even survive.”
A/N: Yup, Brooks was a bad guy even if he was apparently betraying EVERYBODY and not just Daring and Indy.
This next bit is just to head off (hopefully) any kind of arguments on the subject in the comments... I normally wouldn't do this but hey. Don’t say I didn’t warn you a bit about Brooks. All we got as a warning for Walter Donovan in Last Crusade was, a SURPRISE I’M BAD AND AM AFTER THE GRAIL WITH THE GERMANS explained with, “Didn’t I say, ‘Don’t trust anybody?’” Here at least I gave you: -Conveniently escaping JUST as Daring arrives to rescue him, having minimal bruises etc -Not particularly beat up / injured by Hans or his men despite the fact that the lack of apparent trap at the inn made it obvious that he hadn’t talked (if he was a good guy) -“gee I don’t even know if I want Indy back!” -unexpectedly high level of competence / badassitude for a guy who draws maps for a living (then again you could say the same thing about Indy I guess), especially at the roadblock in Kisaba -the ‘shoot the pilot; now we can leave’ thing (one of my favorite bits with him) True, he did let Daring go, but if he was working for himself and trying to keep the medallion away from the Nazi agents so that he could get at it later, that still makes sense. I just didn't have a good time to have him sit down and explain his plan in detail, so basically I left it unexplained. Perhaps I shouldn't, but if you haven't noticed I HATE EXPLAINING THINGS in the narrative if I think I can avoid it, ha ha.
I have to admit, it didn’t even occur to me to make him an American agent of some kind. That might have been interesting. Oh well; too late now. Yup, just working with the Nazis and then for himself.
Anyway, we’re on the home stretch now, if it wasn’t already obvious.
As an entertaining aside, one of the pre-readers pointed out to me that Flint’s plans to steal the Medallion of Shadow back from Ahuizotl’s tiger probably look something like Rukia’s crayon drawing plans from the anime Bleach and now I can’t un-think it -_-
Brother Marble yawned and glanced at his fellow sufferer, Sister Bertha. He felt his hopes rising as the griffin turned her head, peering intently into the gray shadows of the valley below. He reached out a tentative hoof and prodded the female. “Do you see anything, Sister?”
“Eh… nothing.” Sister Bertha flared her wings to stretch the disused limbs and struggled to control a yawn of her own. Fervor for the Brotherhood of the Snake could only take one so far. She and the earth pony had been on watch duty since sundown, clinging to the lonely patch of rock on a crag above the Temple of Shadow.
“Stay strong, Sister Bertha,” the earth pony whispered encouragingly. “Only another hour or two!”
Bertha yawned again. By asp and viper, didn’t Marble ever give it a rest? Of course, the earth pony was a relatively recent convert so some extra zeal was to be expected… But there were limits. At least he hadn’t repeated his earlier poorly thought out request to use her crossbow so that he could ‘smite the unbelievers.’ Sanity had prevailed and the weapon remained firmly in the claws of the cultist who could actually aim the crossbow and pull the trigger at the same time.
Straining to see through the gloom of the pre-dawn hours, Bertha turned her eyes again to the approach leading up to the temple. Things had certainly gotten stricter here since Brother Starfire had returned... unfortunately. Only a few days before, Sister Bertha would have been nice and warm in her bed at this time of day instead of out in the hills watching for any signs of somepony stupid enough to—
Bertha’s resentful thoughts screeched to a halt as a shadow shifted on the rugged trace weaving its way to the cultists’ temple. Was it a trick of the light? The griffin peered closer and reached out to shake her fellow guard out of dreams of sunning himself in the glory of the Old Ones. “Hey! Marble! Brother Marble, look at this! Somepony’s coming!”
It wasn’t a trick of the light; somepony was indeed coming. The dark blotch climbed ever closer, resolving itself into the shape of a unicorn stallion. The exhausted pony’s head drooped as he struggled even to put one hoof in front of the other; he probably wouldn’t have realized he was being watched even if the cultists had been standing up and shouting instead of lying partially hidden among the rocky outcroppings of the ridge.
Brother Marble joined the griffin in staring down at the path. Bertha could hear his breath quicken as he spotted the approaching pony. The young stallion fumbled for the warning whistle at his neck as he quavered, “A-an intruder, Sister! Quick, smite him while I call for our Brothers!”
Bertha pressed a clawed paw to her beak and sighed. “Hold it, Brother Marble. Stay still and wait a minute. Think of Brother King—that’s one diamond dog I know even you don’t want to anger. How do you think Brother King will react if we wake him up over one lousy unbeliever who might not even come this far up the trail?”
“Then ‘like the clever asp, we will wait for our moment to strike,’ Sister Bertha!” Marble quoted, pleased at the chance to show off his knowledge of the Sibilant Scriptures.
“…Yeah. Like that,” Bertha agreed. Her eye twitched imperceptibly as she restrained herself from smacking the younger cultist across the snout. It should have been a sin the way he made the holy writ sound ridiculous with his goofy voice and almost annoying enthusiasm. She crouched down and dragged Marble with her until the two were completely hidden on the slope.
Sister Bertha waited for the unicorn to turn back. What kind of foal came willingly on hoof into territory belonging to the cult? Perhaps he was a would-be initiate? The griffin hesitated, but finally clacked her beak in irritation and hefted the crossbow. Better safe than sorry, especially with recent events fresh in everypony’s mind. Rising from her hiding place, she took aim.
A deafening crack split the air just as Sister Bertha squeezed the trigger. A long, thin tentacle wrapped around the crossbow and jerked. The weapon slewed to the side, sending its bolt zipping off into the shadows of the valley instead of thudding into the flesh of the unsuspecting unicorn. The griffin gaped as the crossbow flew out of her claws and clattered to the ground.
Time seemed to slow as the astonished cultist looked up in time to see the leather ‘tentacle’ coiling as Indiana Jones retrieved his bullwhip with a flick of the wrist. The archeologist nodded to the guards. “Hello.”
Before Bertha or Marble could respond, Silver Trowel’s feline allies landed on the cultists’ backs and bore them back to the ground. Razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws made short work of the would-be sentries. Indiana hurried up to the makeshift guard post, voicing his disapproval. “Hey! Wait, we were going to question one, remember...? Damn.”
Doctor Jones winced at the bloody results of the big cats’ skills. He wouldn’t be getting any information out of these cultists; they were already communing with their snake gods—or whatever it was that they worshipped.
When a panting Silver Trowel finished his laborious journey up the path and reached Indy and the two cats, he all but collapsed. “I trust… my distraction… was adequate?”
“Yeah, worked like a charm. But remind your friends that we need at least one cultist alive and able to talk if we meet any more. I don’t like going in blind,” Indiana complained.
Trowel sagged and gasped out an apology with what little breath he’d managed to get back after the most recent leg of his ascent. “Terribly sorry… ‘Don’t kill’ isn’t an easy concept for them to understand, I think…”
Indiana leaned against a boulder and breathed slowly, savoring what would probably be his last chance to rest before entering the snake cult’s stronghold. The small party around him was definitely worse for wear. Silver Trowel looked half dead, and even the tiger and panther accompanying them seemed somewhat less chipper than when they’d started. That made sense, of course; the group had been hiking for the better part of the night with only momentary breaks.
Eyeing his companions again to see how they were recovering from the forced march, Indy shifted uneasily. It wasn’t simply that they were large predators with all the apparent intelligence of a human; something seemed fundamentally off about the big cats. Even beyond the obvious concerns raised by the too-convenient appearance of muscle just as it was needed, the felines’ presence was ruffling the feathers he definitely didn’t have.
“Everypo—everyone ready?” Indiana asked, glancing at his allies. The archeologist rubbed his head. He must be getting more tired than he thought; he was even starting to talk like these ponies. People. Whatever.
The cats, of course, didn’t respond. Silver Trowel nodded and pushed himself doggedly to his hooves. Swaying for a moment, the unicorn cleared his throat and smiled wanly. “All right, Doctor Jones. Again, I’m terribly sorry for losing that stone-walking amulet of mine. I know it would be easier just to walk in…”
“Too late now. You did great keeping us from dying going over that waterfall, Doctor Trowel. You don’t need to apologize to me,” Indiana replied, waving a hand dismissively. Admittedly it would have been nice not to have to fight his way through for once, but it was more surprising that anything had survived the trip over the Flying Falls. “Come on then. Let’s go.”
Soon the dark gray façade of the Temple of Shadow loomed over the rescue party. It was only just dawn, but the dark stones of the temple seemed to drink up what little light was filtering over the ridgeline. Two stone griffins snarled mutely from their perches on either side of the heavy wooden gates. Somehow, Indiana remembered the doors being taller… Had he ever seen them before now? The archeologist wasn’t even sure any more.
Save for the pale yellow light of the morning, the scene seemed disturbingly familiar. Indiana started up the steps, eyes fixed on the slightly ajar gates into the darkness of the Temple of Shadow. He drew his pistol, holding it cautiously before him as he edged up to the door. Indy glanced back at his companions. The tiger watched his progress with boredom in its too-intelligent eyes. The feline paused to wash one paw with a long tongue, lapping up crimson flecks of blood off orange fur.
“All right. Doctor Trowel, tell the cats to go in quick and scout the room,” Indiana ordered. “And leave at least one alive this time.”
“Er... Based on previous performance, Indiana, I think you may want to go in and get the cultist yourself,” Silver Trowel said with a nod towards the big cats’ still-bloody paws.
The hairs were rising on the back of Doctor Jones’ neck, but time was of the essence. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Fine. You three come in right behind me. We’re going to do this fast and if we’re lucky, we’ll be in and out before the cultists know we’re here.”
Not waiting for a response, Indiana Jones darted through the slightly open door. Immediately he knew he’d made a mistake when the door slammed shut behind him with a heart-stopping boom. Damnit. The archeologist whirled and tugged at the heavy iron ring of the handle, but the door stubbornly resisted his efforts.
“Good morning,” called a reedy voice. Indiana turned slowly to see a genuine smile on Starfire’s muzzle.
The pegasus was resplendent in vibrant green robes and stood in the middle of a large half-ring of cultists. There were diamond dogs. Earth, unicorn, and pegasus ponies. Even a smattering of griffins. All were garbed in green robes and, more importantly, everything capable of doing so was holding a loaded crossbow. The archeologist slowly raised his hand, ready to let his pistol drop.
“Good morning,” Starfire repeated again, trotting slowly forward with his eyes locked on Indy’s.
“Yeah. Morning,” Indiana agreed. It was a trap, and he’d walked right into it like the idiot that he was. Now the pegasus was going to…
…Bow to Indiana? Sweeping his wings with a cape-like flourish, Starfire dipped his head and murmured, “You do us honor with your presence… My Lord.”
* * *
“You’re taking me to Germany? When?” asked Daring Do. She tested her bonds again. Even on a good day, it would have been hard for the pegasus to break out of her current restraints… and after days of steady action and her recent none-too-soft landing, she was definitely not at her best.
“Why, as soon as the next aircraft arrives, Fräulein Do. It should be about a day. Then you and our other prize come back together with me,” Hans Jägermeister replied with a satisfied grin. The Nazi agent patted one pocket of his coat meaningfully, pleased at the heavy weight of the medallion contained within. For this, he would get the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves—and much, much more.
“I… ugh… think that’s a little soon after my last plane ride.” Daring Do winced as an incautious movement sent a serrated knife of pain dragging across her nerve endings.
“Do not worry, little pony. I will be there for you.” Almost tenderly, Hans stroked his prisoner’s mane and relished the way she squirmed under his grip. She was just like an unruly puppy now that she’d been defanged with some sturdy rope and deft knot tying. Trussed up like an oddly shaped fowl, Daring Do was finally in one place long enough for the German to appreciate how adorable the little creature looked in her miniature pith helmet and green cotton shirt. To think she’d managed to do such damage. Now she reminded the Nazi agent of one of his sister’s dolls. He smiled remembering how he’d set the toy alight in front of her for a laugh. Ah, good times; good times.
Daring Do thought quickly, powering through the lingering ache behind her eyes. If she didn’t find some way to escape soon, she was probably doomed. She wasn’t going to get the Nazi simply to release her, but maybe there was another way. Her gaze followed the German’s hand as Jägermeister patted his pocket again in an almost unconscious movement. That must be where he was keeping the Medallion of Light. This might be her only option. “The artifact. Why do you want it?”
“You don’t know?” Jägermeister laughed. “You mean you were just helping Herr Brooks out of the goodness of your heart?”
Of course Daring knew why the Nazis were looking for the medallion. She still writhed a bit mentally at the sensation of the alien memories in her head. Hopefully this would work, though. “Well you didn’t give me a lot of time to ask questions, Hans.”
“Fascinating. Well, good. That gives us something to talk about on the long plane ride, Ja?” The German nodded with mock satisfaction, as if topics of conversation to use when chatting with his prisoner had actually been a concern.
“Do you actually know how to use the Medallion of Light, Jägermeister? Or are you just hoping that your little goose-stepping pals back in the Fatherland will be able to figure it out?” the mare snapped. Daring crossed her eyes to stare at her muzzle. ‘Goose-stepping?’ ‘Fatherland?’ What the hay did those even mean? Fortunately, the unfamiliar words seemed to have the desired effect.
“I—! I am certain that we do not need the help of a little pony to discover the powers of the weapon that will help the Reich to reign supreme,” the Nazi snapped, suddenly petulant as he contemplated the probable long delay between his return to Germany and the actual success that would follow the artifact’s use. And more importantly, the probable long delay between Hans’ theoretical triumph and glory and the realization of the same. He glared down at Daring suspiciously.
“Sure. But wouldn’t it be easier if I just told you how to use it? You need both halves you know,” Daring said, inventing desperately as she talked.
“How would you know…” Hans trailed off as the obvious occurred to him. How could the pegasus pony not know? After all, nothing like her existed on Earth outside of ancient myths. Jägermeister remembered the way that Daring Do had appeared suddenly in a bright flash, medallion clutched between her teeth.
“That’s right. I used the artifacts to come here. Hans, how would you like not to fly to Berlin? How would you like to appear there?” Reading the humans’ odd, flat faces was getting much easier. Daring Do tried not to think about whether that was due to several days’ experience with them or due to the ever-increasing number of memories of them that were being shoved into her head by unknown forces. It didn’t matter—she was getting through to the man regardless.
A grin broke slowly across the Nazi’s face as he imagined the glory that would be his. It was perfect. But the glee quickly faded, replaced by clouds of suspicion. “And I am to trust you, pegasus? You who have tried to thwart me since you came here?”
Daring didn’t even have to fake the way she squirmed under Hans’ scrutinizing gaze. If this didn’t work… Well, she’d have to think of something else. But hopefully it would work. “Ah… Heh heh… Good point. But you’ve got me now. Maybe we can work out a deal?”
The human leaned close, trying to root out any sign of duplicity on his captive’s face. “What kind of deal?”
“I teach you how to use the Medallions of Light and Shadow and you get me back home,” Daring Do stated flatly.
Jägermeister seemed to consider it for a moment. Finally, he nodded. “Daring Do, I know you are only trying to escape. But have no illusions, I am in complete control. You have no chance, now. So we shall put your words to the test. And when we have found that you are lying to me, I will make you regret it.”
“Good, I think. Shake on it?” asked Daring with a nervous grin.
“I am not a fool,” the German hissed. “Do not mistake me for one.”
“It never entered my mind,” lied Daring Do. “Anyway. Take me—and the medallion—to the Temple of Light. We’ll have to start there.”
Hans crossed his arms doubtfully. “Was? Warum..? Why?”
Daring was equally uncompromising. “Hey! Who’s used this artifact before, you or me?”
“All right. I will make arrangements. But Fräulein Do? If you try to double cross me, it will be the last mistake of your life.” With that, the Nazi agent stalked out the door and slammed it behind him.
Aaaand that was step one. It had worked. Breathing a sigh of relief, Daring Do worked a bit more on her restraints. If she was lucky, she would be able to escape on the way to the temple. She just hoped that her captor didn’t think of anything too effective at keeping her grounded or, for that matter, anything too humiliating, like…
“A leash,” Daring muttered to herself, glaring up at the impassive face of her brown-robed guard. Her tail swished angrily. “I can’t believe he actually put me on a leash.”
The mare felt her cheeks flushing as she was practically paraded in front of the combined force of German soldiers and local mercenaries. Being tossed in the back of a truck with half a dozen armed guards for the long ride back to the Temple of Light had been bad enough. That she’d endured the entire thing hogtied and with some of the Germans laughing at her plight or scratching her behind the ears as if she was a dog had made it worse. And now, the ultimate humiliation: the leash. At least her legs were free now. If she picked her moment, she might even manage to escape before—urk!
With a jerk on the leash, the local mercenary tugged Daring Do up the steps of the Temple of Light. The pegasus glared at everypony as she passed until, finally, she was at the gates. Black coat flapping slightly in the early morning breeze, Jägermeister pushed open the doors himself and waved the pony inside with false chivalry. “After you, Fräulein.”
The entryway was just as Daring remembered it—which is to say, the way her mind recalled it despite knowing intellectually that she had never been to this part of the temple. But there were differences. A few industrious spiders had already started building cobwebs, and the only illumination now was the post-dawn light of the sun streaming in through the door. As she watched, a few mercenaries brought in torches, lit them, and placed them in holders on the wall. The weak and flickering light of the torches cast strange shadows on the wall.
Daring Do blinked and looked closer, squinting into the gloom of the recently abandoned Temple of Light. It felt almost inappropriate that a place so named was mostly dark. But more importantly… Was it her imagination, or were some of the shadows moving of their own accord? In fact, that one looked almost like a pegasus stallion!
The insubstantial pegasus approached, moving silently in a flowing robe. He approached the transfixed Daring Do, standing roughly in the center of the room. The apparition bowed low, flourishing his wings dramatically like some sort of cape. She could faintly hear the sound of hoofsteps and the swish of a robe on the floor. Daring licked her lips, feeling her restraints even more acutely than before. “Hey, does anypony see those shadows moving?”
Hans Jägermeister looked at the empty room, filled only with a steadily growing number of his men as they filed into the entryway. Shaking his head in disappointment, he sighed. “Really, Daring Do? I knew you were going to try to escape. But trying to scare me and my men away with bogeymen? Surely you are joking.”
“You can’t see them?” Daring asked. She looked up to see if the Nazi was joking—and stared. There, almost right next to her, was a nebulous yet unmistakable form. She’d know that face anywhere, especially since it was the first human she’d ever seen and the one whose appearance had started her on her latest adventure. The pegasus did a double take, but the apparition was still there. The form was indistinct, but there was no doubt in Daring’s mind: that was Indiana Jones!
* * *
‘My Lord?’ Staring down at the cultist, Indiana felt his brain kick into overdrive. He managed, “Oh. Good. Rise, oh faithful one.”
“My Lord,” Starfire said again, bowing even lower before straightening to his full (if diminutive) height. “I must apologize. You see, at first we mistook you for a simple demon from the Spirit Realm. We believed that the Old Ones would return to us, but I confess that after so long we had lost hope. And this despite the favorable signs of conjunction with your blessed plane.”
Indiana Jones remained silent, his arms crossed and his face impassive. The pegasus pony obviously wanted to talk—and that was better than being the cultists’ pincushion. The archeologist kept an eye on the half circle of crossbow-wielding creatures as Starfire all but groveled at his feet.
“But now you are here, Lord! As it was prophesied, you have come back to us to decide who is worthy and to take us with you to the Spirit World!” Starfire was practically dancing, his eyes shining with holy zeal.
The obvious response came to mind and was out of Indiana’s mouth before he could stop himself. “You attacked your Lord? I know that snake was from you, Starfire. And the assault on me at the inn. And the river…”
Some of the cultists looked nervous. Crossbows started to drift off-target or to droop towards the rough-hewn floor. Strangely, it was the near-genuflecting Starfire who stood strong. “Mere tests, my Lord! Tests that a demon or lesser spirit could not pass. We first suspected you were more than a demon when you escaped us by vanishing into thin air. It became even clearer when we could find no trace of the thief, Daring Do!”
“Uh-huh.” Indiana used his free hand to surreptitiously tug on the door behind him. He probably wasn’t going to be able to keep up this ruse much longer. If he could get back out the gates fast enough, they would have to come at him a few at a time. And hopefully Silver Trowel and the big cats would be there to help. Assuming they weren’t in on all this.
“Yes! We realized that you had delivered her to a fate worse than death in the Spirit Realm… doomed as an unbeliever to be tortured by demons for the rest of eternity! Truly a fitting punishment, my Lord,” the beaming pegasus said with an appreciative laugh. “…And that was something only an Old One would know how to do.”
Indiana Jones nodded hesitantly. “Um, right.”
“But yes, Lord. To our shame, we tested you.” Starfire drooped a bit, but recovered. “And yet in all you were victorious, putting to rest any doubts! Now, you can choose us, the worthy!”
“Are you worthy?” asked the archeologist, warming to the role of Lord High Old One or whatever the cultists thought he was. The door behind him wasn’t budging despite his quiet efforts to wrench it open again. What was taking Indy’s so-called allies so long to get the door open? If Silver Trowel and those stupid cats weren’t being attacked outside, they were next on his list of things to do after these cultists.
“Y-yes! We have kept your teachings, my Lord! We have trained in the sacred arts. We have studied the Sibilant Scriptures. We have even retrieved the Gate of Souls from the unbelievers who took it from you, and we have secured your chosen companion. He awaits you with the Gate.” Starfire gestured through the darkness of the hall. Indiana followed the pointed hoof and recognized the path to the Temple of Shadow’s inner sanctum.
“Flint is in the inner sanctum?” Indiana asked. “Waiting for me?”
A pained expression crossed the pegasus’ face, there and gone as fast as lightning. “Y-yes, Lord. But please. I have known this… Flint… for years. He is nothing. You may see his devotion as pure faith, but he is not clever enough to value your ways truly. There are others—others who would be perhaps better suited. So perhaps you could reconsider?”
“Reconsider?” Indiana repeated, keeping his voice harsh as he glared down at the pleading cultist. He’d just found Starfire’s lever. If he could approach this correctly… “You think yourself more worthy, pegasus?”
“L-let me prove myself, my Lord,” the pony begged, bowing again until his muzzle scraped the floor.
Glowering, Doctor Indiana Lord of the Cultists’ Jones let his suppliant debase himself a little longer. Finally, he broke the ominous silence. “Perhaps you are worthy… Take me to Flint, and we’ll see. Actions speak louder than words.”
“Why thank you Lord… Actions, Lord? Yes… Yes of course!” The pegasus was nearly dancing for joy as he turned to the crossbow-wielding cultists.
Indiana began to tug at the door in earnest. He’d said something wrong. He could tell by how excited the homicidal maniacs looked now. Starfire shrilled, “Brothers! The Old One calls us to action. Let us show him that we are worthy! Attack!”
“Damnit!” Giving up on the tightly fastened gates, Indiana Jones readied his pistol as the cultists eyed their ‘Old One,’ sizing him up cautiously as each planned an assault to demonstrate his or her worth. The room seemed to swirl as the archeologist’s would-be worshippers circled him, casting strange shadows on the room and each other. For a moment, some of the shadows almost looked human—but Indiana had no time to watch the shadows. One of the cultists rushed forward. Indy leveled the revolver and fired.
The griffin cultist cringed and looked down at his white-feathered chest. There was no blood spot. He was entirely unharmed. And in front of Indiana’s astonished eyes, a man-shaped shadow stumbled and slumped slowly to the ground.
* * *
The shadowy form of Indiana Jones aimed his pistol and fired. Daring Do jerked at her leash as the distant crack of a gunshot made her jump. It was as though she could hear the report, but from a long ways away.
With a strangled groan, Daring’s brown-robed handler looked down. A dark stain was spreading on his chest. Breath bubbling in his throat, the mercenary dropped the leash and collapsed. Every eye in the room was on the suddenly prostrate man and the spreading pool of blood… Every eye but Daring Do’s.
Daring watched as the shade of a diamond dog reared up behind the unprepared Indiana. He was turning, but it wouldn’t be in time. The pegasus leaped into action, hooves clattering as she accelerated and leaped.
* * *
Indiana Jones grunted as a dark, half-seen shape bowled into him and knocked him to the ground. A green-robed diamond dog howled in frustration and tumbled over his head, its attempted strike thwarted by the human’s sudden fall. As the near-transparent thing that had tackled him leaped off the archeologist’s chest, Indy gasped in surprised recognition. “Daring!”
Doctor Jones had only seen his counterpart once, but recognized her instantly. Daring’s transparent and blurry form wheeled, dodging out of the way. As if from a mile away, Indy could hear the sharp crack of a Mauser rifle. Indy raised his revolver and fired at the silhouette of a coalscuttle helmet.
* * *
Daring Do laughed in relief as the German attempting to gun her down cried out and pitched forward, his helmet clattering across the floor. “Thanks, Indy!”
“Was war das?!” screamed Jägermeister, wild blue eyes staring around the temple entryway in confusion. “What is happening?!”
* * *
Indiana Jones’ fist lashed out, catching a charging diamond dog across its sensitive nose. The creature whimpered, stumbling back a few steps and clutching at its bleeding muzzle. The archeologist grinned savagely. “Who’s next?!”
The cultists closed in en masse now, all eager to prove themselves. Indiana grimaced… and the doors behind him exploded.
* * *
Daring Do rolled out of the way as the doors of the Temple of Light suddenly tore themselves off their hinges. Bowling over soldier and mercenary alike, the heavy wooden gates slammed to the ground. Hans Jagermeister stumbled, barely missing being crushed like several of his compatriots. He screamed and fired a few rounds ineffectually into the doors as if they were some sort of living creature.
* * *
Silver Trowel smiled savagely, horn still glowing from the residual magic of his forcible entry. With eager yowls his allies leaped into the dust clouds, snarling for blood. This was perfect. With Doctor Jones and the cultists already savaging each other, his entry into the fray would be just the thing to… to… The unicorn gaped.
As expected, the tiger had landed on one of the cultists. His muzzle was already dripping with blood as he roared and dropped the lifeless pony after giving it one last shake. The orange killing machine turned and pounced again, claws stretched out to slash at a diamond dog who was desperately grabbing at a crossbow on the floor.
The panther, however, had collided with some invisible shape mid-air. Clinging to the unseen enemy, the big cat snarled and dug in its claws, holding on relentlessly its imperceptible foe thrashed.
What sort of sorcery was this? Silver Trowel glanced to Indiana Jones. The archeologist was kneeling, knife out as he sawed at thin air. The unicorn shook his head and blinked his eyes several times. Had he gone mad, or had the world...?
* * *
“Ergreift den Pegasus! Schnell! Do not let her escape!” Jägermeister shouted. A soldier started forward, but collapsed as something invisible crashed into him from the side. Grinding his teeth in frustration, the Nazi agent started forward to follow his own orders. If Daring Do thought she was going to lead Hans Jägermeister into a den of invisible monsters and get away, she was sorely mistaken.
Daring’s head jerked up in surprise as Indiana's shadowy hands seized her. Her eyes widened when a near-transparent knife appeared in his hands— but the mare relaxed when she felt his blade slice through the collar around her neck. The archeologist's shade began working on the ropes around her wings, his voice a distant shout. "Daring! Head for the shrine!"
“Got it!” Daring Do breathed free once again as the collar and the cords binding her wings snapped under the ethereal edge of Indiana’s knife. Looking up to thank the human, she turned the move into a rapid roll to one side as Jägermeister dove forward to grab her.
* * *
Indiana Jones grunted and went sprawling as the lunging Nazi’s shadow bowled into him. The archeologist lashed out with his knife hand as he fell, slashing across Jägermeister’s chest and arm before the knife went skittering away across the rough stone floor. Before Indiana could deliver a more final blow, he was forced to react to more immediate threats. Bringing up his pistol he fired at a swooping griffin. The creature squawked and dropped from the sky, its lifeless body crashing into the half-seen shapes of a few Germans.
* * *
Hans Jägermeister groaned, his head swimming with confusion and pain as he struggled to regain his footing. His skin burned as though a blade had sliced through fabric and skin, but no one had even come near him. He touched his hand to his chest—when it came away it was wet with blood.
The Nazi agent’s gaze spun over the room, taking in the red-tinged chaos: a Feldwebel trying desperately to rally his panicking soldiers tumbled to the ground, shrieking in pain as invisible claws tore bloody streaks down his back. A mercenary flailed as if possessed, swinging his double-edged knife through thin air to ward off an enemy he could not see. What was going on?!
Seeing her chance, Daring Do hurried forward and made a short jump, landing on the dazed German with all four hooves and slamming him back to the floor. Before he recovered, she nosed into a pocket on Jägermeister’s coat and pulled out a small, cloth-wrapped bundle. Quickly slipping it under her pith helmet for safekeeping, Daring gave the human a sharp kick for good measure and leaped skyward. She winced as sharp pains shot through her abused wings, but managed a few flaps and a short glide as she hurried down the long corridor towards the Temple of Light’s inner sanctum.
Jägermeister pushed himself up to see the mare’s retreating tail. He felt the pocket of his coat. She’d stolen the Medallion of Light again! The German struggled to get up and waved to his men, hoping they would heed him despite the apparent collapse of sane reality. “Get her! Sie darf nicht entkommen!”
* * *
Indiana followed Daring Do’s shade down the hallway. He moved as quickly as he could through the dark passage, feet moving in a complicated dance as he avoided pressure plates and tripwires. The archeologist’s breath caught in his throat as a pit trap suddenly opened in front of him. An indistinct shape plummeted into the spike-filled darkness with a scream that suddenly cut off. Indy winced and jumped over the trap as it closed again.
* * *
A smattering of German soldiers and local mercenaries responded to the Nazi agent’s command, sprinting forward to follow the fleeing mare. She wouldn’t get far. Just as Jägermeister started to smile, the brown-robed thug in the lead of the group screamed and pitched forward, vanishing through the solid rock of the floor. The other men stopped short. Hans felt himself start to hyperventilate. His gaze went to the reassuring shape of a submachine gun a few steps away in the blood-covered hands of a dying German soldier. With a slightly crazed smile, the Nazi agent hurried towards it, arm outstretched.
* * *
Silver Trowel trotted forward into the carnage, holding his head high in an attempt to avoid the worst of the smell of spilled blood and rent-open viscera. He smiled. The tiger snarled down at the struggling shape beneath its claws. The unicorn bent down. “Hello there, Starfire. I’m here for your precious medallion.”
The red pegasus spit out blood and tried to push himself up, but the big cat’s weight bore him back to the floor. He hissed, “Thief! Betrayer of the Old One… I will destroy you! I will prove myself worthy!”
“Kill him,” Trowel directed.
“I will—Hurk!” Starfire’s breathless tirade trailed off into an inarticulate gurgle. The tiger chewed thoughtfully and made a face as he swallowed. The tough flesh of the mountain pegasus could have used some seasoning.
Silver Trowel chuckled as he looked down at the cultist’s quickly cooling corpse. “Oh, dear. And to think Doctor Jones probably thinks you were his biggest enemy here.”
The unicorn turned to the two large cats. Both seemed ready enough—not that Trowel was any judge of the finer points of feline body language. He nodded to them. “Let’s go show Jones how wrong he is.”
A/N: SO. MANY. DANGED. LINE. BREAKS. OH. GOD.
Hmm. Kind of ran up a body count in this one. Muahahaha, blood for the Blood God!
Oh and... I debated about whether to mention the "Hans burned his sister's doll" thing. But in all frankness? Like I said in the comments below, that wasn't to make him seem evil. That's TOTALLY something I would have done if I'd had a sister and thought I could get away with it, ha ha ha. Come on, you mess with your sibling's stuff to torment him/her if you can get away with it. IT'S REQUIRED! It's like, sibling law or something.
...Why are you all looking at me like I'm a monster?
The submachine gun wasn’t far away now. Hans Jägermeister took another step forward. He stumbled over an invisible obstacle on the apparently empty floor, but kept going. Tripping again he hit the floor face-first, but one groping hand snatched up the blood-flecked firearm. The Nazi hugged it to his chest triumphantly with the chaos of screams and gunfire all around him.
Surging to his feet, Jägermeister raised the gun and screamed his defiance against the unseen horrors that Daring Do had unleashed on his unsuspecting men. For a moment he had considered simply emptying the magazine in the pegasus’ direction… but a quick death was too good for her. He was going to get the damnable creature back and drag her to Germany just like he’d planned. And then he was going to watch, enjoying every minute, as some of the Reich’s best scientists vivisected the accursed mare.
While the most important thing was obviously to recapture Daring Do and to retrieve the Medallion of Light, first Hans had to clear a path through who-knew-what invisible monstrosities. That was easy enough. Shouting with inarticulate rage, the German pulled the trigger and began spraying bullets this way and that. A few stray rounds tore through mercenaries and German soldiers too slow or too distracted by their unseen foes to dive for cover, but that was all right. They were as good as dead anyway.
* * *
Silver Trowel chuckled as the tiger and panther, two of Ahuizotl’s finest enforcers, turned to pursue Indiana Jones. The human didn’t stand a chance, and they knew it. The unicorn wondered if he should shout a warning to Indiana just to make it more sporting—and more entertaining—but decided against it.
Roars of feral joy erupted from the throats of the big cats. No… That wasn’t joy. That was pain! The felines jerked as if shaken by unseen creatures and collapsed, blood streaming from a dozen ugly circular wounds all along their bodies.
Silver Trowel started forward—but stopped just as abruptly when something hot tugged at his ear. After a moment the pain hit him. He reached up one hesitant hoof and felt the ruin of his right ear. It was as though an invisible crossbow bolt had torn away the top third of the delicate appendage. When the unicorn looked at his hoof, it was painted red with his own blood. Whatever had mortally wounded the unicorn’s allies had nearly done the same to him.
Yellow eyes stared pleadingly at Silver Trowel as the panther tried to drag itself out of danger. It yowled and reached out a paw, but Trowel stepped back out of the way. He took another step back. The panther stopped moving and lay still, too weak from blood loss even to hold up its head. It was obvious that both felines would soon be dead. Making his decision, the unicorn turned and raced out of the temple’s entryway. He held up the supposedly lost stone-walking amulet and started to fasten it around his neck. If unseen enemies barred the front door, he had other options.
* * *
The submachine gun clicked and fell silent as its magazine ran dry. Hans Jägermeister nodded in satisfaction and scooped up another from the carnage that surrounded him. Loading it into his weapon he rushed forward with a snarl. “I come for you now, Daring Do!”
Flying slowly down the passageway, Daring winced. Her recent crash and hours of tight restraining ropes had not done her wings any favors; she wasn’t going to be winning races at the Cloudiseum with speeds like this. She landed gingerly to take a short break, carefully avoiding touching any of the pressure plates half-glimpsed by her dimension-spanning vision. The pegasus turned to check for pursuit and cringed as she found herself staring down the barrel of an oncoming gun.
“Stay still, Daring Do, or I shoot you down!” shouted Jägermeister. Despite the intricate dance he was doing to avoid traps marked in with the blood of his soldiers and mercenaries, the Nazi agent’s submachine gun never wavered from its target. In the cramped confines of the long hallway, Daring knew there was no chance of dodging.
“Stay back, Hans!” Daring shouted to the crazed human. “Just let me go!”
Jägermeister was at the edge of the corpse-strewn section of the passage. From now on, it was clear sailing to the mare and her stolen medallion. He walked carefully forward, eyeing the pegasus and her surroundings suspiciously. The area had seemed free of traps when he had come here before, but the accursed creature had somehow activated cleverly hidden defenses that were as invisible as the monsters that were attacking his men in the entryway. The Nazi agent aimed his weapon carefully and snarled, “Come here, Fräulein. I am tired of chasing you now. Fly or run, and I will simply bring your corpse back to the Reich on ice.”
“What, afraid of the booby traps? Shoot me and you’ll have to come over here to get the Medallion anyway,” Daring Do retorted. She weighed her chances of attacking now that the human was close enough to catch off-guard even with her lowered speed. She could get there, but she’d probably be heavier by several dozen bullets and lighter by a lot of blood by the time she did. Then the pegasus’ eye fell on a certain spot in the floor, wavering indistinctly in the image of the Temple of Shadow superimposed on the Temple of Light. Oh, yes. She remembered that trap.
Hans glared, but knew that Daring Do was right. He took a cautious step forward, watching the pegasus’ eyes for signs that he was walking into her trap. He lifted his leg and brought it forward, setting it down slowly. The creature’s dark pink eyes widened slightly, and the Nazi agent reacted by shifting the foot quickly to the left. Her eyes narrowed again, and he chuckled and took another step forward.
Daring Do held her breath as the human moved even closer, his foot narrowly missing a trigger for several blow dart traps. He was only a few paces away. It was now or never. Daring looked the human straight in the eye. “Hans, stop now. Last warning.”
“Threats, Fräulein? Don’t make me laugh.” Jägermeister took another step forward, his long stride taking him over the pit trap he couldn’t see. “Perhaps when our scientists are done with you, they will let me take over. I think I’ll start with your wings. Or perhaps your tongue.”
Flipping her pith helmet off her head, Daring Do gripped it between her teeth and lobbed it like a discus. It landed right in front of Jägermeister. Hans laughed. “And what was that supposed to do?”
The pegasus heard the distant click of a pressure plate in the Temple of Shadow. A long, thin blade plunged down from the ceiling. Its transparent edge dropped through Jägermeister without so much as a whisper, sliding through his shoulder and down through his chest with only the slightest change in its lethal velocity. It erupted from the German’s pant leg, jabbing down to the floor with crimson lifeblood dripping down its length.
Hans shook with effort as he tried to take another step forward. Something was wrong. He had the most intense pain in his shoulder… his groin too. What was happening? He opened his mouth to speak and made inarticulate choking sounds as blood dribbled out of his mouth. “H—kh…. Hrkkh…”
Daring Do could feel something hot and wet on her face. She reached up with a hoof and wiped at the liquid, leaving rust-colored streaks on her golden pelt. She shuddered and took a step back from the transfixed Nazi. He was finished, but the twitching man didn’t realize yet that he was dead. He was still too dangerous for her to avert her eyes from the gruesome sight.
“Dhrrkk… Hrrkk…” Jägermeister gurgled, glaring at the pegasus. It was so dark. Why was it getting so dark? The German raised his submachine gun to threaten Daring again, but his arm moved with agonizing slowness. The weapon clattered to the stone floor as it dropped from fingers devoid of strength and slick with blood.
Finally there was a quiet click. The long, red-stained blade slid rapidly back into the ceiling. Hans found himself pitching forward, crumpling onto the floor like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Daring Do stared down at him, her muzzle flecked red with blood—his blood. Jägermeister reached out with one hand to grab for the pegasus, but everything was going dark. The last thing the German saw was a long, charcoal-colored tail as his victorious adversary turned and hurried down the hall deeper into the temple.
Daring shuddered as she heard the wet sound of her foe’s body settling to the floor behind her, but she didn’t turn back. Groaning, the pegasus forced already strained flight muscles into action and hurried up the hallway. She was far behind Indiana Jones now, but at least she knew where she was going. It shouldn’t take too long to catch up. Hopefully.
* * *
Indiana Jones stared at the inner sanctum and felt his stomach lurch. Starfire had mentioned a ‘conjunction’ between Indiana’s ‘Spirit Realm’ and the pegasus’ world. It had sounded like more of the same liturgy of insanity from the one who had come up with, ‘attack our god to prove that we’re worthy.’ But what had seemed like simple cultist mumbo-jumbo in the entryway was fully realized here in the innermost chamber of the temple.
Instead of one world transparent and superimposed over the other, the two seemed to shift together. The morning light streaming in through the skylight in the Temple of Light fell on the claustrophobic subterranean chamber of the Temple of Shadow. The thick, almost stalagmite-looking pillars of the Temple of Shadow seemed to be supporting the high dome of the Temple of Light. At the center of it all was a single pedestal on a dais, an island of stability in a world of swirling change. And on the pedestal rested the dark half-disc of the Medallion of Shadow. The artifact seemed almost to glow in the strange, shifting light of the two temples.
On the far side of the pedestal hung Flint, tied to a large board as though about to be tortured. Indiana Jones hurried forward. “Flint!”
The brown-furred canine looked up. His stubby tail started to wag immediately and the ropes creaked as he strained against them. “Indiana! Indiana came for Flint!”
“Come on, let’s get you out of here,” Indiana said. He started working on the diamond dog’s restraints. “Silver Trowel told me the cultists grabbed you. You okay, mutt?”
“Silver Trowel?! Indiana! Trowel here? Trowel bad! Working for Owwie… Owwiesot… That bad ape-dog thing!” Flint flailed, waving his arms worriedly as he tried to put his concerns into words.
“Ahuizotl?” Indy asked, trying to saw through the sturdy ropes with his knife. He should have guessed, as hard as it was to conceive of the ridiculous little pony creatures being as devious as the archeologist’s usual foes.
“Yes! Trowel bad! Trowel…” The diamond dog trailed off, his head cocked slightly and his ears perked. “Indiana hear something?”
Still working on the ropes, Indiana grunted in satisfaction as he finished freeing one of the diamond dog’s paws. Working on another limb, he asked, “Hear what?”
Indiana Jones grunted and dropped to the floor, dazed, as a high velocity stone bounced off his head. He pushed himself back to his feet, turning to see who had thrown the rock—and glared. “Silver Trowel! Heh. So you didn’t lose that necklace going over the falls.”
The centerpiece of Silver Trowel’s stone-walking amulet ceased to glow as he finished stepping through the wall. The unicorn’s horn flared still brighter, and suddenly Indiana Jones found himself lifted into the air. Trowel nodded. “You’re right, Doctor Jones. I know I said I had, but I’ve said a lot of things. I said I was simply an archeologist passing through the Ridgebacks when I had really been sent here to retrieve the Medallion of Shadow for Ahuizotl.”
Silver Trowel paused for a moment, trotting forward to the dais in the center of the room. The Medallion of Shadow seemed to drink in even the light of Trowel’s magic as he lifted it up and examined it with a slight smile before tucking it into one of his saddlebags. Looking back at Indiana Jones, the unicorn continued his mocking litany. “I suggested that Flint or Starfire might have been through your things when I was the one who’d stolen the artifact with my ever-so-useful stone-walking amulet. I said that Flint had found the Medallion of Shadow only to get nabbed by the cultists while not saying that one of my colleagues was the one he took it from. Shall I go on?”
“Trowel bad pony! Trowel very bad pony!” Flint barked, struggling against his remaining restraints until the unicorn stallion enveloped the diamond dog in a sparkling magical field and slammed the creature’s limbs back into immobility on the board.
Trowel turned to Indiana and smiled, levitating the man’s pistol free of its holster and bringing it across the room. He turned the revolver, examining it admiringly. “I’ll just take this, thank you… These are quite rare in Equestria, you know. Not exactly worth what the Medallion of Shadow will be, but it’s certainly a nice bonus.”
“Silver Trowel give that back!” shrilled Flint, struggling against his magical and physical bonds. Trowel ignored him.
Indy glared at the unicorn from behind the shimmering cloud that was holding him aloft. “Why are you working for Ahuizotl, Trowel?”
“I hardly think that’s important, Doctor Jones,” said Silver Trowel, waving a dismissive hoof. “You’re an archeologist, too. Surely you understand the need to secure valuable artifacts.”
“So you aren’t giving it to Ahuizotl?” Indiana scoffed. He peered at the doorway hopefully. Daring Do should have been here by now. Where was she?
“No. I’m going to sell it to him. Obviously. But first, I have to tie up a few loose ends… My reputation is already bad enough in archeological circles without somepony telling tales. Now, let’s see…” Silver Trowel’s eyes narrowed in concentration and the revolver turned to point at Indiana Jones. Despite being across the room, the muzzle looked huge as Indiana stared into it.
“No! Bad pony! No hurt Indiana!” yelled Flint.
“You know, there’s always somepony around to ruin the moment,” Silver Trowel sighed. The pistol turned to aim at Flint. “Down, boy.”
The revolver fired. Flint’s angry snarls turned into pained whining as blood blossomed from his shoulder. Nodding in satisfaction, Silver Trowel turned back to Indy. The pistol followed. “Hmm. Pulls to the right a bit. Well, now I know. Now where was I…?”
Indiana took a deep breath as the hammer drew back. The idea that he would end his days at the wrong end of his own weapon had occurred to the archeologist before, but it seemed almost funny that the enemy pulling the trigger would be a small green unicorn. “Just do it, Trowel. I don’t have all day.”
Silver Trowel pulled the trigger. The hammer came down hard—and clicked on an empty chamber. The confused unicorn pulled the trigger again. Still nothing happened. Scowling, the pony shoved the empty pistol roughly into one of his saddlebags. Horn still glowing, he took a deep breath and a rumbling sound filled the air. “Don’t think you’ve gotten away so easily, Doctor Jones. You have simply traded a quick death for a slow one.”
* * *
Daring Do grinned as she caught sight of the doorway leading to the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Light. Ignoring the complaints of much-abused flight muscles, she sped up—and pulled up short with a yelp of surprise as the open doorway suddenly disappeared under a massive pile of stone and earth.
“No, no, no! Not now!” Daring snarled, glaring at the newly blocked hallway. She looked around urgently, trying to find a place where the rubble left an opening she could crawl through. There was none… And then she saw a panel sliding open in the wall and an indistinct, shadowy head poking cautiously out into the hallway.
* * *
Sprocket, junior engineer of the Local #405 Deathtrap and Ancient Ruin Defense Maintenance Union, winced as the walls of his maintenance tunnel shook again. Somepony out there was really making his life difficult. First it seemed like all the traps in the Temple of Shadow were being set off in sequence despite nopony actually falling into any of them. Now they were practically bringing down the roof! Why couldn’t anypony just leave well enough alone and let a trap maintenance pony do his bucking job?
The unicorn’s tool bag clinked as he set it down and cautiously opened the secret door. Unknown to him, a similar door opened in the Temple of Light next to a distraught pegasus adventurer. He coughed, waving away the billowing dust, and squinted into the half light of the hallway. “Oh, for Celestia’s sake…”
Some foal had somehow managed to tear down an entire section of the passage, blocking the route to the temple’s inner sanctum! The trap maintenance pony sighed and crawled out into the hallway. “Will you just look at this? This is going to take a week to clean up! You can bet your flank I’m going to bring this up at the next Local 405th meeting. I mean—whoah!”
* * *
The spectral figure of the unicorn pony spun and fell as Daring rushed past him to enter the dusty and disused passageway he’d revealed. Incredibly, the tunnel seemed to exist both in the Temple of Light and the Temple of Shadow. Waving a hoof in front of her face to knock down the thick cobwebs, the pegasus began to crawl forward through the maintenance ducts. Inching forward in the tunnel, the adventurer made a mental note: if she ever got back home, she and that pony were going to have words.
* * *
Indiana Jones winced as the last few stones fell. In the shimmering light of unicorn magic and the wan and guttering illumination of a few sparse torches, Silver Trowel examined his handiwork and nodded happily. “There we are. Just think, Doctor Jones. In a few years I can come back here and find an amazing relic—the remains of a previously unheard-of species, entombed here with his diamond dog companion! Perhaps it might even rehabilitate my reputation with the Equestrian Society of Archeology. Or at least net me a few dozen bits for your bones from some curio collector.”
“We’ll see,” Indy growled, his eyes shooting daggers at the unicorn. Muscles burned as he struggled uselessly against his arcane restraints.
“Heh. Well, Doctor Jones, I must say it’s been a pleasure working with you. But I really must be going; the medallion isn’t going to deliver itself.” Smiling with infuriating smugness, Silver Trowel turned to go. When he neared the rough-hewn wall through which he had come, the gray stone around his neck began to glow. The unicorn’s laughter cut off, muffled by the rock wall as he stepped slowly into it as easily as if it had been water.
The moment Silver Trowel’s head dipped into the rock, the shimmering magical field around Indiana and Flint winked out. The archeologist exploded into motion, rushing across the room with his bullwhip already in his hand. The whip lashed out—and looped around the departing unicorn’s back leg, pulling taut.
Silver Trowel gasped as a line of pain encircled his left hind leg. Wrenched from the dark embrace of the stone wall, he turned—only to meet Indiana Jones’ fist coming the other direction. The pony’s head cracked back and the aura of magic around his necklace winked out.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Indy snarled, swinging again and aiming for the unicorn’s ruined ear.
Grunting and rolling with the falling blows, Silver Trowel lashed out with his rear hooves. The human yelped and went down as the pony’s sharp double kick knocked his legs out from under him. Dropping on top of the unicorn, Indy grabbed the creature’s head and started slamming it repeatedly into the floor. Trowel gasped in agony with each teeth-rattling impact.
“Get—oof! Get off!” Silver Trowel’s horn flared, its light almost blinding Indy. A silver cloud snapped over the struggling archeologist and jerked him up, trying to pull him away from his opponent. With a growl Indiana wrapped the fingers of both hands into Trowel’s dirt-smeared white mane, dragging the creature into the air with him. The unicorn panted and strained, but finally gave up. The magical field winked out and the two combatants collapsed to the floor again.
Indiana Jones rose, fist cocked to deliver a jaw-crushing blow. A rock slammed into the side of his head like a silver-tailed meteor. Dazed, the human found himself prone on the floor. He pushed himself up just in time to catch a hoof to the side of the face. Indy’s teeth clacked together and he crumpled once again.
“I… have had… just… about… enough… of you!” hissed Silver Trowel, eyes blazing with arcane energy as he battered his foe with rock after magically thrown rock. Indiana curled up, sheltering his head as the stones crashed into his bruised flesh. For a moment, the rain of missiles stopped as the two archeologists gasped for breath.
Silver Trowel spit out blood and ran his tongue over a painfully loosened tooth. He was winning against the human, but only just. Beating Indiana to death was an attractive option, but with the diamond dog out of commission and the only way out blocked, the creature was as good as dead anyway. It was time to go.
“Well. This has been very fun, but once again I take my leave, Doctor Jones,” the unicorn wheezed. The dull stone around his neck started to glimmer once again as he turned towards the wall. He glanced back. Indiana was still curled protectively as though expecting another barrage. Hmph. Silver Trowel chuckled to himself and stepped into the wall.
Indy’s iron-hard grip snatched at the unicorn’s tail. The human dragged Silver Trowel back slightly. Trowel rolled his eyes—but then Indiana wrenched the saddlebags from the pony’s back.
“Oh,” Trowel hissed, “That is not acceptable!”
When Silver Trowel wheeled and dove back out of the rock, hooves pawing at the air, Indiana was ready. One hand smacked into the unicorn’s barrel chest, cutting short his charge. The other seized Trowel’s throat as Indy surged to his feet, dragging the pony onto his hind legs.
With Silver Trowel off-balance, Indiana shoved him backwards. Stone rippled like water as Trowel’s head passed through it. The unicorn’s flinty hooves swung blindly at Indy’s face as the human grabbed the shimmering necklace around the pony’s neck and pulled. In the darkness of the rock, Trowel’s eyes opened in horror as he felt the mountain solidify around him. If it were possible, he would have screamed. Instead, he could feel the cold, unyielding weight of stone in his mouth, his throat, his nostrils…
Indiana pulled his hands out of the wall, panting with exertion. The necklace in his grip shone for but a moment more and went out. Silver Trowel’s dark green hooves and lower body jutted out of the wall like some kind of grotesque decoration. The unicorn’s limbs flailed in panic and his chest heaved ineffectually. The pony’s frantic efforts slowed and finally stopped entirely as the creature suffocated.
Stomach roiling at the sight of the partially entombed unicorn, Indy turned away and leaned heavily against the rock wall that was now Silver Trowel’s grave. His breath came in wheezing gasps as he tried to draw life from the stuffy air. With slow, deliberate movements the archeologist re-wound his whip and hung it on his belt.
Claws clicked hesitantly on the stone floor. The archeologist looked up to see Flint. Finally free of his bonds, the diamond dog lumbered over to Indiana, pain in his emerald eyes and blood still streaming down from the wound on his ruined shoulder. “What now, Indiana? Feel… funny.”
Indy looked at the rubble covering the doorway out of the sanctuary. If they didn’t get that cleared out soon, they were going to die from lack of air. The traitorous pony entombed in the rock behind him had simply gotten a head start. “We have get out of here before we run out of air, Flint.”
“Huh?” The diamond dog was swaying slightly, head drooping. As Flint looked up again, his legs gave out and he tumbled to the floor. Blood from his shoulder dripped into a crimson puddle at Indiana’s feet. Swearing, the archeologist knelt down and tore a strip out of his shirt, wrapping the wound as best he could. The blood flow slowed a bit, but did not stop.
Indiana slapped the diamond dog’s muzzle a few times. “Hey! Stay awake, Flint. Don’t go to sleep on me, you mangy mutt.”
“Flint… not… mutt,” the diamond dog muttered, trying to push himself up to his paws. Finding the effort too strenuous, he whined in pain and settled back to the floor.
Grinding his teeth, Indiana limped to the rubble pile and started clawing at it, tugging down stones a few at a time in a futile attempt to clear a hole to the open hall beyond. Every stone removed simply resulted in more rubble falling to fill the gap.
“Hey, Indiana!” Daring called, pushing open the door a secret passage in the wall. Indiana Jones ignored the voice and kept digging. He had to get some fresh air in here; he was already hearing things.
“Jones!” Daring tried again. When that failed too, the pegasus’ headache-inducing double memories came to the rescue. “Hey! Junior!”
Indiana wheeled, glaring. “Don’t call me Jun—Jesus Christ! Daring!”
“That’s me,” Daring Do agreed, grinning ear to ear. “So now what, now that we’re both here?”
Clambering off the pile of rubble, Indiana rooted through Silver Trowel’s discarded saddlebags. His empty revolver went back in its holster. He held up the Medallion of Shadow triumphantly. “I think I’ve got it, Daring: the way to get us back where we belong.”
“You want to join the medallions at the pedestal like when we started this whole adventure?” suggested Daring, fishing out her half of the artifact from under her pith helmet.
“Indiana...? Who Indiana talking to?” mumbled Flint, struggling into a seated position.
Daring spared the diamond dog a glance and raised one eyebrow enquiringly. “Flint?! What’s he doing here?”
“You hired him on, and I did the same,” Indiana said, giving Flint a comforting pat on the diamond dog’s unbandaged shoulder. “I had my doubts at first, but the mutt here actually did a pretty good job.”
“I did what now?” asked Daring, blinking in puzzlement.
Doctor Jones’ hand paused mid pat. His expression soured. “You didn’t hire him to help keep you informed of what was going on at the inn?”
“No! I tried, but I gave up. He’s dumb as a box of rocks!” Daring exclaimed. “Isn’t he?”
Indy chuckled. “Apparently not. Just get him some medical help if this works. He’s been shot and he’s still losing blood.”
“Sure,” Daring said with a nod.
Head still tilted in confusion, Flint blinked as Indiana pushed a few more of the heavy golden coins into his paw. “Here, you earned this. Daring Do will get you some help.”
“Indiana leaving?” Flint’s ears drooped as he regarded the archeologist sadly.
“Hopefully. See ya around, kid.” Indiana Jones followed Daring Do to the raised dais.
“Anything I should know about what’s going on over there?” Indy asked the pegasus.
“Um… Brooks was working for Jägermeister. Both dead now. That’s about it over here,” Daring Do commented. “What about over there?”
“Most of the cultists are dead, I think. And Silver Trowel was working for Ahuizotl,” Indy replied.
Daring’s eyes flicked to the dangling corpse. She quickly turned back to Indiana Jones, somehow looking a bit green despite her golden pelt. “Yech. All right then. Let’s do this.”
Human and pegasus pony approached the pedestal from opposite sides, holding out their halves of the artifact. The room seemed to swirl and writhe as the two approached one another. Finally, they pressed the medallion halves together. For Indy and Daring alike, the world exploded in a flash of brilliant white.
Squinting ineffectually against the searing glow, Indiana nodded to Daring Do. She grinned and winked in acknowledgement. There was a sudden sensation of movement—but this time, the two were being pulled apart. Each watched the other recede into the distance. There was another flash of brilliant light, and then nothingness.
A/N: THE END! *rolls credits*
Just kidding, one more chapter to go. I don’t play that April Fools stuff.
You know, the villain deaths here were my absolute favorite bits of the story to write. Man, those were fun. I was a little worried about how quickly Indy and Daring go back to their own worlds- felt like you could see me the writer behind the scenes going, "SHOO! SHOO! BACK TO YOUR PROPER PLACE" and waving an inter-dimensional broom at them. But hey, all my pre-readers said it was fine so I guess I'm just being paranoid.
Finally, I hope everyone enjoyed the triumphant return of the TRAP MAINTENANCE PONY, alluded to waaaaay back in Chapter 1. Initially I was going to have him show up when Indy first got to the Temple of Shadow, but this was a MUCH better idea.
Indiana Jones opened his eyes. Instead of the cramped, dark chamber of the Temple of Shadow’s inner sanctum or the confusing phantasmagoria of the two temples in the throes of the ‘conjunction,’ he was in the polished, high-ceilinged Temple of Light. The golden rays of the morning sun streamed in through the open skylight and glittered off the artifact in Indy’s hand.
Looking down at the medallion, Indiana nearly dropped it in surprise. Instead of the shining half-disc of the Medallion of Light or the dark shape of the Medallion of Shadow, he held both joined seamlessly as one. The archeologist turned the combined artifact over in his hands, examining it from every angle. From all available evidence, it was an unbroken whole and had always been.
The same couldn’t be said for the Temple of Light. Silver Trowel’s destructive magic had torn through the twin temples, rending asunder architecture that had lasted for centuries. Indiana Jones frowned, worrying for a moment that he might be trapped after all—but the tunnel Daring Do had used was every bit as real for him here as it was in the sanctuary’s darker twin. Sparing one last glance at the empty chamber, Indiana bent low and climbed into the secret passage.
Crawling through the bowels of the Temple of Light, Indiana found himself searching his mind like a child scraping his tongue over the unaccustomed gap left by a lost tooth. His brain felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from it. The alien memories of Daring Do were gone. In some ways, it was a relief. But part of the archeologist almost missed the rare opportunity to experience first hand even the echoes of a new and unfamiliar civilization.
Fortunately for Indiana, the effects of the conjunction seemed to be at an end. No invisible but still lethal traps awaited the archeologist as he moved cautiously through the temple’s corridors, revolver at the ready. Even the German soldiers and their local allies seemed to have abandoned the entryway, leaving their dead sprawled on the bloodstained floor. Doctor Jones grimaced and waded carefully among the bodies, grateful that his was not among them.
The steps of the Temple of Light were still cool despite the warm sun as Indiana Jones took a seat outside the wrecked temple gates. Indy thought about the weight of the combined Medallion of Light and Shadow in the pocket of his well-worn jacket. It would probably be a good idea to get it back to the States as soon as possible. Even with Jägermeister dead, the Nazis doubtless had other agents they would use to try to retrieve their prize.
A flicker of movement made Indiana glance momentarily to his left. Oh, Daring was here. He looked back over the valley and—wait. What?! Doctor Jones nearly gave himself whiplash looking back for the pegasus, but she was gone. If she had ever been there in the first place. The archeologist chuckled. He must just be tired.
Come to think of it, it would probably be a while before Marshall College would be able to secure funds to get Indiana Jones out to this area of the world again. It would be a shame to waste the rare chance to investigate the rumors he’d heard about some of the Tibetan monasteries to the northeast.
Adjusting his fedora, Indiana stood and stretched. With a smile on his face, he walked down the steps of the Temple of Light and trudged down the mountain path, towards the next adventure.
* * *
Daring Do opened her eyes, wincing as she scented the tang of blood and death in the air. Something near the edge of the chamber whined and rubbed its face. It was Flint, the wrappings on his shoulder stained red by his slowly bleeding wound.
“Hey, Flint,” Daring called in greeting.
The diamond dog nearly fainted in surprise, although that might have been more due to blood loss. “Daring Do!”
“Come on, I told Indy I’d get you out of here. Let’s go,” the mare directed.
Daring went to tuck the Medallion of Shadow back under her pith helmet, but stopped and stared. Where before she had held only half of the twin artifacts, now the pegasus had the complete set. The two medallions formed a single plate-sized disc of metal, somehow seamless despite having been split down the middle between its dark and light halves.
Daring Do examined the joined artifact for a moment and glanced around the chamber. The low, claustrophobic room was unquestionably the inner shrine of the Temple of Shadow, without any of the strange additions caused by whatever arcane disturbance had joined the two temples partially into one. The mare shook her head. Magic, eh? Maybe somepony back in Canterlot could make sense of it all.
With the diamond dog following, Daring climbed back into the tunnels used by the trap maintenance pony. The dazed unicorn was still there when she came out the other end. He glanced nervously at the emerging adventurer. “Oh hello, Miss. Name’s Sprocket. Sorry about the mess. We’ll have this cleaned up and the temple in working order again soon. Can you come back in a week or so?”
“Maybe,” Daring allowed. “Actually, I wanted to discuss booby traps with you…”
“I haven’t had a chance to reset the traps yet after some idiot set them all off,” Sprocket sighed. “If you just give me a bit of time, though, I can—OH CELESTIA NOT THE FACE! NOT IN THE FACE!”
Several very satisfying minutes later, Daring Do left a battered Sprocket behind and helped a limping Flint to wade through the carnage of the entryway. The mismatched pair paused on the steps of the temple, looking out over the early morning vista of the Ridgebacks. Daring sighed. It was good to be back on somewhat familiar ground.
A shifting shadow to Daring’s right made her turn in that direction. For a heartbeat, she could swear she saw the grizzled features of Indiana Jones as he rested on the steps, and then the image was gone. “Flint, did you see anything?”
“What Daring mean?” the diamond dog asked, cocking his head. “Flint see lots of things.”
“Never mind,” sighed the mare. It was probably a trick of the light. On the bright side, though her mind was playing tricks on her, it wasn’t doing it with somepony else’s memories any more. Once again she could be sure that the past events she was dredging up were hers and hers alone… although now that she thought about it, Daring Do somewhat regretted never getting the chance to visit America, or Germany, or the other places she’d glimpsed in Indiana’s memories.
“So, where Daring go now?” inquired Flint. He stretched and straightened. The natural resilience of a diamond dog was doing wonders for his alertness despite the continued throbbing in his shoulder wound.
“Well obviously…” Daring trailed off. Her usual answer would have been something like, ‘on to the next adventure!’ But the pegasus felt tired. Dead tired. She pulled out the combined Medallion of Light and Shadow again, looking contemplatively into its reflective surface.
“You know, I think I’ll take this thing back to Canterlot,” Daring said slowly as ideas slotted into place in her head. “Maybe… Maybe see about putting some of the stuff I’ve collected in a museum. I feel like it belongs there, honestly. I bet a lot of colts and fillies would like to see artifacts like this and learn about far off lands and interesting cultures.”
Flint cocked his head again. “Daring think colts and fillies might follow in Daring’s hoofsteps?”
Daring Do speared Flint with an appraising gaze. “You know, I think Indy was right. You are smarter than you look.”
The diamond dog glanced around nervously. “Please Daring, don’t tell. Flint never live it down!”
“All right, Flint. Well, let’s go.” Daring trotted down the mountain path, Flint close behind as they headed off… towards the next adventure.
* * *
Far above the pegasus and diamond dog, a hawk circled. Making one last loop to be sure, it turned and flew south. Its journey took it over the tall, craggy spines of the Ridgeback Mountains. The raptor flew over rolling hills and broad, expansive plains. It flew with little food and less rest, stopping only infrequently. Finally, the bedraggled bird glided in for a final landing in the humid, shadowy depths of a jungle far out of its native range.
The hawk hopped across the weathered stone of the ruins and arrived at the foot of a large throne. From the royal seat, a hulking, blue-furred creature glared down at the bird. “Well, hawk? Why do you disturb the rest of the great Ahuizotl?”
Fluttering up to the throne, the bird of prey squawked quietly into Ahuizotl’s ear. The strange creature listened intently, his eyes narrowing with every passing second. “Daring? The medallion, gone? And all lost?!”
The large blue creature snarled, baring its yellowed fangs to the sky as it shook a clawed fist in the air. “Foiled again. Curse you, Daring Do—eh?”
Once again the hawk seemed to whisper quietly to the evil beast. Ahuizotl’s eyes widened in surprise. “A what? Who is that?”
Ahuizotl listened again, his lips curling away from his sharp, predatory teeth. He surged to his paws and snarled angrily. “Then fine! Curse you too, Indiana Jones! With myself as my witness I, Ahuizotl, swear this: somehow, I will have my revenge! A plague on all adventurers!”
The blue-furred villain collapsed back into his throne and made a shooing motion with one paw. The hawk squawked enquiringly. Ahuizotl sighed. “Yes, yes. You have done well, my minion. Now, go! I have plans to make… Such plans…”
“Yes, yes. You have done well, my minion. Now, go! I have plans to make… Such plans…”
The final page of the manuscript rustled as Twilight Sparkle lowered the paper and replaced it on the bottom of the stack. She glanced up at the two aspiring authors and gathered her thoughts. How to put this best? “Well… Wait. Dash, are you awake?”
Lyra glanced over to her co-author, Rainbow Dash. The pegasus was snoring gently. Sighing, the sea green unicorn prodded the snoozing pony with a hoof. Dash continued sleeping. Lyra prodded harder and Rainbow leaped to her hooves. “What?! What? I’m up. I’m up!”
“As I was saying,” Twilight continued with an annoyed glance at her friend, “I think it’s… pretty good.”
“Just ‘pretty good?’ Not super-ultra-extreme-awesomazing?!” whined Rainbow Dash.
“Could you tell us what you did and didn’t like about it?” Lyra said, interrupting the pegasus’ complaints before the mare could get into full swing.
Twilight consulted a list of notes she’d made while reading. “This is a good story, especially considering it’s your first effort together. I thought the idea of two adventurers in each others’ world was very inventive. Good idea using the memory merging, too; it saved a lot of exposition for the reader. Not that exposition is a bad thing, I for one love when something’s explained properly…”
“But?” Rainbow prompted.
“I wasn’t done yet, Rainbow. But the story does have some big problems. The biggest is, you really shouldn’t use Daring Do for one of your characters,” Twilight said with a sigh.
The pegasus’ jaw dropped. “What?! Why not?”
“The character Daring Do already belongs to somepony else,” Twilight explained. “If you want to be a published author yourself, you really need to use your own characters and setting; you can’t just write this… this… I think it’s called ‘fan fiction?’”
“What do you mean we can’t—” Rainbow Dash started, but Twilight Sparkle cut her off.
“However, I think you did a good job with Daring, and if you get the original author’s permission you might be able to publish this,” the lavender unicorn said.
Dash brightened. “Oh. Well that should be easy, right?”
Resisting the urge to crush her friend’s optimism, Twilight continued. “Now what I was really interested in was what you did with the other adventurer, this ‘Indiana Jones.’ Somepony like that—”
“Someone,” Lyra corrected automatically.
Twilight nodded. “Right. Someone like that has a lot of potential. He has many of the same qualities as Daring Do, but you gave him a very original spin. I definitely liked the idea of a college professor of archeology using his knowledge in the field for the betterment of pony—er, mankind.”
“Pffft, you would,” chuckled Rainbow Dash.
“Was there anything you thought we could improve about Indiana Jones?” Lyra asked, smiling eagerly. So Twilight had liked her character!
Consulting her notes again, Twilight paused for a moment. “Hmm. If you’re looking for constructive criticism, Lyra, there’s not a lot I can say on Indiana himself. He’s quite the stallion. Er, man, rather. But his villains, the Nasties…”
“Nazis, you mean,” Dash interrupted.
“Right. Incidentally, ‘Nazi’ and ‘Nasty?’ Nice pun, girls. Very clever. Anyway, they seemed a little flat, honestly. The idea of a militaristic society bent on global domination is a good place to start, but you really didn’t bring in their motivation very much. Why do they want to rule the world? Who is this ‘Hitler?’ And how is he different from ‘Himmler?’ Their names sound almost the same, so some readers could get confused. You might want to rename one of them, but that’s just a suggestion.” Twilight shrugged and put down her notes. Seeing the amateur authors’ expressions, she hurried to add, “This is a good first draft, though! Don’t let my criticism discourage you!”
“All right, Twilight. Thank you for your help. We’ll be sure to credit you as an editor,” Rainbow Dash said.
“Yes, thank you,” echoed Lyra as she levitated the manuscript and tucked it carefully into her saddlebags.
The co-authors trotted out of the Books and Branches Library in silence. It wasn’t until the door had closed behind them that Rainbow Dash turned to Lyra with an annoyed glare. “I told you we should have done a ship-fic instead! Those are always popular!”
Lyra rolled her eyes. “Yes, I’m sure everypony would want to read about the amazing romance between Daring Do and Princess Celestia’s previously unheard-of sibling. Who was it you suggested again? A blue-pelted, rainbow-maned alicorn mare named ‘Chromatic Sprint?’”
“She’s a perfectly legitimate and original character!” the pegasus snapped. “Way better than your stupid My Little Person ‘Lyle Hartman’ stories!”
“Now listen, you feather-brained—” Lyra paused mid-snarl and took a deep breath, smoothing away the angry creases in her expression. “All right. Fine. Look, do you want to keep going with this? Twilight gave us some good input, at least, if we want to improve what we’ve got.”
Rainbow Dash sighed. “Well we did put a lot of work into it so far. I guess I’ll keep going with it if you will. See you next Wednesday?”
“Make it Thursday; Bon Bon and I have previous engagements on Wednesday,” Lyra replied with a half-smile.
“Heh. Lucky. Anyway, those clouds aren’t going to kick themselves. See you later, Lyra!” In an instant, Rainbow Dash was airborne, soaring into the blue. Lyra watched the pegasus go. Well, that hadn’t gone too badly. Maybe this author thing was going to work out for them after all. Now if only they could come up with a good pen name to use when they published…
A/N: And this is well and truly THE END.
I categorically deny any and all allegations that I stole this entire manuscript off the ponynet and changed the byline. YOU’LL NEVER CATCH MEEEEE HA HA HA HAAAAAA
Yes, I just couldn't resist sticking a reference to one of my other stories into the epilogue for laughs, heh heh. I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not.
Special thanks go to: Tzelly-El for the awesome cover art SapphireStarlight for most of the brainstorming help on this thing & for pre-reading Rated Ponystar for more brainstorming and for pre-reading LittleNapoleon for input from the non-Brony demographic EzeFilly for pre-reading and help with German and last but not least Sebbaa for even MORE pre-reading and a lot of help with the German! And to the various others who helped point out typos and such with enough specificity that I was able to find them.
I appreciated your help. Without all of you I probably wouldn't have gotten done with this.
This one actually started life as a random idea while I was exercising one day, and just sort of stuck. Admittedly it was initially going to be a sort of 'buddy comedy' thing with Indy and Daring having to tag-team their combined enemies, but eventually it ended up the way you see it today.
In any event, I hope you enjoyed it, dear reader, for I certainly enjoyed writing this.
…And no, I do not have any sequels planned for this. @_@ Yes, I always say this, but you know what? IT’S ALWAYS TRUE.
Seriously. Even if I had an idea for it (and I don't) I have other sequels to write first! Muahahahahahaaaaa...