“I would like a cold glass of frozen ice?” I asked the bartender who wiped the front counter with a dirty, gray, and ripped cloth.
He slowly looked up before eyeing me with furrowed red brows. He undertook a look of perplexity, but his posture quickly returned to a neutral state after examining me from top to bottom. With vigilant eyes, the bartender nodded to the far corner of the restaurant where an old looking booth sat rotting and aging in place. I turned my attention to the booth and noticed a brown hooded male, waiting patiently for my arrival. Not wanting to keep the stranger waiting any longer than he had to, I quickly trotted over to the booth and sat down opposite from where he stood. I removed the coif that covered both my face and hat and stared at him with a small grin.
As soon as my rump laid perfectly flat on the cotton padding, the brown stallion drew his attention towards me, his ominous aura sent a small chill down my spine. A gut feeling of skepticism?
“Are you the archaeologist… Ma’am?” He slowly, yet hesitantly asked with a deep gravel voice, he leaned in, his head hovered over the wood table.
My hoof reached down into my cloak and pulled out a folded white piece of paper. “Yea” I quickly replied before throwing the letter I received for this exact meeting onto the table.
The stallion's eyes fell upon the white card. His shoulders dropped and his body relaxed. “I'm Coyote,” He said as his voice amazingly changed to a warm gentle tone, his vocals similar to that of a growing adult. He removed his hood and held out his hoof for me to shake.
I respectfully took his hoof and shook it in a smooth repetitive motion. Up and down. Although our talk was short, we both understood our situation.
His eyes were a bright blue with a scant fade of dirt gold in the far corners which glowed even in the darkest of nights. His coat was brown and his mane was black. A silver beaded necklace wrapped around his neck with two metal plates that rested on his chest. He wore a loose gray hoodie that covered the majority of his upper body, his teeth were white which shined in the sun's light and his face seemed to show a warm welcoming smile. He looked about my age.
Not long after our quick introduction, my thoughts suddenly diverted to his strange choice of words. “Ma’am?!” not only that but usually old coots or guards would say that to young mares such as myself. It was a strange feeling. “Call me Daring Do, or Daring!” I boosted, before pointing a hoof at myself.
He slowly smiled. “Daring it is then!” He sat up and adjusting his shirt before leaning back in his seat. The small silver plates and beads around his neck jingled which quickly caught my attention.
I sat on my haunches, placed my elbows on the edge of the table and crossed my hooves “Cool necklace!” I politely commented. As I examined the silver plates further, I noticed written box like text press into the metal with an assortment of numbers. “What’s it say?”
The stallion silently removed the necklace from around his neck and placed it into my hooves. I bought the necklace up to my violet red eyes to get a better view of the text that were written on the two small plates. One of the text below, I knew it had something to do with religion but I wasn’t sure which one. After reading the writing further, I later figured out that his entire information was set on this single piece of metal. I reexamined the date and found myself asking a question I knew was absolutely wrong.
He was just as surprised as I was. He laughed and latter exhaled before putting both hooves on the table close to his chest. “Wrong one,” He chuckled before rotating his hoof in a circular motion. “Look at the other one”
I did as I was told and traded the first metal plate for the other. The beads rattled and scratched the wood surface of the table as I exchanged the metal objects. Same exact information as the first but the dates changed. I sheepishly smiled at the stallion who I later gave back the necklace.
“Sorry…” I scratched the back of my head with my hoof. “You're 27. Why are they different?”
Before Coyote was able to wrap his accessory around his neck. He grabbed one of the silver plates and waved it up and down. “Well, the first one you saw was actually a factory mistake?”
I may not admit it, but getting to know somepony is a good way for figuring out their past. “They were manufactured?”
“Yes Ma- Uh, Daring! Mine was specially designed. When they accidently made the mistake they gave me the other one. I still keep it! It's kind’a funny memory and-”
Coyote was rudely interrupted by a red coat mare with a cloth over her shoulder who pushed the stallion further into the booth. I assumed she was the waitress. She sat next to Coyote with the face of concern. Coyote quickly reached into his hoodie but his swift motion came to an abrupt stop as the mare introduced herself. “Ok! Are you two the soldier and the archaeologist!” She quietly whispered.
Both of us nodded our heads in agreement.
“Ok! We don't have time to ask or answer questions right now I need you to listen!” We were silent. “Good, Take this and hide it show nopony!” She threw down a small white journal with a light blue crystal in the middle. “History! This is the secret my family have been keeping from the ponies of Shallow Lake for a long time now! If you want to know what I am talking about open the journal! I need you two to hide the staff after you find it because a group of ponies are on my tail!” She panicked.
The door to the restaurant's entrance slammed opened. I leaned slightly out of my seat to glance at the entryway. The light from outside was blinding, making it difficult for my eyes to process the figures in the doorway. As soon as the face of the intruders entered the restaurant, I scoffed with anger. There were 4 of them.
“Got company two o’clock,”
“Ahuizolt’s mercs!” I said through gritted teeth.
“They're here!” The waitress quickly glanced at us and the book. “Quick! Hide the Journal” Coyote took said journal and covered it with his arm. “I… I- I-... I’ll distract them!? I need you two to go out the back door now!” She pushed herself away from the table and trotted over to the bartender who smiled at the mare, playing a face of pretend.
“Put your hood on!” I whispered.
Once the coifs were over our heads and hiding our face, we stood to our hooves and trotted out the back, exiting the restaurant without incident. For us at least. From outside, I could hear the sound of breaking glass and splitting wood. Screams from the mare we recently encountered were deafening and grunts from the bartender were powerful, there attempts of fighting off the 4 mercenaries sent by my enemy was futile. Their screams of agony was arduous to listen to.
“Going somewhere!” A pony at the end of the ally said in a wicked tone. His corrupt heart and body of orange blocked our exit.
We stopped in our tracks my head pointed to the sky, my wings itched to take flight but the thought of leaving the journal and the stallion alone to fend for himself felt wrong. So I stayed and took up a fighting stance.
The stallion next to me reached into his hoodie for the second time on that day. A ferrous look of focus was plastered over his eyes as he confronted the grunt from a distance. “By order of Equestria law, you are to stand down and surrender for attempted theft and assault!” He bellowed with the same deep voice he used when we first met.
“Heh! Nice try but ya left out’a few lines and its kind’a hard to believe” The merc across from us smirked with an evil grin. “One, I’ve met too many guards and know all their lines. Second, Most of the guards I’ve fought are pretty pathetic you and the other one including and third-” He tilted his head forward, the hat on his crown dropped into his left hoof and appearing on the top of his mane was a coin pouch tied in what appeared to be a silver bow. “What say you just hoof over the book our boss wants and ditch your friend over there for a good pay,”
The soldier was silent. He stared intenty at the stallion with anger. He snorted and backed away from the leader.
The villain's mouth was open with surprise. He put the hat he held in his hoof back on his crown and stared at us with disappointment. “Guess ya can’t be bribed… Get’em boys!”
“You got it boss!”
Above us were two other ponies hiding behind the buildings roof top. Both were pegasus, one of them wielding a crossbow and the other a large rusted dagger. One of them laughed as the other pointed the crossbow at our heads. I kicked a conveniently placed empty glass bottle next to my right hind leg at the pony wielding the deadly firearm and took to the early morning skies. She cringed and rubbed her damaged hoof. The other pony ignored my existence and aimed at my companion.
“I’m going to make you bleed!”
“Hey! look ou-” The air for my lungs was cut off by the crushing sensation of a lead pipe against my throat. My back pressed against the chest of the mare behind me.
The flying maniac pressed the dagger into the stallions hide with ease. He flinched as blood poured from his wound. Coyote turned around with a pained expression and pulled out a large combat knife. The knife was a foot in length and the blade was 3 inches in width with a grayish silver tint and was most likely made of steel. It was a big knife. He brought the weapon into the side of the attacker and pulled it out, it was followed by the sound of ripping hide. The merc cried and yelled as flesh hung and dangled from his wound.
The mares grip on the pipe around my neck loosened. Her body shook with fear at the spewing blood on the alley floor. I took this as an opportunity and pushed the mare back while bringing her body to the ground and slamming it into broken glass, paralyzing her. I looked back at Coyote who threw his knife at the fleeing leader. The knife hit the leader's back. He tumbled to the floor.
“Is he alright!?” I asked, running over to the now unconscious attacker, standing by his side and tending to the cuts and bruises. I tore some cloth away from his shirt and wrapped it around his wound.
I watched as the soldier approach the leader before kicking the stallion over to laid him flat on his back. He kicked his hat off his head and grabbed the coin pouch that was tangled in his mane. He sheathed his blade. “We need to leave Daring!” He shouted in my direction at the end of the alley way. “Before actual Royal Guards get here!”
“R-Right!” I left the mercenaries behind and followed Coyote.
We ran. We ran as fast as we could, Coyote being much farther ahead of me. The muscles in the legs screamed at me to stop and go back but I couldn’t, so I opened my wings and flew only feet from the ground. My breath heavy and my mouth dry, we continued towards the train station. Every time I look back, I could feel a strong sense of guilt flood my soul. I had blood on my hooves and hat. We would have to clean up before we stepped hoof near the station.
We had the book and we had strength. Now. To find the staff before my rival does...