Faux Pas Forest Frolic Part 1
IC date: Summer 81
OOC date: September 9
PCs: Gamble, Rocket, Lavender, Kludge, Ruby-Blossom
NPCs: Kelpies!, Fuzzball
GM: Gamble

Summer is drawing to a close. The Sun's Hibernation is approaching, so the days are starting to get shorter, and not so hot. Fall is approaching. Soon after that, Winter! Which means prime adventuring weather is quickly going away.

This is a pity, because there are still so many adventures to be had.

For one particular pair of plucky pathfinders, Gamble and Rocket have put out notices in regards to an expedition into the Wintersong Forest. Any interested parties were directed to show up at the outskirts of town. The posting labelled this as Pirate Treasure Hunt: 'Come enjoy a pleasant stroll in the Wintersong Forest with potential treasure benefits'.

A small footnote at the bottom of the flier reads: 'Some Danger Expected. Come prepared for anything.'

Now is the time. Here is the place! Gamble has his saddlebags packed, he's sitting on the trail that leads to the forest proper, hat tipped up and horn aglow to levitate his trusty journal, flipping through pages to make sure he's got all his clues and notes in proper order.

"Hey Feathers. Do ya think I might'a went a little light on that posting? Ya think any pony in town still cares 'bout some ancient pirate's lost goods?"

Ka-clump, ka-clump, ka-clump, ka-clump… From the town comes the sound of a frenzied set of hoofbeats, and as it draws nearer, panting. At a full gallop, a purple earth pony filly draws near. Lavender is loaded down pretty heavily already! With an adventuring hat on her head (not a pirate one, surprisingly), bulging saddlebags, a length of rope hefted around her neck, and a wooden sword in her mouth, she somehow manages to keep her speed.

"Don't leave yet, wait for meeee," Lav inadvertently drops her sword to holler. Then she skids to a halt with all four hooves, darts backwards, picks it back up again and swings forward to try and reach the designated meeting point before the adventure is all had and done for.

Rocket tilts her head, shrugging a bit. "I'd think so. I mean, it's interesting, isn't it? There's probably good stuff!" She glances back at the wing she'd been stretching. She may have milked the injury a little, all in all, but it was finally free of bandages, stretchable, and (hopefully) flight-ready! Because hey, you never know what'll happen in that forest.

"See? There's one," she comments casually. "…Little one, though, eh Fuzz?"

Fuzzball, perched upon Rocket's shoulder, nods his agreement. Very little. And that's coming from a tiny forest bunny. He even goes as far as to cross his arms and look down at the little purple filly with a 'tsk tsk' expression. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Gamble, meanwhile, lifts his head from his journal-checking, tilting it slightly at the oncoming filly. "…Hoo boy. Let's hope that's not the only one." he mutters to his treasure-hunting partner, then raises his voice to the approaching Lav. "We ain't leavin' yet little'un! Yer the first to show up!"

Looks like Gamble's prospects are looking up - here comes the town salon owner; now there's a skill set that can be useful - if the party runs into any over grown bushes. The turquoise pony trotting towards the 'adventuring' group with a small satchel slung over her back - full of all sorts of useful thieves tools, not that any pony would be wise to such things. "Oh, I know." she points to the Griffon and Gamble. "So this is your little soiree?

Rocket looks the prissy pointing pony up and down, giving a little sniff. "Soiree? Wuzzat? We're goin' into the forest, if that's what you mean." She glances over to the foal again, then back at the path. Anyone else?

Indeed, there was another, somewhat less excited-looking foal trudging up the path, earring'd ears poking through her own new 'adventuring hat' (who knew there were special hats for such things? Not this zebra!). Sadaka is following dutifully after Lavender, but not looking entirely so sure that she thinks this is a good idea. But… there's grown-up ponies going too… right? So… so that's not breaking any rules.

Ruby-Blossom shoots a friendly smile Lav and Sadaka's way, part of the small meant to be reassuring for Sadaka's sake. "Breaking in your new hat, Sadaka? Is Dream-Daze's impetious nature rubbing off on you?" encouraging the foal forward as she trots towards Gamble and Rocket. "Surely a motley crew you've gathered."

Kludge walks up, tools and some supplies in his saddlebags. Normally, he'd leave treasure hunting for the adventurous types, but a few factors changed his mind. For one, with the fillies going along, someone has to be level-headed… especially with the fearless Lavender in the mix! For another, Ruby had dropped hints about how useful it would be to have some extra help with carrying back any treasure that had be found. And hey, what are friends for?

"Eeyup." Gamble says to Ruby's question. "Our little shindig here. Just a quick trip into the forest to see if we can find somethin' interesting, that's all." He grins, to show just how nervous he isn't about this trek. It might be the teensiest bit fake. Maybe.

When the third prospect for the expedition comes trotting along, /another/ foal even, Gamble's smile starts to fade altogether. He tucks his journal into a saddlebag, then tugs his hat brim down a little over his forehead. "Great. Two kids an' a manestylist." he mutters softly towards his gryphon friend. "If we /do/ run into anythin' dangerous in there, Feathers, this'll go over /great/."

Still, maybe it's better than nothing. Gamble squints as a fourth pony wanders up. Oh hey now, there we go. Some muscle! "Aw, that's more like it." he says, his grin returning. "Right then. That makes what, six of us? I think maybe that'll be enough."

Lavender, still catching her breath, grins back to Sadaka. "Oh good we made it! They didn't leave yet, so…Yay adventures!" She runs up and hugs Sadaka. Most certainly is Lav the excitable one here, and not least because the sun still has a happy face on it.

Rocket gives a faint chuckle. "Well, it's better than nothing," she echoes his thoughts. Probably not psychic, but hey, sometimes you get a lucky guess. She does a quick count, talon pointing at each as she adds them, ending at the bunny on her shoulders. "I got seven. Did I math wrong?"

Suddenly, hug! Sadaka blinks and blushes, clearing her throat and shyly hugging her back. "Yeah… y-yay, adventures!" Not quite so enthusiastic. But she tries! She smiles shyly back over at Ruby. "W-well, uh… Lavender wanted someone to go with her, and… we c-couldn't find Siyana." So she'd been the default stand-in zebra, clearly.

Ruby-Blossom glances over towards Kludge then to the fillies (Well at least there is someone to watch the fillies if things take a turn for the worse). She pats Sadaka on the head before trotting closer to Gamble. "Shall we?

Seven? Gamble scratches his chin, re-counting the ponies. Six. Six! Then he eyes the little bunny on Rocket's shoulder. "…I didn't exactly count him. I'm still not completely convinced ya aren't jus' savin' him to be a travel snack or somethin'."

Fuzzball sticks his tongue out at Gamble and scampers up to perch atop Rocket's head! Obviously he's going to be safe there!

At any rate, It seems there's enough ponies to have an expedition. Er, a 'pleasant walk through the forest', yes… The rusty pony gets to his hooves, turning around to squint down the path to the forest proper. "I suppose so! Daylight's burnin', better get a hoof on if we're gonna get back out before dark. If yer all ready." He starts to trot down the pathway. "Jus' remember ta stick together, an' this oughta go well. No chargin' off on yer own, a'right?"

Lavender gives Gamble the biggest of big grins. "Absolutely, glorious leader, shining hero of the adventuring brigade! I will stick right behind you and will never stray from your sight!" She trots in a little circle around her zebra friend. Definitely being weirder than normal.

Kludge shrugs. "Sounds good to me." One of the first things a craftspony learns is to listen to those who know what they're doing. Gamble obviously has experience at this, so if Kludge listens to him, then there's less chance of a mishap…

…right?

At any rate, Kludge will keep an eye on the fillies and an ear on the other adventurers, and if any field carpentry is needed, well, good thing he's here!

Rocket frowns faintly, also sticking her tongue out. "I'm not gonna eat him!" Completely forgetting, conveniently, that when she met the bunny, that was very much the plan of action. "Don't listen to him, Fuzzball. Wouldn't've ever found the book in the first place if it weren't for you! You count."

Ruby-Blossom is suddenly at Gamble's side, pretty ol Ruby eyes fluttering enticingly. "What book?" she asks while staring up at the stallion "Surely you'll share?

Fuzzball beams and looks proud as proud can be, sitting on top of such a mighty predator beastie's head like that. Of /course/ he's important! He found the tree first! Granted, it was because he was running for his life at the time, but that's not the point.

"Y'know, I can't say I feel one-hundred percent keen on this now." Gamble asides to Rocket as the group begins to journey into the forest proper. "…On the other hoof I'm pretty sure none of these ponies are gonna try 'n backstab us if we do find somethin' neat. Maybe this was providence."

Suddenly Ruby! Gamble spooks slightly, jumping an inch sideways to the question. "Ngh! What…? …Uh." A sheepish grin creeps over the pony's expression. "This journal my friend here found. Belongs to some dead pirate. One of those weird types that went 'n hid his treasure, but decided to leave clues so somepony could go find it later." He knits his eyebrows together. "…Why in Tartarus do pirates do that anyway?"

Ruby-Blossom certainly won't stab anypony in the back - her class build doesn't afford a damage modifier for sneak attacks; but she is liable to take every last shiney if given the opportunity. "Hoo. So that's what this is all about?" glancing sideways at the would-be adventurer "So we're after a deadman's chest? I'm assuming you've somepony capable of both identifying, and disarming traps?" She glances to one side then the other "Certainly not the friendliest place for foals." glancing over her shoulder at the fillies and Kludge whom is assumedly taking up the rear.

Lavender sticks her tongue out at Ruby, unable to come up with anything witty to say. But she'll show them… She'll show all of them! "Don't worry, this is going to be boring and danger-free, Sadaka. Can't imagine it being anything that'd scare you, not even a little."

Rocket chuckles. "I still say the three of us coulda done it. Every extra creature's just extra help." She starts a bit at Ruby's sudden appearance as well, feathers fluffing out slightly. Geez, prissy pony is quick. She peers down at her, though Gamble's words give her pause. …Why /do/ pirates do that? O,o

Sadaka blushes and frowns faintly at the (probably!) unintentional patronizing, casting Lav a sideways glance. "I'm not scared! I just… don't th-think there's anything all that great in the f-forest is all." Aside from her lean-to. And those neat flowers. And Ms. Snowfield (kinda). And that Kelpie she'd sorta made friends with… though said Kelpie had also almost drowned her, so. Yeah.

Kludge is stoically walking along with the group, keeping an eye on things.

The forest is, unfortunately, as spooky as ever! Especially once one passes that boundry that marks the end of Ponydom and the beginning of the Unknown To All (Except Snowfield). True to its name and reputation, it's almost like walking through a curtain of cold weather, the surrounding temperature dropping several degrees right away. A bonechilling cold to boot, that has a habit of being somewhat immune to typical methods of keeping warm. Like extra clothing. Or spells.

Surely that's why Gamble shivers as they set hoof into the forbidden territory, and not because Ruby mentioned anything about the potential of traps. Then again, that sheepish look hasn't left him yet, especially when he glances back too at the pair of fillies, and the bigger, bulkier 'bodyguard' in back.

"…Yeah, I've got some experience with that sort of thing, but I'm /really/ hoping we don't actually run into any traps this time. I'm not lookin' ta get anypony hurt over this. We're jus' gonna go see what we can find. We might not even find anythin', y'know?" He turns his head to glance Rocket's way. "Most of those traps ya ran into gettin' that book weren't really that dangerous, right?"

Speaking of dangerous. No sooner does Kludge step past that boundry of the forest than the path behind him seems to close off in a rustle of frosty brush. Rustling that ripples through the foilage all the way up along the path, right past the small pony party!

Ruby certainly isn't looking where she's going as she's all fixated on the would-be adventurer Gamble, and his secrets - yet she manages to avoid any miss-steps as if accustomed to being conscious of her surroundings. "Hmmm…well if you need a pair steady eyes, or steady hands, I'll be right behind you." Rule number one in adventuring - don't be first: let someone else set off traps. She falls into line behind the Griffon and Gamble, glancing back to the fillies again "Brave adventurers, I know you'll protect me." Her tone encouraging and playful - no a hint of teasing.

Rocket shrugs one shoulder. "Yeah, not much of it was that dangerous. First pit was fake. Guess the second one coulda been trouble, but I wasn't standin' on it. Spike log was fake too, though I guess it coulda smacked me good. Snake was just gross." She made a face, clacking her beak a few times as if trying to get rid of the memory of the taste. Dusty snake mummy. Ew.

Lavender wrinkles her nose. "Nobody said there were going to be snakes. Are there going to be snakes? That's not right." She huffs, "Oh well…But adventures! Um, so…Where /are/ we going precisely?"

"That's a really good question!" Gamble notes to the little purple filly, though he gives Ruby an odd look when she falls behind them. But he doesn't answer it. Really it's not that he didn't want to lead a group of adventureous ponies into an extremely dangerous place without a plan! But there's no real /maps/ of the forest. Partially because of the annoying tendency of the local flora to rearrange itself on a whim. It's a wonder any pony can make their home here.

"I was kinda hopin' our /forest guide/ here would have a good idea where to start lookin' for this clue that's s'posed to be here." Gamble finally says after a brief pause, looking to Rocket specifically. "What we're lookin' for is some kind of 'forest pony ruins'. And I think the journal means Kelpies. So I figured we'd either end up findin' the kelpies, findin' the ruins, or findin' nothing at all."

Ruby-Blossom slows her pace enough so she's soon trotting beside the filies and just in front of Kludge - as always just out of reach Kludge~ She playfully skips in an attempt to keep Sadaka's spiris high - though the activity ceases a few moments later as she stiffles a yawn, Ruby red eyes glancing about to make note of anything interesting.

The odd behavior of the foliage catches Kludge's attention, but as long as the adventuring pros aren't worried beyond usual caution, then he's not going to worry, either. Ruby's skipping does help to keep things cheerful, since who can resist smiling when there's skipping about? (Well, other than the Watch Captain, but that almost goes without saying.)

Rocket nods, keeping pace with the group easily. Right. Ruins and guides and Kelpies and… oh. Oh! Oh yeah. "Right! Guide." That /was/ her job, wasn't it. "Well, I never seen any ruins around, but… don't worry, the snake was dead," she asides to Lavender, then continues, "but then I've never been looking. Any stuff like that, though, it's gonna be in sorta deep, so when we get a bit of a ways, I'll take a fly around and see what I can find. Eye in the sky and all that, eh?"

Lavender bobs her head in a nod. "Ruins, huh… So, any of you ever been out to the ruins before? Because they were /pretty awesome/ the last time I was there. I mean, not to brag or anything, but I might've been there first."

Sadaka blinks and looks over at Lavender quizzically. "What ruins? We didn't find any r-ruins when we were h-here…" she tilted an ear, frowning. "Unless y-you've been in s-since… and didn't tell m-… well, we d-didn't hear about it."

The forest is nothing but interesting! Probably as interesting as it is dangerous! Just look at all the different kinds of plants. Sure, most of them are covered in snow, or frosted, but that just adds to their uniqueness! Just don't mind the occasional little puddle of water with mushrooms growing in it…

Then there's the constant, if random rustling that permeates the nearby bushes. Each rustle perks the gambling pony's ears, and the louder ones make his head turn, but… The /last/ time he was here all the rustling was were bunnies. Snowbunnies, granted, but bunnies nontheless. He's really playing up this 'peaceful walk' bit!

"Deep. Yeah… I hope y'all brought somethin' warm to wear." he mutters over his shoulder, Gamble's head ducking down to make sure he sticks to the path. At least until Lavender speaks up about having been to a ruins. He turns his head to peer back at the fillies. "You've been to a ruins in here? D'ya happen ta remember where it was?" Maybe this is a lucky break!

…Until he gets an answer though, Gamble's trying to keep the crew on the path! There /is/ a certain landmark he's looking for, something the journal made mention of. Which indicates that these paths may be older than Horseshoe Harbor. "Oh yeah! By the way. If a bunny hops outta the bushes at ya, just don't touch it, 'kay?"

Bunnies are one thing. What about the oddly glowing, distinctly feral eyes that open within one of the bushes directly next to Kludge? Or the deep, reverberating growl that rises right after it?

Ruby-Blossom daintly digs one hoof into the ground with a little twist - making a notable foot-print amid the typical trotting. She glances this way, then that with perked curiousity and increased perception (I wonder if things are about to get interesting…). Lavender's words certainly get her attention, and she peers at the purple pony (I'd swear the filly is lying…) - one liar can certainly spot another.

Okay, now is a good time to carefully worry. With practice that comes from working on scaffolding, Kludge rotates his body so he faces the growling while still walking in the same direction as before, but now sidestepping. "I think we have company," he announces, then with a practiced draw, he pulls a hammer (a small sledge, actually) into his mouth. His stance, while not battle-trained, speaks of being ready to counter threats.

Sadaka blinks and freezes at the growl, ears laying back. "Is it a b-bear? It might be a bear. If it's a b-bear just ignore it and it'll g-go away." At least, no bear had ever paid her much mind when she lived here! But then, she's also pretty small.

Lavender leans in closer to Sadaka and says, in what should be a reassuring voice: "Oh, no, I go out exploring on my own sometimes. I have to do that when I go to places that are too dangerous for you and Siyana and the others. I've been doing it for months now, but I never tell you because I don't want you to feel like you're not good enough at adventuring to be my friend." She smiles and hugs the little zebra.

One pair of glowing eyes is joined by a second. Then a third! The growling comes in surround sound, deeper and louder now that more of whatever-they-are are alerted to the presence of tresspassers into their territory. As for what they are…

Out of the bushes, with their fiercely glowing eyes trained on Kludge and his sledgehammer, creep three ice-blue wolves. Perhaps cousins to the timberwolves, they're about as big as a full-grown pony each, with bodies that seem to be made from sleek sheets of sharp ice and powder snow, put together in a hulking feral form. There's no doubt about their intent though, sharp icicle teeth bared, steady snarling rising from the trio of monsters, slowly advancing on the craftspony.

All those sounds make it up to Gamble's ears, the rusty pony stopping in his tracks to glance back. "Wha…? Oh…crud. So much for 'peaceful walk in the forest'…"

Rocket blinks and spins quickly at the growling, feathers fluffing as she gives a sharp hiss of her own. "Dangit, I was hoping we wouldn't run into these snow snarlers… stupid ploofy things…" Because /that/ certainly looks… 'ploofy', yes. "Don't make any sudden movements… just, er, back up. And… yeah. Don't run, they'll just jump at you, and none of you got wings."

Ruby-Blossom takes a step away from the wolves and close to Gamble - her typical nature of 'don't take a risk' taking over; it looks like she's about to bolt but something *cough fillies in danger* changes her mind. Suddenly she stomps her front hooves into the ground - a soft *scchnt* sound heralds the small blade emerging from between Ruby's hooves and the false hooves she wears! Hidden weapons - how strange for a stylist - perhaps they're simply hidden shears for grooming emergencies! The turquoise mare leaning forward to put herself between the fillies and the wolves - namely much closer to Kludge and the danger; even taking a swipe at the cloest wolf with one bladed hoof - any success?

Kludge is thankful for the backup, but isn't relaxing - the odds are more even, but there's still danger. If any of those wolves make a move, he'll be there to counter it.

Sadaka gives an alarmed squeak, eyes widening as she stares over at the wolves, cowering down low and backing up slowly. These… these were not something she'd run into before. And they were definitely not bears.

Lavender's gentle explanation to Sadaka is interrupted by actual, mortal danger. But this…this is what she was born for! In what might tragically enhance her point about other fillies being too weak to adventure, she draws that wooden sword in her teeth and gets between Sadaka and the wolves. "Geh bahk! I'hl proteht you!"

"Don't move too quick. Got it." Gamble mutters, slowly starting to back himself up away from the equally slowly advancing wolves. When Kludge and Ruby pretty much assume battle stations, as it were, the Gambler grimaces. "I think it'd be better not to aggrivate—"

But Ruby's already gone and taken a swipe! The 'snow snarler' nimbly hops back from the swipe, what passes for ears tipping back and glowing eyes narrowing to slits. The wolf trio spread out, two of them covering the edges of the path in an obvious attempt to flank Kludge and Ruby, the third one holding its ground, head ducked, glaring and /snapping/ at Ruby and her spiked hoof!

"—them…" Gamble finishes with a huff. "Dangit…" Even Lavender's aiming to be SuperHeroic now! Well, he did say there'd be a possibility of danger, right? "Girls, get behind us! Those things look like they'll gulp ya whole, sword or no!"

Rocket gives a low growl of her own, tensing and dropping into a crouch, tail lashing this way and that. "Get in the bag, Fuzzball," she takes a moment to say. /She/ won't eat him, but those things probably would! And that would be tragic. She gives him a moment to hopefully obey before fixing the nearest wolf with a STARE, letting out a warning screech. Maybe she should've warned the ponies first, because that's not exactly a pleasant sound!

Enchanting eyes of Ruby red rapidly dart about to survey the situation, and look for anything useful - a nearly broken branch, a half-fallen tree or anything that can be made into a weapon - alas nothing comes to mind, and the circling wolves are making for a very dangerous situation. The shrill screech of the griffon certainly catches her off guard and provides a welcome opportunity for the wolf she was staring down. The mare momentarily snapping her eyes towards the Griffon - offering the wolf a moment of weakness to strike.

Kludge takes a step or two to cover Ruby's blind spot. Odd noises aren't uncommon in the construction trade, and while the griffon's screech wasn't expected, it wasn't enough to make him flinch. "Fohcus, Rhuby," he mutters around the handle of the sledge.

Sadaka squeaks and moves to scramble behind Kludge, but freezes mid-way, looking back at Lav. "L-lavender! C'mon! You'll m-make 'em mad!"

Lavender backs into Sadaka, urging her Kludgewards while she avoids waving that sword /too/ threateningly. "They'll stay back…but if they come near you…I'll whallop 'em!"

Fuzzball is totally two steps ahead of Rocket! He's already bounded into Rocket's closest pack, closing the latch behind him. The /last/ thing he wants is to be eaten now!

Throwing the griffon in with the other defenders, not to mention that shrill screech, gives the wolves a moment's confusion too! This group of tresspassers and potentially easy meal is turning out to be something more bothersome than its worth. But not worth giving up on yet! Not with the prospect of easier targets just beyond these bigger ponies.

Two of the wolves duck into the bushes… Something so big can't help rustling bushes with their movements, but it's going to make it harder to detect where they're coming from! Stalk, stalk, stalk… But now the wolf in front is making a show of snapping its jaws at Rocket, half-lunging at Ruby and Kludge, but never /quite/ getting within actual biting distance. Snap, snap!

Gamble puts a hoof over his face, looking back down the path opposite the threat. It's not safe to /run/, exactly, but if they just stand here there's no guarantee anything is going to end well. "Come /on/ guys! Y'all can act tough and keep backing up this way, can't ya? If there's more of these things, we really don't wanna keep standin' here waitin' for'em to show up!"

Ruby-Blossom quickly grows fed of the wolf and it's insistent snapping - it had it chance while she was startled. Without further ado she digs one bladed hoof into the ground, and roughly stomps down - sending a big wad of dart towards the snapping wolf - it might hit him in the face, it might give him a tasty mouthful of mud -either way one hopes it's enough to allow the group of would-be heroes to begin backing up towards Gamble. Her eyes dart quickly to Sadaka and Lav to ensure they're as safe as the current situation allows before darting back to the wolf and the rustling bushes about~

Rocket nods and motions the ponies back, casting quick glances around without ever taking her eyes off the lunging wolf for long. Posturing's all well and good, but eventually one of 'em's gonna have to make a move, and it's best to have a good idea what that move will be! So… no. No, no… no, nope, no that wouldn't work, maybe, no… heeeey. Her eyes lock for a moment onto an odd snowbank. That could do… something! Good or bad is any creature's guess. "Gamble!" She calls back, eyes on the wolf again. "Keep everyone away from that little… hill-y thing!"

Lavender looks up and pays attention to whatever great deed is about to happen, and hustles to safety behind Kludge along with the other filly.

Kludge backs up carefully, trying to make sure he's not about to stumble over anypony or lose track of the wolves. Taking heed of Rocket's alert, he makes sure to not head towards the hill-y thing.

Sadaka scrambles around behind Kludge, one eye on Lavender and the other on the path, trying to figure out where she was going.

Away from what..? Gamble eyes the mound of snow nestled between two conveniently frosted bushes. It looks just like another part of the landscape! But if Rocket says to stay away from it… The rusty pony makes sure to stay away, natch, and with Kludge's careful moves hopefully the fillies will stay away from it too. It sure is a pretty snowdrift, all sparkley and perfect.

The rustling in the bushes stops. Of course, on Kludge's side it stops before that snowhill. Suddenly the wolf still in the street rears its head back and howls! Followed by all three of the Snarlers pouncing at the pony group, the one in front lunging for Rocket whilst the other two aim for the tasty morsels behind Kludge! But did they sneak far enough through the bushes to ambush properly? Watch out kids!

Rocket's ready for the lunge! She pounces, meeting the wolf in mid-air, a flurry of claws and talons and feathers and fur. Just gotta… get some good leverage, and… aim, of course, aim is good, can't have the aim be off, and… boy, it'd /really/ suck if the ponies aren't ready, too, but there's nothing she can do about /that/!

Lavender shrieeeks at the /giant/ /timberwolves/! She pushes herself against Sadaka and raises that sword, eyes shut; at this point if nothing else stops them, it'll just be a small thing to bite through before getting to the fillies!

Heroes three they not be - the two ponies and the filly are likely nothing short of a startled, comical mess at the ambush - sure they could hear the wolves rustling in the bushes, and it shouldn't be a surprise but it is! Her ownly reaction is to throw herself atop of the fillies and cross her hooves over her head with pointy bits facing upwards - who knows she might get lucky when the wolf pounces.

Sadaka matches her friend's shriek, eyes wide in alarm at all the howls. On instinct she springs atop Lavender, the tiniest little shield, hooves over her head as though that would actually do some good against wolfteeth.

Okay, wolf there, there, and there; fillies there and there, allied griffon there, Ruby there, expedition leader there… wait, where was wolf #2, again? Barroom brawls and outrunning riots may have given Kludge some basic combat skills, but this is quickly getting over his head.

In slow motion it seems, the wolves fly through the air towards their intended targets. Honestly the prospect of having /more meat/ piled on top of the /tasty meat/ makes the wolves drool. Ooooooh so tastyyyyyyy…

The wolf Rocket's tussling with is all snap and growl and rawr! Oh it's trying to gnaw at the griffon, to get those sharp daggerteeth in fluffy griffonwing or anything, but this is an even predator to predator fight! The only advantage Rocket has, being her intelligence over the generally feral beastie.

Maybe it's the benefit of being just a few steps away from the chaos. And not being much of a target himself. Either way, Gamble wasn't exactly caught off-guard by the sudden pounce of rustling wolves. Not only that, but he /does/ have this one neat trick… And boy has he had a lot of practice doing it! He tosses his head back to dislodge his hat, baring his horn long enough to focus on his best spell! It takes less than a second to focus on the pile o' pony behind Kludge, and the log that Gamble rests a rusty hoof on next to him, surrounding both with a subtle glow.

*BAMF* *BAMF*

Suddenly there's two Snarlers, with their ice-like fangs buried into a big ol' piece of rotten wood behind Kludge! And a pile of ponies sitting next to Gamble. Transposition successful!

"Whatever yer gonna do Rocket, do it now!"

And that's her cue! Rocket lunges to catch the wolf in her talons, back paws scrabbling at it as she attempts to get a good grip, roll onto her back, and /kick/! With any luck, enough to send the wolf flying right for that oh-so-perfect snowdrift!

And that's her cue! Rocket lunges to catch the wolf in her talons, back paws scrabbling at it as she attempts to get a good grip, roll onto her back, and /kick/! With any luck, enough to send the wolf flying right for that oh-so-perfect snowdrift!

Lavender, for her part, is in heavy duck-and-cover mode with Sadaka. It's one thing to fight other ponies, but when there's teeth and unicorn magic flying around, discretion seems like the biggest part of valor by far.

One Ruby red eye opens, then the other - Ruby realizing the fillies are no longer in Mortal danger she quickly stands up with the fillie's nestled under her body and between her legs. "Thanks…" she mummers, standing viligant to protect the most valuable team asset - cute.

Her eyes intently focus on Kludge, doing her best to restrain herself and avoid leaving the fillies unguarded.

With one wolf thrown from the fight and the other two distracted, Kludge hits the wolves upside the head with the small sledge, then quickly regroups with the rest of the adventuring group. "Ugh, too many targets at once," he grumbles around the sledge's handle.

A gust of wind blows snow at the faces of the wolves - not enough to blind them, but enough to make the area unpleasant for them.

It takes Sadaka a minute to recognize that they're apparently /not/ dead… and in a different place than before. "Wha… h-how… wh-where're…" oh. No, no, the wolves are still there. Just… over there, and looking rather confused.

Startled yelps rise up from the trio of would-be pony-eaters! The wolf Rocket flings sails gracelessly through the air, landing in a great heap atop of the shiny mound of snow. A great puff of the cold stuff floofs up in the air from the impact like a great glittery smoke cloud! There's much snarling and movement within that hazy spot, followed quickly by sudden sharp whimpers, the thrashing quelling right quick. By the time enough of the snowcloud has cleared, one can plainly see that the Snarler has been wrapped up in…webbing. Sticky, glistening webbing. Courtesy of the ten or so softball-sized spindly-legged spiders that are working to secure their catch.

The other two wolves are similarly engaged in pained whimpering! First from the chipping of teeth on rotten wood, and then by the smash of Kludge's hammer! They both look stunned, one wolf stumbling into the spider den atop its trussed companion, probably squishing a spider or three. …And prompting another ten to pounce, wrestling that ice beasty down into a messily, but quite effectively webbed pile. The last remaining wolf whimpers, ears laid back and tail tucked, stumbling uneasily back into the bushes.

Gamble exhales a long breath, tipping his hat back down over his horn and sitting back on his flank… "Well /that/ was excitin'. Everybody okay?" he asks, glancing sideways at Ruby and the fillies, then up at Kludge and Rocket. "Nobody got hurt?"

Lavender huffs and puffs and repositions herself to defend her friend again, before finally calming down once the threat is gone. "Puppies that cute shouldn't play so rough…it's not fair. This place is downright insidious… Who were they wrapping that one up as a present for, anyway?" Thankfully, she's talking in more of a mumble than anything else.

Ruby-Blossom mummers to herself "Only my pride." admittedly she's out of her element - sneaking and thieving in an ubran is far different than the wilds; she'd never make such a flank of herself in her environment. She looks down at the cowering fillies below her - firmly squeezing them in a big four-legged hug. "All intact." A rather deahtly glare shot Gambles direction - even without words it's cleary Ruby thinks Gamble's decision to bring fillies deserves some retribution.

Rocket lays sprawled out and panting for a long moment, tail twitching, back paws still kicking lightly at the air. "Did it work?" She rolls onto her stomach, giving herself a small shake and looking over at the webpile. "…Yeah, it worked." Wince. She suddenly gives an alarmed chirp, craning her neck around to look back at her pack. "Fuzzball?"

Sadaka scrambles around behind Ruby's legs, staring wide-eyed over at the once-snowdrift now swarming with spiders. Yaaaaah, nothing should ever move like that oh Celestia whyyyyy.

Kludge tucks his sledge back into its loop. "That… was unexpected," he sighs, still somewhat unnerved by the wolf attack. The spiders mildly fascinate him in a morbid way, but he's pleased to note that they're not leaving their web.

The rotten log shakes for a moment, then slowly cartwheels over to be a physical barrier between the spiders and the adventuring party.

Ruby-Blossom moves to daintily tuck away her concealed weapons, being all stealthy about in hopes no pony will ask /why/ she has hidden weapons as it will likely lead to questions about what else she has hidden such as lock-picking gear - she'd prefer her trade stay a secret - no pressure from the fuzz that way. Of course it would appear the Fuzz is currently awol at the moment?

A very dizzy Fuzzball pokes his head out from Rocket's pack, giving the griffon a dazed smile and a wave of a tiny paw. He's just fine~ But he's going to duck back down and curl up now until the bag stops spinning.

Gamble can't help but notice Ruby's look. He shrinks back, just a touch, averting his gaze. "What..? I never heard of wolf attacks or spiders in the forest before. How could I expect that?" Hastily the rusty pony gets back on his hooves. "…Uh. I understand if y'all wanna turn back after that. I won't blame ya. Otherwise we better keep movin'. Maybe after that, all the other threats know we're serious?"

Lavender hears talk of turning back, and she gets a pout. In lieu of any verbal response, she trots off ahead—and, just in time, thinks better of 'taking point'. She ends up walking next to Gamble, a bit sheepish.

Sadaka gulps and hesitates a moment. That seems like quite enough adventure for her for one day! But Lavender seems to feel differently, so with another small gulp, she scrambles after her, blushing.

Ruby-Blossom quietly falls back back into line behind Gamble and Rocket - her intense gaze may incite Gamble to randomly check the back of his head for any holes burned by the fiery gaze; yet she doesn't insist on turning back and falls into line behind Gamble and in front of Kludge. Thankfully nopony's brought up her concealed weapons - not that they were of much use.
Rocket gives a relieved sigh, smiling back at the bunny and climbing to her feet. Such a big tough griffon, all worried about her pet. She gives herself another light shake, falling back into line with the party.

Kludge brings up the rear, keeping alert. Hopefully any further encounters will be less ambush-y, or at least be in a more defendable place. A quickly-built wall can make for a decent shield, but when there's threats flanking, one wall doesn't do much good.

Lavender looks back towards Sadaka, "You haven't said much this trip…You're uh, you are okay with coming along, right? If you can't handle this kind of thing…" She does look a bit confused as she says it, though.

Sadaka blinks and straightens quickly. "I c-can handle it!" she says quickly, tone a bit defensive. "I used to l-live here! I can be good at a-adventuring!"

"At least that just proves that this forest is the perfect place to hide something, right? No pony in their right mind would come here…" Gamble says, getting back to trotting down the pathway. Not that it says much for /his/ sanity, apparently.

The next half-hour or so of wandering is generally uneventful. Every bit of rustling in the bushes makes Gamble jump, but doesn't turn out to be more than a little bunny, not even a snowbunny, dashing across the trail. There's several more of those mysteriously beautiful snowmounds… But those are easy to avoid.

Eventually the group reaches a large rock rising up just to the side of the path. It's a very noticable rock. Boulder, even. Ten feet high at least, another ten wide. Gamble pauses, staring at this rock, daring to get off the path to trot around. "Oh..hey! Here it is. Laughing Rock! This is what the journal said would be close to the ruins." Any other pony that trots around? They're going to see that the side of the rock facing away from the road has been carved into a skull's face. Only…one that's smiling. How can one tell a smiling skull from a normal skull? It's the eyes. They're not round sockets as much as they are locked in a /happy/ look.

Gamble sits his rear down on the forest floor, pulling his journal out of his pack. "…Right. Hey Feathers, I think here's where you ought'a buzz on up an' see if you can spot anything nearby…"

Rocket blinks. "I don't 'buzz'," she protests, though this appears to be more formality than actual confusion as to what he means, as she's already spreading her wings. She guesses ruins will probably be easy enough to spot… more rocks, probably. Rock houses. Heck, maybe wood, it's cold enough here it might've lasted to be ruins! Either way, probably not too hard to find.

Ruby-Blossom places a reassuring hoof on Sadaka's shoulder then gives her a gentle squeeze before trotting up to check out the journal in Gamble's possesion - with or without his permission.

Kludge checks the area for anything that could be used to craft a makeshift barricade. If we're getting close to being working in one location, it would probably be smart to make sure it's defendable.

Lavender turns her attention to Kludge and starts following him around. He's new! (to her), and seems to know what he's doing, so she promptly gets underfoot as much as possible.

From the air, Rocket can see EVERYTHING! Or at least, several places that could possibly be ruins-esque. Nothing very obvious though. So many possibilities…

Gamble's busy flipping through pages. Too busy to notice Ruby looking over his shoulder. The pirate's journal has all sorts of fun information in it, a lot of which has been circled, or highlighted, with other notes written next to them. Probably by the unicorn. "…"

Ssssss…

What is it with this forest, and everything in it lurking in bushes? Only this time there's more than just a few bushes being rustled. The whole area around the pony party has decided to come alive with the odd sound, and the forest of pale yellow eyes glinting from the foilage.

Things that, to a particular little zebra filly in the group, would be all too familiar!

Sadaka's ears perk immediately, head snapping up and eyes widening as she looks around. She does indeed recognize that sound! It's not exactly /frightening/ — she still remembers that Kelpie being all nice and friendly! — but it's certainly unnerving, as she also remembers, you know, almost drowning. "Uh… M-mr. Gamble?"
Ruby-Blossom 's ears perk at the new sounds, and without hesitation she pushes off of Gamble to scurry over to the fillies - wether or not Gamble face plants due to the sudden push-off isn't of much concern as she makes a bee-line for Sadaka and Lav. "What's that?" she asks Sadaka while attempting to position near the fillies - secrets will need to wait.

Kludge backs up to the rest of the group. "Anyone know what's out there this time?"

Lavender just nods her head and swallows, tries not to look too alarmed. Of course, she's just as clueless as most ponies here.

Gamble flails his arms, promptly losing his balance and faceplanting into the book! Flumph! He picks himself back up and glares at Ruby, but it only lasts a moment. The hissing reaches his ears too, prompting a quick glance about! Oh…dear. He tucks the book away, stepping cautiously towards the others. One of these things was quite the handful. But this is at least ten sets of eyes. Maybe more!

One of the creatures emerges from the bushes. Cautious, but not exactly fearful. It's definitely a pony-ish creature, with sharp fangs and slimy 'skin' instead of a pelt. It's practically dripping, eternally wet, but it's slim and slender, if exaggerated in places. There's also no ears… Just holes.

"Tresssspassersss…" the creature, the Kelpie speaks, yellow eyes narrowing. "Poniesss are not welcome here… Leave thisss place!"

Ruby-Blossom takes a small step forward, putting on brave face to say the least. "I've found I'm not welcome alot of places until some pony gets to know me. Have you considered getting to know me, I'm told I'm quite charming." fluttering eye lashes ensue. "Any inkling to make new friends?

Sadaka gulps, peering about uneasily at all the eyes. She looks up as the Kelpie moves forward, still not looking quite frightened, just… well, she's quickly picking up that maybe these Kelpies aren't quite as friendly as she'd kind of believed they must be. Everypony /else/ sure seems nervous about them.

Lavender jumps over by Sadaka from the side and drops low to the ground, eying the scary /monster/ that's drawing near. She snorts hot breath, just waiting, waiting in case it attacks. "Careful," she mutters to the zebra filly. Maybe she'd better be reined in.

Kludge is willing to be diplomatic about this, which roughly translates into letting someone with more diplomatic skills do the talking. One thing he can do, however, is place a hoof on Lavender's shoulder to add a calming influence.

The kelpie doesn't look completely impressed by Ruby's insistance that they're just here to be friendly. But then, these kelpie don't seem…threatening. Just cautious. Another of the creatures emerges from the bushes behind the first, also eyeing the group warily. This one though, seems to be staring right /at/ Sadaka. It stares for several seconds, then ducks its head and starts to slink back, hissing something as it leaves.

"…Friendssss." the first kelpie says, slitted eyes widening at the group. "Travelersss. You are known. We are…sssorry for how one of usss acted before." The kelpie bows its head. "But this foressst is not sssafe. Friendsss ssshould leave."

Gamble blinks. Well, /these/ Kelpie sure aren't quite so grabby-needy as that first one was. He lifts an eyebrow, and shoots Ruby a look. See? Having the fillies around ended up being a /good/ idea! "…I think they remember you." he murmurs to Sadaka. Then Gamble trots up to stand beside Ruby, clearing his throat. "Y..yeah, we're sorry too. But we kinda came here so we could ask a couple questions, if ya don't mind."

Sadaka blinks, meeting the Kelpie's gaze and blushing slightly; her ears perk up a bit, though, and she offers a shy smile in its direction, scuffing a hoof sheepishly. See? They're not so bad!

Lavender sinks down a little at the hoof upon her, and sighs. Well, might as well let the adults do the talking. But she's still ready, just in case the kelpie decides to attack.

Ruby-Blossom glances Gamble's direction - a subtle hint suggesting she still disagrees with Gamble. She clears her throat "Clearly this is no place for ponies like us, but being of the utmost curious nature we couldn't help but explore as there is the possibility that there may be something of great value about these parts, of course if such things belong to you - we wouldn't dream of going near them." cheesey smile!

Now that Lavender no longer looks like she's about to launch at any moment, Kludge takes a more normal stance. He's still vigilant, but it's a polite vigilance of truce instead of readying for combat.

"Quessstionsss?" The kelpie seems to frown, if slightly, as though pondering options. Eventually it shrugs, letting out a couple higher pitched hisses. Several more kelpie emerge from the bushes, but they all begin heading in the same direction, past the apparent leader of the kelpiegroup. When Ruby speaks up about things of great value, and kelpie territory, the creature chuckles in creepy hissing tones. "Follow usss." it says, turning to go with the other kelpie. "Maybe you will sssee what you are looking for."

Gamble flicks his ears in hesitation. Well… This was definitely one of the options he'd considered. Find the ruins, or find the kelpie. Good thing they turned out to be nicer than he expected! "…Hm." He looks up at the sky, but doesn't immediately see Rocket. "I don't wanna leave here without lettin' Feathers know, but we probably shouldn't be rude 'n not accept their offer." He turns to the other ponies. "If I stay here, 'n give one of y'all this journal, can ya ask the Kelpie a couple things?"