Faux Pas Forest Frolic Part 2
IC date: Summer 87
OOC date: September 15
PCs: Gamble, Rocket, Winter-Solstice, Whistlestop, Sadaka, Rising-Chaos, Skyflower
NPCs: "Jerry", Hyacinth, Szera, Captain Flintlock, kelpies!
GM: Gamble

When we last left off the group of forest-bound adventurers, they had just barely survived an attack by Snow Snarlers, compounded by narrowly missing the homes of several Driftwidows, and topped off by finding the secret home of the Kelpies within Wintersong. They had even managed to charm the not-very-friendly creatures into allowing them a chance to bug them about clues to a pirate treasure.

Unfortunately by the time they had found the Kelpies, the adventuring party had run out of steam. It had gotten late. Dark. And anyone who knows this forest, knows that it's infinitely more unfriendly to ponyfolk at night than it is during the day.

So they had declined the Kelpie's offer…but had arranged to come back another day. This is that day.

So it is that Gamble, the pony with the journal, and Rocket, the griffon of ADVENTURE, have gathered together a fresh party of potential ponies to bring to the land of the Kelpie. It seems they were much more successful in getting help this time, now that there's an actual destination and not a general 'hey lets go get killed in the forest'.

This time around, the path through the forest is more familiar. At least to Gamble, allowing him to help guide his new party of thrillseekers on, and this time there's no pesky wolves to bother them. Just…a strangely bigger pile of snow at one point. A pile of snow that Gamble carefully directs others to stay the hey away from.

Eventually the group makes it back to where they had found the Kelpie the first time. A strange boulder, many feet high, with the face of a skull on one side. This was the landmarker that somehow signified the Kelpie lands, and where Gamble chooses to stop the party to regroup and take a sort of role call.

"Okay! So. Uh… Here we are." says the Gambler pony, scuffing a hoff in the soft forest ground. "I'm hopin' our um..guide will be showin' up soon ta lead us to wherever it is these buggers live. Any uh..questions I oughta answer before they get here?"

A soft 'ahem' and then a raised hoof from the rose-colored mare in their midst. "Yes, actually. I think perhaps there's been some sort of misunderstanding? I was coming into the forest to look for a few ingredients for my latest creation." Skyflower bats her eyelashes at Gamble. "What is it that all of you are attempting to accomplish? I do believe my attention had wandered just a teensy bit. Ever so sorry."

Winter-Solstice invited herself, true story. She saw a bunch of ponies heading off towards the woods and decided to follow them because honestly, anybody off to do something in the woods is either going to have a lot of fun or get into a lot of touble and in either case Winter feels it's her duty to share the former or try and smash the latter. She's stayed near the back of the group, chattering away about the following: the weather, the trees, the bugs, the birds, the bees, the ground, the sky, whether pigs can fly, ships and sailing, snow and hailing, earthquakes, cupcakes, cheeses and sneezes, hats and the donning thereof. For now, though, she has fallen quiet, at least until Gamble asks for questions.

She's about to raise her hoof and ask one but Skyflower beats her to it, but Winter still chips in. "Yeah, what she said. What are you looking for again?"

"Pretty pink pony needed things," Whistlestop nods firmly, which is his role to play in all this. The big lug beams at the gathered ponies. *Everyone is so nice to help!"

Sadaka had trailed along after them, trying to stick to the middle of the group and doing her level best not to look nervous. This is no big deal. Just a walk in the forest. With /plenty/ of grownup ponies! So it's gotta be alright, right? Besides, she's along to help! And it's good to be helpful. Right? Gulp.

Rocket blinks and peers over at the two ponies. "…You don't even know what you're here for?" Incredulous tone and all! She might have had more to say to that, but… then, Whistlestop. GAH! Giant pony. Woah. Giant, not very articulate pony! …At least he knows why he's here. "…Okay, you, I like you. You just keep doing what you're doing." She points a talon at Whistlestop, grinning as she glances to Gamble. "This group's… bigger 'n the last one, at least."

Rising-Chaos has been staying off to one side of the group, staying away form the main body. She has her glasses on, is wearing a much more sensible night black cloak, but has decided to leave her wagon behind. On her sides are a pair of purple saddlebags, stuffed full of all sorts of mysterious things, with the unmistakeable handle of a long knife of some kind coming out of one of them. She now sits on the outskirts of the group, ignoring them for the most part, she's brought out a book and is scrutinising it.

That was most assuredly not the question Gamble expected to answer. It leaves the rusty one with a squint and a slight gape for a few moments, until he realizes that…hey, maybe he didn't exactly explain /why/ he was dragging a new group of ponies into the forest. Deep into the forest at that! It suddenly seems like a good thing to cover.

Thus does Gamble straighten up, pacing in front of the line of questioning ponies. "We're here, because we're looking for the treasure of a dead pirate captain." he states, trying to make it sound as not-crazy as he can in the process. Treasure hunting's cool, right? "A little journal left clues, about how to find /more/ clues, to find this treasure. And…one of the clues pretty much said these Kelpie folk had a clue. Somewhere. So we're here to find out!" He stops his pacing, tipping his hat up and giving the assorted group a big grin. "Make sense?" He just hopes the Kelpiefolk don't get spooked by the fact that there's more ponies this time around, that thought coinciding with Rocket's observation. "Yeah… I don't /think/ it will be a problem though."

Winter-Solstice is briefly taken aback by Rocket's question. She hikes her chin and touches a hoof to her chest. "I know perfectly well what -I- am here for! It's to go Questing, and also to bring up the rear, and…" She trails off as Gamble starts to explain the situation, her eyes slowly widening. Treasure! Pirate treasure! That's so questy! That's questy as all heck! With a blink she grins over at Rocket. "Okay, I'm also here because there is TREASURE." Soon she's prancing in place, wearing a big grin, and reaches over to nudge Whistlestop. "Treasure!" she says to her fellow meathead, as if that was a complete sentence that you can actually say to people.

Skyflower's eyes light up. "A treasure hunt? Why didn't you say so? That sounds utterly delightful and I would be happy to help! I'll just need to keep an eye out for a few things while I'm out here. And we shouldn't have to worry about any frightful forest creatures, not with such a strong, courageous stallion like Whistlestop here," she adds, "so this should be a breeze, don't you think?" Treasure-hunting IS quite exciting.

Whistlestop blinks. "Treasure…?" At Sol's nudge, though, he brightens and nods eagerly, something clattering around in his head there. "Treasure!" he echoes. Yes!

And, of course when Skyflour calls him a strong, courageous stallion, he blushes bright pink and straightens up and puffs out his chest. "I am a strong, courageous stallion!" he agrees brightly. "I will give'um a one, two!"

Rocket chuckles good-naturedly. "There we go. 'Bout time someone got excited about the treasure. See, that's what I'm talking about. There's adventure to be had! I knew some of you ponyfolk had to have some sense of adventure in you somewhere, huh?"

"Yay, adventure." Gamble says in a flat tone. "Honestly Feathers. Where were these ponies last week? Wouldn't have had a wolf attack then." Still, he can't be /too/ upset. They're here /now/, and there's still more potential trouble! They don't know what else could be lurking in the bushes, just waiting to pounce upon a poor, unsuspecting pony!

"Just…remember that the Kelpie are our friends, alright?" the rusty pony warns his group. "I'm hoping to get a few good answers out of'em, so try to avoid givin' them any reason to be anything but helpful, a'right?" He's looking at Whistlestop in particular. Oh /please/ don't go giving a pony like that the idea that things need stomped. "These Kelpie folk look a little unusual… But they're not monsters."

Sadaka blinks and looks up at this. No, they're not monsters! The Kelpie was perfectly nice to /her/, until she got scared. "Th-they just wanna make friends," she pipes up sheepishly, scuffing a hoof at the dirt.

As if on cue, the bushes nearby rustle softly, and a smooth-skinned creature emerges. It's rather big. Maybe not as big as Whistle or Solstice, but bulky, for such a sleek creature. Long, oily black mane, separated into braids, hangs along its neck and clacks as it moves. Slitted pupils expand and contract as it takes in the group, tipping its head up. "You are the poniesss?" it hisses softly, a feminine sound. "I am sssent to meet you…"

Sadaka blinks and looks up at this. No, they're not monsters! The Kelpie was perfectly nice to /her/, until she got scared. "Th-they just wanna make friends," she pipes up sheepishly, scuffing a hoof at the dirt.

Winter-Solstice raises a hoof as Gamble speaks up, and doesn't wait to be called on before speaking. "Yeah, what's a kelpie?" she asks. Then a kelpie appears. Winter stares at it for a moment before putting her hoof back down.

Then she picks it back up. "Nevermind!" Then she puts it back down. Picks it up again. "I think that's the kelpie! That's why I don't need to know anymore. Thank you!" She puts her hoof back down. Then she wanders over to the kelpie, staring at it, before lifting her hoof up and holding it in the air. "Hullo!"

Skyflower lets out a gasp when the Kelpie appears but recovers her aplomb quickly. It simply does not do to lose one's aplomb. "Oh! Why hello there, dear. I simply adore your mane: such lovely accessorizing." She gestures to yourself with a hoof. "My name is Skyflower and these are my friends. Are you here to guide us, or to guide us to the guide, as it were?" She laughs lightly. "Terribly sorry. Just our little joke."

Whistlestop just stares at it, blinking. Blink. "That's a kelpie?" he asks Sol. "Oh. That is very scary…" The big hulking pony hunkers down a little and scoots back a step or two, his wings flattening against his sides. Whiiiine.

Rising-Chaos puts her book back into her saddle bags and walks towards the Kelpie. "We most certainly are the ponies, I am Rising. A pleasure to meet you, I'm sure." She says, in a formal tone, little enthusiasm entering her voice. "Are we permitted to know the name of our guide?"

Sadaka perks up a bit, smiling sheepishly over at the Kelpie. She didn't see why everypony seemed to think they were so creepy. She thought they looked neat! She blinks back at Whistlestop. "They aren't scary. They're just… different."

Suddenly kelpie! Gamble can't help but stifle a nervous twitch of an ear at the appearance. Despite what he had just said about them not being monsters, it's hard to get over their /very/ different look. The other mixed reactions of the 'expedition party' draw Gamble to take a few steps forward too, hat tipped and everything. "I'm Gamble, an' yeah. What she said." he states, pointing at Rising. "We're the ponies. We jus' wanna ask yer elders a few questions, is all. If the invitation's still there fer us to come and visit."

Rocket peers curiously at the Kelpie. She'd missed seeing them the first time here — but she'd seen them around in the forest a time or two, so it was more curiosity than surprise. Never met one! But seen them.

The kelpie, meanwhile, flicks her eyes between each pony, guarded. Finally her gaze falls on Sadaka, and her smile spreads into an eerie grin, showing off her sharp teeth. "I am Hyacccinth," she replies. "I am to be your guide, little poniesss. I am told you come to asssk quessstionsss. You… will come to our home?" she asks warily.

Gamble's head tilts, casting a sidelong glance at the kelpie. "Er.. Yeah?" he says, brow furrowed, "I mean, if that's alright. Last time we were gonna jus' follow y'all home, but it was gettin' really dark and dangerous. I promise we're not here ta cause ya any problems." His head turns to the other party ponies. "…Are we?" Squint.

Skyflower sighs in a fond sort of way, gently nudging Whistlestop. "Oh /do/ stop get up, Whistlestop. I'm sure they're perfectly reasonable like you or I." To Hyacinth she smiles and nods. "I would be only too glad to follow you. I must admit I'd only read about Kelpies before: it's absolutely fabulous to meet one in person."

Winter-Solstice falls quiet for now, leaving the others to handle the diplomacy, though the kelpie doesn't lose her attention for a moment. Full of wide-eyed wonder, she looks the creature over from top to bottom, back to front, slowly circling around her. More than a little attention is spent staring at the kelpie's flank, because even if the creature doesn't have a cutie mark, its lack of one is just as fascinating.

At one point she ends up behind the kelpie and looks over to the rest of the group with a big grin, pointing at Hyacinth with a hoof and mouthing something like 'It's a Kelpie oh my gosh so neato!'

Rocket chuckles. "Yeah, we don't wanna give any creature any trouble. Just wanna ask some questions! No big problem. We'll go with you, we'll stay here, whatever you want."

Hyacinth nods her head tightly, and bares her teeth at them. "You will not make trouble," she says firmly, and she turns around— to suddenly reel back in surprise and startlement, because Solstice is right there. She bristles briefly, then huffs and steps warily around her. "Pleassse follow me," she mutters, glaring a little at the mare. "I will lead you. Ssstay clossse, little poniesss."

Rising-Chaos steps back, her requirements for being polite and returns to her spot a couple feet away from the group. She is unfazed by the Kelpie, she's seen stranger! Either way, she seems very preoccupied, once again she takes out the book and gets back to reading. Once the group begins to move out she gets up and moves wiht them, holding her book beside her head as she walks so she can see where she's going.

Skyflower says "That's right, Whistlestop, there's a lamb. Come along!" She starts following the Kelpie and then finally seems to notice the little zebra that's with them. "Why, good heavens! What in Equestria are you doing here, little one? This is MUCH too dangerous for little fillies."

Winter-Solstice frightens monsters and doesn't afraid of anything. Grinning so wide it seems like the top of her head might flip back in a stray breeeze, she lets the group fall in behind Hyacinth before moving to follow near Whistlestop. Again, she nudges him. Nudge nudge. "Don't worry, big guy. She may have sharp teeth but it looks like she takes very good care of them, and anybody with such a dedication to dental hygiene prolly doesn't eat people." Nudge nudge. "Besides, you've got lots of meat to spare! Ha!" Nudge.

Sadaka blinks and blushes, laying her ears back sheepishly as she looks up at Skyflower. "Oh, I, er, y'see, uh…" Dangerous? This wasn't supposed to be dangerous. Not /this/ time, at least! "…One of the Kelpies is my friend," she admits shyly. "Mr. Gamble thought I should c-come along 'cause I know 'em and they need somepony who doesn't think they're too c-creepy."

Rising-Chaos passes by Sadaka and overhears the comment by Skyflower. She stops for a moment, and looks down at the filly. "Don't you worry, there shouldn't be anything dangerous. We're lucky to have such a nice filly along with us." Her voice showing some enthusiasm, taking on a happy tone, "and if there's any trouble, you can stay with me, I'll make sure you're safe okay?"

Whistlestop shuffles forward a little bit at a time. Skyflower's encouragement certainly helps, and Sol's reassurance certainly hinders again. But really, it's noticing Rocket that makes him come out of his shell. He straightens suddenly, eyes going exceptionally wide. "Wha— Wha— y…you're a catbird!" he exclaims in awe, his loud voice making the kelpie jump.

For Gamble's part, once the train starts moving (so to speak), he takes up a spot more or less behind Sadaka and a few of the others, hanging back this time. "Welp. Here goes nothing, eh Feathers? We'll find out if this book's a dud, or if it's gonna lead us to somethin' good at the end of the rainbow."

He catches bits of the conversation further up as they walk, eyeing Skyflower and Rising in turn. He can't really say there /won't/ be any danger… There was certainly more danger than he intended last time. But he doesn't like having his judgement questioned either. Who does, really? "Don't y'all worry 'bout Sadaka here. She's a tough pony. Why, I bet she could put a hurtin' on any of us if she /really/ wanted to. …And she's friendly with this group a Kelpie, so I figured she ought'a have a chance to visit friends, right?"

Behind him, in Rocket's pack, a little fuzzy presence /jumps/ about a foot when Whistlestop booms out about catbirds! Fuzzball pokes his head out to see what all the commotion is. His nap was just ruined!

Rocket pads along after the group, nodding over at Gamble. "Hey, there's gotta be something good out there. Why go through all this trouble to hide nothing, eh?" The logic seems sound to her!

She blinks and pauses mid-step, looking back at Whistlestop. "…Catbird? Seriously?" She looks down at herself, then back at her wings, then back at the big plum-colored pony, then finally trains her head back to exchange a glance with the newly-awakened bunny. The things she has to deal with! "I'm a Griffon."

Skyflower nods to Sadaka with vague uncertainty. "Oh, well, that's all right then. But do stay where I can see you, please? I wouldn't want you to come to any harm." Oh Whistlestop. Just… oh, Whistlestop. "Have you never seen a griffon before, lamb? They come through town all the time. Lovely customers, goo appreciation for artistic displays of pyrotechnics." She sighs contentedly, then: "Oh! That reminds me: must keep an eye out. If anypony should spot a blue mushroom with yellow spots and white gills, I'd be ever so grateful. Need them for my work, you see."

Winter-Solstice trots along. She considers as Skyflower mentions shrooms. "I think I saw one! It was back a few miles off to the side of the path. I thought, 'Wow, that's a neat mushroom. I've never seen such dark rings before. And the beady little eyes sure are menacing. And I like the way it'd industriously eating that moth with its neat little hands.'" She's quiet for a few steps. "Actually it was a raccoon. Sorry, nevermind!"

Whistlestop trots forward, staring at Rocket with high attention. "A griffon. A griffon. Okay. I am sorry, Mister Griffon. Missus Griffon? I don't know what griffons look like. I like you! You are pretty." Nod nod nod.

The kelpie, meanwhile, maneuvers them all through the forest, and not too long, they find themselves crossing a river to the rather large, chilly area where multiple kelpies are going about daily life amongst their wintery huts. Winding around behind is a path that goes up the nearby mountain a little ways, and vanishes behind the huge waterfall that pours into the river. "Thisss isss Waterssstump. I am daughter of our sssecurity forccce. Pleassse behave yourssselvesss. Who do you wish to asssk quessstionsss of?"

Sadaka blushes, but brightens a bit at Gamble and Rising's praise, walking a bit taller as she followed the group. She pauses to gaze around at the settlement, eyes widening — oh, wow. This is… kinda neat! Those huts look nice, actually. But she's got all intent of giving that river a wiiiide berth.

Rocket blinks over at Whistlestop. "…I'm a girl." She can't really blame him for not knowing, granted. Ponies are different creatures. But she's far too dainty and shapely to be male! /Clearly/. Hmph. The 'pretty' comment perks her back up, though, and she smiles faintly, fluffing her feathers a bit proudly. She is, isn't she. So regal.

Winter-Solstice misses Hyacinth's question about quessstionsss, as upon entering the village, she promptly split off from the rest of the group to go peer in the window of a little hut. She then turns to face another kelpie across the village and wave enthusiastically. "Hello!!! What's your name?! I'm Winter Solstice, but my friends call me Winter Solstice! I really like your ma-" She's distracted by something else and turns to trot off, disappearing behind a hut over yonder.

No doubt the arrival of the pony group draws a few curious looks from the kelpie going about their daily business. For the most part this was expected. The amount of ponies showing up may not have been quite what they'd intended, and the size of some of the group seems intimidating, but this is the Kelpie land. They are…confident in their abilities to handle strangers.

Like the one that's currently sitting in a cage, towards what can be thought of as the center of town. Suspended over a small, but possibly very deep watery pit. He's a unicorn of a royal purple color. In a corsair's vest. Staring wide-eyed at the arriving pony party.

"Oh… OH! Are you the rescue team? Please tell me you're the rescue crew! Dear Celestia they've been holding me here for months! MONTHS I tell you! I've practically wasted away to nothing I've been in here so long!" Indeed, he does seem a little on the skinny side. But the fresh fish seen in the cage with him shows that the Kelpie have, at least, attempted to feed him /something/ at least.

Gamble whistles softly, walking into Kelpieville. This is new… He's never seen another civilization before. The sight of the cage seems a little off compared to the rest of the village though, and the kelpie's question prompts the rusty stallion to pick his pace up a bit and catch up to Hyacinth. "Uh… D'ya got a village elder? Or someone who knows a lot about the history of this forest? Or something?" …Oh dear. Winter running off. He holds a hoof out, "Ah… It's okay if we look around a little, I hope?"

Fuzzball climbs out of Rocket's bag, perching atop the griffon's head now that things are happening. Just in time to strike a macho pose to go with the fluffing of feathers!

Rising-Chaos spares the entire village the briefest of glances before returning her eyes to her book. She makes a conscious effort to stay clsoe to Sadake, her being the only pony she knows in the group. It's clear she just wants to get this over with, and has no interest in taking in the sights.

The kelpies are all a little wary of the ponies but, indeed, they know they can handle any disturbances. A few kelpies roll their eyes at their prisoner's protests, snorting and moving along. One kelpie, though — a younger one with long, straight black hair, peeks around a building. Her eyes fall on Sadaka and brightens, trotting quickly forward before realizing there are other ponies there. Her look of eagerness fades swiftly into a scowl and she backpedals, slinking back around her corner. Hrmph.

Sadaka, meanwhile, has begun looking this way and that, scanning each Kelpie for a potential familiar face. They all look nice, if not a little nervous — but she can relate, she probably looks a little nervous too! But she was kind of hoping she /would/ see someone familiar. It'd be nice to know if her friend remembered her too. But there's lots of Kelpies, what's the chances of that?

Hyacinth blinks a little at the prisoner, unsurprised, and looks back to Gamble. "Village elder. Yesss, I can take you to King Gusssty." And like that, she nods toward the biggest, most ornate hut in the center of the village. She gives out a warning announcement hiss to those inside, and the beaded curtains pull aside, permitting the ponies inside, who want to go that way.

This is what he came here for! Of course Gamble's going to be following to the King's chambers, sparing one more glance back at the caged unicorn before wandering in to meet with apparent royalty. Kelpies have kings! Wow! "Um. Thank you."

Realizing that this /isn't/ the rescue party he'd hoped for, the caged pony heaves a soft sigh. He levitates the fish next to him up, talking to it like it were something other than the disgusting dead creature it is. "I /did/ see ponies, didn't I? I'm not going crazy..well, crazier?" The fish nods, and the unicorn sighs. "That's what I thought. They're /real/. They /have/ to be here to save me. Gotta be. No other reason they'd be here. Nope." The fish head shakes in agreement!

The beaded curtains of a different hut at a distance are abruptly pulled aside and Winter Solstice is ejected from within, flailing her legs for a bit before landing heavily on her duff. She picks herself up with a smile, sweeps her messy mane up into a different mess, and trots back towards the group. Still separated from the main group, she isn't party to any discussions of kings and whatnot- but hey! Look! A pony! In a cage! This has 'quest' written all over it. Prancing over to the gibbet, she turns to look up at the imprisoned fellow. "Hi there! You look like you need rescuing. What'd you do? Did you try on one of their fabulous hats? I did and they kicked me out, they seem very particular about that sort of thing. They also didn't like me digging around in their kitchen, but in my defense that is usually where treasure is hidden. In the pots." She swirls a hoof in a circular motion. Pot.

"Hey," comes a whisper near Sadaka. The young kelpie's eyes are peeking out from around the other side of the King's hut, and she's mostly hidden. But trying to get her attention! "Hey! Pony!"

Whistlestop, meanwhile, trots with Skyflower toward the king's hut, eyes rounded as he observes everything. He seems a little overwhelmed, but he's keeping close to Gamble. "I like the waterfall," he comments in awe.
Rocket blinks and follows eagerly after Gamble. King! That's exciting. Surely this guy'll know what they need to know!

Sadaka starts to follow them as well, but she pauses at the voice, earring'd ears pricking. She looks around curiously, blinking. Was somepony talking to her? She backs up a step, turning towards the voice.
Rising-Chaos follows the leaders of the expedition into the king's tent, leaving Sadaka to her own devices. Her interest has been piqued by the so called royalty.

Szera pokes her head out from around the King's hut, just enough to wave a hoof at Sadaka. "Pony, come here! Come here, I am glad to sssee you are okay. I did not know poniesss could not ssswim…"

Inside the hut are lines of kelpies at attention, holding long sticks with sharp hooks on the end. In the center, though, is a big chair made of fish bones, water weeds, vines, and shiny rocks. And on that chair is a huge, fat kelpie with markings and designs painted all over his body. He stares down at them and lets out a slow breath. "Hello, travelerss. Welcome to Watersstump. What do you need of King Gussty?"

Sigh, again! The Trapped Pony watches as all of his would-be rescuers march one by one into the King's hut. Except the little one. But there's a stinky slimepony trying to lure her away. "Watch out that it doesn't try to drown you kid! These buggers are AWFUL TRICKY!" he calls, then slumps back in his cage with his floating dead fish. "Ain't they, Jerry?" The fish nods. Again.

Suddenly another pony appears! The caged pony starts, rocking the cage dangerously on the rope that keeps it from dunking into the Bottomless Waterpit. "Whowhaehah!" he shrieks, the dead fish getting flung at Winter in the process! A second too late, the pony realizes his mistake, lunging for the fish that's now flying gracelessly through the air. "No! Jerry! Don't abandon me!" The fish lands with a wet flop sound on the ground. Next to Winter's legs. And the caged pony slumps against the bars of his prison, staring at the fish, and then at Winter, who has talked through all of that. "…What? Oh. Um. I…got caught sneaking on Kelpie holy ground. But it was for a good cause! They won't listen to me, of course, but that's because they're devilspawn…"

Inside the King's Hut, greeted by this sight of awesome pony royalty, Gamble takes cautious, but steady steps to approach the throne. He even does the polite thing, bowing when he gets close enough for pleasant conversation, hat tipped and everything. "Erm… Well, yer highness, we were hopin' you could help solve a riddle fer us. Y'see we found this pirate pony's journal, and it's kinda led us to believe that this Captain guy, um…" He hesitates, to remember the name. "…Jean Luc Faux Pas. Yeah. This guy, might have given y'all some kind of key. Or something. So that we can use it ta find his treasure."

Winter-Solstice stares down at Jerry, the Dead Fish. That is not a very good party member to have. Still, diversity has its virtues. Reaching down, she picks it up, WITH HER TEETH, by the tail, because microbiology is something for wizards and not her. Holding it outstretched, she perches on the very edge of the bottomless water hole of doom and leans out far enough that her back end lifts and her weight teeters precariously. "Here you go," she mumbles. "Your buddy. I'm not sure what HE'S in for but they should give you guys some soap or something, 'cause seriously, ugh. What's this about a holy ground, huh? The only hole in the ground I see is the one underneath your cage, HA!" With the HA, Jerry is ejected and wobbles into the air above the pit in that brief moment before gravity enacts its terrible toll. The tall mare gasps and snatches the fish back up and then kick-kick-kicks her hindlegs to reverse her forward-toppling momentum until she is once more perched only slightly dangerously at the edge.

Sadaka blinked, ears perking immediately at the familiar face. Yay! She smiles brightly and trots over that direction without hesitation. "Hi! I'm glad to see you're okay too… Nopony really knew where you went." She blushes faintly, scuffing a hoof. "Oh, well, er, I think someponies can swim, but I… heh, I'm not r-really… good with w-water. So… y-yeah, I can't really swim. But I'm okay! I know it was an accident."

King Gusty narrows his eyes, and moves up to a reclining position, huge gut designed with big gnashing teeth designs. His gut is like some kind of hungry creature, chewing as he speaks. "You poniess, alwayss ssearching for thiss treasure. Alwayss taking what you want." He lets out a hiss under his breath, almost like a gust of steam. "But. At leasst you are /resspectful/ thiss time. You do not tresspass, and you do not call us… devilsspawn. We disslike this moniker. Yess?" He growls a little, and then tips his head toward Gamble and company. "What usse iss thiss treassure to the Kelpie?" he asskss. "Why sshould we help you poniess, who alwayss take what you want, without thinking of how it affectss other creaturess?"

Szera gives a grim little smile. "It wasss…an accident," she confirms, speaking carefully. Speaking this language is not easy for her. "I am forbidden from talking to you," she says with a coy, secretive grin. "I am /ssstill/ in trouble for it. I make the poniesss mad at usss…" She sighs, a little and then tilts her head at Sadaka. "You want to play, little pony? Maybe we play guardsss and fightersss!"

The caged pony's eyes widen! "Jerry! You've come ba-AHHHNOOO!" The fish is dropped! And then caught! Making the pony slump with renewed relief. "Y..you almost killed Jerry! But you saved him too. So I'll call that even." He magically levitates the fish up again, back into the cage. Whereupon he promptly hugs the dead thing. "My only friend. For months. …I mean, they keep replacing him, and sometimes I have to eat him, but what are friends for if not a little productive cannibalism now and then, right?" He grins at Winter, because this should obviously make perfect sense. "Uh. Thank you."

Gamble can't help frowning slightly. Devilspawn? Who in their right mind would insult another sentient race when they're trying to be friendly? His nose wrinkles. "Yeah… Well, most of us ponies have a healthy respect fer all things livin'. Yer kind have as much reason ta be happy as anyone else." The rusty gambler shrugs, "Honestly, I don't have much of an answer fer that. We're here cuz' we were lookin' fer a little adventure, and out of curiosity. I don't exactly have the means, nor the desire ta force anythin' outta you or yer kind. Best I could do is offer a trade, if there's anythin' that would be of use to you I could scrounge up."

Winter-Solstice d'awwwws as the prisoner is reunited with Jerry, or at least the latest in what appears to be a succesion of Jerrys. Her eyes water up a bit. It's touching, you know? Seeing friends reunited. "Of course," she says in agreement with the prisoner's twisted logic. "You know what they say, friends will help you make lunch, but *best* friends will help you BE lunch." She stares at the prisoner for a moment, then stares past him as she considers who, exactly, said that, because come to think of it that doesn't make any sense AND it is dumb. Maybe the kelpies said it. Maybe… maybe those sharp teeth… eyes widening, she glances fearfully back over her shoulder, just in time to see the curtains of a nearby hut rustle back into place. 'Oh man, oh man,' she thinks to herself. 'Maybe they DO eat people. I hope that if they eat me, I am delicious. It'd suck if it turned out I taste awful.'

She looks back to the prisoner with the cheeriest of grins. "So where IS this holy ground? What's so holy about it? Is there… what… do they have like…" She bonks her hooves together. "Like some kind of Kelpie God who lives there?"

Sadaka blinks and tilts an ear. "Oh… I didn't mean to get you in trouble! I'm sorry…" Though that would explain why she hadn't seen her again! "Heh, Papa Blackbird was a little upset too." She looks back up at her. "Guards and fighters? I've never played that, what is it?"

King Gusty surveys them with dark eyes, thoughtful. Finally, he grunts. "The thing you sseek iss holy to our people. It belongss to Kiska, our god. We will have to confer with our priesstss, to ssee if he dessiress you to have it."

Szera, meanwhile, grins with her sharp little teeth. "It'sss where you are trying to sssteal sssomething, and I am trying to ssstop you. We fight and sssuch!"

"Where?" The prisioner scratches his chin. Using Jerry. Of course given how long he's gone without a bath of any sort, smearing dead fish on himself might well be an improvement. "It's…up the path. Behind that waterfall. But they're /very/ protective of it. They have something /very shiny/ in there… Don't want anybody seeing it, apparently, because they poked me with spears when I went looking." He sniffs. "It hurt. They didn't like it much when I called them devilspawn either, but just /look/ at them! Isn't it obvious!?"

He sighs, this poor, trapped, delusional pony. "…Hey, you wouldn't maybe be able to get me out of here, could you? I'm a little tired of eating Jerry, and I really want to touch that shiny thing again…"

Gamble tries hard not to grimace. Holy relic? Priestesses? He has never had any positive results happen when religion gets involved in discussions. But what can he do? he bobs his head. "A'right… Um. How long does that usually take? We can arrange ta come back whenever y'all get done conferring with yer higher powers 'n all that."

Winter-Solstice stares at the prisoner. She's a bit oblivious, but even THIS plan has BAD IDEA written all over it. She squints her eyes against the irritating blinkiness of it all. Again she turns to look back over her shoulder, around at the village- consorting with troublemakers probably isn't earning her any high marks with the locals, even less than going through their cupboards and trying on their hats did. She sighs and looks back to the prisoner. "Okay, yeah, if they put you in the cage once before, and I let you out and you go right back to doing the thing that got you there in the first place… that sort of looks bad for BOTH of us, you know? What if… what if we get you loose and you can just come back to Horseshoe Harbor with us? It's not the shiny thing in the holy waterfall cave, but! It is also not a horrible cage! Hanging over a horrible pit of water!" She does a few excited kicks, totally thrilled at how not terrible being back in town is compared to being stuck in a cage all day! Whee! "How's that? I'll go talk to the king and stuff."

Whistlestop ambles over to Solstice and the cage, ears perked. "That pony is hugging a fish," he observes to Winter, blinking a little. "Why are you hugging a fish, purple pony?" Okay, so he's not necessarily purple. But his garb is!

Rising-Chaos raises an eyebrow at the mention of gods and holy ground. She quickly returns her book to it's bag and and takes out a small notebook. Her eyes widen when Gamble mentions coming back another time. Wiht a quick flash of magic she fades mostly from view and slips away, her errand is too important for her to return to Horseshoe Harbour already. She is not so alarmed as to leave hearing distance though, and just takes her pace out of the guards' line of sight and near the door.

"No, we will ssend Hyaccccinth to your town with our decccision," Gusty replies, shaking his head. "It will take many hoursss to confer and contact Kiska. Perhapsss if you leave an offering, he will look upon you more favorably. Sssomething valuable to you, to show you are sssincccere."

Sadaka tilts her head. "Fight? I'm not too good at fighting. Though the Captain taught me to fight w-with a sword and stuff! But…" she looks down, blanching faintly and trying to shake the memory away. "…Well I was n-never really very good at it anyway. …It's just play-fighting, r-right? N-not like lessons?"

The guards don't notice Chaos. … Except one who jerks up in surprise and— oh. Sneezes. Nevermind, he didn't notice her either. She's able to make her escape!

"What? It isss jussst play," Szera replies, blinking in confusion. "It isss wressstling and chasssing. We are not ssserious-fighting." She pokes a hoof at Sadaka. She's a bit older than Sadaka, more teenager than kid, but still not teenager enough to be…well, a teenager. She occupies that weird space in between. "If you want you can be the guard and not the fighter, and chassse me instead."

Great… This didn't quite go as planned. But Gamble really has an aversion to rocking the boat with important creatures. Especially if it means peaceful resolutions to problem. "That seems fair enough, yer majesty." he has to admit, getting up on his hooves. "We'll figure out what's important to us, an' go from there. Offering'n everything. Thank ya fer the information."

Outside, the Trapped Pony looks all the more desperate when not one, but two Great Big Lunkheads appear to give him grief and /not/ rescue him. "But… But it's REALLY /SHINY/!" he insists, practically whimpering in his voice. "It's… it's important! I need it! /You/ need it! It's what you're here for, isn't it? The treasure?" He's gone just a bit wild-eyed, but he's still got his fish-friend hovering next to him, even as he stares out so intently at Winter and Whistlestop both. "C'mon pleeeeease? Let me out, we'll just take a quick peek, and then we'll go back to town like nothing happened!"

Sadaka blushes deeply, blinking and nodding slowly, straightening herself back up and smiling a bit. Sometimes it's hard to remember that not everypony has reason to think of things so… seriously! She rubs the back of her head with one hoof. "Well… okay. But, er, not in the water? I… still can't swim."

Whistlestop blinks, listening to the trapped pony's persuasive argument. And then he beams, and nods quickly. "Okay! That sounds like fun! Go and see the shiny thing!" He crouches down and starts flapping his wings, as hard and fast as he can, until they buzz like a hummingbird's, and then he jumps toward the cage and slowly approaches the cage before crashing into it and clinging like a monkey as his wings propel them forward and onward. It's like a tetherball!

Szera nods quickly. "Okay. Not in the water. We will only fight on the land." And then she grins, and turns, darting away quickly. "You'll never catch me alive!" she laughs back at the little zebra.

Winter-Solstice glances to Whistlestop, and nods. "Yes, that's Jerry," she explains, before looking back up at Prisoner Pony. "Look," she says, sitting back on her haunches and putting her hooves on her hips. "I may be here for fun an adventure but I'm gonna have a LOT more of that if the locals aren't trying to bite me or drown me or cage me or kelp me because I went and let loose some guy who went and got his hooves all over something they told him NOT to. Let me talk it over with everybody else and we'll try to get you back to the Harbor, okay? I'm sure you'll feel a lot better then, and we can get a nice tank for Jerry and oh my good word Whistlestop what the heck are you doing?!" She reaches out and tries to catch him before he gets very far, but catches herself before she topples in and hovers on the edge of the pit. "Whistle, you scamp! Get back down here before you bring the whole thing down!" She's sounding a little stressed out, because on some level she just realized she is now the voice of reason and it's terrifying.

Grim confirmation of their imminent departure received, Rising Chaos slips out of the tent while the attention is away form the door. Once in town she keeps to the shadows and sneaks through town. Her goal: the cliff at the top of the waterfall. She arrives there after a frantic run while trying to maintain stealth, and opens the /other/ saddlebag, she begins pulling out instruments and books once she finds a suitable hiding place. Soon, a complicated construction of wire mesh, wood and, for some reason, rocks is assembled and she begins to run what could only be described as tests.

Whistlestop now has no idea what to do, now that he's clinging onto the cage. He blinks owlishly, wings still buzzing and sending the whole thing tipping and swinging in a tizzy as they bounce around. He looks back to Winter, ears swiveled toward her. "But we want to bring the whole thing down!" he says in confusion, blinking. "We want treasure! He says there is treasure! We make him go to find it?" As the cage swings eratically, the bearings holding it up start to give an ominous creak.

Speaking of bringing the whole thing down… It's apparent the cage was meant for things decidedly not of Whistlestop's size, bulk, and strength, because it survives all of two swings back and forth before the mast holding the cage up snaps like a dry twig, sending two ponies and the cage crashing to the ground, smashing apart like so much kindling! The once-trapped pony blinks. And inhales deeply! "Oh /yes/! Smell that fresh air!" he cries, despite the air not exactly being any /different/. "Oh you BEAUTIFUL pony! I could kiss you! In fact…" He does! Just leans over, and plants a big ol Jerry-fish-scented smooch on Whistlestop's mouth!

"Whehehehehe! I'm free! FREEEEE! Come along now, we're going to that SHRINE!"

…If that didn't just get the attention of the entire town, what will?

Gamble chooses that moment to leave the hut, scratching his head and talking to Rocket. "I thought we had a couple more ponies that came in here with u-" *CRASH!* "…sssssshoooboy." He stands, stunned, at the prison break, and the once-trapped pony already starting to charge up the cliff. "…Uh… Feathers? Did ya jus' hear that? That's the sound of our adventure turnin' down the road of 'ticked-off tribals'."

Sadaka hesitates a beat, still a bit nervous, before taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Play! Play is fun! And she should have fun, and… and she needs to get better at adventuring before Lav gets bored of her! And that seems to make the decision for her; she scrambles off after Szera, giggling a bit.

Rocket had stood quietly during the talk with the King, looking around curiously; truth be told she didn't mind how things turned out, as long as they got what they were after eventually! But the sound makes her freeze, eyes widening. "…What just happened? Somecreature just broke somethin', huh? …Yeeeah, we should, uh, go take care of that."

Winter-Solstice starts doing an antsy little dance at the edge of the pit once the cage starts giving way. She's half a mind to leap out and try and tackle it to the far end, but with the Wall of Meat (AKA Whistlestop) there, she's not sure she wouldn't just end up falling in. Fortunately, Whistle's momentum seems to carry the whole mess over to the far edge. Crisis averted! … in favor of another. "What?! No! You can't- you're gonna- augh!" Clearly this calls for desperate measures. Planting her hooves, hunkering down, Winter then launches into a dash towards the Prisoner Pony, Whistle, and… Jerry. She neatly nabs the dead fish by the end of the tail in her teeth, and prances off with it, back towards the entrance of the village; at a distance, she whirls about to face the prisoner once more. "I haff your fishth!" she mumbles around the mouthful. "And iff you effer want to thee him… alife again, you'll haff to come back to town!"

Whistlestop yawps as he gets a fish-scented kiss planted on his lips, before turning bright pink. The big lug lands in a huge heap on the ground, crunched cage around him, and too stunned to move for the moment. Even though the perpetrator's about to blow everything! "Shrine?" he asks dizzily.

King Gusty, however, apparently heard that all, as the guards come rushing out of the hut after Rocket and Gamble, looking this way and that, and spotting the smashed cage and then the fleeing prisoner, horns begin to sound through the village. Kelpies all turn angry, panicked glares on the ponies. There are shrill hisses and clicks and shrieks bandied about, as they shout in their own language, and the guards set upon the visiting ponies, trying to take /them/ prisoner now!

Szera giggles and gambols, only to skid to a panicked halt. She whirls back around and grabs Sadaka in her hooves, holding her close to her smooth, slimy skin. She gives a shrill, declarative hiss to a passing guard, who nods at her, and then she turns to drag Sadaka swiftly back to the King's hut, and underneath into the mud and weeds. "Shhhh, we hide here," she whispers. "Make no noissse, pony…"

"Oh for the love of Pete…" Gamble grunts, knowing full well what a jailbreak means. "Feathers? D'ya mind grabbin' the lil' one? Meet us at the waterfall… An' if we don't make it there, jus' go back to town an' let'em know. I got a couple ponies to go kill…" Grumble, grumble. Then he takes off towards Whistlestop, trying to push the big lug. "A'right, ya great big troublemaker! Let's get a move on, cuz' these locals ain't friendly anymore!" He whistles at Winter too! "Hey! This way!"

Meanwhile, the Ex-Prisioner does actually stop. Long enough to stand on his hind legs and give a salute to Jerry and Winter. "So long Jerry! You were a great friend! Your brothers, however, tasted like rotten kelp! Adios!" Right back up the mountain he charges, kelpie army or not, dashing right past Rising Chaos to get into the cave at the top, behind the waterfall!

A bit of dead fish goo slides down Jerry's cheek. Or is it a tear?

Sadaka freezes at the sudden rush of noise and alarm, eyes wide. "Wh-what's going on?!" She squeaks at being scooped up, too startled to think to struggle, and obediently cowers down low when put into a hiding place, looking around nervously. At least mud isn't water!

Rising-Chaos looks around in panic as a filthy pony runs through what she /thought/ would be a safe place. In a blind panic she starts to pack up her equipment, but the process takes longer than setting up. "Why does this always happen?" She growls, as pices get entangle or seem to have welded together. When she hears the voices and trumpets from the village she gives up with a small scream of rage, she was so close! she picks up her saddlebags and follows the pony inside the cave, Chaos is mad!

Whistlestop finally starts to writhe and thrash his way onto his hooves, his wings fluttering uselessly in trying to help him up. He finally shakes himself off and beams. "I am helping!" he claims, but as he notices all the chaos and craziness, his pride turns to dismay. "…Oops…"

The nearest guard peels away to go after Gamble and his enormous friend, charging with his spear. "Ssstop!" it hisses, "Ssstand down!" The same happens at Winter, a smaller and more feminine-looking guard charging her. "DROP THE WEAPON!" she hisses, apparently meaning the … fish? The rest are charging after the fleeing prisoner.

Winter-Solstice's brow knits into a knot of concern as she watches her ploy fail and the prisoner make for the cave. She's going to have fish breath for NOTHING. As Gamble calls for her, she looks to him, and calls back, talking at a mile a minute. "The prithoner, he'th going to the cave! That they have the treathure in! That they put him in the cage for in the firth plathe! Going in the cage, that ith, not the treathure, we have to thtop him before he… uh… getth hith… own.. flank in trouble…" Her voice trails off as she realizes what she's saying, before sighing and making her way to Gamble and Whistlestop. Keeping her back towards them, she spins to face the guard that waggles the spear towards her, hooves planted and body settled in the manner of a ten ton boulder. Her eyes flash, and the stars that adorn her shield-like cutie mark catch a bit of the late afternoon light and gleam a bit brighter. "We're leaving, don't worry- but right now you thould be thtopping the guy who'th making for your thacred groundth!" Jerry flops about in her mouth as she speaks, thoroughly un-dropped. No man left behind.

Szera hugs Sadaka tight, heart pounding in her little aquatic chest. "I do not want to get in trouble again," she mutters, "but it would be even worssse if they caught you… Hopefully we will be sssafe."

Whistlestop jumps to his hooves in a panic, and before he can think, he grabs Winter and HEAVES, throwing her onto his back as he starts galloping after the fleeing unicorn. "WE MUST FIX IT ALL!" he bellows fearfully, leaving Gamble and Rocket in the dust.

Rocket blinks and looks around dazedly, giving a low hiss. "You turn your back for one minute… really now, you'd think anycreature could handle this… now where'd the stripey thing get off to…" She peers over at the guards, clicking her beak. "We're not with the caged thing! Look, we just wanna /look/ at the artifact for a couple minutes, maybe draw a picture or somethin', we don't want to /take/ it! Stop that guy, not us."

"Oh noo…" Gamble groans, backed up against Whistlestop as kelpies with /spears/ approach. "…Bah! Hey, ya great lump of pony. Do you really wanna get caught here?" he says to Whistlestop, eyeing the path the Ex-Prisioner took. Then back over where Winter went.

And…then Whistlestop is suddenly /not there/. Not only not there, but charging through Kelpie guards, racing up the path to the waterfall! "Ngh! Dangit, ya weren't supposed to leave /me/ behind too!" he cries out, following after Whistlestop's dusty trail!

Meanwhile, in the cave, the Ex-Prisioner's already fawning over the shrine. A slimy, but somehow still shiny thing, at least seven feet tall and just as much wide. Big. Bulky. With a welcome mat in front of it that looks like it's seen years of use of Kelpie hooves standing on it. There the Ex-Prisioner is, standing on the mat, staring at the shrine. "…So pretty…"

Winter-Solstice is a big girl, and in the sort of rock-smashing condition not built with bulk but density. There are not many ponies in town who can toss her around without a liberal application of science and/or drugs. Fortunately for Whistlestop, an even larger lug of pony, he's one of the few who can manage the feat, and Winter finds herself being carried- being CARRIED, on someone's BACK- towards the danger. This is so exciting. Her eyes widen back towards the Kelpie town, the spear-wielding guards, and the wailing Gamble- she holds a hoof out, trying to give him something to catch so he can get hauled on board the pain train, but Whistle's furious charge carries them too far and too fast. She grimaces around Jerry as she turns to look up towards the cave, and the Prisoner comes into view inside, with the slime, and the… the thingy. It's shiny, at least? Hauling upright, she stands atop Whistle's broad back, hunkers down, then leaps- playing Whistle's momentum into a flying tackle meant to take down the prisoner and pin him to the slimey floor.

And once he's there, Winter swipes her head back and forth, holding Jerry by the tail, slapping the unicorn repeatedly about the head and shoulders. SLAP. SLAP. SLAP. "JERRY IS VERY CROSS WIFF YOU," she snarls around her partner in vengeance.

Hoofsteps echo throughout the cave, slow, deliberate. Rising Chaos strides into the cave, illuminating it fully wiht a green glow from her horn, and sees the pony there, gazing at the artifact. She pulls out a long, intricately made machete and steps forwards. "Alright mister," she growls, her composure broken, "you are coming with me, and we will fix the mess you just caused, you got that?" She approaches him, getting very close, and glares at him, a small light in her eyes making them take on an ethereal glow. "That's the easy way, you'll never even know about the hard way."

Unfortunately, the Ex-Prisioner is too busy being FISH-SLAPPED to reply to Rising Chaos. "AUGH! *SLAP* Jerry! *SLAP* No! Nooo! *SLAP* Bad fish! *SLAP* I didn't train you to hit ponies! *SLAP* WHAT HAVE I DOOOONE!?" His ears perk. "What… *SLAP* Devilspawn are coming! *SLAP* We have to do something! I… *SLAP* OH FOR THE LOVE O- *SLAP*"

The Ex-Prisioner's horn lights up! Suddenly a bit of teleportation magic carries him out from under Winter, and over to the cave's entrance just as Gamble slips through. The glow on his horn changes from the green used for the teleportation (why the hey didn't he use that before anyway?), to a very dangerous red. Hey, did any pony happen to catch the little mushroom cloud of a cutie mark he's got on his flank?

"I'll show you all, devilspawn! BEHOLD THE MIGHT OF CAPTAIN FLINTLOCK!" cackles the crazy pony, horn aimed at the cliff's face next to the cave. A burst of dark red energy lances out, striking the cliff wall and invoking a great KA-BOOM! Not to mention a landslide to block the mountain path from the crazed kelpie guards. And a whole lot of shaking in the cave.

When the dust clears, the Ex-Prisioner, Captain Flintlock, has already ambled merrily back inside, facing the group of…well he can call them rescuers now, can't he? "Hah! That'll teach'em. By the way, thank you all for that /wonderfully/ heroic rescue!" He bats his eyes at Rising Chaos in particular, "Dear mare, what were you saying just a moment ago?"

Rocket blinks and scrambles after Gamble. "Hey! Where're we going now? Aw, man, we were doin' so good, too…"

Sadaka gulps nervously, nodding slowly. "…I w-won't let 'em get you in t-trouble… you didn't do anything wrong." This is spoken in a quiet whisper, of course, as she hunkers down low, trying to blend. Hopefully muddy stripes don't stand out! At least she's probably more brown-and-black than white-and-black now.

Winter-Solstice hits the ground with an oof as the good Captain winks out from underneath her, leaving her sprawled in the slime. Jerry flops out of her mouth to fall at a distance, and as Winter picks herself up, she spits a few times. You're a good cop, Jerry, but you taste terrible.

As she's standing, the cavern shakes, the mountain falls, and the stakes get raised considerably. She glances over to Rising Chaos, then back to the captain, then past him towards the others- Gamble, Rocket and Whistlestop. Ha! Five to one! Except the one doesn't seem to mind bringing the whole mountain down on top of everybody, so maybe that's not such a good thing after all. But oh, how she longs to SMASH him. Forehooves planted, her hind legs give a few kicks, while she stares down the unicorn. Kick, kick. For the moment she holds her ground, though, as he is distracted by Rising Chaos. Maybe she can do something with that blade of hers. Maybe Whistle can meat-drop the guy when his back is turned. If something doesn't happen, though, she looks primed to leap in, so if anybody has a plan they don't want interference with, they might need to contend with the mare's impatience setting a big ol' countdown on is execution.

Rising-Chaos wastes little time, she whirls aroudn to face the captain, only to be knocked flat as the mountain comes down. In a flash she's back to her hooves, angrier than ever. She picks up Jerry from his landing place on the floor and with the blad and fish bared, she advances on the captain. "I said" She growls, her voice still quiet. "You are coming with me, or you can go back with the kelpies, your choice." Her horn flashes as the captain tries to start another spell and he's knocked on to his rear. The green glow fades around Chaos, casting deeper shadows around the cave, and making Chaos' face take on a much more imposing air.

Gamble coughs up dust, rolling onto his back post-skid from hs mad dash plus explosions rocking everything. He sits up, just in time to watch at least the two mares glaring daggers at the good Captain "Ex-Prisioner" Flintlock. It looks like there's going to be a lynching! Oh dear… Still coughing, the rusty pony waves his hat, stumbling himself in between the crazy mares and the downed captain! Whom is, apparently, now staring at the stars that surround his head. "Whoa, whoa ladies! It's not gonna do us any good ta kill 'im before we get outta here, is it?"

"Not if you want the treasure!" the dazed captain comments, trying to crawl out from behind Gamble, and slowly towards the shrine. "It's the key… To everything. Right /there/…"

Indeed! The shrine, slimy and glittering and everything, seems to be made out of nothing BUT keys! Keys of every shape and size, welded or rusted together in a very ornate shape. With six of the keys looking…a little out of place. Like they could be moved. Each of these keys has a different head on them. A four-leaf clover, a smiley face, a number seven, a horseshoe, a bat, and a skull and crossbones.

Flintlock looks up hopefully at the other ponies. Sheepish smile and nervous tapping of his hooves together. "That…that's what you're here for, right? The…the treasure?"

Gamble sighs… "It /was/ what we were here fer. Until you went 'n escaped an' brought on the wrath of the Kelpies." Grunt. He turns towards Rocket. "Hey Feathers. Glad ya made it." A quick glance around. "…Uh. Where's Sadaka? Did'ja grab 'er?"

Rocket stares up at the shrine, shaking dust from her feathers and giving a few sneezes. Woah… keys. Lots and lots and lots of keys. Keys are good! But… which one do they need? Can't disassemble the whole mystical sacred shrine thing. That'd be /rude/. She tears her gaze away from the shrine and blinks over at Gamble at the question, shaking her head. "I figured one of you did. I didn't see her anywhere, figured she already skedaddled."

Winter-Solstice maintains her fightin' posture for a few moments longer, but the situation seems to be momentarily defused. She relaxes, but only slightly, and hops up a few times to kick the empty air behind her, working off a bit of pent-up SMASH on the musty cave ambience instead of the captain's face. As she finishes, she begins to pace, steadily and anxiously, watching the captain from one side of the room- though she also glances towards the shrine with increasing frequency. It's very distracting. The keys… the keys. "Sadaka?" she says, absent-mindedly. "She was… she was outside the king's hut when you all were in there. I think she was talking to one of the kelpies, but I didn't see clearly, and I'm not sure what happened to her…"

Having run all that way, especially with a big pony on his back like Winter, Whistlestop finally collapses with the rockslide and huffs. "Oh, that was hard," he groans. "I will get the bad guy…/later/." Faceplant. His wings flutter a little.

Rising-Chaos pushes her way to the captain, and pushes him on to his back. Before he can move he finds a dead fish in his face and a /very/ sharp blade at his throat. "You'll get away with it this time, but don't try my patience again." She growls, her face mere inches away from Flintlock's, "you're lucky the others here are nice". She maintains the pose for a moment, staring right into his eyes. Almost immediately she stands up stright, returning her machete to it's sheath and putting Jerry safely in her now mostly empty saddlebag. She seems to regain her composure immediately, the green glow fades to nothingness. "I'm going out." She declares, her voice back to it's calm tone. "May be back later, I'll pick up Sadaka if I find her.

"Aw cripes… She's still in the village?" Gamble says, in a rough estimate of open-mouthed horror. "Of all the places to leave a filly…" He rubs his face with a hoof, eyeing Rocket, then the shrine, and then Rising Chaos. "Goin' back to get her is gonna be awful tricky. I can't go back ta town in good conscience without 'er." Not to mention what Blackbird will do to him. Urk.

When Rising Chaos pins Flintlock down, the slightly unstable pony goes all wide-eyed and whimpery. "What… What did I do..? I didn't… Jerry, save meeeee…" But then the crazy mare backs off. And takes his fish with her! Leaving the Captain very confused. "Aw. I thought things were going so well…"

Of course, then he seems to at least grasp the fact that no pony is going to kill him now, so he gets back to his hooves and starts dusting himself off. "Um, look, I'm sure your little kid is just fine. I'm pretty sure those devilspawn aren't cannibals. They had me caged for at least a good two months, and they never ate me! See?" He prances! Just to prove he has energy! Then points to the shrine. "Nevermind the kid and the crazy lady. Look! Shiny! Special! This… This holds the key… But it's tricky. It's trapped. I know it's trapped. I pulled a key last time I was here. That happy one." The captain frowns. "I almost got shot! So it's not that one. That's not the right one. Tricky, see? Tricky…"

Rocket blinks and looks up, head twisting around to look back at Flintlock and the shrine. "Traps, eh? Hey, that sounds 'bout right, Gamble! Last place had lots of traps too. This has to be what we're lookin' for."

Winter-Solstice eyes the captain balefully for a moment, before sighing and looking to the shrine. Adventure time! She smiles once more, though it is not as easy a smile as she usually effects. There's someone missing. The kelpies are mad at them and she didn't even get to do anything rioutously entertaining to earn their ire. Treasure is nice and all, but the trouble involved is bothering her. Still… "Well, it's a pirate treasure, right? So obviously we need the pirate key." And with that, she reaches up to the skull and crossbow key, and gives it a nudge on whatever hinge or pivot it moves upon. When you don't know the solution to a puzzle, push buttons until something happens. Every adventurer knows THAT.

Whistlestop draws slowly to his hooves and shakes himself off. He slowly blinks at all the ponies, especially the new Weird Unicorn pony, and then turns to see Winter grabbing a key. Oh! Key time! He goes for…

…the clover key.

The keys seem to be able to be pulled out! But..pulling on them shows that they're attached to strings. Very tight strings, with a goodly amount of tension, so that when Winter pulls just enough…


BANG! A musket shot fires from one of the edges of the shrine, the little musketball narrowly missing Winter's ear!

The Clover key isn't much better. Another *click*, another *BANG* and this time the shot buries itself just in front of Flintlock's hooves! This makes him prance nervously and glare at the ponies pulling keys. "H..hey! Somepony's gonna get killed if you keep tugging'em! This was a /master trickster/ we're dealin' with here! He never would've set this up to be solved just by randomly tugging things!"

Gamble rolls his eyes, asiding to Rocket. "…Isn't that how ya found the journal? Randomly pushing buttons?" Shaking his head, he turns around to start leaving the cave after Rising, at least to look down into Kelpie Village and see if he can spot Sadaka. "…"

Immediately following the musket shot that barely manages avoiding putting a hole in her head, Winter whirls about, angles up onto her front legs, and lashes out at the shrine with her hind legs. BAM. The gun-firing mechanism goes off again, another shot sailing over Winter's head and hitting the opposite wall of the chamber. Panting softly, wincing as the impact against the metal construction finally registers and her rear hooves begin to ache, she prances about in place, punchier than ever. "Nuts and berries! That doesn't make any sense! Who ever heard of a pirate with a…" She looks at the remaining keys. "A horeshoe for a symbol, huh? We're gonna uncover his treasure and it's not gonna be piratey at all, I bet! He probably buried, like… like some kind of… sandwich!"

Rising-Chaos Chaos goes to check on her equipment before disappearing into the forest. Where her station was she find, instead, a pile of rock. It isnt even that close to the landslide, how, why, argh. For a brief moment, her composure once again drops and a shrill scream is heard all the way back at the cave. "I was so close!" She moans, sitting down near a small protruding piece of wire. "It's not fair." Chaos gets back up and walks slowly back down the path towards the village.

Whistlestop yawps at the loud sounds of the muskets going off and he throws himself to the ground again in front of the enormous holy shrine made of keys, up behind the waterfall in the Kelpie village. (There was a big daring chase, and freeing of the crazy unicorn prisoner! Now they're on the other side of the rockslide…)

"…and so that particular ball turned out absolutely delightful but the Duchess said that I wasn't to arrange any displays for her little soirees ever again." Skyflower tosses her mane. "Honestly! Can you BELIEVE the cheek of that woman? Still, one does one's best and I'm sure that the designs I have in mind for the harvest festival will be simply smashing." There's a bit of a pause, then. "Oh dear, I did it again, didn't I? Mummy said I'd lose my horn if it weren't on my forehead."

Szera carefully pokes her head out, watching as the guards all wander around in a panic, trying to figure out how to move the landslide in front of Kiska's shrine. She looks back at Sadaka, and out again. "Ssstick clossse," she whispers, as she starts creeping out. "I know a shortcut. We'll get you out sssafe." She pauses, and adds, "and there'sss no ssswimming."

Sadaka creeeeeps out after her, nodding. "R-right… okay. I'm r-right behind you…" she gulps, peering around uneasily. But, hey, she's muddy enough to blend decently now! So there's that.

"No don't—" Captain Flintlock starts to cry, holding a hoof out in feeble, futile effort to stop Winter from bucking the dang shrine apart! Of course the shrine hardly budges, aside from firing off another shot. How many muskets does it have anyway? "Augh! Ngh…" He ducks down, creeping up towards the shrine, "Okay, look. These keys are trapped, right? If you were some crazy pirate dude, who loved to kill ponies with practical jokes, where would /you/ hide a key?"

Gamble fidgets outside. He doesn't know how they're going to get past the rockslide. Or the kelpies. Or save Sadaka. Or even find the clue they came here for in the first place. He tugs his hat down over his brow, marching back into the cave to set himself down next to Rocket, watching the Crazy Captain Flintlock, Winter, and Whistlestop trying to figure out a trap. "Are adventures always this messy, Feathers?"

"Ummmm…" Whistlestop pauses, scratching a hoof in his ear thoughtfully after that last shot. "…under a rock?"

Rocket shrugs one shoulder. "I dunno, I haven't had all that many yet!" she answers casually. Though that might be because her attention is still on the key-statue. "Hey, what'd the journal say again exactly? Maybe there's a hint or somethin'."

Szera pauses, and turns to quickly muddy up and ruffle Sadaka's 'hawk so that it lays flat and brown along her neck. There. Then she flashes a quick, nervous smile, and starts tip-toeing out through the tangled weeds, toward the edge of the encampment. … Until a sharp hiss sounds and makes her freeze in her tracks.

Unfortunately, we and the party at large do not speak kelpie, nor does Skyflower, most likely, but for convenience, I shall translate it here anyway.

*Szera! Where are you going?* demands Hyacinth, glaring down at her. The younger kelpie quails, and shoots back, *Taking my new friend out to play. What, is there a crime against that?* Hyacinth squints down at muddy Sadaka, brows lowering suspiciously. And then she looks over at Skyflower, who's just /there/, and jumps. "Pony! You are under arressst!!" she yelps in surprise.

Winter-Solstice throws her hooves up. "If I was a REALLY sick son of a stud, I wouldn't hide the key anywhere, I'd make them ALL trapped and keep the real key with me!" She settles back down and paces three circuits around her side of the cavern before looking towards Gamble and 'Feathers.' "Yeah, we have a journal, don't we? Ask it. Or see if it has the answer written in there. Why do the kelpies worship this thing, anyway? I mean, I want to be culturally sensitive and all, it's not like this is the 9th century anymore, but come on!" She reaches out and nudges the shrine- away from one of the triggers, that is. "This is very clearly a puzzle! What kind of wacky god do they have that would bless THIS thing, anyway? I'd like to know, I bet their other holy sites are pretty rad!"

The journal! Gamble almost forgot! Quick as magic will allow, he has the book out, pages flipping. "W..well, we're… We're pretty much looking for something associated with a pirate captain, and… Bah. His book really isn't very helpful. All it says is 'A key item of great importance lies in the hooves of the tricksey forest folk. Be mindful, for they do not toy with strangers.'" The book hangs in the air, Gamble tilting his head at the shrine. "…But I don't see how that means anything."

"That's because yer not a pirate." Flintlock says, glaring Gamble's way. "But these big lugs might as well be. They're on to something here!" He puts an arm around Whistlestop, his other around Winter, giving both the great ponies a friendly noogie! "If you were this captain, and you didn't want anyone finding your key, would you put it with the rest of the keys? When numbskulls like these can pull every key on the dang device and find the right one? I don't think any of those are right. The key's somewhere else." He paces, paces, paces, and sets his plot down on the mat in front of the shrine. "But… Where?" There's a lot of rock in here. Too many to look under." He frowns.

Rocket blinks and scratches her head with one talon. "…In the hooves of tricksey forest folk? Don't toy with strangers, eh?" She tilts her head, peeeeering at Flintlock. Then over at Gamble. "…I'm havin' an idea and even /I/ think it's dumb."

Winter-Solstice makes a face when Flintlock gets so chummy, not just because he's a weirdo and he's making everything difficult, but because he's starting to be kind of likeable in a rascally sort of way and it kisses her off that she's not as mad at him as she was before. See, look, you can even see a reluctant little smile curling up the corners of her mouth despite her best efforts. "Maybe we don't need a key, we need a lock? I don't even know how you unlock a key with a lock, or… or unkey it, or whatever, but… is there a rock that looks like a lock?" She starts poking around the edges of the chamber, checking rocks and stuff, and mumbles to herself as she does. "… dock, sock, mock, hock, flock… toy with strangers… strange… ah!" She sits up with a start. "A strange toy! We need a strange toy! I- no…." She deflates back down into another snoop around the cavern floor.

Skyflower does indeed not speak Kelpie (although her Griffon is about as good as one's can be when one lacks a beak) but she knows a fracas when she hears one. "Do pardon me, but I believe that one of my friends is in a bit of a sticky wicket," she says to the puzzled-looking Kelpie (who, for the record, does in fact speak enough Pony to… mostly be confused by Skyflower's little tale). She then canters over to Hyacinth, Szera and Sadaka. "Pardon ME," she says, tossing her mane in a remarkably imperious and curiously intimidating fashion, "but that is my friend you are attempting to arrest. And a foal, no less! You should be ashamed of yourself, really you should. No matter, I've the situation well-at-hoof. Sadaka? Come along, we're going home now. One of the Kelpie was kind enough to help me find the Golden Sky mushrooms I needed for my latest designs and our other friends seemed to hae trotted off somewhere silly, so we should simply go home and wait for them." Her gaze in Hyacinth's direction is… steely.

Sadaka blinks, looking back at her now-smoothed mane, trying to follow after Szera and look /casual/. Until they're stopped! She freezes and blinks, doing her best to look as much like a Kelpie as a mud-covered zebra can pull off. It may even have worked, except that Skyflower called her by name! Doesn't sound much like a Kelpie name, now, does it? She looks back and forth between Skyflower to Hyacinth to Szera. "Uh…"

Hyacinth blinks and works her jaw in confusion, as Szera grabs Sadaka's ear and pulls, urging her to quickly move while the adult is distracted. Finally Hyacinth glowers. "You poniess— " she starts, but Szera doesn't care! Skyflower gave them a window and boy is she ever gonna take it. As soon as Sadaka's moving on her own, she lets go of the awkward hold on the zebra and breaks into a run instead, making sure she can keep up. At the very least she flashes a quick, grateful smile at Skyflower over her shoulder, though it's also a little panicked.

"Apparently dumb ideas are what we need right now." Gamble notes, rubbing his forehead with a hoof. Oh headache. "Might as well lay it on us Feathers. Cap'n Jerkrump over there sure ain't helpin' us find this..key thing."

"For your information…" Sparkflint says, turning to Gamble and Rocket. "I probably know more about what we're looking for than you do. It's not just any key. It's a wind-up toy key. For a musicbox…" Then he trails off, staring at the shrine. He tilts his head. Then his body. And eventually gets to where he's perched, upside down on the mat, standing on his head. "…Mmmmmm nope. This isn't very enlightening. Somewhat calming though."

Rocket shrugs one shoulder, turning her head to casually preen at one wing. "Well, journal says what we're lookin' for is 'in the hooves of the forest folk', huh? An' the only thing 'round here that was in the possession of the forest folk was him." She points a talon over at the aforementioned Captain. "Flintlock, Sparkflint, whatever you are. Captain, huh? An' he sure seems to know lots 'bout pirates. And he knows what we're lookin' for, too! /I/ didn't tell 'im that. /You/ didn't tell 'im that." She shrugs again. "Dumb. But it's all I got."

Winter-Solstice looks up from where her search had led her- a corner of the cave where a little glow worm wiggles on a muddy little rock. It's fascinating and she's been staring at it for the past 30 seconds. "A toy key? Like for a wind-up…" She hauls upright and makes her way back to the shrine. "Well, that makes a lot more sense than it should. Is there one of those in here? Maybe… maybe we should have brought our own." She begins picking over the shrine, inspecting not the fancy trigger keys, but the other dumb keys that make up the rusted hulk of it. "Hey, this one looks like my house key. I was wondering where that got to. Looks like it's been here for a while, though. This pirate captain is more wily than I gave him credit for."

Sadaka squeaks and scampers after Szera, casting a glance back at Skyflower. Well, she seems able to handle herself! And she doesn't want Szera in trouble, after all.

Skyflower snorts, her horn glowing with a lambent light like unto her lovely, luminous locks. "What about 'we ponies?' If some trouble has been caused then I do apologize but we are all SENSIBLE creatures and should never allow our tempers to control us. And certainly not in a way that results in one doing anything so utterly dreadful as attempting to arrest a child! Really now, what were you thinking?" She shakes her head: she's actually smiling when she says all this even though the steel never leaves her voice. "Now I will simply chalk it up to frayed nerves and say no more of it if you will do the same. I'm sure we can both be civil." A pause, then: "Do you like fireworks?"

Hyacinth is just sputtering, trying to find words that aren't hisses and clicks, but the foals are long gone. Sadaka is dragged safely over the (wide) bridge over the river, and finally led into the forest perimeter. "There… we will wait here. I will be sssure your family getsss you."

And Hyacinth? All she can manage is, "F…ireworksss…?"

Gamble frowns, Rocket's suggestion making as much sense as anything else in this crazy adventure. "Yeah. Well I'm sure there's a perfectly logical reason why this pony here knows more about this than we do. But I don't think it's cuz' he's the key." His eyes drift down, squinting at Flintlock's upside-down position. "However… The gambler pony wanders up to give Captain Flintlock a push, square on his back.

The captain makes a comical flailing of his limbs. "Whoaoaoaoah!" Crash! Off the mat he tumbles, leaving Gamble to stare down at it. "This is silly too, right? Who hides a key under a mat?" he asks, scuffing a hoof underneath said mat, flipping it up! On the other side is a small, silver, heavily tarnished, but still quite functional wind-up key. Just like that.

Gamble clops a hoof to his face. "Captain Bad Joke indeed." The tumbled Captain just grunts, "Ah… Yes. Under the mat. Of course. Good show, ponies, good show."

Winter-Solstice breaks out into a fit of snorty laughter, then drops back onto her butt at a fair distance away, getting a good view of the impending Unlockening. "It worked, didn't it?" she snickers. "It doesn't hurt that the kelpies don't really sweep up much in here! You could hide a lot of stuff in this muck. Does it even have a keyhole, though?"

Rocket blinks and gives a rather chirpy laugh of her own. "Hey, that works too! …Still don't trust this guy, though. …Now I guess I better go clean things up with the Kelpies so they don't stalk you all back to town or somesuch?"

Sadaka sits down beside her, panting a bit but nodding. "R-right… okay… th-thanks." She blinks up at her, gulping a bit. "…I'll t-talk to e-everypony. Make sure they don't get m-mad at you all. So you don't get in t-trouble again. I mean… w-we broke your cage. It was j-just a big… misunderstanding."

"Eeeyup…" Gamble says, snatching up the little wind-up key and tucking it into the journal. "That was it. All we came here for. Just this little dinky key clue. All that…" He grunts. Then turns. And walks out of the cave. "Yeah… So… You handle the Kelpies, Feathers, an' we'll all try to sneak back to town a'right?" He glances back at the Captain, and Winter. "Guess we're takin' the good Cap'n here with us too."

Winter-Solstice hauls to her feet. "Okay, buddy, c'mon down with us to the precinct HQ," she says, falling into line behind the Captain. "If only because the locals are going to eat you alive if they catch you… and the rest of us, too, I'm guessing."

Thus did the ponies find their way back home. Thanks to Rocket's odd diplomacy skills with the kelpie tribe, everybody made it home safely! Including the odd captain Flintlock, mysterious newcomer to Horseshoe Harbor.

As all the ponies left the cave, the odd shrine of keys had one more curious surprise. A hiss escapes, and a small compartment opens up. A little orange thing of ooze drips free, collecting in a small puddle. It lifts a piece of itself, swaying around as though looking for a scent…and when it finds what it's looking for, it begins a slow, meandering path out of the cave, following the trail of fleeing ponyfolk.