In To The Light Part 2
IC date: DATE
OOC date: DATE
Location: LOCATION
PCs: Player Player

As promised, the journey took the better part of two days. The part's journey took them mostly through mountains and little valleys which to some may have been a fun little hike, and to others may have been a hard journey indeed. Thankfully, the journey was for the most part uneventful, with no noteworthy events happening until they found they cave.

What a cave it is, a deep round hole carved in to the side of the mountain, wide enough for several ponies to walk side by side. they arrived upon it late in the day, and Hemlock advised waiting for the morning, a well rested adventurer is a successful one. In the morning, they found the big green stallion all kitted up and ready for the cave. He's covered head to hoof in thick black cloth, including a black hat, and his face is covered by white beaked mask. Once the lanterns were lit, the party set off.

The cave turns out a network of caves, all generally circular and of varying sizes, from as big as the one the party entered to smaller than a pony. The only available light is from the lanterns, whose lights play out along the smooth stone of the cave walls. For a few hours Hemlock leads the others through the twisting caves, and through the occasional cavern, which look much more rugged and natural. All throughout the caves is an undeniable snake smell, and that only grows stronger as the ponies come up to yet another cavern, where something large and aggravated seems to be moving around.

Quintessent-Rune waved her hoof before her muzzle. "Oh dear, this smell - or stench perhaps - is rather foul I shall have to say! What, pray tell, is it?" The question was to nobody in particular, the dainty seapony being caught up in pulling her thick scarf up over her nose and mouth. That done she turned her attention forwards… "And… what is THAT?!"

Cross-Redfeather has been keeping a low profile most of the trip, though she can't prevent her very nature not to show, as throughout she was checking on everypony else, and flitting to the sky on a time or two to check her locations and keep abreast of the lay of the land. And Cave… oh why a cave. "Oh that, thats the smell of a Snake I do believe" she states factually to Rune, "but Uhh, only griffon hunting parties ever track that down, and I'm not a 'hunting party griffin' so umm." the little griff tucks close to Rune

Throughout the journey, Shadowbuck has been getting slowly but increasingly annoyed at the dayponies fumbling efforts to navigate a simple cave complex. She says nothing about the lanterns ruining the natural beauty of this place, knowing such a complaint would only spark an annoying argument (annoying because, of course, she is right and they would be wrong). Worst is the scent of either one big or a whole lot of little snakes, slithering around in here, which has her mostly hovering just off the ground when there's clearance, since the Way of the Stalactite is one of the most effective ways to handle a snake. Unless it's a flying snake. Or an armed snake.

Windrose is not a big fan of caves. They tend to not have a lot of room to navigate in. You never know what's living in them. And —

"OH MY GOSH." Thoughts are interrupted as she puts her forehooves over her shout. "What in the name of the stars is that stench?!"

Magpie tries to be tough through the long journey, but she does more than her share of whining about her hooves when the party stops for the night.

But the cave! Hovering a lantern nearby, she beams. This is awesome! The kind of cave that — ugh, smells kind of like Ruby's mane-dye. Bleugh. When she catches movement in the deep darkness, though, she's on her guard, lantern clacking to the floor while she pulls a thin, sharp knife from her hoof-holster and levitates it in front of her…

Near the back of the group bobs a lantern tied to a stick afixed to the bags strapped to a unicorn pulling up the rear of the procession. The bouncing light sets the shadows of the other ponies present to lurch and swing about before them, though th culprit seems unaware of this unintended effect.

"Snakes, you say?" says Merryweather. "How positively peculiar! We're a bit far north to see concentrations of reptiles so odiferous as this! Then again, I suppose here underground where some measure of stability of temperature can be maintained would be the place to find them, to say nothing of the possibility of finding some manner of serpent uniquely-suited to relatively colder climes. Maybe what we're bound to encounter isn't an indingenous species so much as something else entirely with a particularly large collection of snakes? Wouldn't that be something else, what what?" This prattle tends to continue; one knows they are falling behind the group when they get close enough for Merry to chatter directly at them instead of around them.

"That… is actualy rather interesting," said Quintessent, her head craned around to view the unicorn behind, "thank you." With that she turned towards Cross. "She does think it might be reptiles… maybe."

As the lanterns enter the cavern, things start to get a bit more clear. The cavern itself is not particularly noteworthy compared to the others the group has seen, with 4 exits including the one straight across that is the group's target. On the other hoof, a pair of very large snakes, by snake standards, are the current inahbitants. One of them sits coiled up on a raised nest, and you can tell it is a nest because there are twiges and stuff poking out from beneath the snake's body. The other is patrolling the cavern, and is the one making the noise, until it notices the group, where it suddenly becomes very quiet.

Cross-Redfeather meekly replies on seeing the pair of snakes, "Think the unicorn back there was correct" is all she offers with a little quiet squeak. "Maybe we can temporararily blind them with our lantern light?" she ponders outloud, "They likely don't get much light down here" she adds

Shadowbuck glares at the suddenly quiet snake. "Well, we're dinner," she says. Stupid lanterns! Told the cave snakes right where they… they… hey. "That's… not a bad idea. I know those stupid things hurt *my* eyes. Cause I live in caves."

Hemlock, who has been very busy with his map and making sure it is the right way up and is definitle 100% not lost, clears his throat. "I think, my dears, that we should probably back away ever so slightly. I think backing away is a good idea. That way we can decide what to do without our large friend here interrupting us, yes?"

"Snakes?.. Why'd it have to be snakes…" Windrose mutters under her breath. Because somepony has to say it. "Anypony consider, I don't know, just asking if we can get past? Just don't disrupt the nest or anything."

Quintessent-Rune, frozen in mid step as they spot the creatures, nods before setting her legs in motion. In reverse. "I… think… we should follow the advice of our expert adventurer on this one, yes."

Cross-Redfeather looks to Hemlock with concern thinking to herself, 'if he's frightened, than we're screwed' then "Umm Miss Windrose dear, we are but mere bitesized snacks, some of us moreso than others" she indicates herself and Miss Magpie of the filly-foal-ish size. "I'd rather not be a morsel of feathery goodness"

Merryweather falls quiet as she waits near the back of the group, looking at the other ponies in the party as indecision and doubt plague the lot of them. Well, then! That just won't do. Striding forward as the others chatter, she reaches up with a hoof to hike her lantern a bit higher and calls out to the pair of large serpents. "Hello, and a pleasant afternoon to the both of you!"

"Oh, we can ask miss Windrose. I just think it would be best if we were all on the same page and didn't just barge in. Our friend here seems a little jumpy and we wouldn't want to.." Hemlock is about to continue, and then Merryweather makes a decision for everyone. "Or we can do it the fun way," he says brightly.

Magpie scowls at Cross. "Was that a short joke?" she grumbles. Then perks up. "Oh, hey! I could let one eat me, then punch it in the gooey soft bits inside, and come bursting out like in that one comic book!" That's a sound plan, right?

Shadowbuck facehooves. "Talking snakes are even worse than regular snakes. Always tryin' ta' sell ya somethin if they're not tryin ta' eat ya." Then she scowls at Magpie. "Snakes constrict their prey. That means they squash ya ta' death before they eat ya. Bad idea."

Merryweather seats herself so she'll have free forelegs to brace on her hips when she turns to shoot a frown back at Magpie. "That'd certainly be rude! Wouldn't YOU like to have someone burst into your Magpie-scented cavern only to jump down your throat and box your giblets about? I'd think not!"

"Not ALL of 'em," Mapgie complains. "Some of 'em are just venom… venom-ish, and you just gotta get past the fangly bits."

Magpie says "But I'm not a snake. Also did you just say I stink?!"

The snake, who has until then been content to watch the group be unsure and generally shift backwards, takes its cue and slithers forward. It really is a rather large specimen, and seems bigger up close. Another thing that is apparent up close, it does not in fact have scales, it's hide is rock, and most of the rest of it is of the stony persuasion. The little fella leans right up to Merryweather and hisses, which is the only word to describe how it talks. "More of you? What do you want now, little thievesss?"

Cross-Redfeather mumbles, "you're not short, your sized appropraitely for your age, I'm short" she grumbles, then she watches the snake come closer while the party takes a step back she gasps a little and flits up to a hover, backing slowly back pondering softly, "Chase instinct?" *gulp*

"Ah, pardon me, sir. Or madam. The physical differences do make it a bit hard to tell, sorry." Rune stepped forward, inching her way over towards Merryweather. "We were… contracted to retrieve a princess from this cave? Perhaps you have seen one about? We didn't intend offence."

Windrose visibly beams when Merryweather takes her advice and the snake responds back in kind… though it turns to a slight grimace at the 'thieves' remark. Then to a curious brow quirk when she notes what was said before that. "More? Somepony has been down here before?"

Merryweather turns away from Magpie to find a big stoney snake RIGHT THERE in her face. Her mouth hangs open and her eyes are wide and staring and she stammers silently for a few moments. "Er," she eventually manages.

"Er, um. Ah. Heh heh. We're just, ah, p-passing through, my good fellow! We've certainly no plans that one would conventionally classify as 'thievery,' to be sure!" The others are doing a good job of asking the REAL QUESTIONS, so the unicorn, feeling far less enthusiastic about the diplomatic approach now that she is being diplomatically approached by something that could gobble her up, scoooots back a step until Windrose and Rune are in the front ranks.

Shadowbuck grunts. "She means we're lookin for some prissy noblepony who got lost up here. I think." She walks upward to the front line spot where Merryweather has vacated for the moment, figuring there had better be at least one combattant up there.

The snake moves its head to follow Merryweather, until it is interupted by a white mask as Hemlock steps smartly in front of the creature, and he is a pony who cannot be easily stared down. Seeing it can't get an easy intimidation on the ponies, the snake decides to talk. "As you well know. You're partnerss in crime were down here just over an hour ago, and took one of our eggss. There are no princesses here, little pony. Nothing getss through this cave until we get our egg back."

"Hey, I'm not a thief!" Magpie protests dishonestly.

The snake shifts its gaze to Shadowbuck when the young batpony presents themselves. This one seems to have a thing for staring others down. Everyone needs a hobby.

Cross-Redfeather patpats Magpie, "not this time, somepony beat you to it"

Quintessent-Rune turned her head slightly to glance at Merryweather. Rather acusingly to say the least. She is not happy being abondoned up front with Windrose. After a moment spent composing herself she turned back towards the serpent, her usual and neutral expression with that polite little smile on her face once more. Though those behind can easily her shifting uneasily from rear-hoof to rear-hoof. "Oh, shush you," she mumbled backwards towards Shadowbuck. "Not all members of nobility is bad. I hope."

"And, partners?" Runes words seems directed at the serpent. "As much as a clich this will sound, sir - or madam - we do not know these ponies. And… I will leave such a decision of bussines to our leader, though… perhaps you could tell us of these intruders? We could, if nothing else, report them to the authoroties on the surface - at the very least."

It takes several attempts before she can well up the volume necessary to turn her murmurings into actual speech, but Merryweather eventually pipes up from her recently-resumed post on the rear lines. "M-maybe ask where the thieves went? If it was only an hour ago, then, ah… perhaps purusing them with intent to apprehend the criminals and secure the pilfered goods is a possibility not located too greatly beyond the boundaries of reasonable resolutions to our present conflict. As it were."

Shadowbuck stares back and forth. "Ohohoh, I get it. Scales here can't go get the thieves cause she's gotta guard the nest and protect the other eggs, 'specially with egg thieves around. She knows we ain't done it, she'd'a attacked us already if we had egg smell on us." She shakes her head. "Fair enough, 'long as we know where we stand. So yeah, tell us what they looked an' smelled like, and we'll cream em' for ya."

Cross-Redfeather is a rather timid thing, down here in a cave she's reciting a little 'self confidience booster' to herself off to one side as she peeks occasionally from around a little outcropping looking to the fore-front ponies out there risking themselves, her little speech to herself is just normal surfact talk, "birds eat snakes, not the other way around" she adds softly "we're yucky tasting" mentions the small flyer as she repeats to herself this 'confidience booster' like some self help mantra.

Magpie sidles sideways. Slipping into darkness, slipping out of sight. She circles the big stone snake, edging towards the nest…

The snake, who has not offered its name yet and does not look likely to do so, seems to calm down ever so slightly. "The cowardly thieves ran down that exit" It tilts its head to indicate the one on the group's left. "Little to do they know it's a dead end. Unfortunately, they ran in to tunnels too small for either of us to fit in. We would need creatures of your size to help us."

"Dead end, even? Well then, that should be much simpler," said Quintessent before nodding in that direction. "Let us go there and retrieve this egg, shall we? Then maybe we can get this over with - I have no idea why I decided to come along on this fool's quest. No offence." If that was to Hemlock or everyone in general is hard to say.

Merryweather is perfectly happy to start scooting towards the indicated tunnel, away from the angry snake. Along the way, she scoots around to walk beside Quintessent Rune, commenting to the seapony: "Lady Rune, I thought you said it was because you were looking forward to meeting this alleged princess we've been tasked with the heroic retrieval of. Surely the possibility of hobnobbing with royalty should maintain a bit of allure, yes?"

Hemlock just shrugs. From his point of view Rune will appreciate the experience at some point.

The snake, who is completely incapable of shrugging, seems interested. That is until it seems to realize something, and narrows its eyes. Rune gets a face full of snake who hisses. "Then you go and rejoin your little friendss, yess? Then you help them esscape? I think not. One of you will sstay behind to make sure the otherss come back." Mr Snake raises his head and looks at the group, pointing at Hemlock. "We will keep that one."

Cross-Redfeather says "yes, Yes finding the other ponies would be a good idea yes, find the culprits find the egg" she offers sharply before bounding in with the others certainly not feeling the desire to be left behind"

Magpie shuffles over towards the nest, trying to get a better look at it. There's another snake. Any other eggs, though?

Windrose … just slaps her hooves to her face. "Oh of course this crackpot venture turns out to be something -entirely different-. Why am I not at all surprised?!" Mutters the pegasus in exaggerated sarcasm

Shadowbuck gives a little frown, before pulling out a mouth-gripped short sword in her sack to be at the ready to draw. Anything stupid enough to steal from giant snakes, and good enough to actually escape (even if ineffectively) had to be either very fast, very sneaky, or very crazy. "Doc, big snakes can't really tell the difference 'tween mammals, other than by flavor. All we know is the creatures are probably sized somewhere between a foal and a Solstice.

Quintessent-Rune blinked for a moment before raising an eyebrow. "You would… prefer to keep the most experienced member in our party, then? The one that is, I would say, arguable the most capable of subduing the culprits without harming your egg unlike the rest of us. I would agree to such a concesion… if you agree to let us keep the culprits and have them put on trial and punished acording to the laws that govern their society?"

It is kind of hard to see if there are any eggs because of the snake who is, in every respect of the word, in the way. Magpie gets the attention of the mother snake. "Trying to ssee if you can ssteal any mroe of my children? The otherss are ssafe with me, I wont be tricked again, little thief." Since it was said to Magpie, that accusation just rings as true, if maybe a little unnecessary.

Magpie shakes her head. "No, no, just lookin'… What would I even do with a giant snake egg? Ahahahaha."

"And Magpie, stop antagonizing them!" shouted Rune. "By the black abyss, people like you are the reason civilizations need soldiers. Now plealse get back here."

Windrose snaps her head in the direction of the nest. "Magpie, get your flank back over here this instant. I don't want to see what Ruby would do if you got eaten by a snake. It would not be pleasant." Then adds under her breath flatly, "for the snake, most likely."

Hemlock grins, the effect fo which is rather dampened by the fact that he's wearing a mask. For that reason, he removes to mask, so others can see his big reassuring grin. "Oh don't worry milady Rune, I am certain you will all be fine, besides, I have some question I'd like to ask these fine gentlesnakes." He made that word up, and is very proud of himself. "You lot go off and have fun without me."

Merryweather glances back. "Magpie is the reason for soldiers…?" She peers at the filly for a few bewildered moments. She hardly seems capable of invading, much less threatening another nation, but, well… she is deceptively sneaky. Note to self: Keep an eye on that one.

Cross-Redfeather offers a little tidbit of information, "Mr Snake, ponies are herbivores largely, no need for such an egg, or to steal one for that matter" she notes from within the group

Magpie protests, "I was just LOOKIN'!" She ambles back over towards the group with a scowl. "I never did nothin' to soldiers," she mutters.

"I did not think to ask the thieves why they would take one of our children as I chased them from the room. For ssome reasson it sslipped my mind." The snake doesn't look particularly impressed. "I am ssure you could assk them. You are, after all, the ssame species." Magpie gets a look, but the snake seems the least bothered. If only because Magpie is itty bitty.

Quintessent-Rune shook her head for herself before glancing over at Merryweather and Magpie. "No, but ponies like you make diplomacy practicaly impossibly. Therefore, soldiers. Now can we all kindly resolve this in a fashion that is satisfacotry enough for all parts - we can get our own 'quest' done, the snakes get their egg back and the culprits get tossed into prison. Which admitedly is not satisfactory for them though it sounds preferable to being devoured." With that the dainty seapony ploded ahead down the indicated path. Mostly just hoping that if she pretends to be an authorative figure they'd get tricked into following before too much is said.

Magpie says "I will! Stealin' babies is awful." She stomps after Rune with a scowly look that bodes ill for the snakenappers!"

"Foalnappers don't get a vote anyhow," Shadowbuck grunts. "Dishonorable scum." Then she gives a very strange look Magpie's way. "Then why were you over by their nest?" she whispers her way.

Merryweather, thoroughly bewitched, follows Rune, after taking a moment to ensure her lanter on its stick is once more in place and ready to illuminate the path ahead with its dancing gleam. "Right! Sally forth, and let's see this sidequest resolved with the utmost alacrity!"

Cross-Redfeather follows along with Rune mostly because she for some reason trusts the seapony, and furthermore she seems to have some sense of a clue as to what is going on. She looks back to Hemlock, "You'll be alright yes?" she asks softly of her friend

Magpie looks up at Shadowbuck. "Huh? I said, I just wanted to look at it!"

Hemlock flashes another reassuring grin. "It'll take more than a couple of big snakes to put me in danger, my dear. Go have fun, I am sure it will be An Experience."

Cross-Redfeather cringes a little, "Experience eh, yes, yes indeed it will be" she shakes her head a little and grumps about 'caves' "Be safe" she demands all the same as she shifts about her pack and fully joins the others.

the tunnel that the ponies head down is much like many of the tunnels they have been traveling in today, though this one seems less well used. the walls are rougher, and a couple stalatite (or is it stalagmites? Possibly both) have begun to form. There are many tunnels branching off, thoguh most of them are either obviously big enough for the snakes back in the cavern, or much too small for a pony of decent size. As the main tunnel ends, there are only two entrances that qualify. One is on floor level, and some inspection reveals some light at the far end, and the other is nearby but halfway up the curved wall.

Quintessent-Rune frowned for herself, though it is more like a slight creasing of her brows than anything else. "There will be an experience for somepony, indeed. Though hopefuly not for us. When we find these criminals… let us try the diplomatic approach yes? It usualy serves well." As she spoke Rune dug into her scarf for several moments before producing the thick obsidian shaft of some tool or weapon. A shaft that just keeps comming, blazing silver runes along the length and a glaive-head of runed gold, crackling with power.

Windrose huffs into her curls. "Great, there's two exits. Should of asked the snakes if the group had any ponies with wings so we'd know if we have to bother or not."

Magpie taps Shadowbuck's hoof. "Pst. Gimme a boost," she says quietly, waving up towards the higher of the two tunnels. "I bet the light is them, but just in case…"

Shadowbuck waves a hoof. "Yeah, yeah, diplomacy. After we beat em up a bit first," she answers. "Look, ya can't always be all polite with mean critters. Ya gotta stand up to em, show em you're just as tough, otherwise they won't respect ya. We're lucky them snakes actually needed us. Magpie's 'specially lucky they needed us, and they knew it." Then to Windrose. "They might not even be ponies. Snakes can't really tell any of us apart that good." Then to Magpie. "Hop on. She and I'll take a quick peek up there."

Cross-Redfeather says "it works in our case as our party sans that of hemlock is an even split of winged creatures and non" she indicates to Windrose, Shadowbuck, and herself"

Quintessent-Rune shot Shadowbuck a glance. "Yes, diplomacy. Of course I do agree there is a benefit to show that you are being serious. Why else would I bring a portable siege weapon?" Well… it just happened to be in the scarf to begin with, but OTHER than that?

Magpie clings to Shadowbuck. "Hey, I been meanin' to ask you… Isn't 'shadowbuck' a colt's name?"

Cross-Redfeather can't help but stare at that scarf of Rune's it still continues to confound her about its properties of holding. She pfffits softly to herself with a grumble, "We'll let you do the diplomac-ing with that Miss Rune, I'm sure it will be most effective at convincing the culprits of our cause.

The more of that weapon QUintessent draws forth from her scarf, the wider Merryweather's eyes get, until she's standing back, well out of the range of that thing should an errant swipe send it ponywards. "Do holler if you should find something dangerous down that way!" she suggests to Shadowbuck. "Perhaps some manner of code is in order? One whistle for danger, two whistles for an all-clear? Or mayhaps the reverse would be easier. How are your bird calls? That seems to be the standard in situations such as this. If nothing else you can whip together a note and have Lady Magpie here run it back to us."

Magpie rolls her eyes. "If we get in trouble I'll give you a bat-call."

Quintessent-Rune raised an eyebrow. "When in trouble, bat signal?"

Magpie flashes a grin. "Yeah!" She opens her mouth wide, but makes no sound. :D

Shadowbuck turns to Magpie, annoyed. "Stop that, they might be able to hear that awful screech!"

Quintessent-Rune glanced towards Shadowbuck, just… to make sure. With this down one never really know that.

Magpie flails. "I didn't even DO it!"

Cross-Redfeather arrgh's at Rune's pun then looks to Magpie, and offers a cheerful happy sounding avian twitter. She does have /that/ advantage afterall. "but really If I'm paniced, you'll hear more than a happy twitter.

Shadowbuck smirks. "Oh, I know. Just wanted to catch you off-guard there." She waves a hoof as she takes off. "As for the name, we don't really have colt and filly names in the caves. Well, except Phantom. For some reason nopony names their filly -or- colt that now. Not sure why."

Quintessent-Rune waved a hoof. "But… but. Allright, you go high and we grounded ponies take the low rout, shall we?" With that Rune turned about and strode forward with fake confidence augmented by the crackling glaive across her back - that is, augmented for the worse, not the bether.

Cross-Redfeather Stays with the groundbased ponies since one of them has chosen to fly with the batty one

"It's alright, Lady Rune!" says Merryweather, trying to sound encouraging as she continues to hang back out of halberd-range. "The doctor's with us." She gestures to Cross. "This surely bodes well for our bodily well-being!"

"Com'n you two, let's make this quick." Windrose darts off into the upper tunnel along with Shadowbuck and passanger.

Whoever goes in to the up tunnel will have a bit of a tighter fit if they are on the big side, but little gryphons and ponies should get through fine. The tunnel winds on for a bit, twisting about until it open out in the back corner of a little open area. That open area is well lit by a jolly little fire and is occupied by half a dozen nervous looking ponies, and one egg.

to be fair, it's only identifiable as an egg because the ponies know they are looking for one. It's kind of oddly shapped and looks for all the world like a unusually round geode.

The ponies on the floor level tunnel have an easier time. It's a somewhat straightforward tunnel right to that same open area. There's a piece of string tied across the tunnel a few meters away form the entrance, looks like some kind of warnign system. The nervous group doesn't want to be snuck up on. They are too busy whispering and talking amonst themselves to hear any hoofsteps though.

Quintessent-Rune peered at the thread for a moment in thought before unslinging the glaive from her back - having to rise onto her hind-legs to use it effectively - and… tapped the wall with the flat side, sending out a clear metal-on-stone sound. "Excuse me in there!" she called. Diplomacy.

Magpie peeks out of the upper tunnel and grins. "Flanking maneuver," she whispers to Shadowbuck. Awww yeah.

Cross-Redfeather lands beside rune and grips the stone surface tightly with her foretalons, then flares her wings and flaps hard to send a /Wooosh/ of wind into the tunnel aimed right towards the nervous ponies, about the same time as Rune places her weapon.

Windrose settles down on the edge of the upper tunnel next to Magpie and Shadowbuck. Stares down into the cavern for a moment. "… I can't believe I'm suggesting this," she mutters to the other two in a whisper. "but maybe we should grab the egg while the others distract them with trying to talk or something…"

All the talking stops when they ehar the sound of metal on stone. Then, after Rune calls out there's a storm of chatter. Cross' woosh doesn't seem to make a large impact, though the fire does sputter, making them all jump a bit.

"They've come to eat us!"

"That a was pony, you dunderhead, lets see if they'll help us out."

A voice calls back down the tunnel, it's not very confident but trying to be brave. "Yes? How may we help you?"

Merryweather creeps forward, peering around Rune's shoulder and into the chamber, forgetting the menace of the polearm for now in favor of trying to get a good gander at what's going on inside. "They certainly seem an unsavory bunch," she murmurs under her breath. "Take care not to let your guard down!"

Quintessent-Rune raised her head, tall and proud (well… taller than Cross, but shorter than most). "Quite so. We are here seeking one giant snake egg and a unspecified number of ponies guilty of it's removal - which we do presume would be you - for capture and return to Horshoe Harbour for being put to trial on the charge of foal… well, eggnaping, I supose? Does the terms of this sound agreeable to you and your fellows?"

Shadowbuck whispers back to Magpie and Windrose. "Not yet. Let's see if they'll surrender peacefully, or prepare to attack. As long as they don't know we're here, we have the advantage of surprise. We get to take em from behind either way."

They certainly don't have the appearance of honest ponies, but they could be worse. They are an assortment of earth ponies and unicorns, most of whom have some kind of shovel and many of them have several bags, all empty. If anything, they look like treasure hunters. One of them is muttering to himself "I still think they're gonna eat us, don't see why the snake couldn't be prete-" The apparent leader (or the one doing the talking, which is basically the same thing), a unicorn mare shushes him quickly, then a series of whispers ensue. "What egg? We didn't take an egg…" The voice doesn't sound entirely certain. "You, er, better come in, I think?"

"I don't think that's very weise," asserts Merryweather, visibly jumpy after the suggestion that the lot of them enter. She also shoots Rune a concerned glance. "Also, you don't just TELL somepony you're going to enact a citizen's arrest! That just makes them run away! You'v got to be deceptive, you see."

Cross-Redfeather does that puff up 'look tough' look beside Rune. (Really its pathettic, but cute even) Looking to Rune she ponders the voices askance to come in further, which concerns her some, she whispers up to Rune, "they have a trip wire attached to what?" she asks

Shadowbuck hisses quietly, and flares her wings. "Do either of you recognize those idiots? Think they'd know batponies don't drink blood?"

Quintessent-Rune smiled. Well, she always smiled but this time it was rather a bit grimer than usual. "I would be inclined to agree, Miss Merryweather, Miss Cross." With that said the noble raise her voice for those inside. "I do belive you know exactly what egg we are refering to and we would much prefer you to bring it - and yourself - to us. I hope you will be resonable with this request since I would rather disslike to have to be forceful in these negotiations. That would be rather messy."

Rune's glave swung around towards one of the walls, right next to where the string-alarm is situated, the golden blade sliding in easily through the stone like it was made of butter. The hissing and crackling of energy, easily feelt by any unicorn, is much more omnious as large discharges of lightning danced across the wall nearby… before it cracked and shattered - more or less reducing that particular segment of wall to rubble and dust. "…as you no doubt can imagine, yes?"

Windrose shakes her head, making her bangs bob a bit with the curls. "Not a clue. Though not surprised. A lot of dumb ponies looking to make quick cash turn up in the harbor from time to time. Definately theives though. Pirates wouldn't waste their time getting stuck in a deadend cave like a cat in a paper bag."

Cross-Redfeather Cringes for herself in the show of power of that weapon, "Miss Rune, do take care not to bring the cave down atop us" she asks politely then notes to the ponies of theiving natures, "You wouldn't like to see her when she is angry with that weapon" she hints at omninous things as she makes a visable gulp jesture

Uh oh, the new ponies look mad, and the leader of the ragtag group starts shifting her weight from hoof to hoof. "I er, um, would love to, but you see, there's a really big snake. I don't want to get eaten." The others around her nod enthusiastically. Her horn lights up, and the string is easily cut in half. "Look, do you mean the big rock? We stole a big rock! We'll give it back no problem." Her face is full of grinning and hope and is shockingly effective at saying the sentence 'please don't hurt me.' "We don't have any weapons or nothing, not like" the mare clears her throat nervously. "Nothing like what you got. We'll put all our shovels down in the open though if it makes you happy, ok?" This is done very, very quickly.

They.. thought it was… sure it doesn't look like a typical egg but… still… you'd think…..

Windrose just buries her face in her hooves again, muttering under her breath about crazy ponies.

Shadowbuck nods. "Good enough for me then." She inhales sharply, then gives her loudest "skree." "I thirst for pony blood! Who dares wake me?"

"I would hope not! Common thugs with the ability to destroy buildings? A horrible thought," said Quintessent Rune. Reinfocring the idea if nothing else. "On the flip side it should be able to protect you from the snakes while we take your into custody…" She blinked at Shadowbuck's voice. "And protect you from that, as well."

Cross-Redfeather hears that Skree echo through the caves, then the announcement of Shadowbuck, for whom she didn't see untill now, First the noise then the announcement sends the little flyer flying more bouncing off a wall in panic-flight, then flitting back down the tunnel from whence they came. The little flyer is more flight less fight.

Magpie facehoofs. "Shut up!" she says to shadowbuck. "They were *agreein'*, dummy!"

The slightly muffled sound of the leader's voice says "That sounds swell, can we do that? I would like to leave her outside a stomach and with all my blood. That would really make my day. It has not been a good day so far." The voice is muffled because she is, in fact, face down on the stone floor along with the others in her merry band.

When the stone-cleaving halberd swings in demonstration, Merryweather veritably jumps in place and scoots back a few steps, suddenly bristling with obvious anxiety- though most of it is focused on the troublemakers within the secluded cave. "Sh-shovels! Yes! Make sure they put their shovels down! There'll be no adversarial excavation while we're about!" she says, to Rune, who as far as Merry is concerned is the one now in charge. As Cross Redfeather panics, Merry turns and calls after her! "Lady Redfeather! Calm yourself! We'll need your expertise in the event of bloodshed!"

Cross-Redfeather 's tailfeathers are the only thing seen as she dissapears down the cavern likely back down to 'hideout' with Hemlock. The Skiddish doctor never was good with this 'adventure' thing afterall.

Quintessent-Rune inclined her head to Miss Merryweather. "Thank you. Yes, that would be for the best I think. Now. Miss Magpie, Miss Shadowbuck, Miss Windrose? Would you all kindly tie them up for transport back to town?"

Shadowbuck gives a little nod. "Just somethin for em to be scared of till Rune gets em tied up. In fact, you two oughta go help em, I'll stay outta sight till…" She shrugs. "If they see me now they'll freak and run, so. Whoops?"

Windrose shrugs her shoulders a little. "Either way." She hops out of the high tunnel and glides down to help the others.

None of the treasure hunters resist gettign tied up, they seem suitably cowed. The leader look up at Windrose. "Is that big rock really an egg? We heard there were like, heaps of gold here. We just found the big rocks and some angry snakes so we took what we could and ran. Sorry for being a bother, miss."

Magpie hops down and grins. She trots over to the "prisoners". "So, what's the deal?" she asks. "If you ain't kidnappers, what'd you think you was stealin' from two giant snakes?"

Once the ponies are tied up Windrose hovers, folding her forelegs and giving the one talking to her a stern look. "Then let this be a lesson to you to not believe everything you're told."

Shadowbuck says "Especially about blood-drinking," Shadowbuck adds, coming to a landing now that the idiots are tied up. "Blood tastes awful. Now, mushrooms… mmmm…""

Magpie pokes one of the hunters a poke. "We're savin' you from starvin' or gettin' snake-et, so… y'know. Yay us." She beams. "C'mon, smile!"

Merryweather scuffs a hoof as she lurks nearby. "So, er, does this mean we need someone to watch them?" she wonders. "There are quite a few of them and, er, maybe not so many of us, and we can't simply leave them in the custody of the resident serpents!" The unicorn watches the scalliwags for a few moments longer before jumping. "Er, that is to say, until we find the, uh, armed and capable army of law-enforcement specialists we're accompanying! Yes! Ha ha! Er."

"I think… it does not matter much, at the moment, the reason for why they have done what they have done," said Quintessent softly, "merely that we put things right." She glanced at Merryweather. "And we simply bring them with us. It is a short trip, for now… and we can always arrange something for the trip back to town between Hemlock's elixirs and my golems, no doubt."

Magpie says "Aww, can't we just walk 'em out and let 'em go? They didn't MEAN it." Pause. "Also I don't think snakes, uh, count for laws and stuff. I'd have to ask Page.""

The leader offers a weak smile. "Um, thank? Can you take the egg back to the snakes down so we dont get snake-et? that sounds really unpleasant." She twists her head to try and look at Merryweather, not quite getting it right. "We wont be any trouble at all miss! Where would we run? If we could have gotten out of here we would have ran a long time ago." She seems anxious to help.

Merryweather looks down at the floor, and anxiously grinds a spot on the stone floor before herself. "I hate to say it, miss Rune, but I think I have to agree with the lady Magpie at this juncture of our adventure. Simply for matters of practicality, I think we'd best turn these scofflaws loose with a firm warning rather than take the matter of enforcement upon ourselves."

Quintessent-Rune sighed softly. "If you are so inclined… Even so it would benefit us to leave them tied up untill we have gotten them past the serpents. And speaking off, shall we get moving?"

Windrose says "Yeah, let's get this egg back where it belongs so they don't eat Hemlock or whatever."

Magpie gives the treasure hunters a scowly look. "You didn't kidnap any princesses or other fancy-type ponies, didja?"

"Just the roc- er, egg, miss! I'm not sure if a princess counts as treasure, do they?" The treasure are helpd to their hooves in varying degrees of falling over, ready to be led out.

"Ensuring that the lot of them are firmly restrained in the presence of their serpentine plaintiffs would be wise, I concur," says Merry. She moves to the head of the tunnel, giving her lantern on a stick a forward swing. "Right, then, I'll lead the way back to the crossroads at which the natives have established their domicile, yes? And perhaps we'll find our missing griffon thereabouts as well!"

"Can somepony teach her ta' speak Equish?" Shadowbuck whines.

Quintessent-Rune blinked at Shadowbuck. "What, pray tell, of that was beyond your comprehension?"

Magpie says "I understood five or six words!"

Shadowbuck throws up a hoof. "plain-tick? dommy silo? Retrained, I got, but don't think we got time for that."

"Chop chop!" calls Merryweather from further along the tunnel. "No more dilly-dallying, dawedling or drag-hoofing! We've an egg to return and concerened parents to reassure!"

"And an adventurer to keep from getting eaten!", Windrose adds.

Quintessent-Rune nods and sets of down the cavernous corridors, her glaive slung across her back.

"You keep bringing him up," Magpie notes with an impish grin.

Windrose retorts "You ponies are too easily distracted."

Magpie says "Huh?! Who said that?!"

When the little group gets back to the cavern, they find Hemlock laying quite casually with the two snakes, chatting his fool head off. Poor Cross is huddled nearby, looks like the poor dear has gone to sleep. Hemlock's mask is back on, yet he still manages to look far too pleased with himself. once he notices the returning ponies he waves. "Welcome back! I see you had some fun."

The snakes quickly uncoil and slither over with great speed. One of them quickly snatches up the egg with their tail and holds it close and preciously. The other one gives the treasure hunters a very scary glare. "You have it your way, they are yourss to do with as you pleasse. When you're done, you may passs." It dips its head. "Thank you, poniess."

Quintessent-Rune inclined her head towards the serpents. "Thank you. And it is good to see you have found a way to occupy your time, Master Hemlock. And no, we did not, in fact, have a fun time."

Magpie says "I did!"

Shadowbuck smirks. "Yeah, speak for yourself." Then she clears her throat. "We will apply the law of the cave. If you see them again, they are yours. I think even these dimwits will know never to enter these caves again.

"That's a good filly!" says Hemlock. Magpie earns his approval.

The snakes nod, and one of them manages a grim smile. The treasure hunters on the other hand, are starting to sweat. "I think that is very fair, we will not be troubling you again nice snake friends! We would very much like to go away now please."

"'The law of the cave?'" asks Merryweather, sounding more perplexed than incredulous. "Is that- is that really a thing?"

Shadowbuck pokes a hoof towards the apparent leader's chest. "Fourth entry from the right," she says, pointing, then grunts. "Follow the right wall from there until you're outside. It should take you about six hours, but you will not get lost. You don't want to get lost in here again. Got it?" Then she turns to Merryweather and gives an enigmatic smile.

With much nodding of heads, the group of treasure hunters start to hop off. No one thought to untie them and they aren't about to push their luck by asking. they'll get out eventually.

Meanwhile, Hemlock gets up and stretches theatrically. "Well, my dears. I think we can afford a small break after all your heroics, and to give dear doctor Cross a chance to recover, poor soul. Once we're all ready, we can be on our way to find the girl."

Windrose watchs the treasure hunters hop off. "…. Maybe we should of untied them first." Pause. "Nah. Serves them right… and will keep them out of -more- trouble."

Shadowbuck waves a hoof. "About ten minutes or so from now, one of em will remember she's a unicorn, and they'll untie themselves at that point," she predicts. She then turns to Merry. "It's all part of the law of the cave, after all."