Into The Candy Mines
IC date: Autumn 9
OOC date: September 28
Location: Sugar Rush's Candy Shop
PCs: Sunshine-Stormcloud, Sugar-Rush, Snowfield, Wishy-Washy, Rising-Chaos, Hawthorn, Tale-Chaser, Cricket, Moonglow, Midnight-Sun
NPCs: Dirge, Night-Watch, Snakebite
GM: Applejack

It's late evening in the Harbor. A cool, crisp night. A perfect time to go hunting.

Sunshine-Stormcloud had called for interested and able bodies to help embark on a quest to find where all the town's foals have gone off to. They had a strong lead: An underground passage, a network of tunnels beneath the very town, with one particular branch being where a certain bagged pair of fillies had been taken to.

Thus does Sunshine wait. Those interested in helping had been given instructions to meet up next to the Sugar Rush Candy Emporium. Where the yellow-bodied proprietor, Sugar Rush, also happens to be waiting, talking with the guardsmare as others show up. The Candy Store owner obviously doesn't look very happy about the interruption of business.

"I protest. How could such vile vagabonds of vicious vocation have snuck past my security systems and set up shop under my very nose! It's unthinkable! It's implausible! It's…"

"…a violation of city code." Sunshine grunts, staring at the older pegasus. "If you really took the time to build a maze underground, without alerting the Mayor to your full intents of this shop of yours, you'll be lucky we don't shut the whole thing down after we bust the crooks hiding in there. So do we or do we not have your /full/ cooperation?"

Sugar-Rush glowers. "Oh I didn't say I wouldn't cooperate. But I do warn you, stay out of the 'under development' rooms. There's powers of candy at work you couldn't possibly understand! Even a dirty thug would be foolish to step hoof into the sugary unknown!"
Ruby-Blossom has arrived.

From down the street approaches Tale Chaser. He looks so out of his element one might suspect him of being a hallucination, and yet, here he is. He's armed with bookbags and a little strap to keep his glasses affixed to his face, as he shuffles up to the candy store, glances back and forth between Sunshine and Sugar Rush, and fails to muster the courage to interrupt their "conversation."

As befits her usual method of conducting business, Rising was here early. She's been unobtrusive as possble, merely keeping to the side and doing some light reading. The fact the book's title is partially covered up, with 'pyromantics for beginners' legible on the spine, is perhaps not reassuring. Were it up to her, she would have busted the place solo before Sunshine even got here, but she's going to follow precedure now that she's a public figure. Doesn't mean she's not furious, as the deep scowl can show, but hey, you cannot have everything.

Wishy-Washy is very much able bodied and more than willing to help solve the various sorrows of the ponies here. She'd been doing all sorts of asking around and investigation of her own the past few days, although all the pieces didn't quite fit together. she comes on up to Sunshine and gives her a gentle nod to Sugar Rush, she simplys tates one simple thing. "You should be happy. Aren't little fillies and colts the target demographic for such a sweet shop?"

Hawthorn is following behind TC, looking nervous himself. He's not armed with anything, except his ratty old panama hat and his magic, but he's not gonna run away, not when his friends are in trouble! He ums as he and TC stop before the mares and their, ah, 'conversation,' before he nudges TC. Then he stomps a hoof. Then he says loudly, "Excuse me! Hi! We're here to help rescue all of our friends, please? Are you the ponies we're 'sposed to talk to about that?"

Midnight-Sun does not look at home amongst a crowd of gung-ho adventureponies. He is kitted out in saddlebags full of things he considers essential and a scroll and quill are tucked behind one wing for any incidental note-taking needs, but he is watching the altercation between Sunshine and the shop's proprietor trepidatiously. But some of those foals are friends of his, and he won't stand by while other ponies do the work of getting them back. So he's just going to have to follow along, quite possibly shaking with fear the entire way down.

Snowfield hasn't been doing any asking around so much as she's been frantically searching the forest for clues to her wayward student's whereabouts. Unfortunately the forest is very large and the snow very fresh so it's been difficult to find anything out there. Word from Sunshine that an investigation was to be starting in Horseshoe Harbor has drawn the witch into town to do whatever she can. The argument between Sunshine and Sugar Rush, and Wishy's commentary, causes her to scoff. Sweets are, of course, terrible.

Off to the side, a nondescript shadow that certainly doesn't contain any batponies occasionally spits out a chewed sunflower seed, into a little pile on the street. Which is a silly thing for a shadow to do, but that's all it is, surely. The shadow also thinks sweets are kind of silly and salty snacks are best.

Next to the shadow, another shadow lurks, this one decidedly less seedy. In fact, this shadow seems to disapprove of the seeds altogether. "Will you quit that?" it hisses to its shadowy companion, "We're on /duty/."

The seedy shadow coughs a little. "Sorry, Captain," it says. Which is ALSO something strange for shadows to be doing. The red-coated batpony guard steps out of the shadows (LE SURPRISE) and makes his way to a trash can to spit his mouthful of sunflower seeds out, before returning to his post.

Although a little trailing fold of black cloak pokes out of the darkness for a few moments, giving him away until he realizes and snatches it back.

Sugar-Rush gives a wary eye towars Wishy-Washy, though after she speaks he does settle down another notch. His wings tuck in comfortably against his back, and he trots over to the front door of his shop, nudging it open. "I suppose you're right. If there /are/ any little ones down there, it's best they're rescued and brought back safely. Hoh, otherwise I'll be right out of business, sugary labrynth or not!" Labrynth? What?

Sunshine flashes a grin towards Wishy, then perks her ears up and waves a hoof to all the rest. "Hey, nice. We got a whole crew here. Okay." She steps in front of the open door. "So here's the deal! We have..no idea who's down there. Sugar here swears he hasn't heard any foal noises, but we know for a fact that someone's using his mine system to traffick foals somewhere. …No, I don't know /why/ he has a mine system." she tilts her gaze, which Sugar-Rush just shrugs at.

"How else am I supposed to transport the candy I make to the shop? I don't /live/ here."

Sunshine shakes her head. "Anyway. If you find a room marked 'confidential' or something try to avoid too much poking around. It might be dangeroud. Or he might just be silly."

Sugar-Rush scoffs at that. "The most dangerous danger is the silly danger, I assure you."

"Yeah… So! Let's get to it already." Sunshine about-faces, and heads inside the door. Ponies should probably follow.

Inside the candy store seems much bigger than outside. Rows, upon rows, upon rows of so many sugary confections, candies, gummis, sweets, and a few baked goods for good measure sit neatly arranged in eye-catching displays from one end to the other! But this isn't where Sunshine is going. She's passing the rows of candy entirely, heading to a door in the back marked 'Basement: Beware of Hot Chocolate' And then past that into the unknown.

In this case, the unknown leads down a full flight of stairs, and through another door: 'Seriously. Hot Chocolate Will Burn You'

This door leads to a platform, sitting inside a long tunnel maybe eight foot high. The ground of the tunnel has a long track laid in it, stretching in two directions, and several minecarts sitting on the track. It almost looks like the start of a horrible amusement park ride.

Tale Chaser watches, still quiet. He glances to Hawthorn, offers him a slight smile, before heading in inside, following Sunshine. His smile fades quickly; he stays well away from candy of any sort, and bites his lower lip anxiously at the threats of hot chocolate.

As she got it, it was revealed that Rising Chaos, actually is packing quite a lot of things. She's wearing her normal saddlebags, and has a few pouches slung along for good measure. First aids kits, lots, and lots of first aid kits, and a couple blankets, and some food. She also brought along all the other things she may need for adventure, but most of that is hidden by the cape. Without drawing any attention to herself, she follows near the back of the gorup, the better to watch the ponies she's working with.

Wishy-Washy nods back to the owner and smirks with confidene letting her philosophy about fortune favoring the bold to let her lead the charge with that swayful gait that makes everypony follow just a little bit warmer in the snout for some reason. She's not quiiite as well equipped for the journey, but she does have full saddlebags and her lucky Jambiya sheathed at her side!

Hawthorn beams at TC, trying to reassure his friend, then trots in. He ooohs excitedly at all the candy, then clears his throat. Right, mission. He eyes the signs nervously, then pauses as he spies the mine tracks. "Ooooh, neat. It's just like that one ride at that one theme park my parents took me to!" He looks up at Sunshine. "Can we ride in i… oh, wait, right, rescuing ponies. Ahem. Nevermind." Clearly, riding in the cart would be fun.

Rescuing ponies is NOT fun. It is IMPORTANT.

Therefore, riding in the cart would NOT be the same as rescuing ponies.
Tale Chaser seems convinced otherwise. Riding in the mine cart would be TERRIFYING. Therefore it is INEVITABLE.
He hangs his head and shudders quietly.

Snowfield doesn't need to bring any special equipment. She brought herself. So long as there isn't an active magma stream underneath of the town making the air dry she ought to be able to take care of herself just fine. Of course, she was also working under the assumption that 'mine system' was hyperbole and is surprised to see the minecarts and tracks which disappear into long dark tunnels. "…how did he dig this out without anypony noticing?" she asks the assembled group.

The second shadow waits, lurking, for the right moment. The moment when nopony is watching (nopony is anyway), when the time is right (seriously nopony's even paying attention), when it can swoop unseen after the group into the shop (yeah good luck with that). The unfortunate truth is that it's a lot harder to remain a shadow when inside a lit building, and you'd have to be pretty blind to not recognize the tall batpony Guard Captain, cloaked and helmeted, skittering inside after the group to lurk behind a shelf. Then another shelf. Then a candy rack. Making his way hiding spot by hiding spot into the tunnels.

Midnight-Sun does not carry any form of weaponry, unless a fully-loaded spider superhero counts. He's an *accountant* for Celestia's sake! An accountant with a pretty fair sense of direction and some training in cartography. The first thing to draw on the map is the entrance. And a tunnel. And the tracks going off in that direction. Probably don't need to include the minecart, except maybe for scale… oh! A scale! Best write that in!

Wait. Minecart? Really?

Sunshine is debating that very point. She's studying the minecarts, then poking her head inside of one. There's no obvious release or catch or anything. It's just there. And there's several of them! "I don't…know if we have a choice." she states to Hawthorn's question, even if the kid did stop himself from completely asking it. "Or rather, we have a choice, I just don't know if it's a good one. We could just walk down the tunnel. Or we could ride these things. I think." A hoof goes to rub behind her head.

Somewhere along the way, Sugar-Rush has joined the crowd. He's standing on the platform, next to the door, letting others filter in past him. "You don't worry about controls. They're totally automated." he announces in that slight lisp of his. "This, my friends, is the start of something I've been working on for months! A tour! Something to really draw the crowds and give a peek into the wonders of candymaking. And this is the first step." He starts waving his hooves at the crowd. "Off you go! In the carts! It's the only way to get around down here, otherwise you'll get lost. Trust me, getting lost down here is horrible. I got lost once, it took me two weeks to get out!"

The red guard follows his captain at a relaxed pace. Bundled up in his dark cloak, he appears to drift over the ground without many obvious hoofsteps. "Are we actually hiding from them, Captain?" he asks. "I thought they knew we were here all this time." He glances about and reconsiders his approach.

A minute later, if any of the daywalker ponies look back, they will find a nondescript box somewhere behind them. It's upside down and empty and says JOLLY JUICY JAWBREAKERS on the side. Did it get closer when nobody was looking? Surely not. Nobody would actually be stupid enough to try the stealth box routine, would they?

Wishy-Washy ulps a bit at the part about getting lost. that would be a baad idea. "Are you sure you don't have this place mapped, out? I mean, we -COULD- just walk and be able to investigate in a more thurough manner if we weren't literally railroaded to whatever destiny the tracks take us to…" Wishy needs to ponder this important decision, and thus needs a good thinking stool. there really aren't stools here though, but there -IS- a random box of jawbreakers, which she brings her taught dancer flanks down upon so she can take a more thoughtful stance with her forehooves.

Snowfield looks at the group of ponies, then at the minecarts, then back at the ponies. She hops lightly not into one of the carts but onto the tracks themselves, hooves shining as they become coated with ice. She balances with unsurprising grace for anypony who has seen her skating during the winter. "It seems like it will be crowded with all of us, I'll follow behind to make more room."

Tale Chaser is already sitting in a mine cart. He has a book on his head; it's opened up, worn like a hat, and secured with a little bookmarky ribbon looped around and tied securely. The book is A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STURDY BARDING FOR THE DUELING STALLION. His expression is one of grim acceptance.

Hawthorn has ALREADY climbed into the cart, even before Sunshine finishes talking. He's got his forehooves on the front of the cart and he's grinning SO BROADLY. "Whee!" he says, excitedly. "C'mon, TC! It'll be fun! Er, I mean, it'll be a serious adventure into the laby… uh… labr… maze to rescue our friends and not at all fun." He pauses, then looks up at Sugar Rush. "If it IS fun, can we come back, like, later, and ride it again?"

"We are not hiding from /them/, we are hiding from whatever scoundrels may be lurking in this place," the Captain asides to… well, nopony, because now there is a box. So instead he turns to eye the carts with some wariness. It is hard to be stealthy while packed into a cart.

Scowling, she clearly doesn't appreciate this atmosphere or this part of the journey, but she'll take it on too. Rising Chaos climbs in to a cart.

The box climbs into a mine cart and sits there. "Do me a favor and drop me off in a storehouse, right?" it asks. "I'm hot goods and I can't wait for the delivery guy to get here."

The box has a little trouble moving about with Wishy on top but it seems able to do this with a bit of grunting and effort that is certainly not born of SUPERNATURAL VAMPIRIC STRENGTH.

Wishy-Washy blinks a bit as the box under her moves onto a minecart! "… Fate herself conspires against my desire to deviate from conformity! in other news , these sentient jawbreakers could make excelent replacements for stagecoach drivers, although I'm also sure that the stagecoach driver union would revolt to sentient jawbreakers taking their jobs."

Snowfield puts her hooves on the edge of the rear minecart and rolls her eyes at her marefriend. "Don't be melodramatic, Wishy. I know you want to ride on the cart just as much as the foals do."

Midnight-Sun looks approximately as happy as one might imagine, if one used Snowfield as a reference and dialed the grumpy down about forty-three percent. He eyes the tunnel for flight room in case that becomes an issue, but settles himself into position to endure that what must be endured.
Sophie is sitting on Midnight's head, miming tooting a train whistle and looking eagerly ahead.

Tale Chaser is staring at Hawthorn's hooves, ashen-faced. Foals love carts. He glances up after a moment. "Hawthorn, if I don't make it- make sure someone goes and feeds Crick- er… Magpie's crawdad, okay?"

Sunshine-Stormcloud stares at Sugar-Rush, that gaze sliding towards Snowfield, and then towards the rest of the ponies. This is already getting off to a ridiculous start. Wishy also brings up a great point, causing Sunny to lift a hoof and point. "Right! What if what we're looking for isn't a stop on your tour? I mean the tour's not even done yet, right?"

Sugar-Rush favors Hawthorn with one of those patient old-pony smiles. "Of course! You can ride it as many times as your little heart desires once it's open to the public." he states, giving Sunshine a nudge to the nearest cart. by chance, the one with Hawthorn in it, where she tumbles in, flailing. Waugh!

"No time to fetch a map, there's kids to save!" the old candymaker says, hopping into the minecart at the end of the line himself. "Are we all set? Good. Onward!"

Once all the ponies are, indeed, in the carts (or on the tracks in Snowfield's case), they begin to move. A metallic creak of sound as wheels find purchase on the tracks, they all give a lurch, then roll down the tracks. Slow, but picking up speed. Sugar Rush hums thoughtfully as things get rolling. "Now where should we go looking for crooks… The chocolateworks? No… I was just there last week for a bittersweet moment. The taffy pull? …Mmm, possibly. The labs are completely off-limits. That leaves…either the Jawbreaker Mine or the Rock-Candy caves. Either of those could hide something without my immediate knowing. Which did you folks want to check out?"

"WAIT FO' ME! WAIT FO' ME! WAIT FO'…OOF!" Speak of the devil and it shall appear, strapped with saddle bags and charging at high-speed through the town before BLAM!! plowing head first into the candy shop. Right. Doors. They should be open before trying to walk through. Cricket groans, trying to pull her thoughts together in a daze. Oh no! She's late!

Hawthorn bounces a little bit on his hooves. It's hard to control his excitement, even though he knows they're on a Very Serious Mission (VSM). He blinks at TC. "Uh. Okay?" he says. "Um. Don't make it back from where? I mean, we're just gonna go get our friends an… uh… oh, hey, check out that talkin' box. That's pretty cool. I didn't know candy could talk an' deliver itself. That's gotta be wicked useful…" He blinks, then beams at Sugar Rush. Yay! He squeaks in excitement as the mine starts to move, turning around to face forward, grinning quite broadly. "Oh! The Jawbreaker Mine! If I were an evil, foalnapping crook, I'd want to make the foals work in the salt mines, and salt is kinda like jawbreakers, ri… CRICKET! I heard Cricket!"

Tale Chaser stirs and sits up, woken from his little fugue and looking fairly alert. He's still wearing the helmet-book, though. "Cricket…?"

The jawbreaker box isn't doing anything because it's just a box, though after a moment, it asks of Wishy Washy, "How's the view?"

Wishy-Washy smirks and gives Snowfield a knowing nod about her antics. regardless, the carts start moving and the fact that Sugar Rush is indeed coming with at least means that this isn't going to be some sort of horrible death trap to get rid of all the ponies trying to investigate the foal trafficking.

Then she hears the voice… that voice of dirty horridness; of the foal who refuses to come clean! Wishy rubs her cheek with a forehoof before blurting out "JAWBREAKERMINES! GO! I DON'T CARE! JUST NOT -HERE-!"

Snowfield lets go of the minecart when it begins to move, hanging back by the station for a few moments to let it gain a bit of a lead. She doesn't want to skate too close to it lest she be surprised by a sudden turn that she can't see. Luckily, this means she'll still be at the station when a certain foal manages to make it down to the basement… assuming she hurries, anyway.

The Captain may have spent just a little too long peering at the carts. When they start moving, he's forced to act fast! He spreads his wings, leaps after them, flaps a couple times to catch up, and flumphs into one of the back ones with an undignified thump. And then sits up and brushes himself off, folding his wings demurely and putting on his most serious of serious faces. He totally meant to do that.
"Nice," compliments the box.

Rising-Chaos has been holding herself together quite well, scowling deeply and with all her things packed away. She won't be doing much until later. Or at least this is her plan until a batpony tumbles in to her minecart, earning a withering look. "Glad you decided to join us," she states, tone calm and neutral as always. "I'm flattered you were in such a rush to be in my company."

Cricket gets her jumbled brains back togethr and gets back onto her feet. There still may be a star or two floating around her head. She opens the door to the candy shop and pokes her head in. "Hello?" the filly calls out. Is she late? Are all the ponies gone already? DID SHE EVEN GET THE RIGHT CANDY SHOP!? She steps inside, unaware that the others are just below her
.

Wishy-Washy blinks down at the box she's straddling, humming. "As for the view, I can't say much. it's a cave. the ideal place for muddy foals who kick you when you try and put them in the bath tub to play, I imagine. That's my two fears in life now, by the way; Zombies and angry, muddy pegusai."

"Cricket!" Hawthorn yells again, turning around in the mine cart and moving to the back. "We gotta stop! We can't leave Cricket behind! What if she gets stolen, too?" he asks, starting to get kind of panicky. "We can't! We… oh, is that a batpony? Neeeaaaaat," he says, staring at the guard for a moment, before he shakes his head. "I mean, stop! Stop the carts! STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!"

Midnight-Sun is pretty focused on the doom they are headed towards. Neither choice really appeals, since either one sounds like Total Party Kill Ha Ha Ha to him. Which is why Sophie has to first tap and then thump him on the head for a few seconds to get him to turn towards the real of the rolling death machine he is no embroiled in. When he does turn, his eyes widen. A batpony! The rumors are true! What morphology! What grace—THUMP. What resilience to accident! He flips his map over because making notes about his fellow adventurers is now Priority One.

The Captain blinks over at Rising as if only just noticing the cart he reached is occupied. He looks flustered, for a moment, but regains the SERIOUS FACE quickly. "I felt it best I keep an eye out from the back of the group lest anything befall us," he states, as though this explains his 'late to the party' appearance.

Cricket's ears dart up, hearing Hawthorn calling from down in the tunnels. "HAWTHOOOOOOOOOORRRRN!" She calls back. There's still time! Without even thinking about it, next thing she knows she's down in the tunnels barelling after the minecarts, "COME BACK!"

Rising-Chaos doesn't seem impressed by the excuse, but she is amused by it. This is shown by the oh so very obvious lack of any change whatsoever in her expression. "Ah yes, of course. Just in case any ruffians catch up to the cart, and get past both Snowfield and I." She extends a hoof. "My name is Rising Chaos, matron of the orphanage. Who are you?" Because that hoof just be a punch, if she decides she doesn't like you.

With a push of her hooves Snowfield begins following after the minecarts— but skids to a half when she hears a voice screaming down the stairs. She glances over her shoulder to see what's going on and spots the little brown pegasus. "Another foal? Tch, you all keep coming out of the woodwork… come on, Luna only knows what will happen if we leave you alone for too long." Her horn glimmers as she picks up Cricket with a levitation spell and begins grinding down the rails once more.

The forest witch keeps a safe distance so that if they disappear around a bend she'll be able to see it coming. The sound of the others' chatter floats back to her and her passenger easily although she doubts they'll be able to yell loudly enough for the cart riders to hear them, at least for the moment.

Moonglow is late too! That isn't good.. isn't good.. and suddenly Cricket! And that's Hawthorn's voice.. oh no, where are they.. When in doubt, follow the muddiest pony in the room! That's a rule, right? Catching up is made somewhat easier with wings - while this mine is a bit claustrophobic for pegasi, it's not too small, I mean, if all mines were like this..

Tale Chaser hangs onto the edge of the cart for now, looking back, past Hawthorn. He doesn't really want them to stop because that means being possibly suspended over a lake of lava. "She'll… she'll probably be just fine, Hawthorn…" he suggests. "I mean, except if she, uh, eats too much candy and gets sick…"

"The Jawbreaker Mines it is!" Sugar-Rush proclaims, leaning back in the cart, elbows on the edges. They're still picking up speed! It's now a pretty decent clip going down the mine tracks, making a turn here, a twist there… The tunnel changes as different 'sections' of things are rolled through. Deep, dark chocolate-scented tunnels… The tracks may be suspended here. It's difficult to tell without a lot of light to see past the dark chocolate walls. Then come some lighter milk-chocolate scented tunnels! Then caramel-scented? Marshmallow? Then the mine track descends down a dark stretch of tunne. A steep incline that seems to make them go all the faster, while the sounds of the sea or a nearby ocean can be heard through the walls. The scent of salt-water taffy hangs in the air here… Zip! Zoom! When the carts level out again, the tunnels have taken on a more sparkley nature. Glistening as though covered in many, many jewels! With several offshoots leading in various directions. But it still smells sugary. Maybe those were the rock-candy caves. But they're gone so quick at this speed!

Another downwards dip… A spiral this time, and when the track flattens out, it's only a half-tunnel. The other half of the tunnel has opened up to show a…forest? Trees? Underground? And yet, they all smell like the sweetest candied fruit! As fast as the carts are going though, that particular grove is passed in a hurry, and one more downwards descent is made. Only this time when the carts straighten up, they start to slow. Coming to an eventual screeching halt at a platform. All the walls are…black and rough-looking, but they're dotted with a plethora of little spotted nodes. Little perfect spheres. Jawbreakers.

"And here we are! The Jawbreaker mines." Sugar-Rush announces, hopping out of his minecart to land neatly on the platform with a little 'tink-tink' of hooves. "Watch your step when exiting the vehicle!" We don't want to have any unnecessary accidents down here."

Rising-Chaos pages: Actually, rising has no idea how to deal with Sunshine, or any pony who persistently thinks she's a ncie pony, it confuses her

Sablemane blinks, and slowly reaches a hoof of his own to Rising. "I am Night Watch, Shadowsworn Captain of Phantom's Shadowguard." He says this with an air of pride and importance possibly a bit overblown for a batpony in a cloak and helmet who was trying to play hide-and-seek in a candy store not five minutes ago.

The Captain blinks, and slowly reaches a hoof of his own to Rising. "I am Night Watch, Shadowsworn Captain of Phantom's Shadowguard." He says this with an air of pride and importance possibly a bit overblown for a batpony in a cloak and helmet who was trying to play hide-and-seek in a candy store not five minutes ago.

Hawthorn whines a little bit, totally missing out on EVERYTHING on the ride. He'll have to ride it again. He remains facing backwards the entire time, looking stricken at whatever is happening to Cricket, because clearly it is AWFUL! He hops from hoof to hoof, then squeaks as the mine carts stop. He jumps out of the cart and starts to dash up back up the tracks, totally going to go back and get Cricket, by himself if he needs to.

Sugar-Rush blinks as Hawthorn starts to run back UP the tunnel. "No. Wait. Stop."

Midnight-Sun idly asks his passenger, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but did we just let a teenage colt pick which way we chase down the scary kidnappers?" Sophie shrugs four of her legs. "Yeah, I thought that's what happened." He's got the first draft of his notes on batponies written out and is turning back to the map side. "Uuuh… do you remember what we passed on the way down here?" Another spidershrug. "Right. Okay. You know how earlier I thought it was time to panic? I would like to update my earlier estimate." His eyes *do* look pretty wild as he disembarks from the cart. Never has a pony felt so menaced by clusters of candy!

Tale Chaser pulls himself up and out of the mine cart slowly, his eyes swirling behind his glasses, and pours out onto the platform with a groan and a hiccup. It takes a few moments for him to push upright, then see Hawthorn fleeing into madness, and he raises his voice. "Haw…. Hawthorn! Come back!!"

Wishy-Washy gets off the jawbreaker box to let it go free into it's natural habitat! after all, that's the only right thing to do, right?
The box seems to appreciate Wishy getting off. So much so, in fact, that sprouts a pair of batwings out of its flaps and flutters onto the platform, lands, and folds back up.

Hawthorn skids to a halt when Sugar Rush tells him to. He looks up at the candy proprietor, his ears pinning back, and he keeps casting glances up the tracks. "But… but… but my friend is back there and she has no way of getting here and if there're foalnappers in th' mines, she might get foalnapped and then what could I do and I can't just LEAVE her there so you gotta let me go get her. Please."

Rising-Chaos shakes the hoof, her shake is solid and prideful. "So long as you're here to help, it's a pleasure to meet you. Do be careful though." With that, and since they are at their destination, Rising chaos slips out of the cart and prompty retakes a position near the outskirts of the group, near the back.

Snowfield leaves a rime of frost on the rails in her wake as she skates down the tunnels. On some of the sharper turns she skips to the other rail so that she can lean into the turns a little more sharply without risking hitting the walls of the tunnels. She arrives in the jawbreaker mines about fifteen, twenty seconds behind the minecarts and skids to a stop, kicking up a spray of frost that coats the back of the rearmost minecart… and Hawthorn because he decided to get onto the tracks. "Stay with the group," she instructs Cricket as she releases the little pegasus from the levitation spell.

Cricket's legs start galloping long before they even get a chance to hit the ground. "Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou…" she starts as she touches down, right before "HAWTHORNHAWTHORNHAWTHORN!" as she charges and tackles the colt.

Moonglow is actually slightly lathered from chasing Snowfield through the tunnels. It's surprising, but rather refreshing, when their arrival in the Jawbreaker Mines is heralded by FROST TO THE FACE! Whew. Made it. Uh, wait, where? What's going on? She looks around, a bit confused. In her mad rush to not be left behind, the specifics of /just what this even is/ got pushed to the back.

Night Watch climbs out of the cart as well, stretching his wings a bit and most assuredly not rubbing at a slightly bruised rump, not at all.
Wishy-Washy hears her head back as her PTSD kicks in a bit at the sight of Cricket… she stays away though because she's pretty sure that much like with the Dragon twins and Camilla that this foal probably hates her too.

Sunshine has a similar reaction to Tale-Chaser. She sort of oozes out of the minecart, metal legs and all, sprawling on the platform with an 'oof' and a grunt. "Ugh…" She struggles to pull herself up on all fours to join the rest of the group. "So we're here? Great… We can walk now."

Sugar-Rush grins as Hawthorn actually does stop! Such a good kid. Good kids should be rewarded. He'll have to think of an appropriate reward later. For now the yellow pegasus prances around the group, off the platform, gesturing to several of the dark, dirty-ish tunnels. They've all been shored up with a very typical mine-shaft wooden structure. "These are the Jawbreaker Mines! Where we get most of our supply from. Each mine is a different flavor! All the flavors of the rainbow, all the flavor you could ever hope to ask for." He skips in front of one of the mineshafts. "This one's cherry, I think. Or maybe strawberry. Anyway feel free to take one out of the wall and take it home if you like. These tours are supposed to have free samples…" Someone's forgotten this isn't a tour.

Sunshine lifts her head. "And /this/ is where we're supposed to start looking for crooks?"

"Cricket!" Hawthorn calls, holding out his hooves to hug Cricket as she dashes towards… wait, she's not stopping. "Uh, Cricket, you need to, um, slow down, before you… uh… eek!" He flails as he gets tackled!

Tale Chaser relaxes a bit as he sees Cricket is safe, and Hawthorn can stop worrying. He smiles some, before turning to look at the tunnels. Looks like the adventure is moving on. With a sigh, he takes a moment to tighten the ribbons on his hat, and makes his way after Sunshine, though he spares a long glance at Rising Chaos along the way. She looks MAD.

Rising-Chaos is, indeed, very, very mad. She's the matron of the orphanage, and whoever is responsible for this took some of HER foals. This is personal, Chaos doesn't like looking like a liar and an idiot after promising to keep them safe. She's ready to go onwards any time, the sooner the better. She does spare Tale Chaser a nod when she spots him looking her way.

Cricket lets out a giggle as she tumbles with the colt as a result of the tackle. She lets off and her voice takes on a more serious worried tone. "I'm so sorry I wus late! I wanted ta make sure mah bugs were fed nice and good just incase!

Hawthorn pats Cricket lightly. "No, problem. I just got worried that you were gonna be stolen, or somethin'." He climbs to his hooves, then helps Cricket up, then heads back to TC, peeking into the mines. "What do you feed bugs, anyway? I never really thought they, y'know, ate." He looks around, umming at all the ponies.

The box wheels around in a few circles before figuring out what direction everybody is going in, and falls into line. As the party passes through the dark entrance to the mine, the box is briefly lost in the shadows, and as the ponies pass through a bit of light, the box is gone, silently replaced with a tall, lean pony in a black cloak that stalks as silently as death. Then spits out a sunflower shell.

Snowfield hops off of the tracks and walks up to the rest of the group. She comes up alongside Wishy and nudges the taller unicorn's flank. "Are you alright? Come on, Magpie and Hoarfrost are counting on us."

When no attack is immediately forthcoming, Midnight Sun starts to relax and think. He looks around at the crowd of ponies. "Well, at least we should have enough of us to keeping anypony from getting behind us." This thought seems to reassure him. "Even if three of us are foals." That one does not. He swallows hard and tries to bury himself in busyness, sketching the entrances to the mines onto his map while said foals have their reunion. But of course it doesn't stop him thinking, so he then asks, "Should we split up? Go down different shafts simultaneously, or maybe leave a couple ponies here while the rest of us go down one of them?"

Wishy-Washy blinks and then nods, a newfound resolve in her heart as she moves on past Cricket, not giving the muddy foal any sort of acklowedgement as she pushes after Sugar rush, keeping her eyes peeled for any fake jawbreaker secret wall switches.

For the astute observer, the jawbreakers all look real enough, but these particular mineshafts do look like they've been tromped through recently. The ground is black and dirty with the debris from the tunnels and the minetracks, but there are several signs of obvious tracks. Hoofprints and potential dragging marks from something being dragged along. There's a smell down here, too. Something other than dirt and sugar and jawbreakers. Something that a soft whiff is enough to make one's eyelids droop just the tiniest bit.

If Snowfield is affected by the scent lingering in the air which makes eyelids heavy she isn't showing it. This is likely because she always looks like she's badly in need of a nap. "Do you actively mine here?" she asks Sugar Rush while sniffing the air thoughtfully. "How often do your workers come to this area?"

Cricket doesn't seem particularly worried or offended that Wishy's around as if it makes no difference to her. She follows alongside Hawthorn, "Well, it depends on the bug. Some bugs eat plants and stuff. Some bugs eat other bugs. Some'll eat just 'bout anything you give 'em ta eat."

Hawthorn trots along with cricket, peering at the jawbreakers curiously. He stifles a yawn, then shakes his head, trying to clear it. "Um. Other bugs? That doesn't sound so good. How do you keep any bugs if you gotta feed 'em all to each other?" He rubs his eyes. "I feel wicked sleepy all of a sudden. Maybe I'll just take a quick nap…"

Tale Chaser is likewise fighting off drowsiness as he tromps along, though he realizes in short order that this is highly irrational. He shakes his head frequently, hesitating in his steps to rear up and stomp his hooves, then makes a face and turns back towards Hawthorn. "There's- there's some sort of chemical in the air. Don't go to sleep! Cricket- make sure he doesn't doze off!"

Wishy-Washy diligently starts track tracking, trying not to drag her tracks or disturb the trail she's following in the slightest.

Midnight-Sun yawns into his hoof, a strange experience when he's also riding a jagged adrenaline high. His eyes are in no danger of slipping closed, though.

"Actively enough." Sugar-Rush says in a cheery note. "I have a few workers that come down every now and then and use our drilling rig to dig out more candy whenever we run low!" Drilling rig? Sugar-Rush starts to trot down one of the mineshafts. One that has a picture of a banana hanging over it. "We found a new coconut vein a month or so ago. It was exciting! Coconut jawbreakers! And not that /fake/ coconut that tastes like shoe leather gone bad…" He, too, doesn't seem to be suffering much effects from the off-scent. Maybe all that candy…

Sunshine is getting a little droopy-eyed though, muttering and trudging off after the bounding pegasus. She eyes the other tunnels, squinting, then back at Hawthorn. "Eh? Oh no you don't, we didn't come all the way down here just to snooze!" Wait what? "Chemical?" Well that might mean they're on the right track then!

Conveniently enough the tracks, and scents, both come from the mineshaft Sugar's already bounding down. Leading the group on to a clearing. This clearing has a higher ceiling than the others earlier in the tunnel. It's also got several series of lines in the dirt. Tracks? Heavy machinery tracks?

Some of the pony-tracks Wishy found lead towards a dark, dirty part of the wall in this clearing. Some of the others lead to the most fresh-looking tunnel, where a sign with a coconut fruit has been painted.

Moonglow staggers in the air a little. She shouldn't be this tired, it wasn't /that/ hard a dash - and then she hears Tale. Gas? Gas! That must be what that smell is.. Oh this was not our best idea. She lands, near Cricket, looking around carefully.

"Well, the bugs I gots eat bugs that are easy to find, so I ain't using my no'mal bugs ta feed 'em. The ones I…" Cricket starts explaining, letting out a yawn before Tale Chaser warns about the drowsiness. Despite the rest of her being clean, albeit a little dusty from the tumble and the trip through the caves, she proceedes to rub her snout on the ground in as much dirt and dust as she can. If it's just the odor making ponies sleepy, the dirt in her nose will help divert it from her.

Rising-Chaos doesn't seem very affected by the chemical, sleep isn't a big thing for her. That or she hides it well. With two paths open to invesitgation, she's going to have to see which the group chooses. She herself doesn't have enough information to make an informed decision.
A leap and a flap of wings carries the red-hued guard into the air and across the open cavern. He settles neatly at a distance away from the group, peering down the coconut tunnel with a frown. He looks back after a moment, watching the others. Like Rising, he's following their lead, waiting to STRIKE from the SHADOWS or something.

Tale Chaser looks worriedly at Hawthorn once more, then forward, giving his head a brisk shake to clear the cobwebs out of his mind. "Nnngh…" He hastens to the open cavern and, hopefully, fresher air. This brings him near Wishy Washy, and the path leading to the wall. He stares at it for a moment before looking about for Sugar Rush. "Was there a tunnel here…?" Sugar Rush seems to have moved on. The colt frowns.

Hawthorn erks at Sunshine. "Right, right, sorry. Dunno what's gotten i-i-i-in," he lets out a huuuuge yawn, "to me." He shakes his head again, then tilts his head at Cricket, listening to her explanation, before blinking owlishly at TC. "Right. Chemical. Don't go to sleep. I won't." He watches Cricket rub her nose in the dirt, then mimicks her. Then he starts sneezing. Repeatedly. Hachoo!

Night Watch also doesn't seem too deterred by sleepiness. It's first thing in the evening! Who's tired this early in the night? Pfft. Daywalkers. He strides purposefully along after the group, looking around thoughtfully. This is an… interesting cave. And he knows his caves, yes he does.

Wishy-Washy lets out a big yawn as well… Darnit, why does Sunshine always want to do these at night…? regardless, she lights up her horn, using the almighty power of the bardic knock to knock at the wall where the trail ends… and by bardic knock, I mean Wishy picks up a rock and pounds it at the wall to see if it makes hollow noises.

Tale-Chaser bounces back a bit as Wishy goes and gets all blunt about things.

Snowfield clicks her tongue when she hears Sunshine say the word 'chemical'. "I don't suppose anypony knows a filter spell," she comments. The tracks that lead directly into the wall earn a "…" from the witch, as does her marefriend pounding on it with a rock. "Let me try something," she says, horn glowing as she abruptly drops the temperature near the wall. Magic weaves around her as she makes the moisture hanging in the air coalesce into a fine mist… then watches that mist to see if there are any drafts from the wall blowing it around.

Moonglow yawns and rummages in her saddlebag. Ah, coffee. The awakemaker. Er, why is Wishy beating on the wall with a rock? She heads over to see what's going on.. Oh. Tracks. Well, that's certainly Suspicious.

Luckily the clearing smells much fresher! Thanks to the higher ceiling and all. Sugar-Rush is about halfway across this larger 'room', which stretches a good hundred feet or so along every wall, separating one set of mineshafts from another. There's one entrance which all the ponies are filtering in from, the 'banana' jawbreaker mineshaft, and one apparent exit. The 'Coconut' mineshaft. "This is the room we parked our driller in after we found the coconut vein!" Sugar calls back to the group, he's heading towards a big shape covered with a tarp that looks about as big as one of those mineshaft tunnels. It's covered, but it's pretty obvious what it is judging by the conical shape the tarp is making. "It's pretty high-tech! We spared no expense in having it custom-built with all the bells and whistles!" But what's that got to do with missing foals?

Something seems off about this room, too. Wishy's trail ends at a wall, but this section of wall looks a wee bit lighter than other sections of the walls. It also makes a deeply hollow sound when smashed with another rock. For that matter, hitting the wall with a rock seems to break a small hole in the wall there, letting a little bit of light shine through! There's /something/ there. Adding mist, too, makes it just that much more obvious that there's a hole, there's light, and there's now a thin trail of vapor rising out of that hole too. Maybe that's where the smell is coming from!

Well, that's certainly more interesting than any old coconut tunnel. Coconuts are terrible, they're an absolute monster to bite into. The red-hued batpony swooshes over to lurk near those ponies gathering near the revealed SECRET ENTRANCE which really wasn't so secret after all, and waits to see if something pops out.

Hawthorn shakes his head again, then sucks in a great big gasp of fresh air from the clearing cavern thing. He sits for a moment and starts rubbing his nose, trying to get the dirt off of it. Blaugh. "It's a lot better in here," he notes, looking around, before he gets interested in what Wishy is doing. He wanders over that way, looking up at her and her rock. "… Can I help?" he asks, politely.

Cricket giggles when Hawthorn imitates her and starts sneezing all over the place. As they make it into the more open room, she takes sight of whatever it is under the tarp and stops for a moment. When the hole is broken into the thin wall, her attention is grabbed and she bounds over, peeking through the hole the best she can.

Wishy-Washy nods a bit and smiles as she just lets her horn glow brighter and casually starts to tear the hole in the wall open wider until she can step through.

Snowfield's horn glows and does the same, condensince the mist into a large shard of ice that she uses as a pick to break up the fake wall. "Amazing work as always, Wishy," she says with a smile that nopony else will see because she's facing the wall.

Night Watch's ears perk. For such a big pony, he can be pretty fast. He crosses the area and is over by this supposed 'secret door' in a few seconds' time. "Ah!" This is interesting. More interesting, perhaps, than the banana-flavored spheres in the cave wall. No, he most certainly did /not/ lick one when nopony was looking. Don't be silly.

Midnight-Sun muses out loud "You know *yawn* in many of the classic works of heroic literature, when the heroes enter a large cave containing a digging machine of improbably design, they wind up having to go up against it being controlled by an otherwise-unimpressive villain. I'm so glad that sort of thing couldn't happen here." That last is said with considerable irony. Another yawn stretches his muzzle and he looks back towards the hidden path being uncovered, but he's still on his current train of thought. "I wonder how hard it would be to disable this device and make sure-and-certain."

Hawthorn beams at Wishy, then ignites his horn to try and pull hunks of wall away, too. His hunks are, of course, much smaller than Wishy's, but he still does his best. He sits up on his hind hooves to peek into the hole as it slowly widens. He ooohs when Snowfield makes a giant icicle out of deathmist. "Wow, no wonder Hoarfrost wants to be you when she grows up."

The red guard glances to Midnight, listening, before making his way to the drilling machine. He immediately starts taking note of fuel lines, delicate actuators, or other critical points that can be disabled in a hurry should the need arise. "It appears to lack a neck," he says, offhandedly, as he inspects it. "Else I would merely bite it, and make it my undying thrall."

Everybody's looking at this secret thing in the wall! That means nobody's looking at Sugar-Rush going on and on and on about his amaaaaaazing drilling rig. Or Sunshine rolling her eyes at the pegasus, pausing when she realizes she's about the only one still following that kook. She glances back over her shoulder at the rest of the group. "Uh. Hey? What'cha find there?"

As the fake wall is torn down, it reveals itself to be little more than a great big pile of dirt moved in front of an existing mineshaft. It's a fairly shallow mineshaft, all of maybe ten feet in, but it's actually been decorated. There's a few little tapestries hanging on the dirt walls, a big ol' cauldron pushed in a corner just full of some bubbling green liquid that seems to be the source of the sleepy fumes, a big pile of hay, a bigger pile of bits, a bag hanging on a hook, empty, and on the hook next to that, an aussie hat, bandolier of darts, and a blowgun.

But with everybody over there, it might be hard to hear the *thip* *thip* of something whistling through the air, stinging both Sunshine and Sugar in the flanks! Both of which yelp! And both of which get all of three steps before falling over in seperate heaps, darts stuck from their flanks.

There's the sound of a soft 'hssssss' in the air. At least two of the ponies present have probably heard it before.

Wishy-Washy covers her snout at this stuff, but then her ears flick at the sounds. she shakes her head and does a roundabout, drawing her dagger with her magically and pointing it up at the darkness. "Who goes there?!?"

Rising-Chaos isn't convinced on a way to go yet until ponies start filing in. She's trying to watch everything. so she may not have caught where the sounds came from, or even heard them at all, but she's watching when Sunshine and Sugar take a fall. She moves slightly the try and cover as much of her body in cape as possible, and makes a small clicking sound.

A little white lizard pops its head out of her mane, and hops to the ground, scurrying along to act as a second set of eyes.

Snowfield's ears perk at the sound of the yelps. "Sunshine? Sunshine!" She turns tail and gallops across the clearing to investigate the source of the yells. "We're being attacked!" she cries out, horn aglow as she begins summoning a sheen of ice around herself to protect her own flanks from rogue darts.

Tale Chaser cries out, turning about to see both Sunshine and Sugar Rush collapsing to the floor. He doesn't yet see the assailant, causing him to glance about hurriedly, increasingly panicked. After a few moments, though, he shakes his head briskly (causing his helmet book to slip a few inches) and look down the hallway. "S-someone cover that cauldron! Or, uh- Sn…" Snow something snow frost snow fall snow ffff… snow fun snow"field! Snowfield! Freeze it! You can do that, right?!"

Moonglow jumps! Whoa! That's a familiar sound! And not a good one.. it reminds her of the warehouse, and the cage, and oh.. not good. She's airborne again, eyes darting around.

Hawthorn flicks his ears at all of the Spider-mare noises, not to mention the sinister hissing. He ums and looks around, then eeks at Snowfield. "Attacked?" he asks, then he blinks at Tale Chaser. He ums and looks around, then starts tearing the tapestries off of the wall and trying to layer them over the cauldron of sleepy, using his magic. He also covers his nose with his hoof, just to be extra super safe. This is a thing that will work, right?

Snowfield ran away from the shallow tunnel without doing much investigation when she heard the yelps and thus did not think to ice over the cauldron of sleeping gas.

Hssss, hss, hssss… Caves are great for echoing noises! It comes from all the walls. Or none of them? Getting a bead on it is difficult, but those with the sharpest ears might be able to tell the general area. It seems to be coming from the general direction of the coconut tunnel. Hss hss! And the whistling sound of more darts! Each of which sticks in the ice sheet Snowfield brings up in a hurry. The sound of fleeing hooves echoes down the tunnels, accompanied by the sounds of…laughing?

The red guard frowns deeply, shooting a glance across the cavern to Night Watch. He reacts quickly as the sounds continue, whirling about, cloak swirling in front of him protectively. While his ears twitch about, trying to locate the source of the sound, he draws his lips back and appears to snarl silently- in fact making use of super broken batpony echolocation powers, just a faint screech at the edge of one's earing. It takes him a moment, before he throws a hoof out and gestures to the coconut tunnel. "That way! Mind the shadows- unicorns, bring up as much light as you can!"

Night Watch's ears perk. Then splay. Then angle back, and fangs are bared and eyes narrowed angrilly. Pieces, they are falling into place. And he is not liking what's coming of this puzzle. He looks across to his fellow batpony, who seems to be on top of things! Indeed, that is precisely what he was about to tell him to do. (He's trained his guards so well, clearly! PRIDE.) "Let's move! Quickly, before he gets us all lost in the tunnels."

Wishy-Washy starts to gallop after where she hears the maniachal laughter… hopefully a good run will help with the cobwebs in her head… She realized that she very much guessed wrong at the location of the assailant and that she'd truly need to sharpen her wits and senses if she was going to get the better of this one.

Tracking? TRACKING? We've just the filly for that! Cricket perks her head up, ears radaring around to try and get a lock on that hissing sound. She doesn't seem to be watching where she's going…rather, she's listening to where she's going. Unfortunately the cave is so small that she can't get a good lock on it. At her lack of attention, she turns her head just in time to smack it into the back of Snowfield's ice wall and get her tongue stuck to it.

Happy, for once, to be ignored and seperated from the group, Rising Chaos sends Glyph down the tunnel fast. A little lizard would be hard to notice at the ebst of times, much less in the darkness of a tunnel. It helps that he's on the wall, the little guy knows how to sneak. So does Chaos, and she approaches the tunnel from an indirect route, keeping an eye out for anything out of place. She'll meet you ponies there. No light from her, though, she doesn't like holding up 'please shoot me' signs.

Hawthorn hops from hoof to hoof, totally unsure of what he can do to help. There aren't any more tapestries! He blinks at the red nightpony in the lovely cape. "Wait! Lemme borrow your cape!" he calls after the guard, before pausing. "Oh, uh, light? Sure." He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, then lights up his horn.

Right, so he can make images, which are really just light, so if he just makes JUST light, that should light up, well, everything, right? He focuses, REALLY thinking hard about how to do this, and his horn lights up, then EVERYTHING lights up, covered in the same warm, rosy glow of his magic. It's not superbright, but it is pervasive. Plus it has a pleasing colour and the faint smell of strawberries.

Tracking? TRACKING? We've just the filly for that! Cricket perks her head up, ears radaring around to try and get a lock on that hissing sound. She doesn't seem to be watching where she's going…rather, she's listening to where she's going. Unfortunately the cave is so small that she can't get a good lock on it. At her lack of attention, she turns her head just in time to smack it into Snowfield's flank. Her tongue gets stuck.

Midnight-Sun took off at the first yell but was quite ineffective at locating the source of the attack before the latter took off. He settles down after a couple of sweeps, though. Fight-or-flight doesn't work great when there's no direction to aim it. He'll just have to wait to be pointed in an appropriate direction.

Tale Chaser glances back at the cauldron. "That should- that should be good," he stammers. Hopefully he's right, and that will help prevent the fumes from growing too intense. He looks about the revealed chamber for a few moments, reaches out to grab the bandolier of darts and cram it in his bookbag, then hastens to run down the coconut tunnel. "Hawthorn! C'mon! Bring your light!" Not that it's not attached to your head or anything.

Snowfield is about to take off down the tunnel when she feels herself get bumped into. She looks at her flank with irritation plastered across her face. "Excuse me, my cutie mark is not for licking," she grumbles as she unfreezes her butt and pushes Cricket off. Then the tiniest tank takes off down the tunnel, skating with her icy hooves after the hissing creature who darted her friend. "Get back here!" she calls into the darkness, horn glow lighting up the tunnel before her.

Cricket flails a bit before Snowfield unfreezes her and frees her from her frozen rump. She cringes a bit…that could have ended very badly. Once the shock lifts she joins back up with Hawthorn and follows right behind, looking embarrassed and ashamed.

Moonglow lands next to Rising. She'd know what's going on. But this is even-more-perturbed-than-usual Arcee.. She looks on, trying to decide if it's a good idea to say anything or not. This is a new side of her, it seems, with the orphanage. Could it really be that that grumpy pony really cares /that/ much about her charges? Moonglow would like to think that's a "yes".

Hawthorn charges after the other ponies, his bubble of light following him in a roughly twenty five foot diameter. "I'm comin'!" he calls after TC, before giving Cricket a bright smile over his shoulder. "C'mon!" he calls to her, putting on a little extra burst of speed to catch up to all of the others. They must be close, if ponies are getting blowdarted.

There we go! Given a direction, Midnight Sun arrows through the air at speed. He's not the most athletic pegasus, but he's following a *unicorn*. He should be able to catch up with her easi—huh. Alright, maybe a little more gas than that. Sophie clings on with all legs as her faithful steed slowly catches up to the witch.

A merry chase down a single hallway! What could possibly go wrong with that?

Those that dive into the tunnel first off hear the laughter the loudest. A deep, raspy sound that bounces like crazy! But there's another sound in there too. The sound of something heavy slamming shut. Oh look, there's a light in the distance. A hundred yards maybe? Fast as legs and ice can carry them, the first ponies to find that light source, also find that a heavy portcullis has been put in place there too. On the other side?

Mine tracks. And a figure in an aussie hat and dark red, slitted eyes. "Hmph. So they finally found me." the figure grunts. "Too bad. I really liked that little hidey hole!"

Rising-Chaos looks over at Moonglow as the mare lands next to her. She gives a nod to her ex-assistant, but not much more. She waits for as many ponies as make sense to pass by without getting seperated, before following at a more leisurely pace. Since there happens to be a LOT of light hanging around (thanks for that, Hawthorn), she uses a different spell, where she becomes a little bit harder to focus on. Not much, but she kinda sucks at magic so take what you can get. The effect spreads to Moonglow, if she is inclined to stay close to Chaos' side.

Midnight-Sun stops hard in mid-air and stares. Fear and outrage war for a moment, and outrage wins: "Why would you even *build* that?" he demands of the portcullis.

Tale Chaser scrambles down the hallway, gracelessly hurrying to stay with the herd. He's grimacing a bit as he hurries along, trying to call to mind some magic spells HE can use. All he knows is 'move water slightly!' Oh man, if this bad guy falls into a shallow puddle, the bubbling he'll receive…!

The red guard lurks at the entrance of the coconut tunnel, glowering down after the rest of the ponies. Much as he'd like to go wrangle the bad guy himself, he's confident the harborites have it in hoof. He remains in the open cavern for the moment, glancing about suspiciously, and eyeballs that mining machine suspiciously.

Wishy-Washy tosses her curved knife thourh the air at the attacker, sending the sharp object through the air towards the pony's head! she's obviously too far for the assailant to not be able to easily sidestep the knife toss, but it'll at least distract him while snowfield and the others close the distance.

Hawthorn skids to a halt, staring in shock and anger at the gate. "You… you jerk!" he calls. He reaches out with his magic and yanks the hat down over the red eyes. "Give us back our friends!" He starts yanking jawbreakers out of the wall with his magic, tossing them as hard as he can at the evil fiend, totally ruining the reputation of one of the most awesome of all awesome hats. The jawbreakers aren't moving very fast, but it's still like being, well, pelted with jawbreakers. "Now!"

Night Watch, however, followed the group, and as such he skids to a stop by the metal barrier, staring through it, eyes a bit wide. He knows this one! And this fact seems to make him… well, very unhappy. One might even say he is angry. He draws himself up and flares out his wings and gives a menacing hiss. "/You/! What have you /done/? Where are our foals?!"

With another spray of ice that coats the portcullis the icy form of Snowfield comes to a halt in front of the barrier and the red-eyed pony. "Where is she?" the unicorn demands. The light around her horn flares brightly as she flash freezes the ground on the other side of the barrier, icicles spiking up to try and pin the hissing monster in place. "/Where is Hoarfrost?/"

Moonglow follows Rising, not hovering, totally not hovering, just concerned. Yeah. Something's a little off, though she's not quite sure what. And this.. whoa, something's a little weird with her hooves, it's like she's fuzzy and Arcee is too and everything else is super sharp. Huh. Well, there seems to be some commotion up ahead.. she peers into the not-darkness-because-everytihng-is-glowing-now.

Like a shotgun effect! Jawbreakers, knives, icicles, threats! Many things get flung towards the red-eyed figure! By the time the smoke clears, his hat's been /totally/ pinned to the wall, his cape has the shape of a pony pinned to it. "Hoo! I didn't even get to the /good/ parts!" the figure shouts, several icicles sticking out of his wings. One in his flank. Ouch. That's gonna /sting/. But the figure isn't quite pinned down, he's still mobile, and actively limping down the tunnel's mine tracks. Just a few steps, where he kicks a crate in front of the portcullis. Maybe this'll keep him out of line of fire from further knives and sharp ice. "Hmph! If you're all gonna be like that, maybe I /won't/ tell you what happened to yer kiddin's and skip straight to the earth-shaking explosions!"

Icicles are like water! One of the fallen icicles wiggles about where it lies near the villain, then hops up and bounces off his hoof seemingly of its own accord.

In the back, an intensely concentrating Tale Chaser gasps for breath. "Ah HA! Ah… … oh…"

Rising-Chaos notices Moonglow's confusion. "I'd rather not be the first one noticed, I am sure you could agree. Let the others take the attention." She has mean things to do to bad ponies, being a hero is not on the agenda.

All that being said, she's getting some very interesting messages from Glyph, who is far ahead of the group by virtue of being bloody tiny, and porticullises have holes. This may come in useful, if they manage to get past this barrier. Too heavy for her to lift, and she's saving her energy, so good luck guys.

Wishy-Washy starts to prance a bit, looking around in a rather… antzy sort of manner, she seems to be trying to think of a way through the wall.

The grinding sound of Snowfield's teeth can be heard loud and clear. as the figure limps down the tunnel. "I'm not playing games with you," the unicorn growls as her horn begins glowing even more brightly. "Where. Is. HOARFROST!?" The ground beneath the portcullis begins to glow just as brightly as the forest witch is, becoming slick with a sheen of frost…

Without warning a column of ice erupts out of the ground on one side of the tunnel, hopefully with enough force to slam the portcullis up and into the ceiling.

The red guard keeps his ears perked, listening to the conversation. It's hard to make it out over all the shouting from the justifiably enraged harbor ponies, but… he narrows his eyes. Explosions? WHile keeping an eye on the mouth of the tunnel, he starts scouting for explosives, or anything that might look trapped.

Hawthorn attempts to climb through one of the holes in the portcullis, but, for the first time in his life, he's TOO BIG to do something. Curses! He drops down and takes a step back. He growls at the evil villain. "You're just… just a… gah! They don't even HAVE words for what you are! I hope you… I hope you go blind!" And with that the little foal closes his eyes and concentrates and gathers in all of that light he created a few moments before, coalescing down into a pretty red butterfly that lands, featherlight, on Snakebite's nose.

Aaaaand then it explodes.

It's not a PHYSICAL explosion, but it is a great deal of light being released all at once, about a muzzle length from Snakebite's eyes.

Hawthorn's horn sparks a little bit, and most of the light he's had goes out, leaving just his horn light. He wobbles on his hooves, then reaches up to rub his head.

"Hawthorn…!" calls Tale Chaser. He hustles up through the crowd, hastening to the other colt's side. "Are you okay…?" The seapony tries to angle himself between the unicorn and the porticulis, shielding Hawthorn as he recovers, while doing his darndest to ignore the creepy guy behind the gate.

Whoa. Moonglow was not expecting that. First the lights go out, okay, guess that spell wore off or something. Then explosions, well, it's the Harbor, these things happen. Then a bright flash, a thaumic surge of some kind, and, well.. okay, yeah, that stuff DOES happen around here, but it's more unexpected! Also really really bright. Just /what/ is going on up there?

Ice pillars! The portcullis groans… The column does manage to lift the portcullis, a little, but that crate interferes with it. Snakebite cackles. "Hah! Maybe you should be more careful with that box there!" he chides. "What th-"FLASH!

"AHH! You little…! Grr!" Snakebite begins to stumble down the mine tracks, "You want all your kids back, you got'em! All of'em! Right there! An' you just wait, I'll get the rest of'em too! WHU-!" THUD!

Moments later, a mine cart zooms in front of the portcullis and the mess of ice, skidding on the tracks briefly but managing to stay on by the skin of the rails. Snakebite is carried off…

Hawthorn shakes his head, then smiles weakly at TC. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Um. Here, see if you can help me move this crate so we can get past. I-I don't think he was gonna go let our friends out right there." He starts trying to shove the crate away, mostly by pushing through the portcullis. Red Unicorn is Out of Magic.

Rising-Chaos winces at the explosion of light, wince sharder at the explosion of magic. that hurt, little colt. However, with all the excitement going on, it may be prudent to speak up. "Do be careful. The tunnel has a lot of traps in it, some are lethal. Watch yourselves and the shadows, Snowfield you especially." Her voice carries enough to be heard by all. Hear her, ponies, and learn.

"Snakebite! Get back here!" Night Watch all but screeches after the retreating pony, totally ignoring that the retreat was not /entirely/ the pony's apparent fault. Maybe he's a bit blinded by the light too! He's certainly blinking a lot. Blinkblinkblink.

Traps? Tale Chaser freezes in place where he's fussing over Hawthorn, and looks down the hallway. He swallows heavily. "Guys?" He turns to look back at the porticulus, and the crate jamming it shut, then back up the tunnel with a look of worry.

The red-hued guard frowns slightly. "You're sure of this?" he asks of Rising Chaos, as he settles near the unicorn mare. "What did you see…?"
Wishy-Washy pages: okay, never mind. XD if that 'a little' was only big enough to crawl through, I was going to ask if I could have used hoarfrost's distraction to do a little genie hax and pass through as mist, but that does not seem nessesary.

Rising-Chaos frowns back at the guard, is he daring to question her? Well yeah, and he has every right to. "My golem is quite a ways ahead of us, well past this obstacle. From my best guess it's a combination of what appears to be dart traps, probably the sleeping darts he used on Sunshine and Sugar Rush." She refuses to call any pony 'sugar' it sounds too… Affectionate. "There's also some of what I have to guess to be explosives."

Wishy-Washy crawls on through the grate buththen stops and heeds Chaos' warning, gulping a bit. "Darnit… I… hmm!" Wishy seems a bit… troubled.
Hawthorn doesn't seem to mind the fussing, but he is also totally not blushing. You're just confused, is all, because of the rosy colour of his magic. Ahem. "It's fine, TC," Hawthorn insists, still trying to budge the crate. He pauses as Wishy climbs right under. Oh. Derp. He, too, wiggles under, then moves the crate more carefully from that side, so hopefully Snowfield can properly push the portcullis up. He eyes the darkened tunnels nervously, then takes a deep breath and puts a little more magic into his horn, to make it a bit brighter. The extra effort makes him wince, but he grins through it. "Did your, um, golem say WHERE the traps are, so we can, like, avoid them?"
The guard watches Rising for a moment, then nods. "Good work," he says. He takes one more glance about the cavern, before heading into the coconut tunnel and hastening to join the others, powerful flaps of his leathery wings speeding his gallop.

"Mind the unicorn's words," he states. He gives Night Watch a look. "Proceed carefully. Again, light will be useful. And when in doubt, throw a rock at it and let the rock get smashed first." He pauses, then looks at the crate, considering.

The crate is cracked. There's stuff in it. Something that crinkles!
Snowfield, her anger abetting slightly as the foalnapper leaves her view, focuses on controlling her spell. A thicker, sturdier column of ice ought to be able to lift the portcullis enough for everpony else to squeeze through. "I'll stay here and hold the gate," she says as she keeps her eyes fixated on her work. "Please… find them."

The red guard slips beneath the raised porticulis while the opportunity is there, offering Snowfield a curt nod in appreciation. He focuses quickly on the crate, though, before reaching out with a hastily produced knife to jimmy it open and peer inside.

Candybars!

It's a bunch of candybars. With pictures of a bat-winged pony foal on the front in cartoonish form. 'Bat Munchie Bars' it reads.

The red guard stares, frowning severely, as he hooves out piles of candy bars onto the floor. He's at a loss for words, looking up at the harbor ponies then back down at the candy. "He didn't…"

Hawthorn rubs his head again, then winces as his horn sparks and the light goes out. "Um. Uh oh," he mutters to himself, before catching sight of what's in the box. "Oooh, those look cute," he says, sniffing curiously at the bars. "I wonder how they taste. Think they're safe enough to eat?" He asks the red guard, before blinking. "Didn't what?"

After waiting for her moment, and aided by the fact that she's a little hard o concentrate on, Rising Chaos has slipped away from the group. If you guys are gonna sit around a box, when there's a clear path forward, you can also lose your support from Chaos. She'll do a scout and clear some traps, see what she can see.

Cricket cocks her head at the candy bars. She sniffs at the as well before taking the leap none of the others do. With a bit of wrestling, she opens one up.

Wishy-Washy Wishy tries to keep up with RC but ends up snagging her hoof on a wire! THP! Wishy catches a sleep dart right to the jugular and her pupils dialate before faceplanting right then and there.

Night Watch blinks. And stares. And blinks again. His grey coat goes a little pale. "He /wouldn't/…"

Moonglow won't set off any traps in the air, right? She carefully picks ahead as well. Can't let her run off unassisted! ..is that chocolate?

Hawthorn flails at the two bat ponies. "Wouldn't what?" he insists! It's true, no matter what an adults wings are made of, they will NEVER answer your questions.

It smells like…dark, dark, chocolate. Maybe with nuts. Peanuts?

The tall, angular batpony guard glances at Hawthorn, meticulously sharp eyebrows furrowing. Rather abruptly, he reaches out and tries to snatch the candybar out of Cricket's hoof. "Don't eat it!" he shouts, alarmed, voice shaking with dawning horror!

"He's made them into candy bars!"

It takes a few minutes for that to penetrate into Hawthorn's brain. "He… made… he made the foals… into chocolate bars?" he asks, totally nonplussed. The realisation hits his brain a moment later and he dives into the box. "Magpie? Hoarfrost? Pumpkin? DREAMY? ANSWER ME!"

Cricket wrinkles up her nose after getting a better whiff of the chocolate. She doesn't like dark chocolate. She squeals loudly and high-pitched at the guard's observation "EWEWEWEWEWEW!!" Her brain clicks over. "MAGPIE?! MAGPIE!

Cricket looks at Hawthorn and her eyes water up.

Midnight-Sun glares hard at Night Watch. "Of course he didn't, and you're a terrible pony for scaring the foals so!"

Hawthorn hugs Cricket and starts wailing his tiny little heart out.

"That doesn't make any sense," says Tale Chaser, stone-faced. "Ponies an' chocolate aren't even really the same material at all." He nudges a chocolate bar with a hoof, then furrows his brow, looking to Hawthorn and Cricket. He moves to offer them a hug, then hesitates, and fails his social interaction check and just stands there and mopes.

A hard look is shot Moonglow's way, Wishy is unfortunately missed entirely. Rising Chaos eventually relents, and nods. "I'm not leaving, until I have saved every single foal, and made those responsible pay, harshly. I appreciate your assistance, but feel free to leave at any time." Disclaimer given, she continues onwards, letting the fuzziness drop in favour of letting herself search for traps still without lighting herself up. She's very careful to eliminated any illumination, because sneaky, and conserving energy.

Midnight-Sun glares harder and cracks out with academic certitude. "You can't make foals into chocolate bars. It cannot be done. Why in Equestria would you *want* to? So quit it with the horrified surmise and get on to helping figure out what's actually going on!" That last part had some actual heat with it, which is… not usual.

Cricket pulls Tale Chaser into the hug with herself and Hawthorn. It's okay. He doesn't have to pretend being brave anymore.

Hawthorn sniffles pathetically, hugging TC and Cricket. He looks over them at Midnight Sun. "U-um. You p-promise that our friends aren't candy bars?" he asks, wiping his eyes with the back of his hoof.

"You never know with Snakebite," Night Watch mutters gruffly, trying very very hard to keep his serious face and not look COMPLETELY HORRIFIED OMG. He's not /entirely/ sure he believes this line of thought, granted, but it's a line of thought, and WHAT IF.

Tale Chaser leans into the pair, more by virtue of being captured instead of anything else. He hugs them back a bit, though seems mostly stunned, looking back and forth between the shouty adults.

Moonglow shrugs. Well, Arcee seems to know what she's doing, and it looks like she'd rather be left alone.

Huh. So shrugging was a bad idea. A dart comes flying out of the darkness, right at her! Well, at her wing. With a THWAP and a momentary stinging sensation, Moonglow now has one less feather on her left wing and is, ironically considering the dart's likely contents, VERY AWAKE RIGHT NOW.

And now, chocolate? "They left this?"

The red guard is shakey for a few moments but manages to master himself in short order, forcing a deep frown and drawing his black cloak up about his predatory figure. "We've been all throughout these caverns and have yet to find them!" he says, to Midnight. "And- yes! It's as the Captain says! Snakebite is a cruel and devious creature. I wouldn't put it past him to prey on the young like this!" He looks at the spilled candy with revulsion, before turning away with a snarl. "And stop setting off the traps!!!"

Hawthorn sniffs at the red guard, then leans over and picks up a chocolate bar. RC will see that Snakebite gets what's coming to him. "C-C'mon, guys," he says, miserably, to TC and Cricket. "We should g-go see Ruby and tell her wh-what we found." Um, hi, Ruby? So, yeah, we tried to rescue your daughter, but apparently she's chocolate now. We saved you some?

Tale Chaser nods glumly, extricating himself from the embrace of foalish misery. He likewise scoops up a few bars, bags 'em, and starts making for the exit alongside Hawthorn.