It S A Secret To Everybody
IC date: Autumn 25
OOC date: October 14
PCs: Winter-Solstice, Jellybean, Heartsong, Sadaka, Windrose, Ruby-Blossom, Solar-Wind, Kludge, Manyara, Sodium-Fizz, Magpie
NPCs: Professor Redmane, Pinkie Pie, Heatsink, ~Foal Horde~
GM: Gamble

So the trip to the abandoned village may have been a little depressing. And maybe recent events had tipped off the Enemy that there was something of Great Interest somewhere in the wastes, making general travel all the more dangerous. Nontheless, the Professor has organized another special trip. The purpose had been kept secret. All he would say is 'Trust me, this time it's good.'

This time he's even coming with. For that matter, the good Professor has taken the lead as Guide this time, leaving Glimmer in charge.

It's difficult going, of course, the cold making any travel painful, but eventually the group of travelling ponies reaches the edges of the Wintersong Forest, where Professor Redmane finally allows the caravan (ponyvan?) to take a breather under the cover of fringe trees.

The Professor sets himself down on a convenient snow-covered rock, resting his old hooves, but looking positively joyful that they'd made it to the forest without incident. "Alright, we can take a break here. Best to go into this place with all your wits about you after all. Besides, it looks like our other guest hasn't shown up yet."

Cold be danged, Windrose wasn't missing out on an -real- expedition, instead of a bunch of them sneaking out to explore. Even if she's had to conserve her energy and heat by trotting with everypony else instead of flying.

Not that this stopped her from doing one of the things she did best, following along with scribbling the rough outline for expanding her map of this weird alternate world on the notepad that's strapped to her foreleg for easy access.

Good news, the Sled came with! Of course, it didn't have much choice when Winter Solstice strapped herself up and tugged it along with her. Why? Because. Because every time she goes out someone needs to be carried back to base and it's a lot easier when there's a sled to carry them on. Also on the sled: Supplies. An extra snowsuit that she badgered Ruby into cobbling together from some of the choicer bits of the other evening's finds, and some blankets in case there are any more surprise ponysicles freezing their bonkers off in the wastes. Also, lunch! If nothing else she'll combine trips and bring some firewood back to base. As it stands, though, she takes a moment to unhitch herself, then promptly begins to pace back and forht, back and forth along the treeline. "Watch out for webs!" she advises anybody within earshot. "Drift widows! They're out here. I'm still gonna smash them, I'll smash them." A few times she breaks into an eager canter, churning up the snow all the more thoroughly, before calming back down- relatively- and just pacing. She has not sat still once since leaving the base.

"If this place is anything like its counterpart back home, then wits will certainly be a requirement," notes Kludge. Being with this size of group does help the craftspony be not quite as tense as he might have been otherwise, but he's still alert. Just because you have backup doesn't mean you can slack off, you know! Still, this should discourage small patrols of whatever seeks to harm the group.

Jellybean is trotting alongside Winter Solstice, seeming to be in relatively high spirits again. "What are we doing this time, Professor?" he asks. "Where we come from this place is kinda spooky. But maybe since the not-spooky places have been spooky so far, this place isn't so bad here?" Jellylogic.

Sodium-Fizz groaned as she promptly planted her rear end in the snow. She might have been suprisingly grounded for being a pegasus though wintery conditions was nothing something she was used too. Winter was something to fly over, not something to wade through like a groundbound pony. Even so she feelt a lot more confident than her last few outings into the cold. Indeed, this time she's armed.

As far as anypony could call a small selection of brews and a few pouches of illusion powder 'armaments', though they certainly made her feel a lot better

Ruby is along for the ride - literally as she lazily peeks out of the warm piling of clothing and blankets atop of the sled. She slips to her hoofs and gives a stretch - making her presence known as the group stops; somepony took the lazy way into adventure this evening. "We're stopped, hmm?" curiously looking about to survey the surroundings and assembled ponies.
Also in attendance is the off-white pegasus from their earlier excursion, doing her best not to look nervous after how /that/ had gone. Heartsong fidgets her hooves, looking around alertly and humming idly to herself as if that might keep further dragons from showing up and being… dragon-y.

Sadaka is eyeing the forest uneasily. Sure, she's been in there plenty of times. Heck, she's even been in /this/ version once! Nearly froze to death, though. So that's not the best experience. But she's doing her best not to be scared. At least there's plenty of grown-ups along this time.

The last member of the outbound group is Heatsink, bringing up the end of the caravan. Dragged from her cozy confines, her purpose for coming with is clear enough with the other sled-type object she's hitched up to. Only it's not so much a sled as it is a sort of plow/rake, which she's been using to cover up the ponytracks with less identifiable streaks that could, from way up above, possibly look like a snowdrift line. No sense leaving any precaution unchecked, right? Once they've all stopped at the edge of the forest though, she unhitches herself and leans the device up against a tree, then leans herself up against it. "Phew… I really need ta get more exercise. All this walkin' is killin' me."

The Professor gives the assorted cast of ponies a moment to settle, chuckling at questions, and at the general state of alert. This certainly seems like a more upbeat group than when they first arrived! This is good. He looks into the forest, perhaps looking for signs of the 'guest' he mentioned, and then turns back to Jellybean to smile his cryptic, if warm smile. "We're here because I felt it's time I showed you all something. A secret, that until now I wasn't sure I should fully entrust."

Huh. Kludge is intrigued, both by the fact that there's a secret and the idle curiosity of what the secret is. Perhaps something that is this world's equivalent of something he recognizes?

Winter-Solstice's pacing run slows up as she sees Ruby emerging from the sled. Winter squints her eyes slightly. "I thought the sled felt a little heavier than it should have," she says, before calling out. "Ruby! Ruby, from now on I'm just gonna always assume you're hiding somewhere and ready to jump out. You're really good at it. Your cutie mark should be a jac-in-the-box, yeah?" She does another circuit- by now there's a deep, well-pressed furrow in the snow where Winter's pieplate hooves compress the snow into a thick pancake of icy snow- before wheeling over to the Professor and Jellybean. Here she stops, so to speak, staying in place as she prance-prance-prances from hoof to hoof. "Secrets? Secrets? Oh, oh! Are we gonna find out where those blue leaves grow at last?" She reaches over to elbow Jellybean. "You might be right. Besides, unless ther are big evil dragons and spooky graveyards full of Windigos, this is probably gonna be pretty easygoing, in comparison."

Windrose looks up at the mention of intrusting secrets. "Right." She unstraps the notepad from her leg and tucks it away in the saddlebags worn over her thermal suit. "I'm not going to mark down from this point, just in case the map got lost. Or worse. Just like I didn't mark the place we came from." Then leans up against the wagon as Ruby pokes out of it. "Too bad you're not an artist Ruby. You could be drawing the horse drawn wagon you're being drawn in while drawing."

"Well, I can't say I'd blame you for that, to be honest… I wouldn't trust us either." Sodium-Fizz shivered and shot Winter-Solstice a dirty glare, "And please, Winter… Don't talk about dragons, just… Please."
Jellybean is elbowed and makes a little 'ooph' noise. But only a little one. "What secret is that? Nopony told me about a secret. But I guess that means they were doing the right thing? Because if they told me there was a secret then I'd want to know what the secret was, which would probably make it less secret." Pause. "I think." He attempts to sketch out the math for this in the snow with a hoof.

Ruby rubs her cheek with hoof - she's comfortable in her snow suit and if weren't for her voice no pony would know it's her - of course that could be said for any pony around here other that Winny who's unmistakable. She huffs at Winny "Are you saying I'm heavy?" Glare! "I'm not heavy at all!" she protests. before sitting on the edge of the sled. "Hmph." her attention is mostly on the professor - but she can't let the heavy comment go unchallenged.

"I wouldn't worry so much about getting lost." the Professor notes, waving off concerns. He's also grinning up at Winter, "I should hope so! Not that these woods are free of danger or anything, but certainly nothing a strong group of ponies can't handle. Spiders and wolves, mostly, but if we avoid the snowdrifts then we should be fine. The wolves shouldn't bother such a big group. We're just missing…" A nearby rustling of leaves perks the old pony's ears up. "A-ha!"

Rustle, rustlerustle. Trees, to branches, to bushes, until the rustling stops in foilage just next to where Ruby's sitting. Such ominous rustling! But that's not where the new pony's head pokes out. No, that happens next to Winter! A greyish-white snowsuit covers her from ears to tail, up to and including a mask over her nose, her eyes hidden behind a protective pair of goggles. The same pony that squashed a few spiders not so long ago. "I remember you!" she says as she pops out of the bushes like some deranged spring-loaded toy, pointing hooves at Winter, "And you, and you too!" she continues, pointing at Sadaka, and even Sodium! "But you bunch, I don't know." Then she's bouncing over to hug the Professor. "Did you come to visit? Huh? Huh?"

Heartsong smirks over at Winter Solstice. "You really like those things, don't you?" she asked, seeming slightly amused at the prospect. Come on, they're not /that/ great.

Manyara eyes the newcomer with an idle curiosity, settling down with the rest of the group. "I daresay you are the 'guest' we were waiting for, then?"
"AAAAAAH!" Windrose freaks out as something jumps out of the bushes and bolts to latch onto the nearest other pokemon for a moment, until she realizes "Wait it's just another pony…"

"Sorry, Soda," says Winter, smiling sheepishly at Sodium. "I'll stick to spiders, I guess." She looks back to the professor, then Jelly, and looms over the foal, peering at what he's writing in the snow. She can't make heads or tails of it, because Secret Math is for chumps, but is nevertheless fascinated, at least until Ruby scolds her. Winter lifts her head with a blink. "You're not! I'll pick you up, Ruby, watch! I'll do it right now!" She turns and starts towards Ruby when SUDDENLY, THE PONY IN WHITE. Winter yelps and whirls to face her, rearing up on her hindlegs and wheeling her forelegs. "AMBUSH oh wait hey!" Winter drops back down to all fours. "It's you! The killstealer! I mean the one who saved us! bykillstealing Hi! I remember you, too! It's nice to meet you! Why the heck are you out here! What color are you!" Winter turns towards the Professor. "Is she the secret?! Is the secret what color she is or why she never comes back to base?! Does she live someplace else?!" With a prance and an aimless grin, she then turns to rattle her head at Heartsong. "I'm a big fan of food, and it's food. What's not to like? Oh!" She looks back to the Pony in White. "We brought lunch! Want some?"

Kludge blinks at the arrival of the newcomer. Is it just him, or does she resemble Winny in terms of energetic personality? He decides not to say anything about it, though; this isn't the kind of thing you talk about without more significant proof. Besides, all that's really important now is that it's a known ally and/or friend.

Ruby-Blossom 's interest is certainly perked at the rustling, and sudden appearance of the unfamiliar pony - the mare listens intently to the other pony to make sure she commits the voice to memory. "I'm very curious." speaking softly to herself while watching the all the other ponies. Ruby can't help but poke at her own snow-suit and chuckle as she thinks about the little surprise in store for everypony else. "I'm Ruby-Blossom." she offers first - figuring somepony should start with the introductions.

Jellybean continues to blink, staring at what might have been equations at one point but has turned into doodling. Though part of the doodle is 'me = bad at keeping secrets (sorry Nana)' so maybe he's still working on it. Or at least he was until the Mysterious Pony appears. He waves. "Hi!"

Sodium-Fizz topples over backwards from shock, her hooves pressed to her muzzle to stiffle her own cry of supprise. It works to, at least for a moment before she levels a hoof at accusingly at the newcomer. "You! I… I… Thank you, I guess. For saving us, what with the spiders." The pegasus alchemist breaks into a soft giggle of relief. Picking herself up she brushed the snow off her suit. "Um, yeah, nice meeting you."

The New Pony giggles merrily, waving in greeting as introductions begin. "Hi! I guess I'm the guest? I don't think there's another pony coming this way… Unless I was followed, but that shouldn't happen because nopony knows I live here! Except for /them/, but they know better… Also you're welcome! And you're welcome! And you're welcome too, even if you didn't get to squash any spiders. You still can if you want, they're still totally just over that way a couple trees!" It's difficult to say whether the vague mentions are meant to be vague, or whether she just expects everybody to know what she's talking about. Either way it doesn't seem to matter much because she hops up to her hooves and starts trotting to the edge of the small clearing, "Speaking of /them/, we should really get going!"

"Yes, yes we should…" Professor Redmane states, still grinning at Winter post-hug from the New Pony. He pushes himself up from off the snow-covered rock, grinning up at Winter's questions in particular. "The secret is all about where this one lurks. She'll be guiding us into the forest from here. Stay as close as you can, even with her talents this place can befuddle the wisest of ponies."

One prance later, and the new pony starts to trot off past some bushes. The Professor follows suit, but Heatsink lingers behind to resume her duty of bringing up the rear. Professor told her to, and by George that's what she's going to do.

Jellybean follows after the Mysterious Pony, looking more puzzled than anything. But then, he usually does.

Kludge goes along with the group, still staying on alert. You never know when something will try for an ambush…

Sadaka blinks and climbs back to her hooves, tilting an ear curiously. This is all very cryptic and confusing! The Forest seems like it'd be mysterious enough without all this cryptic riddling added in. "So… so we're going to meet somepony else?" she asked timidly, blushing and stifling a sneeze.
Sodium-Fizz raised an eyebrow as she fell in behind the Professor. "'The secret is all about where tis one lurks'…? I think I've only heard a more cryptic answer in Mystic Mist's Manual of Magical Mixtures! Still, I supose it's something to do with either the nature of the forest… or a particular place within?"

Windrose pfffts, huffing her bangs briefly, then stands on her back legs to put a hoof to her chest. "I haven't meet a forest yet that can confound my sense of direction!" Well, she got over her initial fright at least. Though after a pause she drops back to all fours and trots after the others. "Granted, I need to know where I've been before I can go back that direction, so the pony familiar with the place best lead the way all the same."

Winter-Solstice prances in place while this is all explained. New friends! NEW FRIENDS. But- "Wait, wait! Do we even get to know your name?" asks Winter, calling out to the departing Pony in White. "Professor! Is her name also a secret?" Winter's prancing accelerates into a rapid drumming, before she whirls and romps back over to the Sled, hitches herself up, and takes off. The Pony in White fled through the forest and the Sledpuller followed.
Ruby-Blossom is quick to take a seat on the sled when Winny hitches up - no need to let those blankets go to waist - she'll just watch from here; secret weapon engaged.

"I suppose it's silly to keep being secretive about it now." the Professor admits, once ponies get moving again, the Pony in White ahead keeping her pace just slow enough that everyone can keep up. "I'll explain as we walk. You may have noticed that, aside from the ones you brought with you, there haven't exactly been a lot of foals running about the Base, yes?"

He doesn't exactly wait for acknowledgement, the Professor merely glancing back over his shoulder as they all walk and talk. "Well we couldn't have them where dangerous spells were being cast. Especially with the Queen's goons always lurking about. So we hid them in the only place we knew even the Queen would hesitate to send forces. Deep within this very forest." He's grinning with his own genius. One better believe he's proud of himself for thinking of this. "We even found the perfect place, and…I daresay, the perfect guardian for them."

Windrose ohohohohoh. "You sent them somewhere secretly cutesy and rainbows and candy and so sickness inducing sweet that no terrible dark overlord of evil would be able to bear tread to get to them?"

Jellybean flaps his wings excitedly. "Other foals? I mean, foals?" he corrects himself, remembering that he's supposed to be all grown up. "I was wondering where they were. I can't wait to see them."

Kludge can see part of what this is leading to, but the "perfect guardian" isn't something that's intuitively obvious at this point. Undoubtedly it will make more sense once the guardian's identity is revealed, but at this point it's pure guesswork.

Sadaka perks up a bit at this too. "Really? W-we're gonna see other foals?" It would be nice not to be practically the only foal around. Save for Jellybean, but she still wasn't /entirely/ sure why he was still little as she was.

Even Manyara seems to brighten a bit at this news. She had wondered where all the little ones were. Now they would find out!

Sodium-Fizz says, "I supose I can see the idea behind that. Though I must admit I'm kind of dreading to get to know just what you imagine would be the perfect guardian for something so precious." She shuddered, glancing over her shoulder at the rest of the group, especialy their own foals.

Suspicions! This is what Ruby has as she hears the news - but curious suspicions of what the guardian could be; quietly she ponders this while her chauffeur makes up all the ground. She'll need to remember to give Winny a big tip at some point - perhaps cake; Winny would probably like cake when we get back.

Winter-Solstice tromps along, all but stepping on the Professor's heels (so to speak), and probably getting in the way of anybody else following so closely. What is an adventure? A delicious big pile of secrets! Winter is eating them right up. "Oh! Oh! So many new people to meet!" she squees with a little skip, that jerks the sled a little behind her- sorry, Ruby. "Hey guys, remember the last time there were foals everywhere?" she asks back over her shoulder. "In town? With the curse? Man! That was craaaaaazy!" As she looks forward, her gaze naturally falls upon the Pony in White. Who is she? Who -is- she? The longer the question goes unanswered the more distracting it is. Maybe her name is Rocky Road. Maybe her name is Sugar Bean. Maybe her name is Spring Carrot. Maybe her name is Sweet Melody. Maybe her name is Mango Catcher.

The blankets next to Ruby stir, and a little nose pokes out. "Are we there yet?" she whispers to the bigger mare. Guh. Still cold. She pulls back in, like a turtle.

Maybe her name is-

"Friends," the Professor says, "Allow me to introduce Pinkie Pie. Our resident foal-sitter and expert in the ways of the Wintersong Forest. I dare say she's had a hoof in keeping us all safe. Especially some of your own."

The pony in white gives an extra bounce to her step. "Aww, it was nothin'! Actually it was a complete surprise! Just suddenly BOOM, new ponies /everywhere/! I was soooo excited, but I knew they weren't from around here because I know everybody, and I mean /everybody/ around here." Bounce, bounce, hop~

"Er… Yes." The Professor chuckles. "Anyway. That's the short of it. As for where we hid them…"

That seems to be obvious the moment the group passes by an oddly close together copse of trees, just barely enough room to squeeze a pony through, and maybe possibly a sled. Pinkie and the Professor both stop next to this opening, to let the others know where it is, then the pony in white wriggles through first! "Right through here."

On the other side of the opening is a clearing, the trees seeming to rise up around it and spread branches out so far overhead like a great canopy. It's a huge clearing… Easily almost a half-mile wide, and at least that much deep, but it's the thing sitting in this clearing that is the real draw.

It looks like it may have been an insect's hive at one point. If insects grew as big as ponies and made beehives. Sinister, dark, and possibly chock full of twisty-turny passageways it is, but the occupants are anything but. Foals! Several little foals, four earth ponies and a unicorn, are outside of this big hive, building a snowpony. It's downright cute, even with the big ol' hive in the background.

Ruby-Blossom gives Maggie a little glance as they indeed arrival. "I'd say we are now." Two thieves in hiding - two peas in a pod - and Ruby managed /not/ to do anything to weird Magpie out - that's a win. She wiggles out of the warmth of the blanket upon arrival, and takes the whole thing in - it's quite impressive to say the least; and she can't help but feel a tad jealous - look at all those foals Pinkie Pie gets to tend to!

Windrose just blinks a couple of times. "She's full of energy," she sums it up pretty well as she squirms through the opening into the other side. "… Whoa."

Winter-Solstice is suddenly suspicious that the sled is a bit heavier with the weight of not one unexpected passenge, but two. No time to think! There are answers to be found! There are- oh! "Pinkie Pie! Hello!" calls out Winter. "You're not wearing Pink, though, that seems disingenuous!" She totters along for a few more steps with a cheerful smile and clearly has no clue whatsoever who Pinkie Pie is besides what the Professor just told her. Squeezing through the narrow trees is a bit of a struggle, and the sled gets wedged in between them before a kick unsticks it (and nearly breaks the old thing apart (and also probably shaking the pair hiding underneath the blankets)), but soon she's tumbling into the grove with the sled in tow, and slowing gradually. "Beeeeeeeeees," she says, thoughtfully, gazing at the hive over yonder. For a brief moment, she pauses. Then, unhitching herself from the sled, she launches into a barreling romp across the field and towards the foals over yonder, her voice ringing out across the clearing. "HELLLOOOOOOOoooooooooo"

Sadaka scrambles through the trees, seeming undaunted by the giant hive in the face of FOALS. More foals! She gives an excited little bounce. No zebras… but you know what, there's /never/ zebras. (Except Siyana). So that's okay! Because there's /foals/.

…And then she's suddenly struck shy. She blushes, freezes mid-bounce, lays her ears back, and scuffs a hoof at the snow. Foals she does not knoooow. What to doooo.

Manyara seems /quite/ interested in the hive, as she slips through the trees with the others. She peers up at it, tilting her head thoughtfully. Hm. Well that wasn't what she expected! …But a pretty good hiding place, she must admit. Hm. Her gaze softens a bit at the sight of the foals, however. Aww, snowpony.

Jellybean beams and hops happily around the now-named savior. "It's nice to meet you, Miss Pie! I'm Jellybean! I think it's great that you're doing this: I was worried about where all the foals were but now I know somepony's looking after them! I guess I could say 'us' but I'm not really a foal, honest!" He seems to come down from the hyperactive moment and trots over to Sadaka, nudging her a little. "It's okay, Sadaka. They're friends. Right?" This to the foals.

Magpie aughs as the sled shakes. She sighs and climbs herself out of the blanket-nest and back into the accursed snow. But — oh my gosh! "Hi!" she chirps, waving a hoof excitedly at the kids, then runs after Winny with a big grin. "Hi!" she says again as she gets close.

Kludge looks around, giving an appreciative whistle to the location. The foals bring a bit of a smile to his face, but the hive definitely catches his attention. Sturdy build, straightforward design… maybe he should incorporate hivelike architecture into the buildings he makes, particularly inside the walls.

Sodium-Fizz lets out a appreciative whistle as she squeezes 'tween the tightly spaced tree-trunks. She had to briefly wounder if this husk of… whatever it was… could be found in their own forest back home. Of course, that's something of a mote point currently. Like the others she softens up on the sight of the young colts and fillies, pushing up the coverings of her snowsuit. Still, she's a mare with needs. Sciency needs. Catching Kludge's inquisitve look at the structure she grins, "What do you think could have made this? It's rather an impressive sight."

After looking around a bit Windrose looks back to the Professor and Pinkie Pie. "So, other than covering our trail and all, how do you hide this place from -her- seeing it? It's pretty big. With bigger trees covering it and…. oh, wait. I bet it just looks like a forest on the outside then." Shakes her head. "Nevermind."

Yes! Foals! Foals which, when Pinkie pops out into the clearing, stop their snowpony building to bounce around! "Yay!" "She's back!" "Hi Pinkie!" "Lookie lookie what we're making!" "It's only our twentieth one this week!"

Pinkie giggles, naturally, trotting over to investigate. "Ooooh this one looks /much/ better than the others. You kids are getting good at this! Maybe next time you should try a snow fort. Those are /always/ fun. Oh! Kids! I'd like you all to meet some new friends!" And she gestures a hoof back at the gaggle of ponies practically charging up the clearing to meet them. "They're /very/ friendly, and promise to be nice!"

The Professor, followed by Heatsink, are the last two through the opening, the older pony grinning as the more exciteable group members scamper off to investigate. "We've got about thirty of them here… Maybe more if Pinkie's been recruiting. The safest place in the world, and it's practically right under the Queen's nose." Windrose's question earns a wider grin from the Professor. "That's just it. From the air this looks like just another part of the forest. The forest itself is very…particular about intruders. Legends say it has a mind of its own, so most who wander in have a very hard time not getting lost. I don't know how she does it, but Pinkie there is the only pony I've ever seen who can find her way here and back without a problem."

Heartsong squeezes through the opening along with the rest of the group, smiling a bit as she looked around the still-familiar place. She perks her ears a bit at the snowpony, chuckling. "Hey, that is a pretty good one." She casts a somewhat shy glance and smile over towards Pinkie, rubbing the back of her head with one hoof.

"Not sure what would've made this, Fizz. I'm not that well versed on insects and the like," admits Kludge. Walking over to the Professor, he adds "The Wintersong Forest in our world also tends to be hard to navigate, with only the edges of the forest seeming to stay put. Nice to know that some things are constant, even if they're the slightly creepy ones."

Ruby-Blossom raises the visor of her suit before pulling the suit down around her so her face is no longer obscured; she can't help but grin as Magpie runs off to play with the other foals. She plops herself neear Windrose and Kludge - intent on listening in even if this sort of banter isn't something can contribute to.

Magpie kicks up a flurry of snow as she turns sharpply, skids, then tumbles. She gets up and shakes herself, makign a little mini-blizzard, then trots over to Pinkie. "Um! Miss Pinkie Pie? I just wanted to, um… thank you for saving us from the spiders. The other day, I mean."

Winter-Solstice doesn't hear any of these useful explanations, too busy bustling up to the group. "Who wants me to throw them up into the air as high as I can and catch them?!" she asks, looking from foal to foal. "Nobody? Okay then!" She then starts looking for an entrance to the hive, sticks her head in the first one she finds and shouts into one of those twisty-turny passages. "Knock Knooooock!" Her voice filters out at various pitches from three different exit holes elsewhere in the structure.

".. Somehow, despite directions being my special talent, I get the feeling I don't want to find out how well that works here." She nods a bit as she looks up at the trees overhead. Then looks down to watch the various foals making snowponies and other sort of foal games one almost wondered if they could even do anymore. "….Aw, I can't just risk it." She pulls her saddlebags open, pulls the map page out of her notebook that she was working on.

And stuffs it in her mouth, chewing it up in a few quick chomps. Destroying the evidence she almost created!

Sodium-Fizz chuckles for herself, giving Kludge a cheeky grin, "And here I thought you knew everything about building stuff. Insects are some of the finest." With that she cut her way across the streatch of open snow, giving the foals a bright smile and a wave. "Hello."

Jellybean continues to try and nudge Sadaka into socializing with the other foals. "C'mon, Sadaka, don't be shy. I'm sure you'll have fun. Would you feel better if I stuck around too?"

Manyara blinks, tilting an ear and glancing sideways over at Kludge and Fizz, chuckling a bit. "I suppose you could say that insects made this structure, yes. Not a bad hiding place, in any case, so long as it was uninhabited to begin with."

Sadaka blushes and gulps, nodding slowly. "Okay, Mr. Jellybean…" Just because everything /else/ in this story seemed mean, didn't mean all the foals would be, did it? Of course not. That'd just be terrible.

"Hello!" all the foals chorus, with several more poking their heads out as Winter's voice echoes throughout the inner tunnels of that ginormous hive. Pinkie's gone and disappeared again, but giggles coming from within tell the story of where she is. Like a veritable stampede, little hooves rush out of the entrance, a veritable horde of foals! Colts, fillies, earth ponies, unicorns, even a griffon! But…no pegasus. Or zebras.

That makes Sadaka a very interesting sight. For that matter, all of the new foals are bouncing about the group, climbing all over Winter, bouncing along with Magpie and Ruby, forming a little circle around Jellybean and Sadaka, asking questions, 'Where are you from?' 'Why do you have stripes?' 'Did you get cursed by a gypsie?' A few of the more adventurous ones even climb up to the edges of the clearing to give the Professor a hug, and then bounce around Kludge, Sodium, and Manyara.

"Once in a while it just does a soul good to lay eyes on youth for a time." the Professor notes. "They're mostly safe here. The only night we still have to be wary of is Nightmare Night, but Pinkie, I believe, has a plan for that too. Something about closing the hive up that night so no song can get in, nor foal get out."

"Keep in mind that most hives are much smaller and are usually occupied," points out Kludge as he waves to the foals. "Kinda hard to study a hive when its inhabitants are trying to sting you for your intrusion."

Magpie giggles and tries to answer the foals, though questions about their origins are answered with vague "We're from a long way off and got here on accident" sort of responses.

Ruby-Blossom can't help but grin and smile at the little foals, unable to resist playfully hopping along with the energetic. The sight of the foals climbing on the mountain that is Winny - is extra giggle-inducing. She glances to the professor "This is a far more pleasent surprise." Feeling extra glad she didn't surprise the group with her little surprise tonight - hysteria might of ensued.

Winter-Solstice squeals as she is all but swept away by the tide of children. She then starts handing out piggyback rides like it was the Week of Giving up ins. Foals love piggyback rides. At one point she stomps by the professor with a gleeful roar, three foals on her back and three more latched onto her legs as she chases two more that flee before her. Eventually the sled is recruited to help out, and creaks along behind.

"I told you!" says Winter during one pass by the rest of the group. "I told you this world wasn't all bad! I told you all, but nobody listened! They all said I was mad! Well, who's laughing now!?"

Over by Sadaka, a Unicorn filly leans in to staaaaare at the Zebra's stripes, then draws back with a giggle. Winter points at her. "She is! She is laughing now!"

Jellybean, on the other hand, is chattering right back. "I'm from a town you can't get to from here! But it's also right over there. It's complicated. I guess somepony goofed up? I don't know. Do you want to play a game? Tag!" Zoom! Off he flies!

Sadaka blushes, fidgetting sheepishly on her hooves and twitching her ears shyly. "Oh, well, um. I got stripes 'cause… 'cause I'm a zebra. Papa Blackbird says we all got stripes. An' Siyana does an Mama and Daddy did and…" she trails off and clears her throat. "So I guess that's why I got stripes? I don't think a gypsy had anything to do with it. I only know one gypsy an' she's over there," she points over at Manyara, "and I was stripey before I knew her anyways."

Sodium-Fizz takes a brief look around the small horde of foals, a thin smile on her lips, "There really arn't many, or any, pegasi around these parts, are there? And I supose you had to be right at some point, Winter," she chuckled before droping her rear onto the snow once more, just taking a moment to enjoy the respite from the otherwise dreariness of their situation.

Foals, foals foals! Windrose slips her wings out of her suit and flaps into the air to keep from getting trampled by the foal stampede. Well, if they weren't smaller than her it would be a stampede. Of course, it also just felt good for her to get to stretch for a few minutes since she couldn't fly the way here. "Aaah, so much better. Hey kids, check this out!" She does a few lazy loops in the air, simple stuff as far as aerobatics go. But seeing how rare pegasus have apparently become around here, it's likely enough to get her a fair share of of the kids watching.

Both Jellybean and Windrose earn quite a bit of 'ooooh'ing and 'aahhhh'ing, and squealing as some of them try to give chase after Jelly's suggestion of tag! What foal doesn't like tag? Honestly? Some of the foals are even giving Sadaka a tag here and there, trying to get her to join in the fun!

The only kid not so impressed is the griffon, who's trying to mimic Windrose's loopdeloops and other aerial bits, with…very limited success. But at least she's trying!

Now that all the foals are out and about, Pinkie pokes her head out again. Her goggles are up, as is the hood of her snowsuit, unleashing that great poof of a pink mane she somehow manages to keep tucked away when she's 'on duty'. Cheerfully she joins the group, at some point even ending up on Winter's sled with her hooves in the air. "Wheeeeeee!"

The Professor grins, happy his surprise is going over so well. His ears quirk at the conversation nearby, so he scoots himself closer to listen in, clearing his throat in the manner of a 'well read' pony. "I would hope that you wouldn't just stumble upon this sort of construction in your world. Or do changelings not exist there? Usually a hive is very bad news. This one must have housed thousands upon thousands of them… At least before it froze."

Foals, foals everywhere! Ruby certainly isn't as durable as Winter, and when a group see's Winter giving rides - naturally they want a ride too! The group pouncing Ruby who swiftly disapears under the piling foals - a single hoof raised skywards before she disapears under the foal pile. Suddenly beside the professor Ruby off-handedly comments "Sure alot of foals." then rushing back over to the pile she's /supposed/ to be under.

Sodium-Fizz raised an eyebrow and glanced over at the Professor. "This… is a changeling hive? And yeah, they exist back home, tried to take over Canterlot a few years back if I remember correctly, didn't work out to well for 'em." She chuckled for a moment before unfurling her own wings and taking to the air.

Windrose stops showing off, if only so she can help the young griffon show off instead. With no pegasus or other flying species around there's probably been no one to show her properly how to do it. "No, spread your wings. Think of it as trying to grasp the air with the long primaries, so you can feel it moving. Instead of throwing your weight to turn, tuck back the points and just lean into it, air movement will do the rest."

Winter-Solstice pulls that sled like a champ and make no mistake. She proves utterly undefatigable because this is fun and she doesn't have TIME to stop having FUN because of getting TIRED. She isn't Whistlestop, though- enough of a crowd on the Sled, or on her, and she slows down a bit- but she plows on ahead anyway. Soon there's a circular course carved through the snow around the hive, and as Winter passes, some foals bail and others hop on to get in on the next trip around. Ruby might get swept up on to join Pinkie on the Sled.

Magpie hugs onto Pinkie from behind while she's riding the sled. She giggles and squeezes the silly pink mare. "Um," she says. "I was saying… thanks for saving us the other day, Pinkie. From the spiders, I mean."

Kludge ponders this fact for a moment. "Huh. They do exist, but after that incident a few years back, there was concerted effort to chase them out of Equestria. I don't think a significant hive has been spotted in quite some time."

Heartsong sits back on her haunches, watching the foal parade and sled rides a bit jealously for a moment before looking back over towards Fizz and Kludge. "From what I've heard you might not know if there was one, not right away. I guess we're lucky they found this one, though… and, you know, that it was empty."

This time PInkie isn't being distracted by throwing all the foals outside the hive for FUNTIME. She finds herself with a foal attached to her back! "Huh? Oh! You're welcome! Those spiders needed a good squashing to teach'em not to eat ponies anyway. I'm just glad you all turned out alright! Whoa!" In her excitement, Pinkie kept wobbling, weaving, and now topples back out of Winter's sled with a whole heap of foals! They all land in the snow, sprawling out with fits of giggling. "Eeee!"

The griffon takes her lessons well, chirping in glee as some of her tricks show immediate improvement. Yes, it's amazing what a little lesson from a master flier can do for a young one. A couple of the other foals stomp their approval of their friend's new tricks.

At some point, covered in snow and possibly still carrying Magpie around, Pinkie finds her way over to where the Professor and Co. are sitting. Next to where Ruby had been, before she slunk back to the foalpile, probably right there next to Heartsong. "Hey, Professor? I wanted to ask you a favor while you're here. I was wondering if you could spare a few extra hooves to watch the foals for a few days…"

Sodium-Fizz shot a glance in Winter's direction, as well as where she'd guess Ruby is within the pile of foals, chuckling. "Oh, I'm pretty certain you'll be getting at least two sets of hooves."

Magpie 's still sprawled on Pinkie's back, giggling. She ohhhs! and holds up a hoof. "I can help! I'm a good watcher!" she announces with a grin.

"Sounds like a nice change of pace," remarks Kludge. "I'd be willing to help out."

Ruby-Blossom pipes "I'm game." now sitting right beside Pinkie Pie depsite the fact no pony saw her /get/ there, and then she's trotting right back to the pile of playfully wrestling foals to join back into the pile she's supposed to be part of - again! Somepony keep an eye on her please!

The Hive Express slows up and stops once all its passengers bail. Normally everybody falling off is bad news for a rail-line, but this is more of a sled-and-pony operation, and everybody's laughing, so Winter doesn't worry too much about liability. She does eventually unhitch herself and make her way over to where everybody's At. After all that luggin', she's breathing heavily, but isn't slowed just yet. "Huh? You're taking my hooves?" she asks, catching Sodium's comment but not what prompted it. "Can I get wheels instead? Skates?" She roots about in the supplies on the sled and produces a little Blue Leaf sandwich, except instead of bread there are more blue leaves, and starts munching it. Her gaze turns towards the griffon and Windrose up above. Cute. Makes her wonder, though… she snarrows her eyes thoughtfully and peers across to the Professor.

Jellybean blinks, pausing in midair. "What's a changeling?" he asks.

"Yes, like that. Now just… there you go!" Windrose holds back and lets the griffon foal do their thing, clapping her hoofs together. Then sets down close to the others while the youngster goes off to show her newfound capacity to her friends. "And to think a few weeks ago we were the ones running around being kids again," she sighs. Then shakes her head a bit the clear it before her thoughts run away with themselves. "If it means getting more time to get -my- wings stretched for a bit I'd totally come lend a hoof while we're here."

With the general responses being overwhelming on the 'stay and play' side, the Professor spreads his hooves. "I don't think there's much need to discuss this. I think we could all use a day or two around smiling faces. A spot of relaxing might do much to help us figure out what we're going to /do/ about everything."

Several of the foals nearby give a 'Yay!' of approval, scampering off to tell their friends, and the friends of their friends. Visitors! Staying for a day or two! That's always exciting!

Pinkie beams, absolutely tickled pink at the number of volunteers. "Oh good! Because I've been getting this shiver of something /big/ coming, but I don't really know what. A little extra help will make sure everything stays smooth here until whatever it is passes by."

Jellybean nodnods to Pinkie Pie. "We'd all be happy to help however we can." He'd certainly be glad to help: anything to make him feel useful and mature is good times. On the other hand, so apparently is tag.

Sadaka has settled back to watch the other foals play, blushing shyly. She blinks and glances up at all the talk, though, tilting her head. "We're staying? All of us, or…" She kind of wanted to stay! But… someone would need to tell Papa Blackbird so he wouldn't worry.

Sodium-Fizz smiles wryly, "Well, I'm not sure how much help I'd be in-pony as it were. I'm usualy around at rather odd times. Though I might have something that could help with the whole 'something big' thing… And if not, I guess they'd just be generaly fun, and useful." With that she digs into the pockets of her winter suit, fishing out several bottles and a trio of pouches.

A few potions, help with treatin' wounds and the like, and illusion dust. Just throw it and wish."

Winter-Solstice stares around at the group, finally getting the gist of the conversation. "Staying? Oh!" She perks out of her pensive state with a smile. "Are we staying? I can stay and help if you guys need me to. Do you have anything that needs smashing? Maybe? I don't know if I could really do anything to, like, help rennovate the place." She casts a glance back over her shoulder at the hive and then looks back with a squint.

As she does, Winter cathes Sadaka's trailing question. "I don't know if all of us are staying. If you wanna head back, Sadaka, I'll go with if you need someone to go with! Though I think the Professor and Heatsink are going back, too." She reaches up to scratch her head with a hoof as she considers her options. Should I say or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double.

Sodium-Fizz smiles, "Don't worry Winter, I'm heading back as well. All my scavanged alchemy equipment is back there and is a bit to bulky to move. And frankly, I wouldn't want a foal anywhere near it, let alone several dozen."

As she's mentioned, Heatsink does indeed clear her throat. "Uh. Yeah, I won't be stickin' around. I'm kinda needed ta keep all the things in the Base runnin'. So… Pinkie, if'n y'all would be so kind as ta guide me back? An' anyone else who wants to go. We best get goin' before too many patrols start to set out."

Some of the foals go 'awww' at the prospect of someone..or even multiple someones leaving, but they wave to Heatsink anyway, and Pinkie practically bounces. "Of course! We'll get you back home lickety-split!"

Magpie climbs up into the hive thingy and grins. She waves bye to the others. "Bye Pinkie! Bye Winter! Come back soon!"

Jellybean is looking back and forth at the different groups. "Maybe I could stay here to help out? I don't know, though. Do you think there's anything I can do, Miss Pie?"

Winter-Solstice turns and waggles a hoof up at Magpie. "I don't even know if I'm goin' yet!" She lowers her foot and looks genuinely distraught. "I just know that wherever I'm not at, that's where things are gonna get interesting! I can't sit around and protect both groups!" The Tank's Dilemma. Turning back towards the Professor, she raps on her on head with a hoof. "Ugh! I'll stay here. If Pinkie thinks something bad is gonna happen then I wanna make sure there's someone to look over the kids. In addition to, er… all the other… people looking over the kids. The sled will stay here, too, to help."

The Professor nods slowly, smiling at Winter's suggestion. "I think I would appreciate it if you stayed, yes. For that reason you just mentioned. Better to be safe than sorry, yes?" He grins down at Jellybean too, "And you! You should help keep the foals company. I suspect some of them have never seen a pegasus before, so you and the young lady over there are quite unique. As is your striped friend. Anything to keep them entertained and happy is helping in my book."

Heatsink taps a hoof impatiently. "If y'all are done decidin' then..?" she says, Pinkie giving a shrug. "I think you're the only one going back. You suuuuure you don't want to stay? We have lots of snow!"

"Yeeeah, thanks Pinkie, but we got plenty of snow back at the Base too. Can we just get goin'?"

"The two disappear past the small opening leading back into the forest, leaving the rest behind. The Professor nods again. "Well. That settles that. Welcome to the foal's hideout, everybody. Enjoy your stay, and enjoy the cute. This, my friends, is what we're all fighting to keep safe." He begins to amble towards the hive. "Now! Which one of you youngin's can show me to your food stores. We might as well see if we can do a little gathering and whatnot while we're here."

Winter-Solstice breathes a sigh of relief. Now that the weighty decision has been made, she can be confident she made the right choice and not think twice about it because doubt is for chumps, just like Secret Math. She hops to her feet and begins romping towards the treeline. "I'm gonna explore a bit, get a feel for the place and how defensible it is against monsters n'stuff. I'll see you guys in a bit! Jelly, be a dear and make sure nobody jacks the sled!"

Kludge takes a small break from entertaining the foals and goes over to make sure the items on the sled are sorted and organized. If we wind up needing them, wouldn't it be a good idea to make it easier to find the items we need?

Magpie wanders down into the hive. Must be big in there… good hiding spot.

Jellybean nodnods! Something he can do. "You can count on me, Miss Solstice!" He gives Winter a salute and stands on the sled, looking around vigilantly. He hears a noise and spins around, ending up with about a third of his mane in his face. He continues to look around vigilantly.