IC date: Summer 86
OOC date: September 14
Location: Bric-a-Brac Caverns
PCs: Sunshine-Stormcloud, Wishy-Washy, Moonglow, Ruby-Blossom, Big-Red, Moon-Willow
NPCs: Night-Watch, Dirge, Phantom, Opera
GM: Applejack, Diamond-Dog, Angel-Bunny, Fluttershy

Another overcast day. The thick cloudcover makes it difficult to tell exactly what time of day it is without a timepiece, but educated guesses might put it at around late afternoon. Ponies responding to the post Sunshine had made about taking a trip to the Bat Pony Colony would have been met by a Harbor Guard, and escorted off towards the mountains, to a little campground where Sunshine-Stormcloud is waiting.

At least, it used to be a campground. Now it looks like a mess of a once-used firepit, scattered ashes, and a lot of tramped-down foilage and grass spots. There's even the beat-up remains of a tent piled up against a log. Someone had been camping here once, and something else had tried hard to rip the place up.

Either way this is where the ponies were asked to gather to meet up with Sunshine at the guardsmare's request.
Moon-Willow sighs. "I'm concerned about all this. How do we know they won't take this as an intrusion and attack?"

"I'm looking forward to meeting the batfoals," smiles Thunnini. The terrain so far hasn't been too bad, allowing the seafilly to pole her bucket-kart to the campground with minimal trouble.

Wishy-Washy had actually ended up passing by this spot a couple of times… once when she first came to horseshoe harbor, and again when she had gone on her quest to find a tailor to get her good friend the best gift possible! regardless, she makes it up there, looking nice and clean, not to mention smelling a tad of Frankensense… no, it's not Hearthswarming eve yet! "Hello again, Sunshine. I really should invite you to my wagon sometime when you are less busy with your duties!"

Moonglow has come along, as much out of curiousity than anything else. Especially after some of the other odd things going on recently..

"How do we know they aren't watching us right now?" Sunshine suggests, looking up from the tent remains she's poking a hoof at. "Welcome Moon Willow. To answer your question, we don't know what they're going to think. I do know that I intend for us to make our presence known, and respectfully request to talk with someone in charge. Hopefully that will lead to something productive and not a fight."

The Guardsmare grins at Thunnini then, bobbing her head in greeting. "Hopefully having a little foal of our own wanting to be friends'll help our image a little." Then to Wishy-Washy! "Hello again! Glad you decided to help with this too. Might need a different point of view or two for diplomacy." She scrunches her nose up the littlest bit. "Sure. I should break away from the job more often anyway…" Oh look, there's Moonglow too! Sunshine seems pleased that some of those that helped check out that ol' warehouse issue came along for the ride here too. "Welcome everybody."
Moon-Willow nods. "I suppose that's the wisest course of action." she looks at Thunnini. "You let me know if you start having problems with your…cart. Alright?"

Wishy-Washy nods and smiles a bit. "This should work wonderfully! you were there when I wowed the people of daybreak village, were you not?" the Dancer gives a bit of a wink and grins rather confidently.

Thunnini nods! "I even brought some rope, just in case it comes in useful," she remarks, holding up a coil of rope that has seen better weeks, but is still usable for most work.

Sunny grins. "Rope is always useful. As are peaceful dancing ponies." Her head bobs, then she stands up straight, taking her best 'official guardpony' pose, clearing her throat. Ahem~ "So here's the full situation. When we were visited by those bat-winged adults, they left behind a map that outlined the exact cave they're currently living in. That's where we're headed. I was going to have us all meet up closer to the cave itself, but I found this place." she gestures with her hoof at the wrecked campsite. "…I have hunches who this belonged to, but I can't confirm anything because the only thing left to really look at is that mess of a tent, and it's shredded to the point that I can't make heads nor tails of it. So… If there /was/ a clue here as to this whole foal-disappearing-batpony mystery, someone took it."

The guardsmare lifts her head, peering at the clouds briefly, then back down to the gathered ponies. "We're going to go see if they'll let us talk to'em. Offer our help. And ask if one of them maybe came out here and found a clue while they were taking their frustrations out. Hopefully they'll be cooperative… Any questions before we head on?"

Moon-Willow smile nervously. "None here. You seem to have everything well in hoof."

Moonglow nods. "I agree, I'm ready when everypony else is.."

Sunshine nods to her little PCSI crew. …It's difficult to not think of them as 'her team' at this point. "Alright! This way." Thus she leads! Away from the destroyed campsite, on towards the mountainside, following it along until the group of very diverse ponies reach a break in the rock. A cave entrance! And a decently sized one too. Big enough that a grown dragon wouldn't have to stoop too low to crawl inside. This is where Sunshine stops, in front of this yawning opening that the clouded sunlight only seems to illuminate a little bit in. "…Welp! This is supposed to be it! Batpony central." She glances around, squints at the ground, then pokes just her head around the corner. "Well. I don't…see any… Guards. Or anything."

Big-Red chooses this moment to chime in. Why he didn't before, well, that's anypony's guess. "If they're anything like Diamond Dogs, they're going to be deeper in. Or they have the front door booby-trapped." He clicks his beak once as if remembering a bad time.

Wishy-Washy ends up following along quietly, sticking close to Big-Red. "Hello! is the resturant closed today?"

Sunshine pauses, her head juuuuust around the corner. "Booby trap. You mean like…" She straightens up right quick. "Er… Yeah. You're probably right, they're just deeper inside. "Eh. That would be just the luck, go to try and make friends with your neighbors and end up skewered on some kind of freakish trap. I guess we'll need to go inside if we're gonna meet any of these ponies though, so…" She turns to face the cave, squints into the darkness, and…sets a single hoof over the threshold of the cave mouth. "Hellooooooo in there! Anybody home?"

Moon-Willow blinks. "Um…so that's how we're doing this? maybe we should have sent a letter first?"

As the sound of Sunshine's voice echoes down the open cave mouth, it is answered… but a rustling. A flapping! And then a squeaking commotion as a host of bats come bubbling up from the dark and rush by! They're wee bats and they're more afraid of you than you are of them, but aah! Bats!

And as they clear, a dark figure is revealed, lurking just beyond the reach of the sunlight. It's tall and angular and broad-shouldered beneath a dusky cloak, and a pair of red eyes gleam from under the brow of a helmet.

"Velcome, travelers, velcome. You are either very brave… or very fool-" He pauses, then lifts up a hoof. There's a wee bat hanging from the underside. A few shakes sends the bat away, off into the sky to pursue his fellows. The batpony coughs. "You must be verrry foolish, ah ah ahhhhhh."

Thunnini raises a hoof. "I'm very foalish; does that count?" she asks.

Wishy-Washy steps forward and shakes her head. "nonsense. we're merely friendly, and were looking to assist you folk. I am Wishy Washy from the far off arid sands of Saddle Arabia, and it is my honor to meet you!" the unicorn very gently lights her horn up, being very careful not to be TOO bright.

Big-Red nods to Wishy, "Figured this was worth helping out on…been too long since I went somewhere without a sword." He doesn't elaborate on that, looking at the bats…and then the dark figure under the dusky cloak and the helmet. "Depends on if you came alone, but sure…"

"Sure. Send a letter." Sunshine echos, turning her head, ears flicking back, to squint at Moon-Willow. "Let me just get the address to this cave-in-the-middle-of-nowhere and get right on that." She turns back to the cave mouth, inhaling to give another shout when—

BATS! Real bats! Ahhhhh bats bats bats bats! That held breath gets let out in a shriek, Sunshine scampering back and forth, and back, and skidding to a stop near Wishy and Big Red. Huff. Huff! She looks to them, being all calm and junk, and then looks into the cave at the red-eyed guardpony. "Uh." she says, smartly. "Right. What they said. An honor." she puffs between breaths in her attempt to regain composure, trying to will away the blush in her cheeks from being so easily spooked.

Moon-Willow smiles. "Oh look! A bat! How cute!" she coos, holding up a hoof to offer as a perch. "Aren't they just too adorable?"

The cloaked figure winces as Wishy's light messes up his neatly delinated boundary of sunshine and shadow. He looks like a pony, one with a dark red coat, with a close-fitting dark grey helmet. He lifts a hoof to shield his eyes, then fishes around in a fold of his cloak, produces a pair of sunglasses, and slips them on with a frown.

"It actually doesn't, but that's funny, so I'll give you a pass," he says, in response to Thunnini, dropping any pretense of an accent he had before. "And I don't know about that 'friendly' part. Last I saw THIS one," and he gestures to Moon-Willow. "She was trying to stab me. And THAT one-" He nods to Sunshine… then grins. "Well, she was trying to wallop my captain, but it's kinda funny watching her freak out like that. Anyway, hold on a sec before you start trashing the place, okay?"

He turns, cups a hoof to his mouth, and looks as though he's yelling- there's the deep breath and the heaving shoulders and forward lean and everything. He has sharp fangs in that mouth of his. There's little to be heard, though, besides, perhaps, a faint whine just at the very upper edge of one's hearing.

That done, then batpony turns and leans up against the wall and nods to them all. "Right, stay here then. That'll bring everybody around. You're not getting the drop on us this time. We'll have a nice and proper scuffle."
Moon-Willow cringes. "Sorry about that! I thought you were foal napping…" her blush is, thankfully hidden by the lack of decent light. "Um….do we have to scuffle?"

Wishy-Washy lowers the light again, frowning "My humblest apologies, sir… indeed, we merely seek Parley… we suspect somepony in horseshoe Harbor may be trafficking foals and naturally we had heard your little ones were going missing, so… we wanted to combine oour efforts!"

Sunshine's eyes pop wide. She flails a foreleg! "What? No! That's not what…" She starts trotting back and forth behind Wishy and Moon, "..I mean yes, sure, I did give your captain a—wait, captain?" That prompts more flailing! "Gah! No! We thought /you/ were sneaking into /our/ town to take more stuff! That had nothing to do with wanting to trash something! I /tried/ to be nice to you first, but nooooooo, somepony had to go and spit seeds at me and then /run/ like some suspicious criminal and make us /chase/ them and /tackle/ them just to get an answer!"

Huff! Huff. Sunshine blinks, realizing she might've ranted a little, goes about brushing her mane back. "Um. Yeah. Anyway. We come in peace."

Big-Red raises a claw pointedly. "Look, I don't think we ever met…but I'd just like to ask a question: have you ever tussled with a dragon before?" He expresses this with an expressionless face. "We don't want to fight, but if you're set on it then I'll take one of you on."

Moonglow glances from guardpony to batpony and back again. And sighs. She does /not/ want a fight to break out..

"I just wanted to meet Peony and any of her friends," Thunnini sighs plaintively. "I /like/ meeting new foals."

Moon-Willow squeaks at the griffin. "Hey! No! If they want to fight we'll just leave PEACEFULLY."

The batpony guard listens to all of this attentively, if through a rather thick veneer of feigned disinterest. He even takes to inspecting the edge of one hoof, though he pauses as Big Red makes with the threats- however conditional. The ire in the guard's gaze radiates even through the dark panes of his sunglasses as he levels it upon Big Red and stares.

Thankfully, Thunnini seems to be able to defuse the situation a bit. The guard looks to Thunnini, next, and sighs. "Yeah, Peony's here, but meeting her friends might be a bit tricky. Look-"

The guard pushes up off the rock wall and holds up a hoof. "I'll give you all the benefit of the doubt, MAYBE. I'll let the chief know you guys are at least PRETENDING to be peaceful this time. I admit it is a far cry from the usual sneaking in in the middle of the day and snatching foals thing you normally got going on. But we're going to have to take precautions." He turns and looks back into the tunnel once more, and scratches the back of his head, before turning to flash a fangy grin at the group. "Also, keep in mind, if you betray what little bit of trust we give you, we'll sneak into your houses at night, suck out all your blood until you're empty like a burlap sack, and wear you all like costumes on Nightmare Night."

Sunshine goes quiet, her brow knitting in confusion. Ew. "Uhm. Right. I guess we'll just…wait here and see what your captain has to say."
It takes a few minutes, but eventually hoofbeats signal the approach of another pony. One can hear them coming a good moment or two before they can see them, what with all the cavey shadows about. The pony, when he appears, does strike an imposing figure, tall and fit and broad of shoulder, in a fitted helmet much like the other guardspony, though with a fringe to let his dark blue mane poke through neatly along the neck. He also wears a metal chestpiece, emblazoned on the front with an emblem of a crexcent moon and a pair of crossed spears; and a set of dark metal hoofguards. Observant ponies might recognize the grey-pelted pony as 'Captain' from previous Harbor antics.

He sternly looks the party of ponies plus griffon over, wearing a rather stony, unwelcoming expression, eyes narrowed and ears angled back. He moves purposefully over to his companion, and keeps his eyes on the group as he addresses the other batpony. "What is going on here?"

The red guard pushes into an attentive position and snaps off a quick salute as his captain approaches. "Sir," he says. "Harbor ponies. They say they're here to help us with the mis…" His voice trails off and he glances past his sunglasses at the group. "With our situation. Peacefully, too. Like they literally just walked up and said hello."

Big-Red smirks as the leader decides to not get into a scuffle. Smart move! He's just going to watch for a minute or two, see how this unfolds.
Moon-Willow waves a hoof. "Hello!"

Sunshine takes a couple hesitant steps forward, trying one of those smiles she's spent hours practicing. "Hey. Sorry about throwing you through a door, Captain. We're just here to offer our help in all the craziness going on! Y'know, share information, maybe figure out who the /real/ culprit is?"

"Hi, mister Captain!" beams Thunnini. "Can I come in and play with Peony?" Cheerful seafilly, simple as that!

Wishy-Washy 's ears stick up suddenly and she gets a bit short of breath. "nngh… Sunshine, I am sorry, but… I need to go. -Now-. it is quite urgent." the cyan unicorn suddenly turns tail and BOLTS for the outside of the cave and is very strangely gone after she rounds the corner should anypony give persuit.

The Captain blinks and eyes the group suspiciously. He looks like he's expecting a trick. "You want to /help/?" He peers. PEERS. Then he looks over at the other guard. "I've sent word to Phantom. We'll see what he thinks we should do with these… intruders." He somehow manages to make the word sound suspicion-filled without quite being accusing. Hey, they weren't invited, were they?

He blinks over at Thunnini. Even he seems to soften slightly when approached with an adorable foal. "Well… perhaps we'll see." He tries to eye her, but it doesn't quite work out. It's hard to give a seafilly in a bucket cart any looks that don't degrade into 'd'awwww' quickly.

The red guard isn't awwwing yet. He glances about the rest of the group, looking tense. Eventually he shakes his head and sighs. "Right. What're your names?" he asks.

Moon-Willow tilts her head. "My appologies. And here I thought I introduced myself when we met last time. I'm Moon Willow. Employee of the harbour orphanage!"

"Sunshine." says Sunshine, scuffing a hoof in the dirt. "The little foal in a cart is Thunnini, Moon-Willow there just spoke up, and over there are Moonglow and…" She tilts her head. "I don't know the griffon's name. But he's nice. We're all nice." So very nice. Sure. "Is…Phantom your leader?"
The red guard's expression falls at the mention of 'Sunshine.' "Sunshine? Really?" he says, looking to her, then at the cave. "Not only are we bringing a bunch of daywalkers in, but one of them is -actually named Sunshine.-" He turns and starts walking down the tunnel, mumbling to himself. He gets about twenty feet before raising his voice and calling back. "At least one of you has 'Moon' in their name! Sheesh!"

Moonglow speaks up. "Two, actually. I'm Moonglow, nice to meet you!"

"Two," the Captain corrects, though Moonglow beats him by a beat. His expression remains eternally stoic as he motions the group along after the other guard, moving to fall in behind them where he can see whatever they're doing. Observant ponies might catch a glimpse of the mark on his flank - a helmet, much like the one he's wearing in fact. "Phantom is our chieftan," he confirms to Sunshine, and seems uninclined to say much else on the matter.

Sunshine rolls her eyes behind the batpony guards. Make fun of her name s'more why don't ya! Then she falls in line behind them, glancing back at her cohorts. "Welp! Here we go. Into the den of the unknown… To us, anyway." Trot, trot, trot.

The red guard waves a hoof back over his shoulder. "Two! Ugh!" He removes his sunglasses and tucks them back into his cloak. It does a good job of hiding the rest of his attire, as well as his wings and cutie mark. He leads the way, for now, winding his way around a bed, around a corner, and towards…

Moon-Willow smiles. "My parents named me for my coat. My grandmother thought it remind her of Princess Lunas." she notice his mark with some appreciation as it reminds her of her own. She trots up closer to him. "So, do you have any contact with those that live in Canterlot?" so many questions! she's only met a bat pony in Canterlot once and he was kind of on duty.
Long distance to Ruby-Blossom: Sunshine-Stormcloud patpat. You know already signing up doesn't mean you can or can't join unless it specifically says so. It's fine if you don't want to.

Thunnini poles her way along, looking at the cave walls. That's one thing that's the same both above and below water - caves look like caves.

A large, open cavern stretches up at the end of the tunnel, dark and damp, the only real light being a slightly glowing moss lining many of the stalactites and stalagmites that fill the cavern, and the occasional gleam of a lantern here and there. Quite a few of the rock formations have little dwellings on or around them, formed from hay, tarp, rock, really whatever was available. Some are on the floor among stalagmites, while others are hung between stalactites. Several larger dwellings are visible as well. Many of the dwellings seem occupied, mostly by sleeping batponies. A stray hoof or wing hangs out of some of the ones overhead. The occasional snore can be heard. A pony in a dwelling overhead mutters something about bunnies as he rolls over, rustling and raining a few pieces of hay down on the passing group.

There is some sign of /awake/ life. A few of the larger dwellings are - well, they're not quite bustling, but ponies are moving. Setting things up, hanging lanterns. A dusky green mare yawns as she piles what appear to be small, striped oval melons into baskets. A pale blue stallion shuffles by lugging coils of rope. A crimson stallion is setting up a display of pale, faintly glowing flowers. There's a pony lining up hoof-carved trinkets. Over there somepony's setting up metal flutes on a rack. There's a sizzle as a pony drops some squat brown mushrooms on a flat stone over a firepit.

All of this would have to be observed quite quickly, however, because the Captain is not leaving much room for ponies to stop and observe. He keeps right behind the group, ushering them on towards another tunnel.

So many signs of life! It's hard not to want to stop and gawk around at any of it. But these ponies are here on a mission… Sunshine marches along, ushered along by the Bat-winged Guardsponies on a mission. "So how long have you guys been in here anyway? I would've thought if you guys had been living here all this time that we would've..maybe bumped into each other at some point."

The guard in red keeps on movin'. He seems to know the way, winding along a narrow path on the ground. Ponies may be hard-pressed to keep up, between the unfamiliar terrain and low lighting, and he stops frequently to glance back over his shoulder and wait before continuing onward. "Remember," he calls back. "Burlap sacks."

Moonglow is fascinated, glancing all around. She's trying not to stare, you know, it's not polite, but this is all so interesting!

Moon-Willow stares around in awe. "I don't suppose you'd mind letting me do a bit of trading before we leave, would you?" she asks the guard.

"We keep to ourselves." The Captain is not being very forthright with information at the moment, it seems! He nods to another awake pony in passing, this one also wearing a helmet and standing post by the tunnel they're heading to. Said pony eyes the group warily as they pass by.

This tunnel is shorter than the entrance tunnel, opening out into another cavern before too long. The cavern is smaller, almost cozy - if one can find a dank, mossy cave 'cozy'. The walls are lined with the glowing moss, providing a bit more light in here; there are fewer rock formations, leaving more of the cavern open. This isn't to say there /aren't/ any rock formations, of course: a group off to one side seem to house tarps and hammocks lined with thick, soft mats of moss - four, if one were to take the time to count closely. Another, larger, formation has been formed into something like a throne. Two seats are carved out of it, one a bit higher than the other, both lined with moss for comfort. The rock behind the seats has been carved into a set of batwings, with the moon-and-spears emblem prominent between them. The 'walls' of the cave are hung with tarps and tapestries; many depict nighttime scenes, forests and mountains and wide starry skies. There's a couple paintings too. A shelf off to one side is lined with all manner of knick-knacks, from little wooden carvings to strange and obscure instruments, all pristinely dusted and arranged with care. Behind the 'thrones', another, small tunnel leads off to places unknown.

The red guard moves to lean up against the wall upon entering, and watches as the outsiders filter in one by one. He's back to pretending to be nonchalant once more, even as his red, slitted pupils track each pony closely.

Sneak. Sneak. Sneak. Oh, let's have one more for good measure. Sneak.

Sitting in the taller of the two thrones is a bat-winged pony, sitting tall and proud amid the comfortable moss. This one's coat is a deep black shade, almost sucking what illumination being given from the moss away with how dark it is. The stallion wears a regal harness, fitted with the seal of his tribe over his chest, attached to a cape over his shoulders that drapes along his back, and a polished crown carved out of a dark, shiny rock. Onyx perhaps? His eyes are much like all the others of his kind, though colored a deep blue in contrast to his dark pelt. His cutiemark is the only real break in the dark black, the marking resembling a white half-mask laid across a crimson cape.

He has, of course, been alerted to the presence of the newcomers to his realm, when the ponies are ushered into the throne room Phantom, in all his glory, rises to his hooves and spreads his wings wide. "Welcome!" he announces, his voice loud and well projected. After all, there's nothing more important than a good first impression! It was not, necessarily, a friendly tone.

Moon-Willow reaches up a hoof just barely not touching the tapistries. "Amazing. My mother would love some of these. Do you know if any pony would would do a commision?" she blinks at the apparent chief and bows polietly like her mother taught her to when greeting those of power.

Beside him sits a rather elegant pony, who rises in echo: long of muzzle and slim of ear, the bat pony mare peers out at them regally through her straight black curtain of hair. On her flank is a high F note on a musical staff. She offers a slim, if strained, smile to the newcomers, bat wings folding languourously to her sides. "You are the day-dwellers, yes?" she inquires in a much softer, although no less 'present' voice.

Moonglow nods. "Although, some of us are nocturnal ourselves.."

The Captain files in after the group, giving a small bow of his head towards the two ponies on their thrones before moving to the wall at the opposite side of the tunnel entrance to his guard companion. Contrary to the red pony's leaning, the Captain stands straight and firm, expression all seriousness, eyes scanning the group, the room, the tunnel, and then the group again, around in an alert cycle. Nothing's going to get past him, no way.

Sunshine-Stormcloud has to squint against the odd illumination. It's not daylight, so it takes some getting used to. When they're led into this more elegant and cared for part of the batpony land, and are thus greeted by the apparent leaders, Sunshine blinks at the pair. "Uhm. Yep! That's us!" she states, giving her practiced smile again. It's getting better. Apparently the practice was worth it. "Just here to offer up a little help. Right guys?"

"And I'd like to visit Peony and the others," speak up Thunnini, giving Phantom and his… marefriend?… a cheerful smile.

His initial impressive greeting given, Phantom retracts his wings beneath his cape and settles back down into his throne cushion, sitting tall and proud with only a minor adjustment to his crown needed to straighten it up. He listens, ears attentive, slitted eyes looking over each present pony. They linger on Moon-Willow, and her apparent appreciation of a particular tapestry. "Those are one-of-a-kind. The pony I commissioned them from went into retirement shortly after finishing those for me. They're supposed to be his finest work!" Phantom rises out of his cushion again, a hoof going over his chest. "Compareable only to things you might find in her Grand Royal Highness' castle!" he states, his head lifted high.

He's obviously proud of this fact. If it is indeed a fact.

Again Phantom settles back down, again he adjusts his crown, this time his gaze turning to Thunnini. "Then you may!" Up he rises again, hoof extended out across the room. Dramatic flair! His cape even flutters in some unseen breeze his wingtips may or may not actually be generating. "At least… You may visit Peony." he continues, settling back down again in the cushiony moss. "The others… There's a problem there."

Moon-Willow lifts her head, but otherwise remains bowed. "Truely, we're only here to clear our names and help hunt down the true culprit of these horrible crimes." To her, little is worse then foal trafficing.

The mare, with a calm expression, follows Phantom's movements: down, up, down, up, down. She flips her wings a little as she settles again. "Under supervision, of course, my darling husband?" she inquires to Phantom.
The red guard remains quiet, still eaning up against the wall. He's good enough at being unobtrusive that he all but melts into the shadows, little more than a slightly darker smudge in a room full of dark things.

Sticking to the shadows is a the sign of a top-notch thief, but sticking to the shadows of darkness - that's the stuff of comic book lore, and Ruby'd totally encourage picking up the latest issue of Scarlett O'Mare: Plight of the Batpony! Somehow the strange mare has managed to sneak through the dimly caverns, past the nocturnal residents, and into the throne room after the majority of ponies. Sneak sneak sneak goes the thief as she edges about the room in search of things that can't be found - she'd be interested in sneaking a little further to find something more insightful - perhaps a journal or log book in another room, she's not here to steal treasure - honest.

"It was implied." Phantom states, softly, in reply to Opera's note of supervision . There may be the slight tinge of red creeping into his ears. At least there would be if one could see it against all that black. He clears his throat, fixing his gaze once more on Thunnini. Up he goes! Hoof extended! "It is decided! Night Watch! Summon a guard to escort this odd wheeled pony to visit her friend Peony! And watch them play to make sure Peony doesn't disappear!"

He stands there, cape still fluttering, for a couple moments longer than he probably needed to, then slowly settles back into the cushion. "Good. Now that we've solved that issue, what was it the rest of you wanted again?" His eyes glitter in the faint illumination. "You're not here to steal more of our foals are you? Wasn't my son enough?" Up he goes again! "I should have the lot of you put in prison! Forever! Until your bodies fall apart and your pelts dry up to be used for tent tarp!"

It seems he didn't really pay attention to Moon-Willow. Or Sunshine.
Long distance to Ruby-Blossom: Sunshine-Stormcloud ponders something for Ruby to find…

Up Opera goes with Phantom. And down again. But when he goes up again, she reaches out a calm, staying hoof on his. "Phantom, darling," she says calmly, "we mustn't rustle the strangers, right?"

Thunnini bows to Phantom and Opera, then poles her way along with the guard to go visit Peony.

Moon-Willow huffs. "I keep telling you we havent kidnapped anypony! The only foal I know of besides Peony is Sablemane."

The Captain, apparently dubbed Night Watch, bows as soon as he is addressed. "Yes, sir, right away." He turns towards the tunnel and opens his mouth; again it appears as though he shouts, but there is no easily audible noise. Still, it brings the guard from outside the tunnel trotting on in, receiving orders in hushed tones from Night Watch before turning to escort the seapony out. He eyes her curiously. He's never seen a pony in a bucket before.

Sunshine finds herself rising and sitting with Phantom's movements. There's just something about the way he does it that makes Sunny mimic the movements. Unfortunately her metal joints are a little creaky when she does it enough times. Creak. Creak. "W..wha! We didn't do anything!" she pleads!

Phantom's wings give a single quick twitch, a sidelong glance given to Opera at her suggestion. "I suppose…" he starts to say, beginning to sit down again. Alas, the mention of a foal by name grabs Phantom's attention, right quick. Those narrowed eyes turn to squint at Moon-Wilow. "You know where Sablemane is!?" He hadn't quite sat down again. So this time his wings give a powerful beat, sending a gust of air swirling about! "Speak then! Where is he!" Commanded, not questioned, of course. "Does he know where Fugue is? Where is my son! I DEMAND ANSWERS!"

Moon-Willow growls and storms right up to Phantom. Her own wings flare dramatically, the daggers she normaly keeps hidden barely glinting in the dim light. "Listen you! I've dont know anything about your son! I've been taking care of Sablemane at the orphanage! He's perfectly fine. So stop accusing us of kidnapping!"

For a pony of his size, Night Watch sure can be fast when he wants to. He is away from the tunnel and bounding in front of Phantom in an instant, shouldering Moon Willow back roughly, flaring out his wings and drawing himself up. "You will NOT approach our chieftan in that manner! You will NOT raise your voice to him! You will /NOT/ brandish your weapons in his presence!" He glares sharply over at her and lowers his head a bit, looking as if he's half-debating tackling her right there. "You are in our home, and I will not hesitate to do my duty if you dare become a threat!" He stamps a hoof for emphasis.

Suddenly, there's the red guard, leaning up against the side of Phantom's throne. Gone is the cloak- that's hanging up on a hook by the door to the cavern, where it's been this entire time while he repositioned himself. Revealed is his lean, crismon-hued physique, and dusky grey armor, much like Night Watch's, except a bit less fancy around the edges. He checks the edge of a hoof casually while he glances up towards Moon Willow and Night Watch, monitoring the situation between them rather calmly.

For once, Opera doesn't stop her husband's dramatics. Instead, she stands quickly, eyes flashing with urgency. As Moon-Willow approaches, she tenses, wings flaring with an unpleasant expression on her elegant face. Thankfully, they have bodyguards for that — and competent ones. She turns to embrace her husband, though she looks at Moon-Willow after a moment. "Your aggression tells us much," she says flatly, "and we will have our son back. Mark our words."

So much commotion! It's a perfect time to settle in among the small crowd of ponies who aren't Moon-Willow, whom has made herself the center of attention. Ruby plants her flank beside and slightly behind Sunshine as if she'd been there the whole time - yup.

A moment later Ruby gently chimes "Umn, excuse miss?" raising a hoof politely to call Opera's attention in a manner of a humble, quiet mare who is clearly no threat.

Moon-Willow huffs. "Aggression? This isnt me be agressive trust me. If i wanted to BRANDISH me weapons I would have drawn them. And I'm tired of being accused of something I havent done! No pony I know has foalnapped anypony! Why would we? Clearly you are perfectly capable of exacting revenge if we did something so stupid! Take my weapons if it pleases you! I didnt come here to fight I came here to help!" She stomps her hoof right back at Night Watch. Shes not going to be accused of foalnapping when shes done nothing!

Sunshine watches all this, wide-eyed. "Moon…" she hisses. "/What are you doing!/ Get your pony arse /back here/ before you get it bucked into next year!" …Yep. There goes all their good will. And hopes for finding the clue they were looking for.

Phantom, thankfully, doesn't have to go into any further dramatics between Night Watch and Dirge leaping into action. Rather he spends his Dramatic Turn engaged in a brief embrace with Opera, looking mournful over the continued disappearance of their foal. One can almost hear the soft, sad violin music behind them.

Please ignore the little batpony with the violin behind the thrones. She's just there to supply mood music.

"I think we've learned enough from these daywalkers…" Phantom mutters darkly when he straightens himself up again. Eyes fixed on Moon-Willow for her outbursts. "If you want to help, then help! Our foals are not /here/! They are out /there/! Why do you come to us claiming to want to help us with our plight when the solution is not here!"

Phantom's wings flare out, giving a single powerful beat that sends a harsh gust whipping around the circular floorspace. "You come into our territory bearing weapons in the name of peace, claim to have one of our own in your care when they should be in ours, and tease us with information we so desperately need." Leathery wings flare, the imposing leader standing up yet again! "BEGONE WITH YE! And may Luna have mercy on your souls should we see any of your ilk snooping around again!"

Opera, too, looks extremely unhappy. But she looks to Ruby-Blossom. "What?" she asks sharply. "Speak now. You have ten seconds."

Ruby-Blossom sits up to look all prim and proper before speaking loud enough to make her words clear, but her tone remains soft and polite. "I was hoping you could tell me a little about the missing foal, and when your other foal went missing?" she inches a little forward to ensure Opera can see her large, expressive eyes and sincerely concerned look (topped with additional charisma for good measure). "And, if you'd afford us a little more time we did find something concerning during our investigation that I'd like to sh…" right at ten seconds she stops talking n.n

Night Watch does not answer to Moon Willow - Phantom takes care of that quite well. He folds his wings back up slowly, but doesn't back down - a pony in this room has shown themselves to be armed, and he will thus remain stationed between the potential threat and his chieftan until the threat has gone away. Ruby gets his attention for a fleeting moment, but he doesn't pay her /too/ much mind, just keeps an eye on her to make sure she doesn't get too close.

Moon-Willow sighs and spreads her feathers, causing the daggers to clatter to the ground. "I beg forgivness for my outburst. Listen. Please. I'm begging you to believe me." She steps away from the daggers and bows down again, lowering herself as far as she can. "I've been trying to get Sablemane home since we found him. We will help however we can. Be we cant do it by ourselves."

Sunshine has a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look right now. Good thing there are calmer minds about to remind everybody of what's important. Clues! The metal-legg'd pony creeps forward, to see if she can't get Moon-Willow by the tail and drag her back a few paces. "Calm the heck down already, would'ja?"

Phantom, his 'decree' overrulled by ten seconds of mercy, promptly settles huffily into his cushion and directs his glaring gaze towards Ruby. One can almost picture him counting the sceonds in his head. "There is not much to tell." the darkened batpony nearly growls, that deep voice resonating. "Fugue, my son, was the first to disappear a month or so ago. Sablemane disappeared shortly after. Foals have been disappearing one after another ever since. Now we have none but Peony, thanks to the heroic rescue by my captain, Night Watch, from /your/ Harbor."

The pause gives Moon-Willow time to be submissive. This draws Phantom's attention as well, his head lowering briefly, and when it rises again, the rest of Phantom's body rises with it. "I have decided!" he announces, a hoof pointed once more dramatically! "These ponies shall help us! Because if they don't, we will curse them with our deepest, foulest, most /horrifying/ curses ever to be uttered in the darkest corners of the night!" Flap. Phantom promptly sits back into the throne's cushy moss. He looks at Opera expectantly.

The red-hued guard has vanished. He tends to do that when one isn't looking directly at him, though it's not an unreasonable assumption that he didn't go very far at all.

Opera's mouth has tightened, one hoof hooking over Phantom's in a solidarity gesture. "I don't understand why Sablemane has not already been returned to us. Why you did not bring him with you today, if he is as safe as you say. Why he has not returned home. This makes me wary, darling. And I do not like my hackles raised." Nevertheless, she tips her head up. "You should fear our curses; they are many and terrible. It would be a pox upon your terrible village. Help us and my sweetie and I shall abstain." Sniff. Hmph.

Ruby raises her hoof again and waits to be acknowledged before speaking again. "Please excuse Moon-Willow." motioning towards the boisterous mare. "She's hot-blooded on the account that she can't find a stallion, and clearly the sight of your majestic husband has made her daft." she waves a hoof dismissively. "I do suspect something is a hoof in our town, and I fear we are both being taken advantage of." she sits up straight. "We found evidence that strongly suggests somepony in our midst is engaged in foal-napping, and we intend to put a stop to it." determined look! "As a mother I understand your sorrow, and will do everything I can to help. If you would grant your blessing for our assistance, my lady." The look of a mother who's just laid down the line.

Phantom nods slowly, ponderously. He has been calmed! As calm as he gets anyway. "Either way the problem comes from your Harbor." he states. For once without getting up. Opera's hoof over his may be a factor in that. "What more can you glean here, provoking our infinite and enduring wrath when you could be finding the ones responsible?"

Opera is quiet, listening to Ruby, her eyes calming from their earlier upset. She looks the mare in the eyes, reads her body language. She's silent for a long moment, before she finally says, very softly, "Yes. You will help us. And we will all bring the perpetrators to justice. And as my sweetest said, if your help turns out to be false, we will raze your village to its very cornerstones to find our foals and leave none of your kind uncursed." She takes a breath. "Do you understand us, my dear?" She offers a calm, though not altogether welcoming smile, to Ruby, mother slighted to mother slighted.

Daggers are dropped! Night Watch finally moves, stepping foward slowly to kick them into a pile, which he proceeds to stand over while he watches the proceedings. He's on edge now, but things seem to be going a little bit better, at least. Maybe they're getting somewhere.

Moon-Willow sighs and back up, keeping herself low. "I knew we should have brought him with us." she looks at Sunshine. "Do you have the dart we found in that cage? Maybe they might recognize it."

Sunshine shakes her head, "It's with the other evidence back home…" she admits, glancing towards Ruby. She's pretty much got this in hoof, apparently. "I don't know what else we can learn here though. Maybe it's time we took our leave before one of us says something we all regret?"

Moonglow nods. "Yes, let's. Tempers seem to be running high right now.."

Moon-Willow cringes. "I'm sorry. This whole thing has got me worked up. I just cant imagine it. Foal trafficking. Its just…" She shudders at the thought of something so horrible.

Ruby huffs all huffily towards the Queen as threats are made, and she stands up straight to make sure the Queen can see her clearly. "My lady, threats will only divide us, and provide the culprits with oppurtunity. There's no need for threats or posturing." her gaze is firm and direct. "You will have /my/ help because I adore foals, and as a mother I share your pain. I don't fear you, and I won't be intimidated. I shall continue to show respect as long as respect is returned, and threats against my home and family are extremelly disrespectful - as I'm sure you'd agree." she plants her flank. "If there is anything else you can share with us - I would be happy for the additional information so we can return your little one too you."

"Your offers of help are hollow until the foal, if it is indeed only one, in your possession is returned to us," Opera says brusquely. "Until then, we are being kind with an offer of cooperation. But it does not come with kindness until we know your intentions are true."

Phantom is squinting at Ruby throughout her tirade about respect and threats and foals and help. By the end of it, once Opera speaks, Phantom nods his head in agreement. He rises from his throne! And points a hoof to the exit. "Enough! There is nothing more to be said! You will leave, and bring our foal back to us!" He nods his head slowly, his decision made. Then he sits up and points a hoof at both Night Watch and Dirge! "My most trusted guards will accompany you and ensure the safe return of our foals. They will help…but they will be watching to make sure you are acting on our best interests." He brings his hooves together in a mighty clap! "That is all!"

Opera nods and adds, "You are dismissed."

Moon-Willow stands and nods. "Alright then. Time to go get Sable. Maybe we can talk trade when all this is over."

This is all Night Watch needs to step forward, scooping up the daggers. "Come along, then." He waves a hoof to the tunnel, pausing by the entrance to take his place at the back of the group again. He's going to make sure everypony leaves peacefully.

The red-hued guard, lurking upside-down amidst the ceiling of the cavern, sighs as Phantom goes and spoils his location so readily. He drops to the floor, turning over gracefully mid-air such that he lands neatly on his hooves, and slips up to the front of the group. "Righto. Hooves to yourselves and everything will be copacetic. Let's go." He starts leading off back the way everypony came.

Ruby-Blossom stands upright. "As you wish." she points at Willow and Sunshine. "We're leaving." she takes a step then stops to take a glance over her shoulder. "Thank you for your time." She glances towards Moon-Willow - the mare she just embarrassed in front of the bat ponies.

Moonglow follows quietly. No reason to antagonize anypony further right now.

Sunshine turns to follow the group out, head lowered. That didn't go anywhere how she thought it would go.

Moon-Willow glares at Ruby. "Don't you dare say something like that again." She hisses at her, "Nocturne and I are VERY happy thank you very much."

Would agree with Sunshine - this went way better than Ruby planned. She offers Willow a big ol grin. "I know that, Willow. He values my relationship advice." A big, warm smile given to Willow. "And I certainly know who tops."

Once the ponies have been escorted outside, without much chance to split off and do any poking around of batpony stalls, shops, or other things, Sunshine breathes a deep breath. Her flank is a little sore! All that stand up, sit down, stand up… "That was stressful." she states, breaking ahead of the others to pace off some of that nervous energy she's got pent up in her two remaining legs. Trot, trot, trot, trot, trot! "We didn't even really get to ask about the campsite!"

Now that the Harbor ponies are alone again, Moonglow asks "Are they always that touchy? Batponies, I mean.."

Ruby trots along for a good several minutes - all the while keeping an eye open for any possible indications of a tail. She beams warmly "Willow, a missing foal will make any pony touchy." she glances towards Sunshine but refrains asking about the campsite for fear of somepony remembering she wasn't /there/ to start.

Moon-Willow spreads her wings and huffs. "And they still have my feather daggers. My father got those." She glances and Ruby and blushes, which is even visible with her dark fur.

"I don't know." Sunshine admits. Pace, pace, trot, trot. "I do know that if you had a bunch of foals, and they started disappearing, you'd be a little on edge too." Which is what Ruby already said, but Sunshine said it anyway. The metal-legg'd mare huffs. "I guess now we'll have to wait for Mumbo and Jumbo to start following us around to get any more info from the batponies."

Moon-Willow spreads her wings. "I'm going to get Sablemane. He needs to be returned as quickly as possible."

Ruby glances towards Moon-Willow "Well, if you want to - be my guest."

Ruby reaches back to rummage around in her saddle bag and produces a brown leather bound journal which she glances at. "You think batponies use the same written language we do?" she asks Sunshine.

Sunshine perks an ear, blinking as Moon-Willow takes off! "Uh! …oh fine. Do whatever. Maybe they'll be a little more willing to talk if you bring the foal back now." The metal mare grunts, parking her flank on the ground for a moment. Her other ear perks, and now she glances towards Ruby and her rummaging. "Do batponies… Oh /Ruby/. What did you do!"

Ruby curiously begins to flip through the journal - honestly unsure if bat ponies even write in the same language. "Umn - souvenier shop?" she replies innocently to Sunshine - because clearly Ruby isn't capable of thievery.

Moon-Willow drops her jaw. At this point shes incapable of believe Ruby is really the innocent pony she once thought. "You…you took that! How did you take that without being seen? Oh Ruby what if they notice?!!" She cringes. Oh she is SO not going to let herself be blamed for this…..

Sunshine gets an odd look. Either she was just lied to, or Ruby really snuck off to some odd gift shop to buy a book when nobody was looking. Either way Sunshine frowns. Just a little. And scoots closer to peer over Ruby's shoulder because…she's curious.

"They're still ponies. They talk our language, I believe they write in it too." she says, and lo! The book is written in pony. The first page has a date and begins with the words 'Dear Journal'.

Ruby promptly shuts the book and smiles cheerfully. "Guess I have a history report to prepare." she chimes teasingly and begins to trot back towards town.

Moon-Willow spreads her wings and takes off. Shes got a foal to return home.

Sunshine blinks. "Ruby! Wait! You better not be keeping evidence from meeeee!"