Strange House
IC date: Winter 61, 1066 AC
OOC date: February 18, 2012
PCs: Baron von Cirrus Siyana Skedaddle Mwai
NPCs: Someone… or someTHING?
GM: Rainbow Dash

Wintersong Forest - Forest's Edge

There are lots of trees here. It's chilly.

The trees here are tangled into a dense, confusing mess. There's enough space through the trees for sunlight to peek in, but not enough to navigate by. Even to experienced trackers, the trees seem to all look the same, and every turn seems to put you back where you started. What's more, the air carries a perpetual chill, all year long, that bites through even warm weather clothing.

A few rudimentary trotting paths have been marked by ribbons on the trees. On path takes you South, back to the outskirts of town, while the other takes you East toward the foothills of the White Saddle Mountains. If you're brave enough (or stupid enough) you can also venture North, deeper into the forest.

Skedaddle zips out of the gathering dark in the sky, does a graceful little barrel roll, and skids to a stop on the ground in front of Siyana. "Ahem! I went through all that workto rescue you and now you're trekking out in the wilderness at night by yourself again?"

Siyana, having been trotting happily by herself out toward the woods, lets out a squeak of surprise and dismay as Skedaddle appears LIKE MAGIC. "Uh! Uh! I was just— I just—!" she squeaks, backing up a pace.

Baron-Von-Cirrus looks up at the sky wistfully as that filly comes twirling down, and he gives his moustache an unhappy twitch. "Youth is wasted on the young," he mutters to himself, the old pegasus trotting up to the gathering group. "Hey now, hey now, what's all this then, eh?"

Mwai finishes for her, "Siyana, was just about to explain why her captain had to drop everything and come out into the wilderness looking for her." Mwai shoots her a "come on, if this is hard how are you ever going to fake out royalty" grin. "Isn't that RIGHT, Siyana."

Skedaddle's glowering look softens a little. "Hm, well I guess you're not alone anymore, anyway." She nods and waves a hoof to the Baron and the Captain.

The miniaturized zebra nudges a hoof at the ground, ears laying flat. "Well! I…I was just… I was going to gather some flowers, is all. I thought I had more time before sundown! But…" But, well, her legs are short, and she is small. Big blue-green eyes look at the surrounding adults apologetically. "Didn't mean to."

----—You +glance around the area----
Name Sex Race Age Cutiemark

Mwai M Zebra Adult The Waves
A Zebra in a Tricorn.

Skedaddle F Pegasus Adult A trio of white star
Coral pegasus with blue and orange hair.

Rainbow-Dash F Pegasus Adult Tricolor thunderbolt
A wiz / GM. Pay no attention to the pegasus!

Siyana F Zebra Child Blankflank
Little zebra with braided blue hair.

Baron-Von-Cirr M Pegasus Elder Goggles and a red sc
An amazing moustache and goggles

Baron-Von-Cirrus's bristles as he glares between the group, giving Mwai a rather troubled look. "You know it's not safe out here. Siyana, what have you been told about flying near the deep woods? Wait…did say that to you, or was it to…er…" The old pegasus' eyes go glassy for a moment, jaw working underneath his fantastic, bristley white moustache as he tries to remember.

The foothills are covered with a dusting of snow here, not too heavy today. It's far enough from town that the pegasi don't control every detail, but then, it's getting toward the end of winter anyway… Here and there are little hillocks, as might be expected in any kind of foothills, as the terrain gives way from plains to forest. The terrain rolls gently up and down until it reaches the mountains, and you can clearly see the places where little rivulets of water have, over time, carved their little paths down the hills on their way to the ocean. Trees grow along the places where brooks babble in the spring, but right now, those streambeds are just another place for snow to gather.

Now, there are rumors about the Wintersong Forest and the way it seems somehow colder than other places, but right now in the snow it all seems about the same. The trees here are sprinkled with snow and frost just the same way the farmlands are. But then, this is only the forest edge.

One of the little hillocks looks a lot like the others. It's located in a valley in a sparse clump of trees and is rather small, maybe rather little steeper than the others but otherwise quite ordinary for a two-story-high hill surrounded by hills of similar or higher heights. At least, it would be quite ordinary if not for the faintest glimmers of lights that appear upon its surface. The lights are a pale blue; not blazing, but bright enough to be easily distinguished from the moonlight. If one were to watch, one might say that they move.

Skedaddle gives the older pegasus a quizzical look, but politely doesn't interrupt him. She turns back to Siyana, "Anyway, I didn'tmean to frighten you, just wanted to make sure you weren't heading into - Hey, what's that?" Her gaze fixes on a point above Siyana's head, looking towards a hill with a flickering light. "Don't tell me someone else is gonna get stranded out in the woods tonight!"

Siyana looks over at the old baron, blinking. "Um, I can't fly, sir." As though to demonstrate, she lifts a foreleg and a backleg on opposite sides, looking back at her stripes. "I'm a zebra! I don't have wings!" She huffs, puffing her blue mane from her face, before she turns and starts to climb her hillock again. "Well, I just wanted to get some flowers, is all. Maybe…what?" She blinks, looking over and up and around. "What's what?"

Baron-Von-Cirrus says "What? Not you, the other…" The Baron looks to Skedaddle and frowns. "Cloud dash it. What's your name again, squirt?" When the two fillies turn away, he huffs. "Oh oh, I see. Playin' that game, are ya? Now lookit me when I'm talkin' to ya, squirts! C'mon now…" He looks over their heads, squinting at the hills a ways away, trying to see what they're looking at in this dim light."

Skedaddle gestures to a nearby hill with a hoof. "Look. Lights. Kinda looks a bit like the light I've seen Dusty make. Now why would he be up there?" She looks really baffled.Suddenly the old pegasus's words seem to cut through her thoughts. She shuffles her hooves like a filly herself. "Oh, sorry, Mr. Baron. I'm Skedaddle. And this's Siyana. You see the light up there right?" Probably NOT the best one to ask, but hey.

Siyana ignores the weird and unfamiliar old pegasus colt in favor of the SHINY LIGHT she sees. You know what is totally a smart idea? Running off after it. That's exactly what she does. :D

"Hmm? Oh yeah, Sky-paddle. I know who you are…" Baron waves a forehoof about vaguely. "Right, now…what were we doing?" When Siyana darts off, the elder pegasus peers afte rher. "Now where is she going?"

Mwai sighs heavily. "Oh now I'm really going to be in for it with her old man—" He runs after her.

Skedaddle boggles, repeating softly, "Sky… paddle…?" She shakes her mane and looks back up the hill. "Argh! Siyana!" She runs a few steps then takes off, flying low to the ground to try to catch up with the zebra filly. "If only you could run that fast all the time you'd get home BEFORE it got dark!"

Oh yes indeed, Siyana wants to know what the Cool! Lights! are, and she's booking it. At least the snow isn't too deep — she's not rabbiting through it right now. Instead she ignores her elders. "I bet it's fireflies! I love fireflies!"

Baron-Von-Cirrus trots after the others, high stepping through the snow, head down and grumbling to himself. "Durn kids dunno how to listen to their elders an' betters. Back in my day we had to walk fifteen mile through the…umm…" Baron realizes exactly what he's walking through, and just goes quiet for a moment as he follows the others up the hillock.

The lights flicker like candles' flames, occasionally appearing and disappearing. It seems that they're within the hill itself, or at least shining out from inside it somehow but clear as day. Something, perhaps, is under the grass of this hill. If it is a hill. It still looks more like a hill than anything else, at least from this angle, and it might be difficult to distinguish it from another one in the daytime.

The strange patch of clear dirt on one side of it, far from the farmlands of Horseshoe Harbor, is another story. It's about, oh, six meters by six meters and it's been completely cleared down to the dirt: No snow, no grass, just soil. How perfectly odd.

Mwai eyes the patch of soil suspiciously as the group catches up to Siyana. "There are two reasons I can think of for earth to be bare in a place like this, and only one of them isn't a booby trap."

Skedaddle touches down and chomps Siyana's tail. "You need a leash," she mutters through gritted teeth.

Siyana pants as she crests the hill, but she's not stopping — until she's suddenly caught! "Wha— hey!" she squeals, flailing a little. She casts around though. "Where'd they… oh! They're…in the ground?" She tilts her head and strains toward the strange hill and weird bare earth. "I wanna see," she whines.

Baron brings up the rear, wheezing loudly. "Now what in the sam hay is everyone running off after! Skedaddle, little filly, what're you doin' out here, anyways? Doncha know there's pie back in town!" Give that filly a pie. Fillies love pie.

On closer approach, the lights fade out with a rather suddenness. However, the hillishness of this particular hill is starting to give way to a kind of otherness. The side that faces the dirt patch is strangely vertical. While it's covered with moss, it looks like wood shows through from beneath. It's kind of like a cabin, but if it is one, it must be awfully ancient. Most of the surface of this structure is hard to make out, but behind a sapling it looks like there's a hole that just might be a window. It's completely black on the other side…black as a night without moon or stars.

Mwai cocks his head to the side at the now decidedly house-like hill. "Now Baron, how old would you say this settlement is?"

Skedaddle lets go of Siyana's tail, "Just… wait for us." She peers at the vaguely houselike shape looming out of the gloom. That window looks suspiciously like a cave. Skedaddle just LOVES caves. Ugh. She wrinkles her nose and fluffs out her wings. "Was the light in there? M-maybe it wasn't Dusty. We should prolly just go home."

The moment she's let go, she scampers forward a few feet…then remembers herself and resignedly trots, head sunk a little as she looks back at Skedaddle. See? Good girl. For now! But when she sees it's all suspiciously house-like she picks up speed again and skids up next to Mwai. "Oh! Oh! I want to see! Can I see, Captain? Please?"

"Eh? Settlement? Why, looks older than me, really. Can't say I've ever come across it before…" Baron snorts in the direction of those spooky houses, turning towards Mwai to jab a hoof towards the Zebra's chest. "It's not safe near the Deep Woods, young feller. Mark my words, there's bad things afoot at this place. Why, I wouldn't fly two feet off the ground around here. Best to keep your youngins away, if you know what's good for them." His wings stretch out, the left one moving a little stiffly before settling back against his body.

Mwai trots up to the structure, now ahead of Siyana, and looks into the window. "I was talking about Horseshoe… I wasn't sure how old this place is, although unless I miss my guess, this place is a lot younger…"

Skedaddle reluctantly follows Mwai and Siyana. "Eh, look, it's just a crumbly old place," she kicks at a wall for emphasis. "Everything's prolly rotten inside and the lights were probably… uhm…" wrong time of year for fireflies, too low for shooting stars… "A reflection, Yeah," she finishes lamely with drooping ears.

The wall does seem surprisingly firm, for a crumbly old place. And it echoes. A deep booming sound.

Siyana jumps at the echo and skitters a little closer to Mwai. "What, younger? It's all covered in moss, Captain! How much rum have you drank today? I think it's /really/ old. And Mister Polaris told me that Horseshoe Harbor was only forty years old or so. So I think it's really /really/ old." She starts moving a bit closer again though, hunting for a door. "What if that was a S.O.S.? What if someone is trapped?"

"Well, why didn't you say so? Yes, Horseshoe Harbor is 40 years old, founded back by a few brave wanderers that…" Uh oh, sounds like the Baron's about to monologue again.

Monologue or not! Fumbling for a door, Siyana's hooves wander across moss-covered wood that feels hard as stone. That moss is easily an inch thick…but if she's willing to get her hooves dirty, sure enough, there's a crack, and near that, a rusted handle that just might still open it. Underhoof the moss is thick, too, a sign of something other than dirt perhaps? No, just a doorstep, but thickly overgrown.

Mwai smiles knowingly at Siyana. "Yes, it's a very good one, isn't it? This, Siyana, is a smuggler's outpost, not older than two years or so! If you take a look at this window, you'll see that the wood it's made from hasn't split at all— and that moss is a dead giveaway— it's definitely been dragged in from somewhere else."

Skedaddle jumps at the booming echo, cringes, then straightens back up in a hurry and glances around quickly to see if anyone spotted her acting like a scaredycat. She gives Mwai a skepticallook, "They sure did a good job of disguising it then. Wonder what that cleared patch is for?" She sets a hoof tentatively on the bare dirt to one side.

It looks…tilled. And it's an awfully square patch. Kind of looks like a garden, except there's nothing obviously growing in it. Hard to tell if anything was planted yet, what with it being winter and all…

Siyana starts to dig at the door, though she pauses, lookin over at Mwai with BIG eyes. "Smugglers outpost?" she gasps. OHMYGOSH. "I /gotta/ see this!" And now, certain of her mission, she digs at the door with a will! And finally finds the handle, trying to open the door. "I wanna be a smug…" Pause. She sneeeeaks a look over Skedaddle and Baron's way. "…trader." Cough.

Baron's ears perk up at Mwai's stories. "Hold up…did you say smugglers??" He's all ears now, coming up beside Mwai and giving the door a piercing glare. "We've come across a den of thieves? Good work, citizen!" He clops the zebra hard on the back. "It's good of you to bring this to the attention of the law enforcement. Let's get this bad boy open and ferret out those ne'er-do-wells! Hah! It will be just like the old days…" He comes up beside Siyana, digging awkwardly at the door as well.

Mwai grins. Law enforcement is wonderful! Nobody's more easily manipulated than law enforcement! "We'll need to get anything we find inside to the mayor's office as quickly as possible of course, lest anyone make off with it before it can be catalogued."

The doorhinges are stuck with rust. At least, for a moment or two. Then, with the most ear-wrenching sound, the door suddenly begins to crrrreeeeaaaak open inward (for that is the way it opens) like the worst cabinet hinge you've ever had in your house. It's a slow process, though, and from inside the whatever-it-is, a cold draft of air washes out over the ponies who are opening the door. Naturally, leaning against the door means /entering/ the building, at least a little…

Skedaddle shivers at the creaking noise. "Uh. Maybe we should really find out if anyone's in there. They can just come on out here with us then!" she adds in a too-reasonable tone of voice. She takes a deep breath then belts out "HELLO?! ANYONE THERE?!" Loud enough to wake the whole forest. "Eheheh."

If there were any birds in the winter, they would be flapping away, cawing! But it's silent. Dead silent. And the snow means it doesn't even echo.

…Except from inside.

Siyana skitters backwards at the creak, and takes in a deep breath, looking at the adults around her. She even swallows after Skedaddle's holler. But, bravely, she puffs out her chest and steps back toward the door. For she must be a brave smuggler! For Captain Mwai!!! And with a yell, she LEAPS into the house!

Without warning, a light appears directly in front of Siyana's face! Somepony with a candle? A monster?! No. It's nothing—nothing whatsoever! It's a light floating in midair with no visible source, but whatever it may be or may not be, it starts whirling around her head. The tree close outside the window is now illuminated by pale blue light and its branches are thrown in sharp contrast to the dimly-lit snow and dark sky. The trees around the building, lit only by the light of the light inside itself, begin to feel claustrophobic. Indoors, everyone gets a brief glimpse of furniture…old, old styled furniture. Things that haven't been seen in this era, things that went out of style a hundred years ago or more…much more.

Then, a booming, howling sound kicks up…

"Mmm, yeah yeah, need to inventory the evidence. Good call, good call…I can tell you've run a sting befo—" The Baron blanches when the door creaks, cantering back. "Oh god, it's the selkies! They're rising from the deeps again! Get me my lance!" He's stumbling back now, hooves skidding and slipping in the snow. He points a hoof suddenly at Siyana. "Snipers!" And the old man throws himself on the little filly to protect her…but instead just bellyflops in the snow, falling short. "I've been hit!"

Mwai confidently surveys the eerie glowing lights. "The smugglers had at least one unicorn working with them. This alert spell might be designed to call attention to this place's discovery— but I don't think its builders are anywhere nearby…"

Skedaddle's tail puffs out like a scared cat's. Apparently pony tails can do that, who knew? She stands her ground - barely. "S-s-s-siyana? You ok?"

Siyana squeals in fear, backing swiftly out of the house with that floating light. "Evil firefly! EVIL FIREFLY!" she yelps, backing straight into Baron's face. And from there, she yells and darts over to cling to Skedaddle. "EVIL FIREFLYYYY!" she wails.

The door SLAMS shut just behind Siyana. It's a good thing she got out in time! Lights come on in all the windows, it sounds like furniture is shaking inside, and the wailing grows louder and louder—and suddenly stops.

Baron cries out when Siyana steps on his face, and he jerks up onto his feet with surprising agility, fairly launching the young filly at Skedaddle. He plants his feet wide, head swinging from side to side at all the creepy happenings. "Th' Selkies know our position! Captain! Take the civilians to ground! I'll hold them off! YA!" Rearing up onto his backlegs, he punches the air with his forelegs. "Out with it, you scoundrels! Don't think that just cause I'm a cripple I can't take all of you! I have moves you've only seen in your worst night…mares?" When the wind stops, Baron quiets, looking around in confusion. Umm…did he just go senile and imagine the whole thing again?

Mwai snorts. "Somepony clearly put a lot of effort into making this encampment look haunted. I do believe we have stumbled upon something serious— I think there may be gemstones involved."

Skedaddle's eyes get hugeand round."H-haunted?!" This didn't occur to her until mentioned, she somehow believed Mwai knew what he was talking about. Now she's not so sure. "Okayokayokay, if this place might be HAUNTED don't you think it'd be better to come back in the daytime? Ghosts hate sunlight, right? Right! So, yeah, let's all g'wan home now and get some hot cocoa…"

Siyana clings onto Skedaddle's legs. "Haunted! It's a ghost! A SMUGGLING GHOST FIREFLY!" The little filly wails in fright, huddling against the weird sounds until they abruptly stop. "Captain Mwai, I don't want to talk to ghosts!" she whimpers.

"Now hold on, young'uns…" Baron holds up a hoof for silence, looking around cautiously. "I think we mighta scared the smuggler ghosts off." His old battle instincts are tingling… Or is that his rheumatism?

Mwai looks around like he's surrounded by crazy ponies. "I said LOOK like it was haunted. These are all just cantrips— cheap magic that any unicorn with a talent for mischeif could pull off. The house itself is. Not. Haunted." As if to demonstrate, he attempts to kick the door down with his hindhooves.

A firm kick, and the door starts rattling…on its own. It keeps rattling after the kick for quite some time, and lights flicker on and off in higher-up windows.

Skedaddle hugs Siyana like a stripey teddybear at the rattling noises. "Eeee! Err, I mean, does notsound like a cantrip to me."

Siyana clings hard to Skedaddle, eyes wide as the door /keeps rattling/. She's so conflicted! Because it's /scary/ but Captain Mwai says it's fine but she's never seen magic performed without a pony nearby! ;-;

Baron turns to face-off the door, swinging hoofs at it. As it just stays there rattling though, he drops to all fours again, peering at it. "Captain…are you SURE this is a den of smugglers? This doesn't seem like their type of thing."

Mwai nods. "Certainly not typical smugglers. Whoever set all these noise-makers clearly did not want this place messed with. Which can only mean the contents are either highly valuable— or highly illegal."

Siyana squeaks as Skedaddle drops her and beats it into the air, winging away. She sits there, huddled and fearful, staring at the frightening house. "If-If-If-Iffff it's v-v-valuable w-we shhhhhould g-g-go in, r…right?"

"Hmm…valuable, you say? Noisemakers?" The Baron backs up, blinking and seeming to see that place for the first time. His moustache is bristling in the cold wind, red scarf fluttering. "Al…right, then! This is no place for young ponies to be. Look out! Here come the Old Brass-Heels!" Turning around, Baron creakily gets into place, rears back…and hits the door hard again with his back hooves.

Mwai scraches his chin with a forehoof thoughtfully. "Allright, we've established that this is a very sturdy door. And picking the lock could actively be dangerous, given what I've seen so far. So we'll just have to get a rope and pull the whole thing over. Siyana, have you ever seen a tree stump pulled?"

Siyana, sea-rat that she is, shakes her head at Mwai with wide eyes. "Is it like hauling anchor?" she asks in a quivery voice.

Mwai nods. "Yes actually it's a lot like hauling anchor, but with something big and heavy and stuck into the ground. Get enough rope and enough pulleys involved and you could pull Canterlot itself loose. This won't be half as hard."

"Neigh, sir. I have a better idea… We SMOKE the sneaky barnacles out!" Baron stamps his hoof in finality. "C'mon, let's get some wood and fire."

Siyana just stays where she is, knees shaking, a little wilted.

Mwai regards the Baron. "Alright, we'll do it your way. But if this place is uninhabited and still this well protected, we'll try the rope. I'd recommend explosives but we don't know how fragile the loot—- er, stolen goods are."

"Hmmm…I don't happen to have any on me. Neither of you happen to be just a funny colored unicorn, do you?" Baron looks between the two of them, hopefully.

Siyana shakes her head quickly. "No, not a unicorn. But…I…I dunno where to get wood or fire. Maybe we can ask a unicorn for help? Sir?"

Mwai looks around again. "Or, we could get some wood from the woods over there, and use my flint and steel? We could use a camp fire at this point anyway."

"Genius! That's why they pay you the big bucks, Captain!" Baron stomps his hoof urgently. "Well? Hop to it! C'mon, let's look likely people, and get this thing burned down! Let's find some dry wood!"

Siyana jumps and turns…and frowns. "It's been snowing. There /is/ no dry wood. Maybe we should just get some tomorrow… It'll still be here, right?"

Mwai regards the dwelling. "Yes, doubtless. But whoever owns this, and wherever they might be, they've been alerted to our presence. Swiftness WOULD be advisable."

"Hmmmf! Obstruction of justice, eh? Nature sure has quite the cojones to keep this up. Very well, onto plan B. You were saying something about rope?" Baron snorts, looking over to Mwai.