The Queen's Gambit, Part 3
IC date: Autumn 46, 1007
OOC date: Nov 6th, 2012
PCs: Brume, Muzaji, Queen-Pegasus, Rising-Chaos, Spindrift
NPCs: None
GM: Queen-Pegasus

Previously, plans had been made to set out for mysterious treasures hidden in the forest.

One might wonder how Rising slept considering she was invited (see: forced) to sleep in the Captain's Quarters; surely the smaller mare wondered such things as 'Am I going to die?' 'Does she actually like me?' 'I'm going to die, aren't I?'. Alas, no such evils occured during the night, and morning might as well be Hearthwarming's for Rising as she's presented with the element to study to her heart's content. The taller mare circling Rising curiously as she works; either curious or waiting for Rising to slip-up so punishment can be doled out!

Rising-Chaos is experiencing mixed emotions at the moment. On one hoof, she isn't dead, which she's always considered to be a bonus. On the other, she has no idea how long that state of affairs will continue, which is bothersome. She's set up a miniature lab up on the deck of the Vanity to study the element. Being engrossed in study helps her take away from those uncertainties, even with the Queen pacing around her. She's spread half a dozen books around her on the deck and is so far, rather excited with her findings, what a magnificent artifact!

Muzaji probably didn't need to be up -this- early, but the zebra was all the same due to time being a rather limited commodity for this day. All the same she emerged from the ramshackle beginnings of a shop on the boardwalk, saddlebags and hidden pockets of her cloak loaded with the various things for the expidition into the forest. Now she just had to wait for the mysterious wanderers to meet her, and they could get this madness over with.

Queen comes to a stop behind Rising and leans over her shoulder until her own cheek brushes that of the smaller mare's - Queen completely invading Rising's personal space. "Anything of intrest, dear?" her tone confident with a hint of sweetness - which is liable to make it all the scarier considering how unpredictable the Captain of the Pegasi Pirates is. The deck is mostly abandoned aside from a sizable heater stuffed with wood and fixed in place with heavy chains atop of a ceramic tile. It keeps the whole area where Queen and Chaos 'work' quite comfy.

Rising-Chaos almost doesn't notice the intrusion until the Queen's cheek brushes against her own, making her jump a bit. She nods enthusiastically, bringing up her notepad. "Oh yes, it's amazing!" she replies. She shows Queenie the notepad filled wiht all sorts of technical drawings and formulae. "The element is simply the mot powerful and concentrated magic I've ever seen, I'm learning so much." She beams, about to go back to her work, before remembering herself. "Thank you for the opportunity to study this my Queen."

Chaos puts the element in a small iron holder, then prods it with her magic. The result is a small cloud of magic dust flying away as the spell is ineffective. "Simply fascinating."

After a few moments a zebra head pokes up past where the gangplank leans up to the deck. "Hello? Morning? Arrr?" Guess Muzaji came over to poke the 'neighbors' a bit while waiting for her to-be questing companions.

Queen-Pegasus can't help but chuckle as if the entire situation is oh-so amusing. At least she's chuckling until the zebra interrupts - single blue eye darting the direction of the zebra mare; a smile crossing her lips. "I'd suggest you mind your manners - they do have manners where you come from yes?" The taller, far more imposing mare standing straight before patting Rising on the head. She trots towards the gangplank "I'm confidient you've failed to acquire your end of our bargin as of yet, so praytell why am I looking your face?

Rising-Chaos is interrupted in her research by the zebra, causing a moment of panic while she stops her current, time sensitive, experiment. She looks over, her head patted by Queenie to see Muzaji peeking her head above the gangplank. Knowing how imposing the Queen can be when riled up, she jumps in. "Perhaps she is here to ask me about my research of the place? It is information that may be able to help them find it more easily, after all," she offers, giving Muzaji a little smile.

"For one, there is no door to knock on, and I've heard stomping deck planks is actually bad luck so it wouldn't make a good substitution." Despite the harshness of the pirate queen's demeanor Muzaji is aptly casual about the whole matter. "And only because it's not something than be bought or sold." Or stolen, she adds to herself mentally as she snickers. When Rising chimes in she nods her head a bit. "That as well, my good captain. The map is grand and all, but it tells us little about the place we're going into, so any additional information would certainly help the expedition for your precious desire."

Queen-Pegasus chuckles loudly - seemingly quite amused as she plants her flank on the deck. "I'll tell enough you - I wouldn't want you to get any ideas about taking what's mine; I'm a very unforgiving mare." wing spreading and coming to touch gently on Rising's back; whom has been completely forgiven even if Rising has her doubts. "The box is located in some ruins, deep in the forest; ruins of an empire that pre-date our own." her grin seems to broaden as she hints at details of something less known. "Most ponies are content to live their lives with the knowledge they're given, why question the past when the present is all sunshine and lillies, yes?

Rising-Chaos nods along with the Queen's desription. "That is certainly true, I wouldn't expect any trouble at the ruins themselves. Still it's best to be careful, who knows what the past has left behind." After all, she muses to herself, if you die then I'll be sent in after you. Queen's statement of being an 'unforgiving mare' coupled with the soothing gesture only serve to confuse Chaos further. She wisely keeps her mouth shut about digging into the past, it's part of her job to do so, after all.

Oh the zebra is prepared. There's even a saber tucked in the straps of her saddlebags under her cloak. Does she even know how to use that? What sort of 'trader' is this striped mare? At some of the implications in those words though Muzaji just dismisses it with the wave of a hoof. "Oh fear not Captain, what you want is what you will have." Then pauses a moment as she looks off to the side thoughtfully. "Ruins, hmmm…" However, any -other- treasure that mayhap there may be to find. "Tsk. Some ponies just don't know what potentially lies out there…"

Queen-Pegasus chuckles softly. "You're welcome to anything aside from the box, and it's contents. I strongly suggest you refrain from /attempting/ to open the box if you value your life. Opening the box could prove potentially fatal, and you certainly won't have to worry about my wrath if you do." her grin broadening as she glances towars Rising. "Rising, dear. Can you tell me the origins of life magic?"

Rising-Chaos is caught completely off guard by the question. she stutters for a moment over her answer. "The origins of them? No more than I could tell you the origins of life itself my Queen," she pauses, sure that isn't satisfactory. "I can tell you that every living thing is a source of life magic, and it's everywhere. The art of using it took a long time to master, and even now it's not the best studied form of magic," she explains evenly, slipping into lecture mode for a moment. She looks Muzaji up and down, seeing the equipment prominent on the zebra. "You certainly look prepared Muzaji, but don't dally, it's not an easy journey or a short one, you wouldn't want to miss your deadline would you?"

Muzaji grins a bit at that. She didn't even have to ask! Or Queenie knows how to encourage… cooperation. She is a pirate captain after all. She rubs her chin with a forehoof. "This little quest may be worth the risks after all…" She doesn't really care why the wanderers want that trinket so badly, but if there's a potential for her own profit in this. "But of course, but of course. To dwaddle would be without remorse." To which she glances back towards the docks to see if her companions to be have arrived yet.

Queen-Pegasus grins ear to ear. "The origins of life magic are conveniently forgotten - ponies tend to forget dark truths in place of colorful lore and superstition." That lone blue eye darting between Muzaji and Rising. "No life-using magic pony would ever want to admit the origins of life magic are as dark as Nighmare Night itself. You really think ponies simply had whimiscal and wonderful ideas about life, and how to help other ponies?" a boisterous laugh. "There was only one way to study life, to take it." a broad down-right mad grin now present. "A single unicorn obsessed with life killed countless ponies to unlock the secrets of life magic. The mare's story lost to history along with the true orgins of life magic." she pulls a small book out of seemingly nowhere, and hands it to Rising. "Of course, all her discoveries were kept - the very foundation for the life magic ponies love so much~." Sounding quite excited at the prospect of airing the dirty laundry of the 'purest' magic.

Rising-Chaos is flustered, what Queenie said shattering so much of what she believed. She shakes her head, unwilling to believe it. She kicks her notepad away in frustration. It hurts her that all of her hard work had been spent studying something spawned by a monster. She finds herself believing Queen Pegasus, Chaos is fairly confident the Queen wouldn't lie just to see her squirm. She just looks down at the deck, mind racing at all that this could mean for her.

Queen-Pegasus twirls one hoof in a small circle beside her head. "Naturally orgins of what we know and love are often quite different than those we want to believe, and I doubt you could come up with a more logical explination than the truth I've just shared. That is unless you want to believe Celestia shot magical life-giving rainbows from her flank?" One large wing again coming to rest against Rising - who's entire discipline has just been ruined; and still queen offers the small leatherbound book. "Of course the pony who committed such atrocities has long since paid her dues. She committed great evil, and brought great good into the world in doing so. Of course…" that single blue eye falling to Rising. "One shouldn't focus solely on the orgin; after all no pony is intrested in the origin of an evil pirate when that pirate is killing and plundering. Life magic is the same - it's not the same as it's origin." Were those words of comfort for Rising's benefit!?

Muzaji meanwhile has scooted in a bit to peer over Queen's shoulder at the book. "You don't say? Abiet, not much of a surprise. Sometimes to find light, one must walk through the darkness." She's taking the concept a lot better than poor Rising did… but then again, zebras tend to dabble in the sorts of things normal ponies avoid.

Queen-Pegasus chuckles "Exactly." eye darting back to Muzaji. "Light gives way to darkness, and darkness to light. To embrace life is to acknowledge death - they are one and the same." her grin broadening once more. "Ponies have an affinity for life, and embrace it. Life magic is a wonderful thing when one understands death, and does not obsess with only the life."

Rising-Chaos slowly comes out of her sulk, though she certainly doesn't seem happy. A closer examination may reveal, anger? She takes the book from Queenie's grasp and recovers her notepad with ehr magic. A look up at Queen Pegasus shows a kind of determined smile on Chaos' face. "You are, of course, correct my Queen. What does the origin matter compared to what we make of it now?" She lays the book down near her others, and flips her notepad back to the correct page. Her eyebrow perks up at the philosophical discussion going on. "Understanding the entire spectrum of study is important," she offers hesitantly. "Though one should always concern themselves with where they would like to acquire their power, while being aware of both sides." She doesn't quite look recovered, but the shock seems to have given way to something else entirely.

Muzaji merely chuckles a bit as the pursuit of her knowledge snaps Rising out of her funk quickly. Typically geek.

Queen-Pegasus continues to grin even as she rests her wing on Rising in a comforting manner. "The orgin may be blemished, but it's worth is determined by what one does the magic. So don't be discouraged, my little pet." Was that affection? A Dash of Dreams, with a pinch of affection? "I'm assuming you're smart enough to figure out this story has something to do with your little field trip. Allow me to emphasize - don't get curious; it will be the end of you.

Rising-Chaos stays quiet, mulling over everything she's just learnt. She begins to write in one f her notebooks, copletely absorbed by a new train of though. A look of determination on her face as she delves once again into her research. So much so that she barely notices the concillatory gestures. Chaos has some things to think on and figure out, and they will not be easy. This is something far more important than some silly expedition.

This is research. Chaos move back to her lab and is soon busy with the element. She'll probably be like this for the rest fo the day if you let her. The book Queenie gave her is opened and added to the references sprawled around her.

Well this has proven to be an interesting morning, and they haven't even started the trip yet. Muzaji glances upwards a moment, as if gauging the time by the early sunlight. "I do believe it's time, best I go to keep my companions in line." She sweeps a foreleg and bows to Queen. "It has been a pleasure, Captain. Later we shall return with trasure obtained." The zebra turns and hurries off the ship, the mysterious ones should be here to start the expedition shortly."

The Zebra's timing is good. She has about 30 seconds after reaching the docks before Spindrift and Brume round a corner to the south and approach. They're bundled up and look ready for an adventure, wearing heavy hooded cloaks and saddlebags both, in addition to Brume's characteristic bundled instrument. Brume's voice carries far along the docks, as he sings a song about mornings. Specifically, forests in the mornings, and how majestic the trees rise into the air. A few sailors milling about snicker appreciatively at the implications, and the seafoam bard turns to bow at them as the two pass by.

Spindrift is predictably no-nonsense, approaching Muzaji at a brisk clip, and ignoring the eccentricities of her companion. "Muzaji," she says. "Good morning. You are ready?" Her gaze flicks to the nearby Vanity, but thankfully, she doesn't seem to have noticed the Zebra leaving the ship. It portends a day filled with simmering suspicion rather than outright distrust.

Brume grins and waves to Muzaji from over Spindrift's shoulder.

Queen-Pegasus calls out from the Bow of the Vanity while waving one hoof. "Have a wonderful trip. Try not to die until you get back~" a momentary pause "Actually it's okay if only one of you try, preferably the Zebra!" Uplifting mare that one is.

One cheerful and the other stoic. Everything seems to be in order here. "Morning my friends, and indeed. No muss, no fuss, and adventure awaits us." Muzaji is in a chipper enough mood, despite the oh so many horrible implications hung over this matter. She's loaded in saddlebags and knicknacks, and even a saber tucked somewhere under that cloak. An ear twitchs at Queen's calling, gold hoops jingling faintly. "Pay her no mind, less we get in a bind. As the agreement states, the forest awaits."

Spindrift glances at him, then nods to Muzaji, and starts making her way north towards the exit of the town and the forest beyond. Brume follows, but not before turning towards the boat and waving a hoof expansively. "And thank you for your well-wishes, your Majesty! Surely your benediction is like the warmth of the sun on a cold winter morning!" He blows her a theatrical kiss before scampering off after his associates.

Typically the chilly forest is breeming with pony-devouring spiders and wolves, and now zombies are in the mix - this is going to be a very intresting little adventure indeed! At least that what everypony thinks until two hours pass without any real incident save for Brume's occasional comment or action that manages to get a rise out of Spindrift. By now the trio are deep in the forest with it's bitter cold drawing warmth from their bodies - Muzaji is leading the trio the right direction according to the map…

Maybe the map actually avoids the most infested areas? Or they've just gotten lucky. Muzaji isn't going to concern herself over things proceeding without major incident yet. Even if the lack of incident in itself is somewhat unnerving. Every so often the zebra stops briefly to double-check the map, as she is now. "So here we are, following a pirate's map to a supposedly forgetton treasure in the middle of no pony's land…. it almost sounds -too- cliche…." Can't have an adventure without a little lampshade hanging.

While Spindrift has been following close behind, checking the map whenever Muzaji does, watching the Zebra closely and not being especially conversational, Brume has been enjoying the stroll, sharing assorted selections of a vast array of songs- only SOME of which are about scandalous subjects, in fact- and letting the ladies do all the thinking. He hasn't been entirely disengaged, however- at a word from Spindrift, on several occasions, he's altered his song, making the unseen shift to the sort of magic music that gathers malleable arcane forces around him. Not once has Spindrift had to channel that energy into some sort of defensive assault, though… and she seems to be sort of irritable because of it.

"Too cliche, and so far, too easy," says Spindrift, squinting at the map. "If it were going to be this simple, she would have sent some of her goons long ago." She shakes her head slowly and looks up into the forest, and down the path ahead of them, as she reaches up to draw her dull grey cloak closer. "None of this is making sense so far."

Brume clucks his tongue and, with a deft swing of a hoof, knocks a frost-encrusted pine cone between a pair of saplings at a fair distance away. Goal! "I swear, Spindrift. You could stumble across a pile of dropped bits in the street and by the time you got done asking everybody who dropped them and why, they'd already have been scooped up by someone less worried about everything."

Upon closer inspection the map /must/ be a fake as it shows a waterfall in the middle of the frozen forest with clear instructions 'follow' the sound of the water fall once heard. A brief lull in the covnersation might alert a more perceptive pony to the sound of a waterfall; a waterfall deep in a forest that will freeze a pony to death overnight - that is strange to say the least.

"Paranoid, prehaps, but your friend does have a point," Muzaji replies as she looks up from the map. "It says there should be a… waterfall nearby? But we're nowhere near where there would be higher ground for water to flow from." Maybe Queen really is trying to set them up… or maybe just her mooks too stupid to find the clue that prehaps the seaponies will have better luck with due to being so familiar with water. Not that we know they are seaponies, of course.

The Mysterious Wanderers are quite familiar with water, but it's not like they can just *smell* it or something. Fortunately, in the moment of silent bewilderment that follows Muzaji's observation- Spindrift slowly gazing about, and Brume doing the same, as he figures they are now lost enough that he'd better start actually trying to help- the sound of the waterfall drifts through the trees. Spindrift turns to gaze in that direction, ears perked. "Perhaps it is a river emptying into a chasm or somesuch," she notes, before indicating the direction with a little upward swing of her chin and setting off.

The sounds of cascading water grow louder as the trio set-off follow the sound - there's no worry about breaking away from established trails as there really aren't any. The water grows louder and louder, and louder until the trio wander into a large clearing with several large tree's clustered together in the center. The trees of abnormal size but not a waterfall to be seen; but were it any louder the trio would be swimming.

Muzaji follows the indicated direction, but it just turns to a bit of a frown as they find the -sound- of a waterfall but not any actual water it would seem. "Prehaps I spoke too quick," mutters the zebra. "However, those trees are unusual as well, are they not?" She stares for a long moment, but then as a thought comes to mind looks to the other two ponies. "Do you think we could of found, something that is located…. underground?"

The two Mysterious Wanderers split up, then. Spindrift takes towards the cluster of trees in the center, curious to see if there's anything there in the middle of them, while Brume slowly begins to wander the edge of the clearing, head tilted back as he sweeps his gaze from the canopy to the ground and back again. At length, Spindrift looks back at Muzaji with a frown. "If so, the pirate should have told us to bring shovels."

Spindrift's inspection of the large trees bears fruit as it were: the sound of water particularly loud when she rounds the cluster - almost as if it were echoing. Thickly grown vines and brnaches conceal a small tunnel leading downwards and towards the sound of running water - cutting away the vines and branches will reveal crumbling stone architechure under the roots of the overgrown trees.

Spindrift gestures everybody over once she notices this, of course.
Muzaji trots over. "Well now, what is this? A hidden way in this mess?" She flicks aside her cloak to grab the handle sticking out of the straps of her saddlebags with her mouth, and withdraws the saber tucked within. Looks down her nose at it for a moment. "Tsk, now I wish I had brought the machete instead." Shrugs her shoulders and slash slash slashs at the overgrowth. Ruins, just like Queen said…

Clearing the branches reveals the downwards path, and helps the sound of rumbling water permiate the air. Crumbling stairs and dirt lean downwards in a gentle slope descending into darkness - darkness!

As Brume draws near, he observes as the passageway is cleared, then smiles. "Promising," he says.

Spindrift narrows her eyes. "But it could be a red herring. If it deviates much from the map the perhaps we've just found an entirely different mystery in the forest." She pauses a moment, before turning to dig about in her saddlebag. Without much trouble, she produces a pendant- it appears to be a pearl in a tanished silver setting, suspended from a chain of the same. She slips it around her neck and settles it in place, then touches a hoof to it. The pearl begins to emit a soft glow… not much of one, but against the shadows of the forest, and especially against the darkness of the cavernous slope, it's bright enough. She starts forward, then, without any hesitation.

Brume watches her go, then smiles to Muzaji, gesturing forward. "After you."

The path is comfortably large for a pony to pass through with the occasional spot that requires Brume to duck his head; one has to wonder if he'll even want to collect the Element after all the bonuses of this trip! Deeper, and deeper the path descends into the earth for a full ten-minutes before trio come into a dark, moist cavern (Brume's favorite type appearently). The light of the pendant does little to light the cavern but the rumbling of the waterfall couldn't be more distinct - clearly they've found the water fall. Speaking of cliche - the map clearly shows a bright red little X /behind/ the water fall; so down the narrow, crumbling ledge it is!

"I don't think it's a deviation," Muzaji muses as they pick their way down the sloping path. "The map clearly said waterfall. So if there -is- one down here…" Of course she's got insider information, but she's not wanting to give away she knows that finding ruins is on the right track and reveal she's been associating with the pirates on her own just yet.

"And there it would be. Cliche yes, but still a sight to see." She tucks the saber back under the straps and pulls the map out once more, unfurling it between her hooves. "And speaking of cliche." She points at the waterfall. "Behind the falls, the X lies. But that narrow ledge is much to despise."

Spindrift doesn't go TOO far, slowing up when the route starts to get narrow. The two of them have tall, narrow builds and a sureness of step that would suggest they might not have a problem negotiating tricky passages, but Spindrift apparently has something in mind. "Brume," she says, lifting her pendant.

Brume nods, and settles, lifting his voice in a little wordless song. Well, wordless isn't entirely inaccurate- there are "las" and "de das." If one is particularly attentive they may notice the occasional "shoo" or possibly a "doo."

It's just a little song, for just a little magic, and Spindrift channels it into her glowing pearl. Normally it's just something to read a book by, but suitably powered, its glow raises, hopefully illuminating more of the cavern. Spindrift tries to get an idea of how deep the cavern goes- and how extensive its walls are. Is there any sort of ground down near the base of the waterfall, or does it empty straight into a pool at the bottom of the cavern?

A sheer twenty foot drop from where the ponies come out, down to a decaying stone floor where the waterfall spills out into a channel leading away from the passage; the ceiling rises another to a crumbling stone roof with large roots sewn in between the stone blocks. The water itself sparkles brilliant and seems to reflect the light - brightening the entirity of the large chamber - filled with cobwebs and dust!

"That… sure is a long way down," Muzaji overstates the obvious

Spindrift wastes no time in proceeding downward, though as she does, the glow begins to wane. It's hard to walk and channel at the same time.

Brume's song soon ceases as Spindrift stops boosting the glow of the pearl beyond its little reading-light glimmer. Soon the pair reach the floor down below, looking around slowly, and move with careful steps over the damp stone floor. Spindrift's attention turns towards the passage where the water exits; Brume instead regards the waterfall from a distance.

"Helloooooooo," he soon says, in his best, most handsome voice. "Any horrible monsters lurking hereabouts?"

No horrible monsters answer - but there is the chitter of spidery legs to be had! Spiders are never a good thing - 9/10 sea ponies agree; spiders are like smooshing two Star-Fish together - Star-Fish that want to suck out your insides.

Fortunately, while she may not be as lithe and dainty as her companions, Muzaji has spent enough time on sailing ships in her line of work to be nimble of hoof when need be. Or maybe she's just being extra cautious. Either way it takes her a bit longer, but she gets to the bottom as well. Just in time to roll her eyes breifly at Brume. "If there are, I doubt they would give away a perfectly good ambush by answering that." Even as she's going to draw her cutlass again. Just in case. Just in case.

A single, lone spider no bigger than a golf ball drops right onto Spindrift's nose…

Brume flashes Muzaji a grin. "Come now, perhaps they're in a sporting mood. Wouldn't that be quite a surpriiIIIIIEEEEK!" The stallion leaps back and draws his forelegs up against his chest in shock at the spidery ambush!

Spindrift crosses her eyes and stares the spider down. With a little toss of her head she sends it into the drink. Two legs good, four legs irritating, eight legs get the heck out of here. Striding forward, she then goes to stick her head around the waterfall and peer behind it- or stick her head through the water if there's no convenient way to look around.

Brume calms down, clearing his throat, and smooths out his cloak.

*plink* The tiny spider goes into the drink - a poor, innocent life lost; oh no wait it's totally okay! The water giving way as a single leg raises slowly from the water and sets down beside Spindrift - a leg the size of a small tree; then another, and well 6 more before the body of the giant beast raises from the swirling pools. That tiny spider is now the size of a small house and it's glaring at Spindrift with numerous eyes and an enraged little chitter.