The Queen's Gambit, Part 5
IC date: Autumn 46, 1007
OOC date: November 9, 2012
PCs: Brume, Muzaji, Queen-Pegasus, Rising-Chaos, Spindrift
NPCs: None
GM: None

Spindrift, Brume and Muzaji return from an expedition in the forest, a mysterious artifact in hand...

Last time on Mighty Morphin Power Ponies! The ponies acquired the uber-creepy cube wanted by the uber-creepy and evil Queen Pegasus! The only obstacle between acquiring the Element of Harmony and quest completion is the Winter Song Forest - and aside from the occasional zombie; there was not great challenge. This brings our heroes to back to Horseshoe Harbor where the quest can be turned in for XP and cookies!

Aboard the Vanity Rising-Chaos is no doubt hard at study - soaking up every last moment she can spend with the Element; all the while Queen hovers about - not particularly disturbing but certainly /there/.

There are zombies about. It's dangerous. Best to stick together, right? Surely that is why Spindrift and Brume follow Muzaji rather closely- right? Certainly. Wouldn't want anybody to get separated from the group, after all, and possibly scamper back to the Vanity by themselves, or possibly outpace their companions in the winding ways of the woods. That would be bad. You're sure to be zombie-bait if that's what you do. So of course the Zebra will not mind being closely tailed by Spindrift and Brume, who are just as concerned with her- that is, her well-being!- as they are their surroundings. Even when they leave the forest- zombies could be out on the plains, after all- and enter the town. It's getting close to evening, you see- could be zombies anywhere.

Queen-Pegasus is quiet content to watch Rising watch - perhaps overly so; the taller mare circling the smaller mare on occasion, and fluttering over head on even briefer occasion - perhaps a like an owner watching their new kitten play with a toy.

Muzaji has such a lovely flank to… oh wait you mean the literal tailing don't you? Though with Brume it could really be either. Or both. None the less it's a good thing the drifters are keeping up, because Muzaji is really eager to get back to town. Because zombies suck. Also because she wants to get their swapping over with so she can slip off to her shop and go through her own haul that she subtly plucked from those ruins as well. "There lies the harbor, a welcomed sight; we yet shall make it before this night! This endeavour won once the trade is done."

Oh hay! A small horde of about a half dozen zombies shamble in front of the group - failing to notice the trio who nears the edge of the forest; well at least into one of zombies head falls off and rolls back into the trail prompting the zombie to groan in garbles and chomp at the air. The remaining five zombies and one headless body spill out onto the trail for a little snack.

(OOC) Rising-Chaos: I am assuming it's evening, yes?
(OOC) Queen-Pegasus: Closing on dusk - the deadline, yes =3
(OOC) Queen-Pegasus: Couldn't have the heroes make it with due time.

"Cleverly phrased," says Spindrift in dry tones. "Be mindful of the pirate, however. I don't doubt she'll attempt something underhanded before the deal is done."

Brume clucks his tongue and looks up from admiring Muzaji's stripes. "Perhaps we've pegged her all wrong, Spin," he suggests. "Maybe she's just like you- honorable and with terrible, terrible people skills."

"She tried to shoot you in the head."

"Oh… well." Brume considers, then brightens. "It could have been worse! She could have tried to shoot my fabulous, fabulous flank."

Spindrift rolls her eyes and is about to say something biting when the zombies shuffle into the way. She sighs as she and Brume come to a stop. Brume immediately settles into a little humming tune, adding a few lilting bird whistles for effect, as Spindrift digs about in her saddlebag with the irritable distractedness of somoene trying to find a cough drop rather than, you know, a weapon to fight the undead hordes with.

Rising-Chaos is deep in concentration, the mysteries provided by the element occupying her full attention. By now she has stacks of books surrounding her and her small lab has gone through several incarnations. She takes a moment to look at the darkening sky and sighs. She won't have the element for much longer at this rate. Still, she's gained so much useful information from the element, it's no big loss. She gives Queenie a smile as she comes aroudn again, so sense in making the quite insane mare who made this possible think you are unappreciative.

Bumbling, shambling corpose creatures descend upon the trio of would be hero-snacks while bitting and licking at nothing in particular as if deceased stand-ins for Mr. Ed. Each step bring the group close to Brume, Spindrift, and Muzaji - certainly that one looks tasty, it's like a rare imported delicacy. Even that decapitated pony head manages to roll itself close by pushing off with it's tongue!

Back on the Vanity: Queen lands beside Chaos and leans down until she completely invades Rising's personal space, and then gives the smaller mare an affectionate nuzzle. Wether truely affectionate or a 'Kiss of Death'; Rising is surely left to wonder. "I hope this little trinket was everything you had hoped.

"So close and yet so far," Muzaji almost literally skids to a stop as zomponies shamble onto the trail in front of them. Then takes a couple of short steps so she's not in front of the two other equines. "Now would be a good time for more of your strange magic earth ponies shouldn't be able to do." After which she grabs her cutlass and draws it, abiet more as a defense should the trotters get close to her. She's got the box and stashed treasure, she's certainly not going to charge into the middle of it foolishly.

"Stand back," says Spindrift, looking up. Whether or not she finds what she's looking for in her bags, she doesn't seem to have pulled anything out. Brume is twittering away beside her, and with the way the early winter evening drinks in the light here in the forest, it's hard to see that telltale bubble of force that builds around him, but it's there. If you care. Most people are probably watching the zombies. Spindrift eyes the forest to either side of the path critically in the meantime.

Eventually she finds what she's looking for, and lifts a hoof, extending it off towards the forest, waiting. The zombies shuffle- or tongue- their way closer. Brume's song reaches the end of a verse. Spindrift narrows her eyes. Rather abruptly, then, she swings her hoof inward as a conductor might direct an orchestra.

The trunk of a dead tree vaults from the brush beside the path and sweeps across it, cutting through the zombie crowd. With any luck it will carry most of them with it and out of the way.

Spindrift rolls 1d20 (Step aside) — Result: 14 | Sum: 14

The Zombpies would certainly be surprised; had they the mental capacity to be such. The apparently zombie-tree sweeps across the path taking all the zombies with it! The shambling horde hurled unceremoniously into the woods where what's left of their bodies attempt to get back up - what was it they were doing again? It's about this moment Spindrift feels a soft gnawing on her hoof as the the dead head managed to avoid the tree-trunk due to diminutive stature - sadly being a head limit's it's gnawing options to Spin's foot…which it finds strangely salty.

Rising-Chaos blushs as she's nuzzles by Queenie, not expecting the attention. Also it worries her that Queen Pegasus has been treating her so well, she is sure this can only mean bad things in the future. After all, if she was being super nice to a pony it would be for personal gain. Still, it's nice to pretend. Also it's nice to have Queenie be nice to her, even if it's temporary. "It is beyond anything I could have imagined my Queen, thank you."

"That's certainly one way to branch out."And it's the bodiless head attempt to chomp on Spindrift's hoof that Muzaji stabs her saber into to return the favor. Hopefully. Moreso to get rid of it than actually kill the dang thing, because it's debatable it even as a brain left to stab at this point, right?

Muzaji rolls 1d20 (Stabbity?) — Result: 1 | Sum: 1

(OOC) Rising-Chaos: don't cut yourself
(OOC) Muzaji hahas. I burned all my dice luck last scene

Spindrift snaps her hoof back just in time to avoid getting poked by Muzaji's saber. She peers down with an arched eyebrow to see there is also a zombie head there. Swinging her foot back in, she punts it like a soccer ball into the bushes… opposite the direction its body was swept in. She ain't even gonna roll because she stone cold don't give a buck. Zombies out of the way, she resumes her forward march towards the forest edge; Brume whistles a little victory fanfare and pursues her, soon shifting his tune to a little jaunty ballad suitable for carefree travel over the open road. Which this isn't.

By this time the sun has begun to set on the horizon - the incident was a minor delay, but seemingly sufficient enough to put a crunch on the ponie's deadline as the group still needs to make it to town, and down to the docks before the dusk per their agreement with Queen.

Queen on the other hand can't help but chuckle softly as she plants herself behind Rising - intent on letting the little dear get the most out of ther time with the element. "I understand you've a small home in town, yes?" Clearly the mare knows the answer - yet she asks the question.

It all serves the same purpose in the end. Though Muzaji does give Brume a brief look for the out of fitting type of music as they keep on their way. They still got a deadline to make with their prize, after all.

"Evening approaches," says Spindrift, master of the obvious. "We must hurry. Come." She then breaks into a gallop. Brume does as well, his stringbean build lending an exagerated, loping air to his galloping steps. Spindrift glances back over her shoulder frequently, keeping an eye on Muzaji.

Rising-Chaos gets bakc to work, eager to do her last few experiments. "Yes, I have a small house in town where I live with my assistant. It's miraculous it didn't get burned down with the rest of town." she lifts the Element up and gives it a thorough cleaning, leaving it in better condition than when she got it.

Muzaji has little trouble keeping up, zebras are excellent runners after all… well, for the most part. She's lagging behind a little more than usual, but it's been a long trek and everything. That's likely the reason. Right?

The crest of the sun steadily sinks lower and lower as the trio rush through the outskirts. A broken down wagon blocking their way in town and forcing the trio to take a detour that adds several more minutes to their pressing schedule. All about town the laterns are hung and lit, and darkness creeps from the shadows; filling the streets. By the time the trio manages the climb the gangplank the last hint of sun sinks behind horizon - moments before hoof is step foot on deck of The Vanity!

Soon the trio are rounding the bend, galloping towards the Vanity and its harborage. Spindrift is raising her voice as soon as they are within earshot. As someone who spends a lot of time telling other people what to do, she has developed a shouting voice that easily cuts across the remaining distance. "Queen Pegasus! We have returned with that which you seek!"

Brume gallops along close behind, slowing up only when they near the ship itself.

They don't actually set foot on the gangplank, merely skidding to a stop at the base of it. "Queen Pegasus!" shouts Spindrift, again, glancing irritably at the sunset, then back up at the ship.

And Muzaji brings up the rear, looking her fair share of worn out even as she turns purple eyes up towards the deck and raises her voice "Captain come, to your pleasure; we have returned with the sought treasure!" Then adds something under her breath about quest givers never being where you left them for some reason.

Sunset has brought a reasonable amount of laziness with it as Queen can be found lounging on her favorite reclining chair with a unicorn-powered heat-lamp overhead. A lazy glance from her single blue eye is accompanied by the astonishingly correct observation. "You're late." Rolling to a sitting position much against her will. "Delivery by sunset was the agreement, was it not?" That single blue eye glancing towards Rising.

"I can't in good conscience adhere to a deal when the terms have been violated." eye drifting back to the trio of would-be adventeurs. "However I am feeling generous, and may be inclined to listen to reason." While a bitter berry, she /is/ right.

Rising-Chaos sighs as the adventurers returns, and begins to pack up the lab. As Queenie makes her very valid point, she stops. Raising an eyebrow, Chaos ponders the implications of this. There is no way this can end well.

Spindrift's face briefly curls into a frown and she almost rolls her eyes- almost- briefly glancing up and to the side before bringing her attention back to the ship. She still does not touch the gangplank. "You sent us to fetch something. We have it. If you still want it, it is yours for the terms previously agreed to. It will not be yours, otherwise." She eyes the sunset for a moment. "And the terms w-"

BRUME INTERRUPT. He steps in front of Spindrift, who is brought up short with frown. "Your esteemed Queen Pegasus!" he says, bowing low, sweeping a leg out before him. "I -do- apologize for our lateness. We hastened as best we could, I assure you- but we dared not go SO quickly as to endager the treasure you asked us to retrieve. Our return trip was fraught with peril of the undead variety, you see… and it would simply not do to deliver your prize to you in a damaged condition. Indeed, you may find it as pristine and glorious as you anticipated!" Nevermind he never actually saw what it was…

Muzaji, on the other hoof, was already to just turn around and go home. She got what she wanted out of the trip, after all, now would be a good time to just slip off… but then Brume goes to interrupt what would probably been a wonderful distraction of a fight like the big lovable doofus he is. Gold hoops jingle a bit as her ears flick back, and with a somewhat relenting sigh the zebra turns to watch how this turn of events plays out.

She -could- try to bargain with the pirate queen herself… but that would involve revealing things she doesn't wish to reveal unless necessary.

Queen-Pegasus dismissively waves one hoof from Rising towards the trio. "Be a dear - inspect what they've brought, but do be careful I'd hate to lose you." So she says. "Late is late, and I'm afraid that I'll require some compensation for my time. It's not as if I've simply time to lounge about, and soak in the warmth of heat-lamps." That is EXACTLY what she has time for! The mare tapping a hoof against her chin. "Perhaps your stripped friend, Muzaji; should discuss this matter with me, yes? She is the business type yes - surely she can think of something to offer." eye once again falling on Rising. "I'm sure there's something /you/ want; what is it? Tell the stripped, I'm sure she has it.

Rising-Chaos nods and gets to her hooves. she moves over to the group and give Brume and Muzaji a smile, simply nodding at Spindrift. "Let' have a look, shall we?" she says, her voice a finely crafted happy tone. She ponders the question of what she wants, unable to think of something on such short notice.

Brume draws back, a little miffed that his ploy didn't work. Is he not charming enough? It must be the hair. He reaches up to smooth it back and glances out across the docks.

Spindrift says nothing, emotions once more mastered, focus instead on options, possibilities, threats and escape plans; her face is a flinty mask while she watches Muzaji.

Muzaji was -just- again considering sneaking off when Queen draws attention back to her, and quickly snaps back upright as if she had never moved. Nope, no sneaking here. Unfortunately. As is she has to refrain from making some of the more snarky comments that come to mind about how, with the shape her ship is still in, that's probably what Queenie -does- have most of the time for. Don't want to upset the client when they're a crazed, potentially murderous dread pirate captain after all.

Fortunately instead of making a farther nuciance of herself, Queen sends her stooge instead. Whom was doing all that study of the Element. Hmmm. There's a shift in demeanor that results in a coy smile as Chaos is sent down to inspect. She sets down the still partially wrapped treasure box, but keeps one hoof on it as she smiles at the unicorn. "I'm sure a fine mare of intellectual pursuits can come up with something to tide your needs. I've known my share of experimenters in the time, there's always something. Some obscure tool or regeant, something no pony else can find.." She's laying it on a little think, isn't she?

Rising-Chaos just stares as Muzaji does indeed, lay it on very thickly. she is clearly unimpressed by the speech. She places a hoof on the box as well, observing it in detail. "There is something I need, much of my most precious lab equipment was destroyed recently. I need replacements, I can send you the specifications another time." She pulls the box from Muzaji's grasp with her magic. "Thank you." She brings the box back to Queenie, laying it before her, before moving to finish cleaning up her lab. She pulls the element out and holds it for a moment, giving a sigh. Time to give it away.

Spindrift maintains her stoic expression, though there's a flicker of tension across her face as Rising moves to swipe the box, brows furrowing briefly, pupils dilating. Brume doesn't notice, though he glances in a moment later to idly observe goings-on he's content to merely listen to for the most part.

Queen-Pegasus watches the enraged reaction of Spindrift - which makes her smile quite gleefully. "Oh nos! The evil Captain just stole the artifact!" she mock cries before waving a hoof dismissively. "Rising will get your little trinket for you shortly." the mare carefully examing the box before grasping it between her hoofs in a very particular manner - most certainly akward to hold; but she doesn't die right away so certainly there must be a trick. A thoughtful expression upon the Queen's face as she very gingerly navigates her hoofs until the box begins to unravel - revealing it's contents to Queen. "Oh my, oh my.." a sinsters, diabolical laugh ensues. "Oh yes…mwahahaha."

"Provide a list and I'll work the logistics… Once the trade is done, of course." The zebra has retained her casual demeanor, not really resisting Chaos taking the bundled treasure box. Or getting in the way should Spindrift decide to intervene as well. Those two do weird things for earth ponies, after all. Despite her gengarious attitude purple eyes narrow slightly at the pirate queen… If only out of curiosity if she'll actually honor the change. Muzaji honestly doesn't care that much other than ending this adventure, she already got what she wanted.

… though now she kind of wishes she'd known about -that- trick, and not needing to waste a perfectly good cloth…

As before, Spindrift's magic sense is tingling. She tilts her head slightly, gaze briefly unfocused, as she instead directs her attention towards feeling out for nearby magical emanations. Brume watches her a moment before feigning disinterest, which is pretty easy since he was actually being disinterested a few seconds earlier.

(OOC) Spindrift: queenie queenie queenie can I roll to Smell Magic
(OOC) Queen-Pegasus: Yes.

Spindrift rolls 1d20 (mmmm musty enchantments) — Result: 7 | Sum: 7

(OOC) Queen-Pegasus wiggles a hoof. "Not entire fail - sure Smells like Teen Magic.

(OOC) Rising-Chaos: may I make the same roll?
(OOC) Queen-Pegasus: Yes =3

Rising-Chaos rolls 1d20 (gotta smell em all) — Result: 5 | Sum: 5

Rising and Spindrift smell something but it's not magical! Curly walks by waving a hoof in front of hos nose. "Aw, man. Shouldn't of eaten those soy beans. Woo.."

Rising-Chaos finishes striking down the laboratory and takes the element in her grasp. She reluctantly crosses the distance to the adventurers. She offers the element with all the good grace she can muster. Queenie's laugh makes her look over, however she doesn't notice anything unusual about the box. She shrugs and turns back to the adventurers, figuring it is just Queenie's eccentricities.

Muzaji's gold hoops jingle lightly as she flicks an ear at Queen's laughter. That can't be good at all. But it's not really her problem to worry about!

In fact, once Chaos comes over with the Element, the zebra trader just steps out of the way. "Is that the trinket you've sought so hard for? Hmm. Doesn't look like it would have much of a market value…. but some things are worth more than cash I suppose." Gives her striped shoulders a shrug. "But I'm just a trader pony, what do I know, hmmm?"

She steps out of the way of one of the strangers to take the Element. Her obligations are done in this matter, other than getting Chaos's stuff for her.

Spindrift snaps out of her focused searching with an irritated frown, but shrugs it off. Results hazy; try again later. Spindrift glances up towards the pirate queen, but away a moment later, instead looking to Rising, and the element. Her whole body tenses, subtle lines of flexing muscle running along her lithe swimmers' physique, but she doesn't move.

Brume leans forward a bit, peering down at the element. He looks to Muzaji at first, but as she defers, he smiles and slips in to lift the Element from Rising's grasp and hold it aloft. "Fabulous," he says, in a quiet little voice. He then reaches back and deposits it in a pouch hanging off his bundled instrument with the deft maneuver of someone who could probably pinch your wallet pretty easily.

Spindrift begins to relax, only somewhat. She then turns towards the docks. "Let's go."

Brume grins after her, then turns to bow towards Rising and Queenie. "Ladies. It's been a pleasure. So glad we could settle this like civilized ponies. Look me up any time if you'd like to do this again." He taps Muzaji on the shoulder as he slips past, evidently indicating she should follow.

Queen-Pegasus 's evil laughter subsides after a few moments, and the mare closes the box which seals up perfectly without hint of opening. "Rising, dearest. I think you'll find this of intrest - right up your alley." The mare wearing a far more psychotic grin than usual - clearly she's very, very, VERY pleased.

Muzaji raises a hoof to give a wave after the unicorn. "Take your time, enjoy your praise. You'll get a delivery in a few days." Then Brume gives her a nudge. "Alas, it is time to take our leave." Actually despite that alas she's more than ready to depart, turning to trot after the two wanderers.

Spindrift and Brume head towards the nearest street, eager to get away fromt he vanity. Brume gestures to Muzaji if she looks ready to depart, and unless she is really hay-bent on getting away from the two, she finds herself in their company as the draw up short. Brume is fishing about in a different pouch that received the Element, and drawing out some coins. Stallions, even.

"You helped as much as we did to get this thing, so there's no sense in making you shoulder the added cost of our 'lateness,'" he chuckles, then reaches out to offer the money to Muzaji. "This should help appease Rising. Take it with our thanks."

Spindrift, watching stoically, nods in agreement. Either the two don't know about all the other treasure Muzaji made off with, or they are doing a very good job of pretending as much.

Rising-Chaos finshes packing away her books into her saddlebags just as Queenie mentions her name. "Really my Queen, what is it?" She takes a step towards the Queen before thinking better. "Of course, it is your prize, perhaps I can examine it another time, after you have finished savouring your victory." Something about Queenie's face is making Chaos very, veyr uncomfortable.

Queen motions to the smaller mare. "Come, come. We'll discuss this inside - the night grows cold."

Despite the somewhat bittersweet ending to the matter Muzaji was in good spirits, grinning calmly to the other two ponies when they stopped again. "Now now, let's not blame ourselves." The zebra turned to glare off in the direction they had first came, and an unseen obstruction that had slowed them down. "After all… that cart blocking the quickest way to the docks couldn't of -just happened- to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, now could it?"

Was she implying that Queen had rigged the delay? You can't deny it sounded like something she would do, can you…

She turned back to the two wanderers, deftly claiming the offered coins with a hoof and slipping them away into a vest pocket, then giving a brief bowing nod. "All the same, it was quite an adventure! Prehaps sometime we will do it again." Pause, eye dart sideways. "… Preferrable with less zombies next time."

Rising-Chaos nervously nods her head and approaches the Queen. Her mind is ablaze with all the terrible ways this couold go. But overriding her fear of the unknown is the terror of what the Queen will do to her if she disobeys.

Brume grins brightly and nods to Muzaji. "Of course. There are still other elements to find." He tips his head and reaches up with a hoof as if doffing a hat he isn't wearing. "Until then." He turns and wanders off, then, Spindrift joining him.

…. There were more of those? Muzaji considered that small tidbit of information as the two wandered off. Hmm. May require looking into.

The zebra turned and hummed a bit of a shanty she picked up somewhere as she trotted happily off towards her shop. Looking into -later-. She's got treasure of her own to inspect…