When Is A Dragon Not A Dragon?
IC date: Autumn 3, 1007
OOC date: September 22, 2012
PCs: Gamble, Rocket, Kludge, Winter-Solstice, Ruby-Blossom, Skyflower, Rising-Chaos, Spearmint
NPCs: Captain Flintlock
GM: Applejack

After the prior night's discussions, Gamble has set up another expedition! This time, to go fetch a musicbox that belonged to the dead Pirate Captain Faux Pas. Given the rousing success of his first expedition, he already had an idea who might be interested in coming along this time around. It's not as big a party this time, but that should be okay. It's not a tribe of Kelpie they're attempting to woo into visiting a sacred secret holy ground or something.

Just, y'know, a potential dragon's cave.

Luckily the trip up the mountainside is much less treacherous for the most part than the forest jaunt ever was. It's not as though this isn't a known path. This is the same path one would take if they were heading from the Harbor to Canterlot.

Gamble and the good Captain Flintlock are at the head of the line, as it were, with the Captain cheerfully trotting out ahead every so often to make sure they're all going the right way. Gamble's resigned himself to being the sanity check to the Captain's craziness. Then there's Fuzzball and Rocket…whom haven't quite had the opportunity to de-joke themselves. Which means Fuzzball is hopping along with the group as a pony-sized bunny!

"The cave's just up this next bend! I'm sure of it!" Captain Flintlock quips back to the group. This is about the tenth time he's said this, at least five 'bends' ago.

After the utter fiasco that was last time Skyflower has decided that they simply /cannot/ do this without her and opted to join on this little adventure. She's packed appropriately, her saddlebags filled with mysterious contents. She accepts Gambles repeated proclamation with good humor. "Of course it is, darling. Lead on, lead on."

Kludge is walking along, pulling a cart with an assortment of supplies: some food and water, bandages and other medical supplies, some ropes and sacks, plus an assortment of odd wood pieces and spare tools. The cart itself could carry a pony (or two, if they didn't mind being close). When he had met up with the exploration group, he hadn't seen Ruby, but given last night's mishaps, he figured that she's likely spending the day recovering. Might as well go along and tell her the story of it later! And this does promise to be less chaotic than wandering through the forest, too.

Rising-Chaos is obviously tired, she's a scholar, not built for long distance mountain climbing. Still, she trudges along in the middle of the party, refusing to slow down. She's wearing a rougher travel cape, fastened with her new iron brooch, and two saddlebags filled wiht books, food and her trusty knife. At Flintlock's anouncement she sighs, muttering to herself, "somehoe I doubt it actually is." She's wearing a general air of disinterest, deep in thought with her own plans.

The giant rabbit is utterly fascinating, and Winter Solstice has spent half the trip so far following along beside it, hopping in as rabbitish a fashion as she can manage. Being a hurlyburly pony, she's better suited to plowing ahead than skip-skipping along, and it shows with how frequently she trips over her own overiszed hooves; the whole hopalong routine has been more of an extended, continuous flop up the mountain path than anything else. She seems to be enjoying it, though, and is utterly indefatigable in any case. Which means she has plenty of breath to talk with. "This rabbit is sooooo huge!" she proclaims, which she has done easily as often as the good Captain Flintlock has proclaimed their destination right around the bend. "You could put a saddle on it and ride it! Or enter it into a fashion show! Let's see if we can get it to pull Kludge's cart!" Tumbling forward into a jog, she jets to the front of the group, spins around, and stumbles backwards for a bit. "Guys guys guys, let's- let's have a race, okay? We get the rabbit and the cart and then let's have, like- okay, so, we can tie a rope to a tree and then slide it back down the mountain…" She trails off and returns back to the rabbit to 'hop' after it again, *thump* *thump* *thump*ing with each jump. Like many others, she's prepared for the journey, a heavy saddlebag slung about her shoulders; with every jump she makes, it clatters and crashes like she's carrying a set of dishes in there.

Rocket has spent most of the trip on Fuzzball's head, though she occasionally hops off to flit along on her own, surprisingly fast in the air for her size. This was… disappointing! The mountains! Her /domain/! She could have been… useful! Instead she's tiny. Hmph. Well, at least this has gone pretty smoothly! Or at least she thinks so.

Another pony, however, does /not/. The little minty-colored colt semi-sneaking along behind the group would not at all call this 'going well'. Spearmint didn't /mean/ to wind up on a mountain hike today! He'd just been following the path to go back home, and had somehow gotten turned around when a mass of Watchponies ran by. He'd /thought/ he'd been following the right set of hoofbeats off the path, but that had eventually proven to be incorrect. And unfortunately for the little pony, by the time he had /realized/ this… he'd been completely lost. Which meant he couldn't just turn around and head back… so he had to keep on following. And getting more and more lost. They'd head back towards town /eventually/… right? Mom was going to be /so mad/.

So much preparation! It's like the assorted ponies realized that danger lurks around every bend! Or at least the potential for accidents. The good Captain sprints off ahead of the group to reach that 'next bend', skidding to a stop and peering over the edge. "Oh… My mistake. Yet another sheer cliff. Confound it all, you'd think this mountain was nothing but sheer cliff and twisty turny pathways!" He stamps a hoof, resuming his trot up to the next bend. Not even a pause between his last 'mistake' and his next announcement. "Worry not! This next bend /has/ to be it! There's only so many bends on this danged rock!"

Gamble, meanwhile, plods along, a map of the area, mountain and all, hovering in front of his face. Dealing with Flintlock has been generally grating. Partly because he's so dang…odd, and partly because the Gambler just knows there's something wrong about the Captain. He just can't completely put his hoof on it. At least they managed to convince the Captain to leave 'Jerry' behind this time.

When he reaches the turn in the road that the Captain had left behind, he slows to a stop to look out at the horizon. "Yeah… Actually, I think this /was/ the right one." he says after a long moment, giving the others in the group time to catch up. He points a hoof out, where the cliff isn't quite as sheer, forming a thin path that creeps along the side of the mountain. "I think that's our path. At least, if I'm readin' our /map/ right, that's our path." He casts a glare up at Flintlock, halfway up the next trail already.

Fuzzball, meanwhile, completely enjoys Winter's endless speaking of how big the bunny is. If he ever gets back to the forest, without getting eaten, this is going to make the best story among bunnies. The tale of Goliath, the Bunny God! Or…something like that.

A narrow cliffside path. Of course.

Kludge stares at the trail, pondering various curses and deciding that they're not worth the energy to utter out loud. Instead, he shakes his head with a resigned sigh. "Go ahead and start up the trail; I'll catch up once I tend to things here," he says, parking his cart so it won't block the main trail. Now, how to take the stuff up the mountain - and more to the point, what should he take and what to leave behind? This might take a bit of time to figure out…

Skyflower is graceful and fleet of hoof, as befits a unicorn, and so has no problems with narrow cliff ledges. When Kludge says he'll stay behind she joins him momentarily, offering him a cardboard cylinder with a string coming out one end with her horn. "If something happens use this. Point this end of the tube," she says, indicating the part without the string, "skyward and pull on the string. We'll see it and come back for you. DO be careful, dear?"

Winter-Solstice manages to lose enough interest in the giant rabbit ("It's SO BIG! Can you even BELIEVE how big this rabbit is! This is easily the third largest rabbit I've seen TODAY. Actually it's the same one as I saw earlier. Oh man! It's following us!") long enough to stare up at the narrow trail. She then peeks down at herself, and her broad build, poorly-suited to narrow trails. She hops up and punches the air before her with her forehooves. "Challenge mode!" Dropping back down to all fours, she does a few laps around Kludge's cart before scooting towards the back of the group, looking off behind them, ears perked. For once she is quiet. Eventually she turns back towards the others. "I think there's someone else back there, but- oh, well. Other people use the trail all the time. There probably totally is." Abandoning her suspicions, she makes her way back to the narrow upward path and begins to climb up it, sending no small amount of loosened earth, rocks and debris tumbling back behind her. It's not an avalanche by any means, but it does mean whoever follows her has to contend with gravel in their face every now and then.

Rocket looks down at Fuzzball. "Think you can manage that path, bud? You're bigger'n usual, don't want you falling." Then again, bunnies are graceful, right? Or is that some other animal… Either way, she's got no interest in her bunny taking a tumble when she's too tiny to play catch-the-falling-rabbit.

Spearmint slows up a bit, tilting an ear nervously. Are we stopping? We're stopping. /Where/ are we stopping? It's been rocky for a while. And uphill! So… we must be… we must be… nope, he's got no clue. He prances in place nervously for a moment, gulping. He's not even sure /who/ he's following, and how awkward would it be to come forward and ask /now/? Very, that's how awkward.

Seeing Kludge's predicament, Rising Chaos trots over to his cart. She looks over the supplies inside, then levitates some food and medical suplies out to float beside her. "I'll carry these with me, that way you have less to worry about." She flashes a smile Kludge's way then turns back to the path. She takes a moment the way, thus allowing Winter Solstice to go ahead of her. She sighs and follows after the muscular pony, looking miserable as she tries to ignore the rain of debris falling onto her face.

Captain "Oblivious" Flintlock squints down at the group from higher up the pathway. "What are you all lollygagging down there for? The cave is THIS way! This way I say!"

Gamble isn't convinced. He points at the map, and then the narrow trail. "But we have a map! It's sayin' ta go this way. I'm sorry, but between you an' a reliable source of information, I'm gonna go with the reliable source."

Besides, there's already ponies (Or pony) trying to go up the path. It looks dangerous and not very well maintained! Which is probably to be expected about a path that goes to a dragon's lair. Who would bother keeping up on it?

The Captain frowns. "Fine! I guess this is where we go our separate ways. However, /I/ am going towards the /treasure/, and /you/ are going towards a cliff of CERTAIN DOOM! Dun dun dunnnnnn! Lightning crash! Crash!"

The rusty pony shakes his head. "Fine, you go your way, we'll go mine. We'll see who's right, Captain Crackerjack. Any of y'all wanna follow that crackpot, be my guest."

Tough choice. Follow a safe path, with a crazy captain? Or an unknown narrow 'path'?

Fuzzball's been studying the path. When Rocket asks him if he can manage it, he makes a 'no sweat' gesture with a paw, stepping out on the ledge somewhere behind Winter and Rising Chaos. Big ol' bunny feet are good for balance! Long as they fit on the path. So far they do, so no problem!

Kludge nods in appreciation to Skyflower and Rising, then packs up the rest of the food and medical supplies. Making one final circuit of the cart to make sure the wheels are properly chocked, he happens to see a somewhat familiar mint-green foal. "Spearmint? What are you doing up here in the mountains?"

Winter-Solstice already made up her mind about the whole path thing because waffling on such matters is for losers. She looks far more precarious than she feels, shimmying up the narrow pathway, but seems foolishly unconcerned with the prospect of toppling over the edge and to her doom. Maybe it's a momentum thing. "You guys are not going to believe how crazy high we're starting to get," she calls back, voice a bit muffled by the intervening rocks. She doesn't actually check to see if anybody's following before calling back to them, either. "Like, I know they say you shouldn't look down, but give it a try. You SHOULD look down and admire the view. I mean come on, it's like, the beauty of natu-"

The cliff abruptly gives out beneath her, causing her to scramble and slide to maintain purchase on the narrow ledge as her front legs go pitching downward. It's quite a bit of scraping and smushing back up against the mountain wall before she's stable once more, and look! She left a little rough patch in the pathway for everybody to have to pick their way over. You're welcome1 "… the beauty of nature!" she resumes after she's stable once more, inching further along.

Skyflower looks down at the wee colt and blows a stray bit of mane out of her face. "Honestly, why is it that the foals of this town have to dive into so many unsafe adventures?"

Spearmint blinks and freezes mid-prance. Spotted! Oh no! But… but by someone who knows him, at least! So that's… good? No? "Uh… mountains? …There're mountains? I… I got kind of turned around," he admits slowly, scuffing a hoof. "I maybe a little lost, but, uh… /you/ all know where you're going… right?" He blushes as Skyflower's words, laying his ears back. "I was just /trying/ to go home. I didn't /mean/ to wind up on an 'unsafe adventure'. Ma'am." Because one must remember one's manners even when one is backtalking.

Three ponies already going along the narrow path! Well, two ponies and a bunny-riding griffon anyway. That's at least half the party! Gamble winces, with Winter making kind of a mess of the trail, but such things probably can't be helped. He just hopes the rest of the path isn't nearly so crumbly as that spot. Instead he turns to the other three, Skyflower, Kludge, and…a foal? Spearmint? "Wha?" Gamble trots up to blink down at the blind foal. "…Oh brother. I didn't mean ta drag a kid up here. Where'd he come from, anyway?"

Either way, Gamble feels doom lurking somewhere on the horizon. If only because he just /knows/ the Captain is going to find some way to mess this up. "…Well whatever he's doin' here, unless one of y'all feel like goin' back ta town, we'll just take 'im with us. He's a lil' guy, that path won't be a problem for him, right?"

With Winter being the head of the path, she'll get to see just how long of a path it is. the good news is that there /is/ a cave! There's even a decently sized rock ledge attached to the cave! This seems to be common of dragon caves.

The bad news is that this path seems to have something like a fifteen foot gap in it. Just before this cave's plateau. Such a bad path!

Rising-Chaos continues her way up the winding path, never seeming to doibt for a moment her decision either. Another sigh escapes her lips as she comes to the rough patch left by Winter. With some difficulty she gets past it, nearly falling into space in the process. After taking a moment to catch her breath, she catches up to Winter. This time, when she sees the next obstacle, a growl escapes her firmly closed mouth. "Oh, good, this is just fantastic." She proclaims, sarcasm dripping from her every word. She looks up at Winter, then back to the others on a path, then back to Winter. "You got a plan for this one miss?"

The others climbing up the narrow path may soon find Winter perched at the edge of the gap, staring across it towards the cave entrance. She seems perplexed, and soon turns to look back at the others. "Okay, the good news is, there's a cave, and it smells like treasure!" she announces. "The bad news is the path gives out and we can't get up there! Unless we can fly! Which some of us can! But others cannot! I think! I think I can't… well, maybe I haven't really… you know, tried…" Turning back towards the gap- twisting about to reposition herself on her precarious perch- she hunkers down, squints her eyes, and lunges forward! Her front hooves are about half a foot off the ground before she's furiously backpedalling. "NOPE nope nope okay nope. Can't fly. Thought so, good to have confirmation, though. Not to worry, guys! I got just the thing! Hold on!"

Turning her head, she starts to dig around in her saddlebag, rattling and clunking, before producing a rope with a hook on the end. Holding it firmly in her mouth, she leans back, then TOSSES the rope. And the hook. Over the edge. It tumbles down the cliff and is soon lost from sight. Winter, peering down at it, eventually sighs. "That usually works. Hey, anybody else have another one? I think I know what went wrong that one time!"

The familiar public disturbance rouses Ruby from her convienent hiding spot - a tiny cave with a cloister of large rocks in front of it - really it's quite convienent and safe! The turqoise mare appears in front of the party - on the opposite side of the fifteen foot expanse! She looks curiously at Winny and rising, at the gap - then disapears! A few moments later she appears with a rope which is gingerly tossed across expanse with a weighted end - her end convienently tied to large, large stone - this should be useful! She waves a friendly hello to Winny before plopping down to watch the ponies figure a manner in which to best cross the chasm with assistance of her high-quality rope!

Kludge sighs. "Long story short, we're looking for a certain treasure which might be in a dragon's cave," he explains to Spearmint. "The trail ahead gets very narrow, and there's a 15-foot gap that's currently bridged with rope. You interested?"

Rocket blinks and looks up. "Fifteen feet, huh?" It looks a lot bigger when you're bite-sized. "We sure this is the right cave? Should I go over and check? …How the heck did that pony get over there?"

How convenient! Thanks to Ruby, there's now a tightrope to walk across the gap with! Which is better than nothing, but a far sight narrower than the path was before.

Fuzzball taps a foot impatiently. He's third in line to tackle the tightrope. Behind Winter and Chaos. He's not the most patient bunny! Not now that he's all grown up! Thump, thump, thump, thump… Rocket's question is a good one though, Fuzzy leeeeeeaning out to see around the other two ponies to peer at Ruby. How /did/ she get over there?

Gamble, too, is impatient. He's a nice guy and all, but there's a lot to be nervous about this whole venture. "…Right. Well, I ain't headin' back home 'til we check that cave out. So if'n you'll excuse me, come if ya want." Then he turns about to go join the other ponies, creeping along the ledge to inch towards the dragon cave! Oh look. Ruby. Where'd she come from?

Ruby-Blossom is all about rewards with minimal risk - a few choice ponies who have gotten to know here will understand that! The turquoise mare sits on the other side of the dangerous gap in the path - /appearing/ content to watch the other ponies make their way across - in fact she even appears to be enjoying a cup of tea at the moment.

Skyflower nods to Spearmint. "It is simply astonishing how often that leads to adventures. One must assume that there is a law requiring it somewhere. No matter: come along and stay close."

"Oh! Hi, Ruby!" calls Winter, waving cheerfully. Perhaps a bit too cheerfully for the sake of her balance on the narrow pathway. "How'd you get over there? You should show us, that would solve a lot of- ooh!" The weighted rope is tossed over to her side of the cliff. "Great! This'll be really useful! I just lost mine, not sure what happened. Untie it from that end so I can pull it back over- no! No, wait! Okay, I know what to do now! I got this!" Grabbing the rope firmly, she loops it around her forelegs, holds it tight, and then neatly jumps off the edge of the ledge with a cheerful whistle. She promptly swings like the world's most poorly-designed pendulum to the opposite edge of the gap and slams roughly up against the cliff wall, her whistle terminating in a graceless gasp of evicted breath. Her saddlebag, still open after she rooted her rope out of it, clatters and spills some if its contents- a set of cutlery and a hero sandwich tumble out and down the slope of the mountain below. After a moment of dangling there, she draws a deep breath and starts climbing up, and by the time she's picked her way up to the opposite side of the gap, she's whistling cheerfully, gathering the rope back up and soon tossing it back to the now far-side of the gap. "That was fun!" She turns to face Ruby. "Hey! You're looking good. On a mountain and all. It really suits your hair."

Spearmint tilts his head. "Treasure? Dragon's cave?" Well… that /does/ sound like an adventure. 'Interested', though… well, what choice does he have at this point? Not much. "I… guess so. Sure. Okay. Dragons are cool. Treasure is cool! Dragon treasure's like… double-cool."

Ruby-Blossom glances dully at Winny who comments on her hair - her once beautiful mane is actually a mess at the moment thanks to Queen Pegasus who roughly cut large chunks of her mane off during a rather public display of humilation and brutality. "Thanks…"

Rising-Chaos grabs the rope as it sails back across the gap. With a flash of magic she holds it taught and starts walking across it slowly. Almost immediately the weight of the objects floating beside her sends her teetering. Chaos is flown into a panic, trying to regain her balance. Having done so with minimal falling to her death, she continues on the tight rope. She walks carefully until she is almost at the other side, when her magic gives out. Before she can plummet to her death, she manages to catch the rope in her mouth and is promptly slammed into the cliff, though not as hard as Winter was. She climbs a short ways up, joins Ruby and Winter at the cave, then tosses the ropes back over.

Ruby-Blossom is actually far more useful than she might appear sipping her tea and all - quickly reaching out to try and help Rising the moment her magic gives out! Certainly she can't prevent the mare from roughing up a little - but she can help her up onto more stable ground.

Two ponies over! At least two more to go. Fuzzball seems to be next up in line to do the ropewalk, though…he comes to the realization that he doesn't exactly have the right tools at paw to tie a rope to something. Fifteen foot? Hmmm… The bunny gets a determined look, taking a few steps back and reaching up to pluck Rocket off his head, setting her behind him on the path in front of Gamble.

Then he gets a three-step running start and hops! Hop, bunny! Hop like you've never hopped before!

It's a long hop… But it isn't quite long enough! Fuzzball flails, managing to catch paws on the other end of the cliff, legs dangling over the chasm below. His ears slick back and he peeks up where hopefully another pony might give him help! Help the bunny! Puhleeze!

Winter-Solstice sets her flank down and stares at Ruby's mangled mane. While she's waiting for the others, she might as well shoot the breeze. "Hey! New 'do. Very avant-garde. Reminds me of what happened to my mane a few weeks ago! I met this one hairstylist who helped, though, let me see if I can remember- oh! Oh, that was you. Ha!" Chaos is drawing close as she's finished, so she turns to help, at least as much as she can- which, considering magic is happening, isn't much. Still, she's there to cheer Chaos on ("Smooth moves! You're really walkin' that rope!"), and when the unicorn is climbing up, reach down with Ruby to help lift her up onto the far ledge. Thankfully, she's considerably more gentle with others than she is with herself.

She is, of course, there to help Fuzzball up as he scrambles for purchase. Her atypical height and clumsy strength are put to good use as she reaches down to hook the giant bunny's forepaws with her hooves and help haul him up to the ledge. "Easy bunny!" she says. "You're too giant to lose like this! We still need to bring you back to town and put you in a fabulous hat! There we go."

Rocket squeaks! It was probably meant to be more of a caw, but came out a bit too high-pitched. Not that she's too embarrassed, because she's got something else on her mind! "Fuzzball!" She probably would've tried to catch him, too; she's already in the air and flapping for the gap by the time Winter's tugging him up. Which is a big relief. Whew.

As for getting across herself? Well, /that's/ no trouble, considering she's the only party member with wings.

Kludge has been busy. After watching Winter's initial shenanigans, he started making something resembling a bridge. It takes all of his material supply plus cannibalizing most of the cart, but he makes a conglomeration of 20+ feet - long enough to bridge the gap, plus some extra for stability on either end.

Now, to get it into place.

Sliding the bridge along the path, he finally gets to where the rock-weighted rope is. Untying the rope from the weight, he then ties the rope to the bridge-end closest to the gap. Walking back to the end that will stay on this side of the gap, he take ahold of this end of the bridge and calls out "Okay, could someone haul in the rope?

Ruby is also there to help every other pony attempting to cross at the moment, even while shooting the breeze with Winny. "Honestly I don't like it, the stylist was far too rough - oh wait - that's right she wrapped up by beating my face in." helping the rabbit onto the ledge. "It's good to see you, Winny.

Ruby motions to Winny to handle the manual labor of hauling the board across.

Rising-Chaos helps out as best she can to get Kludge's bridge across, though she isn't very strong.

Ah wings. Gamble's totally jealous of those right about now. That's most everypony across too! Every pony except…Spearmint. The gambler eyes the foal curiously. Somethin' about him seems a little off… "Hey kid, ya comin'?" he asks, while everyone else is dealing with getting the bridge set up.

Winter-Solstice nabs her end of the rope and starts pulling to bring the bridge over. She is, of course, the best-suited of the group for dumb manual labor and if any of these unicorns and bunnies want to challenge her for the title, they are perfectly welcome to. She continues chattering as she does so, and her normally cheerful demeanor gives way to puffy indignance. "What! She did what! Who was she? Tell me and I'll give her a good one-two." She starts bouncing a bit in place- not enough to stop the bridge-building, of course, but she does look like she'd rather be kicking faces right now. Eventually she's stuck anchoring the end of the bridge to a boulder, though she grumbles around the knot she's tying even as she ties it. (It is, for the record, the world's ugliest granny smith knot ever. It's solid as hay but it will never be undone by mortal hands. (Mortal scissors, maybe.))

Spearmint edges his way along the path carefully, feeling out each step. He's slow, but steady, and rather sure-footed, not in small part due to the fact that he's taking the time to make darn sure the ground beneath his hooves is solid and sturdy before putting any weight on it. "Yeah, I'm coming!"

Ruby-Blossom watches as winny finishes her Kludge-style knot, giving a small nod of approval after poking it and hoofs up to Kludge on the other side of the gap. "Queen Pegasus, don't go bothering her. She's not somepony to be taken lightly, I'm serious." she gently knocks her hoof of on Winny's head "Retain that, hear me? Do not agitate Queen Pegasus." she knocks again as if pounding the knowledge through Winny's thick skull.

"…And that's when I said 'Jerry, that's the worst idea you've ever had. What if it rains? Then where would you be? Stuck in the mud, that's where'. I tell you, that Jerry is a real numbskull sometimes." Why yes, those would be the dulcet tones of the good Captain! Whom is just arriving at the cave, from the other side, with a dead snake on his shoulder, where a perfectly walkable path happened to be leading.

"Hey! You all made it! I guess I was wrong. That was the right path after all. I ended up taking the scenic route. But that's alright, I found a friend along the way!" Captain Flintlock floats the dead snake up in front of him. "Say hello, Jackson!" The dead snake wobbles.

Gamble squints. Wow this kid is slow. He grumbles…but backs up enough that he can use his horn to pick Spearmint off the trail and onto the gambler's back instead! "Hang on kid…" he mutters, making his own way along the pathway, and over the rickety bridge!

Now the gang's all here. At the dragon's cave! Which looks awful dark, and mysterious, and somewhat smokey inside. Surely makes it difficult to just look in and see if there's really a dragon in there!

Winter-Solstice purses her lips in an 'o' shape so she can make a little hollow noise as Ruby knocks on her skull, shifting her mouth slightly to change the pitch. "Queen! Queen! I didn't vote for any queens. I thought we had a mayor, anyway."

Things suddenly get very exciting, with the Captain reappearing- Winter's face screws up into a mix of a scowl and a cheerful grin- and then Gamble making it over the bridge with… with… "Hey! You found a foal! That's not what we came here for, is it?" she asks, tromping over to peer at Spearmint. "He's very green. Hello! You don't happen to have a rope, do you? I lost mine."

Rising-Chaos moves away form the cave mouth, taking off a saddle bag. From it she pulls a book and her trusty knife. She draws the knife form it sheath and touches it against her brooch, a faint green glow surrounds the blad as she resheathes it. She then sits down, and starts to read her book. "You guys let me know when we decide to go in, just doing some review on… what dangers we could come up against.. yeah." She sounds bored.
Rocket peers into the darkness, sniffing and giving a small sneeze. "Sure /smells/ like a dragon." She's settled herself back onto Fuzzballs's head — after circling him about six times in a semi-frantic search for any injury to speak of. "How're we gonna do this, then?"

Squeak and flail! Spearmint kicks his hooves out as he's lifted, trying to find the ground again. Come back, ground! And then there's sort of ground. Well, actually, it's a pony's back. Good enough! He clings to it, trying to get his bearings back. 'Hang on' indeed. "R-rope? Uh, no, I… I don't… no rope. Sorry."

Ruby-Blossom motions towards the cave with one hoof "Somethings certainly in there, but I'm not dumb enough to go sticking my head in there." she grabs Winny's mane to restrain the mare "That doesn't give /you/ permission to do it either, Winny." a very firm motherly tone to be had for the lunkhead. "I recommend somepony sneaky and stealthy go in…"

Kludge just kind of stands off to the side. Ruby seems to be in better health, and Spearmint is currently being taken care of by Gamble. Not much to worry about, short of things turning spectacularly bad.

Which often seems par for this town.

Skyflower says "Well now, this doesn't seem so bad." She eyes the cave. "Now, how 'possibly a dragon's lair' do we really believe this cave to be? I worry that it would be most impolite to intrude on the domain of such a one."
"Oh," is Winter's somewhat disappointed response. "Probably just as well. Nice to meet you, though. I'm Winter, but my friends call me Donut when they have me confused for someone else I once knew who kind of looked like me from behind when you squint. I don't know where you came from but the more the merrier, I say! You didn't bring anybody else, did you? That would have been pretty neat if you could just, like, bust out a big ol' gang of ponies now. Then we could all get a stick and march into the cave and whatever's in there, they wouldn't even know what's going on!" Fortunately for Spearmint's eardrums, Winter wanders back to the front of the group, just in time for Ruby to say she's not going in… and would continue right on through and into the cave if not for being suddenly arrested by the seizure of her mane. She hits the end of that short leash and leans forward, mane pulled tight behind her, and makes a face as though she's not sure what the holdup is. "Oh. Oh!" Stopping her pulling, she turns to look back at Ruby. "Really? Because I find the best way to head into a situation you don't really know what's going on about in is to just sort of walk into it and see what it's all up about, you know?"

Ruby-Blossomshould be thankful ponies about town aren't all that curious - hidden weapons, appearing randomly in front of others, etc - and no questions - excellent!

The cave is dark and smokey… Yet none of the smoke seems to be trying to leave the cave. How strange. There's also the sound of wind moving, in a way that could be taken as breathing from deep within, bouncing off all the walls.

Not that this stops the Captain at all. Flintlock, pleased that he's done his introductions, even if nobody exactly acknowledged the presence of Jackson, floats the snake back over his shoulder, and peers into the cave. He snorts at Ruby. And grins at Winter. "That mare's got guts. I like that. I'm going in! Jackson, cover me!" With that, the captain charges right into the smoke!

Gamble blinks. Now that everyone's safely on this side of the cliffs, he once again levitates Spearmint, to set him down next to Kludge. "Would'ja look after the kid? Just in case this turns out ta be dangerous…" Then he, too, starts trotting at the cave mouth, smoke and all. "I ain't lettin' that fool go wake up a dragon if I can help it!"

Rising-Chaos with a sigh, Chaos trigger her cloak's built in cloaking spell, helping her fade into the shadows. she just walks into the cave while the others argue, without them noticing.

Winter-Solstice tucks in behind Gamble and plows ahead. She's not about to be left behind if everybody else is going to blunder into danger. If Ruby doesn't let go of her mane, then she'll just find herself getting dragged along. "Wait up! I want to set off some traps, too!"

Fuzzball, now that he's gotten over his near-death experience, peers around the corner of the cave entrance. He looks up at Rocket, in a 'what's the plan' sort of look. Hey, he's a giant bunny, but Rocket's his 'owner'. or something.

Rocket blinks. "Well… I guess we're going in! But be careful, okay? I don't want some big dumb dragon thinking you look like a good snack. I'm a little small to be fighting off a dragon." Not that that would stop her.

Spearmint flails again as he's lifted, hooves stretching to meet the ground as soon as possible. Solid ground! Yay. He crouches and takes a moment to regain his composure, straightening up slowly. "Is it a dragon cave? It smells like smoke. And I hear… something. Wind. Maybe something big breathin'. Not sure."

The turquoise's mare hope of caution is thrown to the wind as everypony starts charging forward - she takes the opportunity to hop atop of Winny and ride the bigger, stronger mare into 'battle'. Really she's just looking over Winny's shoulder - waiting for the correct moment to hop out of the way to safety and riches.

Kludge nods towards Gamble. Nothing wrong with being on foalsitter detail, especially when you get the impression that most of the adventuring party are varying degrees of crazy. It must be said, however, that 'foalsitting' doesn't translate into 'worry like a big hen', but instead 'stick with the foal in case things turn ugly'. He's fine with letting Spearmint choose his own way; all Kludge is planning on doing is lending support when needed.

Skyflower hmms, starting to sort through her saddlebags. "Now I know I packed for this eventuality, but I wonder what kind of displays the dragon might like? Something jewel-toned, no doubt, but which? Emerald? Ruby? Sapphire I can manage readily, but really… ah well. Improvisation may be called for." What? She knows how she's going to handle this if it comes to that.

Fuzzball nods! He promptly hops in after the other four (five?) ponies. This leaves Spearmint, Kludge, and Sky outside.

Inside the cave, the smoke only lasts for a few feet. Once past that initial bit of smokescreen, the whole inside is, naturally, huge. Huge! There's a thin line of smoke from the entrance that creeps along the roof of the cave, but the rest seems pretty breatheable.

There /is/ a dragon though. A big, scaley, dark-red, shiny, dead-asleep dragon. Sleeping atop an absolutely huge pile of brightly glittering gold.

The breathing sounds do seem to be coming from this beast, as does a thin trail of constant smoke from its nostrals. There's no movement… This dragon is deep asleep!

Captain Flintlock's charge ends about the same time the smoke does, the crazy pony slowing to a lazy trot into the dragon's room. He promptly sits his flank down in the cave, staring at the impressive pile of gold. "Well now. If I didn't know better, I'd wonder if this were the treasure itself!"

Gamble hums an appreciative tone. "Hooey. No kidding. Uh… But it ain't, right? That's all dragon horde? So probably not pirate treasure. We're just here for a box. Where d'ya suppose it is?"

"With the dragon, of course." Flintlock replies. "It's just a matter of figuring out how to get it." And who's going to be brave enough to try!

Fuzzball hangs back. He's a bloody bunny. There's no bravery here! Only a fool would walk up to wake a dragon and ask it where it keeps its music boxes!

Winter-Solstice slows down a bit, but she doesn't stop. Not for caution, not for anything! And if Ruby is still perched atop her- Winter doesn't seem to be bothered one way or another- then she'll find herself going along for the ride as Winter approaches the edge of the spilled pool of treasure and gold. To her credit, she's not plowing into it at full speed, but she doesn't seem especially worried by the dragon as she approaches the first few glittering gold coins and stares at them. Following this, she looks up at the dragon and stares at it. She glances back and forth a few times before turning back towards the others and flashing them a big grin, then points with one hoof at the dragon. Point point point, grin grin. Looking back to the treasure, she reaches down and kicks some of it with a hoof. "What's so special about the box that we need it? Doesn't this count? I mean, we already found a really green foal, and now this. At this point I'm starting to think we're just pushing our luck! Oh, there!" She points at a Treasure Chest, which looks so much like the part one must properly capitalize its name. "That could be a music box! Wrong kind of keyhole, though."

Ruby takes a good gander while atop of her warhorse - surveying the structure of the cave, along with eyeing the horde for the prize and any potential runner-ups worth of a place in her own horde! Only then does she gingerly slip off Winny to take to hiding - the Turqoise pony sneaking to a small rock formation near one wall - carefully making her way about the cave; she knows dang well one of these fools won't let sleeping dragons lay.

Skyflower trots into the cave. "Oh, my word!" she stage-whispers, "You can't possibly be thinking of just trying to take it and run? Can't you see that the poor dear is trying to sleep? How would you feel if somepony came like a thief in the night and walked off with your things? No, this will simply /not/ do. If you are so intent on having this treasure, diplomacy is called for."

Rocket gives a low whistle. Whoo, that's a dragon alright. Big ol' fellow, too. Yeah, let's /not/ wake him up! "This isn't the treasure we're after anyways. This belongs to the dragon. They get real ornery if you try an' take their stuff." Known from experience? Maybe! She /has/ met a dragon or three before.

Spearmint trots into the cave after the group, albeit a bit more cautiously. "Is there really a dragon? What's it look like? Is it huge? Is there lots of treasure? …Are we here after dragon treasure?!" How exciting! Boy it smells smoky in here. Ah-choo! Sniff.

Rising-Chaos has managed to sneak her way almost behind the dragon now. She hears the party come in and winces, she thought she had more time! Relunctantly she halts her progress and settles down to watch what her friends will do, yet still remains hidden enough to escape notice from all but the keenest of eyes. She spots Ruby slipping off to the side and gives a smile, good girl, stealth will serve where power cannot.

Kludge follows the inquisitive foal. "Well, we're here to find a music box that the dragon might have. As for the dragon itself, I haven't…"

His voice trails off as he comes within view of the dragon. "Ah. The dragon. Dark red, size of a house, currently asleep. Lots of piles of gold."

"What, exactly, do you mean by 'with the dragon'?" Gamble wonders of Flintlock, looking just a bit skeptical about all this. "Rrgh… For all we know, there's no music box here, an' yer just tryin' ta steal a dragon's horde for yerself. Yer a pirate, that's something you'd do, ain't it?"

Captain Flintlock isn't answering Gamble. He's busy cantering beside Winter, looking at all the gold and whatnot. Especially the Treasure Chest! By the time he does come back to Gamble, he's forgotten the question. "Hm? What? Jackson's my new secretary, ask him whatever you want." The dead snake is placed on Gamble's nose. …Ew.

"Anyway, I'm not here for the dragon's treasure. This is nothing compared to what Captain Faux Pas hid. We just need the musicbox. Wherever it is…" Captain Flintlock promptly goes tiptoeing closer to the dragon itself, to nudge little piles of treasure around.

Ruby-Blossom peers from around the corner to get a better look at the horde - strange that she didn't see anything of value among horde; a small frown crosses her face as she glances towards Gamble - hoping the other pony will catch her look and the slow shaking of her head accomponied by the mouthing of certain words - she ducks back behind her rock and begins to tip toe backwards - towards the mouth of the cave. Reverse sneaking or gnikaens as Winny would probably call it.

Spearmint tilts his head. Then an ear. Then the other ear. Then perks both! Come to think of it… sniff. Sniff sniff. He edges slowly closer to the source of sound and smoke, ears turned towards it, nose in the air. Gives another little sneeze. Rubs his nose with one foreleg. Yup. "That's not what I figured dragon-smoke would smell like. Are you sure there's a dragon in here? It smells like Gramma lit the stove fire with her magic." One ear tilts, then perks again. "…And how's it so windy in a cave? Or did we just wind up on another ledge?"

Winter-Solstice feels a little lighter once Ruby hops off, and starts poking around in the treasure a bit more enthusiastically. It's not so much a question of whether the dragon wakes up but how much she can get away with before it does. Soon she's climbing up onto the heap, coins and gems and autographed framed pictures of Sapphire Shores giving out underfoot to rattle to the base of the slope, and then digging down in. "Is this it- no…." It is a box, but this is just a jewelry box. Pearl necklaces and stuff like that tumble out as she tosses it over her shoulder. "Ah! Here it is- no…." It's just a box of little miniature gaming figures in the shape of warriors and wizards and assorted fantasy beasties… all made of SOLID GOLD. Bah! "Oh! Oh! I think I found it!" She reaches down and holds up a golden flute. "A musical instrum- oh… no. No, we need the, the… yeah." With a sigh, she settles back and looks up at the dragon.

A little voice in the back of her head says 'go kick it in the bonker and see what happens.' Thankfully this voice is drowned out by another one saying 'Too bad you lost that sandwich earlier, it was gonna be really tasty. Let's think about sandwiches for a bit.'

Turning back towards the group, she announces, "Swiss cheese is the best of all cheeses," then slides back down the gold slope like a pro.

Gamble squints at Ruby trying to mouth words. "A…trap?" Well. Of course it's a trap. There's a /dragon/! A dragon is practically a living, breathing deathtrap! He carefully trots towards the turquoise mare, maybe he can get a better answer.

Captain Flintlock notices Spearmint, as though for the first time! "Hey! Who let the foal in here? Don't you all know there's /dragons/ about? Honestly. I'm the only one with common sense around here." He trots over and scruffs the poor colt, setting him down on the Captain's back! "What was that you were saying? The smoke smells funny? It's obviously not laughing gas."

Meanwhile, the dragon continues to snore. Despite all the noise. This bugger is a really deep sleeper, he is.

Skyflower sighs. Apparently good manners are the thing she's bringing to this particular ensemble. "Coo-eee," she cries out, trotting closer to the dragon, "I'm /ever/ so sorry for interrupting your nap but my friends and I, well, we're on something of a quest, you see, and we were wondering if perhaps you might have seen a music box somewhere in the area? Hmm? We'd be terribly grateful for any assistance you could render." Eyelashes flutter.

Winter-Solstice 's thoughts of sandwiches eventually dissipate. They go up in smoke, if you will. Because she is thinking of smoke. Gears turn in her head and a little tension spring goes 'dink' and you can see the moment when an idea eventually formulates because her eyes suddenly widen. Turning back towards the gold, she drags a coin close, situates it on the stone floor of the cavern, positions a rear hoof over it, hunkers down, revs up, and then *STOMPS* on the coin with all her might. She has a suspicion these coins aren't all they're cracked up to be and hopefully, the force of her smash- and mind you, she pounds metal sheets into place for a living- will reveal the coin's true nature, even if it's just by damaging the veneer she suspects it has.

Ruby-Blossom has managed to make it nearly to the mouth of the cave before Gamble catches her - still back-trotting her way out as she speaks with Gamble. "It's all fake, every last piece is fools gold and glass - I ain't no dragon expert but I don't think a /real/ dragon would be hoarding /fake/ gold and gems." She glances around Gamble towards Kludge "Kludge, dear. I think we should re-evaluate our situation." Somehow already knowing it's /far/ too late for that; watching in horror as Winny smashes a coin - she pulls Gamble in front of herself as a pony-shield - not entirely sure what will occur - but positive it won't involve rainbows and puppies.

upon hearing Skyflower start talking, Rising Chaos' eyes open wide. She starts sneaking towards the back of the cave with all the speed she can muster without being seen. She breaks into a sprint when Winter kicks the hoard. Chaos knows enough about dragons to be worried, very very worried!!

Kludge watches all of this with a slight eye-twitch. If this is what adventurers are usually like, then he's glad he isn't one. He starts planning how to grab Spearmint and run, in case things completely turn to slime.

And again with the hefting! This time bodily! Spearmint gerks and flails around, blinking as he's once again put on somepony's back. Would everypony /please/ stop doing that?! "But… but it's not proper smoke, either! It doesn't make sense. It doesn't /smell/ right! It smells like somepony's gonna cook something. Dragonfire shouldn't smell like a stove!" he insists. "An' it's not breathing right either! It sounds all… wrong! I don't think there's a dragon in here at all!"

Two things happen when Winter stomps down on the coin.

First, the coin explodes. Kaboom! Luckily for Winter, the explosion was akin to a firecracker going off given that there was only the one coin! Unfortunately it sets off a couple of the other coins that plunked down nearby. The chain reaction begins setting other little groups of coins off… The whole treasure pile?

Explosives in disguise.

The second thing that happens is that the dragon /doesn't/ wake up. In fact, Sky may notice that she has a nice, bright reflection in the dragon's face. Not to mention a couple of the exploding coins leave burnmarks on the dragon's otherwise shiny hide. This dragon isn't a real dragon! But if the exploding coin reaction keeps going the way it is, it's going to reach the main horde, and that will be a very /interesting/ moment.

Captain Flintlock frowns at Spearmint. "Not a dragon…?" He looks at the 'dragon'. Then the coins start exploding. "Oh goodness! It's a trap!"
Ruby-Blossom pages: How hiliarious would it be if Ruby realized the music she memorized was actually the tune for a old jokey song?

Winter-Solstice hikes her hoof with a little jump when she feels it erupt underfoot, more surprised than harmed. More explosions go off behind her, though. She blinks and whirls to face it, eyes still wide and wider by the moment. The dim light of the cave is gradually growing brighter as more and more 'gold' starts going off. That box of pearls she thought she'd found? PLASTIC. The autographed photo of Sapphire Shores? A FORGERY. The little box of gold gaming miniatures? They're just PAINTED to look good but they're still actual pewter underneath and that is kinda cool, especially the little wizard. Until his head gets blown off.

As the explosions erupt around her, Winter can't help but throw her head back and let loose a cackle that is far too joyous to sound sinister. "UWAAAHH HA HA HA" *snort* "HAHAHA" *snort* "HA HAAAAAA! It's fake! IT'S ALL FAKE!" It isn't her evil plan, anyway, so she can't really laugh in a turly evil fashion about it, but it seems so appropriate to let loose a truly sinster laugh while the cavern burns around her. Eventually her voice drops into a giggle and she decides, around when the shrapnel ricocheting off her soot-smudged flanks is starting to sting, that she should probably back up a bit. So she does.

Rocket stares in alarm at the sudden exploding bits. "Woah! That's not somethin' you see every… uh… maybe we should /not/ be around this," she notes, looking down at Fuzzball. "An' I can't fly off with you at the moment, so…"

Rising-Chaos runs to the back of the cave, and stops. For a moment she just stares at the back wall, the empty, flat back wall. Where is the cave, where are the secrets she had read about? Chaos lets out a scream of rage, why must everything go wrong when she tries to manipulate others' quests for her own personal benefit? As she's stomping her hooves in futile anger she finally clues in to the fact that there are explosions behind her. Words unbefitting of a lady escape her lips and she starts powering up her failsafe spell.

Fuzzball agrees with Rocket the best way he knows how! By backpeddling out of the cave to escape the explosions! Oh dear!

Gamble blanches. So many explosions! And they haven't found the box yet! He twitches an ear, backing up out of fear and uncertainty. "What… Aw crabapples! Everybody out! This thing ain't gonna be pretty when it blows!" That treasure may just be as good as gone…

Captain Flintlock would argue that point, but he's got a foal on his back. Crazy as he is, he's not about to be a child-killer! So he…levitates Spearmint up, off his back, and onto the dead snake. That makes everything better! "Jackson! Take the kid to safety! I'm going to find that dang box if it kills me!"

Kludge starts muttering a long string of curses, pausing only long enough to grab Spearmint (and the dead snake). After placing Spearmint on his back, he quickly heads out of the cave and *around the corner from the cave entrance.* Then, after thinking a moment, crosses the bridge as well. "Kid, you were more right than you thought," he finally says.

Ruby-Blossom believes herself to be safe outside the cave - she started heading out long before the other ponies; flank comfortably planted as she waits for everypony to run out while ensuring to throw a 'told you so look' at Gamble - she's starting to think this stallion is nothing but trouble.

So much lifting! By this point the colt's almost gotten used to the dizzying feeling that comes along with losing touch with solid ground. Spearmint takes a few good sniffs of the (currently) smoke-less air, rubbing his ears with one hoof to try to stop the ringing all the popping had brought on. "There was no dragon? What was all that noise? It sounded like someone set off a bunch of holiday crackers."

Winter-Solstice is about to head out as well, waiting for the others to go ahead of her- the whole first-one-in, last-one-out thing is a difficult instinct to resist. As the last of the other, normal, non-crazy ponies depart, she's just about to join them, when she sees the Captain heading INTO the danger. This all seems remarkably familiar- everything suddenly going all pear-shaped with Captain Flintlock barreling headlong into trouble.

But last time he did that, they found what they were looking for.

So Winter follows, but not before tucking into her saddlebag and pulling out what appears to be a welding mask- sturdy and tough and probably what made most of the clanking from her bag o' goodies. She dons it quickly and pulls it down over her face, peering out through a sooty band of glass along the front, and moves to follow the Captain, though she does try to keep towards the sides of the cavern. Because walls… are safe? "Right, box!" she calls out, voice a bit muffled, as she scans the treasure trove. "I guess we just look for the thing that isn't exploding! Got any bright ideas, Flinty?" A coin, ejected from the pile of explosions, bounces off her facemask and then erupts a moment later; she winces slightly but holds her ground.

Rising-Chaos fades to black and melts away as her spell activates. Her failsafe spell worked! Not that she had any doubt, she has calculated a 75 chance of success, more than any other spell she'd ever made! She uses her shadow walking spell to fly through the cave with great speed, only for the spell to fail about half way through. Leaving her standing to one side of a cave filled wiht exploding things, with little to no cover, Chaos screams again. She makes a break for it, pieces of shrapnel bouncing off her travel cloak, which protects her body and neck, but her head is not so fortunate. A piece of shrapnel flies into her eyes, stinging like mad, but not permenantly damaging it. Quickly, she makes her way out of the cave, sore, with a closed eye, but alive.

So Skyflower's profession affords her a great many joys and more than a few potential difficulties. One of the side effects is that she tends to have a remarkable amount of gunpowder on her person at any given time. Ordinarily this is no great risk. Being in a cave full of exploding treasure is about as far from 'ordinarily' as one may reasonably conjecture. Which is why by the time she's run out of the cave enterance her saddlebags have become two gaping mouths spitting colorful fire in all directions. She's not hurt but darned if she isn't making a spectacle of herself.

"Oh! Oh my! Oh dear, no! Not that one, I was sa-oh SUGAR!"

"There's only one thing not exploding!" Captain Flintlock says to the /very/ crazy mare that decided to join him amid the exploding chaos of the cave. "The dragon! Kick it!"

With everyone else standing outside, Gamble's all too willing to start shooing them over the bridge. "I don't wanna be anywhere near this thing when that big pile explodes!" he grumbles, "C'mon! Git while we still can! Back to the path!"

Speaking of the big pile, it's already begun to erupt. Glittery coins leap and combust in so many shrapnel-filled bursts, explosion after explosion setting off more and more of the great pile of fake gold!

Kludge finishes walking back to what's left of the cart - a pair of wheeled axles connected by a scant few boards. Best to wait out of the way of both explosions and retreating ponies, then figure things out from what's left.

Smash things! Smash, she can do! Winter looks at the exploding pile, up at the 'dragon,' then back at the explosions, and then doesn't get a very good look at the explosions at all because she is busily charging towards them, and the erupting pile, and the 'dragon,' as fast as her legs can carry her, breezing past the Captain along the way. She's really hoping that the dragon is at least more explosion-proof than herself. Now, granted, she's as sturdy as they come, but even this is starting to feel like a BAD IDEA. Thankfully for her forward momentum- if not her sense of self-preservation- the little BAD IDEA light is drowned out by a much shinier, golden A SANDWICH MADE OF EXPLOSIONS IS THE BEST IDEA light. Yeah. yeah, that would be awesome.

Up the pile she goes, making do with determination what other ponies might do with dexterity, hop hop hop. She may or may not be boosted by an erupting gold pile beneath her as she goes. You could call it Rocket Jumping, except everybody knows Rocket is a gryphon and why would a gryphon jump when it can fly, silly? As she nears the dragon, she finds a momentary perch, wheels about, aims those powerful hind legs of hers, and drives a solid double buck right towards the automaton's flank. Hopefully she knocks a hole in the side. Hopefully she can then get inside that hole and be protected because whoever built this thing was SO concerned with accuracy they wanted to make it fireproof. Are dragons even fireproof? It stands to reason. "Come on, Flinty!" she calls back. If it takes another kick, she delivers it with as much gusto as she can manage from her fiery perch. "Party's up here!"

Rocket peers back at the cave, frowning deeply. She'd probably be in there herself if she weren't too tiny to /do/ anything with the box if she found it! Who rigs treasure to explode anyways?

When Winter goes charging up the exploding pile of treasure, Captain Flintlock flails! "No! No!! I meant kick here! The head! Oh for love of…" He's not about to get blown up! Thus he charges up after the big ol' charging pony to dive into the hole kicked into this dragon 'statue', because somewhere in there is a musicbox. …Or at least, safety from explosions. Hopefully both and not neither!

Outside the cave, the explosions are very much getting to the point that little bits of fiery coin shrapnel flying out the cave are being joined with solid rocks. The Treasure Chest is spit out as a great flaming ball, and then…

KABOOM!

A great wave of fiery burning blows out the mouth of the cave! A similar one pushes out from the top of the cave, blowing a new hole into the mountain! Several more plumes of explosive force rock the entire mountainside, making footing, especially on that slender path, all the more treacherous.

Moments later, the whistling sound of something flying through the air can be heard. When it lands, it's with a great fiery WHUMP, on top of the remains of Kludge's cart. The dragon's head! Charred but still shiny, and very much fireproof. Then the head opens..and out the dragon's mouth steps Captain Flintlock, coughing upon his exit. Hack, hack, cough, wheeze! "Dear Celestia… You crazy, /crazy/ mare! That was brilliant! I should make you my new First Mate!"

Ruby-Blossom ducks aside as she's no intention of being harmed by explosions or shrapnel - quickly trotting her way back across the bridge and near Kludge's cart - managing to just barely duck to avoid the flying dragon's head - sadly she fails to avoid the sizable chunk of rockwall it's crash-landing dislodges from the side of the cliff. A loud *whomp* and down the mare goes, again - this is becoming all too common place in recent days >.< The turquoise out cold and not nearly as hurt as her pride. *Thump* the mare face planted against the ground - out cold.

The battered but intact head rattles a bit after Flintlock climbs out, a little dust of gold spilling off its tongue- and goig up like a sparkler as it does. Winter's saddleback slides out and onto the ground, followed by an unassuming music box, followed by the mare herself- her normal white color smudged to an awful shade of soot grey. She's wobbly on her feet before pulling herself upright, and with a little upward toss of her head, lifts the welding mask off her face and leaving it visored above it- her face is relatively clean, a noticable border between the soot that covers her body and what was protected by the mask. Blinking at her surroundings, then the captain, then the others, she opens her mouth and says, "*COUGH cough cough.*" She clears her throat and tries again. "I think I *COUGH COUGH cough.* AHEM. I think I made it! What did we accomplish, though? Did we open up a new tunnel? Where do we go next!?" She pivots on a heel and is ready to head back into the smoldering cave when she trips over the music box by her foot, to pitch forward and settle in a heap on her face.

Rising-Chaos tries to follow the others, but faisl to completely avoid the gout of flames erupting from the cave, again, no serious damage is done. Chaos is, however, noticeably charred from the encounter. She's charred, battered, sore and angry as she rejoins the party. She pushes her way past Winter Solstice and goes to the far side of the path, where she immediatly sits down. She empties her saddlebags and starts inspecting her items for damagae.

Kludge sighs - so much for the cart. He kneels down so Spearmint can hop off, then picks up Ruby. Looking at Spearmint, he says "Looks like it's time to head back to town. I'll guide you back." and then starts walking off, humming as he goes to help be an audio beacon.

Spearmint yelps and jumps at the explosion, then again as the dragon head comes crashing down, unbalancing and toppling off of Kludge's back with an oof. Sprawl. "…Wh-what just happened?" he asks dazedly, ears still ringing. Hoping rather strongly that nothing else would fall out of the sky.

Somewhere amid all the confusion and chaos, Gamble and Fuzzball manage to avoid falling off the mountain! This is a great victory for them, since both had been on the narrow pathway at the time of the bigger explosions. When Gamble does finally crawl onto the mountain path, he flops onto his back and…sighs. "Why…does everything involving this pirate hafta explode somehow?" He casts a baleful glare at Captain Flintlock.

Whom is busy studying the little unassuming box Winter tripped over. "Aha! We found it! It was inside the dragon the whole time! I knew it…" No he didn't. But he picks it up anyway, tucking it into his saddleback. "Good job crew! We're one step closer to our ultimate goal! Next stop is the old rat's island itself!"

Winter-Solstice takes a moment to collect her things- at least, whatever of her things are left and didn't fall off a cliff at some point- before looking at the music box, just as the captain is putting it away. Don't they get to wind it up or anything like that? What kind of song does it play? Such wonder, such mystery! She coughs a few more times, then moves to shrug a comatose Ruby Blossom up onto her back (poor girl! All the excitement must have gotten to her!), and starts to pick her way back down the trail, whistling a jaunty and aimless tune. Then she looks back at the giant chunk of Kludge's cart that she thought was Ruby but was in fact a twisted axle. "Ruby! You look awful!" She stops. "Wait, you're not Ruby!" She stares. Then carries the bent axle down the mountain anyway.

Rising-Chaos finds most of her stuff in terrible condition, many books have charred pages and her supplies are for the most part ruined. She doesn't even have the energy for more thana sigh, and a sigh she gives. She repacks, waves to the party, then starts to walks up the mountain. "I came here for something," she calls back to the others. "I'm not leaving without it, you guys head back, don't worry." She trost off up the path and out of sight.

Skyflower's saddlebags have finally stopped exploding and are now instead fuming smoke as she follows everyone down the path. "I'd say that this was perhaps not the most successful outing we've had. Ah well. Perhaps next time?"

Fuzzball hops up to join the exodus down the mountain, hopefully still carrying Rocket! And Gamble scurries to catch up. "I dunno. As adventures go, this wasn't so bad. We got what we came for. That's better'n not. Apparently next one's goin' ta be the best one, eh?"

…As the ponies (and giant bunny) wander off back to town proper, the dragon head on the road gives one more shudder. A green goo pops out of one dragon statue eye, dropping to the pathway with a sickening plop. A small pseudopod lifts up, as though sniffing the air.

Then the small blobbish thing begins creeping off towards the direction of the fleeing adventurous ponies. And Horseshoe Harbor…