Zombie Rescue
IC date: Autumn 32, 1007
OOC date: October 21, 2012
PCs: Jellybean, Kludge, Magpie, Ruby-Blossom, Snowfield, Winter-Solstice
NPCs: Pinkie Pie, The Lich Queen
GM: Applejack, Trixie

THE SLED… will not be joining us this evening. No, the Sled is sitting this one out.

But instead we do have that big heater thing Heatsink made to cover up tracks. Even if Snowfield came along for the trip and could theoretically do it herself. Because honestly, with the forest being potentially overrun with undead monstrosities, Winter really really REALLY wants to make sure they don't have a nice pony-width trail to follow back to the base. There's been enough trips back and forth by now she's sort of surprised it hasn't already happened- which means she's all the more anxious to make sure it doesn't. So, there she is, lugging the Path-hider, and bringing up the rear of the caravan while the machine whirrs and churns the snow behind her.

"Okay, we're coming up on the forest!" she calls out to those ahead, an entirely useless observation given that the forest- and the ponies' distance from it- has been plainly visible since they stepped out onto the broad plane of the wastes. "Remember what the professor said. We're not gonna stick around very long. Just pop in real quick, shout a bit, see if we can't find Pinkie, then come right back if we don't hear anything. Which seems kind of, like, I don't know, like maybe maybe if we don't hear something we could try and save her but that wouldn't really be the especially responsible thing to do! So everybody! Think responsible!"

Snowfield walked out of what would have been the briefing for this expedition thanks to the extreme level of shenanigans taking place when she arrived at the lab earlier, but after having breakfast with Manyara she is feeling much more willing to deal with everypony's tomfoolery. "Responsible, yes," the unicorn agrees with the much larger mare. She appreciates the recap of their mission objectives. "And do try to keep calm in the event of a zombie attack. Alert the others and hightail it back out of the forest with a minimum of wild screaming."

Magpie gives Winter Solstice a flat look. "I swear," she says slowly, "to be at least as responsible as you are."

Jellybean, whose grasp on irony is not so strong, salutes. "I'll be careful, I promise!" He takes off, moving partway up the canopy to get a better view on the surroundings.

Kludge is simply walking along and keeping an eye on the surroundings. While it might not be exciting, sometimes dull is a good thing. And with these woods in general and this world in particular, well… this is one of those times.

The forest is as dismal and dark as ever. Especially with the new moon just passing, hardly but a sliver of moon visible to give any natural illumination at all. It's also eerily quiet. Not that this forest in particular generated much noise, but what natural creatures there are that lurk in the bushes and snowdrifts and shadows are being extra-quiet tonight.

Ruby-Blossom hangs almost as far back as Kludge does this evening - not particularly thrilled to be back at the forest after encounter those numerous undead - having to outrun the undead isn't fun, thanks guys! The mare glances at Kludge then up ahead at Magpie before softly clicking her tongue. "So…why did Pinkie Pie go out by herself?

Winter-Solstice meets Magpie's flat look with a broad smile. "Great! Then I at least know you're not gonna be even LESS responsible. Because if you were, that would be kinda scary for everyone." She wrinkles up her nose. "'Cause come on, I mean, seriously. I started a wrestling tournament for some of the foals back in the base this morning. Those guys really need to find a better babysitter." She advances upon the treeline, head turning this way and that, muppet snowsuit swoosh-swooshing with the sound. "Right. I wonder how well voice carries in there. Anybody want to do the honors? Feeling particularly loud?" She turns to look back over her shoulder, and takes a moment to turn the Path-hider off- if they're going to be milling around for a bit, she might as well conserve what power she can. "Snowfield? How about you? You look like the type who would be really really good at yelling at people."

Magpie swallows, looking into the forest. "Um.." She glances at the adults, then cups her hooves around her mouth and gives a low call, almost louder than a normal conversational tone. "Pinkie Pie, Pinkie Pie, Pinkie Pie!" It's almost more incantation than calling.

Kludge gives Ruby a shrug. "Because that's how she had been doing things before we got here? I don't claim to know how ponies around here think."

Snowfield wrinkles her nose at Winter. "What in Equestria gives you the impression that I'm good at yelling at people?" Nevermind that it is absolutely true. "It's not a thing we want to test, anyway. Somepony would have to travel into the forest far enough that they couldn't see the rest of us and hope it's still within earshot. Celestia forbid they actually get lost trying to find out what our range is."

Jellybean, whose voice can carry quite far when he's his normal size, is instead focusing on any signs of movement in the forest. He calls out below: "Should I turn on the brooch? It might make it easier for her to find us."

Ruby-Blossom pops her visor then cups her hoofs in front of her face before calling out "Pinkie-Pie!" Only she's yelling in Pinkie's voice and not her own. "Time to come out!" She stops to look at Kludge "I guess…" she mutters, still in Pinkie's voice.

Magpie glances at Ruby. "The foals said she's some kinda genius. She KNOWS stuff. She knows when they're sleeping. She knows when they're awake. She knows if they've been bad or good… it's kind of creepy."

Winter-Solstice listens to Snowfield as she watches Magpie- who has a good idea but needs to work on her execution- then turns to smile at the small unicorn. "Of course," she agrees in a deft avoidance of the subject. She looks across to Jelly next. "Nah, Jelly, probably not. Out here without a lot of cover, it'd be visible to everybody on the wastes. Not sure we should risk someone in the air spotting us. Maybe if we have to go into the woods further, we can try it then, under the canopy." She falls quiet as Ruby does her shouting, then stomps her hooves a couple of times in approval. "There you go! That was not only really loud but also surprisingly kind of creepy how well you can mimic her. Good thing I'm like nine times as tall as you are," it's probably more like 1.5 times, "or I'd start worrying you could dress up as ME and sound like ME and then go steal all my goodies."

Magpie says "You have goodies?"

The forest responds with…nothing.

No movement. No sound. In fact, the ever-abundant breeze that dogs the wastelands has died down, leaving the only sounds to be heard those that the ponies themselves are making. Every breath sounding off like a million pins dropping.

It's an unnerving silence to those who are unnerved by unnatural sensations.

And it's coupled by a creeping paranoia that there's a dozen pairs of eyes watching everything these ponies do. The abundant shadows seem to reach out past the line of trees that makes the forest's edge.

Ruby-Blossom glances over her shoulder at Winny and pipes right back at her - in Winny's own voice. "Yeah, that'd be real weird if I was as big as you. I suppose then we'd find out if Kludge likes big mares." a teasing inflection in her Winny impersonation. Her voice goes silent a few moments later - just in time to bask in the over-all creepiness.

Magpie swallows. The unnerving silence almost unwilling drags a nearly-whispered song from her. "When I was a little filly and the snow was falling do~own… The reaching of the shadows made me hide under the gro~ound…" A single filly's softly singing voice does NOT HELP with the creepy factor.

Snowfield's pace slows as they enter the forest. "Jellybean, try to keep track of everypony while we're in the forest, your wings will make it easy to hop between us if we get separated." Her ears twitch up as she listens for the sounds of life barely eking out an existence that she has become accustomed to in her own foraging runs.

"…something is amiss," the little unicorn murmurs. "I can't place a hoof on what, though." If only ice magic also included some kind of ice echolocation or something as well. That would be real convenient right now.

Kludge chuckles, appreciating the bit of levity from Ruby. This place sure is creepy, though - he's glad that they're here as a group! He starts humming along with Magpie, although he doesn't chip in with any lyrics. Crafting a house is one thing; crafting a verse is another!

Magpie 's just singing something she heard from Pinkie a few days ago…

Ruby-Blossom tilts her head curiously at Maggie then glances back to the forest in a pondering manner. "So we're going in, huh?" she asks curiously before glancing to the group "Have any of you actually seen those undead ponies? I mean, while you were all leaving the forest in a hurry, you know, without me?" Bitter Berry much?

Something feels bumpy underneath Magpie's hooves. Is that a…pair of goggles, half-buried by drifting snow? Why it is! It is goggles!

Winter-Solstice stares at Ruby for a few moments. "I'd probably just ask him if I wanted to know," she offers, reaching up to scratch the back of her head. She stares at Kludge as she listens to all of the nothing going on. She scowls after a moment, tromps over to the nearest tree, well beyond the creeping shadows that don't know how to stay where they belong, and wheels about, the ropes that tug the path-hider getting all tangled up around her, so she can lift her hind legs and BAM BAM BAM, buck that murky dark tree trunk like a champ. "PINKIE PIIIIIIIEEEEE!!!!" she bellows. "COME ON OUT RIGHT NOW PLEASE THIS IS ABOUT TO GET MORE COMPLICATED THAN ANY OF US NEED, THANK YOUUfgghg" A heap of snow is dislodged from a branch over her head and falls atop her.

Magpie, ignoring Winter's predictable silliness, holds up her find. "I… think I found Pinkie's glasses," she says quietly, then looks back at the forest. "She… she wouldn't have just lost these…"

Jellybean whimpers a little. He doesn't like the silence. But Winter gives him an order he thinks is sensible, so he nods. "Okay!" With that he returns to scouting mode, keeping his eyes down towards the rest of the group.

"I was an undead pony for a while," Snowfield says nonchalantly, not even bothering to glance back at Ruby as her ears continue to flick back and forth listening for any sort of sound from the forest… and then wincing when Winter begins throwing a darn fit. "That's right, clue in everything in the forest that we're right here," she grumbles.

Ruby-Blossom huffs softly at Winny and cranky - err Snowfield; ruby red eyes wandering to Magpie and her new clue. "Pinkie's goggles?" a slight frown as she trots a little closer to examine "Are they damaged, or intact, Maggie?" placing a hoof on the filly's shoulders.

Huh. Snowfield used to be undead? Learn something new every day, Kludge figures. At least adventuring is allowing Kludge to be more accepting of the oddities in life. Now, if he could only get more used to more mundane aspects of adventuring, like self-defense.

Winter-Solstice shakes her head and squirms and gasps as more snow than she appreciates works its way down the neck of her snowsuit and melts against her hide. "Ffghgh. The whole idea was to yell, Snowfield, they woulda figured it out eventually. Besides, they can probably smell our blood already." She takes a moment to untangle herself, accomplishes this for the most part, and turns to look into the woods with a scowl. "The professor said to come right back to base if we didn't hear anything and that's probably a good idea but at the same time, if Pinkie's in trouble, if now's the time to help her, this is probably the time to do it. So if any of you want to go back I will totally not hold it against you or anything but if you're coming with then you should totally do that because I'm not leaving until I get more of a look." She draws in a deep breath, holds it for one frowning moment, then stomps further into the woods, dragging the silent path-hider behind her.

They're intact goggles, though there are a couple stray strands of pink mane stuck to the edges.

The forest remains silent. Despite Winter's shouting.

As Winter begins to tromp her way past the boundary of forest, that pathfinder she's dragging along totally covering her tracks behind her, she'll find something else! A totally wrecked bush. Like a couple things might have fallen into it and tussled, and something got dragged out of it. Look, there's even a trail in the forest's snow that looks disturbingly like the sort of trail one would make if they were being dragged by their hooves.

Magpie blinks at Snowfield and opens her mouth to ask a question, but gets interrupted by Ruby. "Ah…" She holds up the goggles for inspection. And then Winter takes off. She hesitates and makes a little whimpering sound, split — then turns and dashes after Winter! "Wait!"

"Well, I'm not letting you wander into a death trap by yourself," Snowfield says as she trots ahead to be alongside Winter. "You'll need somepony to save your flank when you walk into a nest of monsters." From her position at the front of the pack now she can easily see the signs of the fight. "Oh dear. Well, there's your answer about her being in trouble."

Ruby-Blossom tosses up several small orbs before gingerly catching them in her hoof then tucking them away - perhaps she helped herself to some of Fizzy's goodies? The world may never know - or they might sooner than the world likes. "I swear…it's a shame her brain didn't keep up with her body." muttering as she begins to trot after Winter; the words full of spiteful love for the big lug that is Winny. "Winny stay together!" she yells softly while attempting to catch up to the giant.

Jellybean swallows nervously. "I'll c-come too. I want to make sure she's okay." He flaps and flies a little lower to follow the group a little more closely.

"Like I'm going to go the direction the group *isn't* going," chuckles Kludge wryly. Safety in numbers, and all of those thing.

Winter-Solstice casts a glance at Snowfield, an uncharacteristic scowl crossing her face. "Yeah, well, maybe you'll find the monsters and I'll be the one to save YOUR flank," she says. "Plus one." She stares at the scene of the disturbance, the track that leads off into the forest, and tries to see where it leads. After taking a moment to thump the path-hider again, making sure it isn't totally off- because when you're poking around in a mysterious dark forest that eats people, you maybe WANT a way to tell how to get back out- before following the hoofy drag-marks, walking to the side so as not to disturb them. She glances back over her shoulder for a moment, then does a double-take. "Wait, you ALL came with? Aww, shucks, guys, the Professor's gonna probably be so mad."

Magpie leaps up on Winter's back and bops her with a hoof. "Forget the professor, we're all gonna beat the hay out of you if you get us killed."

Magpie then hugs the big mare. "Thank you for helping Pinkie," she adds, more quietly.

Ruby-Blossom 's dainty little steps tend to be a tad more calculated then the rest of the groups - she'd prefer not to leave her own hoof prints; fortunately Winny leaves big hoof prints to fill and they're easily used to conceal her own. "Winny - just be careful." she trots a little closer to the mare - still following in her wake. "Then again, I doubt I'm the right mare to be saying that all things considered.

The trail leads deep into the forest! Of course. Trails like this don't ever lead out to friendly places, or to warm and happy scenes. There's splotches of dark…stuff in the snow to either side of the trail, bits of moss and other things appearing within the trenches. As the group of ponies stumble through the forest, soft noises begin to rise up from the utter silence.

Shuffling. Scraping. Groaning? Sighing?

And once in a while, a lilting giggle above it all, coming and fading like a quick wave of creepy.

The feeling of danger increases with every step following the odd trail in the forest. Particularly when one is close enough to begin to smell the things that they're coming up to. Which, coincidentally, happens to be beyond a familiar opening in the forest, that once led to a clearing of foals and joy, but now…

Magpie had long since tightened the goggles' strap around her head. Now she slips the goggles over her eyes. "I'm ready," she whispers.

"This is hardly a flank plus one," Snowfield says haughtily. "It's a minus two at worst." She trots along the drag marks as well, her own hooves not leaving a print in the ground on account of magic. "Let me light things up a bit," she offers as her horn begins to glow that icy blue shade that matches her eyes. It doesn't pieces the darkness too far, what with the trees and all, but hopefully it'll give them a good ten or fifteen feet of visibility.

As for the creepy groaning and giggling? Every time a noises pierces the silence of the forest the little witch's ears twitch and turn to try and figure out which direction it's coming from with little success. Snowfield doesn't recognize any of this, unfortunately, since she wasn't with the group who ventured into this part of the forest.

Oddly enough, the fact that the forest is *only* nerve-wracking is a bit of a relief to Kludge. It's when things go from merely creepy to physically threatening that you have to worry.

Still creepy, though.

Winter-Solstice slows her approach. Is that the… yeah, that looks like the Hive grove. Which means it's not unreasonable to assume that shuffling sound are the assorted beasties that overran it. Winter sighs, glancing back at the others again. Okay, sure, she was considering coming out here to try and beat back the monsters a bit earlier, that much is true, but it suddenly seems much less appealing with everybody else along for the ride. Snowfield's a big girl, she can get into or out of trouble on her own, and Ruby increasingly seems like the rough and tumble sort, but Magpie? Jellybean? Heck, even Kludge seems too good-natured for Winter to want to throw him into danger. The dude should be off building toys for orphans or something.

She frowns as she looks back to the grove, muttering under her breath. "What are the orphans gonna do for the Week of Giving?" She shakes her head and starts forward at a cautious creep, and raises her voice slightly. "Last chance, folks. Might start getting exciting from here on out. Totally not gonna expect anybody to keep up. Except Snowfield. Rest of you, though…" She slinks towards the grove entrance, step by snow-crunching step, listening, listening, then leaning in to peer into the grove at last.

Jellybean whimpers again, flying lower still to stay closer. "C-can I turn on the light now? I'd feel better if it weren't so dark," he says, irrespective of Snowfield's glow. He swallows and tries to gather some composure, calming down through what will he can muster.

Ruby-Blossom reaches out to place a hoof on Winny's shoulder - whispering "Any chance I can take a quick look before we go gung-ho? I was the last pony out here…and these things are dangerous." a sincere look "They're scary, really scary Winny." hoping somepony will listen "I can sneak ahead then signal when the coast is clear…I mean as clear as it could possibly be.

Magpie looks up at Ruby, then crouches low to the ground. "I'm smaller," she whispers, and starts sliding across the top of the snow towards the circle of trees ringing the hive.

"If we're in need of a distraction to escape, I'm more than capable of staying behind this time around," Snowfield offers as she magics up a bit of snow from the ground and lets it float loosely around her like her own personal nebula. "It'll take more than a few monster bites to break through a foot of ice armor."

Within the clearing ponies are met with the sight of a good several hundred gruesome bodies, all huddled together outside the giant hive at the other end of the clearing. The snow is trampled down, if not turned to slush by the constant movement of some moss-covered or rotting hoof, or something continually packing the snow. Most of the things are little more than clumps of vaguely pony-shaped mulch, though there's certainly enough 'newer' bodies to completely confirm what they are.

Zombies. A horde of them. In various stages of rot and decay, milling about in the oddest horrific sort of social gathering ever.

Because that's what they're doing. They're talking. Granted, it's difficult for them to converse properly when they can't properly speak, but there's definite snippets of words making it past dead lips. Way off in the distance, one can even see undead things coming in and out of the hive itself, leaving little doubt as to why they're here. Something in there is extremely interesting to them.

As for the trail, it continues into the clearing, but not so far as the hive. No, it doesn't have to. It ends at a scraped-off clearing, the snow removed down to the dirt, and some odd sort of makeshift rack set up. These zombies can be pretty handy all things considered. Hanging from this rack, is…a body. Headless. In a snowsuit.

But before the group can be given more than a second to register this gruesome gathering, a mossy shape barrels into Winter's side as hard as it can! And with it, a voice: "Shhhhhh! You'll blow my cover..!"

Kludge looks at the rack, then at the "zombie" that rushed the group. "Looks like we have a number of ponies that are good at disguises," he quietly remarks. "How are things going here?"

Winter-Solstice hesitates there at the precipice. Precipices… precipi…? … are what you vault through with a cheer, not hover on like some whimpering yearling! She glances to Ruby, back to the clearing, then back to Ruby, then back to the clearing. The sight of it all is horrid enough it has more of a numbing effect than anything. Winter opens her mouth, about to say something in response to Ruby's offer, when she is BOWLED OVER.

For a moment she fights back, tensing up, readying to throw the assault back and wind up for a kick, but halfway through the motion she speaks up. "Wha-" she asks, before catching herself and quieting her voice. "What the… p-Pinkie? Is that you?" Scooting back, Winter puts a bit of distance between herself and the Chatty Zombie. "We're not having a very good day when it comes to evil disguises so if it is you please give us some sort of indication right now before Jellybean starts screaming!"

Jellybean was going to say something but, well, zombies. He's now several feet back from the rest of the group and huddled in a little ball of foal.

Ruby-Blossom darts forward upon noticing the hordes of Zombies; quickly grabbing Maggie by the tail and tossing her backwards towards the group - pouncing atop of her almost all in an instant; trying to keep the foal from making any noise and she quickly points at the zombie horde in the clearing while covering Maggie's mouth. "Look before you leap, Maggie." she says hushedly.

Snowfield may be one of the only ponies here who hasn't had the luck to encounter Pinkie Pie yet, so she can only assume that whoever just bowled over Winter and started hissing instructions. "Who are you?" she asks to verify even as the snow floating around her hardens into icicles, Just in case she does, in fact, have to save Winter's flank..

"Well duh! Of course it's me!" the 'zombie' speaks in hushed whispery Pinkie Pie tones. Then the mossy thing takes its head off! Or at least, the mossy cover that was a head, revealing the pink-maned terror beneath! She looks so serious right then, but it melts away right quick to a cheerful grin. "Scared ya, didn't I? I'm totally saving this costume for later. The kids'll love it."

Her ears perk up! Pinkie glances back at the clearing opening, puts her 'head' back on, and starts nudging Winter's flank. "Move, move! Hide in the bushes before one of them comes out and sees you! I'll be there in a second!"

Magpie is about to get into an argument with Ruby, but — oh! It's pinkie. She hugs the pink pony and then lets herself be guided into the bushes. "I'm glad you aren't dead," she whispers before Pinkie leaves.

Kludge is generally willing to listen to those who know what they're doing. Thus, he hides in the largest clump of nearby bushes. After all, several ponies are going to have to fit in here, and one of them's Winny.

Winter-Solstice hastens along, the runner-mounted Pathhider tugged along with- at an odd angle, given her little tumble with Pinkie left some of the ropes tangled up around her feet. She casts about for some bushes, drags over to them, and tucks down in. Then pops up, eyes the Pathhider, and looks a bit further, towards Snowfield. "Snowfield!" she says, as she pulls the device over to a snowdrift. "Can you do a little ice-voodoo and blow the snow up over this? Help bury it a bit so it doesn't stand out so much?" Soon she's unroping herself, and tucking back into the bush once more, reaching up to smooth the shock of red hair that runs down the middle of her otherwise pale mane back a bit.

Ruby-Blossom settles into the bushes and whispers softly "I hope they don't smell us…" recalling how the first one she saw sniffed the air well before it saw her.

Jellybean looks relieved: she's okay! She wasn't gobbled up or anything! He manages what he probably thinks is a salute. "Yes ma'am!" he somehow exclaims quietly before finding a bush to hide in.

"I think this is a fine time to head back the way we came," Snowfield murmurs back to Winter even as she dissolves her icicles back into snow and begins packing the white powder around the Pathhider. "Pinkie is safe, that's what we came here to check, right? Leave the reconnaissance to her, she doesn't need us out here being liabilities."

No sooner do the group of ponies hide themselves than a couple of the more decayed members of the Undead come shambling out of the clearing. Pinkiezombie turns around quickly, grunting something to the others. Whom grunt back. Lots of incoherent sounds ensue, some kind of communication (who knew PInkie Pie knew how to talk Zombie?), and then the undead pair shuffle back into the clearing.

Pinkie blows out a soft sigh. "That was close… They can definitely smell you guys. I just convinced them it was that new body I brought in." She takes her head off again, glancing back to the bushes, "I could..lead you guys out? I was just about to head back, but they keep saying someone's going to show up, so I've been hanging out to find out who! It could be important… But I don't wanna put you guys in danger either!"

Magpie lays down in the snow. "Find out why they took our home," she whispers. My, she adopted that place quickly…

Much quicker than she'd let Ruby adopt her - that's for sure.

Winter-Solstice casts Snowfield a grim look. "You're right," she says, in hushed tones, once the coast is clear and she can speak up once more. "Pinkie knows how to take care of herself out here." She looks towards Pinkie. "In fact, why don't you come back with us? The Professor…" She quiets. "Someone's going to show up?" Leaning forward, she glances towards the clearing entrance once more, but can't see much from her little hidey-spot off to the side. "Maybe you should stay and scout. You've got the grim duds already. We can probably find our own way out, I bet. We left a trail and everything." She turns to see if the trail leading into the forest is still there, which provides an excellent opportunity for it to now be gone.

"If that someone shows up soon, we can get the information and get out of here," observes Kludge. "How fast can the zombies go?"

"Not fast enough to get past an ice wall," Snowfield offers to Kludge. "I'm going to start preparing for a quick getaway. We're going to smell awfully strong for just one body, I don't want to risk them coming to investigate again and catching us by surprise while we're getting out of here."

Ruby-Blossom replies to Kludge in a hushed voice "It's not the speed you have to worry about, it's the numbers."

"Okay well…" Pinkie Pie seems on the fence about the whole idea. Of course the fact that the forest has probably swallowed the path they all took to get here is to be considered. The 'zombie' sighs, "Well give it five minutes. If nothing happens, then I'll just have to try again another time. This awesome costume should make scouting a breeze!" Just how did she get that zombie costume anyway?

"Either way be really quiet and really sneaky and you can look in there. If you see a zombie coming, hide. They all seem to be in there… I'm the only one that's been going in and out. I think."

Magpie does not want to know how one makes a zombie costume.

Magpie is trying really hard not to know how one makes a zombie costume.

Winter-Solstice stays where she is. She shakes her head really briskly. "Nope. I'm not even gonna pretend I can sneak over there and take a look. Even though I really really really want to see what happens. We got experts for that." She glances to Ruby and Magpie… and then to Pinkie. "I'll just sit here and wait until everyone's ready to go, and then we can go, and we'll head back to the base. Until then I'll wait for things to go wrong right here." Which she does, hunkering down, turning her head towards the grove entrance, and staring with a scowl.

Kludge sits down and keeps an eye on the zombie group. He knows what he's good at, and it certainly isn't stealth.

Ruby-Blossom gives Maggie comforting little hug all the while watching the walkers like a hawk - one encounter with these things is one too many as it is. She huffs softly before peeking out "I'll take a look." taking Pinkie's bait - cause hey somepony has to go take a look.

Winter-Solstice calls out after Ruby in a harsh whisper. "Thanks, Ruby! You're the best! Also this gives Kludge a chance to check out your butt!" She then flashes Kludge a wink and an off-kilter grin. I got your back bro.

Magpie eep. "W-wait, I'll go with you…" She scrambles after Ruby. She leaves an odd trail in the snow that's less hoofprints and more an outline of her chest, stretched out into a furrow.

Gamble has partially disconnected.

Ruby-Blossom whispers to Maggie "If things go wrong - do as I say, no questions asked. Please." offering the smaller mare a little smile as she leads her into inconceivable danger - sneaking towards the hive formerly crawling with cuteness, now crawling with dreadful, awful undead things.

Magpie gives a little serious nod.

Snowfield stops in her spell preparation as the group decides to… split up? Really? "…on second thought, I'll join the team sneaking in," she says. Like Winter-Solstice, she doesn't trust half of these ponies to actually be any good in a straight up fight. Stealth only helps you until you get detected, after all.

The unicorn drops her snow on the ground and follows after Ruby and Magpie. Hopefully her literal snow suit will keep her delicious living pony scent muted and make up for the fact that she's not a trained sneak thief like the other two mares. Not that she knows that about them, of course.

Pinkiezombie shrugs and trots back into the clearing to mill about with the other zombies. And keep the scent thrown off, as it were. The other zombies seem to be getting…anxious? Excited? It's so hard to tell! But something's about to happen for sure!

Jellybean waits with Kludge and Winter, then gets an idea. "If I see something go wrong I'll make a bird call," he explains, flapping up to a higher branch so he has a better view.

Winter-Solstice watches Magpie go as well, then Snowfield, then frowns. "Don't go too far!" she hisses. "We can probably see what shows up from here! Don't mingle or anything! They are probably really bad at parties!" Gnawing her lower lip anxiously, she sits up, stops, and settles back down… then repeats the process seven more times, wrestling with her eagerness and this irritating *caution* condition she's developed since coming to this horrible world.

Magpie crouches in the bushes at the edge of the clearing, peeking down into the valley. She settles into the snow, and goes still. Her black and white face breaks up the outline, her pale lavender mane blending into the dark blues and grays of the unending night. And her snowsuit is just a shadow on snow…

Ruby-Blossom settles into snow near Maggie - her bright colors don't lend themself well to sneaking so she opts to keep the hood of her suit on while watching silently from the concealment of the bushes. Those ruby colored eyes darting about as she surveys the undead - watching how they interact, listening to their voices.

A haunting laugh floats through the tunnels of the Hive, its source masked by the many echoes as it reverberates through the abandoned Changeling city. It's a pleasant sounding giggle that is entirely out of place in the middle of a zombie horde, which makes it even spookier.

Speaking of zombies, their agitation level leaps ever higher at the sound of the ghostly tittering. They begin shuffling amongst themselves, trying to get as close to the hive entrance as possible without actually going into the Hive. Like they're trying to get a good look at something that will be coming out of it. Maybe trying to sneak in for a better look wasn't quite the best idea.

From his vantage point in the foliage, Kludge rubs his forehead as if to make sure his hat is completely out of line-of-sight of his eyes. Of course, this does mean that the hat is further back on his head than it usually is…

Winter-Solstice holds her breath, as she tries to watch Magpie and Ruby and Snowfield and Pinkie, while they watch the Zombies, while they watch the Hive. Something awful is going to come out of the hive and by the time the story of what it is gets back to Winter, it's not going to make a lick of sense, and she's going to be disappointed. Lowering her head to her hooves, she sighs, and whispers across to Kludge. "Hey. Hey, Kludge. Hey."

Pinkiezombie is, of course, pressed in with the rest of the horde. At the back of the horde. Lifting her head to look over other rotting ears and such. Something is coming! She spares a glance back to see if any of her friends are obviously watching, but she can't completely tell. So that's good.

Ruby-Blossom 's mind begins to wander as she considers the possibility of what could be coming - the train of thought is more than a little disturbing. She places a hoof on Maggie before softly whispering. "I think whatever it is will come soon."

Jellybean continues to watch. Oh, the tension. Oh the hoof-biting. At least he's managing to stay silent?

Kludge simply remains quiet, shooting Winny a glance of mild annoyance. Talking can wait until *after* we no longer need to hide.

A light-colored unicorn filly floats lazily out of the entrance of the hive. Her dark mane and tail billow around her in waves as she looks upon the assembled horde, though her exact colors are obscured by the sickly yellow-green magical aura that surrounds her courtesy of the levitation spell she's casting on herself. "My friends," she begins in a lilting voice. "I'm so happy you could all make it! Nightmare Night is only a week away, after all, and I want as many friends here for our big party!"

The filly does a slow somersault through the air as she looks over the assembled undead. "I know you're all really sad that we missed out on all of those foals that were hiding here, but I just know that this will be the best Nightmare Night ever. Just be a little more patient~"

Winter-Solstice frowns at Kludge in return, and reaches up to brush off the lapel of her snowsuit with a wounded air. She does look towards the glade's entrance again, though, and tilts her head, one ear cocked, listening… and unable to hear anything valuable. She bites her lower lip and LISTENS HARDER.

Pinkiezombie goes wide-eyed inside her suit! That's about as un-zombielike as a zombie gets! They have a leader! She starts to creep back out of the horde, towards the entrance of the clearing, at the same time attempting a most subtle waving of a hoof at all the hiding ponies. Time to go!

Kludge tugs his hat back into place and starts carefully backing up. First step, get out of the thickest of the bushes, then turn around when you're not as likely to shake all of the branches.

Jellybean's keen Jellysenses catch the wave: time to go. He holds it together long enough to perform a surprisingly effective bird imitation before taking off and flying away from the zombie mob.

Magpie stays very still for a few seconds, then oh-so-slowly she slips back from her hiding place. The bush's leaves rustle as she works her way out from under it until she can get free. Even then she walks with a slow, careful gait, to keep the creaking of snow underhoof to a minimum.

Snowfield also begins the careful trek back to the rest of the group. They've clearly seen enough and that filly is giving her a serious case of the creeps.

Floating upright once more, the unicorn filly smiles broadly. "Something big is going to happen here, I just know it," she chirps. "We just need to wait until the big night… wait, I said! Where do you think you're going, my impatient little pony?"

The foal does another lazy cartwheel through the air to land in between Pinkie Pie and her escape route. The magical aura fades, revealing a white coat and a blue-green mane. "You're in quite the rush, little zomzom! Please don't tell me you're falling to pieces already. I was hoping that everypony would have gotten themselves some new limbs before coming all the way out here to see me." She sniffs delicately at the costumed mare. "You certainly smell like you're made of fresh meat. Are you just that excited about killing the living? That's so cute~" The filly reaches out a hoof to noogie poor Pinkie Pie in a way which is certainly not an intentional attempt to dislodge her mask, nosiree.

Winter-Solstice pulls herself out of the bushes and slinks- inasmuch as she can slink at all- over to the heap where the Pathhider was buried. She roots about until she finds a rope, tugs and reveals the contraption, and starts hooking herself up.

… and as she does, she can hear the mysterious unicorn filly for the first time. Winter slows her movements, then stops, listening. She can't see what's going on, but even she can get an idea of what's going on. With wide eyes she glances about the rest of the group, then creeps closer to the glade entrance, ears twitching, gaze abstracted as she focuses and gnaws her lower lip; the pathhider remains in the snowbank for now, forgotten for the moment.

Careful withdraw, or distraction to help an ally? Well, desperate times and all of that…

Kludge tilts his hat back, and concentrates on launching snow at the leader of the zombies. A dark green glow appears…

» Kludge rolls 3d10 (Snow-slinging! 2v1, checking highest on each…) — Result: 7 8 6$$ | Sum: 21

Pinkiezombie finds herself caught between a smile and a zombie horde. Oh boy… She tries to hop a couple times, y'know, to show her excitement, giving a very zombieish groan and pointing at the hanging snowsuit-clad corpse. (of already-dead meat no less) She's a mighty hunter, rar!

Then the noogie comes, and the mask is smooshed. There's a mighty uncomfortable moment of silence as the helmet falls apart, something about this unicorn's touch that totally screws up the patchjob Pinkie did on it, revealing the totally fleshy face. "…Uh. Welp! Thanks for the partybutIgottagobye!" Zoom! In perfect nigh-cartoonish motion, the pink pony charges past the magical little undead leader! "Everypony RUN!"

Ruby-Blossom tsks softly and proceeds to tug out one of those nice little fire-bombs she stole from Fizzy - still intently watching Pinkie's interaction with the Zombie Master - prepared to do something really stupid should Pinkie get into any trouble. Because you know - starting bigger trouble totally stops existing trouble.

And if as on queue Ruby hurls that small firebomb in the direction of the Zombie Leader - because you know ticking her off will totally make things better.

» Ruby-Blossom rolls 1d10 (Ready, Aim, Fire?) — Result: 7 | Sum: 7

A batch of snow, about the amount of a generous hoof-full, smacks the leader upside the head. Not fast enough to prevent the smooshing of the mask, but still enough to be like getting hit by a thrown snowball.

Winter-Solstice bustles back over to the pathhider, grabs the rope, and cinches it up in the ugliest knot ever. It's going to be the worst to undo later. "OKAY, EVERYBODY!" she bellows. "TIME TO GO! GET UP, GET ON UP AND DANCE!" She starts making various wavey hoof motions and hopping towards a vaguely Out and Away direction, but doesn't want to go until everybody else is on their way. Someone has to pull up the rear, after all.

Somepony has to be the guide, too. Lost Forest, remember?

» Snowfield rolls 1d10 (Dodgy little demon filly!) — Result: 9 | Sum: 9

Snowfield just stares at the filly as the magic aura goes down. Is that really the leader of the group of undead? How can that be possible? She shakes her head and makes a break for it with the rest of the group. "Back to plan A, then! Ice walls incoming! Everypony make sure you stay ahead of me!" She begins to hum her little off-key ditty as she grabs snow from the ground and the trees, swirling it around herself, freezing it into plates of ice and planting them in the ground behind her. Not so large that they can't be run around, but hopefully enough to slow down the horde should they give chase.

Jellybean is flying as fast as he can, which means he's pretty much relying on instinct to tell him which way to go to get out of here at this point.

"Oh my, an extra head!" the filly exclaims. "That's awfully novel!" She smiles sweetly as Pinkie panics and dives back into the forest. "Now now, there's no reason to run! You can come to our party as well! You and all of your little friends hiding behind the trees~" She twirls gaily to watch Pinkie's escape, in the process allowing Kludge's snowball to go into the zombie pack and explode with a *piff* against some poor zom's head.

The fire bomb from Ruby? Snatched out of the air with a deft bit of telekinesis and examined thoughtfully. "This looks dangerous! You should really be more careful with your toys, you might hurt somepony!" She tosses it aside without a thought, letting it explode in the middle of the zombie horde and setting a number of them on fire.

"Alright, everypony!" she says as she glances over her shoulder to her horde. "I don't think they heard my invitation, so I want you to go after them and personally invite them to our Nightmare Night party, okay~?"

There's a chorus of assenting growls and cheers from the zombie horde, depending on the state of decay of each creature's throat. They surge forward into the woods after the group, most shambling but some of the more recently deceased still able to gallop at a decent clip… although while they still have the speed they have in life, their brains aren't quite up to snuff to catch sight of the ice walls. A number barrel headlong into them with a crunch instead of trying to go around.

For her part the ringleader of the zombies stays in the clearing watching everypony run off. "Hmm hmm, how interesting." she lilts. "So many new toys for me to break~"

Ruby makes sure not to fall behind Snowfield in this situation - mostly because she doesn't want to join the zombie BBQ; after all Zombie tastes terrible. The mare scrambling to stay ahead while also ensuring Maggie keeps up - grabbing the foal by her scruff to toss her onto Winny's back for safe keeping. "Oh geez. Is this a new thing? Running away from Zombies - cause I totally swear I did this last week too." Galloping just ahead of snowfield.

The zombies sure do give chase! But a lot of them are, y'know, rotting and slow and ice walls don't help much, and their prey had a head start. So it's easy enough to outrun them this time…

Pinkie Pie doesn't stop until she reaches the edge of the forest though, hoping everyone naturally followed suit behind her! Only at the forest edge does she stop for breath, still in her zombiesuit, just minus a head now. She'll have to scrounge up another one later. "Is… everypony… okay?"

Kludge tugs his hat back down and runs with the rest of the recon party. Despite the danger and the lack of effectiveness of his snowball, he still has a grin on his face. For what just might be the first time in his life, his magic was *functional!*

Winter-Solstice gallops along. She's about to protest as Snowfield moves to hang back- that's what she's there for, after all, she's the one with the most bite-proof flank!- but when she sees WHY the wizardy unicorn wants to be the last in line, realization dawns. Ahhh! Winter tucks into her running with a bit more enthusiasm… but not too much. She's content to be second to last, here, but not so second to last the Pathhider, rattling and bouncing along behind her on its runners, interferes with Snowfield's magic. Most of the time. She looks ahead, trying to count fleeing pony backsides, making sure everybody is along for the ride… we're looking good! Finally, math is useful!

She skids to a stop as she bursts from the edge of the forest, whirling about to face Pinkie, then the others. Again, she counts. Yay, math! "Is that what we were hoping to see? I don't know! So they have another creepy unicorn working for them! What does it mean, what does it mean!?"

Jellybean flies back to regroup, circling overhead, "I'm here too! But we should keep moving, because it doesn't look like they're stopping!"

Snowfield dashes out of the forest last, regardless of what the order of the poses implies. "I didn't hear them giving chase for that last stretch. They may have lost us in the trees." She turns to look at all of the scattered hooftracks coming out of the forest and frowns. With a quick spell she ruffles all of the snow on the ground, making the tracks disappear like the picture on an Etch-a-Sketch. "There's no reason to linger, however. Let's keep moving."

"Oh r..right! Keep moving! I don't know what this means yet, but it means something big and we gotta tell the Professor right away!" Pinkie Pie points a hoof. "Back to the base, ponies! With stories of our near-undeath experience!"

Winter-Solstice casts a glance about the rest of the party, then nods to Pinkie. "Right. On you go! Let me get this thing going." She turns to adjust the pathhider- ha! She was dragging it along upside-down that last hundred yards, fancy that!- and activates it, then waits patiently. "Single file if you can manage. I don't want to have to go all serpentine trying to cover EVERYBODY'S tracks."