Swift Study

Equestrian Chronicles: A Roleplaying is Magic "Blog".

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As the party approached the shimmering curtain of light that marked the outer edge of the Crystal Heart's protective aura over the Crystal Empire, Gimbal, never the patient one, said, "Right, let's go!" While the others were still putting on their coats and jackets, she stepped through the curtain. Almost instantly, she started to shiver, icicles appearing on her mane, tail and wings.


"Celestia dammit it, Gimbal," Sugar Song sighed, walking over to the shivering Pegasus. "Even Champion put his coat on before rushing into the snow. So, if you're going to act like like a foal, I'll treat you like one." With that, Gimbal suddenly found herself enveloped in Sugar Song's magical aura, lifted into the air, squirming like a filly impatient to play in the snow while while her exasperated mother forced her into her jacket. Gimbal tried to ignore the snickering from the others. With Gimbal finally properly attired, they set off on their journey, north towards the mountains, and Mt Everhoof in particular.



The first day of the journey was dull, monotonous and freezing. Even the constant aura of warmth that Sugar Song was magically generating barely dulled the bite of the Frozen North. Gimbal, however, didn't need any magic to feel a burning heat in her chest; seeing how friendly Rhythm Quartz was being with her little Champion was more than enough. How dare that upstart newcomer think she can take her Champion away. 


As the sun started to set, Nutmeg pulled a book from her saddlebag, and flipping through the pages, said, "It says here that a digging a snow cave is one of the best ways to survive the night in the Frozen North." She looked up, to the others. "Huh, seems a bit counter-intuitive to me, but Mutt, do your thing!"


Mutt saluted with a grin, then dove into the snow, digging with gusto. For a Diamond Dog, who could dig through almost any dirt or soil, even packed snow presented no challenge, and soon a large cave had been dug out.


"Good work, Mutt." Sugar Song said. "Now, I think we should still post watches, just in case. Hmm... there's six of us, so three watches of two? So, how should we pair-"


"Champion!" Gimbal almost shouted, "I'll take first watch, with Champion." She saw the dirty look Rhythm Quartz was giving her, and smirked at the young dragoness.


Champion, seemingly oblivious to the rivalry, just smiled and nodded, "Sure thing!"


"Okay then," Sugar Song nodded. "Then next, how about Mutt and Nutmeg, followed by Rhythm and myself."



Champion was sitting alert, his pale blue eyes scanning the moonlit snow. He had his duty, to stand guard over his sleeping companions, and he would not fail. He was so engrossed in his task, that he didn't notice Gimbal watching him intently.

Gimbal studied the Unicorn colt's features as if really seeing him for the first time. Rhythm Quartz arrival, and her not very hidden affection for Champion, had made Gimbal realise that she didn't want to lose him. "You're growing up, aren't you, Champ?" She accidentally spoke her thoughts, aloud.


Champion immediately started to blush, coughing and shifting awkwardly as the mare he'd had a crush on for ages now was acknowledging that he wasn't just a colt. He was about to speak, when something caught his eye. "Wait, what's that? Over there." He pointed with his hoof.


Gimbal, a tad miffed that their moment (at least, she thought that was a moment) was ruined, followed his hoof, to see three shapes racing towards them, just under the snow. Gimbal took off into the air, grabbing Champion in her front hooves as she did so, and shouted, "Hey! Everypony wake-up! We got incoming!"


The three shapes revealed themselves to be strange, large leopard like creatures, seemingly made of snow and ice. "Hey! Those are Snow Leopards!" Nutmeg said, forgetting fear in her nerdy excitement.


"Well, if they're made of ice, I got this!" Rhythm Quartz took to the air, breathing in. She was going to melt them with her fire breath, but she glanced towards Champion, still dangling a little awkwardly in Gimbal's front hooves, and something made her reconsider. Instead, she breathed a line of fire just in front of the icy felines, sending them fleeing in instinctive terror.


"That was awesome, Rhythm!" Champion shouted, and the dragoness blushed briefly, then flashed a lightning quick smirk at the seething Gimbal.


"It sure was," Nutmeg said. "But they'll be back in greater numbers. We should move!"


Sure enough, soon almost a dozen of the Snow Leopards were racing towards them. The party ran (and flew) as fast as they could, but the creatures were gaining.


"We need to scare them off again!" Rhythm Quartz said, turning to face them.


"Right!" Gimbal said, then she looked down to Champion, still held in her hooves. "Hey, Champ! Think you can form a force bubble around us?"


"Going bowling, are we?" Champion grinned, then concentrating, formed a bluish shield around them.


As Rhythm breathed another stream of her intense, blue flame, causing the Snow Leapords to back off in fear, Gimbal, wrapped in Champion's force field, bowled through them, sending them flying in all directions, some in pieces. The rest turned and fled, realising that the party was too much for them.


"That was awesome!" Champion shouted excitedly. as he and Gimbal landed. "Rhythm, you were all: Wooosh! And Gimbal, you were all: Zoooom! Crash! And they were all: Yelp! Yelp! Yelp!" He suddenly noticed his friends all watching him with amused expressions, and coughed, embarrassed, "Uh... I mean, good work, girls."


Mutt then dug a new cave for them, as he and Nutmeg took their watch. Gimbal wrapped a wing around Champion, holding him close, and giving a quick smirk towards Rhythm Quartz, who grumbled under her breath, before settling down to sleep herself. Champion, seemingly unaware, just lay against Gimbal and settled down to sleep.



A few days later they arrived at the mountains. Nutmeg explained, "According to that book we found, the Hooves of the North several cities built into the mountains around here, with the largest built about a third of the way up Mount Everhoof."


"Then that's probably where we'll find Past Endeavour and Lunar Tinker." Sugar Song said. "We should head that way ourselves, but everyone be alert."


It was Nutmeg who first noticed that they were being watched, and she called for a halt. Several Crystal Pony stallions, ten in all, emerged from various caves. They looked nervous, but ready to fight.


"Wait!" Sugar Song said. "We're not here to make trouble. We've just come to help a friend, who is in great danger, even if he doesn't know it yet."


"Past Endeavour warned us that someponies might come after him, and that we should stop them," one of the Crystal Ponies said, though their was doubt in his voice.


"That Unicorn cannot be trusted," Sugar Song insisted. She then began to tell them the tale of their past encounters with Past Endeavour. She spoke with honesty and conviction, and managed to convince the listening Crystal Ponies of the truth of her words, and they were allowed to past.


"Way to go, sis!" Champion whispered, as they made their way to Mt. Everhoof.



With the climbing gear they had bought as part of their survival outfits, the party began to climb, with Gimbal and Rhythm flying overhead for support. Other than one incident, in which Nutmeg lost her footing and fell, rescued by a quick acting Gimbal, the party managed to make it a cave about a third of the way up.


Inside, they found an ancient city, surprisingly intact, though eerily silent. As they made their way towards the centre, they noticed something odd. Many of the city's ramparts and fortifications were facing inwards, against each other.


"The Hooves of the North were apparently a very warlike tribe," Nutmeg said. "It looks like, in the end, they turned on each other."


Suddenly, they all heard the sound of hoof-steps, coming towards them. Then, from around a corner, came a patrol of four clockwork ponies, looking like skeletal horses made of iron, with gears for joints, and glowing red eyes.


The party froze in shock, as the eyes of the first two skeletal robots glowed more intensely. Four beams of fire shot forth, and Rhythm, thinking that her draconic immunity to fire would help, leapt in front of the group, using her long body to protect them. She screamed in shock and pain as the enchanted fire burnt into her scales, and she collapsed.


Champion quickly cast his shield spell, blocking the beams before they could finish off the panting Rhythm. While he was straining to keep the shield strong against the constant beams of fire, Nutmeg was thinking as fast as she could.


"Lightning!" She shouted suddenly. "Gimbal, hit them with lightning! They're machines! It'll fry their sensitive gears!"


"Right! Hold on, Champion!" Gimbal said, taking to the air, and starting to form a storm cloud. Just as Champion's shield was starting to buckle under the assault, she released a storm of lightning bolts down onto the robotic equines. The robotic body convulsed under the electrical assault, then collapsed.


Mutt quickly picked up Rhythm, wrapping her long, slender body around his shoulders. "Let's get out of here! We need to find a place to hide before more come!"


They found a nearby building to take shelter in. Champion walked over to Rhythm, and gently placed his horn to her side, channelling healing magic into her wounds. Rhythm sighed in relief as she felt the warm sensation of his magic closing her wounds. "Thanks, Champ..."


"Hey, I can't help but notice that the buildings are pretty close together." Mutt said. "I bet we could travel across the rooftops. We can avoid more patrols of whatever those things were," he looked to Nutmeg, "You don't think Tinker made them, do you?"


Nutmeg shook her head emphatically. "No way! Tinker would never make something so destructive! He's all about using science and technology to help Ponies! No, I think they were left by the Hooves of the North. They were brilliant... it's just that they focused all of their intelligence on warfare." She stopped, realising she was growing over-exited, and added. "But, um, yeah, good idea, Mutt. Let's be like Ninponies, stalking across the rooftops!"


The party climbed or flew up to the roof, and started to travel again. They saw a couple more patrols if those clockwork equine soldiers, but thanks to the cover offered by the rooftops, managed to avoid them.


It was Nutmeg who saw it first. A grate against a nearby building had been removed, and a grappling hook and rope was still lowered into the darkness below. She pointed it out to the others. "I think that's where they went!"


"Right! Let's go!" Gimbal said, as they squeezed their way down the hole; it was a particularly tight squeeze for the barrel chested Mutt. 


They found themselves in a dark tunnel. Down the other end, they saw a strange, eldritch glow. Nutmeg, growing increasingly worried about her friend, Tinker, started towards that glow with uncharacteristic eagerness.


They soon came to a large, hexagonal chamber, the walls of which were lined with weapons and armour, all of which showed a level of craftsponyship that would be the envy of any guild-master. However, this barely registered to the party, as they saw Past Endeavour, standing in the centre of the room, holding a strange hexagonal box in his magic, that was giving off an aura of raw power so strong that even the non-Unicorns in the party could feel it. They also saw Tinker, the elderly, eccentric Earth Pony inventor and scholar was cowering in a corner, overwhelmed by the raw power of the box.


Nutmeg ran over to Tinker, while Gimbal flew up to Endeavour, who was staring intently at the box he was holding. "Come, on, dude! We went to Vegas together! I thought we were compadres! You don't need to be all evil, do you?"


Still studying the box in his magical grip, he grabbed Gimbal in another telekinetic grasp, and forcefully, but not violently, pushed her back towards the others. Champion then stepped forward, and sent a small sphere of force at the box, knocking it out of Endeavour's grip.


The box hit the far wall, and broke open. An eldritch green light escaped from the box, disappearing into the ground and wall, the raw power seeming to crack the stone as it did so. Endeavour turned to the group, and for the first time, they saw him actually furious. Champion immediately erected his signature magic shield, as Nutmeg and Tinker ran behind it.


Past Endeavour took a calming breath, "I tried to be reasonable, I tried to keep you all out of my plans. I even kept Cracked Heart away from you. But you had to meddle, didn't you, like... like heroes!" He spat that last word like it left a bad taste in his mouth. "Now, witness the fate of heroes!"


His horn glowed, and Champion's shield suddenly shattered into a hundred tiny shards... which suddenly turned and slashed through the colt, cutting him all over. As he collapsed from the sudden blood-loss, Sugar Song, Gimbal and Rhythm Quartz raced to his side, crying in dismay. At the same time, Endeavour teleported away, but sending a sonic pulse off at the same time, that started to bring the roof down.


Rhythm gingerly picked up the bleeding Champion, and the party fled from the collapsing room, barely making it to the hallway in time. The dragoness gave a gasp, then a sigh of relief, as she felt Champion go still in her arms. "He's just unconscious. But we need to get help, soon!"


They made their way out the city, and down the side of the mountain, meeting up with the Crystal Pony porters and guides that Endeavour had hired. Luckily, they had a medic among their number, and he quickly bandaged up Champion, though he still suggested taking him to a hospital.


On the way back, Rhythm and Gimbal put aside their rivalry for Champion's affections, nearly losing him making them realise how foolish they'd been. It didn't matter who he chose, if any, just as long as he was safe.


Having Crytal Pony guides, well trained in arctic survival, made the journey back a lot safer and quicker, and soon they were back in the Crystal Empire City, heading straight for the hospital.


















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They took Champion to Crystal General ER, and as soon as the triage nurses saw the state he was in, he was immediately bundled onto a gurney and wheeled to the nearest operating room. Gimbal and Rhythm Quartz tried to follow, but a pair of Crystal Pony orderlies gently but firmly directed them back to the waiting room, ensuring them that their best Unicorn surgeon was on it. They looked about to protest, Rhythm especially looking ready to throw down, but they kept themselves in check for Champion's sake.


Sugar Song was pacing urgently back and forth, while Rhythm was almost tying herself in a literal knot with worry and Gimbal was staring at the doors leading to the operating rooms, as if willing them to open. Nutmeg, in the meantime, was clinging to Mutt, sobbing uncontrollably, while the Diamond Dog was awkwardly patting her back.


Lunar Tinker watched Nutmeg with concern, then caught Mutt's eye. They shared a small nod, then Tinker spoke aloud, "Welp... I better get back to my shop. I did leave it in a bit of a mess. Nutmeg, want to come help me sort things out?"


"Can Mutt come? And can we get ice-cream on the way?" Nutmeg said, between sobs. Mutt nodded, and Tinker said, "Of course we can." With that, they walked out, with Nutmeg still clinging to Mutt.



A couple of nerve wracking hours passed, when the doors leading into the operating rooms opened, revealing an exhausted but relieved looking Unicorn stallion in hospital scrubs. "Party of Champion?"


He was almost crushed under the sudden rush of two ponies and a young dragon. "Is he...?" Sugar Song asked, almost too afraid to speak.


"It was touch and go for a while," the doctor said, "but he's fine now. You can go and see him, if you want, but he may be a bit whoozy."


They found Champion propped up in a bed in a small, clean hospital room, sporting several bandages. Sugar Song rushed forward, wrapping her hooves around him in a tearful, relieved hug. 


"Uh, hey everypony..." Champion said, sheepishly, choking a little from his big sister's hug. After a final squeeze, she stepped back, giving room to Gimbal and Rhythm. The handsome young colt found himself nuzzled on both checks by an immensely relieved Pegasus and dragon. "Really, girls, I'm okay. The doc says I'll be out of here tomorrow."


Sugar Song looked to a wall clock, and said, "I'd better go and let Paper Waltz know we're back, and what's happened. Will you two look after Champion?"


She smiled knowingly when Gimbal and Rhythm both nodded eagerly. "Keep them out of trouble, Champion," she giggled as Champion saluted with precocious seriousness, then left them alone.



Nutmeg was riding on Mutt's broad back and shoulders, licking a double cup ice-cream cone, as the three of them walked down the street towards Lunar Tinker's house/workshop. When they arrived, Tinker said, "You'll have to forgive the mess. I was very exited to get started on our expedition, so I left the shop in a bit of a state."


Mutt and Nutmeg glanced at each other guiltily, and Nutmeg said, "Oh, um, I'm sure it's fine!"


Inside, she and Mutt pretended to be surprised at the sights before them, acting like this was their first time here. They set to work, helping Tinker clean up. The Earth Pony scholar and inventor didn't seem to notice their guilty expressions, and walked over to a workbench.


"Huh, that's odd," he mused. "I had something I was working on for you, Nutmeg, but it seems to have gone missing; and I don't rememember leaving a big pile of bits just lying here."


"Um... is this it?" Nutmeg said sheepishly, revealing the pocket-watch she had taken the last time they were here. "I, um, I paid for it?"


"It was my idea." Mutt spoke up.


"Well, okay then. I guess, since you did offer bits for it, no harm no foul," Tinker reached into a drawer, pulling out a small roll of velvet. "But it still needs to be completed. You payed for an unfinished product, and that I cannot allow. Professional pride and all." He opened the roll, to reveal a row of tiny, finely crafted tools. Seeing Nutmeg's growing exitment at the sight of them, he paused, then turned to her. "Since you were so eager for that watch, maybe you'd like to finish it?"


"Oh my Celestia! Yes! Yes!" Nutmeg cantered excitedly. With Tinker's guidance, she used the tools to add the final touches to the elaborate pocket watch. She was a fast learner and an eager student, and when she presented the finished work to Tinker, the elderly stallion beamed with a mentor's pride.



Gimbal Lock and Rhythm Quartz sat on either side of Champion's hospital bed, keeping him company. Nutmeg had spent a large hoof-full of bits at a nearby vending machine, and Champion's bed was covered in snack wrappers. Champion hadn't eaten much candy himself. In fact, he hadn't done much but blush and fidget, flanked by two beautiful females. They kept nuzzling him affectionately; part of him wished they would stop treating him like a little colt, another part was enjoying it, though he tried his best not too show it.


They suddenly heard hoof-steps, and in a panicked rush, tried to hide the candy and snack wrappers. The same doctor who had operated on him appeared in the doorway. He took one look at three guilty expressions, and sighed, shaking his head. "Sorry, ladies, but it's getting late, and Champion should get some sleep. Visiting hours are over."


"Come, on, doc!" Gimbal said, "Can't we stay a longer. We can take care of our little Champ here."


The stallion shook his head sternly, "Nope. He'll never get any sleep with you two around." He smirked. "Don't worry, you can see your little colt friend tomorrow morning." He then hustled them out, chuckling at their sudden coughing fits.



Gimbal, Rhythm, Nutmeg and Mutt all met back at the Palace View Hotel later that night. Nutmeg pressed Gimbal and Rhythm for information about Champion, anxious to learn that he was okay. When her friends assured her that he was fine, she nodded, happily, then proudly showed off her watch. "I made it myself! Well, at least, part of it! But, still, pretty cool. huh? Can't wait to show it to Champion!"


"Let's get some sleep then, so we can be there nice and early tomorrow morning." Rhythm said, "Gimbal, would you join me?" Gimbal nodded, and the two retired to one of the rooms, while Nutmeg and Mutt went to another.


""Gimbal, I think we need to talk about this silly rivalry thing we got going on with Champion," Rhythm said, as they were getting ready to settle down. Gimbal didn't say anything, but listened as the dragoness continued, "It's pretty obvious that we both care for him, a lot."


"Yeah, he's a great colt," Gimbal said, "but you're right, we should stop fighting over him."


"Exactly. I don't want to jeopardise any friendships over this. Lord Ember would roast me alive, for one thing," Rhythm giggled. "Let's agree that it doesn't matter who Champion chooses, even if he chooses neither of us," she then gave a little smirk, "or both?"


"Okay! Good night, Rhythm!" Gimbal blushed, then threw the blankets over her head, and immediately started loudly fake-snoring. Rhythm smirked, then went to sleep herself.



"Now, you be careful, young Colt." The doctor stallion was saying, as Champion was being signed out. "It's obvious you've made some dangerous enemies. With your Cutie Mark, and special purpose, that's probably not surprising."


"I know, Doc..." Champion said, "And I try not to be reckless about it, trust me. My shield spell has served me well, so far. I never considered that a powerful Unicorn could turn my own magic against me. But I know someone I can talk to about it, if she can find the time."


"Well, good luck then. I hope we never see you here again."


Champion was about to take offence at that curt statement, then remembered who was saying it, and nodded, "Me too, doc!"


Champion exited the hospital;, pushing through the front doors... and immediately found himself the victim of a vicious glomp attack by a savage Nutmeg. 


"Champion! I'm so glad you're okay! I'm sorry! Do you forgive me? Do you still love me!?" Nutmeg sobbed, speaking between chokes.


"Um... of course I still love you, Nutmeg," Champion awkwardly patted his overly emotional friend, "and why would you think this was your fault. This was so not your fault... like, at all. Not even close." He looked to the rest of his friends, smiling warmly. "Let's go home, okay?"



















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just fluff art of Gimbal and Champion, maybe some better art later busy with freelance project and more comics.

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The ponies, Diamond Dog and dragoness were sharing a carriage on the train back to Ponyville. On one set of facing seats were the Unicorn colt Champion, looking somewhat thoughtfully out a window, his older sister, Sugar Song, sitting next to him, the Pegasus mare, Gimbal Lock, still still somewhat flustered by Rhythm Quartz's last words last night, sitting opposite Champion and the Crystal Pony stallion, sitting opposite his special some-pony, Sugar Song. On another set of facing seats, Mutt and Nutmeg had started another round of their ever changing impromptu card game. Rhythm Quartz found herself drawn into the game after asking that most dangerous of questions, "Ooh! What's that?"


It was around lunchtime, and they were enjoying some snacks from the food trolley, when the train came to a screeching halt. Cards, wrappers and foodstuffs went flying, and Champion, who was facing in the direction of travel, found himself stumbling into Gimbal. Both blushed briefly, before disentangling themselves.


"What was that?" Mutt asked, sitting up. "And where's Nutmeg?" He felt something tapping his stomach, and looked down to find himself sitting on Nutmeg. "Oops, sorry, Nutmeg!" He stood up, releasing his Earth Pony friend.


"Looks like something is blocking the track," Rhythm had her long neck out a window. "I can't see exactly what, though. Let's check it out." Her long, slender body slipped through the window. The others followed, except for Paper Waltz. He was a manager, not an adventurer.


They walked to the front of the train, to find the engineer and crew looking pensively at a large, metal sphere, covered in long spikes, four of which seemed to act like legs, keeping the sphere stable, on the tracks. A unicorn was magically scanning the sphere, saying, "There's a lot of explosive energy within. I don't think we can safely move it without an expert."


A certain scoundrel instinct made Mutt turn and look down the other end of the train, just in time to see several Ponies and Diamond Dogs retreating into a nearby forest, carrying sacks marked with the trains logo, no doubt stolen from the baggage carriage. He pointed it out to the others, and Gimbal said, "We better get them back then. We are pretty much the new elements of harmony, after all."


They told the conductor their plan, and he said, "Be my guest. We'll be here for a while, waiting for somepony who can successfully remove that mine."


With Mutt leading the way, they headed into the forest, following after the train robbers. The forest was dense, with a lot of undergrowth that made movement difficult and they soon lost the robbers. Realising that they weren't going to catch them with speed, the 'Mark II Elements', as Gimbal dubbed the group, moved with stealth and caution.


It was Mutt who sensed the ambush, and he shouted a warning just in time. Six Ponies and two Diamond Dogs were hidden in trees, and fired arrows at the party. Most of them bounced off Champion's shield spell, but Gimbal was not so lucky, taking two in the flank as she tried to fly out of range.


She screamed in pain, which quickly turned to anger, which she used to manifest a hailstone cloud. Like a shotgun blast, she sent the stones down onto the archers that had hit her, stunning them senseless. At the same time, Mutt reached up and grabbed a branch, ripping it off the tree with a mighty grunt. An Earth Pony bandit and a Diamond Dog were standing on that branch, and as they fell, Mutt swung the branch like a baseball bat, catching the Diamond Dog in the stomach.


Nutmeg reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a garden trowel. Yelling and closing her eyes, she flung it at one of the bandits. She heard the makeshift weapon bouncing off a tree, and then off Champion's force shield, inches from her face. She opened one eye to see a somewhat miffed looking Champion, who then quickly moved his shield to block an arrow fired at his sister, Sugar Song. Embarrassed, Nutmeg resolved to be more useful in this fight, and pulled out her hoe, holding it in her mouth, and charging into the fray.


Sugar Song's horn glowed, and a flash of intense light blinded two more of the bandits, causing them to stumble and fall out of the tree. Nutmeg swung her makeshift weapon at one of them, the second Diamond Dog bandit, breaking the shaft of the hoe over her target's head.


In the meantime, Rhythm Quartz had snaked up a tree, getting behind one of the bandits, and attacking with her jaws, shard teeth digging into the bandit, and throwing him off. She growled, blood dripping from her fangs and this seemed to break the bandits' will. Those that weren't unconscious and or too stunned to do so fled, scattering into the trees.


With the battle over, Champion released his concentration on his shields, and rushed over to Gimbal. Placing his horn on her side, he sent warm pulses of magical healing energy into her body. The arrows popped out, and the wounds closed before her eyes. "Thanks, Champ!" she said, nuzzling the colt appreciatively.


Mutt walked over to one of the Diamond Dog bandits, and lifting him by his throat, growled, "Why did you attack us! And where did you take our stuff?"


"Alright! Alright! I'll talk!" The Diamond Dog babbled. "Our boss, Break Fang, sent us to drive off anyone who tried to follow the train robbers! Our base is in a Diamond Dog cave network about an hour from here, on foot!" He pointed deeper into the forest.


"Who's this Break Fang?" Rhythm Quartz asked, wiping her muzzle. "And how many more minions does he have?"


"Uh, she?" Their prisoner stammered. "Break Fang is a female Diamond Dog. There's about a dozen Diamond Dogs in her pack... and a lot more Pony mercenaries."


"Tell us about this Break Fang." Sugar Song asked, in a slightly more conciliatory tone.


The Diamond Dog bandits expression changed to an odd mix of fear, admiration and and even a touch of lust. "She's... amazing. Tough, savage, beautiful. She's called Break Fang because she takes the right canine of any Diamond Dog who tries to mess with her, or who pisses her off, or fails her, or looks at her funny."


"She sounds... nice?" Nutmeg said, glancing up from where she was using some duct tape to repair her hoe's broken shaft.


"Alright, take your friends and get out of here." Mutt growled. "Probably best you not go back to your boss, if she's as unforgiving as you say."


As the Diamond Dog took his friends and fled, Mutt turned to his friends. "This Break Fang will probably know we're coming, and be ready for us. So let's dig our way there. We might be able to take her by surprise."


His friends nodded in agreement, then got behind him as he started to dig a tunnel.



About an hour of digging later, Mutt felt Nutmeg tap his shoulder. "Hold on; I think I hear something up ahead."


They nodded, and listened against the wall of dirt and soil in front of them, hearing Diamond Dog voices, one male, and one female. 


"Maybe they're not coming? Maybe they've decided to turn back?" The male was saying, but his tone was not convincing, even to himself.

"I doubt it." The female voice replied. "Not they way they apparantly fought. And remember, one of them is a Diamond Dog; so they might be digging their way here."


"I'll get the others!" They heard footsteps fading, as the male Diamond Dog ran off.


"Hey, Mutt," Gimbal whispered. "You're really strong," she paused to let her friend preen a bit, then added, "If we can pin-point where she is, I bet you can pull her through, and we can use her as a hostage to get the others to stand down." She tapped her temple with a fore-hoof. "See, I can be tactical and stuff too!"


Mutt nodded, and waited while his friends started to scan the wall, helped with some magical auditory assistance from Sugar Song. Then, at thier signal, he pushed his arm through the dirt wall, grabbing Break Fang, and pulling her back through. At least, that was the plan. Instead, he found his arm grabbed by two paws, and in an explosion of soil, found himself on his back in a large cavern.


Before he could recover, he felt something land on his stomach, winding him. He looked up, and gasped when he beheld the most beautiful Diamond Dog female he had ever seen, necklace of canine teeth around her neck not withstanding. A claw swiped at his face, only to be stopped by a pale blue shield, courtesy of Champion. Recovering, Mutt grabbed her and threw her off him. She landed on all fours, growling.


"Okay, it's time for you to calm down, I think!" Sugar Song said, her horn glowing. A similar glow surrounded Break Fang's head, and she stood up, grinning, "You know, you guys are pretty good! Ever thought of the bandit life? Good hours, awesome pay, and lots of perks!"


Her friends looked questioningly at Sugar Song, who shook her head. "I just used a Mind spell to calm her down, not control her. This is genuine."


"We could especially do with a couple of Unicorns in the gang. You won't believe what I had to pay that loud-mouthed blue furred illusionist for the fake energy spell on that dud sea mine."


"Wait?" Nutmeg asked. "You mean that big mine on the tracks is a fake? There's no real danger?"


Fang laughed. "We're bandits, not brutes. We got what we wanted."


"Guys, she calling for help! A whistle too high for anyone but canines!" Mutt said.


"Good ear!" Fang said, nodding. "So, what do you say? You in?"


"You know what?" Gimbal spoke up. "Why not? Sounds like fun." As her friends looked at her incredulously, she added. "Hey, she doesn't seem too bad. And maybe we can help her learn the magic of friendship and all that jazz! We're the New Elements, after all!"


"You're really going with that, aren't you?" Sugar Song said, ignoring Champion snickering nearby. She then turned to Fang. "But, she's right. We'll join, if you let me send a message to the my friends back at the train, letting them know everything's okay."


Break Fang nodded, just as the rest of her pack showed up, ready to fight. Fang held up a paw. "Stand down, everydog! Meet our newest members! Take them to the cavern at the end of tunnel 5. I think its big enough for them for now." She grinned to the 'New Elements'. "Welcome to the Pack, friends."


As they were led down the tunnel, Champion whispered, "Notice how their in front and behind. Smart. They don't fully trust us yet." This theory was further confirmed when a large stone slab was placed in front of the cavern entrance, trapping them inside. "Break Fang is definitely a strategic mind to reckon with."


"Yeah, she is..." Mutt said, dreamily, pointedly ignoring Nutmeg's squeeing nearby.


Sugar Song laughed, shaking her head. "Hold on, I'm going to let Waltz know that everything is fine... sort of." She closed her eyes, horn glowing. The glow flickered and pulsed for a while, then she opened her eyes. "He's not happy, of course, but he'll pass the message on to our friends and family back home. And he won't call the authorities until I give the clear. I honestly think Gimbal might be right. Maybe we can do some good here."

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The 'New Elements', as Gimbal seemed to have dubbed the group, decided to get some sleep. It might have still been fairly early but they were still exhausted after their recent battle. No sooner had they fallen asleep, however, when they were awoken by exited barked. "Wakey, wakey, pups! Dinner time!"


Hunger overcame tiredness, and the group quickly woke up, eagerly following their hosts down a confusing network of tunnels. They found themselves in a massive hall like cavern. In the middle of cavern was a massive semi-circular table, with a dozen male Diamond Dogs seated eagerly, awaiting their meal. The meal in question was a large boar, roasting over a fire-pit in the middle of the table. At the head of a table, seated on a throne made from the bones of some sort of massive tusked creature, was Break Fang.


She grinned when she saw the new recruits, "Ah! Our newest members! Come! Sit! Feast! You'll see how good life can be under me!"


Nutmeg seemed to be visibly shaken at the thought of having to eat meat; Gimbal, Champion and Sugar Song managed to keep their expression's neutral. The two carnivores of the 'New Elements', however, could barely stop themselves salivating at the heavenly aroma of roasting pork, and eagerly took some seats. The others joined them, not wanting to insult their host. A couple of Diamond Dogs wearing chefs hats took cleavers, and without any finnesse, just hacked pieces of meat off the roasting pig, and slapped them onto plates, pratically throwing them to their eagerly awaiting fellows, most of whom immediately started to tear into their portions.


Seeing Nutmeg almost of the verge of tears, and not partial to eating meat herself, Sugar Song turned to Break Fang with an apologetic smile. "As absolutely delicious as all of this looks, dear Break Fang, I'm afraid we ponies are herbivores, and cannot stomach meat. I'm sure you would want as at your best if we're going to work for you."


Break Fang nodded, thoughtfully, then suddenly grabbed a nearby Diamond Dog by the throat. "You! Get upstairs and get some leaves and flowers and stuff for our guests! Now!" The Diamond Dog yelped, then grabbing and gulping down the rest of his meat, ran out a tunnel. Break Fang turned to her new recruits with a warm smile. "My deepest apologies; this will soon be made right."


"You are, indeed, a most gracious leader, Break Fang," Sugar said, smoothly.


"Thank you!" Nutmeg whispered in her ear, gratefully.


After the meal, which included a pile of leaves and flowers for the ponies, Break Fang called for everyone's attention with a sharp whistle. "I think its time to break in our newcomers with a territorial surface patrol." She pointed to a few nearby Diamond Dogs, "You four! You'll accompany the new pups on their patrol, show them the ropes, that sort of thing."



For the first hour of their patrol, everything seemed to be going fine. Sugar Song's glowing horn lit the way, as they walked through the forest, keeping an eye out for any unwanted visitors in Break Fang's territory. 


The attack came swiftly and without warning. With a sudden roar, something swooped from the sky, slashing through two of the Diamond Dogs before they could even react. As thier eviscerated bodies hit the ground, the attacker landed, revealing itself to be a huge manticore. It roared a challenge, tensing, ready to charge.


Champion cast his shield spell, as Gimbal and Rhythm took to the sky. With practiced speed Gimbal gathered a hail cloud, then sent a volley of hailstones against the manticore, pummelling him with an icy barrage. Rhythm swooped in while it was distracted, readying her fire-breath. Before she could unleash a stream of fire, however, the manticore's tail lashed out, digging into her side. She screamed in pain and fell to the ground, venom already coursing through her veins.


"Rhythm!" Dropping his shield spell, Champion ran over to the fallen dragoness, placing a glowing horn against the wound. "It's going to take all my concentration just keeping the venom from spreading! I'm sorry, everypony!"


"You just keep her alive, Champ!" Sugar Song said, dodging a claw swipe then sending burst of intense light at the manticore's eyes. Mutt shouted, "Diamond Dogs! Heel!" as he started to dig under the manticore. The two remaining Diamond Dogs barked in excitement and followed.


Nutmeg dug through her saddlebags for something to help, and quickly assembled a double ended shovel. Holding the shaft in her mouth, she charged the monster. Gimbal saw the twin, metallic blades of Nutmeg's inventive weapon, and got an idea.


"Hey, Nutmeg! Get ready for a shockingly awesome weapon upgrade!" she shouted, gathering a thundercloud. She then sent twin bolts of lightning to strike the metal shovel-heads. With the now electrically charged blades, Nutmeg charged at the manticore. The monster slashed blindly with one claw, forcing Nutmeg to dodge clear. She still managed to slash at the creature, striking the paw that barely missed her. With the electrical upgrade granted by Gimbal's weather control, a scratch was all she needed, as the electrical energy coursed through the manticore. It roared in pain, rearing up, just as three Diamond Dogs burst from the ground beneath it, driving spears deep into its belly. The monster gave one last roar, then collapsed, still.


Before the heroes could breathe a sigh of relief, they heard Champion crying, "This venom is strong! I don't know how long I can hold it!" Tears of frustration were welling in his eyes.


"Just hold on a little longer, Champ! I can mix up an antidote! I just need some ingredients. She then ran into the forest as fast as she could. Calling on all her knowledge of botany and herbalism, helped by the memory enhancer crystal given to her by Lunar Tinker, she soon gathered what she needed to make an antidote moss. She raced back, and slapped it on Rhythm's wound, crying in relief as the moss started to draw the venom into it, and out of her bloodstream. "It worked!"


"Thanks, Nutmeg..." Champion panted, then collapsed, exhausted. 


"Come on, we'd better get back to the base," Sugar Song said, picking up her little brother in her magic and putting him on her back. They then made their way back to Break Fang's caverns, to report what had happened.



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Hey guys, I haven't posted my art here for a while, I hope you all like my new stuff! First is a practice comic I did that centers around a part of our RP that I found particularly fun, where Nutmeg reveals she has a really weird fascination with Champion's shrinking spell. She's very much into the child-like wonder aspect of it.

Shrinking is Magic (DeviantArt)


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Now here's a bunch of other random drawings I made since the last time I posted.

Pumped Up Hooves (DeviantArt)


  • I can't seem to get enough of ponifying songs, especially ones with wildly inappropriate material before making it cute.


Moonlight Comforting Nutmeg (DeviantArt)


  • Peeking into the future a bit, Nutmeg's special somepony, Moonlight, a mare who use to be a really out of control party pony who's kind of calmed down after her teen years and prefers the company of a sweet, innocent pony like Nutmeg... poor thing's so sensitive.

Armello Ponies (DeviantArt)


  • This was just a silly drawing I made to go with a present I gave Lemur.

You Friendshiped in the Wrong Neighborhood (DeviantArt)


  • Aaaand ponifying another song cuz I can't help myself... more like NEIGH-borhood... get it?
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On 12/15/2017 at 7:06 PM, Lemur said:


Been busy lately, but me and willdabeard have recently finished a one off nutmeg comic, so head over to my DA to read it and enjoy.

 Happy Hearth's warming!




Hey! Just thought I'd mention all the pages are organized in this folder on your DA page...

Page Navigation in the descriptions of each page!

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Back at the Diamond Dog Bandit Base, they reported what had happened to Break Fang. After a moment of silence for the loss of two of her boys, she congratulated them on getting rid of a threat to their security, and then sent for their onsite medic to check on the injured.


The next morning, after Rhythm Quartz had fully recovered from the lingering effects of the manticore venom, Break Fang called for their presence. Not wanting to keep her waiting, they made their way to her 'throne room', to see her finishing a conversation with one of her pegasus mercaneries. "Good work. Tell the others to keep digging, but so far, I'm not too worried." She then turned to the 'New Elements'. "Ah, there are my newest best friends! I think its time for you to do your first actual job for us!"


"By, um, job, do you mean what I think you mean?" Nutmeg asked timidly.


"Yep, some good old fashioned banditry!" Break Fang grinned. "There'll be a cart full of gems travelling along the road north from here. Raid it, and get as many of the gems as you can. If you can do it without hurting or killing any of the guards, that's fine. You'll probably have to crack a few heads, though. You ponies can be so unreasonable." She laughed, then added. "I'll be sending a couple of my boys to see how you perform. Impress them, and you'll impress me."


"Sure thing, boss!" Gimbal said, giving a somewhat flippant salute. They then took their leave.


Once out of earshot, Nutmeg whispered, "We're not really going to rob anypony, are we?"


"We need to at least make it seem we made a real effort," Sugar Song replied. "Remember, we want to win Break Fangs trust before we start trying to convince her to change her ways."


"She did say we don't have to hurt anypony," Mutt said. "Maybe we can scare them away, and then loot the cart."


Sugar Song nodded, adding, "And we'll try to let them get away with some of their gems. That way they'll be less inclined to try to track us down afterwards."



The New Elements, along with a couple of Diamond Dog bandits, were hidden at the northern edge of the woods, waiting for the expected cart. Soon, they heard the clopping of hooves and the creaking of wooden wheels. Then, into view, came their target; a large cart, being pulled by a particularly strong looking Earth Pony. Eight guards (from a private security company by the looks of their uniforms), seven 5 Earth Ponies, two Pegasi and a Unicorn, were marching alongside the cart, four a side. Sitting among two rows of large crates on the back of the cart was another Earth Pony, this one probably an inventory clerk, in charge of making sure the packages were delivered correctly.


The New Elements sprang into action. Gimbal took the sky, starting to gather a rain-cloud, while Rhythm Quartz flew up to protect her from the guard Pegasi, who immediately flew up to stop Gimbal. With a terrifying roar, Mutt charged into the Earth Pony guards. His attack was so sudden and fearsome, that it took the guards a moment to realise what was happening, and then he was on them, grabbing two of them in a headlock and using them as shields against their companions.


The clerk pony found himself trapped in a bubble of force, courtesy of Champion. With the guards kept busy, Sugar Song then started to grab boxes with her telekinesis, lifting them away from the cart and into the forest. That's when the Unicorn guard sprang into action, using his own telekinesis to counter Sugar Song's. Nutmeg, unfortunately, did not yet have the stomach for this sort of of excitement, and just stayed hidden.


The battle continued, as Gimbal continued to gather the rain-clouds above the cart. Finally, she shouted, "Rain in the hole!" and kicked the cloud. A torrential downpour drenched the cart and surrounding road, as Mutt and Rhythm dived out of the way. The cart, as well as the Earth Pony pulling it started to sink into the mud. "Hey, little help here!" He shouted. The Unicorn guard, started to unstrap him using magic, while the other guards worked to free themselves from the mud.


Taking advantage of the guard's distraction, the New Elements rushed to grab as many of the crates as possible from the back of the cart. With the two Diamond Dog observers lending a paw, they managed to grab six of them, before deciding not to push their luck any further, and escaped into woods.



"Not bad, newbies! Not bad at all!" Break Fang examined the crates full of gems, running her fingers through the sparkling stones. "Here, consider this a bonus for an exceptional first raid," she threw each of the New Elements a gem each, as well as the two Diamond Dog observers she had sent with them.


"Um... I didn't really do much," Nutmeg said, handing back the stone. "I'm sorry, I'm good at gardening, and herbs, and tinkering, but I'm not too good at the whole fighting and robbing thing."


"Those skills you mentioned are something we need, I think," Break Fang said. "From now on, I won't send you out on raids. You'll stay here, as our herbalist and tinker."


"In that case, can I have one of those clear gems instead," Nutmeg pointed to another crate. "Their not worth as much as the other gems here, but their perfect for lenses and focusing crystals. I bet I could make something pretty cool with one of them."


Break Fang grinned, and threw a couple of the gems in question, "Knock yourself out, Nutty!" Nutmeg looked about to protest this nickname, but decided against it. She just thanked her new boss, and went to join her friends as they left Break Fang's 'office'.



"Um, so, are we staying here for good?" Nutmeg asked, as they gathered in their cave. "'Cause I kind of thought we were going to try to show her the error of her ways or something."


"The trouble is, everything seems to be going her way, " Sugar Song mused. "She's the boss of a successful bandit gang, and she's got a whole pack of loyal boys under her command. As far as she's concerned, she's living the high life."


"Hey, why don't we use the power of rock to get our message across!" Gimbal said excitedly. "I'm sure they've got some old instruments in their loot hoard here."


"That might actually work," Sugar Song replied. "If nothing else, we should stay in practice."


"So, songs about the benefits of things like education and honest work?" Nutmeg said, "That would make a nice change from our usual set."


"Then its decided!" Sugar Song said. "We'll write up a few songs, and give our first performance tomorrow."


They suddenly heard a familiar bell ringing. "Dinner time!" Mutt said, licking his chops and heading for the exit. The other carnivore in the group, Rhythm Quartz, eagerly followed, soon followed by the others.



Now that the New Elements had been members of Break Fang's gang for a while, she had arranged for proper Pony food to be delivered at a regular pace to her base. Thus, instead of mere grass and leaves grabbed from the forest, the Pony members of the New Elements found themselves treated to scrumptious carrots, mugs of frothing cider (in truth, a drink universally loved across Equestria) and even apple pie.


As the roast boar in the middle of the feasting table was carved up and handed out, Mutt noticed a certain, odd, level of nervousness from the two chef Dogs. When his share hit his plate, he gave it a cursory sniff; poison! He turned to see Rhythm Quartz, who had been served just before him, eagerly lifting her slab of meat to her mouth.


"No! Bad! Poison!" He slapped the meat away from her.


"Hey! What's the big-?" Her angry protest was suddenly cut short, when they heard choked gasps coming from the other Diamond Dogs, including Break Fang herself.


"They've been poisoned!" Mutt shouted. "Champion! Can you save them?"


Champion didn't need to be asked, his instinct to protect and heal kicking in as soon as he saw the Diamond Dogs choking and frothing at the mouth. His light blue magic aura spread out over the poisoned Dogs. "I've never spread my magic this this before!" he said, through gritted teeth, trembling with the immense effort of such a powerful spell. "I don't know how long I can hold on! Nutmeg! Do your thing!"


Nutmeg trotted nervously on the spot. "Um... right! I need some a large cauldron, and some ingredients. Let's check the kitchens!" She and Sugar Song rushed into the nearby kitchen cave.


"Hey! The two chef Dogs! They're missing!" He started to race down the only tunnel that exited the eating/kitchen area. Realising what this probably meant, Gimbal and Rhythm joined him. They soon caught up with the two chef's, who had, indeed, tried to get away in the confusion. Mutt and Rhythm soon had them tackled and trapped.


"Please, don't hurt us! We'll tell you everything!" One of them shouted, before even being asked.


"Do you have the antidote!" Gimbal asked.


The Diamond Dog traitors handed over a couple of small bottles. "Not enough for all, only two!"


Growling, Mutt knocked their heads together, hard, and they slumped unconscious. He then searched their packs, and indeed, found 2 unmarked bottles. He grabbed them, and with the others following, rushed back to the dining cave.


Nutmeg and Sugar Song had dragged a large cauldron full of water onto the fire-pit, and were throwing in seemingly random ingredients under Nutmeg's instruction. Mutt rushed over to her, holding the two bottles. "Got antidote, but only for two! You make more?"


Nutmeg, both touched and overwhelmed by her canine friends utter faith in her abilities, nodded, and emptied the two bottles into the cauldron. "It'll be diluted, but it should still save them!"


When the formula was mixed up, they took labels and poured the antidote soup down the Diamond Dog's throats. The effects were immediate; they stopped frothing and convulsing, instead falling into a deep, yet steady slumber. Champion collapsed with exhaustion, releasing his magic.


"They should be okay!" Nutmeg said. "They'll just be out of it for a while." She suddenly choked under Mutt's intense, grateful hug.


"Let's get the two poisoners in here." Sugar Song said. "I don't like doing this, but I can probe their memories, find out what their plan was."


Gimbal and Rhytm Quartz nodded, and raced to fetch the still unconscious Diamond Dog traitors. Sugar Song's horn glowed, and she touched it to one of their foreheads, closing her eyes in deep concentration.


When she re-emerged from her memory probe, she said, "It's her father. He's apparantly obsessed with controlling his family, and has been trying to force his daughter back into the fold for a while now. These two were instructed to poison her followers, so that she'd be vulnerable when he came to fetch her with a dozen of his guards."


"What's in it for these two?" Nutmeg pointed to the two traitors.


"Positions of power in his court," Sugar Song said, "And... um... other benefits," she glanced to the sleeping Break Fang.


"I'm gonna eat them!" Mutt growled, but Sugar Song stopped him. 


"No, Mutt!" She said. "I think Break Fang deserves to decide their punishment! Besides, we've got another problem. According to the memory, her father and his goons should be here within the hour!"


"Hey, I got an idea!" Gimbal said. "Let's put on a concert!" She saw the cocked eyebrows from her friends, and added, "Sugar, you can use your Sound magic to make it seem like the Diamond Dog's a cheering and clapping to our song, right? So that when they get closer, it'll seem like everyone is fine and healthy?"


"You know what? Yeah, I think that would work!" Sugar Song said. "Everypony! Let's get ready! Mutt, you keep watch outside for a large group of well armed Diamond Dogs. Rhythm, look after Champion."


Everyone rushed to their assigned parts of the plan, and soon, a makeshift band was set up in the dining cave. Gimbal and Nutmeg were playing their instruments, while Sugar Song used her magic to both emulate the sound of Diamond Dogs cheering and clapping and to send the sound outside.


Mutt hid near the entrance, keeping an eye out. Sure enough, he saw, marching through the forest, a large group of Diamond Dogs, led by a particularly large and ferocious looking one. He watched as they approached, but then paused when they heard the cheering and shouting and clapping.


"Damn it! Those idiots fucked up!" Their leader growled. "Sounds like their at full strength! Everydog withdraw! We'll get then later!" Mutt had to strain to hear his muttered comment as he turned to leave with his men. "You'll be mine again, soon, pup!"


When they were out of sight, Mutt rushed back inside. "It worked, they've gone!"


Rhythm looked up from where she was, quite happily, wrapped around little Champion's sleeping form. "But they know where she lives now! They'll probably be back, and in greater numbers!"


Sugar Song nodded, and her horn glowed. The magic spread over the sleeping Diamond Dogs, and they stirred, groggily.


"What happened!" Break Fang demanded, then listen with growing fury as they explained the situation to her. She stalked over to the unconscious traitors, and growling, ripped out a fang from each of them, the sickening crunch echoing in the cave.


"Sugar Song! Wake them up!" She demanded, and Sugar Song nodded, her horn glowing as she bought them out of unconsciousness. 


The first them they did is scream in pain, clutching at their bleeding mouths. They then yelped when they felt Break Fang's strong paws around their throats.


"Run back to my father, if you think he'll forgive your fuck-up!" She growled. "And if you find him, tell him that if he tries anything like this again, I'm taking his fangs for my necklace!"


Yelping, the two traitors fled down the tunnel. When they were gone, she turned to her loyal followers. "Listen up, everydog! Boasting aside, there's no doubt my father will bring his army back here, and we can't fight them all. We need to scatter to the corners of Equestria. I'll stay in Ponyville with the New Elements. I doubt my father would dare attack the home of an Alicorn Princess. We'll share out as much treasure as we can easily carry, and bury the rest. Also, we'll collapse these tunnels. Leave no trace that we were here."


Her followers started to protest, but she walked among them, scratching ears and chins with a genuine affection. "My good boys! We will meet again, I promise. But for now, lie low, and stay out of trouble."


They then got to work, collapsing the tunnels and making it look as if no-one had ever been there. When they were finished, Sugar Song used her magic to contact Paper Waltz.


When she emerged from the communication trance, she said, "Well, he's overjoyed where finally coming back home. He's calling in some major favours to arrange for a private train to pick us up!"


"Really? Your friend can arrange that sort of thing? Just like that?" Break Fang asked, incredulously. 


Sugar Song beamed with pride. "It's what he does. He get's things done. Now come on, the train should be arriving at the track north from here in a few hours. Let's wait for it there."




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Gimbal Lock as an Equestria Girl... guess Twilight had enough on her hooves and decided she was better off as Sunset's problem.



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A few hours later, and they saw a short train, consisting of just two engines, one in the front and one in the rear, and one passenger car. The train pulled to a stop, and several unicorn guards stepped out. Break Fang immediately tensed, baring her teeth and growling.


"Everycreature calm down, they're just a precaution." A familiar voice (at least, to everycreature except for Break Fang) said, and then their Crystal Pony manager, Paper Waltz, stepped out of the passenger car. He was immediately glomped by Sugar Song, covering his muzzle in kisses. When she finally relented, he gave her a quick nuzzle, then reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a scroll, sealed with the Royal Canterlot Seal. He gave an official cough, then said. "This is an offer of amnesty to the Diamond Dog bandit leader known as Break Fang, signed by the Royal Canterlot Sisters. It stipulates that the amnesty will hold only if the recipient refrains from any criminal activity, and stays within the presence of  the Pegasus Gimbal Lock, the Unicorns Sugar Song and Champion, the Earth Pony Nutmeg, the Dragon Rhythm Quartz and/or the Diamond Dog, Mutt (collectively known henceforth as the 'New Elements') for a period no less than 1 year from the date of signing."


He handed the paper to a bemused looking Break Fang, along with a pen. She noticed there were four signatures already there, and several more blank lines awaiting more signatures. "Signed by the Royal Sisters, the lawyer Chill Factor, and myself." Paper Waltz explained. "It needs the signature of yourself and the New Elements to be ratified."


Break Fang looked to the New Elements with a raised eyebrow, and Sugar Song nodded. Break Fang then shrugged, and grabbing the pen, signed her name with a somewhat dramatic flourish. The New Elements also signed, then everycreature climbed on board the train, which began to make its way back to Ponyville.



"Well, I guess I'll be staying with you, in your cave, right, Mutt?" Break Fang said, as they disembarked the train at Ponyville station after an overnight journey. She paused. "You do have your own cave, right?"


"Of course!" Mutt said proudly. "Just outside Ponyville. Prime location. Only got one bed, though."


"That's fine." Break batted her eyes. "I'm sure a true gentlehound like yourself would be more than willing to give up the bed to little 'ole me, right?"


Mutt coughed, "Uh... um... sure."


"There's a good boy!" Break Fang reached up to give him an affectionate scratch behind the ear. Despite his best efforts, Mutt felt his stubby tail begin to wag. He glanced over to see Nutmeg, grinning from ear to ear, eyes wide in absolute romantic joy.


"Leave the poor dog alone, Break Fang." Sugar Song shook her head, laughing. "Listen, since its still early, lets head to our homes, let your parents or guardians know you're safe. Afterwards, you can give her the Ponyville tour, right, Mutt?"


"Sounds like a good idea." Gimbal said. "You're gonna love it here, Break Fang. And I bet everypony's gonna love you."


Break Fang gave a toothy grin. "Oh, I have no doubt I'm gonna have fun here."


"And I need to find a place to stay." Rhythm Quartz said. "Hard to believe, but I haven't actually been here (other than that very brief visit to that crystal castle) since we met. It's been a real roundabout trip back here." She looked to Champion. "Hey, I could stay with Champion! What do you think, Champ?" She sidled up to him like a seductive serpent.


Champ glanced to his sister and to Gimbal, looking a little panicky. "Ummm..."


"No way, nuh uh!" Sugar Song shook her head. "If either you or Gimbal... or, Celestia forbid, both of you, stayed with Champion, I'd never see my little brother again!" She grinned, and wrapped a possessive hoof around Champion.


Gimbal laughed, and played along, "Yeah, you dragon harlot. Claws off our little Champion!"


The dragoness gave her best sultry smile, loving the way poor Champion was blushing at all this attention. Then she laughed as well. "Fair enough, Sugar Song. As the gatekeeper to Champion's heart, I will endeavor to prove my worth to you." She straightened up. "But first, Imma going house hunting! Gimbal, wanna help?"



"Hmm, what is that succulent aroma?" Break Fang sniffed the air. She was following Mutt into Ponyville, and they were passing by the the fully laden apple trees of Sweet Apple Acres.


"Best Apples in Equestria!" Mutt said, pointing to the trees.


"No, not those thing! It's coming from over here." Following her nose, Break Fang walked into a nearby field. Mutt followed, and saw that she was making her way to a large pen, where several healthy, fat pigs were happily munching at some feed. He also saw the teenage filly, Apple Bloom, making her way to a nearby barn, an empty sack on her back.


"Hey, filly with the ponytail! How much for a pig!" Break Fang shouted. 


Apple Bloom turned around, seeing Mutt and a strange female Diamond Dog. "Oh, Morning Mutt!" She waved, walking over. "Whose ya lady friend!"


Mutt blushed, and said, "Just a friend. This is Break Fang."


"Pleased to meetcha, Miss Fang!" Apple Bloom said, offering a hoof bump of friendship to Bteak Fang. 


Break Fang pushed a fist against the offered hoof. "Likewise, Apple Bloom, was it? So, anyway, how much for a pig?"


"Um, we don't see our pigs. We use them for truffle hunting." Apple Bloom scratched her head. "I suppose we could rent one to you if you wanna try your hoof.. er, paw, at truffle hunting."


"Nah, not for truffles." Break Fang licked her lips. "Breakfast!"


"What? Oh, no no no!" Apple Bloom shook her head. "We don't eat meat in Ponyville. Not even Mutt or Spike eat meat here." She paused, and glanced to Mutt. "You don't, do you?" When Mutt shook his head, she looked relieved.


"Really? But I can't stomach grass and leaves!" Break Fang protested. "To keep this sexy Diamond Dog physique needs real, red meat!" She grinned, baring her sharp canines.


Apple Bloom gulped. "Um... try Fluttershy. She looks after some carnivores. I think she finds meat for them. When a sheep or pig dies of natural causes, we donate the flesh to her."


Break Fang wrinkled her nose. "Old dead meat? Oh well, I guess beggars cant be choosers. Come on, Mutt, lets go see this Fluttershy. I'm hungry!" Without waiting for an answer, she walked off, forcing Mutt to give chase.



They'd run into Nutmeg and Gimbal on the way to Fluttershy's, and Earth Pony and Pegasis had decided to join them before they made their way to Sugar Cube Corner. When they arrived at Fluttershy's cottage, Break Fang pointed to the nearby forest. "Ooh, what's that? That looks like a great place for a hideout!"


"Uh, that's the Everfree Forest." Nutmeg said. "You don't want to wander in there. Full of timberwolves and manticores and hydras and all sorts of monsters."


"Sounds like fun!" Break Fang rubbed her paws together. At that moment, the door to Fluttershy's cottage opened, and a yellow Pegasus with a light pink mane walked out. She paused when she saw she had visitors.


"Oh, hello there, Gimbal, Nutmeg, Mutt... and, um..." She looked to Break Fang. "Sorry, I don't think we've met."


Break Fang grabbed her hoof, shaking it hard. "I'm Break Fang. Pleased to meetcha. You're Fluttershy, right? Word is, you're the pony to see for meat?"


Fluttershy shook her head, and spoke in a soft, yet assertive tone. "You must be new here. I only give meet to obligate carnivores, like cats or ferrets. As a Diamond Dog, you don't absolutely need meat to survive. I know because Mutt has been here for a while and not needed to eat meat. As long as you live in our town, you follow our diet." She smiled. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll come to love it."


Break Fang was about to protest, but one look at Fluttershy's gentle, yet stern face stopped her. She glanced to the others, and they all nodded.


"Trust us, Fang," Gimbal said. "You do not want to cross Fluttershy here. Mare is a beast."


"Okay, fine. I'll give Pony food a try." Break Fang shook her head. "But it better be amazing for me to give up a nice, freshly slaughtered hog."



They made their way to Sugar Cube corner, where Pinkie Pie, having heard about a couple of newcomers to Ponyville, was already preparing one of her patented perfect parties. Gimbal, Nutmeg, Mutt and Break Fang walked in, and Mrs Cake, who was working the register, showed them to a table.


Pinkie emerged from the kitchen, balancing a huge tray, piled high with a variety of baked treats. "Here you go. A welcome to Ponyville Platter. Just a little appetiser to tide you over until the main event later tonight."


Break Fang picked up a jam donut, giving it a cursory sniff. Her eyes widen in surprise at the pleasant smell, then, with some lingering doubt, she popped it in her jaws. Her pupils immediately dilated... before she started rapidly started scarfing down more treats, much to Pinkie's delight.


"Woah, careful there, Break Fang!" Mutt cautioned. "You gotta take it slow and steady at first with this stuff. Gotta build up a tolerance, you know."


Break Fang paused with a custard pie halfway to her jaws. "Uh... I don't feel too good. Mutt, I think I need to lay down. Take me home, 'kay?"


Mutt nodded, and helped the female Diamond Dog to her feet. He nodded to his friends. "We'll catch you later, once she's recovered, okay?"

"Sure thing, Mutt. Get better soon, okay, Fang!" Nutmeg said, waving.


"Pinkie, can you save this for us?" Gimbal said, gesturing to the tray of treats. She then looked to Nutmeg. "I think Rhythm is probably still looking for a house. Let's go see if we can find her, maybe help her look."



They found Rhythm, still trying to find an available house or room to buy or rent. "This is a really popular city, it seems," she lamented.


"Of course!" Gimbal nodded. "Who wouldn't want to live near the great and wonderful Gimbal and her friends." She ducked the dragoness' good natured swipe.


"Hey, why don't we take a break from house-hunting, and see what Champion and Sugar Song are up to." Nutmeg suggested, and the chance to spend more time with their favourite little bodyguard definitely went down well with Gimbal and Rhythm.


They didn't walk far when they found Sugar Song and Champion, walking down the street. They ran over to them, and Sugar Song smiled. "Oh, hello girls. I'm just taking Champion to talk with Princess Twilight."


"I need to work on my shield casting skills." Champion said, solemnly. "I don't want a repeat of what happened last time we ran into Past Endeavour. And who better to learn from than the best at magic, right?"


"Hey, good idea, Champ!" Gimbal said. "And while we're there, we can see if the Map has any missions for us!"


Champion chuckled to himself at Gimbal's enthusiasm, though he could never deny that enthusiasm was one was one the things he loved most about her.


Continuing on their way to the Castle of Friendship, they ran into Mutt and a much healthier looking Break Fang, who decided to join them. 


When they arrived at the Castle, both Rhythm Quartz and Break Fang gave a long, impressed whistle, though in the dragoness' case, it was followed by a licking of the lips.


"Don't eat the castle, Rhythm." Sugar Song said, as she led them into the main visitors foyer. "It doesn't make a good impression on the princess." There a bright ringing sound as they walked inside, and they heard footsteps coming from up some stairs.


"Welcome to the Castle of Friendship," Spike, the dragon valet of Princess Twilight appeared. "Oh, hey guys. Ooh, a couple of newcomers?" He shouted up the stairs. "Hey, Twilight! Tear yourself away from your books for a minute! We got guests! I'm going to make some tea!" He then turned to the group of visitors. "Make your way to the Map room, Twilight will be there."


They did, indeed, find Twilight in the Map room, who got up from the throne to warmly greet her visitors, especially the two newcomers. "I hope you'll both feel welcome here in Ponyville, Friendship Capital of Equestria."


"Um, Princess? I have a favour to ask, if I may?" Champion spoke up.


"Yes, Champion?" Twilight asked, kneeling down to meet his eye.


"I need to work on my shield spells. I figured the Element of Magic would be the best teacher, right?"


"Actually, my brother, Prince Shining Armour, would be even better," Twilight corrected. "He's an expert in exactly that kind of magic. He once put a shield around all of Canterlot. If any pony can help you improve your protective magic skills, its him."


"But, isn't he the Prince Consort of Princess Cadence of the Crystal Empire?" Champion asked. "We were just there! Do all have to go all the way back!"


"Not necessarily, my eager little guard pony," Twilight smiled. "The Grand Galloping Gala is coming up in a few weeks, and he and his family will be coming about a week earlier for it. It'll actually be the first Gala all the Crystal Royal family and their attendants have been to for quite a while."


"The Gala?" Champion looked crestfallen. "There's no way somepony like me would be invited to such a thing."


Twilight glanced to Sugar Song, who looked a bit confused, and smiled, "Oh... I wouldn't discount the possibility right away..."



















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As they were walking back into Ponyville after their visit to the castle, Nutmeg broke the thoughtful silence. "So... um... did Twilight just say that we've been invited to the Gala?"


"I'm not sure," Sugar Song said. "But I bet I know who would. I'll have a talk with him tomorrow. It's getting late, we should head home for dinner, and Champion, you still have a lot of school work to catch up on." She smirked when Champion groaned, his hopes that maybe she'd forgotten about that dashed.


"And I still need to find a place to buy or rent," Rhythm Quartz said.


"What, exactly, are you looking for?" Nutmeg asked. "Maybe we can help you find something." Mutt and Gimbal nodded in agreement.


"Well, first off, it needs to be on (or maybe under) the ground, just in case I want non winged visitors," She gave a quick glance to the departing Champion as she said this. "However, it should also allow moments of solitude. We dragons do like to sit and count our hoard every now and then. It doesn't need to be anything fancy, just big enough for a hoard."


Why don't we start with Sweet Apple Acres?" Gimbal suggested. "Maybe they have an old barn or something you can rent."



"Let's see what the big deal is with these apples," Break Fang said, grabbing a green apple and biting into it. The five of them were making their way through one of the many orchards of Sweet Apple Acres towards the Apple's house. The female Diamond Dog took a big bite, only to spit it out with a disgusted look on her face. "Bleurgh! Sour!"


"That's because those one's aren't ripe, sugarcube," They turned at the sudden sound of Applejack's voice, to see the farm pony with a couple of baskets of apples on her flanks. She reached down picked up a nice, big red one with by the stem with her teeth, and flung it towards Break Fang. "Here, try this one." With a dubious expression, Break Fang slowly bit into the apple, only for her eyes to light up and to then scarf it down it just one more bite.


"So, you're not here for my pigs again, are you?" Applejack continued with a smirk. "Apple Bloom told me about your little... misunderstanding."


"Of course not!" Break Fang grinned. "I'm on my way to becoming a perfect citizen, me."


Applejack shook her head and chuckled. "You almost sound like Trixie. Anyhoo, what can I do for y'all?"


"I'm looking for a place to live," Rhythm Quartz said. "I heard you might have an old barn that I could rent or buy."


Applejack shook her head. "We don't have any barns we ain't using at the moment, sorry."


Rhythm Quartz nodded. "I understand. You got any suggestions for a good place for a young dragoness?"


Applejack looked confused. "Spike seems happy enough in his room at the castle."


Rhythm waved a claw dismissively. "From what I've heard, he was raised by Ponies since he hatched, so he's used to it. I'm a dragon raised by dragons, and we need our hoard space and solitude."


Applejack shrugged. "Well, good luck with that, sugarcube. I've got work to do." She then trotted off.


"Hey, what about that big, dark forest nearby," Break Fang suggested. "What did that Fluttershy Pegasus call it? Everfree?"


Rhythm looked intrigued. "Yeah, let's check it out."



About an hour later,  and the five of them were carefully making their way through a narrow path in the wild and overgrown forest. Nutmeg, for her part was eagerly dashing from plant to plant, her usual timidness and easily frightened nature outweighed by her love of all things botanical. It was she, in fact, who first saw the potential lair for Rhythm Quartz. "Hey, what about this?"


The others turned to see a large, wide trunked oak tree, its roots forming a natural arch over a narrow cave entrance. A tight fit for the wide shouldered Mutt and Break Fang, but for most ponies, and even the long and slender Rhythm Quartz, it was just the perfect size.


"Hey! Not bad! Not bad at all!" Rhythm said, happily. She poked her head in the hole. "Hmm... looks nice and roomy in here too... Woah!" She suddenly backed out, followed by a very long and angry looking python, hissing at her. It looked around, seeing several other strangers, and with a last warning hiss, backed into the hole.


"Welp, looks like we've got to fight for your new home, Rhythm!" Break Fang grinned, cracking her knuckles.


"I'm not sure Champion would like that," Rhythm muttered, under her breath. "I mean, this is its home, right?"


"I don't think you'll have to fight to get it out of there," Nutmeg said. "I've seen that kind of snake in books. Its a reticulated southern python. They're usually only found deep in the Forbidden Jungle. The poor thing must be lost."


"That's one heck of a lost." Gimbal shook her head.


"Maybe it belonged to a zoo, or a travelling circus." Nutmeg mused. "Either way, I bet if we talked to Fluttershy, she'd know what to do with it."


"Pfft! You ponies are no fun!" Break Fang folded her arms. "I've never fought a snake before."


"You three wait here, while Gimbal and I fly to fetch Fluttershy." Nutmeg said, as she and Gimbal took off. They returned about half an hour later with Fluttershy. The yellow Pegasus landed near the cave entrance with a concerned look.


"Gimbal and Rythm Quartz explained everything," she said. "Let's see what I can do for the poor thing." She poked her head into the hole. "Hello there, Mr. Python." There was a sudden, angry hissing, but Fluttershy just continued in a gentle, yet firm tone. "Now, I know you're lost and frightened, but there is no need for that sort of language! I'm here to help. I have a nice, warm terrarium back in my cottage, and I promise we will get you back to your jungle home in no time." There was a moment of silence, and then Fluttershy squeezed herself all the way into the cave.


She emerged a short time later, with the large python wrapped around her trunk. She was giving it a comforting nuzzle, and with a smile to the gaping Ponies, dragon and Diamond Dogs, took off into the air. 


"I've heard stories about how good she is with animals, but Celestia-damn!" Gimbal said, and even Break Fang looked grudgingly impressed. "So, Rhythm! You got yourself a new home! Come on, everycreature's coming to my place to celebrate!"


"Um, it is getting pretty late, Gimbal," Nutmeg said. "Are you sure your parents will mind a sudden surprise visit?"


"Are you kidding? Mum and dad love to entertain guests!" Gimbal assured them. 



"Hey mom and dad! I bought friends! That's okay, right!?" Gimbal shouted as they approached her house.


"Gimbal! You can't just bring guests over without warning!" Her father, the retired guardpony, Sabres Crossed, shook his head, standing in the doorway. "Your mother's already started dinner."


"I'm really sorry about this, Mr Crossed," Nutmeg said. "Your daughter can be quite insistent."


"Don't I know it." Sabres Crossed chuckled, shaking his head. "Everycreature, wait here. I'll see what my wife can do." He then went back inside. A while later, he emerged. "Gimbal! Go out to the shed and bring out the outdoor tables. You're lucky your mother loves to entertain guests. We're having an impromptu barbeque."


Gimbal nodded, saluting, "Yes, sir!" she ran out to the back, and worked to set up an outdoor dining set. Soon, the ponies, Diamond Dogs, and dragoness were enjoying a wonderful meal and the company of Gimbal's parents. Even Flurry emerged from hiding in Nutmeg's saddlebag to partake in the meal, claiming an entire corn on the cob for herself. Nutmeg was to busy chatting with Gimbal's mother, Baby Tulip, about their mutual love for gardening and botany.


The moon was high in the sky by the time they finished, and Gimbal bid her friends, old and new, a good night. "Let's meet at Sugar Cube Corner for breakfast, tomorrow." They all agreed, and parted ways.



They met Sugar Song at Sugar Cube Corner the next morning, but not Champion. "He's still catching up on schoolwork," she explained, sipping her morning coffee. "I had a talk with Paper Waltz, and he's managed to arrange for me to sing at the next Gala. The rest of you can come as my entourage." She shook her head. "Sorry, Gimbal, but Lock, Stalk and Barrel is just too real for the Canterlot Elite."


There was an exiting murmuring from the Gimbal, Nutmeg and Mutt. "So, what's this Gala, anyway?" Rhythm Quartz asked.


"It's the biggest event of the year in Canterlot." Nutmeg explained. "Only the most important, talented or influental Ponies (or other creatures) get invited."


Break Fang smiled. "And since I need to be in the presence of at least one of you at all times, unless one of you stays behind, I guess I'm invited by default."


"There is something else, more immediately important, I want to talk about," Sugar Song said. "As some of you may already know, Champion's 13th birthday is coming up in a week. Now, of course, he insists its no big deal, that only little foals care about such things, but we know better, don't we?"


Nutmeg clopped her hooves in excitement. "A birthday party? With little cakes and party hats and streamers and all that?"


Sugar Song smiled. "I've already spoken to Pinkie Pie about it, so yes, there will be a lot of all that. We just need to think about presents. I'm going to get Rarity to make a suit for the Gala for him."


"Come on," Gimbal said. "I know a great place to find presents for Champion."



She took them to a military surplus store, run by Fortress Gauntlet, an old army friend of her father's. The former Earth Pony quartermaster's shop was full of old uniforms, medals and other military paraphernalia.


"Gimbal! It's been ages! How's your dad?" The scarred, old stallion said in a booming voice, galloping over to pull the Pegasus into a bone crushing hug.


"Good to see you too, Fortress!" Gimbal gasped. She then introduced her friends, and explained why they were here.


"A little would be guard, eh?" Fortress mused. "Well, have a look around, I'm sure you'll find something here."


They did just that, perusing his wares, looking for the perfect gift for Champion. "What's this?" Mutt said, holding up a small knapsack, the perfect size for a colt like Champion.


Fortress Gauntlet looked over, and smiled. "A few years back, the Royal Guard had an initiative to train young recruits with a kind of boot camp for colts and fillies. It was quite popular, but yeah, there was the occasional injury. Of course, the parents then complained to Princess Celestia, who had to shut the program down. The foals were devastated, but you know how overprotective parents can be about their precious little bundles." He held up a hoof. "Hold on, I might have the rest of the kit here somewhere." He retreated into a back room, and returned holding a rope with a grappling hook, a small mess kit and a compass. "Each young recruit was given one of these kits when they signed up."


"I'll take it!" Mutt said, reaching into his vest and throwing down a large pawful of bits. "So, um... do you gift wrap?"


"That is a good gift," Rhythm Quartz whispered to Gimbal, who nodded. "We'd best pick up our game if we're going to find something just as good for our Champion."





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Gimbal nodded, whispering to herself. "Just you wait, I'm going to get Champion the Best Present Ever!" She then spoke out loud. "Nutmeg! Come on, let's check Carousel Boutique. Maybe we can find something there." Nutmeg shrugged, and followed, saying. "Maybe Rarity can make a dress for Flurry." She squeed at the sheer cuteness of that thought.


However, her hopes were dashed when they left the surplus store, and Gimbal turned to her. "We're not actually going to the Boutique. That was just to throw Rhythm off the trail. I need to make sure my present is better than hers!"


Nutmeg, having no idea about the (now mostly one sided) rivalry between Gimbal and Rhythm Quartz over Champion, looked confused and a bit disappointed. "Then where are we going?"


"Champion is growing into a young stallion," Gimbal said, dragging Nutmeg down the street. "And what do young, strong stallions like more than anything!?"


"Um..?" Nutmeg was feeling lost.


"Tools, of course!" Gimbal said excitedly. "Stallion's love tools. The bigger the better!"


"Are you sure?" Nutmeg asked, in doubtful tone. "I've never seen him show any interest in that sort of thing."


"Trust me, I've known Champion since he was a little colt!" Gimbal insisted. "Nopony knows him like I do!"


"Okay... if you say so." Nutmeg couldn't argue that, yes, Gimbal had known Champion longer than her, but still, she had her doubts.


While this was happening, Rhythm Quartz, Mutt and Break Fang had also emerged from the Surplus store. Rhythm was a little confused by Gimbal's competition attitude, thinking that they had made piece about Champion already. But if not, she wasn't going to lose to the Pegasus. "Mutt, let the other's know I'm going to fly back to the Dragon Lands to find the best present for Champion. I'll be back in a few days, max!" Without waiting for an answer, she unfurled her large wings, took off into the air, and like an arrow, zoomed off towards the South.


"Uh... okay." Mutt said, even as the dragoness disappeared. "Will do..." He and Break Fang then caught up with Gimbal and Nutmeg, as they made their way to a hardware store.


Inside the store, Gimbal found an assistant storepony. "Good storekeep! I require the largest sledgehammer you have!"


"Um, okay!" The pimply teenage stallion said, showing Gimbal to where they kept their hammers. She picked out the biggest one she could find, handing over the 200 bits on the price tag. "Perfect!"


Meanwhile, Nutmeg was walking around the store, picking out various knick-knacks that caught her eye. She had decided that her present to Champion was going to be something made by hoof, using the skills she'd learned from Lunar Tinker.



Half-Pint the changeling, currently Half-Pint the unicorn, disembarked from the Friendship Express onto the Ponyville platform. Although he had long decided to earn love rather than steal it, by making genuine friends and companions, he had not yet fully embraced the Changeling Metamorphosis led by King Thorax, so he still resembled an unreformed changeling. Disguising himself as a short Unicorn, his natural talent with sorcery had gotten him access to Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Somehow managing to evade detection, he'd made several friends (including many critters, due to a natural talent for what was jokingly called, 'Squirrel Speak').


He'd learnt that it if he siphoned off tiny pieces of love from his friends, he could keep himself relatively well fed, without harming anypony. Having graduated from the School (still amazed at how he had managed to evade detection, even from Celestia) he had decided to move to Ponyville, attracted to its reputation as the most interesting city in Equestria.


This reputation was somewhat confirmed, when no sooner had he started to make his way into the city, that he suddenly saw a long, slender dragon take off into the sky from somewhere in the middle of downtown, and zoom off to the South. Even more surprising was the reaction from the native Ponyvillians who also saw this. Interest and curiosity, sure, but no fear or panic.


Curious, he decided to head in the rough direction he'd seen the dragon take off from. He found himself walking near a hardware store, just as several figures emerged. First came a pair of Diamond Dogs, a male and a female. Next came a young Pegasus mare, dragging a small cart behind her, on top of which was a massive sledgehammer, almost as long as her. Finally came an older Earth Pony mare, who was currently fiddling with various nails and other small pieces of metal, fitting them together in various ways, as if making a small modern art project.


Half Pint approached the group. "Excuse me, but I have to ask, who, or what, is that huge sledgehammer for?"


Gimbal looked around, then down slightly, to see a short unicorn addressing her with an infectiously friendly smile. "Oh this? This is for my friend, Champion! It's his birthday in a few days!"


"He must be a mighty stallion indeed to handle a hammer like that? Oh, I'm Half-Pint, by the way! From Canterlot, but please, don't hold that against me!" He giggled at the little ice-breaking joke.


"I'm Gimbal!" The Pegasus replied, then gestured to the two Diamond Dogs and the Earth Pony mare. "These are my friends, Mutt and Break Fang, and this is Nutmeg." The male Diamond Dog gave him a friendly nod, but the female one smirked slightly.


"I never knew you ponies came in snack size!" She grinned, licking her lips. Half-Pint's eyes widened, and she laughed uproariously. "That never gets old!"


"Heh, good one!" Half-Pint chuckled. "I can see how Ponyville get's its reputation for being such an interesting..." his voice trailed off, as he stared at Nutmeg... or rather, at the Breezy that had emerged from her saddlebags. A bored Flurry had decided to stretch her wings a bit. She paused when she saw Half-PInt, then nudged Nutmeg on the side of her muzzle, and said, in Breezy, "Check out the shrimp! Nice mane though! I could make a nest out of that!"


"Flurry! You can't be saying such rude things!" Nutmeg whispered back. "We're lucky he can't understand you!"


"Actually, I can speak the noble Breezy tongue, among many others." Half-Pint said, allowing himself a moment of smugness when he saw their shocked expressions, especially Flurry's, who started to babble incoherently. He then continued smoothly, "I would be honoured to have such a lovely lady as yourself nest in my mane, Flurry, was it?"


For the first time in a long while, Flurry was totally flustered. She nervously approached, and when he gave an encouraging nod and smile, settled into his somewhat wild mane. Half-Pint waited until she was settled in, expertly suppressing the urge to trot on the spot in sheer joy, then said, "Tell me more about this Champion fellow."


"He's a colt," Mutt said, holding a paw above the ground to indicate height.


"But he has the heart of a stallion!" Gimbal insisted. "He's a Unicorn, so he can use magic to lift something like this, easy! I'd love to stay an chat, but I gotta get this home and wrapped up for the birthday!" She gave her friends, old and new alike, a friendly wave, then took off down the street.


"I think I'd like to meet this little Champion," Half-Pint said. "Can any of you take me to see him?"


"He'd be at school at the moment," Nutmeg said. "But it is noon, so maybe they're having their lunch break. Come on, we'll take you there!" With that, the four of them headed off towards Ponyville School.



"Mum! Dad! I need the shed!" Gimbal shouted, as she pulled the cart into the front yard of her house. Her mother was working on her garden, and she sighed in exasperation.


"Why on earth for, sweetheart?" She asked, then her eyes widened when she saw the massive sledgehammer. "And what is that!?"


"It's Champion's birthday present, of course!" Gimbal said proudly.


Baby Tulip got up from her gardening and walked over to the cart behind Gimbal. "Sweetie, are you really sure this is the kind of thing he'd like?"


"Of course!" Gimbal insisted. "All stallions love this sort of thing, right?"


"Every stallion is different, Gimbal," Tulip said gently. "You've known Champion for years. And in all that time, have you ever seen him show interest in tools or hardware or anything like that?"


Gimbal looked down, as realisation came over her. "I... I guess not." She grinned sheepishly. 


"Just put it in the shed for now," her mother said. "Then really think about Champion, and what he's all about."


"And I know just who can help me!" Gimbal said excitedly, flying off and shouting back with a "Thank's Mum!"


But first she thought to herself, I think the party will need some Sweet Apple Acre brand refreshments! 



At the school, it was, indeed, lunchtime, and the foals were playing outside on this beautiful day. Nutmeg, Mutt, Break Fang and Half-Pint (with Flurry still nestled in his mane) looked around, trying to find Champion among the throng.


Then they saw him, not playing with the other foals, but sitting by himself under the shade of a large oak tree, a large book open in front of him, his face very serious as his eyes scanned the page. A stray ball flew towards him out of the crowd, and he almost instinctively created a magic shield to block it, causing to fall to the ground nearby. 


A pretty, young Earth Pony filly ran up, picking up the ball, "Heh, sorry about that, Champ!" She nervously kicked the ground, giving a shy, hopeful smile. "Um... you sure you don't wanna join us?"


"Sorry, I can't," Champion said apologetically, nodding to his book. "I need to practice my defensive magics. You know how it is."


"Okay, Champion." She walked back to her friends with the ball nestled in her front hooves, occasionally glancing back to Champion with the wistful, disappointed look.


Shaking his head, sadly, Half-Pint walked over to the Unicorn colt, "Hey there. It's Champion, right?"


Champion looked up, though not as far as he thought he'd have to, when he heard the stallion's voice. "Yeah. Who are you?"


"I'm Half-Pint," he smiled as Champion raised an eyebrow at the rather fitting name. "What are you reading?"


Champion held up the book, "The life and times of Alexanmare the Great and Powerful!" he said, excitedly. "She was a great Unicorn general in the pre-classical era! The way she was able to use shield magic to turn the tide of even the most seemingly hopeless battles was awesome!" He coughed, suddenly embarrassed at this outburst of geekiness in the presence of a stranger.


"That all sounds great," Half-Pint said, "but you're still young, aren't you? Trust me, before you know it, your foal-hood will be gone."


Champion sighed. "I have to get better at my shield and healing magic. I have to protect those I care for... and heal those I can't!"


Half-Pint sat down next to the colt, and wrapped a friendly hoof around his shoulder and withers. "Tell you what: Not to brag, but I'm pretty good at magic. I am a graduate of Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorn's, after all! If you promise to let yourself be a colt for a while, and have fun, I promise to help you perfect your protective and healing magics."


"Really?" Champion said, watching a massive impromptu hoofball game starting to form, having even conscripted Mutt and Break Fang into the teams. "Alright then, deal!" He turned to give a hoof-bump to seal the verbal contract, noticing for the first time Flurry happily snuggling his wild, full mane. "I guess you've already met Nutmeg. Has she told you about her obsession with tiny things yet?"


"Really?" Half-PInt looked thoughtful. "Um, anyway, you go and have fun, and later I'll help you with your magical training, okay?" Champion nodded, and rushed over to join the game, letting go of his self-imposed chivalric responsibilities at least for a while.


Half-Pint then ambled over to Nutmeg, who was idly playing with a half-drunken juice-box. "Sooo... Champion tells me you might be a fellow Micro?"


"You too!?" Nutmeg almost shouted in the excitement of meeting another pony who held such a specific fetish; a Unicorn at that. "Um... do you know Shrinking Magic?"


"Want me to shrink you down to, say smaller than that Juice Box?" Half-Pint asked, and Nutmeg nodded eagerly.


A few second later, Nutmeg was happily sipping on a giant straw, even as they watched the massive hoofball game on the schoolyard.



Even by Ponyville or Gimbal standards, seeing her rolling a massive barrel, taller than her, down the street, caused a few odd looks, not to mention dives for cover. Gimbal had bought the several hundred gallon barrel of Apple Cider from Sweet Apple Acres, having promised to work for a week at the orchard as part of the payment. 


"Sweetheart, what under Celestia's bright sun is that!?" Baby Tulip demanded as she rolled the barrel into the yard and towards the shed.


"Just a little contribution to the party!" Gimbal said excitedly, opening the shed doors as wide as possible.


"Is that the Sweet Apple logo? Honey, did you buy all their cider? How much did that cost you?"


"Not much!" Gimbal insisted. "Though I do have to do rain duty for their orchards next week. Totally worth it though!" Gimbal insisted, rolling the barrel into a corner of the shed and pushing it upright.


At that moment, they heard hoofsteps approaching, and heard a tiny, squeaky voice shouting, "Gimbal? Mrs Tulip? Are you here?" They walked outside to see Half-Pint, with both Flurry and a tiny Nutmeg on his head between his ears.


"Nutmeg?" Baby Tulip asked. "How on Equestria...?"


"Half-Pint here shrank me! This is Half-Pint, by the way! Ooh, I bet I could do really detailed gardening at this size!" She excitedly leapt off Half-Pint's head and ran over to a flower patch.


"I'm very pleased to meet you." The short Unicorn gave a little bow. "I came from Canterlot to look for a little excitement, and I have to say, so far, I'm not disappointed."


"Stick with us, Half-Pint!" Gimbal grinned. "We'll give you all the excitement you can handle. Besides, you're just the Unicorn I want to see. You're from Canterlot, right? Do you know of any magical books or scrolls to help with shielding magic? Expense isn't an issue."


"For Champion, right?" Half-Pint smiled. "It just so happens, I've been thinking of that myself. There is an ancient scroll called Borders and Blockades from Barrages. It's gone through several editions over the centuries, so I'm sure you might be able to find a copy in any bookstore, library or even antique store."


"Ponyville has an antique store!" Gimbal said excitedly, then flew off.


She almost crashed through the front door of Ponyville Antiques in her eagerness. "Good vendor of ancient wares! I need a copy of Borders and Blockades from Barrages!"


The old Unicorn behind the desk peered at Gimbal, a little disorientated by her sudden forcefulness. "Hmm... let me check the archives." He went into a small room behind the desk, and emerged a few minutes later carrying large scroll. "You're in luck, Miss. This is one of the very first editions of that spell-book." He put the scroll on the table and unrolled it a bit, showing images of unicorns practising various permutations of defensive magics, with text in a language Gimbal had no hope of understanding. "Pre-Classical Old Ponish." The antique-keeper said. "Nopony understands it today; it even predates Celestia and Luna. But as an instruction manual for Unicorns, it still more than suffices."


"It's perfect!" Gimbal smiled. "Champion will love it!" Game set and match, Rhythm! "How much?"


The Unicorn looked at Gimbal dubiously. "Fifteen Hundred bits, Miss." He started to pack the scroll away.


Gimbal smirked, "You obviously don't know who I am, old timer! I'm Gimbal Lock, head guitarist of Lock, Stalk and Barrel." She opened her bag, and poured out a heap of bits and the gem she'd received from Break Fang. I'll be broke after this, but still, totally worth it!


The antique-seller's attitude changed instantly, and with a friendly smile, he pulled the bits under the desk, closed the scroll, and handed it over. Luckily, it came with a strap, allowing it to be worn across the back. She left the shop, and started to fly back to her house.



"The way I see it," Break Fang explained, as she and Mutt made their way into the Everfree Forest, "The no meat-eating rule only applies in Ponyville, right? This is the wild, though, tooth and claw!" After the hoofball game, she had expressed her desire to explore the forest, and had more or less dragged Mutt with her, seemingly forgetting that she was supposed to be the one on probation.


"I guess so," a somewhat overwhelmed Mutt muttered, just making sure Break Fang didn't get out of sight.


Break Fang sniffed the air, "Hmm... venison!" At that moment, a deer ran across their line of vision, followed by a pack of baying timberwolves. "Hey! They're trying to steal my dinner!" With a howl of bloodlust, Break Fang charged into the midst of the wooden lupines. 


She's crazy! Why are the sexy ones crazy!? Mutt followed suit, charging alongside her into the timberwolves. A massive brawl of claws, teeth and fists ensued. Both Diamond Dogs were bitten several times, but adrenaline helped them ignore the pain as they smashed the wooden creatures.


When the battle was over, the deer was long gone, and the two Diamond Dogs stood panting, bloody but victorious, surrounded by the torn and shattered remains of their timberwolf foes. Mutt looked over to Break Fang, who was giving him a strange smile and lidded eyes. Licking her lips, she started to advance on Mutt. Lust and fear warred in Mutt, and fear won, as he backed away from her, muttering, "Um... we should...we should get back!"


Break Fang picked up a timberwolf leg, chewing on it, muttering, "He wants me..."



Half-Pint was chatting with Baby Tulip and Sabre's Crossed, the friendly 'Unicorn' ingratiating himself with Gimbal's parents, while a still shrunken Nutmeg sat on the table with Flurry. Gimbal flew down from the sky, a large scroll across her back. "Hey Half-Pint! Check it out, a first edition copy! Champion is gonna love it! I'm gonna store it in the shed for now! Hey mum and dad!" Without waiting for an answer, she flew into the shed.


Sabre's Crossed shook his head, "Sorry about that, our daughter doesn't have middle gears."


Half-Pint waved a hoof. "After the snobbishness and snootiness of Canterlot, it's a nice change, trust me!" 


There was a sudden crash from inside the shed, followed by a grunt of pain from Gimbal. The five of them rushed inside, Flurry picking up Nutmeg and carrying her. They found Gimbal, lying dazed on the floor, covered in white paint. It looked like she had tried to store the scroll on a high shelf, but accidentally pulled one down, bringing several tins of pain down on her. She had managed to protect the valuable scroll, but at the cost of quite a few bruises, both physical and to her dignity.


"Oh, sweetheart!" Baby Tulip moved to help her daughter up, "What are we going to do with you?"


"Sorry, mum and dad," Gimbal smiled sheepishly, "I just wanted a safe place to store this ancient scroll."


"Hmm, if storage is the problem, I think I have the solution." Half-Pint said. "Put the gifts you plan to give Champion here." He gestured with his hoof. Gimbal, curious, put the giant sledgehammer and large scroll on the floor. A purple glow emanated from his horn and surrounded the items... which suddenly shrunk down to the size of a matchbox. "They'll stay shrunk until I dismiss the spell. Just give the word when you're ready, Gimbal."


"Awesome! Thanks, Half-Pint!" Gimbal found a small box to put the now much smaller hammer and scroll into, then said, "Now I need a bath..."


"Yes you do!" Sabres Crossed said, picking up a bottle of turpentine. "And I think you'll be needing this."













Edited by Swift Study
Fixed a minor descriptive error

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(GM's Note: Despite now having a podcast for the game, I'll still be writing this narrative blog. There is no guarantee that the blog will be a word for word transcript of the podcast. That'd be boring, even if I could do that.)


It was a couple of days later, and Rhythm Quartz had not yet returned from her trip. Champion's birthday party was due tomorrow, and they were all at Sugar Cube corner, marvelling at the effort Pinkie was putting into the party. Sugar Song had spared no expense, buying the Total Pinkie Party Package. The party was going to have a military theme, including a cake created to look like a military parade ground, complete with tiny guardsponies marching in formation near Equestrian flags and banners. Even Champion, for his insistence that he didn't want a party, that such things were for little foals, not mature colts like him, was staring in slack jawed awe.


However, his thoughts turned to a missing friend, and he turned to his sister. "I'm getting worried about Rhythm, sis. Could you use your mental link spell to see if she's okay?"


Sugar Song nodded, and her horn started to glow. Champion suddenly said, "Ooh, ooh! Can I talk to her? Can you do that?"


His big sister smiled indulgently, and her magic aura surrounded the colt's head. He closed his eyes, concentrating... then suddenly opened them with a gasp.


"She's lost.. scared... in constant pain... trapped somewhere!" He stammered, shaking his head. "Come on, everyone! We need to help her!"


"Calm down, Champion!" Sugar song said. "Did you sense where she was?"


"She doesn't know! And she's in too much pain to think straight!" Champion was cantering on the spot in helpless frustration.


"Who's this Rhythm Quartz?" Half-Pint whispered to Nutmeg, who was standing nearby.


"She's our dragon friend," Nutmeg replied. "Don't worry, she's really nice!"


"Oh! I think I saw her, taking off a couple of days ago, as I was just arriving," the short stallion nodded.


"I could use Mind magic to try to hone in on her," Sugar Song mused, "but if she's in the state you say, Champion, I'm going to be useless until we find her."


"Hmm... I know Rhythm's body pretty well," Champion blushed a bit as he said this, and quickly continued. "I could cast a spell to hone in on her body." He closed his eyes and scrunched his little muzzle in concentration, his horn glowing. He opened his eyes, wiping his brow. "Okay, I've got a lock. It's pretty vague at the moment; she's south, which makes sense."


"Okay, so who's coming?" Sugar Song asked.


"I'm in!" Gimbal peaked up from behind the cake, where she had just hidden her gifts to Champion.


Mutt nodded, and Break Fang grinned. "Sounds like fun! Chance for a bit of old fashioned violence?"


Nutmeg gulped. "Um, I'll help too."


Half-Pint smiled. "Count me in as well!"


"Let's get the next train to Appleloosa, and start from there," Sugar Song said. "Nutmeg and Gimbal, you should let your parents know that you might be away for a couple of days."


"Aww, Champion's gonna miss his birthday!" Half-Pint frowned.


"I know," Champion said. He turned to Pinkie Pie, who was putting up a banner. "Sorry, Pinkie, I guess the party will have to be put on hold."


Pinkie waved a hoof. "That's fine. You go on your adventure. You guys are the main characters in this story, after all, the party will wait."


There was a moment of silent confusion, as often followed a Pinkie Pie statement. Champion stared, then shook his head. "Uh, sure... thanks, Pinkie."



Nutmeg decided to be as upfront as possible with her parents, explaining that her friend was in some sort of trouble, and they were going to find her. Her parents were worried, of course, but knowing that she would be surrounded by friends who would protect her made them feel a lot better. Her mother did insist she make her a packed lunch, however.


In the meantime, Gimbal was a lot more evasive with her parents. "We're off to Appleloosa, mum and dad! Don't wait up!" Without waiting for an answer, she then rushed out to fetch the massive barrel of cider from the family shed.



At the train station, Champion was pacing back and forth, agitated, staring at the huge clock as if willing move faster. The next train was due to leave in half an hour. Half an hour too long for the Unicorn Colt's taste.


"Champion! Calm down!" Half-Pint insisted. "The clock isn't going to tick any faster if you stare at it harder. You're just exhausting yourself for no reason."


Champion took a calming breath. "I know, I know. I just hate the idea that it's because of me that she's in trouble."


"Stop that!" Half-Pint chided him gently. "She went off by herself. Even if it was to get you the Best Present Ever, it was still her choice to do so. You are not to blame at all!"


"Listen to the stallion, Champion," Sugar Song nodded, giving Half-Pint a grateful smile.


"Hey, Champion, wanna play pattycake with me?" Nutmeg said, in an awkward attempt to keep her little friend occupied.


Champion smiled at her, and said, "Okay, but be warned, I'm the pattycake champion!" With that, his horn glowed, and two Diamond Dog paws, no doubt modelled after Mutts, made of force, appeared.


While they started their epic showdown, Gimbal appeared, rolling the massive cider barrel. "Half-Pint!" she panted. "I need your size magic!"


Half-Pint trotted over, "What do you need, Gimbal?"


"Can you make this a carry-on?" Gimbal tapped the huge barrel.


Half-Pint, always happy to show off his size altering magic skills, nodded, his horn glowing. The magic surrounded the barrel, and with a woosh, shrunk down to the size of a shot glass. As Gimbal picked it up, Half-Pint warned. "Be careful, Gimbal! Don't open that until I've dismissed the shrinking spell, unless want to be hit with a torrent of Cider."


Gimbal paused, just about to take a sip. "Really? Okay then." She carefully put the barrel in her saddlebag.



The train trip to Appleloosa was uneventful, much to the 'New Elements' pleasant surprise. It was early evening when they arrived, and Sugar Song didn't want to go rushing off into the nearby wilderness without getting some rest first.


"But she's close! I can feel it!" Champion insisted.


Half-Pint came to his defence. "It's not that late and we can get supplies for a camp here, just in case. I think its better we not delay any furthur." Champion nodded eagerly and pointed to the wild haired stallion. To this, Sugar Song relented, and they made preparations for a journey south, into the Buffalo Plains.


They had been travelling for about an hour, over the exposed bedrock that made up a large part of the Plains. The only light came from the full moon and countless stars shining down from the clear night sky. After a while, they started to notice something... off... about the shadows around them. The two dimensional images started to change form, into snarling, demonic visages that shook them to their core. Nutmeg was especially rattled, and she jumped onto Mutt's back for protection.


Then the shadows around them started to coalesce together, taking a three dimensional semi-corporeal shape. A vaguely quadrupedal form with a massive maw full of razor sharp teeth. Mutt, remembering the last time they faced a nightmarish terror from beyond, reached into his waistcoat and offered a piece of candy. The shadow beast looked at the candy... then slashed at Mutt with a massive shadowy claw. Mutt, making sure he had a good grip on Nutmeg, dived to the side. Unfortunately, the claw still nicked him. It didn't draw blood however. Instead, Mutt felt an eldritch chill, as the claw passed through flesh and muscle and bone to tear out a piece of his very essence. 


Break Fang seemed to be frozen in her terror, and Flurry was burying herself in Half-PInt's mane. 


"I got this!" Gimbal proclaimed, with perhaps false bravado. She reached into her saddle bag and pulled out a flashlight, shining it on the creature. Where the light touched it, seemed to burn parts away, and definitly cause it great pain. At the same time, Half-Pint blasted the creature with a beam of pure magical energy. This seemed to also hurt it, but not as much as the light had. It roared at Half-PInt, who felt his knees grow weak from sheer terror. In the meantime, Champion was trying to keep it at bay with his shield magic, but to no avail, as the creature of shadow passed through the force-shield as if it wasn't there.


Sugar Song's horn started to glow, and she shouted, "Everypony! Close your eyes!" as she released a flash, as bright as the sun, in all directions. When it cleared, the shadow monster was gone. However, they soon noticed the shadows reforming already. Sugar Song cast another light spell, this one less intense but longer lasting one, to keep the shadows at bay. "Everypony... sorry, creature... stay close!"


Half-Pint took Champion onto his back, so the smallest non-flying member of their party wouldn't be left behind, and they raced away, following his magical link to Rhythm Quartz. However, it was not long until he said, "Stop! She's close!" He looked down. "And she's underground! Somewhere below us!" He hopped off Half-Pint's back, looking around. "There must be a cave entrance somewhere nearby!"


They looked around (and sniffed, in the case of the two Diamond Dogs) and soon found a cave entrance leading underground. They carefully made their way down a very steep tunnel. A little too steep for Nutmeg and Gimbal, who both lost their footing and started to tumble down the tunnel in a flailing mess of hooves and wings and screaming. Thinking quickly, Mutt put his broad, well-muscled body in front of them, catching them with an "Oof!"


The made their way down even more carefully and found themselves in a cave with several tunnels leading in all directions. "That way!" Champion pointed, his horn flaring. "She's down that tunnel." As they made their way down, they all started to hear, fainttly at first, but growing louder, the agonised screams of Rhythm Quartz. Champion immediately started to run down the tunnel.


"Champion! Stop!" Half-Pint called after him, and Champion trotted anxiously on the spot. 


"Come on! We got to help her!" he pleaded.


"I know, and we will!" Half-Pint assured him. "But we can't just go racing in like this. What if it's a trap? We need a plan?"


"What we need is a scout," Sugar Song looked to Nutmeg, then to Flurry, still nestling happy in Half-Pint's nest like mane.


The Breezy perked up, and asked Nutmeg, "I scout for you? Like before?"


Nutmeg, still somewhat shaken by recent ordeals, just nodded. Flurry stretched, did a little jog in the air to psyche herself up for her vital mission. Then she flew over and gave Half-Pint a quick. yet intense kiss on the muzzle, before taking off down the tunnel, towards the sound of the screaming. Half-Pint sighed happily.


She returned less than a minute later, looking very shaken by what she saw. With Nutmeg and Half-Pint translating, she described a massive cavern, the tunnel actually leading to a platform overlooking it, with a ram leading down to the floor. In the middle was the dragoness, Rhythm Quartz, strapped down, stretched out, to an infernal machine. Spikes had been embedded in her scales, attached to pipes that seemed to be drawing something out of her. Surrounding her were strange Ponies, that seemed to be made of both solid flesh and shadow at the same time. 


"Those sound like the Mareyans!" Nutmeg said. She looked to Mutt and Gimbal. "Remember? That temple in the Forbidden Jungle. We found that elder god that had banished those strange ancient Ponies when they tried to usurp its power for themselves. It trapped them out of time? I guess they found a way back. We might be a tad over our heads in this..."


"We got this!" Gimbal said, tossing and catching her flashlight. "We know they're harmed by light. And with Half-Pint's size magic..."


"I could turn that light into a massive spotlight, hitting several of them at once!" Half-Pint nodded finished.


"I can add my Light magic to the effort," Sugar Song nodded.


"While the rest of us rush down to free Rhythm Quartz!" Champion said excitedly. "Sounds like we have a plan!"


"I don't suppose any of you Unicorns can teleport us once we've rescued Rhythm, can you?" Break Fang's bravado seemed to have vanished in the face of such esoteric terrors as these.


The three Unicorns shook their heads, and gave a nervous rictus grin. "Then I guess we're escaping the old fashioned way."


They snuck their way down the tunnel, the heart-wrenching screams from the young dragoness helping to mask their approach. Sure enough, they saw what Flurry had described, seeing their draconic friend strapped to the ground, iron bars and straps over her neck, tail, both pairs of legs and even her outstretched wings. Hovering over her was this ball of dark, crackling energy. Then they saw what must have been Mareyans, though infused with shadowy, nightmarish power. There solid parts seemed to be flickering, as if constantly threatening to phase out of time.


Unfortunately, as they approached the edge, Gimbal accidentally kicked a stone... and several dark eyes looked up to them. Despite not having wings nor horns, the Mareyans surrounded themselves in dark, eldritch energy, and started to fly towards them.


"Stick to the plan!" Champion shouted, as he, Mutt, Nutmeg and Breakfang raced down the ramp towards Rhythm Quartz. Rhythm was sending quick flashes of light to hold the Mareyans at bay, while, fumbling a little in panic, turned on the flashlight and placed it on the ground, facing the oncoming Mareyans. Half-Pint's horn glowed, and the flashlight suddenly grew to the size of a pony, flooding the cave full of light.


The effect on the Mareyans bathed in the light was dramatic. Being only partly made of shadows actually worked against them here, as the light shredded them, leaving flickering, solid parts that phased in and out of time. Half-Pint sent blasts of magical energy at the Mareyans who had managed to avoid the late. One of them sent a shadowy blast at him, striking him and causing him to stagger back in pain.


In the meantime, the others were racing towards the trapped Rhythm Quartz. As they neared that strange orb above her started to pulse, and they were all struck by waves of pure, psychic agony. It turned out to be too much for poor Nutmeg, who collapsed, screaming and sobbing in agony.


The other three tore the straps and bars holding her down off Rhythm Quartz, but she was in no state to move by herself. Champion was about to try to heal her with magic, but Mutt grunted, "No time, Champ!" He picked up the dragoness, wrapping her long, serpentine body around his shoulders, then scooped up the sobbing, half-catonic Nutmeg, and they raced back up the ramp.


"Right, let's go!" Half-Pint shouted, and they are raced at full speed out of the caverns and into the open night air. They kept running until the cave was long behind him, only then allowing themselves to collapse.


Sugar Song touched her horn to Nutmeg, using Mind magic to heal her mental trauma, at least somewhat. Nutmeg was still feeling really fragile, however, and just sat quietly.


In the meantime, Champion had healed Rhythm enough that she could at least move by herself. "Damn it, Rhythm! I know you wanted to get me a nice present, but couldn't you have gone to, like, a shop, or something?"


Rhythm Quartz looked down sheepishly, "I.. I wanted to get you the best present..."


Champion nuzzled her affectionatly, "Your friendship is the best present."


"That and adventure!" Mutt piped in, and Champion nodded, "That too!"


"I know we're exhausted," Sugar Song, still maintaining the light spell on her horn, "but I really think we shouldn't stop until we get back to Appleloosa!"


"Everyone gather around," Champion said, "I'll cast a spell to give as a burst of stamina. Hopefully just enough to get us back there."



The sun was rising when they crawled back into Appleloosa. They found their way to a hotel, and Sugar Song put a large pile of bits on the desk for enough rooms for them all. They ended up sleeping all day and the next night, not waking until dawn the day after that.


Nutmeg was staring out the window, looking pensive. Half-Pint sidled up to her, "What's wrong Nutmeg?"


Nutmeg sighed, "I just don't know why my friends bring me on these adventures. I'm useless on them."


"You must have something going on for you," Half-Pint insisted, as Flurry flew over to give her adopted big sister a hug on the muzzle.


"There was that time she killed a dragon!" Mutt said proudly, only to stop himself when he saw Sugar Song, shaking her head and making throat slicing gestures.


"Come on!" Half-Pint said. "Let's go downstairs for some breakfast! I'm sure getting some food in you will cheer you up!"


"Okay..." Nutmeg didn't seem to convince. They fetched Gimbal, and made their way downstairs.


They saw that Champion and Rhythm was already down in the eating area. Champion was sitting on the floor, with Rhythm's long body wrapped around him in a snake-like hug. She looked up when she saw the others. "Thank you, everycreature, for coming for me!"


"You're quite welcome, dragon I just met!" Half-Pint said. "I'm Half-Pint! Pleased to meet you?"


"Half-Pint? Really?" Rhythm quartz looked at the much shorter than average stallion incredusouly.


"Yep! That's my name!" Half-Pint grinned, and Rhythm shrugged, no doubt thinking that Ponies had such funny names.


"Rhythm, if you don't mind me asking, what happened?" Sugar Song asked after fetching some cereal for herself.


Rhythm sighed. "I was on my way back with my present for Champion, when I saw a young Buffalo calf in trouble. His hoof seemed to be stuck. We dragons like to protect Buffalo, due to an ancient traditional pact, so I flew down to help. It was a trap. An illusion, and well, I guess you know the rest."


"What happened to the present?" Mutt asked, biting into an apple. "Did you drop it?"


The dragoness looked shamefaced. "It's back there somewhere..."


Champion shook his head, "It doesn't matter. You're safe, that's enough for me!" Rhythm smiled, and nuzzled him lovingly.


"Let's get back to Ponyville," Sugar Song said. "We need to warn Princess Twilight about these returning Mareyans... and, more importantly, we got a party to look forward to!"



They were all back in Sugar Cube Corner, and Champion's party was in full swing. Even the normally stoic and super serious Champion had been looking forward to this. Suddenly, they all heard a loud, wet sound outside, and a yelp of surprise from Gimbal.


"Oh, dear Celestia!" Half-Pint face hoofed, and they all rushed outside, to find at Gimbal at the crest of a fountain of cider. It seemed she had forgotton Half-Pints warning about the tiny barrel, and soon there was a rain of cider. Thinking quickly, she formed as much as she could into a cloud of cider, which she used make what was, essentially, a cider flavoured cotton candy.


"How did you do that?" Pinkie Pie asked. When Half-Pint explained his shrinking spell, Pinkie's eyes widened. "You mean you can shrink a thing, and yet have the stuff that makes that thing the thing it is still there?" When Half-Pint nodded, Pinkie's eye grew stars. "Can you imagine, a bite sized cake, with the flavour of a full sized cake. An explosion of flavour in every bite!"


Before she could go too far and lock Half-Pint in the kitchen on cake shrinking duty, it was time for presents. First was Sugar Song's. Half-Pint noticed a handsome Crystal Pony, with a cutie mark resembling a scroll surrounded by music notes standing next to her. Standing close to her. It was obvious they were a couple, and judging by his glow, he was very much in love with the beautiful young Unicorn.


Champion opened the thin box Sugar Song handed over, marvelling at the fetching, double breasted jacket he pulled out. It was cut to resemble to dress uniform of a royal gaurd, so of course, Champion loved it, which he showed by rushing over and giving him sister a big hug.


"Something for the Gala," she said, with smile.


Next, the Crystal Pony gave Champion a small box and a scroll. "Read the scroll to yourself, first," he said, his tone strangely anxious. Champion nodded, and read the scroll, his face serious. He then peered into the box, and quickly closed it. He gave the Crystal Pony stallion a sombre nod. "Thank you, Paper Waltz. I'll think on this." He glanced to his sister as he said this, then put the present aside.


"Um... here's mine..." Nutmeg said nervously, presenting the art project made of nails from the hardware store. "It's not much, but I did make it myself."


Champion tackle hugged her. "Thank you, Nutmeg, it's awesome!"


In the meantime, Pinkie had just cut up the cake... when there was a sudden explosion of magical energy, and a massive sledgehammer and a large scroll case appeared.


"Happy birthday, Champ!" Gimbal said. "A hammer for a stallion, because today you become a stallion!"


"Um... thanks..." Try as he might, he couldn't hide his disappointment that Gimbal would think he'd want or need a giant hammer. However, when his eyes fell of the scroll, he asked, "Is that, for me too?"


Gimbal nodded, "Yep! Give it a look!"

"I helped her find that one!" Half-Pint said proudly, as Gimbal opened the scroll. As soon as he saw the first few images, his eyes widened. "Is that... Borders and Blockades from Barrages!?" Gimbal nodded, and found herself hugged with genuine love from Champion. Gimbal grinned, and gave Half-Pint a 'thumbs up' with her wing as she returned the hug.


Rhythm watched, smiling sadly, happy for Champion of course, but disappointed in herself. Next time, Champion...






























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"Darlings! May I present your Gala suits and dresses!" Rarity was saying excitedly, as they all stood in her shop. It was a couple of weeks before the Gala, and Half-Pint had spoken to Sugar Song about his desire to attend that event, and she had made arrangements to add him to her entourage.


"Number one rule of an entourage is: never outshine the pony you are being the entourage for," Rarity explained as she revealed the suits and dresses. Sugar Song's was a simple, elegant affair, with just a few tasteful sequins to catch the chandelier light. The dresses and suits for the others were, therefore, suitably simple and elegant.


There was one exception: Flurry's dress. Being so small, Rarity thought she could get away with being a lot more ostentatious; in fact, it was almost a necessity. Flurry's dress was an absolutely gorgeous, shimmering ballgown, which, when catching the light, made Flurry look like a beautiful will-o'-the-wisp. Half-Pint was smitten all over again. Flurry herself was totally in love with the dress, and would have worn it all the time, but Rarity shook her head, "Sorry, darling. That dress is far too delicate for everyday wear!" With some reluctance, Flurry took off the dress and handed it back to Rarity.


Rarity turned to Half-Pint, "I'll need to take some measurements from you, good sir. Your suit will be ready by the gala, don't you worry."



A couple of days later, Nutmeg was in her personal lab, mixing potions. She had decided that she'd had enough of being useless, and was going to use her talents for botany to help her friends. She was carefully measuring a dose of Heart's Desire into a test-tube.


"Hey, Nutmeg! You got some time?" Gimbal's sudden shout at Nutmeg's window almost made her drop the test-tube.


"Gimbal? You almost made me ruin my potion!" Nutmeg whined. "What do you want?"


"I need your help in finding and prepping some Poison Joke." Gimbal explained happily.


"Why do you want Poison Joke?" Nutmeg asked, dubiously.


"Oh, just for some fun, later!" Gimbal said, evasively. "Come on, Nutmeg! Be a pal!"


Nutmeg nodded. "Okay... let me grab some tools. Poison Joke harvesting is a tricky job."


Thanks to Nutmeg's expertise, they soon found a large patch of the blue flowers, and she carefully gathered some of the pollen in a jar. "So, now what?" She asked.


"Brownies!" Gimbal said happily.


"Um... don't you need a different type of plant for that?" Nutmeg asked, confused.


"Not for these super-fun ones!" Gimbal said. "Hey, your parents are going to be out for a while, right? We can use your kitchen! Come on!"


"But..." Nutmeg began lamely, then shook her head, realising this was running away from her, just like her friend, who was running back to her house.


Soon, they were mixing up a batch of special brownies in her parent's kitchen. Everything was going well... until Gimbal absentmindedly licked her hoof. "Uh-uh."


"Come on! After we clean up here, we better go see Zecora!" Nutmeg said. "Hopefully she'll have some of that antidote!"



"Why were you fooling around with Poison Joke?" Zecora asked, as they explained the situation to her.


"Well, um, you know? Just for some fun?" Gimbal withered under the Zebra's gaze, and finally confessed. "Okay, okay! It was for the Gala!"


"You plan on taking Poison Joke to the most important social gathering of the Equestrian Calender?" Zecora shook her head. "Ruining that most special of nights just for your entertainment?"


Gimbal stammered, "No, nothing like that? Just a bit of fun, you know?"


Zecora made a show of looking at her shelves. "Hmm, unfortunatly, I seem to be out of an important ingredient for the antidote. Come back tommorow."


Gimbal just nodded, looking both a bit ashamed and worried, dreading what fate might have in store for her.



"So, how did Nutmeg kill a dragon?" Half-Pint was asking Champion, while helping him practice his shields, using the new techniques he was learning from the scroll. Instead of the large, static barriers the young Unicorn colt had been using, he was learning to use smaller, more mobile force-shields in a much more pro-active way.


"She didn't mean to," Champion explained. "She had some dynamite, which we were using to clear out a tunnel. When the dragon attacked, she threw a stick of lit dynamite, hoping the blast would just scare it off. Unfortunately, it opened its mouth at the wrong time, and the dynamite went down its throat." He shook his head. "I don't think I have to draw you a picture..."


I've definitely found myself some very interesting friends. Half-Pint thought, as he went back to helping his young friend practice.



"Floor plans for Canterlot castle?" Twilight nodded happily, always eager to help a pony, or in this case, a Diamond Dog, learn. "Sure, I think I have a copy somewhere here. Curious about old Unicorn architecture, hey? Fascinating subject!"


Mutt nodded, "I also want to know where the exits are, just in case things go wrong."


Twilight nodded sagely, "Hmm, yes, I remember a few Galas where a quick exit was in order." She scanned her shelves. "Are, here we are. A little out of date by a couple of years, but should still serve your purposes."


Mutt grinned, "I'm sure it will. Thanks, Princess!"



The effects of the Poison Joke she had accidentally ingested made itself manifest to Gimbal when she woke up to find a dark cloud floating over head, pelting her with hailstones at random intervals. The cloud followed her wherever she went, no matter how fast she flew to try to outrun it. To make matters worse, it turned her into a social pariah, as no creature wanted to get too close, lest they also suffer the hailstones; and, of course, she was not allowed inside any buildings.


Finally, she'd had enough, and flew as fast she could to Zecora's hut. "Okay, okay, I get it!" She pleaded. "Poison Joke is no joke! Now please! Can I have the antidote!?"


Zecora nodded, satisfied, and prepared the antidote bath, much to Gimbal's relief.



Finally, the big night came. Dressed in their fine dresses and suits, they made their way into the castle ballroom for the Gala. They were introduced by the herald as Sugar Song and Entourage. Half-Pint was not disappointed in the suit Rarity made for him. With her almost supernatural gift for knowing the exact right couture for any individual, she had created a blue suit with an intricate pattern of stars. The hidden changeling loved it; it was a wizard robe in suit form.


He suddenly froze when he saw King Thorax and General Pharynx, along with a handful of other reformed changelings. And when Thorax glanced at Half-Pint with a raised eyebrow, the apparent Unicorn started to shake. Mutt noticed this, saw the brief look between King Thorax and his new Unicorn friend, and nodded sagely. He knew the signs all too well. No doubt, Half-Pint had a bit of a criminal past, and Thorax knew. The Diamond Dog leaned down to whisper to his frightened friend. "So what did you steal?" Half-Pint heard nothing but his own terrified heart-beat. Mutt was going to say more, but he suddenly felt Break Fang hook his arm with hers, and drag him towards the hors d'oeuvres table. 


For Nutmeg, something, or rather, somepony, very different had caught her attention. Working at the stage, where Sugar Song and the other entertainers chosen for the Gala would perform, was the most beautiful Unicorn Nutmeg had ever seen, with greyish fur and a two-toned purple mane and tail, and a crescent moon cutie-mark. She quickly spritzed on one of the potions she had brewed earlier, a confidence boosting perfume, and sauntered (at least, what she imaged was a saunter) over to the Unicorn.


"Uh, hi? I'm Nutmeg!" Her voice came out in a squeak. It seemed there only so much even alchemy could do for Nutmeg's crippling social anxieties. Still, it was a miracle she even able to approach this Unicorn. The Unicorn must have found something endearing about the fumbling, stammering Unicorn, and she smiled. "Hi there, Nutmeg! Name's Moonlight!"


Despite her confident demeanour, Gimbal was totally out of her element in a function like the Gala. Thus, when she saw an open bar, she gravitated towards it; there was something she understood. Maybe a few drinks would bring back her confidence.


"Hey, Half-Pint? Are you okay?" Champion was gently shaking his Unicorn friend and self-appointed big brother figure, concerned. Half-Pint shook himself out of his terrorised state, and grinned nervously. "I'm fine! Hey, look, a bar!" Half-Pint almost ran to the bar where Gimbal was drinking. Champion looked concerned for a moment, but decided that if something was wrong, Half-Pint would tell him, surely. He then turned to Rhythm Quartz, who was standing nearby. "Hey Rhythm? Wanna check out the castle battlements with me?"


Mutt (who had already lifted a nice brooch from an unknowing Unicorn) and Break Fang were at the hors d'oeuvres tables, which Break Fang had claimed as her own, growling at any other pony or changeling that dared approach. Nearby royal guards watched her nervously, hoping (for her sake, of course!) that she wouldn't cross the line from threatening to actually violent. Mutt was watching the female Diamond Dog scarfing pawfuls of the tiny appetisers, and idly considered warning her that's who she got that stomach ache before, but decided that Break Fang was obviously a learner by personal experience. Besides, those hips didn't come free.


With the stage set up, Sugar Song stepped up to the microphone, taking a calming breath and closing her eyes. Paper Waltz stood nearby the stage, watching his beloved with both pride and concern. No creature at the Gala seemed to have noticed that she had taken the stage, just talking and eating and mingling. Then, she started to sing, and all else went silent. The beautiful young Unicorn singer was baring her heart and soul through her voice, and even the brutal Break Fang had to pause, mid bite, to listen, lost in awe.


Gimbal looked around at the beautiful ponies all around, and felt self conscious. She turned to Half-Pint, drinking nearby. "Hey, Half-Pint? Magic is your thing, right?"


"I like to think so, yes!" Pride (and alchohol) had almost made Half-Pint forget about his growing terror concerning King Thorax.


"You think you could use your magic to give me a few minor adjustments?" Gimbal asked nervously, glancing to where she saw Rhythm was starting to dance with Champion. Half-Pint shrugged, and touched his horn to Gimbal, who felt her body undergoing certain changes. Now feeling a lot more confident, he approached the dancing dragon and Unicorn couple, sweeping another young Unicorn stallion into dancing with her on the way, her plan being to swap this Unicorn with Champion.


At the same time, Flurry had found Half-Pint, and 'dragged' him to the dance floor, dancing with the charming Unicorn. Thanks to his lovely breezy friend, he had almost forgotten his troubles. He was just lost in the presence of the beautiful fae creature.


He suddenly felt himself struck by a magical surge, forcing him into his true changeling form. He recognised the spell in question, one used by changelings against their own kind. He knew he could try to resist, but the strain to his body and mind could be fatal. He closed his eyes and let it happen, cringing. There was shocked silence, followed by terrified screaming at the sudden appearance of a non-reformed changeling.


Half-Pint turned to glare at King Thorax and General Pharynx, only to find them looking just as shocked and surprised as he was. They were scanning the crowd, trying to find the hidden changeling that had cast the spell. Their entourage were all there and accounted for, so it must have been a different, hidden changeling who had cast the spell. Several gaurds were approaching Half-Pint, but Celestia stepped forward to stop them, shaking her head.


At that moment, there was a sudden outcry from several of the wealthier Canterlot ponies, as Break Fang, seeming to take advantage of the chaos and was rushing among the elite, grabbing pawfuls of gems and jewellery in a violent rush. Then she disappeared into the crowd.


Break Fang was still standing next to Mutt, somewhat amused by all this chaos around her, and idly considering how to take advantage of it, since the guards seemed to be busy with the revealed Half-Pint. At that moment, a strange Unicorn came running out of a crowd, bumping into her briefly before rushing for one of the exits.


"Hey!" Mutt shouted, chasing after the Unicorn. He recognised a pick-pocketing technique when he saw one. But he lost sight of the would be thief near the exit. He looked around for a while, scratching his head, when he suddenly heard the sound of a fist hitting flesh, and a pony hitting the floor. "Oh no!" He rushed back to Break Fang.


One of the guards had approached Break Fang, demanding to see inside her waistcoat. She refused, indignantly, and when he tried to force the issue, found himself sprawled to the floor, courtesy of her fist. Instantly several spears were pointed at her as she growled. "You ponies may not have fangs, but touch me again and I'll make do!"


The guards were insisted, however, and she finally relented, letting them check her, fully confident they would find nothing and just look like fools. So when one of them pulled out a beautiful necklace, she stared blankly. "I didn't take that!"


"Where's the rest!" A guard demanded.


"I don't know!" Break Fang insisted. "I didn't steal anything! I've been framed!"


The guard scoffed! "A likely story! You're coming with me!" They moved to apprehend her, but Break Fang, despite Mutt's urging to go quietly, refused to do so, and soon a massive brawl was breaking out. It finally took a paralysis spell from Celestia to stop Break Fang from making things worse than they already were.


In the chaos and fear, Gimbal had taken the opportunity to hold Champion close, as they watched the chaos all around them, confused and worried. At the same time, Nutmeg, who had been dancing with Moonlight in a fugue of smitten wonder, finally took notice of the outside world, and instantly glomped onto an amused Moonlight in terror.


Flurry was giving the revealed changeling, Half-Pint, with a look of disappointment rather than fear; a look that seemed to say, "And you were going to tell me this, when?" 


Half-Pint was about to respond, when a couple of the changeling attendants to King Thorax approached, asking Half-Pint to come with them to speak to the King. Half-Pint, wanted to clear things up, agreed, and went with them.


"Half-Pint, first of all, rest assured, no changeling here forced that change on you," The King said. "We're all accounted for, so it must have been another changeling we don't know about."


As he was talking, Half-Pint just happened to glance to a nearby changeling. A rather attractive female with a dark blue carapace, whose movements were slightly mechanical.  Taking a gamble, he suddenly cast a dispelling spell at her. The effect was sudden and dramatic, the body of the changeling collapsing into a pile of metallic junk; a magically created double.


"I think we have our culprit..." Half-Pint said. "Who was she?"


"Midnight Prize," Pharynx shook his head. "One of my most trusted assistants. I can't believe she's nothing but a common thief."


"And she's probably long gone by now," Thorax added. "The only upside is that she'll have to avoid other changelings."


Mutt walked up to them. "Excuse me, but, um, I think I might have an idea where she went. She's want to get rid of all that jewellery, and that means a fence. I think I know of one here in Canterlot: Jackpot Fog."


"Wait? The game-show host?" Half-Pint asked, and Mutt nodded. "Then that's we're we'll start looking! I have a few choice words for that Midnight Prize!"
















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