You're in a tavern. Suddenly, the door bursts open and everyone is frozen in place. Everything goes silent. The air is stagnant and your food is rotten. An old stallion tells you years have past, and you've been brought back from stone to fight the medusa that caused this mess.
Previously on Mazes and Medusas,
>You blew up some trees and got paid on your way to Canterlot
>You jojo posed for a medusa
>You returned to the tavern where it all began
Last we left off, you were having a chat with the medusa that freed you from stone.
"Here specifically? To free some extra adventurers. Here in Canterlot? You know exactly why."
He only continues to glare at you, petrifying gaze off. After a moment, he snorts, as if there was nothing to worry about.
His reaction is odd, but so is the fact that he just tried to petrify you.
"I'd actually like to have a chat with you, if you're feeling so civil."
He takes a seat at the edge of the bed and leans back nonchalantly.
>"I don't mind talking. Besides, I have little choice in the matter. You're blocking the only exit to this room."
"And I'll keep blocking it until I get some answers. I know you tried to turn me to stone just now. I want to know why you would bother freeing me at all in the first place if you were just going to petrify me now that I'm here."
He answers readily, as if the information has no real bearing on him or anyone.
>"I needed you then. Now I don't."
You quirk an eyebrow.
"Care to elaborate?"
>"We needed someone to take care of that monster in the castle."
>"The mishmash of beasts that was the last being standing in our way."
"What are you talking about? We didn't even beat him. He teleported us out as soon as he saw us."
>"He did, didn't he?" The creature in front of you raises a scaled hoof in front of him, inspecting it idly. "My reasoning for freeing you remains true. You looked among the most capable. Although your encounter with that monster was brief, it was enough of a distraction to interrupt his efforts and eliminate him."
>"Wait... what? What did you do? Where is he now?"
He wipes his hoof against his chest and blows on it.
>"He's gone now. Turned to stone and dumped with the rest of them."
He sneers at you.
>"Wouldn't you like to know?"
Gisela points your crossbow at him.
>"Tell us where they are!"
>"In the castle storeroom would be my guess. I didn't move him," he answers, seemingly unfazed.
Eve pushes in beside you.
>"It took you guys twenty years to get rid of Discord?"
>"Is that its name? He actually appeared fairly recently before I freed you. Canterlot was well under our control when suddenly it comes in from nowhere wearing a gaudy shirt, sunglasses, and flowers around its neck. I don't think we the welcome party it was expecting. It managed to retake a good portion of the castle by itself and was just about to confront Mother before you stepped in."
Eve's visibly shaking. It can't sit well with her knowing what she was an aid in, what she stopped.
Still, she restrains herself from doing anything drastic.
"What are you still doing here then? Your job is done and you got what you wanted. Why haven't you left yet?"
He looks at you curiously, like he doesn't understand the question.
>"I live here now. There are few pleasures in life greater than basking in the defeat and destruction of your enemies. Other creatures have come out to claim lesser pony settlements. I'll revel in the capital. I see little reason to leave."
"One last thing. Tell me everything you know about the Grand Medusa."
>"You must be talking about Mother. She's perfect. Whatever petrification cure you're under right now to withstand my gaze is nothing compared to Mother's strength. Even if you kill me right here, I find comfort in knowing that you'll never defeat her."
With a hopefully threatening twirl, you draw your glaive and point it at him.
"Your confidence will be your undoing."
Like an angry dog, his muzzle scrunches up in a snarl before settling into a more smug, contemptuous look.
>"My undoing? You may have me cornered, but you overestimate your own abilities, ponies." He spits the last word. "I need not remind you that our kind destroyed your capital. We defeated the monster you call Discord. If you couldn't even touch him your first time around, you stand no chance whatsoever against Mother."
>"Shut up!" Eve stomps her hoof against the floor boards. Righteous fury wells in her moist eyes. "We're going to beat her! We're going to beat the medusa and save Canterlot!"
It looks like he's about to make some snarky remark, but you cut him off.
"Thanks for freeing us."
The tip of your glaive impales itself through the medusa's body as you lunge forward.
Hot blood gushes out as you deliver the coup d'etat, the thick liquid burning holes through the sheets.
Light fades from the monster's eyes, and though the hateful glare never leaves, you finally see a hint of uncertainty as its final breath leaves its body.
You pull your blade from its body and flick the blood off onto the floor.
Your party doesn't say anything.
"Softshell, start making more cures," you order.
He gets to work and you leave the oppressive room, the others following behind.
With that over with, you want to bring your attention to other matters.
As you walk down the steps into the main tavern room, your gaze sweeps across the frozen adventurers you left behind.
There's that wizard hat maybe-changeling. There's that gambler. There's that diamond dog stuck playing that giant horn. There's muscle unicorn. There's that thief pegasus. And the bartender too, you guess.
Hey look, that sounds like enough for everyone to have a cure and a buff.
Assuming Softshell won't be fighting the Medusa, the six of us should be able to buff ourselves and have six leftover for the final encounter.
A thought crosses your mind.
"What if there are more adventurers in the rooms upstairs?"
>"I'll go check!"
With that, Eve turns around and you can hear her light hoofsteps as she makes her way down the upstairs hall.
You don't recall seeing any other adventurers upstairs, but then again, you don't recall even checking. You did spend a night in a room Gisela bought long ago.
For whatever reason it didn't cross your mind at the time to take separate rooms.
A door slams shut above you and a stiff set of legs walks further along the hall.
Again, you hear another door close promptly and with purpose before Eve comes back, her face and ear tips beat red.
She also pointedly looking away from you.
>"N-no adventurers upstairs," she stutters out. "J-just..."
"What? What's up there? Is it dangerous?"
>"No! It's just... ponies enjoying themselves."
>"Let's just go ahead and get to saving these ponies!" Eve says maybe a little too loudly, eager to change the subject.
As you walk through the statues, you ponder which to free first.
The bartender is a must at some point. The maybe-changeling could be fun. You kinda forgot about gigacorn.
But that dog in the corner...
You uncork one of the cures as you make your way to it.
Here's hoping it works.
You drizzle the contents of the vial over the stony visage and like magic, the rock melts away to short and thick sable and white fur.
Once completely free from the curse, the dog plays the last jaunty note from her horn before letting out a gasp, its cool blue eyes focusing on you.
It comes out as a happy and excited bark, and her curled tail wags frantically behind the her.
Her perky ears stand at attention as she waits for your next move.
Hello, I'm Blitz, and this is Jet, Eve, Gisela Flashbang, Carver, and Softshell.
A medusa attacked Canterlot during Harmony week and turned everyone to stone. We're trying to save it.
You take in the diamond dog.
Her coat is a dark sable, almost gray, that tapers off into white towards her underbelly, paws, and snout.
She has perky ears, joyful blue eyes, and a long, narrow muzzle tipped with a cute black nose.
There's a studded leather collar around her neck and a plain, dark gray vest.
Her tail curls upward, still wagging at your presence.
She's also quite tall. On their hind legs, she's about the same size as Gisela.
You don't know a whole lot about diamond dogs, but her voice sounded young.
She's a big pup.
The bone horn she's holding upright is massive. It's a simple curved war horn, but the instrument stands to match her height.
"Hi," you finally answer, smiling at her gently. "My name's Blitz."
>"My name is Cookie!" she proudly announces, even bouncing on her toes just a bit.
Gods that's cute.
You just... you have to.
She's too tall to pet her head and even though you could fly, that doesn't seem entirely appropriate.
So instead, you extend a hoof, lightly brushing her soft belly fur.
She whines blissfully with the belly rub, and her tail is wagging hard enough to rock her body.
You catch yourself and clear your throat.
"Hello, Cookie." You turn around to introduce the others. "That's Eve, that's Jet, Gisela, she's Carver, and she's Flashbang."
Flashbang is staring at her with wide eyes, the kind that clearly says she wants to give the pup a huge hug.
But when you turn back to Cookie, her ears are folded back and her tail is drooping low.
>"Wh-what happened to everyone?" she whimpers.
Right. She wouldn't know. But she only just noticed?
"A medusa attacked Canterlot during Harmony Week and turned everyone to stone," you explain.
She lets out another sad whine.
"We're trying to save everyone. Would you like to help us?"
Her ears perk back up as soon as she hears the word 'help' and immediately her tail is wagging again as she nods frantically.
>"I wanna help! What do I do?"
"We're going to be going after the mother of all the medusas soon, if you want to help us defeat it, just come with us. You might want to find some armor and a weapon and maybe something reflective to use to safely view the monster."
"Well, what can you do? Can you fight? Or at least help us when we're fighting?"
>"Uh huh! Uh huh!"
To prove it, her bulky forearms firmly grasp the narrow end of her horn, hefting up the massive instrument.
The claws at the end of her toes scratch against the wooden floor, searching for purchase as she twists her body to swing the weapon.
You hop backwards and duck your head to dodge the giant swing.
You avoid it easily, but the wind from the swing brushes your mane back, and you can feel little bits of ancient dust kick up against your face.
Even Cookie herself doesn't seem to be able to fully wield the massive bone. Unable to stop the attack cleanly, she lets the momentum carry through and spin her around until she's done a complete 360.
When it comes to a stop, she lets the thick end of the horn drop to the floor with a heavy thud. Part of you wonders if just setting it down like that damaged the flooring.
"That... that was the fastest slow swing I've ever seen."
>"Thanks!" she barks, her tail wagging happily at the compliment. She gasps, as if suddenly remembering something. "Oh yeah! I can play music too. My packmates always told me it made them feel better whenever I played."
Jet scratches his chin.
>"Did they? Let's hear something then."
>"Hmmm..." Her claws scritch against her instrument as she tries to think up a song to play. "Oh! I know my packmates used to really like this one."
She readjusts herself and blows into her horn, tapping against the wall of it for percussion effects as necessary.
As she plays, you can feel excitement and energy well up in your body, searching for some sort of outlet.
It makes you feel stronger, faster. It makes your senses feel sharper. It makes you feel in charge of yourself.
The others look restless too; they're either rustling their wings or shuffling their hooves.
Cookie completes her song and looks to all of you nervously.
"That's... that's pretty good," you pant.
Carver buzzes her wings.
>"That was really good! I feel so pumped!"
Gisela releases a deep breath. Her eyes look sharp, and it reminds you of when you first met her.
>"I'll say. It reminds me of the hunt. Makes me want to get back out there."
Flashbang adjusts her glasses shakily and Jet takes deep breaths through his nose as he suckles on a lollipop.
Even Eve looks a bit more feral, but she's clearly trying to fight whatever urges the song awoke.
>"Calm down, everyone." She takes a deep breath and addresses Cookie, who's smiling appreciatively from the reactions of the others. "That was... a rousing tune. Do you know any others?"
>"Mhmm! I play all sorts of songs! Sometimes it's to cheer someone on, or cheer someone up if they're having a bad day. Wanna hear?"
>"No, no, that's fine." Cookie's tail slows down and Eve rushes to correct herself. "I mean, I would love to hear! Just not now. We still have business to do."
>"Okay. That's fine too," she says sweetly.
"Yeah, it would be great to have you along."
Your body tingling with pent up energy, you consider who to free next.
Freeing the bartender is all sorts of tempting, but you have to fight the urge.
The earth pony behind the counter is on your list of ponies to free here, but he can wait just a little longer.
Your top priority right now is to get more adventurers, not drinks. You've got no qualms about drinking, but you're no alcoholic.
As much of a silly pony or dumb horse as you are (and you're not, by the way, and anyone who says otherwise is a bully), you know better than to get drunk in a danger zone.
So with that, you step towards the maybe possibly changeling wearing the dumb pointy wizard hat in the middle of doing some parlor trick for civilians.
With a pop, you uncork another anti-petrification vial and pour it over the pony.
Like with Cookie, the stone melts away, bringing life back to the creature trapped within.
The first thing to turn is the hat, which goes from stone gray to dark blue with white stars and moons sewn into it.
Coltish, cobalt blue bangs peek out from under the hat, framing the unicorn horn and pupil-less, solid teal eyes.
The potion continues to work its way down the somewhat feminine body, revealing baby blue fur until it frees the medium length, hole-punched, cobalt blue tail.
With a voice you can only describe as androgynous, the pony speaks.
>"--and just like that, it's gone!" The silence catches up to the pony and he-- she?-- it looks up to find half the tavern frozen in stone. In it's stupor, a bit clatters onto the table from under its hoof. "Uhh... y-yeah, that's a pretty good trick too, guys. You got me there."
Give it the short version, introduce Cookie as another recent awaken-ee, point out yourself, Jet and Eve as having been there that fateful night also. Ask the changeling if he wants to assist in de-Medusifying Canterlot with us.
>We run out of potions
>''Oh no! What are we going to do now?''
''TIME TO LEAVE THEM ALL BEHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIND''
>no time to enjoy them
I thought we did. It's less true for Flashbang, but we spent a lot of time with our party.
We had as many threads as Heat and only a few less words (230k so far vs. 259k) , and to me the quality was somewhat similar. I think we had plenty of interactions with everyone
If anything, we can still get the quest going with secondary quests, or ask for a few epilogues :^)
But can we have an epilogue to the epilogue? Or maybe an epilogue that retells the whole story before going onto more epilogues. And then we can ask for a scene where Carver beats us in the arena and rapes us :^)
Yup, we got quite a bit out of this adventure.
We got a marefriend, a coltfriend, a drinking buddy, taught an explosives expert how to not be a total coward, and met
a piece of shit
"This isn't a trick."
>"Right, of course, it's real magic."
She says it with no amount of sarcasm, like convincing himself that dad tricks were real, supernatural magics.
Except in this case, the medusa powers are real, supernatural magics.
"Well, yeah, actually. Listen, some real bad stuff went down. Medusas attacked Canterlot and you've been stuck in stone for nearly 20 years."
>"Uh huh, uh huh."
He nods as if waiting for a punch line, or for some grand trick to finally happen.
>"I didn't say anything. I'm listening."
You're still not sure if she's taking it seriously, but you continue.
"Anyway, I'm Blitz, that's Jet, Gisela, and Eve. We were here when everything turned to stone. Carver and Flashbang there joined us on our journey, and Cookie was brought back from stone just a few minutes ago. Would you like to help us save the world?"
>"Save the world? Such a thing would be a simple feat for a unicorn of my stature! For I am the Great Houdini! Master magician!"
"Unicorn? Kid, aren't you a changeling?"
>"Wha-- I-- You-- Abbuh-- Guh! What makes you say that?! I am not a child! Is it the hair?"
Green flames erupt from the tip of its bangs, elongating them into something more wild and beastly.
>"There, how's that?"
"I... I meant that your eyes and tail make me think you're a changeling."
The hair burns away back to its previous tomboyish look.
>"Oh. W-well, I can assure you that I am not a changeling! Those are simply the effects of my masterful illusion magic! That you thought for a moment that I was a changeling is proof of my prowess."
You boop his nose. It feels... tougher, more solid than a typical pony snoot.
"Yeah, sure. So you've escaped your stone prison, what other tricks do you have up your hat, Houdini? Can you fight?"
>"I wouldn't be here with the rest of you if I couldn't take care of myself."
"So what is it you're good at?"
>"I am a master spellcaster." He leaves the table to step through the front door of the tavern. "Watch and be amazed."
His horn lights green and a huge burst of flame erupts from the tip of it, reaching as high as the roofs of nearby buildings.
Oddly enough though, you don't feel any radiant heat, and the flames don't seem to cast shadows anywhere.
>"But wait, there's more!" Houdini announces.
He shoots a bolt of magic up, and from nothing, dozens of spearlike icicles rain down onto the street before shattering.
>"And for the grand finale! You might want to step back for this one."
He rolls his shoulders and hops in place, as if psyching himself up. Or maybe hyping up his audience.
A bright light appears at the tip of his horn, slowly and steadily growing larger and brighter.
You can make out arcs of electricity around his horn, but with this much energy being put into this, it seems odd that your fur isn't standing on end at all.
Finally, he tosses his head upward and a magnificent bolt of lightning shoots forth like a massive, laser.
It's nearly blinding, and when your sight recovers, you see him facing you with a smug posture and look on his face.
>"No need for applause. It was nothing. Such a feat just comes natural to me."
>"Whoa..." Carver breathes. "I think this lady really could save Equestria on her own! That was amazing!"
>"If you really need me, I suppose I could lend you my amazing talents."
"Amazing talents? I don't think--"
He stops you with a boop to your own snoot.
>"With the world at stake, you mustn't concern yourself with whether or not a fight would be fair. With me on your side, it certainly isn't fair!"
I agree. With illusion magic like that, you could certainly give us some very, very convincing distractions against the Medusa.
It's tough to ignore a wall of death approaching you, whether or not it's real.
Welcome aboard, Houdini.
"Hold on. I'm not agreeing to have him on the team just yet."
>"If you're worried about me stealing your limelight, you needn't worry. If you wish, I can tone down the power of my spells to give everyone on the field more of a chance."
"Oh, I'm not worried about you making everyone else look bad. I'm sure you could make anyone or anything you wanted look good with that level of illusion magic."
>"Blitz! You can't just say something like that! Unicorns have to work very hard to get good at their kind of magic. It's an insult to call their magic fake!"
You give her a deadpan stare.
"Even if his kind of magic is illusion magic, and illusion magic is by definition fake?"
>"Thank you for coming to my aid, miss," Houdini interrupts, "but it was hardly needed. I've had my fair share of ponies like him who can't stand the idea of not being the best. They cope by claiming my talents false."
"Why don't you go ahead and cast one of your mighty spells on me then, huh?"
>"I'm sorry, but I do not entertain martyrs. You would be reduced to nothing under my might."
"Might or not, I still say you're not allowed on the team."
Eve tilts her head at you.
>"What? Why not? Even if his illusions aren't real, they're still terrifying."
"Well... B-because we have too many unicorns as is! Now, if he were a changeling..."
Jet nudges your side.
>"Didn't you want that buff unicorn? Are you saying we can't have him either?"
A look of understanding crosses Houdini's face.
>"Ohhh, is that what this is about? Listen, this is a secret very dear to me, and I would hate for it to come out, but if it's what it takes for you to accept me..."
Green flames wrap around his horn, and when they dissipate, you see that his horn is gone as well.
>"I am secretly an earth pony who has mastered the art of magic. I get enough flak as it is being such a gifted unicorn, imagine if ponies knew I was an earth pony!"
Well, it's true we only have the one earth pony so far.
Okay, now can you put those earth muscles to use and drag that giant unicorn statue over here? Its too heavy for us more delicate ponies to move.
">"Isn't it? Now you see why I keep the guise of unicorn."
"How about you use those earth pony muscles of yours and drag that giant unicorn statue out here? It's far too heavy for us more delicate ponies to move."
He looks inside at gigacorn before turning back to you.
>"I am a master spellcaster. Asking me to move a rock is an insult to my abilities. I believe I have already proven myself to you and I will not stoop to such lows. If what you say is true, then you should simply free him and move him of his own accord that way."
You stomp your hoof.
"Maybe I will. But first, oh so Great Houdini, could you show me one more trick?"
>"I would be happy to. Does this one have a request?"
"Could you show me what you would look like if you were a changeling?"
Houdini takes pause at this request but quickly recovers.
>"Please, is that all? That's elementary, but if that is your request..."
Green flames envelope the earth pony, and when they die down, you're treated to the sight of a petite changeling, markedly more slender and feminine in shape.
A smooth, pointed, curved horn sticks out from its head. Frilled ears stick out the side of its head and a fin pokes out from under the wizard hat. The bright teal eyes remain unchanged but a pair of admittedly cute fangs poke out from its mouth.
The baby blue fur becomes black chitin, and it's back carapace thing takes the cobalt blue of its mane and tail, both of which are now a dark gray.
Other than the color, the tail remains unchanged, but holes have appeared throughout its limbs.
It's shocking to hear a definitive female voice come out from her? lips.
>"How's this? Not actually being a changeling myself and having no knowledge of what changelings really look like whatsoever, I hope this suffices."
Before you can answer, flames wrap around her and she-- he's back to that unicorn look.
>"Now go on and continue your business here. I can wait."
You all go back into the tavern.
Houdini takes a seat at one of the unoccupied tables and watches quietly.
"You know, you make a cute changeling."
>"A pony with my unparalleled prowess can make anything look 'cute'. Still, I thank you for the compliment."
"No, really. You looked adorable as a changeling. You should consider using that one more often."
Houdini's eyes widen and he brings the edge of his hat lower in a vain attempt to hide his faint blush.
>"And go around as a decrepit and disgusting bug? I think not. If I'm to use any disguise at all, I'm sticking as this unicorn." Almost as an afterthought, he adds, "And yes, I admit this form is a disguise. For my earth pony base form. I am not a changeling."
After your interaction with this Houdini character, you think it's about time for a stiff drink.
But when you turn around, you catch Eve and Jet giving you teasing looks.
"What, I can't compliment someone? Besides," you move in close to the both of them, "you're cuter, and I wouldn't trade you for anyone."
Eve puts on a smile that shows off her own cute fangs and Jet wears a squiggly, abashed smile.
Out of the corner of your eye, you see Houdini lick and smack his lips, taking a gulp of something. He's trying not to stare, but you catch him glance in your direction before quickly averting his gaze.
Ignoring it for now, you make your way to the counter for your next target. Seeing your intentions, Gisela takes a seat on the stool beside you as you uncork a third vial.
It occurs to you that you never even looked at this guy during your first trip when you were choosing who to revive.
He wasn't a unicorn and he didn't look particularly strong even for an earth pony. He sort of fell into that 'other' category.
In any case, the petrified bartender returns to life as the liquid pours over him.
His maroon mane is short and simple, slightly longer on top than the sides and back. The stone melts away to reveal tan eyes and darker brown fur. His tail matches his mane in both color and style, and you see that his cutie mark is a molotov cocktail.
Once free, he glances around the room, first at you and Gisela, then at the stoned bodies.
With a tired sigh and shake of his head, he reaches below the counter and retrieves a pair of glasses and what appears to be a fresh bottle of Dragon's Breath Ale.
After uncorking it, he fills the two glasses and without a word, starts drinking straight from the bottle.
You're actually not sure what you were expecting. For some reason, you almost expected an unhinged, mad bomber kind of pony.
Then again, just like with everyone else, you had minimal interaction with him and wouldn't know better.
Gisela looks at you, unsure of what to do.
You've never actually heard of Dragon's Breath Ale before. It sounds real enough, though the label on the bottle is shoddy at best.
The barkeep finally pauses in his drinking, exhaling a long, hot breath through his nose and looking at the two of you expectantly.
Shrugging, Gisela reaches for a glass.
The barkeep makes no move to stop her, so you reach for the other one.
You mean, it's right there. He drank some, and Gisela's about to have some too. He's clearly enough offering it to you.
And after having magic booze that sent you on a trip, how bad could this possibly be?
Gisela clinks her glass against yours and you both tilt your heads back to swallow the shot.
As soon as it gets pass your throat, you break into a fit of coughs, the intense heat far stronger than you've expected, far stronger than you've ever personally experienced.
Aptly named you figure, the burning drink already sets your cheeks aflame and your vision swimming.
Beside you, even Gisela is struggling to keep her composure, blinking hard and balling her fists.
Through blurred vision, you can't read the barkeep's expression. All you know is that he's sitting still, staying quiet, and that none of your other party members seem incredibly panicked.
You cough a final time and exhale, your own breath incredibly hot on your tongue.
With a fairly deep, slow, yet patient tone, he speaks, answering your unspoken question.
>"I've met a lot of ponies in my time. I've got my own countless stories about the different shenanigans the adventurers get into. Everyone turned to stone? That's a new one, I'll admit, and I certainly didn't see it coming. Am I surprised? Mildly. But mostly it's just another day for me."
You voice scratches as you try to speak.
"My name's Blitz. The griffon beside me is Gisela." You introduce everyone else.
Nonchalantly, he takes both glasses and begins cleaning them off.
>"Just call me Barkeep."
"Well, Barkeep, we've got a hell of a story."
He offers you a token glance, still cleaning off the glasses.
>"I'm sure you do."
"A medusa took over Canterlot, and we've been on this journey all over Equestria after 20 years of being stuck in stone. And now we're back here to put an end to things."
>"Not bad. What little you've told me leaves a lot to be desired, but you do get bonus points for your adventure spanning over the course of 20 years."
"I... I guess. So, uhh... Barkeep, would you be interested in saving Equestria with us, or would you rather just stay here?"
He looks out to his petrified patrons.
>"I appreciate the offer, son, but I'm no adventurer. Not anymore. These days I take care of adventurers. Course, I can't really drum up any sort of business with everyone turned to stone, and I don't know what's changed in the past 20 years I've apparently missed. But I can't see myself going out with the rest of you."
>"Old wounds, kid. I've had my fun, and now I'm done with it."
"O-oh. Well, is there any other way you could help then? I mean, we're going into battle. How about your strongest alcohol to stop the medusa?"
He actually chuckles at that one.
>"Sounds like you're trying to pull a fast one on me at this point, kid. Trying to get some free booze to help fight a monster."
>"I think I do have what you want. I'm not entirely sure what you meant by using alcohol to fight something, but it's not a foreign concept to me."
He sets down a glass and takes another swig of his bottle.
This time, a flame bellows forth as he exhales from his mouth.
>"If you kids can't handle even this stuff, I'm not passing along my stronger stuff."
"Drink? No, we didn't want to drink it. Your cutie mark is a molotov cocktail, we wanted to do that."
Barkeep looks down at the mark on his flank.
>"I didn't get this mark for making or tossing the things..." He pauses, as if remembering the story of how he really did get it then. Given his earlier show of breathing flame with a swig, it probably has to do with that. But instead of telling you his story, he continues, "But if that's all you want, that can be arranged. That said, I'm still not putting up the really strong stuff."
"Wait, what? Why not? I already said we're not going to drink it."
>"You can say whatever you want. I have no guarantee you're not going to try. I can issue out all the warnings I want, but in the end, I can't trust you to obey them."
"Oh, come on, we're not stupid. If the stuff really is as bad as you make it out to be, then fine. That stuff's not going anywhere near our mouths."
>"Sorry, but those are my rules. I'm not handing those out."
You slump back into your seat but catch yourself when you remember you're just sitting on a stool.
>"If you're willing to pay," he says, "I could probably part with some of my lighter brews. You handled this bottle of Dragon's Breath well enough, even if it is just the whelp version. If you want, I could set you up with some bottles."
"Hmm... Hey Flashbang, you ever use alcohol in your bombs?"
She shakes her head.
>"Showtime never let me near alcohol. So no, I've never used it before."
You turn back to Barkeep.
>"50 bits a bottle."
Between the quest reward and the money from the cave chest, you're at 425 bits.
Well, succeed or fail against the medusa, either way this booze and that money is going to a good place. It's either gonna help or not matter.
Still, 50 bits for the baby version of his real drink? The guy's extorting you.
Grumbling, you fish out a bag of bits and drop it on the counter.
"There's your 50 bits."
"Just one for now. I might pick more up before we head out."
>"Whatever you say, boss."
Barkeep takes the bag and replaces it with a full bottle of Dragon's Breath Ale - Whelp.
Once the trade is done, he leans back and grabs another drink.
Part of you wonders if you could convince him to come along with you and help for real. And failing that, part of you wonders if there's another way to get your hooves on his stronger stuff.
Either way, you wonder what to do next.
Deal with him some more? Free someone else?
He stops drinking to give you his attention, raising an eyebrow inquisitively.
"You have family somewhere in the city? Maybe I can offer you a petrification cure for access to your stronger stuff?"
He sighs deeply.
>"I appreciate the gesture, kid, but no. I don't have anyone to call my own. The only family I have are the adventurers that come in and out of this here tavern, and even then I use the term family very loosely. Not to sound patronizing, but I can't help but feel like the dad who spends every day seeing his kids leave home. And never come back."
His eyes close, and he takes another heavy drink.
You wait a moment, feeling it inappropriate to say anything more.
He finishes his swig and you can hear the liquor swish around in his bottle. The air wavers in front of him with heat as he breathes out.
>"Sorry about that, kid."
"It's fine... Sorry if I touched a nerve."
>"Don't worry about it."
"A-Anyway, since you know adventurers, is there anyone in here you think is worth depetrifying?"
He looks around.
>"Not a whole lot left. The standouts are that huge earth pony," he points to gigacorn, "that mare at the gambling table, and that roguish pegasus in the corner."
So really just the last ones you had on your own list.
You thank Barkeep and make your way to the gambler next.
You uncork another vial and drip it over the petrified unicorn.
Her clover green mane is long and wavy and hides one of her deeper green eyes.
The rest of her stone prison melts away to free her curvy, well-endowed body covered in golden fur.
Her curly tail matches her mane.
Once fully awake, her eyes widen in shock at the stony face she must have been studying during her game.
With a svelte voice, she speaks.
>"I've heard of stone-faced but this is a bit silly."
Noticing you, her eyes take on a lidded, more sultry look as she takes in your handsome appearance.
>"Oh hello there, cutie. My name's Double Down. Would you like to play?"
"Ah, heh heh, I appreciate the offer but I'm already holding a full house." gesture to cover Eve and Jet. "A medusa attacked, twenty years have passed. We, like you, were freed, so that we can kill the medusa and save Canterlot. You in?"
You chuckle nervously, bringing a hoof to the back of your head.
"I appreciate the offer, Double Down, but I'm already holding a full house." You gesture to both Eve and Jet.
Her mouth forms an O as she takes in your partners, understanding dawning on her. But then she brings a hoof over her mouth as she quietly giggles.
>"Cute, funny, and able to hold together a herd? You're just the dream stallion, aren't you?"
Your cheeks and ear tips begin to heat up.
It must just be the alcohol from earlier.
You clear your throat.
"A-anyway, my name is Blitz."
>"That's a nice name, Blitz," she says, tasting the name for herself.
"Y-you too. I mean, that's Eve, Jet, and Gisela."
You introduce the rest of them and explain the situation to her. She listens with rapt attention. Or maybe she just likes the sound of your voice.
"So, would you like to join us in saving Canterlot?"
She rests her head on her hoof.
>"Hmm... How about a little wager?"
"Sorry, but gambling's not my strong suit. Not to mention my finances are a little rocky."
She giggles again.
>"Stop it, you! But no, it doesn't have to be poker or blackjack or anything, and money wasn't what I had in mind anyway. The game could be something much more simple and straightforward, and we could wager something else."
"What did you have in mind then?"
>"We could play a game of rock, paper, scissors. Best of one. If you win, I'll come along and help you on your quest. If I win..." Her gaze lingers on Jet and Eve. "You have to give me a peck on the cheek. No funny business, I promise. Just a quick peck."
"And if we tie?"
>"Then either we both lose, or we both win. So how about it?"
Glance back at Jet and Eve, see if they give you the nod. I bet they would, a peck on the cheek isn't THAT big a deal after all. Especially considering we might win another soldier in the upcoming frackar. If we tie on rock paper scissors, just re-play until there's a winner.
If Eve and Jet are okay with that, let's go.
Let's say a tie is both win, and announce we're going to choose rock. Say something like "I need to fully trust my team members", and actually play rock.
Ultimately, the choice is hers, anyway.
I think Jet would like her.
You glance back at Eve and Jet.
If the stakes involve giving someone outside of your herd a kiss, even one just on the cheek, you at least want to get their permission.
They nod and shrug, agreeing that a kiss on the cheek isn't really that big of a deal.
"Alright then, Double Down, you got yourself a bet."
>"Remember, best of one."
"And I'm gonna say that if we tie, we both win."
>"Sounds good to me. Ready?"
"Uh huh. I'm going to choose rock," you announce.
A lot of ponies would argue that rock, paper, scissors is a game of luck. But you know that there's a whole level of strategy in these games.
And you're sure she's also aware of the game's deeper levels. She chose the game on purpose. A gambler like her must know the true nuances of the game, and probably offers the game to less knowledgeable ponies who think it is entirely a game of luck.
The entire game is a battle of wits, and hopefully by announcing a pick, you'll throw her off guard enough for you to win.
For a master can predict a master, but the novice is unpredictable.
She gives you another surprised look, a pleased grin slowly growing on her face.
>"It's just one thing after another with you, isn't it, Blitz? I'm so glad I got to meet you. Rock, huh? Then I'll pick rock too. Ready?"
She's announcing too huh? Your mind races, trying to figure out her game, her final play. There are all sorts of plays she could make, but in the end, you just have to stick to your basics.
You both throw your hooves.
Your hooves meet in the middle.
You both threw rock.
Double Down breaks the tense silence with a demure giggle.
>"Looks like it's a tie. You're good, Blitz. But we both won, so onto the prizes."
She leans her cheek out for you and you plant a quick peck on the side of her face.
>"It was a pleasure playing with you. True to my word, I'll come along with you. Now what's your next move?"
"Well, now I gotta wake up the big guy over there."
She winks and blows you a kiss.
>"Go ahead, I'll wait for you, cutie~"
With rigid hooves and burning ears, you scurry over to the huge unicorn.
After letting yourself calm down, you uncork the last of your spare vials.
Each member of your party is still carrying one, including yourself and Softshell upstairs. With the five spares, you've freed Cookie, Houdini, Barkeep, Double Down, and now gigacorn here.
Either you're spending one of your personal ones on that rogue pegasus, waiting for Softshell to make more, or maybe you might leave him.
But that's a question for later. For now, you pour the vial's contents over the bulky unicorn.
Starting from the top, his magnificent, glossy black pompadour is the first to be freed, and jutting from his forehead into the beautiful mane is the base of his stubby horn.
The rest of his face melts away to reveal dark brown eyes and a chiseled, masculine jaw.
Beige fur covers his coat, rippling with his huge muscles.
His flexing hoof cutie mark is next to be freed, followed by his short, well-groomed tail.
Apparently he was in the middle of a conversation when he was frozen, continuing with his smooth, manly voice.
>"--AH HAHAHA! That's a good one, brother!" When he's met with relative silence, he looks around, spotting the stoned civilians before settling on you. "Hmm? What's going on, little man?"
You're about to give your standard introduction and explanation, but you're pushed aside as Carver makes her way towards him.
>"H-hey there, handsome. How are you?"
Recovering far too quickly or not particularly caring about what did happen, he answers her smoothly.
>"Even better now that you're around, baby."
Carver giggles like a crushing school filly.
Since the Elements seem to make us immune, I don't think we really need the extras for ourselves. The new additions however should have them unless we come up with a better plan.
"Carver? Carver, you got this?"
She continues to stare into his eyes, only letting out another fillyish giggle to let you know she heard you.
>"Uh huh, yeah. Everything's fine," she says dreamily.
"Carver, for real. You got this?"
She twists her body side to side like crushing filly, seemingly not having even heard you this time.
You clear your throat again and cough louder this time.
"Hey Carver, what about Sunshine?"
The comment doesn't seem to get through to Carver, but the unicorn's interest is piqued.
>"Sunshine? Baby, do you have a fillyfriend you're not telling me about? Because if that's the case, I would love to hear more about her. I think we can get something going between the three of us."
Carver snaps out of it.
>"What? No, Sunshine's a stallion I met some time ago. Don't worry about him though. He was a total loser anyway, and you're so much better than he ever was."
Damn, Carver. That's cold.
>"That's too bad, Sweetcakes. I was ready to get my excitement on. And by that I mean I got excited. That's not to say you don't get me excited, Cherry Pie."
Alright, Carver clearly doesn't have this.
"Hey, big guy. Can you fight?"
>"What's that, little man? Are you seriously asking me if I can fight? Have you seen these cannons?"
He flexes and poses, showing off his glorious muscles. Gah, even his pose work is top tier!
>"Name's Cannon! Point me at something and I'll totally get my fight on! And by that I mean yes, I can fight."
"So anyway Cannon, my name's Bli--"
>"I don't need to know your name, little man. And while it's certainly not groovy to find everyone stuck in stone like this, I'm going to assume there's a thing going on that you need my help with."
"So... will you?"
>"I dunno, little man. I don't want you cramping my style."
W-what?! This punk is gonna mock your style?!
>"Please?" Carver asks sweetly. "I'll be there."
>"Yeah, Sweet Cheeks? Alright, fine. For you, baby."
We should try to convince the Bartender to come with Us. What is he gonna do when we leave the Inn? stay there by himself doing nothing?
If we lose he is never gonna get anymore customers anyway.
He can either try to leave Canterlot and face monsters alone on the way or Save Canterlot and face monsters with a bunch of adventurers.
He is going to end up having to fight what ever he chooses.
You leave Carver and Cannon to stare into each others eyes and silently gush about each other. Well, in Cannon's case, he might be gushing about her gushing about him. Gushing about himself.
The roguish pegasus is the last one to be unpetrified. He's wearing a coat and deerstalker hat. The magnifying glass on his table was nothing but a plastic toy, and bulging from his coat pockets were what you guessed were bits and pieces of jewelry.
Despite the pegasus being the last to be relieved of the stone curse, your current priorities are elsewhere.
He said he didn't want to come with, but you feel so certain that it's a possibility. And if you made Gisela stay with you despite saying otherwise, you can make him join you too.
You find Barkeep behind the counter, looking at some photo as he nurses his drink.
He doesn't notice you right away, his attention focused on the picture in his hoof, and you manage to get close enough to make out a few details.
You see a blotch of maroon and dark brown out in what appears to be a grassy field, and you realize it must have been Barkeep when he was younger.
Beside him are two or three other ponies, but before you can get a better look at them, Barkeep catches you approaching and hides the photo.
>"Yeah, kid? Did you want anything?"
You know you don't have to fight if you come with us. I'm sure your old adventure experience will help us out greatly and it sure as hell beats moping around with a bunch of frozen ponies.
"I wanted to ask you again if you'd like to join us."
>"Kid, I already told you--"
"I know. But what are you going to do otherwise? What's your plan? Were you just going sit here and watch statues all day? Were you planning on leaving out on your own? Equestria has changed a lot in twenty years. There are monsters all over the place. You can either try to leave Canterlot and fight things on your own, or you can help save Canterlot with the rest of us. No matter what, you'll end up having to fight, so why not fight along our side?"
He sets his now empty bottle down on the counter.
>"I'm not worried about fighting. Even now I'd like to think I can hold my own in a fight."
"Then why not?" When he doesn't answer. you continue. "Who were the other ponies in the picture?"
He still doesn't answer, though he does fidget with the photo.
"You said you had some stories of your own to share. I wanna hear something."
You float over and take a seat across from him, and he looks up at you warily.
Finally, he answers.
>"They... were good friends of mine. We went on plenty of adventures together. We don't anymore."
It seems inappropriate to ask what happened. You could probably guess.
"So is that why you don't want to come along? You don't have to fight if you come with us. I'm sure having your experience will be plenty of help."
>"Like I said earlier, kid, I can still fight. I don't need a bunch of youngbloods taking care of me. I just... Adventuring is something you have to do with those you can trust, who you have a strong bond with." He looks out at all the unfrozen adventurers with you. "Even now, you have a stronger bond with some more than with others. It could very well work out with them, but I don't think I can do it. I'm not a party with strangers kind of guy, and the party I did have is gone now."
How much do you guys care about getting Barkeep on the team? If no one can think of anything, I guess we just leave him here?
I dunno. Something something, join us anyway, try again? Turn strangers into new friends?
Someone word it better for me.
I'm not asking you to go on a grand, epic adventure with us. We're not looking for a confidant or a new bestie. We're just after the big guy, we're just about to take down the mother of all monsters. That's what I'm asking for. After that, you never have to see us again.
Still didn't answer what is is going to do now that he is free.
Once you are done moping here what are you gonna do?
Canterlot Is overrun with statues and monsters you don't know the towns anymore.
Seems to me that you aren't thinking ahead.
"You still didn't answer my first question. What are you gonna do now that you're free? Canterlot is nothing but statues, there are monsters everywhere, and other towns have completely changed. It just sounds like you're not thinking ahead."
>"You wanna know what my plan was, kid? I was just gonna drink my ass off until either I get taken or you guys free everyone."
That... That's it?!
"Look, I'm not asking you to go on a grand, epic adventure with us. We're not looking for a confidant or a new bestie. We're just after the big guy. That's what I'm asking for. After that, you never have to see us again. This isn't about replacing your old party. This is about saving Canterlot."
He lets out a long, drawn out sigh as he stares at his photo again. You can't see it from this angle.
You can just picture him having a conversation in his head with those ponies in the photo.
>"Fine," he finally says.
>"I'll go. You're right. This isn't about replacing my old party and I don't know what I was thinking imagining otherwise. I don't plan on going out during the big fight, but if I do, well, at least I'll go out with a bang."
He produces a saddlepack from beneath the counter and stows away the photo in it, along with several bottles of booze.
You can make out some of the labels. Whelp's Breath, Drake's Flame, Wyvern's Fire, Elder Dragon's Core.
But as you watch him pack, you can't help but think to yourself.
His plan was to get drunk alone in a bar filled with statues until something happened one way or the other.
He doesn't seem willing to talk. Maybe in another world, another timeline, had you picked him you would know his story.
The same is true for everyone else, you suppose.
But you made your calls and had your adventure. Only way to go is forward.
The only one left is the pegasus and you're out of spare vials.
You have the personal ones, and Softshell is making more. Do you still even want him?
Yeah, we want him. He might be a crusty crab, but we invested in him, he's a weapons master of some kind, and there's still time to get to know him more or less as we move in on the medusa. And, provided we survive the ordeal, where are we going to end up after? Here! With our old party, our new party, and him! There should be plenty of time for bullshitting about the past, then.
We can spend this time working on our strategy. Eve knows the castle layout well enough.
I say we infiltrate secretly, free Discord, then move on from there. He should be a little more civil since the medusas defeated him once, and accept our help.
You're not leaving anyone behind.
Well, you're not leaving any of the primary adventurers behind. The civilians are going to have to wait for after the battle.
But yeah, no. You're saving this guy too, shady as he seems.
While you could just use your personal vial, you figure you might as well check in on Softshell and wait for him to finish up with the other cures.
You climb the stairs and enter the room where Softshell set up.
Paperwork-- The medusa's body is virtually gone, its only traces left being the blood stains on the sheets and floor.
It seems Softshell's harvested the body or otherwise found some way to dispose of it.
Either way, you find Softshell at work in front of his portable alchemy station, all sorts of colorful vials and beakers boiling and mixing.
The creak of the door and the sounds of your hoofsteps alert Softshell to your presence and he turns around to greet you.
>"Hey, hey there, Blitz? How are things? What's going on?"
"We've actually been freeing some of the adventurers downstairs, getting to know them a bit, getting them to support our cause."
>"Yeah, yeah? Sounds great!"
"They're really cool, I think. They're gonna be a great help, I know it. Anyway, I just wanted to check in with you. Except for the one each of us are carrying, I'm out of spares and there's one more guy I wanted to free."
>"Alright, alright. Actually, I'm just about done here! Just a few final touches, some cleanup, and I'll have another batch ready to go. A baker's dozen this time, even!"
So twelve to go around after freeing the last one?
"Nice! Thanks a bunch, Softshell! You have no idea how amazing this is for us!"
>"No problem, no problem! I'm glad to help, really! Now come on, I'm just about done here. We can head back done in just a moment."
Softshell bottles some liquid and begins cleaning up shop. He hands you thirteen more depetrification vials and together you head back downstairs.
Gisela seems to be chatting up Barkeep, Carver and Cannon look like they're still flirting with each other, Flashbang is cuddling up with Cookie, Double Down seems to be playing some game with Jet, and Houdini is showing off some minor tricks to Eve.
It's really nice to see everyone socializing with each other a bit.
It reminds you of how rocky your bonds were with everyone in your own party when you first met them.
You leave them all be for now and make your way towards the last adventurer.
Uncorking the odd vial, you pour it over the detective-looking pony.
His light gray deerstalker hat is the first to reveal itself, quickly followed by his short, curly, dark brown mane poking out from underneath it.
His fur is navy blue and his eyes are a bluish purple.
His wings poke out from his dark gray coat, but his open padlock cutie mark is still visible.
He takes in his first breath in twenty years and with his head held low, he peaks up at the rest of room, blinking when he sees that the civilians have turned into stone.
Seeing you eyeing him, he immediately squawks out,
>"I didn't do it! They were always like that! I came in with this stuff!"
"I know. You've been a stone statue for twenty years. Most of us here have. I just cured you with a potion. We're preparing to set forth to slay the beast that did this and save all of Equestria from being overrun with monsters, and we need all the help we can get, which is why I just freed you. Are you in?"
"Uh huh, I know, I believe you. Might wanna keep it down though."
You toss your head behind you, pointing out the Night Guard still in her armor.
"My name's Blitz."
>"Sherlock. Charmed," he says, clearly forcing a fake accent.
"Anyway, we've got bigger problems."
With the practice of having to explain this several times before, you introduce everyone else and explain the situation to him.
"We need all the help we can get. You in?"
>"Wait wait wait, you're going into the castle?" You nod. "And as far as you know, everyone is turned to stone, no guards or anything?"
"Well, there were golems blocking the way in last time, and there might be other monsters getting in the way, who knows?"
He nods thoughtfully.
>"Hmm, yes... Alright, yeah, that sounds like a grand job! Normally I'd have to charge you for me expert services, but uhh, for the good of Equestria I'll come along for free! Was there anything else or are we ready to break in now?"
I swear if you pull a Beni on us I'm going to hunt you down and make you choose between my guard marefriend or our medic stallionfriend. And trust me, its not as easy of a decision as it sounds.
You realize there'll be a reward for this right?
The gratitude of the princesses and an entire city is going to pay pretty well.
Probably not the best idea to fill your pockets with their stuff.
Yeah, you're watching your team's pockets around this guy.
"You realize there's going to be a reward for this, right? You'd be getting the gratitude of the princesses and an entire city. Like, that's gotta pay real well. It's probably not a good idea to fill your pockets with their stuff."
>"What?! I-- You cannot-- The nerve! Are you insinuating that I would do such a thing?! I am but a humble investigator! My only motives are that I gain the knowledge of the inner workings of the castle for nothing more than personal enlightenment!"
Clearly offended, Sherlock searches through his coat pockets for a pipe and angrily begins huffing bubbles.
"I'm just saying," you start with a darker tone, "if you end up stealing things that don't belong to you and just high tail it out of there, I'm gonna make you choose between my Guard marefriend and my doctor stallionfriend. And believe me, it's not an easy of a decision as it sounds."
The bubbles in his pipe rise as his breathing picks up.
He coughs and clears his throat before replying.
>"I wouldn't dream of taking anything that did not belong to me. I admit I care very much for my own possessions and will go out of my way to retrieve them should they fall into other hooves, but to steal? I'm afraid you have the wrong gentlecolt, sir."
"Alright, alright. Whatever you say."
You're still keeping an eye on him.
As you finish speaking with him, Eve and Cookie's heads perk up, ears picking something up.
>"There's something coming from down the block."
>"Yeah, I can make out a bunch of voices and hoofsteps. They're all mixing together though."
>"There's a lot of them. Like, a lot a lot. They're coming this way from the opposite direction of the castle."
Just like with Paperwork before, you've got a good idea of who's out there. Or at least what's out there.
Still, just to be safe you exercise a bit of caution as you make your way to the tavern's front door.
Opening the door just a crack, you poke your head outside to take a quick peek, making sure whatever it is doesn't see you, just in case.
As you try to make out whatever it is Eve and Cookie heard, you nearly jump as you feel downy fur coat your back.
However, you relax as soon as you see that it's just Cookie crawling over you to take a peek herself, the curious pup.
You return your attention to the noisy mob down the block, squinting your eyes to get a clearer view.
Sure enough, you see countless ponies, almost all of them wearing some sort of armor or carrying some sort of weapon. You're sure most of them are from Cloudsdale.
There must be a few hundred of them in total!
They don't appear to be aggressive. If anything, they seem just as nervous as Carver and Flashbang were to be in the ruined city.
But still they march forward, spurred on by whatever force brought them here in the first place.
You spot several colorfully dressed ponies doing small stunts as they march, and beside them, you spot an oddly high number of unicorns.
But as you scan the front lines, your breath catches and your heart soars as you spot a few familiar faces.
Showtime, Sunshine, and Tank. But that's not all. You spot Zero Kelvin, Hailfire, Landslide, and Mile High walking among them.
>"Is it bad?" Cookie asks from above you.
"No, it's good. It's really good! Eve, help me get their attention!"
You crawl out from underneath Cookie's belly and fly out into the sky. Some of them may be able to see you already, but you want to really grab them.
Eve follows behind and takes to the air with you.
"Hit my halberd," you command.
Keeping a safe distance, Eve strikes your halberd from afar, and you become the centerpiece of the sky as you're wrapped in a giant, magic fireball.
The flames subside around you, and below, you see the army rush towards you as your party exits the tavern.
As you descend, you hear Flashbang and her family's cries as they run towards each other.
>"Oh, baby girl..."
Out of the corner of your eye, you can already see Carver looking away and using her hoof to hide her face from Sunshine.
It's only a matter of time...
>"Blitz!" Mile High dives towards you, hooking here hooves around your neck in a hug as she makes contact. "Looks like your party's grown since we last saw each other. You're still as handsome as ever though~ Oh man, I didn't expect to see you here!"
"I'm always where the action is."
>"You know, I could buy that."
Double Down speaks up from the tavern doors.
>"Oh ho, who's this? Yet another member of your herd? I've met with a lot of players in my time, but you just seem to be on a whole other level, Blitz."
Ears starting to heat up again, you break your hug with Mile High.
"No, she's not part of my herd. I didn't even have a herd when I met her. But no, I met Mile High here while I was at Smokey Mountain and she showed me around, help take care of us."
>"She sounds nice. But I bet I could get into your little circle before she does."
You cough loudly, turning your attention back to Mile High.
"So how about you? I can't say I expected you to be here either."
>"It's the weirdest thing. A few days ago we saw this huge beam of light shoot up into the air. But instead of feeling worried about what it could have been, instead we just felt... at peace. Like everything was going to be okay. And while going over the imports and exports for the town, we came across this scroll that said to go to Canterlot."
"And you just did? Even though you must have known how dangerous both the journey and Canterlot must have been?"
>"I wasn't worried about the four of us." She must be referring to her and her own party. "I knew we'd be fine. Smokestack, Frostbite, and even Hot Pot felt an itch to go too, but Zero Kelvin wouldn't let them."
"What about Drakesteed? Is it safe with you guys gone?"
>"I think it will be," she says confidently. "You know, when we first saw that message to come here, to come to Canterlot, I didn't think it was a prank, or a threat. It felt like a call to arms that we just had to answer." She chuckles. "And then I find you here!"
So they got a similar message that Cloudsdale got? Looking over at Showtime's group, you wonder if he got something too.
Call to arms, huh?
Some force is working in our favor, here. At first I was concerned that the huge influx of ponies heading for Canterlot was to sabotage our efforts, but now it's become obvious that they're here to help, as reinforcements.
So some good force is assisting us, wherever they are, by dropping messages. That's a very good sign- As are all these excellent fighters joining us!
We still need a plan though. Showtime knows planning through and through, we need our team, Eve especially since she knows the castle, Showtime, and anypony else who's got a head for strategy to have a quick planning session on how to proceed. The bar would be a good planning spot.
>Some force is working in our favor, here. At first I was concerned that the huge influx of ponies heading for Canterlot was to sabotage our efforts, but now it's become obvious that they're here to help, as reinforcements.
They're all useless without cures though.
Did you not notice that Softshell didn't get stonified? Our weapons must protect all of our friends. Which makes sense, Harmony and all..
Dubs game too stronk.
>Did you not notice that Softshell didn't get stonified? Our weapons must protect all of our friends. Which makes sense, Harmony and all..
Wasnt he still downstairs for the actual fight?
Not if they use reflectors to view the enemy, then they're protected. At least, if this goes by the same lore as Clash Of The Titans.
The digits, man, the digits!
If they really cannot help in the castle, then sure, they can clear the monsters out of the rest of Canterlot.
But we can sure as heck leverage the strategic mind of Showtime and the rest to help us plan a great attack. Personally I'm envisioning having a scout infiltrate, find Discord's statue and report back. We cure him on the way in and have him serve to create a distraction. It's the role he was born to play!
But let's leverage the minds at our disposal and see what they recommend.
Also, check'em, this is getting scary!
"I'm grateful for whatever it was that sent that message! I have to admit, when I first heard that a bunch of ponies were coming to Canterlot, I was a bit worried."
Gisela plants her hand on top of your head.
>"Try paranoid. You were freaking out."
"Maybe I was. But I'm glad to be wrong here. It feels great knowing that you guys came as reinforcements. We still need a plan though..."
Once it looks like Showtime's reunion is over, you make you way over to him.
>"There's the mighty Blitzkrieg!" He pats you on the shoulder before speaking again. "Looks like you've been up to quite a lot, huh, Blitz?"
"Heh, you could say that."
>"I saw you talking to Mile High just a moment ago."
"You know her?"
>"I spoke with her on the way here. You know, she had some nice words to say about you." He waggles his eyebrows at you.
>"Yes, but I've no plans of telling you, Blitzkrieg. So, I assume she told you what brought us here?"
"Yeah, she said she found a message telling her team to come here. A courier told me that the Cloudsdale Guildhall got a similar message."
>"Did they tell you about the marks on them?"
"Marks? No, what marks?"
He points at Twilight's cutie mark on the side of your halberd.
>"That was one of them. I saw the mark on Loyalty's Rapier on the message too."
"That seems like something pretty important that Mile High and the courier should have mentioned."
>"Perhaps they didn't recognize them. Or in the courier's case, didn't see it himself. But I know I didn't recognize the other four on there." He looks at the knife on Jet's side. "Even now, I forgot that I even saw his. Maybe Mile forgot she saw yours."
If that's true, are the Elements the ones helping you?
"Anyway, before we just go storming the castle, I wanted to set up some sort of plan with you and a few other ponies. We could use the tavern as a little war room."
>"Sounds good to me."
Several tables have been pushed together, chairs set up going around the perimeter.
The army of adventurers are resting outside.
Inside, you've got your party of six: yourself, Jet, Eve, Gisela, Carver, and Flashbang.
There's the revived adventurers: Cookie, Houdini, Barkeep, Double Down, Cannon, and Sherlock.
There's the circus family: Showtime, Sunshine, and Tank. You notice that Sunshine is sitting far away from Carver and Cannon, sulking heavily.
Lastly, there's the Smokey Mountain group: Zero Kelvin, Hailfire, Tank, and Mile High.
Sure you might not need all of them to be here, but maybe they could be involved in certain plans.
"We're all here right now to come up with some plan of attack against Canterlot Castle. Does anyone have any ideas, or concerns they would like to share?"
Eve is the first to speak.
>"If what that medusa said is true and Discord really is in the storage room, I know where to find it. It's in the castle's underground, and the most direct route starting from outside would be either the main entrance or the garden entrance. I could help lead the way once we get to the main hall."
Flashbang speaks out next.
>"What about the petrification? And what about everyone else? It felt like we were safe from the medusa's petrification, but we don't have nearly enough cures to protect everyone in case they don't have the protection we do."
You remember you still have a dozen extra cures on you. Your main party (and Softshell, who's outside) already has one each.
"Frankly, I don't know about them. If they're not protected against the grand medusa, they might have to just take care of lesser medusas in the city."
>"We haven't come across anything while we walked through the city," Mile High says.
"So either they do nothing or we hope they have protection?"
>"I don't like that uncertainty either. Did you have any plans? We might be able to offer some insight to whatever you had in mind."
The lack of Medusas around the city makes me think they are all in the castle.
They must know we are here and are getting ready to defend.
We should sends some recon teams out to scout the castle and see if we can find anything of note.
Airborne recon would be particularly hazardous around a mother medusa, as if the flier gets turned to stone they're likely to shatter on impact when they fall. Flying recon definitely needs reflector-goggles or some other way of indirect vision.
I think though, that the medusa is probably occupying the throne room- Unless it's caught onto the influx of new ponies and even now stalks the streets, though one would imagine that the golems would be thunking around also were that the case.
Front door or garden door. Well a flyer could land in the garden easily enough and it might bypass the golems- I guess we do need some recon done, to see if the garden entrance is guarded.
"I wanted to start by sending out a recon team. We need to scout out the main and garden entrances, see if there are any defenses set up or otherwise find out which is the best way in."
>"Only those entrances? What about the castle balconies, windows, and ramparts?"
You shake your head.
"Too risky. If someone gets turned to stone while airborne, they'll shatter once they hit the ground. Anyway, if you guys haven't seen any medusas on your way in, it's possible they're all holed up inside the castle, so that's also something to watch out for. If at all possible, it might be worth having the recon team search for Discord's statue and attempt to free him. Other than that, it's a mission to check things out, find anything of note, and report back for an additional plan."
>"Recon is a smart start. If your plan is to scout out the ground entrances and maybe the inside of the castle, who did you have in mind for the team?"
"Scouting is my thing, believe it or not, so I'm going. I would like Eve with me since she knows the layout of the castle."
>"Just you two? Is there anything or anyone else you might need before you head out?"
"I want to keep the party light for this one, but I agree; two is a bit too small."
>"So who did you want to include?"
"I want to take Gis with me too. We could use another ranged weapon."
Gisela rolls her eyes and shoves you lightly.
>"I'm only good for my crossbow, huh? Do I have to remind you that I was a woodlands hunter for years? I know how to stalk prey."
>"Anything else?" Showtime asks.
>"Hmm?" He raises his head at the sound of his name, holding onto his hat to make sure it doesn't fall off.
"A few things. First of all, we know that some medusas are able to disguise as other ponies, sorta like changelings."
>"W-why ask me about that? I'm not a changeling! Or a medusa!" he adds as an afterthought.
"I didn't say anything. Anyway, do you know if there's a way to see through illusion magic?"
>"Umm! I would imagine a dispel would break any illusions, but changeling illusions are different from normal unicorn illusions, so it probably doesn't work and isn't worth trying! B-because if you tried, it would uhh, bounce off and hurt the one casting the dispel."
>"What?! How am I supposed to know how chang-- medusa glamours work?"
"Fine, fine. Secondly, are you able to make us invisible?"
>"What makes you think I can do that?"
"That's an illusion, right?"
>"First off, my spells are real and I have no idea why you think I would have expertise in illusion magic. That said, no, I cannot make you invisible. I can apply a light camouflage to myself only, or I could conjure a wall or boulder to hide behind."
"Alright then... Flashbang, could you make us some smoke bombs just in case things go south?"
>"Sorry. They only work with my magic, so I'd have to come along."
So Flashbang and Houdini might be able to help, but it would mean taking them with.
"I think we'll be fine with just the three of us."
"Yeah. Hey Jet, keep an eye on everyone's stuff." He nods. "Hey Cookie?"
The pup raises her head at your call, tongue sticking out just past her lips as she smiles at you.
"Do you have a song to pump us up for our scouting mission?"
>"Yeah!" she yips, and scrambles out of her seat to get her horn.
Once it's in her paws, she takes a deep breath and starts playing.
The song is light and upbeat, and it instills a sense of being in a huge world. It makes you want to get out there and do something, see what the world has to offer.
You feel like you can move even faster, like you have to be able to keep up with the world around you. At the same time, it makes you feel insignificant compared to your surroundings, like something could pass by and not even notice you.
Feeling pumped, you, Eve, and Gisela wave the others off as you exit the tavern.
Just like at the very beginning of your adventure, you make your way back to the castle.
As you reach the end of the block and peek your head around the corner of a building, you see the castle entranceway, just as you remember it.
There's the pathway to the main gates, and just like before, a pair of giant golems stand guard in front of the castle's massive front doors.
Avoiding them for the meantime, Eve leads you around the perimeter of the castle walls until you reach the far west side.
A stone archway opens the way for visitors to enter the expansive garden.
"This doesn't seem right..."
The garden is supposed to be more like a beautiful park than anything. But instead of open spaces for ponies to socialize and enjoy the flora, it seems the entire garden area has been replaced by tall hedge walls.
It almost seems like the entrance to a maze.
Oh gods no, not a maze.
You were always so terrible with them.
Back when you were younger and was living at home, your little brother would come running to you, a foal's activity book in his mouth, and ask for your help with the little maze sections.
It was a children's book, and thinking back on it, the maze wasn't THAT complicated.
But all the same, you remember you would take the activity book and crayon from him, hold the book up in front of you so he couldn't see you work, and you'd cheat your way through by drawing the line just at the maze walls so he couldn't tell that there was even a wall there that you just went straight through.
And now here you are, standing in front a giant maze.
Your head is already spinning at the prospect of trying to solve it, and you whinny internally.
M-maybe you could cheat and cut your way through this one? Wouldn't that be an aMAZEing solution?! Hah! Ha ha.
Your thoughts are interrupted by Eve and Gisela taking to the air beside you.
There's not even any sort of magic stopping you from just flying over either.
Boy you're glad you have wings. It sure would be garbage if you were punished for flying over a maze and had to use brute force to solve it.
You take to the air with the others and fly over the maze, looking at whatever is within and around it. You'll leave looking for the route through to the others.
As you look down for the overview of the maze, you see that it's just a maze. No monsters or visible traps or anything.
Even more odd though, is that the maze as a whole makes the shape of Discord's smiling face, winking and giving a thumbs up.
The three of you cross and touch down on the other side, just outside the castle's side entrance.
Dirt buildup on the glass windows prevents you from seeing inside, but from what you can make out, it looks like the next room is large and open, possibly used as a gathering hall for parties.
>the maze as a whole makes the shape of Discord's smiling face, winking and giving a thumbs up
I-it's fine right Blitz?
I assume this is the entryway to the grand galloping gala room. Snoop a little through the window but otherwise make for the door, no one should be watching for us or expecting trouble.
Bringing your hoof up to the window, you try to rub out some of the dirt.
Unfortunately, it seems some of the dirt is either on the other side or possibly even embedded into the glass itself.
However, some of it does rub off and while not entirely clear, you can see more of what's inside.
It's a whole lot of empty space with tables strewn about here and there. A stage befitting of a small orchestra sits at one side of the room.
Red carpet leads from a doorway to a statue of an alicorn.
Your heart almost jumps at the thought of just finding one of the petrified princesses right there, but on closer inspection, it appears to just be a regular statue made of gold or whatever metal instead of a stone-covered pony.
That's all you can make out, but it does seem like the room is clear.
Eve explains beside you in a quiet whisper.
>"This is the main ballroom for the Grand Galloping Gala. There are more doors at the sides that lead to a kitchen. Through that doorway with the carpet and down a short hall is the entrance room where the princesses greet the guests. From there, we can go downstairs to the basement or upstairs towards the throne room."
With a nod, you place your hoof on the large doors and push.
You were trying to be sneaky with it, honest, but with the age of the door and relative silence of the rest of the castle, the door opens with a deep and resounding "K-CHUH"
So much for stealth.
But as long as no one heard it, it's all good.
You freeze, listening intently and keeping your eyes peeled for any movement.
That noise may have attracted some unwanted attention.
Gisela searches the room as well, and Eve's fluffy ears swivel this way and that as she listens closely for anything that may be approaching.
When there's no sign of danger, you all exhale a sigh of relief, and Eve uses her wing to gesture for you and Gisela to follow.
You and Eve fly near silently through the room while Gisela walks along, her steps muffled by her paw pads.
You reach the other end of the room without incident, and after touching down quietly on the carpet, Eve pulls the door open.
This one doesn't make as much noise, and you and Gisela pass through, Eve closing the door behind her as she follows.
Taking point once again, Eve hugs the walls, keeping her visibility low, and you follow her through the hall.
The end of the hall bends at a corner, and according to Eve, the entrance room should be right there.
You reach the end and peek around the corner, but what you see isn't what you expected.
On the far end of the room, replacing the normal wall, is some sort of thick glass, possibly even hard plastic. On one side is the castle entrance room, and on the other is a jungle-y habitat.
It's like some sort of giant zoo enclosure was just... impossibly placed in that space.
On the inside of it, there are fallen over logs and branches. There are even large, fake-looking hollowed out rocks strewn about over the dirt flooring.
And inside this cage, you see what appears to be hundreds of medusa.
They don't seem aware of you at all.
A brief flash of light and a familiar, yet sing-songy voice catches your attention.
>"Time for fooood! Don't worry, daddy's here now. Hey! What did I say about hissing? Keep that up and you're not getting any desert, missster! Look, I know I'm not your real dad, but I'm trying!"
Magically appearing over the medusa pit and missing both of his eyes, is Discord.
I imagine he's got no eyes by choice right now, since he can reconfigure at will. Therefore he's probably medusa-tending by choice also.
This presents us with quite a problem, as it seems he's chosen a side- Being, normally, able to blink out at will.
Check him for weird magic amulet, ball and chain style charm things. If none, attempt escape.
He's fighting them. He's not feeding them, he's taunting them. The princesses are gone and the element bearers have never been mentioned, which means they either got stoned or decided "gg on re" when Canterlot was taken. Who else then could have possibly sent those messages? And why would they bring a bunch of people here if they can't even fight the boss? They could maybe take on the greaters with mirrors or whatever, but that would be risky and awkward. Discord however, just so happens to be sitting on a cage full of cures.
Look maybe you're right, but my opinion on this is that Discord can't deal with the Grand himself, so he sent for help.
What if this is the momma Medusa disguised AS Discord, just playing with her kids? Though then the no-eyes thing would make less sense if that were so. I still think he's suffering from some kind of enslavement.
What in the gods' name is going on here?
Discord's free? And he's watching over the medusas?
You wait in hiding and watch, biding your time to see what he's up to.
He's wearing some generic work uniform. It kinda reminds you of some pet shop worker.
A small sack poofs into his hands and he tips the bag over, spilling rats, frogs, fish, and all sorts of other feed into the enclosure.
The medusae break out into a small frenzy as they fight over prey, the seemingly bottomless bag still dumping food into their cage.
It doesn't look like Discord is wearing some amulet or charm or ball and chain. It doesn't look like he's forced into doing any of this.
So he's taking care of them willingly?
>"Ugh. The things I do, and still not a lick of gratitude. I've no idea what Fluttershy sees in this taking care of disgusting animals thing. Well, it's just a matter of time now. So just eat up and go lay on your rock heaters."
There's a light tug on your tail and you look behind you to find Eve and Gisela gesturing for you to follow them back out.
Right. This is just a scouting mission and you think you've seen enough.
Or at least, you don't want to start anything just yet.
Quietly, you slink away with the others back into the hall, to the ballroom, and back outside, between the garden maze and the entrance door.
You all let out a breath you didn't realize you were holding.
"Come on, let's get back to the others."
They nod and you take to the air once again.
As you fly over the maze, you look back down. There weren't any hazards, but you're trying to find the center. Maybe there's something neat in the middle?
Though you're not quite sure what would count as the middle of an asymmetric face giving a thumbs up.
But as you fly over in the opposite direction, instead of the maze being the jumbled nonsense of an upside-down face, it looks like Discord shrugging.
Oh gods, a shifting maze? Please no.
When you cross over to the other side, you look back, and the maze is back to looking like a winking discord giving a thumbs up.
M-maybe it was just designed to be one of those optical illusions?
Anyway, you make your way back to the tavern.
The army of adventurers are still outside. Some of them are resting, some socializing, even doing some sparring.
Quite a few of them are even curious enough to break from the pack and explore nearby buildings. That's right, these ponies went most of or even their entire lives knowing Canterlot as an inhospitable ruined city.
You touch down and the three of you enter the inn, the others awaiting your return.
Jet gives you and Eve tight hugs. Following him, Cookie and Mile High go in for hugs as well while others offer simple congratulations on returning. You see Sherlock grumble as he passes a bag bits to Double Down, who has a cheeky grin on her face.
>"Well? What did you find?" Showtime asks.
You tell them about the golems, the maze, the medusae kept in a cage, and you tell them about Discord.
If Showtime's surprised, he doesn't show it. He keeps professional and continues.
>"Alright, so tell me what you think. How should we enter and what are your thoughts on Discord?"
We talked to the medusa that was in the tavern before we killed it, he told us that Discord was their enemy but he also said that Discord had been defeated, so clearly he lied about something.
Discord did mention one of the elements by name though and it didn't sound spiteful, I don't think he's on their side but we should be careful until we know more.
Well, we need to get 200% ready before we enter
Considering the incredible ammount of medusas inside, I suggest an ambush: A loud sound in the distance that works like a magnet, like explosions or something
That will give us the time to get in, save Discord, and get out
It should be worth at least finding out what Discord's up to in there. I don't know if we'd get a straight answer but it seems we gotta ask him.
He seemed to be the one in control there.
We need to deal with Discord one way or another. He's potentially more of a threat than the Grand Medusa really. I'd suggest we find a way to get his attention outside the castle, then talk to him. If he's not friendly then hopefully we can use the elements. If he is then we can go from there.
"We're not entering until we are completely ready. We came across a medusa in here earlier. It told us that Discord was their enemy, but it also said that they defeated him, so there's a lie in there somewhere. I want more information before doing anything drastic."
>"You want even more information, little man? Why don't we just go in there and beat everything up right now?"
Sunshine stands, placing his front hooves on the table.
>"Y-Yeah! I'm totally ready for a fight! They won't even know what hit them! By the time they see me, I'll already be behind them, knifes stuck in their backs."
He puffs out his chest and glances towards Cannon and Carver. Cannon doesn't seem impressed, and Carver looks like she's holding back giggles.
>"Calm down, you two," Barkeep says. "You don't wanna end up getting offed and embarrassing yourselves."
"Listen, Discord is a huge threat regardless of what side he's on. I suggest finding some way to pull him out of the castle, away from all those medusae, and we can deal with him from there."
Sherlock spits out his bubble pipe.
>"Away from the castle? We're not even going inside? What kind of malarkey is that?"
"Just in case. Whatever happens, I don't want to have to deal with hundreds of medusae at the same time."
Showtime speaks up.
>"So you want to pull him from the castle, then what? Talk to him?"
"Pretty much. We don't know enough to do otherwise, so we'll have to just move from that point forward."
>"How do you propose we get his attention, much less something to get him outside? And what about everyone else? Are we bringing everyone along this time?"
I'm thinking the six of us at first. Unless Discord's somehow rounding up medusas for cures, many of the ponies here unfortunately won't have much part to play in this attack.
Once we know what's going on with Discord, then we can start to give anti-petrification buffs to those who will come along.
>how get his attention
>And what about everyone else?
I'd prefer everyone be ready and watching from a difference. Things get hairy and they can jump in. Things get crazy and they can fall back and meet up to plan our next move.
"I'm thinking just the six of us to start." You gesture to your main party. "We don't know how hairy things might get. I don't want all those adventurers turning to stone immediately."
>"Then what would you have them do?"
"Just stay back a safe distance. If things get messy, they can help, but if things really go insane, they can fall back. The main thing is that without protection, they might not be any help against hordes of medusae."
>"I'll let them know then. And your plan to get his attention?"
You think for a moment. You doubt standing outside and yelling at the castle would work, no matter what you say.
Thankfully, you've got a pony that should be able to attract some attention.
"Showtime, do I have to remind you that I spent time with your circus? You told me yourself that all that commotion you do just traveling is to get attention. I'm not saying to grab your circus and start playing music and junk, though I guess that is an option to keep in mind. No, I'm sure Flashbang's explosions can turn his head our way."
Showtime looks towards Flashbang before nodding at you.
>"Then let's move out."
Everyone stands and exits the tavern.
Showtime addresses the mass of adventurers and soon enough, you're with your party leading an army behind you as you walk towards Canterlot Castle.
You know you're not quite going to fight a grand medusa just yet, but all the same, walking side by side with your close friends, the marching of hundreds of ponies, mixed with Cookie's and the circus's music, it's a grand feeling.
You reach the end of the block and the adventurers stop marching. This is where you split for now.
Your party of six continues until you stand in front of the pathway leading to the castle's main doors.
The two golems stand guard just like they did at the start of your adventure. At this distance, they're currently inactive.
And at this angle, you smirk as you spot a small "Do not disturb sign" posted on the door.
Why not just place a couple of extremelly loud bombs somewhere near the city, and wait for acouple of them to come out?
If someone turns into stone, you kill the medusa and get another potion
You'll show that Do Not Disturb sign who's boss!
"Alright, Flashbang! Jet! You two do a super lob of a boom charge between the golems, then after that, do a big sunburst-y bright one over the gate!"
They both stare at you blankly.
>"Hold on, one second."
Jet walks up to you and searches through his bag. He pulls out a lollipop, undoes the wrapper, and floats it into your mouth.
>"There ya go. Just suck on that and we'll get you checked out later."
>"I-I still don't know what he wanted me to do."
>"I didn't get it either. Throw a bomb between the golems and then some flare type thing afterwards would be my guess."
You open your mouth to say something, but Jet preemptively cuts you off.
>"I understand all of this must be stressing and tiring you out, and even though I think it's cute when you try to be cool, I think you should just take a moment to sit back, clear your head, and enjoy the candy."
He boops your snoot, causing you to scrunch and sit back as Flashbang readies some bombs.
With Jet's help, they lob a somewhat larger bomb as far as they can.
The head-sized bomb falls short but rolls forward, coming to a stop right between the two golems.
Their heads turn towards the bomb as they become active, but in a larger explosion, the bomb goes off, sending bits of rock flying and causing the earth to rumble beneath your hooves.
Before the smoke clears, Flashbang lobs several smaller bombs high into the air, and they burst in a loud and colorful fit of fireworks.
You can't help but stare at the pretty display, but a voice right beside you makes you jump.
>"Oh gosh, how pretty! For a second I thought the golems were freaking out over a spider, but once I realized it was fireworks I just had to come right out! Tell me, what's the occasion?"
You find Discord right beside your group, sitting back in a lawn chair as he watches the fireworks.
Oh y'know, we heard you were in the area and thought you might enjoy a little display.
Say, now that you're hear, don't suppose you could tell us what's been going on around here could you?
Well uh, we were actually trying to get your attention in hopes of finding out what's going on here. We heard you'd gotten trapped in stone after our last encounter, but it looked like you had the medusas under your thumb in there.
They don't like us.
W-we're a cool pony right?
"W-we, uhh, heard you were in the area and thought to try to get your attention."
>"Oh my, all that little old me? Is this what it feels like to be popular? You know, back in high school it was always my dream to sit at the cool kids' table. It sounds like I'm ready for it now!"
In a flash, he's wearing a backwards baseball cap, a pair of sunglasses, a letterman jacket, and saggy jeans as he holds up a skateboard.
They're all even in this gaudy baby blue and purple color scheme.
You hear Carver whisper to herself.
>"He's so rad..."
"Actually, we wanted your attention to try to get some answers out of you."
>"Where are the princesses?!" Eve immediately shouts.
"Eve, please calm down."
"Give him a chance to explain." Addressing Discord, "Anyway, we're just trying to figure out what's going on here. We heard you got trapped in stone after our last encounter, but it looked like you had the medusae under your thumb in there."
His getup poofs away as he brings a hand to his chin in thought.
>"Last encounter...? Oh! Yes, now I remember you. I teleported you away and suddenly all these little buggers come at me like snakes on a plane."
"So what happened? We were told by one of the medusa that they beat you there and turned you to stone!"
>"Oh, pshaw. You think a bunch of scaled rats could possibly defeat me? Really they were like a bunch of angry cats. So like the naughty little animals they were, I just threw them all in a cage."
"But you were feeding them?"
>"Of course! You're not supposed to let your pets starve. That would be cruel."
"Yeah, I guess that would be cruel. But he also said something along the lines of you trying to stop them."
>"Well aside from remembering to feed them every now and then, I'm certainly not helping them. They've taken my Fluttershy away from me while I was gone and I do so want my revenge."
"Oh do you now? Well what do you know about the big one? The one they call Mother. The Grand Medusa."
>"That fat crone? She's sitting not-so-pretty in Celestia's throne room. Made a nest of the place."
"And what have you done about her?"
>"You mean besides making sure she doesn't leave Canterlot to destroy the rest of Equestria? Not much."
"What do you mean 'not much'? Why not? You're supposed to be all powerful, aren't you?"
>"Oh, how you flatter me so. But as much as I love would to tear her face off, I'm afraid I can't do that."
"And why not?"
He waves his hand dismissively.
>"Fluttershy would never forgive me if she knew I intentionally harmed a creature."
You can't believe it.
>"What do you mean, 'that's it?' I'll have you know her opinion of me is very important to me and I will not risk having her disown me."
"But they took her away from you! They turned her to stone, didn't they?! Fluttershy is going to get mad at you for saving her?!"
>"I know what you're thinking, but this sort of thing has happened before. Well, not this exact scenario. One of her bears once hugged her too hard and ended up hurting her. One thing led to another and that bear ended up in a few casts. Fluttershy didn't talk to me for a month."
Eve speaks up.
>"But that bear meant well! This medusa is clearly malicious!"
>"Believe me, I've made the same argument. Fluttershy said that even if the attack had been malicious, still responding with violence is a big no-no."
"So you'd rather leave Fluttershy stuck in stone than save her and have her maybe hate you?"
>"She doesn't want me hurting anything and I don't want her hating me. Of course, there is another reason."
>"Even if I do defeat that snake, her victims would be stuck in stone and there's nothing cures or even my magic can do about it. She'd need to be defeated by the Elements of Harmony."
You strike another fabulous pose, this time bending forward to show off your legs and flanks.
You make sure to have Magic's Halberd front and center though, the cutie mark on the blade easily visible.
"I guess you could say... we're in our element."
Discord goes from looking impressed to looking annoyed and disgusted.
After that line, you were ready for Gisela to mouth off at you or maybe even smack you, but Discord takes the initiative.
With a snap of his fingers, a flash appears over your face and your mouth disappears.
As your hooves run over your new face in a panic, Discord speaks.
>"I may be the God of Chaos, but even I have standards. A rinky dink, grade school pun like that is bad and you should feel bad."
Gisela breathes a satisfied sigh of relief, almost as if she had done it herself.
Eve rushes to your side, making sure you're okay before yelling at Discord.
>"What did you do?!"
>"I got rid of his mouth, what does it look like? No need to be so hot headed, I'll give it back to him once he's learned his lesson."
Jet inspects your face and pulls out his personal knife with a wicked grin.
>"If you want, I could try cutting you a new mouth."
You wave your hooves out in front of you and shake your head frantically.
You can wait!
Discord leans in, taking a closer look at your weapon. His gaze sweeps across the rest of your team, taking in the other weapons.
>"In any case, yes. They seem to have taken a different form from the necklaces Purple Smart and her friends wear, but they're definitely the real thing. I can feel it in my spine."
"Mmm mphph mphmm!"
>"Yes, yes, that's nice. Well! Seems like you've got everything under control! I'll leave you ponies to it then!"
If the Greater Medusa is Mother, then...
We truly are at Mother-Base!
"Mm MMM! Mphmmph!"
>"Oh, what is it now?"
You sit and look up at him, giving the best sad puppy look you can muster.
You're sure that if Cookie were around to see you like this, she'd be proud.
Or maybe even more sad that you're so sad.
Yeah, probably that second one.
Discord rolls his eyes and sighs exasperatedly.
>"Fine, fine. Here. I do suppose you'll need it in there."
He snaps his fingers with a flash, your mouth is back right where it belongs.
Ecstatic, you're ready to break it in right away.
"I was going to say something, but I guess now it's a matter of impractical value."
You gasp and clasp your hooves over your mouth.
That's not what you tried to say!
>"Umm, if you say so," Eve says.
You clear your throat.
"Well, if the Greater Medusa is Mother, then we're about to go to Canterlot Castle."
That... that's not right either!
>"Don't mind the child locks. They'll come off as soon as you decide to be a big pony."
Gisela steps up beside you.
>"Welp. Anything else or do you think it's time get the others and finally storm the castle?"
Listen to him man! He's just crazy enough to do it!
Your breathing picks up.
Already you can feel yourself start to hyperventilate.
This isn't good!
Puns are how you calm yourself down!
Wh-what if you start freaking out and you can't say the thing?
You could just picture yourself freezing up in the middle of some tense situation. Your limbs would lock, your vision would go dark...
You gasp, and you find yourself being shaken down by Jet.
>"Blitz, what's wrong? Are you going to be okay?"
The others crowd around you.
>"Did something happen?"
>"Did he do anything to you?
>"Are you sure you're good to move on?"
You back away from them and draw your halberd, pointing the blade at your head.
"Hold it! Next pony to make a move and the poner gets it!"
Everyone looks around tensely, but Carver is the first to speak.
>"Hold it, guys. He's not bluffing."
>"Listen to him, guys!" Eve yells. "He's crazy enough to do it!"
"Give me back my puns or I swear I'll blow this poner's head all over this city! Oh gods, he's desperate! Do what he says! Do what he says!"
All eyes turn to Discord.
>"Ugh, fine. Personally I find him much more entertaining this way, but since you all seem so adamant about it..."
He boops your nose.
Droop in relief, then recover.
"Thanks, I was afraid I was a goner for a minute there. He would have beheaded me! I'm sorry I lost my head there for a minute, I'm just not headstrong enough and was trying to save face. Well let's all stop rubber-necking at me, let's head out and knock that medusa's block off!"
It's a true but horrible thought, I'll really miss this CYOA once it's done. All the good times. Hell even the flame-wars were awesome. Ah well maybe the QM can come up with something else this cool and run another one, if he does.
You rub your snoot.
They look at you expectantly, though Gisela plugs her ears while Discord flat out removes his.
Time to see if you're fixed.
"Thanks, I was afraid I was a goner for a minute there. He would have beheaded me! I'm sorry I lost my head there for a minute, I'm just not headstrong enough and was trying to save face."
Flashbang and Carver giggle while Eve and Jet roll their eyes and shake their heads with light smiles on their faces.
You... you did it! You're all better now!
With a massive sigh of relief, you collapse onto the floor.
Jet's upside-down face pops in as he looks from over you.
>"You feeling better now?"
"Mhm. This guy nose where it's at." Eve takes your hoof in hers and helps you up. "Well let's all stop rubber-necking at me. Let's head out and knock that medusa's block off! Hey, Discord?"
Earless, you have to wave him down to get his attention.
After a quick glance around to make sure everything's clear, he reattaches his ears to the side of his head.
>"What is it this time?"
"I actually wanted to know if there's anything else in the way before we get to the mother medusa. There's no way it's just a straight walk to the throne room."
>"Well, aside from a few turns as you go down hallways, I'm afraid it is. But speaking of obstacles..." Discord snaps his fingers and the half destroyed remains of the ever-vigilant golems crumble away. "Hmph. The overtime I'm going to have to pay those two."
So that's it huh? Well, if you've got more questions or concerns you could probably ask him about them later.
For now, you return to the others still laying in wait.
You relay the information.
"We're all good to go."
There are nods and calls, and once again, everyone starts moving.
Up in the forefront are you and your close friends.
Behind you, the freed adventurers, Showtime and his circus, Mile High and her team, and the rest of the army.
All of you stand outside the castle's main doors.
I thought Discord didn't want them killed cus "muh flutterbutter"?
We would need Flashbang to carpet bomb the shit out of them from afar if we go to the cage as there are still loads of them and everyone but our team can still get petrified.