Last Saturday, the group got together again for another session of Pony Tales.

Those of you who are paying attention may be wondering what happened to Episode 2. Well, there has been another session in between, but I was on vacation at my parents’, so I was not there, and no one else has written up just what happened. Here’s the basics of what I know:

Silver Tuppence got a letter from his crazy uncle, Wooden Nickel. He’s actually a prospector, and was writing about some troubles he’s had with someone trying to run him off his claim. As it turned out, there was a logging concern nearby, that had been getting more and more alarmed about Wooden Nickel’s antics. Especially his habit of leaving caches of (sweating!) dynamite around for convenient future use.

Some time later, Marathon was making his postal rounds, delivering packages. One package had been left for last, as he was familiar with the address. Trot (“Tongs”) Ironhoof’s smithy, which was taking delivery of a new surveying scope for Astra Rose, as he would be doing the final fitting of the mount. It was a little odd that it was being shipped in a barrel… which was a fact not lost on anyone else when Marathon arrived. Astra was there to examine her new instrument, Silver Tuppence was there to inspect it and approve it for official surveying use… and Windshear was there just to watch.

Astra, wondering about the barrel, used her talent, and realized that whatever was in there, it wasn’t a scope. Listening closely, Astra could hear noises in the barrel, but nothing distinct. At this point, Tongs came over and opened up the barrel.

And a swarm of small, cute, colorful creatures flew out of the barrel. Multi-colored small spheres with kind of bug-eyes and small insect wings.

Silver Tuppence recognized them instantly, and was horrified. “Parasprites!” He quickly tried to explain that parasprites are a plague. An agricultural one that is. They are ravenous creatures, that breed fast, and can rapidly wreck an area. The parasprites helpfully proved his point by drinking his tea, and eating all his tea bags. …And there was now an entire barrel full rapidly leaving through the open doors of the smithy.

Thankfully, Silver Tuppence knew just about everything we needed to know, like the fact parasprites are attracted to music. (Thank you, thank you, Silver Tuppence, for making your roll, and allowing us to short-circuit the ‘discovery’ phase of the adventure.) Astra had a small music box with her, that proved to work. The next few minutes were spent rounding up those that were still in the smithy. Which left us the question of what to do with them. There’s no Everfree Forest near Ponyford to drive them to. We eventually… decided to dump them in the forge. At least it was quick. (eeeeeeee… poppoppoppop! Pop!)

An examination of the barrel showed that there was a little bit of straw, and maybe a twig or two left in it. Also, the bill of lading on the barrel confirmed that it should be Astra’s new scope.

In addition to Astra’s small music box, Windshear has an actual gramophone, she brought it to the smithy for some quick (and careful!) modifications. That is, fitting it with a megaphone to try and make it louder. That done, it was tied down in Ironhoof’s cart and everyone went to try and start recovering the parasprites that had escaped into town.

Everyone except Marathon that is. He flew back to the main post office in Gallopston, to find out where this barrel had been shipped in from, where Astra’s new instrument was, and hope that there weren’t barrels full of parasprites being shipped all over Equestria right now.

Rounding up the parasprites of course involved trying to explain to everyone what was going on. Parasprites are actually quite rare, and not well known. The amount of ‘telegraph’ that got played in the town regarding what was going on doesn’t bear thinking about. Mostly, the parasprites hadn’t gotten too far yet, though they did quite a number on the day’s farmer’s market. Still, after about three passes through town, pretty much all of them had been rooted out and disposed of. (eeeeeeee… poppoppoppop! Pop!)

Upon arrival in Gallopston, it was a relief to see that things seemed normal. A quick check by the break room in the post office showed no signs of parasprites (there was still food). Somewhat relieved, Marathon informed the Postmaster about what had happened. This led to a search through the records to find out when the barrel had arrived, and what had happened. It eventually turned out that one of the poor interns had managed to mess up, and while trying to clean it all up had swapped the bill of ladings of two packages. A quick go-through of the records showed that barrel had originally been headed for the Apple Strudel Plantation. (A barrel of parasprites loose in an apple orchard, in the middle of agricultural heartland of the Valley of Heart’s Delight? Doesn’t bear thinking about.) It had originally shipped from Appleloosa.

So, a trip back to Ponyford to explain what was known, and then a trip to Apple Strudel.

Apple Strudel was confused. Braeburn was supposed to be sending him some new apple stock for the orchard, but then a package arrived that obviously wasn’t apples, and then we showed up with a barrel, that was empty…. The plantation had indeed gotten a package, one more more suited to the shipping of a delicate instrument. They were obviously surprised and horrified about the parasprites that had very nearly been shipped straight to them. (And Astra was touchingly united with her new surveying instrument.)

So, next up was a trip to Aaaaaappleloosa! This was a longer trip, needing a couple days or so by train. (It took about that long from Ponyville in the series, and that’s probably closer.)

Once Braeburn was done proudly showing off the town (it is impossible to get his attention until he’s given the five-bit tour), we started asking questions. Braeburn was mystified. They hadn’t sent anything to Apple Strudel, and hadn’t seen anything like our descriptions of parasprites. Certainly, everything in town looked fine, no sign of rampaging parasprites… which would make it unlikely that one had got into a barrel by accident without leaving his cousins behind.

A quick look at the barrel showed that it did have Braeburn’s cutie mark as the logo on the side. But if he didn’t send it… where did it come from? A check at the Appleloosa post office revealed that the barrel had indeed been shipped from there, but not by any local. He was described as a city-slicker, with a reddish coat and yellow mane, and maybe a bit smarmy.

We split into two groups to try and see if we could find this stranger, or at least someone who knew more about him. Marathon and Windshear checked with the station master, who did remember seeing this pony arrive. He arrived about ten days ago, the barrel was shipped about seven days ago… so he had been in town a couple days before that. The station master didn’t know of him leaving, but he may just not have been on duty at the time.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group was checking down at the local saloon (and having some trouble with the saloon doors). After striking out at first, Tongs helped jog the barkeep’s memory, and we finally got a name for this stallion: Silk Smooth. Not only that, but we found out where he was still staying, and that part of the party headed over to the inn.

While on the way back from the train station, Marathon had an idea: he went to check the general store in town. Like most any 19th-century general store, there was a bit of everything, including a fair amount of produce, and a barrel full of apples with Braeburn’s logo on the side. Talking to the proprietoress, Marathon and Windshear found out that a barrel of their apples had gone missing about a week ago. The loss of the apples was bad enough, but the missing barrel was a problem, since it wasn’t theirs. They take delivery of the apples from Braeburn in his barrels, and then return the empty barrels were returned to Braeburn when they took delivery of more apples, so now the store owed him for the barrel as well.

“We… think we know where the barrel is.”

Shortly after that, they were found by the rest of the party, who had registered at the inn, and had managed to take a look at the guest book and see that Silk Smooth was still there, and find out what room he was in.

So, in true adventuring party fashion, we confronted him. Windshear kept an eye out from the top of the building over his window, Marathon was across the street, and everyone else was at the door of his room. Astra could tell that he was in there with her talent, so when there was no answer to the knock on his door, Tongs knocked open (but not off its hinges like the last door he opened…). Silk Smooth backed through the room, to the balcony in front of the advancing party, but was refusing to answer any questions.

Marathon decided to step in, and flew up to the balcony. “Equestria Mail Service—the Postmaster General would like to have a few words about shipping dangerous animals.”

While he was still flabbergasted at that, Windshear flew down: “Freeze! Gallopston Coastal Patrol! (I always wanted to say that!)”

I’d like to think that the Mail Service had him more worried than the Coastal Patrol, but he did break down and confess. Though that might have been more from Astra Mare and Silver Tuppence finding the stash of money he’d been paid.

He had been hired by a rival of the Apple family to wreck or discredit their business in the Valley of Heart’s delight. I’m not sure if the parasprites were his idea or his employer’s. After getting the basics of what we needed, we handed Silk Smooth over to the sheriff. If not for the mix up in shipping, it might have been all too successful. (You know, the idea of parasprites loose in the middle of the Valley of Heart’s Delight does bear thinking upon.) And things pretty much wrapped up with everyone preparing to give their superiors a full report.

The session went pretty well and pretty fast, we actually wrapped up slightly early for the evening. It was great fun, and did a nice job of hooking into a couple bits of the series. Marathon’s going to start thinking of himself as an investigator at this rate though.