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February 10, 2012
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Daring Do felt the tropical sun beat down upon her wings as she soared over the trackless expanse of jungle, following the barely visible path of a winding river that glinted and glimmered in glimpses through the dense canopy of trees.

In her wake, a balloon from the Globe-Gallopers Society coasted along at full sail, barely managing to keep up with its heroic guide and guardian. An old friend and frequent patron, one Dr. McMonocle, gripped the craft's wheel in his hooves and a finely ground lens in his eye socket. The grizzled, grey whiskered earth pony scanned the horizon with a gimlet eye, trusting the intrepid pegasus mare to lead him to his current quarry: the world famous ethnologist, equinopologist, and explorer Professor Wander, who'd been missing for well over a week.

He drew himself up expectantly as Daring banked and traced a wide soaring arc, like a wheeling falcon, and circled back toward his conveyance. She came alongside the gondola, sheltering from the boiling sun under the billowing curve of the balloon and its sail, and threw McMonocle a raffish salute from beneath her pith helmet. "I think I spotted some signs of an encampment a few miles down the river. Could be our colt."

She pointed with a hoof toward a distant stretch of land where the jungle thinned to scattered trees over a rolling, grass covered hillside. The shining band of the river could be seen glistening between a ragged bracketing of vine laden trees, curving around the base of the hill.  

The stallion plucked his monocle from his eye and cleaned it on his ascot as he gave her a grin. "Jolly good show, Miss Do. Eyes like a bally hawk and all that, eh what? The Society will once more be in your debt if we can manage to locate the Professor. As will I. He's an old school chum of mine, don't you know."

A confident grin crossed the flying mare's features. "Ah well, it's all in a day's work for an international archeologist like me."

McMonocle raised a tufted grey eyebrow and settled his lens back in place. "Really? I thought a day's work for an archeologist was making a sort of grid with string and wooden stakes over a patch of dirt and digging about for shards of pottery and the like."

Daring blinked at him, then cleared her throat with an uncomfortable expression on her face. "Uh... Yeah, that happens sometimes, when... when we want to take a break from poison darts and pit traps and ceiling crocodiles and stuff. Yeah..."

The older stallion nodded sagely. "So it's rather like gardening then?"

The pegasus tossed her head impatiently, changing the subject. "Yeah, sure. Now... on the subject of finding your friend in this dark, unexplored, snake, tarantula, and possibly dinosaur infested jungle..."

McMonocle's expression became solemn. "Mmmyes, Quite! Lead on, Miss Do."

~~~

The leaves of the canopy rustled as the Globe-Gallopers Society balloon touched down in the clearing, met by the alarmed cries of jungle birds and the chattering of macaques. Daring Do leaped down from the craft's rigging and dropped into a wary crouch, her eyes narrowed and ears pricked for danger.

Dr. McMonocle heaved an anchor toward a nearby tree root, tethering his transportation, then climbed down from the gondola to join his guide. She raised a pensive eyebrow as she spoke to him in a hushed tone. "Hmm. It's quiet... too quiet."

The grizzled pony gave a curt bob of his head. "Indeed. Save for all that ruddy screeching and hooting up in the trees, it's like a grave."

Daring rolled her eyes impatiently, remembering why she preferred to work alone. "Uh huh. Let's hope it won't be our grave, or the Professor's."

She craned her neck back to her belt and drew a machete from its canvas sheath, clenching it in her teeth as she beckoned her companion onward, toward a ramshackle hut built of woven branches and grass thatching. A black, charred spot in the center of a ring of stones marked where a long since burned out camp fire had been built in front of it.

A tattered flag hung limply atop a pole surmounting the crude structure. Daring took wing to examine it, the wind from her flapping stirring it to life and revealing the Society's crest, a galloping pony in gold superimposed over a white and blue globe.

The adventurer looked down to McMonocle with a wan expression. "Looks like we're on the right track."

The grizzled earth pony's attention was drawn to something on the ground next to the fire, and he beckoned her down to look at it. "Quite. And speaking of tracks, what do you make of this, Miss Do?"

He adjusted his monocle as she touched down next to him, cocking her head as she leaned down to look at the footprints her patron had found. They were small, perhaps a little over a half hoof's width, with four blunt tipped toes. As a pegasus, Daring didn't spend a lot of time looking too closely at the ground, but now that her attention had been drawn there she saw that the slightly muddy earth around the makeshift camp was teeming with similar footprints.

McMonocle lashed his close cropped tail pensively. "What sort of creature made these prints, I wonder?"

Daring shrugged. "Dunno. Tapirs maybe?"

The grizzled earth pony rubbed the back of his neck with a hoof as he studied the trampled ground surrounding the hut. "Ruddy great mob of 'em, if that's indeed the case."

He paused by one of the hut's support posts, his brow furrowing. "Hmm. Do look here, Miss Do. I don't think I've ever heard of tapirs using blowguns."

The intrepid mare's wings flared at the word. She'd faced more than her share of poison darts in her line of work. A moment later she was facing another, although mercifully this one was embedded in the roughly carved log propping up the hut rather than pointing at her.

That was cold comfort, however. Like cockroaches or mice, if you saw one blowgun dart there were usually plenty more where it had come from.

After sheathing her machete, she reached out and plucked it loose with her teeth, placing it on a flattened hoof so she could take a closer look at it. It was made from a long thorn, about a hoof in length, with tightly wound feathers from some bright plumaged tropical bird trailing from the back end. She gingerly stuck her tongue out and tasted the tip, quickly spitting the acrid flavor out of her mouth.

She gave McMonocle a wan look. "Snoreberry juice and dropfrog venom, enough to put a whole herd of ponies out cold for hours."

The earth pony's lens dropped out of his eye socket. "By Celestia, why ever would you put that in your mouth?"

Daring grimaced as she studied the dart's sharp point. "It's a couple days old and it works better when it's injected." She gave him a reassuring grin. "Don't worry, it's too early for beddy-bye just yet."

The distinguished doctor cleared his throat and replaced his monocle. "Ah, jolly good. Bad form to have you falling asleep on the job, eh what?"

Her expression became serious as she tossed the projectile aside. "I'm just getting to work, Doc. Let's check out this shelter, shall we?"

McMonocle drew himself up and gestured toward the door with a bow. "After you, my dear."

She reached back and drew forth a flashlight from her belt, clicking it on with her teeth before stepping through the darkened opening of the hut, with the grizzled earth pony close behind her.

The interior of the crude dwelling was thoroughly ransacked. A gutted backpack and the shattered remains of a firefly lantern lay on the reed strewn floor, which seemed to have been churned up by whatever had overrun the camp. Several more blowgun darts jutted from the walls.

Daring spoke ruefully out of the side of her mouth as she played the light around the small space. "I'm not liking the look of this at all, Doc."

Her companion nodded, his bristling brow furrowing over his monocle. "Mmmyes, quite so. Things are looking pretty rum for poor old Wandy."

He did a double take as the illumination from the flashlight played across one of the poles. "I say, Miss Do. Kindly point your torch at that post, would you?"

The two ponies advanced on the crudely carved log, the beam from the light focused on a symbol scratched into the green wood: A letter W surmounted by an arrow pointing up.

McMonocle raised his unoccupied eyebrow, then reached out with a hoof and gently nudged Daring's chin upward. "Beg pardon, my dear, but look there."

There in the circle of illumination a corner of a book was just visible poking out from among the palm leaves that made up the roof. As the intrepid pegasus kept the light trained on this discovery, the earth pony reared up on his hind legs and grabbed the book in his teeth.

He set it down on the backpack with a frown. "Unless I miss my guess, this would be Wander's journal."

Daring Do nodded. "Well then, we better get crackin', as in crackin' that book open. Maybe we can get some clues out of it."

McMonocle undid the buckle and opened the journal on the floor in front of him, flipping through the pages until they started coming up blank and then backtracking. "Hmm. Indeed. Lets see... The last entry is only two days ago."

His brow furrowed as he read. "Ahem. To whom it may concern, this shall be my final entry in this account of my travels, as the Eeni Meeni are converging on the camp and will soon be bearing me off to a grim fate, doubtless as a sacrifice to their terrible fire god. Weep not for me, dear reader. If this book is in your hooves then I've served my purpose in bringing a wider understanding of the world and its peoples to my fellow ponies. My last will and testament is on file at my solicitor's office in Trottingham. And so goodbye and adieu, long may Celestia rule and may I be remembered fondly. Yours truly. Professor W."

The grizzled pony's lower lip began to tremble, as he removed his eyepiece and wiped a tear away with a hoof. "T-that ruddy great fool, he's gone and made my monocle fog up."

Daring laid a gentle hoof on his shoulder, then turned her attention back to the pages of the book with her brow furrowed. "Who are the Eeni Meeni? I've never heard of that tribe."

McMonocle started flipping back through the journal. "Well, lost tribes were something of a specialty of Wandy's."

After a few moments of skimming through the missing professor's cramped hoofwriting, his lens popped loose again, dangling from its cord as disbelief washed over his face. "Eohippus? My word!"

Daring raised an eyebrow. "Eeoh what now?"

The doctor looked at her incredulously. "Eohippus, the "horse of dawn". Essentially, the progenitor of all equines, our primitive forbears, as it were. Seems the old colt came across a village of 'em living on the other side of the hill. They call themselves the Eeni Meeni, apparently."

The orange pegasus opened her mouth to reply, but before she could speak a shrill scream echoed through the forest, followed by a high pitched voice raised in panic, crying out in a squeaking, whinnying language that neither pony understood, but could clearly comprehend was begging for help.

Daring dropped her flashlight and drew her machete, turning to Dr. McMonocle before she darted out the door. "Get back in the balloon and sit tight, Doc. I'm gonna go check that out."

The distinguished earth pony raised an eyebrow. "Steady on, Miss Do. That could be one of the blighters who took Wandy."

She shrugged back at him. "So what if it is? They sound like they need a hoof."

McMonocle picked up Wander's journal and gave her a grave look. "I do hope that hoof isn't stepping into a trap."

Daring gave him a grin as she lifted off with a beat of her wings. "If I didn't step into traps I'd never have gotten so good at getting out of them. Back in a few."

With that she lit out like a hawk, nimbly dodging between the vine draped trees toward the source of the shrieking commotion.

~~~

Daring Do sliced through a curtain of vegetation and flew out over the wide, murky surface of the river. Her eyes narrowed as she saw the mottled, leathery backs of several large crocodiles drifting lazily to and fro in the dappled sunlight that managed to filter through the canopy of the trees.

Honing in on the screaming, she spotted one of the primeval reptiles' fellows pulling at something on the riverbank. A small creature resembling a young earth pony foal clung desperately to a gnarled tree root with its forelegs, its tail firmly clamped in the crocodile's hideous jaws. The scaly predator seemed to grin expectantly as it engaged its prey in a grim tug of war.

Daring banked sharply and spun into a dive, her fore hooves extended in front of her, as her teeth gritted on the handle of her machete. She struck the crocodile with terrific force at the base of it's skull in a flyby attack, causing its mouth to gape open spasmodically as its yellow eyes bulged in surprise.

The little pony creature flipped over onto his back with the sudden release of the pulling on his tail, staring up at the pegasus mare as she launched into the air from the huge reptile's back, darting toward the tree canopy with forceful beats of her wings.

She stopped beside a sturdy looking branch directly overhead and made two slashes with the blade in her mouth, hacking off the leafy end and then causing a segment of log to plummet down toward the startled croc. It landed upright on the tip of the scaly predator's tongue, just in time for the top part of its toothy maw to close on it. The huge reptile bellowed in rage and started to thrash in primeval fury as it found its jaws wedged open by the freshly chopped wood.

Daring Do sheathed her machete on the fly and banked into another dive, leveling out as she caught the little pony creature in her forelegs and carried him away. The stricken crocodile looked around anxiously as its brethren began to gather around it, smug grins on their scaly faces. In the depths of its primitive, reptilian mind, it knew it would never live this down.

~~~

The intrepid pegasus set her burden down a bit farther down the river on a stretch of riverbank not haunted by crocodiles. He was curled into a tiny ball, shivering and whimpering so piteously that she couldn't help but feel a strong tugging on her heartstrings.

She gently stroked his back with a hoof and cooed to him in a soft voice. "Hey there, little guy. You're safe now. No need to be afraid anymore."

The little creature started at her voice, and looked up at her with wide, liquid eyes. As he stared up at her, she took the opportunity to look him over as well.

While he was roughly the size of a young colt, he was clearly an adult judging by the tuft of dark beard growing from his chin. His hide was a tawny brown, speckled with white spots down his sides. These markings coalesced on his flanks into what could resemble a crude pictograph of a running equine stick figure if you turned your head and squinted. Instead of a pony's hooves, his legs each ended in a foot with four blunt nailed toes.

He wore a necklace of bright leaves and feathers strung on a length of pleated reeds, and a belt of pounded tree bark around his middle. A length of polished reed hung from the belt by a loop, alongside a pouch from which the tufted ends of a hoof full of darts protruded alongside a tooth marked wooden handle for some kind of bladed implement.

The tiny proto-stallion let out a gasp and scrambled to his feet, edging nervously away from her as a mixture of confusion and distrust washed across his little face. Daring fought back the urge to grab him into a comforting hug, the experienced adventurer part of her brain overruling her latent maternal instincts.

She sat down calmly with a benign smile on her face. "It's okay, champ. No need to thank me or anything. It's all in a day's work."

The eohippus drew himself up, proudly tapping on his chest with a foot. "Eetah. Miteeki weeli pika. Cheemi akee. Cheemi fwa."

The pegasus gave him a helpless shrug. "Sorry sport, I'm afraid I don't savvy the lingo."

The little creature backed toward the treeline, tapping on its chest for emphasis. "Cheemi. Cheemi akee pipeeka fwa."

He dithered by the tangle of foliage, and with a nervous little bounce on his feet bounded forward and reared up, throwing his forelegs around her waist in a brief hug before turning tail and scampering for shelter. He took one last look over his shoulder and vanished into the underbrush with the barest rustle of the leaves.

Daring couldn't help but chuckle as she launched into the air to return to the abandoned camp and Dr. McMonocle. She'd at least managed to make one new friend in this forbidding jungle.

~~~

McMonocle waved from the gondola of the baloon as the flying adventuress returned to the campsite. "What ho, Miss Do? I trust your sortie went well?"

She grinned at him as she came alongside the railing and dropped into a casual hover. "Oh yeah. It wasn't anything big. I just ran into one of those Eohippity guys."

The grizzled earth pony's monocle popped loose. "My word! You made contact?"

She nodded smugly. "Yep. Cute as a button too, like a little colt playing cowponys and buffalo without the cowponys."

The doctor replaced his eyepiece and cleared his throat. "I'd exhort you to take these Eeni Meeni blighters seriously, Miss Do."

He tapped emphatically on the open journal. "Wander watched a ruddy great herd of them chase down and subdue a jaguar. Said they mobbed the poor beast like army ants and carried it back to their village trussed up like a Hearth's Warming hay bale."

Daring cocked an eyebrow. "So what would they want with a jaguar? You'd think they'd just chase it out of their territory."

McMonocle shook his head gravely. "Seems they're a bit more thorough about things than that, Miss Do. Anything the little perishers catch gets tossed on a pyre and burned for their fire god. Then they collect the ashes, grind them in these great stone bowls, and till them into their sweet potato patches."

The pegasus grimaced. "That's one way to make a victory garden." Her face fell. "So you think it's too late for Professor Wander?"

The grey whiskered earth pony shook his head. "Perhaps not. From what it says in this journal, I gather that the Eeni Meeni have a bit of a grand holiday coming up, so they're stockpiling sacrifices. He may still be alive, but I daresay there probably isn't much time."

Daring Do nodded, her face set with a look of determination. "Well, then I think it's time I took a look at this village, and see what we can do to pull the Prof's tail outta the fire."

She rotated in midair and took off with a beat of her wings. McMonocle called after her with a concerned expression knotting his bushy brows. "Do be careful, my dear!"

~~~

Daring slowed her progress at the sound of chopping wood and high pitched chatter echoing through the dense forest, and decided to take a more cautious route, flying from treetop to treetop and taking care to remain hidden. In the canopy of one particularly large mangrove tree, she pushed aside the leaves and peered out with intent, crimson eyes.

There in a clearing was the village of the Eeni Meeni, a collection of lodges built of woven tree branches and roofed in overlapping curtains of broad jungle leaves. Among the long, low, shaggy dwellings, the primitive equines worked and played.

In front of every hut, gatherings of little mares busied themselves roasting sweet potatoes on beds of coals, pounding bark into cloth with flat rocks, or looking after the swarms of tiny foals that gamboled about. The young eohippi were so adorable that Daring would have squealed with delight had she not been well aware this would invite a volley of poisoned darts in her direction. The diminutive stallionfolk were equally as busy as their wives, tilling the garden patches or working in teams to chop down smaller trees on the outskirts of their clearing with stone axes.

The timber was chopped into logs, which were carried in a steady, ant-like stream to a large pile of stacked lumber at the center of the village. Presiding over this growing pile of timber was a crude idol, an equine shape built in the fashion of a saw horse out of tall, hoof thick logs, stained red with ochre mud, and festooned with a thousand bright red, orange, and yellow feathers.

Daring's eyes narrowed as she spotted the waiting sacrifices atop the pyre. A jaguar and a lanky unicorn pony were hanging upside down, each with their legs lashed securely to a framework consisting of a pole supported by two forked logs. The intrepid pegasus carefully reached back and pulled a pair of mini binoculars out of her belt pouches, holding them up with her fore hooves to get a better look at the hapless pony on the platform.

While it was indeed Professor Wander, to say he bore little resemblance to the portrait Daring had often seen hanging in the Globe-Gallopers Society's Manehattan meeting hall would be an understatement. His golden brown coat was grimy and matted, and several weeks of scruffy, white streaked ginger beard had overwhelmed his normally immaculate mustache and van dyke. The tattered scraps of a khaki shirt hung from his withers.

Mercifully, she could see he was still breathing, although he looked to be passed out at the moment. Wheels began to turn in Daring Do's head as she tried to think of how to rescue him without turning the platform into a turkey shoot with her as the turkey.

She was jarred out of her reverie by the sudden THUNK of something striking the brim of her pith helmet. She hastily lowered her binoculars, muttering a curse to herself as she realized that a chance reflection off of the lenses had given away her position. Her eyes widened in alarm as the plume of a blowgun dart draped down in front of her eyes, its sharp point a scant inch from the bridge of her muzzle.

She flinched as another projectile hissed past her, rustling through the leaves. She whispered a promise as she wheeled to make a discrete exit from the treetop. "Hang tight... uh... don't worry, Professor. I'll get you out of there somehow."

~~~

As she soared between the trees deep in thought, Daring was startled as a flock of screeching, brightly plumed parrots exploded out of a stand of bushes beneath her, scattering gleaming yellow, orange, and scarlet feathers in their wake. She paused for a moment to catch her breath, watching the bright plumes drift down to the dark green foliage below.

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she took note of clusters of berries among the leaves, as bright red as Celestia's sun just as it drifts down toward the horizon. One of the parrots, apparently braver than its fellows, paid her no mind, and greedily plucked bunches of the luminous fruit in its beak and swallowed them whole.

Daring swooped down and caught a yellow feather atop her hoof, rubbing her chin as she studied it. A smile spread across her face as an idea began to form in her head. "Yeah... This could work! It's perfect!"

~~~

Dr. McMonocle lashed his tail as he stood with his back to Daring, his head held stiffly in a position of outraged decorum. Her khaki shirt and canvas utility belt were draped over his shoulders as if he were a clotheshorse.

He snorted in exasperation. "It's ruddy ridiculous. You've gone positively stark raving mad if you think this scheme of yours is going to work."

The pegasus mare scooped a bunch of fiery red berries from her laden pith helmet and crushed them between her hooves, and then set to working the almost florescent pulp into her coat, staining it a luminous vermilion. "Stark raving brilliant, you mean. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It works every time."

McMonocle cleared his throat pointedly and set his jaw. "And just what book might that be, Miss Do?"

Daring paused from crushing more berries into her mane and tapped her hoof on her chin in thought. "I think I read it in an old Alan Quarterhorse novel."

She shrugged, and continued daubing the livid paste into her hide. "Anyway, the Prof's running out of time, and this seems like the best way to grab him off of that platform without getting turned into a pincushion. They'd never shoot spitwads at their fire goddess."

She picked the helmet up by the brim and walked around to stand in front of the dignified stallion, setting it down in front of him and giving him a grin. Almost every inch of her was now a bright, flaming red. "How do I look?"

The rosy glow of a blush stole across his slate grey cheeks, and he could barely bring himself to look at her. "Like a ruddy overripe strawberry."

She chuckled and turned around, sitting down to reveal a broad stripe of her natural burnt orange coloration running down her back between her wings. "Would you be a dear and do my back for me?"

The dignified stallion sighed and took a hoof full of berries from her helmet, gingerly crushing them into the undyed spots. "I do hope for all our sakes these aren't poison."

Daring shook her head as she started to tuck bunches of bright orange and yellow feathers into her mane. "Well, the birds I got these feathers from were eating them right off the bushes and they seemed fine." She raised a wing to weave some of the gleaming plumes in among her own feathers. "Everypony knows pegasi are half bird anyway."

McMonocle scoffed as he wiped the fiery red paste off of his hooves on a hoofkerchief drawn from his breast pocket. "Everypony but the Royal Taxonomical College and every biologist from Lamareck onward."

The brightly bedaubed mare shot him a lopsided grin as she gave a few experimental beats of her wings to make sure the added plumage stayed put. "Well, like I said I'm an archeologist, not a biologist."

The doctor replaced his monocle, rolling his eyes. "Well, I bally well hope you can carry off a convincing fire god."

She reached up and patted him fondly on the cheek, and then stepped around to his side to open one of the pouches on her utility belt. She pulled out a couple of hoof flares, which she tucked under a wing. "These'll help."

McMonocle pawed nervously at the ground. "Well, Miss Do. As foolhardy as I consider this plan of yours, I jolly well wish you the best of luck and all that. You're a credit to your profession, whatever that may actually be, and a brave mare."

Daring Do gave him a raffish grin as she lifted off. "It's all in a days work, Doc. Now just sit tight and be ready to cast off when I get back with the Prof. We'll all be back having mimosas at the Cavalry Club in São Palomino before you know it."

He threw her a salute. "First round will be on me. Celestia speed you on your way, Daring Do.

~~~

The sun had begun to sink below the horizon, casting a blaze of purples, reds, and oranges into the darkening sky. Perched in a dense treetop overlooking the eohippus village, Daring looked over her shoulder at the heavenly spectacle with a grin. "That's just perfect, Princess. Now lets you and me show these little wiggly toed palookas some fireworks."

Down below, the Eeni Meeni had gathered in the center of their village, kicking up their feet in wild dancing and raising their reedy voices in song. The intrepid pegasus drew forth the flares, grasping them in the hocks of her forehooves and tugging the cords on their quick ignition caps, sparking them to blazing, spluttering life.

She took a deep breath, and launched out over the village, calling out in a bellowing voice. "BEHOLD! IT IS I, YOUR GLORIOUS FIRE GODDESS! I HAVE COME TO CHOOSE A SACRIFICE! BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!"

Rather than bowing down, the assembled eohippi all stopped stock still, gazing skyward with eyes wide in amazement as a sudden, breathless silence fell over the clearing.

Daring continued her booming spiel, floating majestically down toward the pyre. "BOW DOWN, I SAY! I AM TOTALLY YOUR FIRE GODDESS! I'M NINE HOOVES TALL AND I EAT PUNKS LIKE YOU FOR BREAKFAST! GAZE UPON MY AWESOMENESS AND HIT THE DIRT! IT'S ME DARING DO AND I'M HERE TO RESCUE YOU, PROFESSOR!"

She locked eyes with the inverted unicorn, who was wide awake and staring at her with a look of glazed disbelief. He started to frantically shake his head and gesture toward the little natives with his horn.

The ersatz fire goddess looked down at the throng of diminutive proto ponies, her ears levering back against her head as she saw the expressions on their little faces. Instead of the reverence and awe she'd hoped for, she was faced with glaring contempt and an alarming number of blowguns drawing a bead on her.

A tremulous sigh escaped her lips just before she felt a sharp jab in her flank. "I... I get the feeling you little twerps aren't buyin' this for a muuuhhhhhh...."

~~~

Celestia's sun peeped apologetically through the lacework of leaves overhanging the sleeping village, as Daring Do's feeble moan sounded in the dim haze of the early morning. "...uuinute, are ya?"

Her eyes fluttered open, and she briefly wondered who'd built all those huts on the ceiling before she realized where she was with a gasp of dismay. She craned her neck upward to see her red dyed hooves firmly lashed around a pole, and felt stout vines binding her wings tightly to her sides.

As she strained against her bonds, a dry, weary voice sounded beside her. "I say, that whole display was dreadfully insensitive to the Eeni Meenis' cultural beliefs."

Daring went limp with an exasperated sigh, her head slowly rotating toward her interlocutor with her face a stony mask. "I'll be sure to cry some extra tears over that when they light up this log pile, Professor. Maybe it'll be enough to put out the fire and then we can all have a dialogue about my cultural belief in not being ROASTED LIKE A FREAKING MARSHMALLOW!"

Her head whipped around to the other side as a low growl and a hiss sounded out. The bedraggled jaguar snarled and snapped at her, lashing his frazzled tail against the framework hanging him upside down over the pyre.

Professor Wander gave a terse reply, a undertone of aggrieved dignity coloring his words. "I do wish you wouldn't shout like that. You're upsetting the jaguar."

The inverted pegasus' body tensed, and her eyes flashed as she bellowed at the gnashing beast. "SHUT! UP!"

The jaguar's eyes became wide and fearful, and it bunched in on itself with a tiny mew.

Daring turned her simmering eyes back toward the Professor as she started to strain at the ropes around her hocks. "So... do you have anything helpful to add or are you just going to hang there and whine? Can't you use your unicorn magic to untie us or something?"

The ginger haired unicorn cleared his throat and drew himself up, or more accurately drew himself down. "A gentlecolt never whines. I was complaining..."

He sagged a bit and looked away uncomfortably as Daring gave him the stink eye. "A-anyway, I've been trying to get loose for two days now, but the fact of the matter is I'm a bit of a fizzlewick when it comes to knots. Bottom marks in my scout troop, don't you know."

The intrepid pegasus looked up at the bindings around the unicorn's hooves, and saw that they were a hopeless tangle of knots and loops that only Bucephalus the Great could chop through.

She rolled her eyes and went back to struggling with her own ropes, muttering under her breath. "Fantastic. Stupendous. Just when I could use a Harry Hoofdini, I get an egghead who couldn't untie a granny knot to save his own granny."

The Professor spoke up with a sullen tone. "I hardly think you're in much position to be critical, young lady."

Daring snorted through her nostrils as she strained helplessly against her bindings. "Professor, if I hear one more word outta you it's gonna be..."

She stopped short, blinking, as a scratchy, high pitched whisper sounded out by her ear. "Cheemi."

The pegasus looked down to see one of the little proto-ponies standing next to her framework, looking up at her with grave, dark eyes. He raised a toe to his lips and shushed her, then spoke again. "Cheemi fwa. Cheemi issiki."

The little creature looked furtively around at the still slumbering village, and then reared up to wrap his legs around one of the forked logs holding Daring up over the pyre. He shimmied up to the top and walked out along the pole, balancing as if he were on a tightrope, his four toed feet uncannily wrapping around the rounded beam.

He stopped at her tightly bound fore hooves, and craned his neck back to his belt pouch to draw forth a cutting tool made of sharp edged bits of obsidian lashed to a wooden handle. This he used to slice neatly through the corded vines around Daring's fetlocks, causing her head to bang on the logs below as her forelegs came free.

She bit back a curse and rubbed the back of her head as he moved down the pole to cut the binding on her hocks. A moment later her rump banged on the platform as well, leaving her sprawled and staring at the hazy forest canopy overhead as the feeling returned to her legs.

Her diminutive rescuer re-sheathed his blade, continued on to the other supporting log, and slid down it like a firepony. He softly padded over to stand next to Daring as she looked up at him with a grateful smile. His little face was grave as he tapped a foot against his chest. "Cheemi ikka. Mifissi keeteekee. Giki teeka ligee."

With that, he spun on his heels and scampered toward the edge of the platform. Daring rolled onto her side and reached after him with a hoof, calling out in an urgent whisper. "No wait! Cut my wings loose! Don't..." She slumped limply on her side with a sigh as he leapt down and was gone.

Professor Wander spoke up in a low voice. "Be thankful for small favors, Miss Do. Having an extra set of limbs to be freed probably didn't even occur to the little fellow. Now if you'll be so kind as to get me down we should best be going before the other villagers start waking up."

Daring nodded as she climbed painfully to her hooves. "Right. Gimme a second."

After a moment's consideration, she gave a sigh and looked the Professor in the eyes. "Okay, brace yourself. I have a feeling things are going to get a little... intense."

An anxious expression crossed the unicorn's narrow features. "In... intense? Just what do you mean by AGH!"

He let out a shriek of alarm as Daring wheeled on her front hooves and bucked viciously at the front pole of the framework from which he dangled, snapping the wood with a sharp, angry crack that echoed through the still air of the village.

A second kick broke through, toppling the Y shaped support log and causing the front end of the pole suspending the Professor to drop to the platform. He slid down the now diagonal beam and tumbled off the end, his front and rear legs still tightly lashed together, and landed on the stacked logs with a thud.

Daring lost no time in shoving her head and neck between the stunned unicorn's forelegs, shouldering him up onto her back. He shook off his daze, his eyes going wide in panic. "My word!"

The intrepid pegasus grinned a fierce grin over her shoulder. "Hold on tight, Professor, it's gonna be a bumpy ride."

As she made to jump off the platform, she glanced over at the still suspended jaguar, who was giving her remarkably convincing puppy dog eyes for a giant cat.

With a sigh, she rushed over and spun into another kick, cracking the front post on the beast's framework as well while the Professor clung for dear life to her back. The spotted jungle predator slid off the end of the pole and immediately set to gnawing frantically at its bindings with its razor sharp teeth.

Meanwhile, a chattering started coming from the huts as sleepy eyed eohippi poked their heads out to investigate the noise and commotion. Daring Do nodded grimly to herself, shrugged the panicked Professor into a slightly more comfortable position between her tightly bound wings, and leaped off of the pyre, breaking into a gallop through the center of the village as a cry of alarm went up from its denizens.

She levered her ears back to the sides of her head as the unicorn's screams threatened to make her already pounding headache into a thunderstorm inside her skull. The pegasus snarled back at him as she dodged nimbly between the huts. "Professor, will you quit screaming in my ear?"

The unicorn stallion gave a sharp squawk of alarm as an intermittent cadence of meaty, thudding impacts sounded out. A few hoofbeats later he suddenly went completely limp, sprawling bonelessly across Daring's back with his head dangling down over her shoulder, his tongue lolling out and his eyes rolling back into his head. She took a glance back to see that his rump was bristling with blowgun darts.

A chagrined look spread across her face as she forged ahead. "Uh... thanks..."

Several more projectiles plunged through the leaves around her as she dove into the forest, not daring to look back again as the pitter patter of a multitude of tiny feet sounded hot on her heels.

~~~

Dr. McMonocle reared up in the gondola of the balloon and let his eyepiece drop loose on its cord, raising a spyglass to replace it. Looking past the tree line through the vanishing mists of the early morning, he trained the telescope on some motion among the trees at the other side of the rolling, grass covered hill.

His bristling eyebrows shot up as he beheld a bright red pony come crashing out through the foliage onto the plain, galloping at top speed with another pony not so much hanging from their neck as trailing from it and flopping like a rag doll.

When this unusual duo had gone ten, maybe twelve pony lengths the forest behind them exploded with a stampede of foal sized pursuers.

The grizzled earth pony lowered the spyglass and pricked up his ears, watching the chase with eyes wide in amazement. As they approached, Daring Do's distant voice could be heard shrieking over the grassy plain. "Doc! Fire up the balloon, Doc! Cut it loose, Doc! For the love of Celestia get ready to cast off, Doc! Doooooooooc!"

McMonocle dropped the spyglass and began to frantically prepare the balloon for ascent.

~~~

The desperate pegasus poured on the speed as she spotted the spherical, net covered form crest over the trees, her heart pounding in her chest as she fought to keep the insensate unicorn from toppling off and dragging her down to their doom. She could hear the shrill cries of the Eeni Meeni behind her, and ran as serpentine a path as she dared on the downward slope as their envenomed projectiles whispered past. One stumble, one false step, or one well aimed dart would mean disaster.

When she hit the tree line she leaped, catching a vine in her teeth and swinging for dear life as the balloon loomed overhead. She sailed through the air and slammed into the side of the aircraft, barely managing to hook her forelegs over the railing of the gondola. The Professor's limp body shifted and hung off of her neck, choking her as she stared wild eyed into the alarmed face of Dr. McMonocle. Blowgun darts thunked into the planks on either side of her as she felt her grip slackening.

With an inarticulate cry, the grizzled earth pony reared up and grabbed the unconscious unicorn by the scruff of his neck, dragging him over her head and dumping him into the gondola in a floppy tangle of lashed together limbs.

Daring breathed a sigh of relief, that was urgently cut short as her hooves let loose. She let out a shriek as she toppled backwards, flailing her forelegs in panic. She felt a sudden tug around her middle, and looked down to see McMonocle craning his neck out over the rail, his teeth firmly clamped on the corded vines that were binding her wings to her sides.

With a wink and a grin he pulled her over the rail to safety. "Well done, Daring Do! Well done indeed!"

She slumped to the deck, panting for breath, as the slate grey earth pony took up a position next to the burner apparatus. She looked up at him with a weary grin. "Your fire goddess commands you to light that sucker up, and don't spare the gas."

He gave her a playful bow and kicked the lever to full power, causing the blue flame to roar into the canvas chamber above them. "As her ladyship wishes."

Down below, the Eeni Meeni stomped and hooted, firing a last few futile volleys of darts skyward as the balloon rose into the heavens and unfurled its sail to float majestically away.

~~~

A few days later McMonocle and Wander sat out on the balcony of their hotel room in São Palomino, savoring the cool breeze off the ocean as siesta time laid a hush over the teeming South Equestrian port city.

The lanky unicorn was looking in much better form after having a bath and a brushdown and a shave, resting comfortably on a well cushioned wicker chair with a locally rolled cigar and a snifter of pineapple brandy hovering nearby in the sparkling golden grip of his magic. The grizzled grey earth pony puffed his pipe with a look of relaxed contemplation as he studied the chess board laying on the table between them.

Both ponies lazily raised their heads as a fierce growl of frustration sounded from the double doors opening onto the balcony of the next room over. They looked over as Daring Do came stomping out with a towel wrapped around her head and a fluffy bathrobe draped over her shoulders. Her coat, mane, and tail were all still a bright, blaring red.

She stomped a hoof on the railing, her crimson eyes flashing. "I've taken ten baths since I've gotten here and this stuff still isn't washing off!"

Professor Wander took a puff of his cigar and blew a smoke ring, casting her a sympathetic look. "I'm terribly sorry, Miss Do, but by now I'm fairly certain those berries you got into were emberberries. I know a few tribes use 'em for dying and the like, and the juice doesn't wash off. It needs to wear off."

Daring huffed and propped her chin on her hoof as she leaned on the rail with her tail lashing behind her. "Wear off? How long is that gonna take?"

The ginger maned unicorn sighed, took a sip of brandy, and shook his head. "Two, maybe three weeks at the earliest, I fear."

The dismayed mare's eyes went wide and her wings flared. "THREE WEEKS!?"

She let out a mournful groan and buried her face in her hooves. "Ohhhh. Is my face ever red..."

Daring cast the two older stallions a black look as they both struggled to hold back a chuckle. McMonocle kept a stiff upper lip, as he puffed his pipe and nodded. "Mmmyes, Quite."

The Professor tapped the ashes off his cigar, set it down on a horseshoe shaped ashtray, and cast his rescuer a reassuring look. "I wouldn't be so glum, my dear. I daresay you're in luck."

The mortified pegasus mare slouched despondently on her own wicker chair. "How do you figure that, Professor?"

The lanky unicorn cocked an ear, as the distant sound of samba music started drifting up from the streets, signaling the end of siesta and the beginning of a citywide celebration. He nodded toward the whitewashed stucco haciendas with their red shingled roofs gleaming in the setting sun. "Well tonight just so happens to be the opening night for São Palomino's Carnival season, which lasts the better part of a month."

Daring got to her hooves and craned her neck over the railing. Multicolored lights were flickering on, as garishly painted ponies decked out in jewels and bright feathers took to the streets dancing, singing, and reveling to the beat of a thousand drums.

A smile spread across the unicorn's face as she looked back at him with understanding dawning in her eyes, making them sparkle with excitement. He politely bobbed his horn to her. "I imagine if you got hold of some feathers and a spot of glitter, you'd cut quite the figure at all the parades and parties."

Daring let out a whoop, and rushed back into her room, leaving her robe and towel hanging in midair for a second before they collapsed softly to the balcony floor.

McMonocle looked up at the Professor with a wry grin. "Well played, Wandy old bean."

The unicorn let out a chuckle, using a hoof to slide one of his chess pieces into an opposing square. "Well, being an ethnologist does have its benefits, Blinky old sock. That's check, by the way."

The grizzled earth pony's brow furrowed as he studied his old friend's latest move. They both looked up at the sound of fluttering wings from the balcony next door.

Daring had bedecked herself with the bright feathers left over from their jungle adventure, and was looking radiant in the glow of sunset. She looked back at them with a grin and a wink. "Don't wait up for me, boys. I'm gonna go paint the town red!"

With that, Daring Do leapt off of the balcony and spiraled down to the joyously festive streets below, fully prepared to dance the night away, enjoying a well earned reward for her exploits.

THE END


The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.

A My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fan Fiction.

A rousing tale from the Adventures of Daring Do.

Daring is hired by the prestigious Globe Gallopers Society to
find one of their missing members, and finds big trouble often comes in small packages.

(Author's note: For extra credit, try to name which two old Johnny Quest episodes this story is cobbled together from. Daring Do isn't the only pony who can make off with artifacts. :) )
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:icontulsatrash:
Tulsatrash Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012
I had fun reading this. Thank you for posting it.
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:iconholycross9:
HolyCross9 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2012
Yes, no doubt Daring Do would have looked stunning in red from those emberberrys.
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:iconmarmelmm:
marmelmm Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2012
(applause) Bravo! Good stuffs! ^.^
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:iconkenfletcher:
KenFletcher Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2012
Very good and very entertaining!
Reply
:iconwaypointbravo:
WaypointBravo Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2012
Dude, you're like the fourth person I've ever met who knows what an eohippus is. You get like half props for that alone, and consider the rest solidly earned for a great story.
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:iconthe-greyhound:
The-Greyhound Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2012
A perfect adventure tale for daring do. The ending was brilliant :D
Jolly good show indeed!
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:iconterrichance:
Terrichance Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012  Student Digital Artist
I was WONDERING when someone would get around to using Eohippi! That's a ripe ground that's yet to be explored.

And Mister Hutch, you've outdone yourself once more. I daresay I'll be looking forward to seeing more works of Daring and do coming from you in the future!
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:iconbrostar964:
BroStar964 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012
A rip-roaring tale. Well done, sir!
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:icondigitalrailroader:
digitalrailroader Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2012
who here wants fanart of Daring Do in her Fire Goddess Disguise?
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:iconkarlizkool350:
karlizkool350 Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2012
Oh god, all my YES! Please, for the love of Celestia, make more of these!
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