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Daring Do and the Mareharishi of Mischief

by DavidFosterWalrus

"...and then Sunny Starscout became an alicorn, and Equestria was ruined forever."

A.K. Yearling's hoofwriter fell silent. She leaned back in her chair, frowning as she read over the last few paragraphs of her manuscript. It wasn't the best thing she'd ever written, but it was going to have to do. She had a deadline to meet, and there were more pressing things she had to worry about in the short term.

The air inside the bamboo hut was stifling. She crossed to the other end of the room and opened a window. It didn't help much; the faint humid breeze that ran gently through her sweat-damp mane was only marginally cooler than the air inside. But at least she was finished.

She glanced at the wall clock, one of the few niceties of civilization available in the remote jungle village. Four hours, and the sun would be in position. She went to the corner and checked inside her saddlebag, making certain for the umpteenth time that the amulet was still inside. It was.

Satisfied, she closed the saddlebag and crossed to the cabinet at the far end of the room. She poured herself a draught of the strange punch the native ponies enjoyed. She'd never get used to the taste, and it was a poor substitute for the cider back at home, but not partaking in her usual post-novel-completion ritual was unthinkable.

She sat back down. As ever, she had to force herself to pointedly ignore the stack of papers on the table. The old temptation was there: to read through it, to change it, to tear it up if necessary. As ever, she fought back against the impulse, and took a draught of tropical punch instead. She grimaced. She would never get used to this stuff.

The door flew open with a bang. Immediately, her reflexes went into gear. With a swoop of her powerful wings, she bolted to the other side of the room, dropping into a defensive pose and squinting at the form that stood silhouetted in the glaring afternoon light. Who was this shadowy intruder? Which of her enemies had managed to track her this far into the Forbidden Jungle? Was it Ahuizotl? Caballeron? Her publisher?

"Oh, it's you," she said, rather shortly.

The pony in the doorway, who had clearly been startled by her reaction, recovered herself and smoothed back her oily mane.

"I'm sorry if I startled you," she said in that silky voice of hers.

Yearling cursed herself silently. She could see in the other mare's eyes that her quick reaction had not gone unnoticed. She cursed herself a second time for being caught so blatantly off guard.

The two mares eyed each other cooly: on the one side, the dark-maned pegasus, the mild-mannered novelist A.K. Yearling. On the other, the copper-colored earth pony, clad in a white robe, an ostentatious gold medallion draped around her neck. Neither was what she seemed.

Yearling had distrusted this one from the start. She claimed to be a spiritual guru: Mareharishi Mahesh Yogi, supposedly the eighth reincarnation of an ancient god. Conveniently enough, the god she claimed to be descended from was the very god worshipped by this tribe. Yearling didn't know what the game was exactly, but she didn't buy it. Not for a second.

"Did I interrupt your writing, Miss Yearling?"

The earth mare had regained her composure, and was now regarding Yearling with that cool, calculating stare of hers. Her dark mane, well-oiled and beautifully decorated with golden trinkets, hung gracefully around her withers; her dark eyes met the suspicious gaze of the pegasus with placidity, two impenetrable pools of secrets. Her cutie mark was an indecipherable glyph. Yearling didn't believe for one second that this charlatan was actually a god, but she had to admit that she knew how to play the part.

"No," she answered finally. "I actually just finished."

The Mareharishi smiled wanly.

"Ah, wonderful. I look forward to reading your latest masterpiece...Miss Yearling."

The emphasis on the name was not missed. Yearling's hackles went up, and she was instantly on guard again, though she was careful not to show it. How much did she know?

"Thank you," she said evenly.

The copper mare bowed her head pleasantly.

"In any event, I have come to inform you that our presence has been requested in the Royal Hall."


"Today is the Feast of the High Sun, a time-honored tradition in this village. The King has requested we join him as his guests."

A knot tightened in Yearling's stomach. Her eyes involuntarily darted to the clock on the wall. In only a few short hours, a celestial event would occur that would not repeat for another hundred years! Of all the times to be invited to dinner--

"Of course, it is an honor not to be refused."

Yearling's eyes once again met the dark eyes of the Mareharishi, and immediately she understood. This invitation was no accident. However, she knew the customs of the tribe all too well. They were friendly...until they weren't anymore. She forced a smile.

"Tell the King I would be honored to attend."

- - -

A.K. Yearling and Mareharishi Mahesh Yogi stepped together into the long, majestic hut that functioned alternately as temple, feasting hall, and the residence of the King. Long tables had been laid out, covered with all manner of exotic dishes. Tall wooden totems, carved into the shape of long-dead ponies revered by this ancient tribe, stood solemnly in the corners. The air was thick with smoke from torches and the body heat of what had to be at least a hundred ponies.

Yearling eyed the ponies warily as she passed. They all had the same copper coats and dark manes as the Mareharishi, their features accented with colored paints. Everything in their culture had a dual meaning, and Yearling understood the symbols she wore today all too well. These colors signified a time for celebration...or a time for war. This feast was a sacred event, not to be taken lightly.

Her face as serene as ever, the Mareharishi led Yearling past the rows of tables to the giant table at the far end, where the King and his family sat. The King rose, extending an ancient greeting to the two mares. Both Yearling and the Mareharishi responded in kind. The King smiled, laughed, and embraced them warmly. They sat down next to him in the places of honor, and the tribe cheered.

So far so good, thought Yearling. She glanced once more at the position of the sun shafts coming through the windows. If she timed this correctly, she could still make it. Uneasily, she eyed the plates of food piled up on the tables in the hall. She'd never quite gotten used to the strange food this tribe ate, but she knew she could handle it, so long as it wasn't...

An enormous bowl was dropped onto the table in front of her. Suddenly, she realized that everypony in the room was staring at her, smiling expectantly.

"You're the guest of honor," a voice hissed in her ear. She turned to see the Mareharishi, flashing her a nasty smile. Her stomach dropped below her hooves; she'd walked right into the trap! Somehow, some way, the Mareharishi had uncovered not only her identity, but her weakness!

Her horrified gaze turned back to the bowl in front of her.

"It can't be..." she whispered.

And yet it was.

"You have to eat all the eggs!" the Mareharishi hissed triumphantly.

A.K. Yearling could only stare in horror at the abomination before her.

"Eggs!" she whispered. "Why did it have to be eggs?"

She looked around her. Everypony was staring. The King was staring. Her gaze traveled full circle around the room, until she was once again staring into the cold, calculating eyes of the Mareharishi.

"I can't let her beat me, not like this," she whispered to herself. Tentatively, she reached out a hoof and tapped at one of the horrid orbs in front of her. "It's just...I just have to...I just have to...."

Suddenly, against every rational impulse her mind was screaming at her, she swatted the bowl with her hoof. The crowd stared aghast as eggs went flying everywhere.

"I...I can't do it!" Yearling was close to tears. "I...just...don'!!"

- - -

Daring Do burst through the jungle, alternately galloping and gliding as she did her best to dodge the poisoned darts that were whizzing past her at every step.

The Feast of the High Sun had descended into open warfare more quickly than she could have ever anticipated. Too late, she remembered the ancient legend. Too late, she realized that by refusing the gift of the Sacred Egg Bowl, she had directly challenged the King and called his dynasty's 3,000 year reign into question. The tribe had responded accordingly, immediately devolving into factions: those that supported the old King, and those who supported the challenger.

It was open guerrilla warfare now. Every mare for herself.

Daring Do, however, had no time to lament over spilled milk; or spilled eggs, as it were. As soon as the first dart had been fired, she had sprung through the nearest window. There was no need for her to play the part of the mild-mannered novelist now.

There was, however, still a need to return to her hut. She could not leave the only copy of her latest novel behind her in the jungle. Not with her deadline only a few days away. There was also the pesky matter of the amulet.

Still dodging poisoned darts, she circled back through the jungle and burst into the hut, where until just a scant half-hour before she had been enjoying a cool glass of tropical punch.

Thankfully, the manuscript was where she had left it. She seized it in her mouth and stuffed it hurriedly into the saddlebag, then slung the bag across her back. She could hear angry shouts in the distance; it wouldn't be long before her pursuers caught up with her. Then, suddenly, she stopped dead in her tracks. Something was wrong. What was she--

In a rage, she unslung the saddlebag and lifted the flap. Sure enough, the pocket where she had so carefully concealed the amulet...was empty! That had been the Mareharishi's plan all along!

A dart whizzed through the open door, past her face, and embedded itself in the bamboo wall behind her. There was no time left. Cursing her own foolishness, she reslung the pack and, with a mighty flap of her wings, blasted through the window just as the angry ponies burst through the door.

She flew through the now-burning village at top speed, slowing down only slightly once she had reached the relative cover of the surrounding jungle. She glanced up at the position of the sun.

"It hasn't happened yet," she muttered. "Maybe there's still time..."