The Two Sides of Daring Do
Yearling's eyes opened and she forced herself to her hooves, holding a hoof to her sore head. She cringed at both that headache and a pain in her ribs. She knew what bruised ribs felt like well.
She looked around her. Just a dark passage way. No one there. Not Ahuizotl, not her clone. No one. Her ears pinned.
“They...forgot about me...they just left me here...” she said, looking both ways. Not even one of Ahuizotl's cats... “The...the story kept right on going without me...”
Yearling looked at her discarded pith helmet, laying abandoned on the ground. She fell on her flank, tears welling up in her eyes. “This...this is my life, right? Then...then...”
She lowered her head. “Why is she better than me at being me?”
The opinions of friends meant a lot...but so did the opinions of enemies, especially archenemies. After all, she'd been fighting Ahuizotl since the day he'd been awakened. And yet...Ahuizotl had just left Yearling laying on the ground like trash.
“...Because I made her that way...Because she's the me I wish I was...how can I hope to compete with that?”
Yearling pulled some bandages out of her pocket and took off her jacket, numbly wrapping her bruised ribs. “...I do all this to protect ponies...to stop Ahuizotl and my other enemies...what's the point of me if there's somepony that does it better than I do?”
The author didn't notice, but her Cutie Mark began to flicker.
She reached into a pocket and produced her glasses. One of the lenses cracked from the beating she suffered. “...Maybe I am just boring old Awkward Kindness Yearling now...”
The mare slowly put the glasses on. “...I guess I can have her tell me the details when she gets back...She doesn't need me...She can save the world all by herself...”
With her head held low, Yearling slowly started back towards the entrance to the tomb. Pith helmet and jacket left laying on the floor.
“She's probably already out of the death trap and getting ready to kick Ahuizotl's tail by now...in half the time it'd have taken me...just like she's done everything else...”
“You'll never get away with this, Ahuizotl!” Daring Do yelled, currently chained to a large block of stone that'd been hoisted over a reservoir elsewhere in the mine (all Daring Do knew was he'd punched open a sealed passage way and lead her through, she didn't question it). Upside down.
And Ahuizotl throwing the sharks from the other trap into the pool. They seemed more afraid of him than angry.
“And seriously, isn't one death trap at a time ever enough? Do you just stay up all night thinking of ways to kill me and can't decide which way to go with?”
The mythological monster laughed, pulling a giant rock back on a rope, lining it up to strike Daring right as the rock would be hitting the water and the sharks would start eating her if all went according to plan. “Oh Daring Do, I'm going to miss your constant witty banter. But alas, I must be going! Soon the Princesses will be lowering the sun and rising moon, and it is at that moment I shall strike!”
“What's your plan, Ahuizotl?!”
“Well, since you are about to die, I suppose I can explain,” Ahuizotl remarked. “After you destroyed the Fortress of Talicon, my plans to bring the valley to it's knees were foiled! So now, I shall use the Belt of Atlas at the moment the Princesses are moving their celestial bodies to wrench control of them for my own!”
“You can't do that! The Belt can't have that kind of power on it's own!”
“Ah, but you forget, according to legend, Atlas was capable of moving the sun and moon, do you not wonder how Daring Do? This place was how the people of Roam commanded the sun and moon before the Princesses arrival! It amplifies the power of the Belt and it's range to grasp the celestial bodies and move them! True, on it's own that enchantment cannot override the Princesses' control over the sun and moon, nor steal their power...but assume if that spell is corrupted an amplified...perhaps by this?!”
Daring's eyes widened as Ahuizotl produced a large golden ring. “The Rings of Scorchero?! But I destroyed one of them! They're useless now!”
Ahuizotl did a tisk tisk gesture with his tail hand. “Ah, but you forget, Daring Do, you left the rest behind when the Fortress collapsed and I was able to retrieve them! While it is true the rings are now useless for corrupting the Radiant Shield of Razedon, they still contain their dark enchantments! And this temple's connection to the Belt of Atlas is similar enough to their own connection to the Fortress of Talicon that with a little tinkering the Belt of Atlas can act as replacement, perverting and twisting its magic and that of the temple to my will!”
Daring was left stunned for a moment. She'd broken an evil artifact, rendered it useless...and the villain had managed to effectively use it again?! That...that had never happened before! She broke the evil artifact of evil, the bad guy screamed 'Curse you Daring do! I will have my revenge!' and it was never seen or heard from again! That's how it'd always worked before!
“Even if that is true, no mortal can handle the power of an Alicorn let alone two! You'd only destroy yourself!”
“Ah, but I am not a mere mortal,” Ahuizotl remarked proudly. “Have you not heard of the legends of my name Daring Do?! I am the child and messenger of Tlaloc, the Lord of Water!”
“Never heard of him...”
“Really? I assumed you studied me more thoroughly...He also goes by King Leo, that ring a bell?”
“Ah! Him I've heard of!...So your dad is a lion headed fish?...Yeah, I can see the family resemblance.”
“Only I may insult my father!”
“I meant you being part cat, but yeah, I can see how being compared to you would be insulting.”
Ahuizotl gave a snarl. “Joke all you like! It shall not stop me from claiming dominion over the Sun and Moon for my own! And then not just the Tenochtitlan Basin but the entire world will be plunged into unrelenting heat!”
“You do know you're completely insane, right?”
The ancient demi-god gave a chuckle. “You know, that's what father told me before he banished me from his domain.”
“Why do you want to do this?”
Daring realized one thing that she couldn't explain. She'd never asked him that question before. She'd never questioned how Ahuizotl had gotten sealed away in that temple or what his motives where. She never even thought he had parents of any kind. As far as she knew, he'd just been some kind of evil monster that wanted to destroy things...just because.
Come to think about it, she couldn't understand what made her ask. Instinct? Curiosity? It wasn't like she'd had no control over her ability to ask before, right? So why hadn't she until now?
The several times attempted tyrant gave a sadistic smirk. “I had a dream one night. I saw an endless desert world, with myself as the only creature on an empty surface world...while father watches his precious subjects boil alive as the oceans bubble! So I thought to myself, 'I'm bored, so why not make it happen?!'”
Daring found herself a bit unnerved by a look in his eyes she couldn't remember seeing on Ahuizotl. A distinct lack of anything resembling hesitation or remorse. Combined with the beatdown he'd given Yearling, it made a foreign feeling begin to stir in her heart. A coldness she couldn't quite understand.
“...You have serious daddy issues,” she managed.
Ahuizotl shrugged. “Farewell, Miss Do! Give my regards to the afterlife!”
As soon as the creature left the room, the chains began to be slowly lowered towards the hungry sharks below her.
“Okay, come on Daring Do, let's get out of this...” she said, looking around. She carefully tested her bonds. The chains were pretty strong. She wiggled around in them, finding little give.
Her eyes searched the room as she continued to go down, snapping jaws of the sharks below coming ever closer.
She finally gave a smirk as her eyes fell upon the tether holding the rock in place. She threw her head forward, tossing her pith helmet into the air where she caught it in her teeth. “Gotta time this just right...”
She waited until she the last possible second and threw her helmet, striking the tether and triggering it early.
The rock swung forwards and smashed into her prison about an inch above her head. The rock she was bound to shattered. Now with no rock to hold them taunt, there was enough slack in the chains for her to be free and fly out, grabbing her pith helmet as she landed. “Sorry Ahuizotl, looks like you'll be staying up for a few more restless nights coming up with more death traps.”
With that quip, Daring Do took off after her archenemy.
Yearling continued her slow walk. The mine was utterly silent except for the sound of running water and her own somewhat labored breathing.
She didn't notice, but her Cutie Mark continued to flicker. To fade.
“...Water...So much of it...Daring Do looked around the cave and assumed there must be some water source above it. She silently began formulating ways to avoid fighting Ahuizotl near it. She knew better from the myths...Doesn't sound too bad...I guess I can write for somepony else as well as me...” the author muttered in a disheartened fashion.
As she continued running through the story in her head...she stopped.
“...Except Daring Do would never consider that...because Daring Do never fears for anything...so she never feared fighting Ahuizotl anywhere enough to make a conscious effort never to fight him in a specific place...and it never came up in a story because I did make that effort, so there was no reason to mention it period and admit Daring was actually afraid of something...”
Yearlings eyes went wide. An image of the water pool surrounding Atlas' statue flashed in her mind. “Oh no...”
The author turned, looking back. If she was right...her twin was about to be in a lot of trouble...but still... “...She can handle it...she's better than me...better at me at adventuring, better than me at life...she won't have any trouble...”
Ahuizotl climbed around the statue of Atlas like an ape and found a hidden lever. “Here we are...” he said, pulling it with his tail hand and causing the sun and moon in Atlas' hooves to begin turning, projecting a magical image of the planet being circled by the sun and moon, stars dotting the map. He leapt down, standing on the platform underneath Atlas. His cats were busy setting the Rings on a new pedestal a top the statue's head, leaving one off.
A spark of dark magic went between the rings and the map, sending ripples through it and causing the magic to turn to a blood red.
“Only thirty more minutes and I will steal the powers of the Alicorns themselves. Then the world will suffer under unrelenting heat!” Ahuizotl announced in his traditional over the top fashion.
Right before a whip sprang into action and snatched the Belt of Atlas from his grasp.
“Really? Huh, I thought the Pegasi announced a pretty cold winter. You gonna heat the world up with hot air? You've got plenty of that.”
Ahuizotl looked across the water to find Daring Do staring back at him with a cocky grin, twirling the Belt around her hoof. “Daring Do! I should have expected you would continue to be a thorn in my side!...Though I admit, you are much earlier than I expected. I was expecting to have ten minutes left max when you showed up.”
“I prefer to think of myself as a bramble, Ahuizotl, stuck to you and not letting go.”
The monster gave a snarl...then looked down at the water and grinned. He held up his tail hand and told his cats to continue their work. “...Well, Miss Do. I suggest you gloat while you can, because you are about to meet your doom!”
“Oh really? And why is that?”
Ahuizotl did a running leap, diving into the water...and Daring's eyes widened as a wake traveled across the length of the pool in seconds.
Water erupted and she found her nemesis' tail hand clinched tightly around her throat. “Because you made the mistake of challenging the great Ahuizotl in his element my old friend!”
The adventurer sucked in a breath of air as she was pulled into the water and Ahuizotl dove straight down. He let go and swam upwards at the last second, sending Daring crashing roughly into the bottom of the pool. The pegasus managed to hold her breath and tried to swim back to the surface, but the aquatic creature rammed her from one side in a fast pass, then from another, battering her around.
Finally, Ahuizotl grabbed her by the back of the neck and held her. “You disappoint me Miss Do! All this time I assumed you were intentionally keeping me from my element when we fought! I suppose now it was only dumb luck!” her archenemy mocked, a sadistic smirk on his face. He seemed to be having no problems breathing. Or speaking underwater for that matter. “Though it did make things far more fun to have a handicap!”
Daring Do struggled in his grip, trying to escape. Her lungs burned and her vision began to blur. She swung her front leg back and elbowed him in the ribs several times to get him to release his grip. She powered her way to the surface and took a deep breath, gasping for air...before she had to quickly take another as he pulled her back under.
Ahuizotl swam into the side of the pool, slamming his nemesis hard into wall. He pinned her forelegs to it and Daring attempted to defend herself with a headbutt, but the water slowed her movements down too much. Ahuizotl effortlessly dodged and retaliated by punching her in the stomach with his tail, trying to knock the wind out of her.
The adventurer retaliated by bucking him in the chest with both hind legs and knocking him off. She struggled to get back to the surface, but his fifth limb grabbed her by the hind leg and he swung her around, sending her crashing into the floor of the pool. He followed by swimming straight at her and flipping forwards, slamming his hind leg right into her stomach. The air was forced out of her lungs.
Daring's hooves went to her throat as water was all that she could try to replace the bubbles drifting to the surface with. Her eyes went wide as she struggled in his grasp. The edges of her vision blurred...
Ahuizotl jumped off her and snatched her by the throat with his fifth hand. He swam to the surface, leaping up and throwing her hard into the ground. Daring Do coughed and hacked, water pouring from her mouth.
“H-How...he...he isn't supposed to be able to fight like this...He...his cats...his minions...he...he doesn't...” she stuttered, eyes wide as she looked up at her nemesis.
“You know, my old friend, I assumed you knew me better after our many years of playing this game of ours!” the ancient beast stated, grabbing her by the neck and holding her in the air with his tail. “Have you been reading so many of those books you commission that you mistake me with your own mockery?”
“M-mockery? Book?” Daring asked, her lungs burning and unable to catch her breath very well.
“I do admit, I love being infamous! The tiger lurking in the dark to rip out your throat, but you seem to forget mention the best part about me,” the devil asked, narrowing his eyes and giving a predatory grin. He slammed her against the wall and pinned her there. “I don't put you in those deathtraps because I'm 'stupid,' I do it because I enjoy the idea of a slow, painful finale to your life! Of you futilely struggling as your end comes! Dying alone in the depths of a long forgotten temple with none to hear you scream! And knowing I was the one who arranged it all! And most importantly?! I don't hide behind my pets! I just like them to soften up my prey before I go for the throat!”
Daring felt that cold feeling grip her heart like a vice as she stared into sadistic, remorseless, predatory eyes. She trembled. 'What is this? What am I feeling? I've never felt this before...'
“Though I do admit, the reviews saying I was 'small time' compared to Discord, Lord Tirek, and the like is what motivated me to set my sights on bigger things than just a valley!”
Ahuizotl spun around rapidly, slamming Daring into the walls and ground before hurling her across the room where she rolled across the ground.
“What happened to the agile, cunning fighter that's given me a run for my money all these years?!” he mocked, seeming disappointed. “Put up a good fight already! I'd so despise for our game to end on such a disappointing note!”
Daring threw several punches, beaten up as she was, but Ahuizotl caught both her hooves and swiftly overpowered her, lifting her up and slamming her into the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of her.
“Still, at least I get to let you leave this life the way I'd always wanted,” said her enemy, kicking her hard in the ribs and sending her onto her back, coughing for breath. “Suffering at my hands!”
“B-But...” the battered pony stuttered. She'd beaten him dozens of times. Ahuizotl was a schemer, not a fighter. An over the top showman, not some juggernaut of a warrior. This made no sense!
“Oh, and I don't stay up all night thinking of ideas to finish our struggle! I DREAM of them! Then again, by now, I imagine you dream of destroying me as well, don't you Miss Do?”
“D-Dream?” Daring Do's mind drew a blank. No, not a blank. A puzzle missing about half the pieces. 'I know what dreams are...but why don't...why don't I remember having more than one or two?' she thought, then her mind came to another realization. 'Why...why don't I remember falling asleep most of the time? Or getting up either? I know I should, so why...why can't I remember...'
Ahuizotl chuckled. “No. You're probably too busy planning your next 'grand adventure' as soon as your previous one ends, aren't you? I don't know how you have time to write down anything between your adventures! Hehe...we are very similar, Miss Do! We both can't wait for our next chance to play!”
Daring Do flew away with the Chisel in Hoof. Another day, another dungeon. Another adventure, another victory. The world was safe again, thanks to Daring Do!
With the Rings and his Fortress useless, Daring Do knew Ahuizotl would never threaten the Basin again. Thanks to Daring Do...and friends.
And so with Ahuizotl defeated, and the Sapphire Statue secure, the world was safe and sound once again, thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do.
...thanks to Daring Do...
The adventurer's eyes widened. 'I...I...I can't...I can't remember...that's...that's where it ends...where my memories always end...every single time...Why...why can't I remember?'
“Wow! The real Daring Do!”
“The Chisel of Pygmalion somehow brought you here from one of my books...”
“You don't tell me what to do you figment of my imagination! I made you! You aren't me!”
“Have you been writing those books for so long you mistake me with your own mockery?”
Her eyes shrank to pinpricks as she remembered the books sitting on that desk. The story of how she 'got here.'
“N-No...i-it can't b-be...Could...could I...”
Ahuizotl picked the Belt of Atlas up off the ground where it'd fallen. “I suppose I can have a bit of fun with this until the time comes...”
The ancient monster put the belt around his waist and glowed with a golden energy. His muscles bulged. His bulk increased. His already muscular frame grew larger by about a foot. He loomed over his mortal foe.
He wasn't what Daring would call bulky, but Ahuizotl's new body was considerably larger, and, while still lean, his body clearly gained had a large deal more muscle mass.
Ahuizotl punched the ground in front of her, the mere impact launching her through the air without even touching her. He walked over and picked her up with barely any effort before he lightly flickered her, sending her flying hard into a wall with considerable force, leaving her dazed and disorientated.
Ahuitzotl walked over. “Hmm...” he tapped his chin. “I'm at an impasse here, Daring Do! On one hand, I'd love allowing you to bear witness to my plans coming to pass before I end our struggle! On the other...I've still got about twenty-five minutes left before then...I wonder if I can break all your bones one by one before then?”
He picked her up and stared to her eyes. “My, is that fear I see in your eyes? I never thought I'd see the day!”
'Fear? I'm afraid? But...I've never been...' Daring thought...her mind beginning to put things together. And the 'fear' began to grow worse and worse. 'I...I can't remember ever being afraid...'
Ahuizotl gave a bone chilling laugh. “Even better! This is so much more fun when they're afraid!”
He pulled back a fist...when suddenly, a flying form kicked him in the face, surprising him and knocking him back, letting Daring fall to the ground.
Yearling landed between him and her clone, glasses still on her face and missing her pith helmet and jacket. Her Cutie Mark was now more solid, but not all the way such. “...”
“You again?” Ahuizotl asked with a chuckle, dusting himself off as if he'd hardly felt the blow. He looked closer at her. “Ah! You're that public body double's of Daring Do's, aren't you?! Wanting to get an up close look at the great Ahuizotl I suppose?! Would you like an autograph?”
Yearling didn't bat an eye. A chunk of her rogue's gallery believed Yearling wasn't Daring Do for one reason: Yearling's 'disguise' of a 'shy, timid little author that lives in the middle of nowhere' didn't go well with the 'badflank, fearless adventurer' they fought. Why would somepony as great as Daring Do hide as such a normal, boring pony? Their egos wouldn't let them put two and two together, and Ahuizotl was as egotistical as they came. Of course he'd believe they two were different ponies and Yearling was either a body double that she used as the public face of her books or an autobiographer. If the two of them somehow won, at least they'd reinforced that belief to the point she wouldn't need to worry about Ahuizotl breaking down her cottage door looking for one of the artifacts Daring Do had snatched (though most that were dangerous enough for him to want were sent to the Princess for safe keeping).
The author looked behind her at her battered clone who seemed too stunned to move at the moment. 'She lost, what chance do I have?...I guess my heart isn't as smart as my head...'
Yearling charged, but did a backflip when Ahuizotl tried to crush her, evading the attack. She still found herself almost losing her footing from the shockwaves that resulted, leaving her barely able to duck under a tail whip aimed at her head. She leapt up and tried a double back kick to his chest...She might as well have just kicked off a brick wall.
She coughed, her bruised ribs rearing their ugly head again. She barely evaded another smash of Ahuizotl's enhanced arms. This time, the shockwave knocked her off her feet and Ahuizotl was on her in a minute. She tried punching and kicking him, but he didn't even flinch in his enhanced state.
Instead, he grabbed her leg and 'lightly' tossed her. Which with his enhanced strength sent her flying almost across the entire room.
She barely caught herself with her wings. 'Not good...there's no hurting him like that...'
The author noted how much more weight he had on him now. 'Maybe he's not used to that yet...'
Yearling jumped down and slid under his legs, but was grabbed by his fifth arm. However, he seemed to not know his new strength quite as well and she gave a yelp as he pulled too hard and ended up with a tuff of the hair composing her tail rather than grabbing her.
She dashed back and tried to fly, but the pain in her ribs made that difficult, the position of her body while in flight putting more pressure on them. She remained on the ground.
Her eyes fell on the water nearby as she narrowly evaded another strike. She then looked at Ahuizotl's bulker, larger form.
“...Not like it could make this situation any worse if I'm wrong...” she muttered to herself.
Yearling did a painful backflip to dodge and landed near the water's edge. “Come on Ahuizotl! All the strength in the world and you can't squash little old me?!” she taunted, doing her best cocky smirk.
“I see Daring Do isn't the only one with some wit about her, but it won't save you!” Ahuizotl charged her...and she dodged his slam by leapfrogging over him, resulting in him accidentally shattering the ground under him.
As Ahuizotl fell into the water, Yearling paused a moment to notice him sinking from the extra bulk, and quickly dashed over to Daring. She noticed the copy seemed deep in thought for some reason.
What she didn't notice was that Daring's Cutie Mark had began to smudge, like an ink drawing somepony had rubbed while it was still drying. “Come on! We need to get out of here!”
Yearling felt her heart skip a beat at the fearful look Daring's head came up baring. She shook her head. “Come on!”
The two made a run for it without another word said.
Meanwhile, Ahuizotl struggled, finding himself continued to sink. Despite his strength and affinity for the water, he wasn't used to the added bulk and had trouble moving properly through it. He simply removed the Belt and swam back to the surface. “I'll get you next time Daring Do! And your little author too!”
He turned and looked up at the projection, giving a cunning smirk. “An easy task when in twenty minutes the world is mine!”
To Be Continued...