Chapter 11: An Honest Answer
"Are the Supplies alright?" Jack asked as everyone checked their packs for any damage. “All the Elements intact?”
"No damage to any of them," Twilight said as she examined her crown. "I don't think that little swim we had did anything more than soak them."
"And my guitar's alright too," Slash added as he pulled it out of his bag.
"You brought your guitar with you Slash?" Big Rummy asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Of course I did big guy," Slash smirked as he plucked a few of the strings. "Can't go long without my tunes can I?"
"Alright let's press on," Jack said. "We need to keep going."
"But where do we go from here?" Marina asked. "I've never been this deep inside the cave before."
"Well judging from what I see I'd say we'll have to go straight through that jungle," Jack explained as he stood upon the cliff edge and looked through his spyglass straight at the trees below. "If we can get down to that jungle we might be able to find a way through it and get to the seventh Element."
"But how are we going to get down there?" Applejack asked as she looked down at the vertical cliff they were standing on. "Not all of us can fly and I don't think walking's gonna be an option."
Jack then scratched his beard in thought for Applejack was indeed right, unless they all sprouted wings there was no possible way they would be able to get down there safely, the cliff face was too steep to climb down and there were no paths. Suddenly Jack spotted a gigantic vine with huge leaves growing next to the cliff face and the wheels in his head started to turn.
"Hey T-Cog," he said as he pulled off a few of the leaves. "How strong would you say these were?"
"Well judging by the stem and the lamina…" T-Cog said as he examined them. "I'd say they would be strong enough to carry 200 small gems a piece, give or take ten."
At those words a large grin spread across Jack's face, one which every pony noticed, and none of them felt comfortable about it. In under an hour Jack and T-Cog managed to construct what looked like a bunch of makeshift parachutes using many of the leaves and a few vines, and anyone who didn't have wings had to wear one.
"Now this is what we're going to do," Jack explained as he tied his own parachute on. "When I count to three those with parachutes will jump and those with wings will follow…"
"If you think I am simply going to jump off a cliff with a parachute made of leaves and vines then you are very much mistaken Mr Silver!" Rarity snapped, both out of fear of the fall and the damage to her pride in wearing such a thing. "I simply refuse."
Jack however smiled at Rarity’s statement, there was no way she was getting off that easy.
"Alright then, I guess this was another one of my stupid ideas,” he said, though not exactly meaning it. “Come over here and I'll help you take the parachute off."
Now if any pony else was told this they would have been suspicious but not Rarity, at this point she was too trusting and naïve to believe Jack's words completely, but the second she stood right next to him at the edge of the cliff all it took was one simple nudge from Jack's hoof to push her off.
"RARITY!!!" every pony screamed.
But Rarity's parachute stopped her from even falling a few feet, as she glided downward towards the jungle Jack couldn't help but laugh and jumped after her, followed by an excited Shimmer, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Marina and Gem, Slash however wasn't exactly fond of jumping.
"No way! I'm not doing this!" he protested. “Climbing a mast is one thing but there’s no way I’m jumping off a cliff!”
But Twilight simply used her magic and picked Slash up by the tail and threw him off the edge, jumping off herself afterward. As those with parachutes glided down towards the jungle, Rainbow Dash, T-Cog, Fluttershy, Dripfang and finally Twilight followed them using their wings. Twilight may have not had much experience using her wings, but fortunately Rainbow Dash took it upon herself to teach her the basics not long after her coronation and she was able to glide down towards the jungle with ease. However while most of the group felt a surge of adrenaline as they soared through the air, some weren't even the slightest bit happy.
"HELLO JUNGLE!!!" Big Rummy yelled giddily as floated gently towards the ground.
"GOODBYE LIVES!!!" Slash squealed as he tightened his grip on his own parachute.
"I am going to kill you Jack Silver!!!" Rarity screamed angrily as Jack couldn't help but chuckled at her dismay.
"You'd have to catch me first missy!" Jack laughed. "Alright me hearties, follow me!!!"
Jack then took the lead as his parachute went ahead of everyone else's, following their Captain the entire group soared over the tops of trees until they managed to spot a clearing. Soon enough every pony managed to get their hooves on the ground.
"That… was… incredible!" Applejack said, sill feeling slightly pumped from the drop. "Now I see why ya’ll like flying so much Rainbow."
"Oh trust me that was nothing," Rainbow Dash smirked. "When you wanna fly at high speeds just let me know."
"Ow!" Slash yelped as he struggled to stand up after Big Rummy landed on him. "I think I might of busted my foot."
Seeing the Dragon's distress, Marina quickly rushed towards him.
"Hold on little guy," she said, her eyes once again glowing a brilliant white. "This shouldn't take longer than a few seconds."
At first Slash had no idea what the Kelpie was doing, suddenly the pain in his foot seemed to disappear, almost as though it were literally melting away. Finally the young dragon was comfortable enough to stand again.
"Wha... what did you do?" Big Rummy asked confusingly, trying desperately to understand what was going on.
"It's simple really," Marina explained with a smile. "The living body is mostly made of water, and being a Kelpie I can control any form of water, even down to living blood. What I did was relax Slash's muscles enough to help with the bruising. Oh by the way, you might want to get yourself looked at, I think I might have found a few pieces of shrapnel in there."
Slash couldn't help but wince at that, he had hoped that he got all of that out when he lost his eye.
"Impressive Marina," Shimmer said, causing the Kelpie to blush. "I think we might have found ourselves our newest physician, what do you think Father?"
"Where…is…he!?!" Rarity growled as she finally managed to struggle free from her parachute. "If Jack Silver thinks he's going to get away with pushing me off a cliff then he has got another thing coming!!!"
But Jack didn't seem to be there in fact as every pony looked around them Jack was nowhere to be seen at all.
"Father?" Shimmer called out. "Father where are you?"
"Excussse me," said a cold, slithery voice from above them. "But are you perhapsss looking for thisss?,"
Instantly reacting, everyone turned their heads upward and what they saw terrified them. There hanging from one of the tress was a gigantic snake, though not like anyone that any pony has ever seen before, it was over thirty feet long, had scales encrusted with gems of all kinds that made him glimmer like a rainbow and had hissing yellow eyes that seemed almost hypnotic to look at, just the verty sight of him made Fluttershy faint. But what shocked every pony most of all was the fact that he had an unconscious Jack Silver wrapped in his coils.
"Let him go you vile Serpent!" Shimmer shouted.
"Ssso rude," the snake hissed. "And asss I wasss jussst about to return him to you, now I don't think I'll bother."
The snake then began to tighten his grip on Jack and ascend back into the foliage of the tree, luckily it stopped when Shimmer spoke up.
"No wait!" she yelled. "Please just let him go, we'll do anything!"
"Anything?" the snake said with a raised eyebrow.
"Anything," Shimmer repeated.
At those words an evil looking smile spread across the snakes face and he leaned his head closer towards Shimmer.
"Then ssso it shall be," he said. "But firssst I mussst introduce myssself, I am known by many namesss throughout the world, but in the common tongue I am called Truth R. Dare,"
"Wait," Twilight said nervously. "THE Truth R. Dare, the spirit of truth and lies?"
"Who?" Rainbow Dash asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I read about him in my library back in Canterlot," Twilight explained. "It is said that he was created out of all the deceit and lies any Pony came up with and thus he always knows whenever some pony lies or not, even if it's a small white lie. But he's supposed to reside in the far north, it can’t be the same spirit."
"Oh I assure you I am the very sssame," the snake smirked. "I know all that'sss in a pony'sss heart and I cccertainly know whenever they lie to me, in order for me to releassse the old one, three questionsss will have to be anssswered truthfully, should a sssingle lie be told then the old one shall become my dinner, are we agreed?"
But no pony even needed to even hesitate to say yes simultaneously.
"Very well then," Truth R. Dare smirked. "The firssst quessstion is for the scaly one, do you Ssslash consider Big Rummy a friend or jussst an idiot who you put up with?"
But hearing this question only made Slash feel offended.
"What kind of question is that!?!" he snapped. "Of course I consider him a friend, he was the first pony to ever put up with ME even when I was a psychotic little idiot, granted I eel a little sorry for the guy at times but that doesn't mean I think he's an idiot."
Truth R. Dare then looked at Slash with sheer delight in his eyes.
"A very good anssswer ssscaly one," he hissed. "That is correct."
Hearing this Big Rummy couldn't help but pick up his tiny little friend and give him a squeeze.
"Oh you DO care!!!" he said with a smile.
"Rummy!!!" Slash said as he gasped for air. "Let me go! You're embarrassing me… and I can't breathe."
Realising that Slash was indeed turning blue, Big Rummy released him immediately, after witnessing what seemed to him like a disgusting display, Truth R. Dare moved onto his next question.
"The next question goesss to the white Unicorn," he said.
"M…m…me?" Rarity whimpered.
"You have been admired from afar by someone ssso sssmall and brave for sssome time," Truth R. Dare continued. "If you knew the identity of thisss creature, would you return hisss affectionsss?"
Needless to say Rarity was taken aback by this question, never in her life would she have thought she would have to open up her feelings for someone to a snake, still she knew she had no choice and spoke.
"I suppose it would depend on who it was," She answered nervously. "I know I may seem shallow at times but I would certainly be willing to give him a chance, satisfied?"
"Very," Truth R. Dare laughed. "That is both a truthful and wissse anssswer Misss Rarity, and I am sure he who admiresss you would be too should you dissscover him."
Twilight wasn’t sure, but just as Truth R. Dare finished his sentence she could have sworn he threw her a small wink, he knew about Spike and his crush on Rarity.
"And finally," he sniggered. "The Lassst Quessstion goesss to the Princesss,"
"Bring it on," Twilight said sternly.
"You have ssspent a great deal on time aboard the Golden Alicorn, yesss?" Truth R. Dare asked.
"Yes," Twilight said with a raised eyebrow.
"But the whole time you and your friendsss were on board you have doubts, did you not?" Truth R. Dare continued. "Tell me Twilight Sssparkle, have you EVER regretted sssigning that contract?"
"Have… have I ever regretted signing the contract?" Twilight repeated.
"That isss my question young Alicorn," Truth R. Dare said sternly, as he leaned in towards her, stopping only inches from her face. "I await your anssswer."
Twilight was completely terrified at this point, she knew she had to answer truthfully but she also knew that if she did then it might spoil things between the Mane Six and the Pirates, finally she spoke.
"Yes," she said. "I have had regrets, but not anymore. When I first saw that contract I didn't really want to sign it, especially since we were signing it in magical ink, the only reason I did sign was because I believed it was the only option to protect my friends from a group of vicious pirates. Since then I regretted doing so because I feared the worst for them and I didn't want to spend any more time on the sea than I already have. But over time I grew to care for every pony just as much as I would my own friends, every one of them suffered in their lives and it was not my place to judge them based on appearance, I may have learnt that lesson a while ago but sometimes I do need reminding. Do I have regrets about signing that contract? Not anymore."
Every pony then looked at her nervously while Truth R. Dare simply smiled.
"Well sssaid Twilight, " he said. "An anssswer worthy of royalty, congradulationsss, the old one isss yoursss!"
And with that he threw Jack right towards them with a whip like motion, sending him crashing into Big Rummy with full force.
"Ugh…what…what happened?" Jack groaned as he regained consciousness.
"It would appear that you travel with an honessst group Jack Sssilver," Truth R. Dare smirked. "And it isss becaussse of that you all may now move on,"
"Wait, what do you mean we MAY move on?" T-cog asked.
"Was zis one of ze challenges?" Gem added.
But Truth R. Dare only laughed.
"Thossse who lie will sssuffer and fail, but thossse with honesssty will win and with the ssseventh shall be sssetting sssail."
Those were the last words Truth R. Dare spoke before his entire body suddenly began to dissolve and fade into smoke, and in a matter of moments he was gone, leaving nothing but an eerie laugh echoing through the air. It was only then Fluttershy began to regain consciousness too.
"Um… what did I miss?" she asked.
"Something I hope doesn't happen twice," Shimmer said with a shudder. "Are you alright father?"
"A little sore around the ribs but I'll be fine," Jack answered as Shimmer helped him to his hooves.
"So where do we go from here?" Applejack asked.
But before Jack could say another word Pinkie Pie suddenly pointed something out.
"Hey maybe we should go down those stairs there!" she said in her usuall cheerful tone.
Everyone then turned and saw what Pinkie Pie was talking about, there just only a few feet from them was indeed a set of stairs, stairs that led downward into the ground, stairs that weren't even there a few seconds ago.
"Where the heck did they come from?" Dripfang asked.
"I don't know," Jack said. "But I have a feeling that we're going to have to go down there."
Needless to say every pony moaned at the very suggestion of the idea but since they were all used to Jack's crazy ideas by now, they followed Jack down the spiral staircase. As they all carefully climbed down each stone step away from the green light above and into the darkness, Twilight couldn't help but feel awkward due to the answer she gave Truth R. Dare.
"Did you mean what you said?" Shimmer asked her. "Did you really have regrets about signing that contract?"
"Like I told Truth R. Dare, I don't anymore." Twilight explained. "Look, I hope this doesn't change anything…"
"Twilight, why would it change anything?" Shimmer said with a smile. "Every pony has had those doubts when they first join the crew, heck it took Dripfang a month before he was able to even warm up to my Father, trust me Twilight if I let something like that ruin my friendships then the only friend I would have on that ship would be my Father."
At those words Twilight couldn't help but smile.
"Thanks Shimmer," she said. "I…I'm glad you understand,"
"What're you girls talking about?" Jack asked from the front of the group.
"Just a little something about what happened with that snake up there," Shimmer explained.
"Yeah, what DID happen anyway?" Jack asked looking back at them. "What happened while I was out cold?"
"He asked us a few questions and we had to answer them truthfully," Rarity explained.
"We think it might have had something to do with that seventh Element you mentioned earlier," Marina added
Suddenly Jack stopped in his tracks, thus causing everyone else to stop too, he then turned to them with a look of interest of his face.
"Answering questions truthfully?" he asked.
Seeing every pony nod their heads to say yes, Jack suddenly burst out laughing.
"By Celestia I can't believe this," he chuckled. "Jack you old fool… I know exactly what the challenges are!"
"Well what are they Captain?" Slash asked, intrigued by his Captain’s realisation.
But before Jack could say another word the stairs beneath their hooves suddenly tilted down and the group found themselves on a flat surface, in a matter of moments every pony was sliding down downward screaming their heads off, only Pinkie Pie seemed to be enjoying it.
"Weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!" She screamed.
Finally the slide came to a stop and the group found themselves being thrown off at the end, luckily they landed on something soft. As the group picked themselves up out of the strange luminous blue plant life they had just landed in, they noticed Jack was STILL laughing.
"And what may I ask is so funny?" Rarity asked sternly.
"The challenges," Jack giggled. "They all have something to do with the Elements of Harmony, think about it… we weren't able to find that rock in the middle of the lake unless we walked on the water and in order to do that we would have to show kindness to something that most ponies were afraid off… Marina! And the stairs didn't appear until you told that snake up there honest answers to his questions… do you see where I'm going with this?"
"Kindness and Honesty," Twilight gasped, for she did indeed know what Jack was going with this. "By Celestia I think you're right."
"So that means we still have four more Elements to beat before we reach the seventh," Jack continued as he picked himself. "Those original Harmony Bearers really thought this protection through didn't they? Alright shipmates now that we have a rough idea of what we're facing, we might be able to stand a chance."
Suddenly Jack noticed the shocked look on Marina's face.
"Oh dear I'm so sorry," he said as he walked up to her, realising his clear ignorance to Marina’s feelings. "I know this news must come as a shock to you, to think those Harmony Bearers would do such a thing to any innocent pony who came into that cave… I swear to you I'm going to make things right. After we find that seventh Element I'm going to do whatever it takes to help you… Marina?"
But Marina was completely unresponsive, she just stood there on the spot with the same shocked expression on her face, suddenly Jack noticed something odd about her watery body, it looked completely... solid. Laying one hoof upon her forehead Jack never in an instant what was wrong, Marina was completely frozen, from head to hoof she was nothing more than a solid block of ice.
"What in the name of the mighty seas happened?" Jack said completely baffled. "Slash, do you think you can thaw her?"
"I can try," Slash said as he positioned himself next to Marina's frozen body.
Aiming his head towards Marina Slash breathed in a huge gulp of air, however while every pony expected a burst blue flames to erupt when he exhaled the only thing that left Slash’s mouth were…
"Bubbles!?!" Slash squealed, quickly covering his mouth to hide his shame.
Much to Slash's embarrassment it was indeed bubbles that came from his mouth, thousands of small, shiny pink bubbles that to Slash tasted like cotton candy. But the worst part of it was the fact that it didn't stop, every time Slash even opened his mouth to speak the bubbles kept creeping out, much to everyone else's humour.
"Hey it's not funny!" he snapped as he saw almost everyone trying to hold back a snigger.
"I…I'm sorry Slash," Twilight giggled. "But that has to be one of the funniest things I ever seen."
"Oh yeah," Slash growled with a slight grin on his face. "Well I don't see any improvement on you Miss Limp Horn."
At first Twilight didn't know what Slash was talking about but then she saw everyone else's faces looking at her, she then realised something was wrong.
"Does any pony have a mirror?" she asked nervously.
Nodding her head, Gem levitated a small hand mirror from her satchel and nervously gave it to Twilight, and what Twilight saw in her reflection terrified her completely.
"Aaaaaaahhhh, my horn!!!" she shrieked.
Now released what Slash meant, her horn had indeed gone limp and now had blue spots all over it.
"Twilight what…" Fluttershy began, only to stop mid-sentence at the sound of her own voice.
But what everyone heard didn't sound like Fluttershy at all, instead she sounded like… a deep voiced stallion. Suddenly Twilight realised something, she's seen this type of thing before, looking down at her hooves she saw that they were all standing in what looked like…
"Poison Joke!!!" she screamed. "Of all things to stand in why'd it have to be Poison joke!?!"
"What the heck is Poison Joke?" Shimmer asked with a raised eyebrow.
"It's similar to poison oak, but instead of a rash, it does something...amusing to you," Twilight explained. "We encountered it once before but I've never seen it take effect this fast."
"Probably because you only encountered a small amount," Jack said. "We seem to be standing in an entire field of the stuff."
Looking over their shoulder's they noticed that Jack was right, they had landed in an entire field of Poison Joke, as far as the eye could see they saw nothing but the strange blue plant, even the few trees that were growing were completely covered in it. And soon enough the jokes were already starting to take effect. Rarity's mane and coat was once again long and ragged, Applejack was once again as small as a mouse, Rainbow Dash's wings were backwards and Pinkie Pie's tongue was swollen up and covered with blue spots. These effects Twilight has seen before, but looking towards the pirates she saw new results to the Poison Joke, Jack Silver's beard was now at least twenty feet long so he kept tripping over it, Big Rummy's voice became all high pitched and squeaky like a chipmunk, Dripfang's entire body was a bubble-gum pink instead of his usual jet black, T-Cog was now made entirely out of wood and looked like a living marionette , Shimmer had become a filly and while Gem usually had a mane that resembled a skunk, thanks to the Poison Joke she had now become one.
"Zis is terrible!" she squeaked as Fluttershy picked her up. "I can't go around looking like zis!"
"Please tell me there's a cure!" Slash begged as more bubbles burst out of his mouth.
"There is but…" Twilight began only to stop mid-sentence. "… wait, who's laughing!?!"
As they all listened to the high pitched laughter echoing in the air every pony looked in all directions trying to find where it was coming from.
"Look!" T-Cog shouted, as he raised a wooden hoof towards one of the trees.
Looking in the direction of where T-Cog was pointing, every pony saw something sitting on one of the lower branches, a small creature laughing its head off. This creature was strange to everyone as they hadn't seen anything like it before, only Twilight seemed to recognise what it was, it was something she and Spike have encounter before when she went through a magical mirror a while back.
"Oh my god!" it laughed. "This is hilarious, you guys are a riot!"
"What are you creature!" Jack snapped through his bushy beard "And why do you take such pleasure in our embarrassment?"
"Oh I am sorry, allow me to introduce myself," the creature giggled wiping a tear from his eye. "Jack O' Lantern's the name and mischief is my game. You haven't seen anything like me before?"
"No," Shimmer said in a much higher pitch of voice than she normally did. "Although you do remind of… hoo-mons was it? I saw pictures of them in one of Father's books."
“Humans,” Twilight corrected her, needless to say she received a few confused looks after that statement.
Indeed this creature did resemble a human. However this one seemed a lot different from the one’s Twilight encountered, he only stood about three feet in height, had green skin and skinning, burning red eyes and wore a strange assortment of clothes, most distinctively being the purple cape that covered the bottom half of his face and the large, purple witches hat that had a small pumpkin shaped buckle strapped onto it.
"But I thought they were supposed to be extinct," Jack added. “Plus Equestria isn’t supposed to have that kind of information in their libraries, how is it you know of them Twilight?”
“Let’s just say I’ve had some experience with these creatures.” Twilight answered. “I once traveled through a mirror in the Crystal Empire to another world with Spike and met a few of them.”
“Blimey and I thought WE saw some strange stuff in our time,” Dripfang whispered in Gems ear, instantly being responded with a nod.
While he wanted to know more of Twilight’s encounter with these creatures, Jack knew that there were more serious matters at hoof and decided to ask her about it later. Of course Jack O’ Lantern instantly kept him on focus with his ramblings.
“Well if you think I’m strange you should see my sister,” he said. “She’s a creature no one should have the displeasure of meeting, a creature so horrible it gives anyone nightmares.”
“W… what’s creature is that?” Applejack squeaked.
“She’s… a lawyer!”
If that was a joke then it wasn’t a very good one, however that didn’t stop Jack O’ Lantern from laughing his head off, much to everyone’s dismay. Even Pinkie Pie was starting to get irritated by this creature’s constant cackling. Finally Twilight tried to be stern with it and ask him a serious question.
“And what exactly are you?” she asked. “You can’t possibly be human, because they are one of the few creatures I know who don’t have magic and if you came from the other world then there is no possible way you can travel here without it.”
Twilight was hoping to get a serious answer, but Jack O’ Lantern’s smile only grew wider.
“Boy you are a smarty pants aren’t ya?” he asked mockingly as he disappeared in a puff of green smoke, only to reappear right next to her. “But yes it’s true I’m not human, in fact I am one of the few fable creatures of magic left in my world that are able to come and go between worlds as I please."
While this information was interesting, Twilight stayed on subject and asked the creature another question
"What do you want?" she said sternly.
"Oh it's not what I want, it's what you want," Jack O' Lantern continued as he disappeared again only to reappear sitting atop of Big Rummy's head. "I did notice that you are all standing in some of my favourite plants, well I have a fresh supply of the cure on me, but if you want it you're going to have to… CATCH ME!!!"
With that Jack O' lantern disappeared in another puff of smoke.
"Where'd he go!?!" Rig Rummy said jumping back.
"ZERE!!!" Gem shrieked.
Every pony then looked and saw Jack O' Lantern taunting them in the distance, only a few yards away and he was blowing raspberries and giving them rude gestures, finally Jack Silver couldn't take this green ball of annoyance anymore.