Starlight scratched a few lines onto the parchment with a feather quill, and then went above decks to see how Shadow was handling her crew.
The mare was flying all around the airship, doing a little of this, a little of that, helping any member of the crew with odd jobs. The captain, going about like a common sailor! Interesting…
Starlight now knew why Shadow was Captain; she was loyal not to her crew, but her ship, no matter which one she had. And now she knew, without a doubt that they would recover the Element of Loyalty. The captain would see to that.
The other pony that immediately interested her was the pony talking to Crabapple. Unlike many of the other ponies on board, he was tall, and well-muscled. Unusually, he was also an earth pony; but he wasn’t the cook. Instead, he bore on his flank a compass and crossed swords. His fur was also gray, but unlike Shadows, it was a light gray, and spotted with darker spots. His mane was closely shaved, but he wore a pony tail in the back. The effect was a pony of quiet power, and also one of knowledge. His eyes were brightest blue, and you could tell he had sailed all over the skies.
“Starlight, come over here, I want’cha ta meet some’un” said, Crabapple, noticing her nearby.
Starlight walked carefully, not fully used to the swaying of the Sky-deck. Once she stood beside Crabapple, she gestured to the pony.
“Starlight, this is Atlas. He knows where the Colossal Hills are.” She nodded, and Atlas bowed his head.
“Indeed I do,” he said in a gravelly voice, but not unkind. “I have flown over them many a times, and I am sorry to say, no pony could survive for long…those hills are full of all kinds of monsters, and even my friends, the Mountain goats, can barely survive those hills.” He pointed a thick hoof out west. “That way is the Town of Appaloosa. It is a rought town, but with the myself guarding you, you should be fine.”
“No offense sugar-cube, but Ah think we can handle ourselves in a ghost town” smiled Crabapple, loving rubbing her axe handle. Atlas shrugged.
“Be that as it may, I will still be accompanying you. The Captain has requested it.” He smirked. “For Loyalty, she doesn’t trust anyone.” Starlight looked quickly up in fear as he said this, but Atlas laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m not a spy; I happened to overhear you talking in the captain’s quarters. Your secret’s safe with me.” He looked up as Shadow flew overhead.
“Atlas, what are you doing? I got no time for chit-chat aboard my vessel; go below and plot a course for Appaloosa.” she said crossly.
“Aye aye, captain” said Atlas, winking slyly, and blowing a kiss at his captain. She scowled and blushed simultaneously, then flew off to help with another part of the ship.
Fletcher came up from below decks having sent her letter. She looked grim. She flew over to Crabapple and Starlight, carrying a different scroll. Before even explaining it, she opened it and began to read.
Fletcher, the town is destroyed. The villagers have been taken. They are all working in Discords mines and fields. All
our work has been destroyed. Derpy was slain; and the remaining ponies are arguing over who should be leader while
you’re gone. You need to return.
Starlight and Crabapple looked in horror as Fletcher’s eyes weld with tears. She looked up sternly.
“I need to go back.” She said firmly. “They need me; they’re nothing without me.”
“Fletcher, no; you’re needed here as well” said Starlight, not unkindly. “If you leave, we may never have another chance to defeat Discord. Can’t you just send another letter, telling them who should lead, and what to do next?”
“I would…if they listened to me in writing.” Fletcher spat. “Morons; they barely acknowledge me when I’m yelling in their faces. No, Starlight, you need to let me go and tend to my gang. We may never have a chance to recover after this if I don’t help them.” She looked at Crabapple, who backed off.
“Ah want no part of this here decision; if you feel you should go, then git.” She said.
Fletcher looked back at Starlight, who had her head bowed, deep in thought.
“Once we have finished in Appaloosa, we will return for you.” She said finally. “Good luck.”
With those words, Fletcher ran to the side of the ship and flung herself over the edge.
“Pony overboard!” one of the crew yelled, and then he and several other crew members ran over to get a closer look, and try to save the fallen pony.
“Wait…never mind, it’s a Pegasus.” He and the several other crew members resumed their duties.
Crabapple and Starlight looked out over the clouds, watching Fletchers falling form. Soon, her wings opened, and her descent slowed. She began flying back eastward, toward Everfree. The sunset on her fur made it look like she was a glowing angel, returning home.
“We may never see her again, and all our chances of defeating Discord will be gone.” Said Starlight matter of fact-ly.
“Quit yer worrying; she’ll come back. And if she doesn’t, we’ll find her.” Replied Crabapple. She turned awa from the rails and look back toward the west.
“Now, pick up the pace ya’ll” she called. “we got to git to Appaloosa!”