Chapter 4: Barbossa is Hungry
“Well, that failed miserably...”
Pushing against the ground below her, Twilight groaned as she stood up at the river’s edge. It wasn't deep, but the water wasn't her problem. She winced again as she felt a pain at her sides.
“Great.” Her ribs hurt, she was cold, and she her mane was dirty. Thank Celestia she'd dropped the books beforehoof. It would have awful if they'd got ruined.
“Twilight?! Are...are you okay?” Fluttershy was rubbing her hoofs over her eyes, sniffling and rubbing away her tears as she loomed over her purple friend.
“I guess. I think he broke some ribs though.” Fluttershy's face dropped, her emotional state fading in favour of a more worried one.
“Should I get help?!”
“No. I can fix some broken ribs...” Slowly trotting out of the drink, she paused to levitate the water from her fur. Her horn gave of a faint magenta glow, causing steam to miraculously emanate from her body, the dirt and grime going with it. Giving herself a once over, as well as a swift shake, he turned to her friend.
“Did you see which way he went?” Not that it mattered. He was probably too far away for them to catch him anyway. Not that she was particularly in the mood to see him.
“N-no. I'm sorry. ”
“Don't be sorry. You didn't do anything wrong.” attempting to walk further, Twilight let out another groan of pain. “Can I come in? I'll need time to concentrate if I want to heal myself.”
Reminding Twilight they were heading there anyway, Fluttershy collected her friend’s books and ushered her inside. The books were heavy, but she wouldn't let Twilight carry the saddlebag with broken ribs. After slowly making her way inside, the purple mare proceeded to lie down on the couch in Fluttershy's living room.
“Oh.” Fluttershy let out a bitter sigh. “He didn't even wipe his feet...”
“Fluttershy, he was robbing you. Wiping his feet probably wasn't his biggest concern.” Her response came back harsher than she'd meant it to, but sitting there with some broken ribs wasn’t helping her temperament.
Lamenting her friend was probably right, Fluttershy dropped the heavy bag on the floor next to the couch. Twilight usually wanted time to do more important spells, thus Fluttershy busied herself reading some of the books her friends had brought with her. The yellow Pegasus often marvelled at the things Twilight and Rarity could do. The ability to levitate objects being the most desired. While she would never give up her wings, having the ability to use magic would surely be useful, especially when tending the animals. A loud cracking noise stemming from Twilight promptly brought Fluttershy out of her daydream.
“Was that...meant to happen?” She knew her friend was magically capable, but her spells didn't always go the way they were meant to. However, after a long wince and a small stretch, Twilight turned to face her.
“Sadly, yes. It's kinda like clicking your joints. I have to sort of break the rib in reverse. Kinda. I know what I mean.” She attempted a giggle. “Medical ponies use the same spell, except they can do it with more control and less...cracking than I can. It has the same overall effect though.”
Hopping off from the couch, she gave another long stretch of her body, and happy that she was indeed fully healed, she jumped up and down on the spot to prove her point.
“See? Good as new.” Fluttershy was pleased enough with the result as well; her friend was better, despite how unpleasant the resulting sound was.
Coming away from her small triumph, Twilight remembered the reason she got hurt in the first place. Going through her saddlebag, she pulled out a small notebook and a quill, and began fervently writing down what little information she already had.
Captain Hector Barbossa
Fluttershy frowned at the name, but given how he had behaved towards her, the reaction was entirely justified in Twilight's mind. He didn't have to be so cruel; they were only trying to talk to him. Well, Twilight was anyway.
“We should have a look around. He was stealing stuff from your house.” It was evident where he had gone too. Trails of dirt and muddy prints were spread throughout the cottage, only fading when they led upwards into Fluttershy’s bedroom.
Deciding to follow the route Hector had apparently taken, they began in the kitchen. Rummaging aside, it appeared he hadn't paid much heed to anything in there. He had raided the food store, but apart from a few nuts that had been spat on the floor, nothing appeared to have been eaten. Twilight continued to write into her notebook.
“What are you writing down?” Not that she minded. Despite how mean he had been to her, she was still curious about him; she hadn't seen anything like him in her life, and she prided herself on knowing about any animal she could find.
“Just anything I find, really. I mean, apart from his name and the ability to talk, we haven't got anything concrete to go on.” After finishing whatever she was writing, the duo continued through the house, coming back to the room they were in previously. Angel had returned to his cushion on the floor, apparently quite content with just lying there while the two ponies investigated the thing that had threatened him not an hour earlier. Seeing Angel laying there, a thought suddenly occurred to Twilight.
“What happened to all the animals?”
“Angel said...Hector scared them away.” At least he hadn't eaten them, Twilight thought. That would've made the situation more tragic than it needed to be. Although she wondered how he had managed to scare them away, given there was usually so many. Angel had tried to explain it to them, going as far as to draw another picture, but it still escaped them as to what had actually happened. Noting the mystery down, along with Angel’s picture, Twilight once again returned to the investigation.
Standing aside for a few moments, Twilight allowed her friend to search the room to see if anything had been disturbed. Though when Fluttershy turned around and confirmed everything seemed fine, this brought forward more questions than answers. Sure, she was happy he hadn't destroyed Fluttershy's home, but then why had he broken in in the first place?
But after pushing forward, taking the investigation into Fluttershy’s bedroom, Twilight regretted that she’d asked.
“Oh no.” Fluttershy gave out a weak cry as she saw the state of her room. While for the most part everything was fine, the same could not be said for her small bookshelf. Books lay all across the floor, as did some of the ink and pens that had sat on her desk. Some of the books were even open; showing rips and tears from where they had made contact with the hard, wooden floor. The chest at the bottom of her bed also sat ajar, with much of its contents lying around it messily on the floorboards.
As Fluttershy headed for her chest of clothes and opened it, Twilight stood behind her, not really knowing what to do. The yellow Pegasus was sniffling again, and although she knew how to cheer her up when she was upset, Twilight didn't really feel she was actually sad. She looked hurt.
“Has he taken anything?” She guessed he probably hadn’t, seeing as he only appeared to have had a book when they last saw him.
“N-no. Everything's still here.” Giving a slow, wavering sigh of relief, she closed the lid of the chest and pushed it back into place. It wasn’t neat, and everything had been aimlessly thrown in, but her bookshelf was a more immediate concern.
Seeing as it was her speciality, Twilight began levitating the books back in to the bookshelf. She made sure to show each one to Fluttershy before she did, seeing as Hector had apparently stolen one. Having replaced most of them, one book brought back a memory of what the captain had said to her earlier.
“You know, if you did like mares, like that, it wouldn't bother me or anything.” Her words came out as rather forced, but she didn’t want her friend to think she was ignoring the issue. She really didn’t mind what her friends got up to, but she had no real idea of how to respond to something like this. There was a few seconds of silence before Fluttershy responded.
“I read one book. I don't see why that has to make me a filly fooler.” Her rebuttal came back as cold and emotionless. Twilight tried to talk back, but Fluttershy just avoided eye contact, turning around to pick up some more books. Fearing she'd disappointed her, Twilight hurriedly attempted to fumble together an apology, but not before Fluttershy responded, this time with a small, bright smile on her face.
With both of them silently agreeing to drop the matter, they returned to sorting the books back on to the shelf. Sorting the last one into the place, and having mostly repaired the broken ones, Twilight patiently waited for Fluttershy to decide what one had been stolen. It didn't take her long to figure it out; she only had two books there that weren’t romance novels.
“He’s taken my old field guide.”
“Well, when I first came to Ponyville, I wanted to learn about all the animals. So I bought a field guide from the town hall, and went around looking for all them.” Twilight cocked her head to the side, trying to piece together why he’d want a book about animals. “It showed all the areas where different kinds of little creatures lived, and I ticked each one off after I found them.”
“Wait, it showed you where they were? Like with maps?”
“Oh yes. It shows different sections of the fields and forests.” Seeing as it was Fluttershy, Twilight could see why such a book would be appealing. She even seemed to gleam talking about it.
But if the book did contain maps, that could explain why it was stolen. She didn't know what reason he had for a map, but deduced it was because he didn’t know his way around the area. You didn’t exactly see many of his kind around Ponyville.
“Does it have maps of the town?”
“Maybe a few, but the book’s meant for areas with wild life.” Twilight had been to the town hall a few times, and knew it sold things for people coming to visit. Canterlot had the same sort of thing at the tourist centre, and seeing as the book was likely made to promote tourism in Ponyville, it would be silly not to have some form of town map in it somewhere.
That still didn't explain why he needed it though. Ponyville wasn't very large, and there were hardly many places for you to get lost. He could have even got a new one from town hall himself. Then again, maybe he just didn't want to be seen.
After finishing cleaning up the bookshelf and its surroundings, the pair returned to the living room downstairs. Still rather upset with what had happened, Fluttershy began sweeping up her floor. Twilight happily offered her hoof to help, levitating what she could out the door why Fluttershy swept up the rest.
With the floor clean, Twilight sat on the couch and looked over the notes she had gathered, reworking anything she had learned to be false.
She had no references to his ability to take down a Manticore, but judging from his claws, he would have no problem using tools. And while they weren't black, the tips at the end were. He also appeared to be able to walk on two legs indefinitely and without much effort on his part. He also didn't appear to solely eat ponies, seeing as he tried to eat nuts. Hector also seemed to be somewhat civilised despite his cruel demeanour, as he could read and wore clothes, although she didn't know why he needed to. He also bowed when introducing himself, which at the time seemed quite gentlecoltly.
That still left the issue of what to do about him. At this point it was getting late, and she still found no reference in her books as to what he actually was. Searching for him at night would most likely fruitless, seeing as he wore dark clothes. Spike would have more books ready back at the library, but she still doubted how useful they would be.
“We'll need to look for him tomorrow. It's getting late, and I'd rather not go after him on our own.” She needed the others. Rainbow was fast, and she would be much better at giving chase should he try to escape again, as would Applejack, given how great she was during the running of the leaves. Plus she was strong, and having a greater number of ponies would likely give Hector a much harder time of escaping anyway.
“Should we tell them tonight? That way could start earlier tomorrow.” Twilight stared at her friend, somewhat surprised at her eagerness.
“I'm surprised you want to find him.”
“I know he was very mean, but I would still like to learn about him. And he didn’t try to hurt us straight away. Maybe he was scared?” Twilight was inclined to disagree, given he had broken her ribs and hurt Fluttershy’s feelings. And he didn't seem scared in the slightest. Then again, if she was approached by two strange ponies, she would have been wary of them as well. But that didn’t explain what he’d done. She needed to know more about him to make a proper judgement. They'd found out he wasn't a rampaging monster with a blood lust for little ponies, so that was one thing he had going in his favour
“And yes, we'll try and tell them tonight. Hopefully we can get them all together for tomorrow morning.” Maybe tomorrow they'd be a little more successful…and a little less broken.
- - - -
While fate seemed to have sent him into yet another otherworldly forest, the promise of food at the other end was enough to keep Barbossa moving forward. Any kind of food would be welcome, but he would receive apples. While he enjoyed the fruit, most especially a granny smith, they were so damned expensive. Fruit was a rare thing, especially for those who sailed the seas. They kept little longer than a week, two maximum. And even then there was always the chance that when he finally made port to acquire some, there would be none available.
Apples and descent caviar were the only food he would willingly pay good money for. But not too good; while apples were rare, caviar was an expensive delicacy. But there were certain salesmen in Tortuga that procured both products, and Barbossa made it his duty to visit them whenever he dropped anchor there.
The trees leading to these apples were not thick, nor were they hard to get through. The book said that there was a set of orchards aptly named “Sweet Apple Acres” west of them. The land surrounded the town, and unless he arrived on someone’s doorstep, it was assured he would reach either the orchards themselves or the conjoining farmland eventually. The time spent walking also gave him a chance to look over the book, mainly the pages containing information on animals.
“A Manticore?” After searching through a section on the forest he had apparently fell into, he finally found the creature he had slain. While there were fewer notes on this “Manticore” than the more adorable creatures, it still had notes scribbled around the picture. Apparently it was tameable.
“I'd like te see someone try.” The brute had tried to kill him. If it could be tamed, he would willingly bow to any man who was successful in the endeavour. Or horse. It was still bizarre to think that this world was indeed filled with talking horses. His old mind had seen many wonders of the world, but it seemed this world held so much more to offer.
Almost losing his balance over a stray root, he replaced the book to his great coat, not willing to break his neck when he could simply read it later. It was in good timing too; he could see a large, red wooden building in the distance through the trees. It had white support beams and an aged, slightly damaged roof.
“A tad off course, then...” He was displeased he had lead himself to the farm land, but given they likely had harvested fruit there anyway, it would just take more effort on his part to reap his spoils. The orchards were hardly far; some apple trees noticeable beyond the wooden building. Coming closer, he realised the wooden hut was likely used for storage rather than living in, seeing as there was a whole manner of strange farming tools laying around it. It was likely an old stable or hayloft.
He thought it slightly ironic that the horses of this world were in charge of the farmland. He half expected a lowly human farmer to be tied down and grazing on grass. Stepping forward towards the edge of the trees, he finally came to a white picket fence. Like everything else in this world, it was slightly smaller than his frame was accustomed too. Not that it bothered him in this instance. On the contrary, it meant he barely had stretch to step over it. On the other side of the fence was the hayloft, meaning he already had suitable cover from the farmers.
Slowly peering around the end of the red hayloft, he narrowed his eyes, struggling to actually see any farmers. There was only two; an orange mare wearing a very nice hat, which Barbossa noted would not go unwanted should it be available, and a rather large red horse, which he deemed closer to being “normal” than the others he'd seen. They were bucking trees just beyond the field he was in, and collecting the bright red apples that fell from the branches. The orange one appeared rather strong, shaking an entire tree with one kick, but the red one seemed dangerous, apparently needing restraint to stop himself from destroying them. He made a mental note not to anger it, rather enjoying the thought of actually living.
It was only then he noticed that they had tattoos on their flanks, in the same fashion the yellow and purple ones from earlier had. They were hard to make out, but they were there. As far as he could tell, they were merely for decoration, but he wondered why they all appeared to be in the exact same location. Maybe it was a rite of passage, or simply the current fashion in this world. Either way, it didn't do much for his situation wondering about the horse’s arses, so he instead began looking for something useful, seeing as the horses were in his way of his free fruit.
Suddenly hearing a heavy grunt, he noticed the large red one had begun moving from its position under the trees, heading towards the storage shed with a cart full of apples in tow. The orange one soon followed, trotting off to the left, outside the pirate’s field of vision. The sun was setting, and he guessed they were likely heading in for the night, storing the produce before night fall to avoid it being bruised or stolen.
“I'll be sure te remedy that.” Seeing as they had a fresh harvest, he doubted they would even notice if he stole half a dozen or so. The last cart alone held enough to feed a whole ship and its crew twice over!
“Did y’all lock the barn this time Big Mac?” The barn? Must be what they call the shed.
“That were just one time, and you know it!” The bickering between the horses went on for a few moments more before Barbossa heard the loud clanking of bolts at the front of the barn. Moving to the left side of the barn, he could see the two horses heading towards a small wooden house. Compared to the cottage from earlier, it looked normal; like something one would see in the poorer parts of London. It was maybe even a little desirable. He surmised maybe not all the beings in this world were as flamboyant as he thought.
Taking his chance, he crept around the side of the barn facing away from the house, and took a gander around the corner at the lock. The bolt didn't seem that big, despite the noise it had made, but it was a still a reasonable size bigger than he had hoped. It was likely made of solid iron or steel, and wasn’t rusty enough to break with force. However, as it was facing the house, attempting to pry it open would be risky, opening it more so, seeing as it made quite an audible sound. He also couldn't muster the energy to go the long way to the orchard through the wood, having gone almost a day and a half without food already.
Not wanting to risk running passed the house, he went back behind the barn. Pulling out his sword, he wedged it between the wooden planks of the structure, twisting his blade to splinter the wood. He repeated the process until he could pull apart one of the planks, followed by another, at which point he pushed his way in the barn itself.
Sparing the many large bundles of hay, the sole use of the barn seemed to be storing apples. And they were there by the dozens; bushels and bushels of many different kinds. And one of every colour too; green, red, yellow and even orange. But everything was placed with the front door in mind, so getting through the barrels was awkward. Once in the centre, he looked at the many kinds of the fruit present around him. But seeking out his favourite, Barbossa went straight for the one filled with the bright green ones. Picking one out to taste, he was surprised by what he received.
“Delicious...” It was so juicy, and sweet, and sour. They were incredible. The skin didn’t even catch his throat. Letting himself savour the flavour, he finished the apple he was eating and tossed the stem on the floor, having already eaten the core in its entirety. “Maybe this world wasn't a complete waste of me time.”
After eating a three more of the juicy treats, he grabbed six more and put stowed them away in his pockets. Readying to leave, happy that he had enough to last at least another day, his heart sank when he heard the clank of a door and the accompanying turn of the hinge. Shoving his way over the bushels and barrels, he froze when the door finally opened.
“Ah don't see why ah should hafta get the royal galas. Big Mac were the one who forgot to bring em...in...”
Coming through a smaller door in the larger one at the front was a little yellow horse with a red mane, which itself was topped with a large pink bow. The pirate easily recognised her as one of the small foals he had met in the forest. He just stood there, half over a barrel of apples and smiling awkwardly when the little thing just screamed at him. Knowing full well what was about to happen, he bolted through the barrels, knocking more than a few over in the process of fleeing the barn. He could hear the sound of someone fast approaching from outside.
“Y’all promised it wouldn't come for me!” She was talking to someone outside; having ran from the barn crying and wailing to whoever was there. He couldn’t hear the other voice, but it was likely telling her to calm down. As much as he pitied the thing, it was neither the time nor the place to be attempting negotiations or apologies.
Not wasting any more of his precious seconds, fearful of the red one coming and removing him from this world in a manner he deemed less than pleasant, Barbossa crawled back through his makeshift door and jumped the fence. He ran towards the trees nearer the orchards, seeing as they were thicker than the ones he had come from.
“This is just not me day today...” Still running, he heard the little one yelling in the distance. Her voice was stern and angry, rather than the sadness he had expected from the wailing child..
“Ah will NOT calm down! It WERE in there! Y’all promised me! Y’all said it wouldn't be stupid enough to come ta the farm, well who ain’t stupid enough now!”
“Tis not hers neither.”
Continuing through the thick foliage of the orchards, Barbossa slowed to a brisk walk, thinking over his current situation. He had originally planned to get food, and search through the school at night, but after his run in on the farm, Barbossa felt less than motivated. The day had been long. Even before arriving in this world, the trip had been trying for him and his crew, not to mention cold. He was tired. Getting back to his own world was one thing, but falling o fatigue was an issue in of itself.
Adventuring further in the through the trees, the farm barely within eyesight of where he stood, he came across a small apple tree. While the tree wasn't exciting on its own, it was the small wooden house within the branches than called out to the pirate
Walking up to it, he peered through one of the small windows and, assured it was empty, half-heartedly crawled up the steps leading to a door. The tree house wasn’t too unsightly, being painted red and pink, but the heart shaped shutters were somewhat too feminine for the honourable captain.
Being careful and assuring it could indeed take his weight, he forced his way through the small door, pleasantly surprised of its interior. It had curtains and small furnishings, as well as some pictures fixed around the walls. There was even a crudely drawn map of the town, although it wasn’t something he could see himself using any time soon. Sitting in the middle of the floor, he finally noticed a small portrait of three horses sitting on a small, turquois table. It was the three children he had found in the forest.
“I'm doubtful they'll be comin' here anytime soon.” After the event at the barn, he was sure they wouldn't want to risk coming into the nearby orchards. Even if they did, he doubted it would be the day after they'd seen a monster nearby. But he didn't care either way. Even if they found him, the small tree house offered him a roof and a few precious hours sleep.
Taking of his hat and placing it on the floor, he made himself comfortable, using it as a makeshift pillow. It wasn't the best place he had slept in, but it was far from uncomfortable. Taking one last look at the rising moonlight, he closed his eyes, none too eager to find out what the next day would bring.