Daring Do listened to the creak of the ship and watched the fading light through the opening above. She'd worked her way to the center of the hold, where the large hatch provided a view up into the rigging and not much else. It was late sunset; the sails were awash with reddish light. That was good. There was nothing worse than trying to make a daring escape during a howling gale. If her luck held out, she might even be able to see enough stars to get her bearings.
In the meantime, there was the small issue of the crew. Daring had heard them moving about on deck, calling orders to each other as they adjusted course. They were ponies, mostly. There was the unmistakable sound of hooves moving about on the deck. Once or twice there had been a soft padding, rustling figure that had come uncomfortably close to the hatch before Daring had heard it, and she'd barely had time to duck out of sight before its shadow crossed overhead. She was pretty sure this was the one who'd captured her, although considering how little she remembered before being knocked unconscious and stuffed in a sack, it was a wild guess. She had been yanked out of a tree, though, and there weren't many ponies capable of that.
The sound of hooves on the stairs brought Daring Do out of her suspicions and into high alert. A pony had descended into the hold and was walking towards the cage that now held a harmless sack of grain captive. Daring readied herself for a confrontation.
The sailor stopped before he got to the cage. Daring Do tensed as he stood, pondering the post from which now hung only an unlit lantern. She silently cursed herself for taking her hat and her satchel. The flour sack was nothing now that she'd blown her cover so obviously. Daring flared her wings, ready to burst through the hatch and fly into the rigging. She hoped there weren't any pegasi aboard.
The pony fumbled with something for a moment. Then a match flared, and he lit the lantern. At once, the shadows in the hold changed, forcing Daring Do to scramble behind the nearest crate. The pony who'd lit the lantern looked up, no doubt at the sound of her scuffling. He glanced around, then into the cage.
"What..." he began.
It was time to act. In a single, swift move, Daring Do lept from behind the crate towards the guard pony. Her wings carried her in a short, swift glide, ending with a both front hooves to the back of the pony's head. He staggered, dazed, but clearly not unconscious. Daring moved in for a choke hold. The guard tried to buck her. She held tight, gritting her teeth as her over-sized adversary strained against her, trying to turn and make his way to the stairs. He'd made it halfway around when Daring suddenly let go. The pony raced forward with all his might and plowed into the lantern post. He slumped to the ground, out cold.
Daring Do made use of a nearby rope to neatly tie the guard's legs together. For an ordinary pony, tying knots with your mouth and your hooves is a considerable feat, but for Daring Do, it was a part of daily life. She opened her cage and dragged the pony inside. The grain sack, once emptied of its contents, made for an excellent gag in the guard's over-sized mouth.
She'd barely gotten the lock closed again when she heard the padding footsteps overhead. She blew out the lantern and slipped into the shadows behind her cage.
"Hello, Miss Daring," grated a voice through the hatch. "I see you're awake. Or is that rather, hear you're awake," he trailed off, making it more of a sneer than a question.
"Who are you? What do you want with me? Let me out!" cried Daring Do, banging the cage for effect. The pony inside stirred, but did not wake up.
"Who am I, yes," said the voice outside. "Oh, I'm the one that defeated the unconquerable Daring Do, that's all. I hope you're enjoying your stay aboard the Wavedancer. As for why I've brought you along for the ride, well, you're here to wallow in misery as you watch the ocean's greatest treasure get snatched right out from under your nose!"
Well, thought Daring Do. This one sure likes to brag. This'll be easier than I thought.
"Oh yeah?" she said. "What treasure is that?"
"Oh, my dear Daring Do," gurgled the voice. "Only the most prized possession of Poseidon himself. I speak, of course, of the Pearl." The guttural voice dragged out the last word to emphasize its great meaning. To Daring Do, it sounded more like a cart with a stuck wheel coming to a halt.
As far as gemstones went, pearls weren't really all that uncommon. Nor were they very valuable. You could make them in your own backyard, assuming your backyard was full of oysters. Still, there was no accounting for the tastes of the crazy and possibly evil. For all Daring knew, the Pearl was a shipwreck full of treasure.
"That can't be the real reason," she countered. "I couldn't watch anything locked up down here, anyway. Besides, you still haven't told me your name."
"Patience, little pony," said the voice, in what could generously be called a soothing tone. "You'll have your answers soon enough when we parade you on deck tomorrow. You'll just have to wait until then."
With that, the creature on the deck shuffled off towards the stern of the Wavedancer, leaving Daring Do alone with her captive guard. She sighed, watching the pony as he slowly regained his senses. He stirred, then began wriggling in his bindings. He looked around wildly until he spotted Daring in the darkness.
"Hush, now," she whispered. "You can wait until morning, too." The pony glared at her, but quit thrashing. "Oh, and don't be so upset," she continued. She reached through the bars and pulled out a small pile of the dumped-out grain. "I even left you breakfast."