In the midst of the blankness of sleep an image began to paint itself in Pepper’s mind. She had just been shoved through the door of the noble’s home after the young foals had scurried inside as commanded. The blue mare walked from behind her and stopped in the center of the room stopping in front of a grand staircase and looking back at her. Pepper looked about the room for a moment inspecting the mahogany painted walls accented with crown molding with several original paintings of various fancy ponies and beautiful sceneries, the walls lit every couple of feet with candles. “Come, let me show you to the guest room before supper Miss…?” she ended questioningly. “Spice, Pepper Spice.” She corrected her host with a polite smile. “Right then, follow me Miss Spice.” Nodded the mare before heading up the wooden stairs, her hoof steps muffled by the carpet along the center with Pepper soon in toe. Once they pair made it down the lengthy hallway they stopped right in front of a closed door that the noble mare pointed to.
“Here we are Miss Spice; this is where you shall be staying while with us. I am Opal Shine by the way.” Stated her profound new acquaintance before pushing the door open and revealing the interior that was similar to her bedroom of the Dawn Legionnaire.
“Thank you very much, Miss Shine.” said somewhat admirably as she was in the presence of such a prestigious pony.
“Not a problem, would you like a fresh night gown to change into dear?”
Pepper looked down at her barmaid’s uniform with a bored expression…she was going home in the morning and she didn’t really want to use what wasn’t hers. “That’s okay ma’am, you don’t have to-” she began.
“Are you sure?” insisted Opal with a generous smile. “We have plenty; you can have this one if you wish.”
“No, really, I’m fine.” She said flatly
Opal Shine finally yielded but walked into the room, placing the nightgown on the dresser. “Supper will begin in about twenty minutes, you are more than welcome to join us.” she ended finally before turning back and disappearing down the hall. Pepper figured she should at least change out of her uniform into something more presentable just to be courteous. She walked in the room and opened a drawer with a hoof and wasn't surprised to find it stocked with various articles of clothing. She slipped out a cyan dress with magenta streaks along it and trotted to the lavatory to gussy up.
The bell signaling dinner chimed melodically through the halls of Opal's manor. Pepper Spice soon descended the stairs in the cyan dress she found before, with her hair styled in curls and her coat brushed well. She soon crossed the hall into the dining room that had a long table topped with a silk table cloth and various silverware and containers. Several ponies sat along either side of the table and there was a single seat left open next to Opal just for her. The herds of ponies were all casually conversing with one another while a hesitant Pepper Spice strode to her seat and placed herself down. After a while of conversation across the table the chefs brought out grand looking wheat grass and rosemary stew for an appetizer as all the ponies smiled with approval. Pepper may have been the daughter of a middle class family but her mother taught her how to handle herself with well-mannered company. She managed to make her way through the banquet all the way to desert which was a delicious looking apple pie. “So Miss Spice,” began the elegant blue furred mare. “What is it you do?”
Pepper hesitated at first but came out with it. “Well, I’m a barmaid at the Rusted Anvil in the western end of Trottingham.”
Miss Shine kept her eyes on her plate not really taking much interest in the conversation but trying to make idle small talk to be polite. “Oh? Do you enjoy your profession?”
“Well…not really,” she started strongly but trailed off sheepishly once she saw Opals head rise and her eyes look at her with keen interest.
“Really now, why is that?” she asked curiously, her chin now resting on a hoof.
“Umm, it’s just that I never really wanted to be an order taking mare in a pub scurrying about delivering ale. I wanted to be more of a cook ever since I was a filly but things went a bit off course, you could say.
“Hmm…” was the only comment that came from Opal as she kept her eye trained on her with great interest as if she were some kind of gem.
Supper had now ended and everypony either went home or to their rooms including Pepper. She placed a hoof over the strap on her shoulder as she stood in front of the mirror in her room on her hind legs and slowly slid it off, the dress falling into a crumpled heap around her ankles. She just stood there, a statue in the room staring at her naked self in the mirror. Of course on normal occasions ponies were always naked but from her constant use of clothing at work being naked actually felt like being naked. She glanced at the night gown that Opal had set on the dresser earlier and then figured that she might as well make use of it so she slipped it on and huddled under the covers of the bed after blowing out the candles.
Light streamed through a port hole of the ship over the large bed of the Captain quarters for the fiftieth time on their course to the promise land. They had been at sea for almost two months as Pepper lay upon the floor of the room with a leather bound journal in front of her and a snow white gull feather quill held firmly in her mouth, its tip a faded black. First Mate Spice had taken to keeping a log soon after being given her position of First Mate so she could be more organized. She hadn’t liked her job at first- well, who was she kidding? She still didn’t like her job, but she learned to do it.
‘First Mate Pepper Spice’s private logs – June 17th 1875
It has been many weeks since we departed from Trottingham to the promise land. Opal says that many have gone there and always came back with something, whether it is riches or uncharted land. I was a bit skeptical at first and I must admit, I still kind of am but this is a nice change from bar work at that Celestia forsaken pub! During the sail we’ve lost a few good ponies, and we gave them a sailor’s burial. One was Kelp Thatch, the first to go from falling over board. We tried to save him but the sharks got to him first, I just couldn’t look. Next was Reed, and his death wasn’t the prettiest. During the first month he died of sea sickness…he had been getting queasy a lot but after a while he couldn’t hold anything down and he basically died of dehydration. Last was Lebon Mire, a brave mare she was but got smashed by a falling anchor. Worst part about her death is that she didn’t die right away…
All’s well aside from those casualties, we’re still a dozen strong not counting Tracey, Opal and me so plenty of work still gets done. We’re getting closer to the promise land, I don’t know what we’ll find but whatever it is I hope it’s friendly; there’s been enough death for one voyage.’
She ended her sentence with a sigh as she placed her quill down and stared at her neat cursive penmanship. “Best I get to work; the crew isn’t going to manage themselves.” Pepper told herself hastily as she walked toward the cabin door. Once she was out a smile crept across her muzzle as she inhaled the sea air. It had become so familiar to her over the past two months almost like home. The crew was already working about, pulling ropes, adjusting sails and keeping watch as they already knew the drill but Pepper learned it didn’t hurt to throw in a motivating shout here and there. “Come on, hurry it up! This ship isn’t going to maintain its self!” She shouted throwing her usual accent to the wind and inviting a very nautical one instead. The crew did exactly that and sped it up. Captain Shine soon descended the stairs from the steering wheel and stood next to her black and white friend.
“You have gotten surprisingly good at your job, Pepper. I’m impressed.” She mused with a cheeky grin.
“Why thank you. I try.” Pepper retorted with a triumphant look.
“You know, we are almost-“began Opal Shine as she looked at Pepper but cut off as she stared into the distance with wide eyes. At first Pepper stared at the Captain quizzically, waving a hoof in front of her eyes but then soon followed her gaze. In the distance was something she hardly expected to see, especially in Equestrian seas. A few miles out, Pepper could make out a rather sizeable galleon but one feature stood out more than any other. The banner of Stalliongrad!