Equestria’s Changeling Queen and the Abyssal Empress

by vren55

Chapter 11: Into Equestria

Manehattan, the largest city on the eastern coast of Equestria, home of Bridleway and the Equestrian Fashion Week. Aside from being a centre of culture, the city was a major commerce centre and trading port. The docks and piers were always filled with ships from up and down the Equestrian coast and some from ports from afar.

What most Equestrians tended to forget was that Manehattan was a major military port, despite the signs of it being all over the place. Two small open batteries sporting five six inch guns each flanked the main port, and fenced off from the main commercial section was the military section of the port.

Nestled in these slipways of the island city were the iron ribbed and plated hulks of eight different warships of varying sizes. In the orange afternoon light, one could see the carts of coal on the piers, where three destroyers were moored, their bunkers of coal being re-stocked. Two armored cruisers were also in the drydocks in the far side of the port, dock workers swarming over them. Finally, to complete the intimidating tableau was a brand new battleship with flags flying and crew at the ready.

One of the two cloaked equine-shaped figures plastered to the gravelled roof on top of a tall Manehattan apartment building had her spyglass glued to this scene. The other equine, a black earth pony with dark eyes had drawn her hood over her face and her hoof over her eyes.

“Hurry up surfaceworlder. You saw what you wanted. Let us be away.”

Brinewing didn’t even glance at her companion, and only adjusted her hooked hoof slightly so she could better support her spyglass.

“Flowie, chill, I’m working here.”

The spyglass was knocked from her hoof and Brinewing found a snarling maw of jagged teeth right in front of her nose.

“I am Ebb Flow, captain of The Empress’s Abyssal Guard! If you dare call me Flowie, Ebbie, Ebs, Flows, Flower, or any mutilation of my name I will disembowel you and feast on your guts as you watch.”

Brinewing swallowed but managed a crooked grin. “Okay. Can I just call you, Flow?”

The kelpie’s eyes briefly narrowed at Brinewing, but she sighed and stepped back. “That is acceptable. May we go now?”

Shaking her head, Brinewing took her notepad and used her good hoof to jot down a few things. “Fraid not, Flow. Got to write down all this for your dear Empress or it’s off with my head.”

Flow’s white-fanged sneer could be seen even in the darkness of her hood. “If this is all the “vital information” you can come up with, then I doubt she will be keeping you for too long, pirate.”

“Oh? And why do you say that?” asked the pirate.

The kelpie had a rather smug grin on her face as she adjusted her cloak. “You know of the fate of the Griffon fleet. You know what happened to your fellow foolish pirate lords.” — Brinewing’s lip twitched at that, but she didn’t move otherwise— “You know we rule the seas.”

“True…” Brinewing then grinned as she pointed at the harbour, “But did you know the Equestrians can build one of those every ten months?”

Flow snorted, not even looking. “You mean one of the small ships? How laughable.”

“I meant the biggest one.”

To Flow’s credit, she didn’t do the take-back that Brinewing expected her to do. She merely pulled herself up next to Brinewing, her eyes glued on the battleship.

“We are talking about the same ship that has that prince inspecting the crew, is that right?” asked Flow.

Brinewing nodded, her spyglass on the perfectly chiseled features of Prince Blueblood as he walked past the uniformed crewmembers assembled on the Llamrei-class battleship. She wondered how much the Equestrians would pay for Blueblood if she took him hostage. A billion bits? That would likely set her up with a nicely outfitted ship and a good crew. Or it might even set her up with a nice home on a mountain somewhere. A while ago she would have said she wanted an island, but in recent circumstances...

“If one of those… battleships you call them, can be built in ten months, how many of the smaller ships?” asked Flow.

“If we’re talking about a destroyer, those are the ships moored by the pier over there, then I guess five months. A cruiser—see that big one next to the battleship— would take about nine months,” explained Brinewing. Glancing at the narrow-eyed Flow, Brinewing grinned. “Oh and don’t forget, the Equestrians have three ports in your Eastern Sea with similar facilities at each one. I don’t think Baltimare has a slipway as large as the one in Manehattan, but altogether, the Equestrians can crank out two battleships a year. Not sure about how many destroyers and cruisers, but probably more than that rate.”

Brinewing shrugged. “But what does that matter, you rule the seas after all…”

“Don’t mock me, surface-dweller, it takes us years to grow a Leviathan to even half the size of your ships. Years of patient care and food to raise a dragon turtle. Yet you surface-dwellers can build one of those bloated sacks of steel in less than a year?” Flow shook her head, a frown creeping onto her features. “How do you know this, anyway?”

Reaching into the folds of her cloak, Brinewing pulled out a newspaper and hoofed it to Flow. Her black eyes staring at the front page, the blinked her expression blank and scowled.

“What is this?”

This time it was Brinewing that was taken aback, her eyebrows rising as she stared at her companion cum guard cum supervisor. “Wait, you kelpies don’t know how to read Equestrian? I thought if you’d be able to speak, you’d be able to read.”

The shark-like sneer returned to Flow’s features. “No point in reading when you’re confined to the darkest abyss, pirate. All we needed were our traditions, and our words.”

“Impressive, but guess I’ll have to explain this to you then,” said Brinewing. She pointed to the column on the first page. “Basically, this is a newspaper, a document published to tell ponies about what is going on in the world. This particular section informs the audience that the Equestrian Triumvirate—don’t ask me why it's a triumvirate now, I always thought it was a monarchy until that moon princess showed up— has unveiled, in response to the incidents in the Eastern Sea, a new naval programme that plans to produce four battleships, ten cruisers, and fifteen destroyers in the next year. It also announced a new weapons and technology development program and is inviting all of Equestria’s brightest minds and inventors to attend a conference in Canterlot, hosted by the REINS—that’s the Royal Equestrian Intelligence and Naval Service.”

“And how do I know you aren’t just making this all up?” asked Flow.

A weak half-smile twitched Brinewing’s lips as the kelpie’s dark eyes reminded her of her guard’s true form. “Well, other newspapers are printing the same story and besides, if I got this wrong, it’d be off with my head right?”

Flow nodded. “True. Continue, Brinewing—” The kelpie suddenly snarled as she stared down. “Are those changelings training alongside ponies?”

Brinewing scrambled to her hooves and pointed her spyglass in the direction where the kelpie was looking at. It was the Manehattan parade fields. Gone were the ceremonial flags and gaudy armor though. Instead, two companies of ponies in dark green uniforms and steel cuirasses fought two companies of changelings in dark blue laminated chitin armor. Both sides were armed with foam practice weapons that were soaked with paint so to leave a “kill” mark on the opponent. Referees, changeling and pony, with white bands around their right forelegs, watched the match closely, pulling out the odd changeling or guard that weren’t obeying the rules.

The fighting was actually quite fierce for a practice battle and the amount of rising dust obscured Brinewing’s sight. The ponies, probably of the Manehattan Rangers if Brinewing remembered correctly, were giving as good as they got, fighting in a tight circle formation with pegasi covering their skyward flank. The changelings were responding by darting in and out, trying to pick at the formation of ponies.

The pirate couldn’t miss the two overseeing the exercise though and she swallowed. Turning to flow, she gave the spyglass to the kelpie.

“North of the field, the raised viewing platform, look at the occupants,” instructed Brinewing.

Flow frowned and looked into the spyglass, directing her gaze up to the platform. Brinewing couldn’t quite tell if the kelpie was alarmed or not, but she definitely saw her stiffen.

For Princess Luna, and a changeling queen were overseeing the war game, the two whispering to one another in hushed tones. What impressed Brinewing more was that when she had peered through the spyglass was the fact that behind the pair, the changelings and ponies in the viewing platform had also been discussing the battle as it occurred. One of these changelings was probably a queen, almost as tall as the one talking to Luna. Brinewing had lingered on that changeling for a bit longer than she should have. For while the changeling queen in question had terrible burn injuries on her left side, and was missing a leg, she wore a wondrously polished clockwork leg. Brinewing had been wondering how much she might need to buy herself one of those.

“Changelings and ponies practicing with one another… we’ve heard of their collaboration from you and your fellow pirate lords, but to think they are working together to this extent…”

“Yeah. I heard of some big changeling-pony non-aggression treaty that occurred several months ago, but I didn’t expect this. It's like the ponies and changelings are suddenly cushy with one another,” remarked Brinewing.

Flow nodded, took her eye away from the spyglass and made sure her hood was over her head. “I want a closer look at those ships.”

Brinewing shrugged and swept on her new, wide-brimmed hat with a black feather in it, which she had nicked from some fat hat seller. “Fine by me.”

Slowly crunching over gravel, the pair trotted over to the roof door and into the building. They wisely took the lift down only to the second floor, using the emergency staircase to get to the ground floor in order to leave the building unnoticed.

It was the afternoon rush hour, the busiest time of the day, so Brinewing was aware that they would attract little attention. Even if Flow had her hood drawn over her head like a spectre, the Manehattan ponies just assumed that she was a recluse.

Attempting to hide her hook leg was a bit more of a hassle. Brinewing did come up with a solution though. Opening her saddlebag, the pirate fished a set of leather sea boots, looted from the ruins of Port Royale, and put them on. Now her hooked hoof was indistinguishable from the others.

And so the pair plunged into the morning rush hour, weaving through pedestrians and traffic as Brinewing led the way to the slipways.

That was when Brinewing spotted something, or more correctly, someponies interesting.

“Oh ho ho, would you look at that,” said Brinewing, eyes wide, though not turning her head lest she attract attention to herself.

“Look at wh—” Brinewing nudged the kelpie, hard, making Flow glare at Brinewing.

“Through the corner of your eye, Flow. Don’t want them to know we’re observing them,” said Brinewing in a hushed voice.

“At what, surfaceworlder?” growled Flow.

“The Elements of Harmony!” whispered Brinewing.

Sure enough, Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and even Spike were in Manehattan, trotting through the streets as they enjoyed the sights of the city.

That got Flow interested. “The mares who defeated the nightmare princess and the chaos god?”

Brinewing nodded so rapidly, her head resembled a bobble-head for a moment. “Precisely. Think of the ransom I could get if I could capture even one of them! Three billion bits? Nah, probably that would be the price of two. But hmm, if I took Celestia’s student Twilight Sparkle…”

“An amusing line of thought, Brinewing, but impractical,” said Flow.

The pirate rolled her eyes. “A mare can dream.”

“Dream of spiriting the elements away on that ship you don't have with changeling and pony guards nearby looking for live practice? Besides, you don’t have any place to take the Elements of Harmony away to if you do take them hostage,” pointed out Flow as she watched the Elements canter down the Manehattan street.

The look Brinewing sent at Flow was not very amused at all. “And whose fault was that, Ebb Flow?”

“The fault of the pirates who went back on their agreement with our Empress,” replied Flow, smirking in what Brinewing thought was an infuriatingly self-satisfying manner.

“Well how was I supposed to know all the hooey your compatriot was spouting was actually true!” groaned Brinewing.

“Perhaps… Do you think the Equestrians will use the elements against our Empress?” asked Flow regarding the six mares who were gradually drawing away from them.

Shaking her head, Brinewing tore her eyes from the big juicy cash bags and trotted onward. “Nah. I don’t think Celestia will risk her student on the seas. Especially not after what you kelpies did to the Griffon fleet.”

Flow chuckled. “Indeed. Though perhaps… considering the opportunity we have here, maybe we should eliminate them before they become an issue.”

Suddenly, Brinewing grabbed the kelpie’s cloak with her teeth and dragged her into an alleyway. Ebb glared at Brinewing as she did so, but did nothing until the pirate spun around to face her.

“If you kill the Elements, you would have killed two time saviors of the World, not just Equestria. Every single nation, not just Equestria and Griffonia, will be after your heads. If you take that step Equestria will not hesitate to absolutely exterminate your race,” said Brinewing, her eyes narrowed.

Flow was unconvinced. “We're used to it. We've already faced one fight against extermination and won.”

“I know that, but your Empress ordered us to scout, not to escalate the war to encompass the entire world! We’re talking about more ships, more soldiers and you’ve seen how many ships they can build!”

Despite the darkness provided by Flow’s hood, Brinewing could see kelpie’s eyes narrow slightly.

“They still cannot invade us,” pointed out Flow.

“That is still a lot of enemies you can do without,” replied Brinewing.

Flow nodded. “True; perhaps it might be prudent not to escalate this war without consulting the Empress.”

Brinewing nodded. “Fine with me, now let’s move.”

Although the entry into the slipway itself was fenced off and guarded by military outposts, Brinewing and Ebb Flow found the roof of a nice condominium which allowed them to look down into the slipways.

“What ships do you see, Brinewing?” asked Flow.

Brinewing’s spyglass panned across the slipways. “Five destroyers in a row, there. Looks like they are almost ready for launch.” Flow nodded and she jotted down on the notepad Brinewing had handed her.

“I think that there’s a battleship, half completed in that slipway at the end of the line,” said Brinewing, pointing with her hooked hoof.

Flow looked up and saw it, a colossal skeleton of steel and plate that continued to ring with the bang of rivets. “I have it.”

“Good. Finally, three cruisers. They have just been laid down and… oh? That is strange.”

“What is so strange?”

Brinewing pursed her lips as she took in the keel of the ships being laid down. “Their hull shape. Sleeker than the standard Equestrian armored cruiser, and longer. Looks like they are using a new design. No hull ram. I wonder what kind of guns and weapons are they going to fit on it?”

“I wonder indeed. Can you figure that out?” asked Flow.

Brinewing considered that idea for a moment and thought about how hard it would be to break into the REINS headquarters. Faster than a pirate out of an ambush, Brinewing tossed the idea.

“Would have to get access to the Equestrian blueprints and considering I’m supposed to be dead, I think I’d rather not risk it.”

“You raise a very good point, Captain. When will the cruisers be completed?”

“By my estimate, about eleven months considering the new design.” Brinewing packed away her spyglass and dropped it into her backpack. “We’re done here. Let’s get back to your empress.”

As Brinewing waltzed toward the exit of the building though, Flow grabbed her cloak and stopped her.

“Not so fast, pirate. We’re headed to the other two ports you mentioned.”

Brinewing frowned. “Alright, how do we get there?”

“By water of course!”

Brinewing’s stomach sank as she recalled the turbulent journey she had made underwater, being dragged by kelpies at a speed that made her squirm. Oh she could breathe, thanks to some weird water magic, and her clothing and supplies were all sealed away in water-proofed sharkskin bags, but that had not been fun.

At least it hadn’t been as bad as the first time she had been dragged into the water. The feeling of those cold tentacles on her fur, wrapping around her barrel and over her wings and mouth… She did not want to repeat that experience.

“A Thousand Blistering Blue Barnacles,” muttered Brinewing.

Flow glanced at the pirate. “Those taste rather good actually. Very crunchy.”

It was now Brinewing's turn to glance at Flow. “Huh, interesting.”

Which was pretty much the only phrase Brinewing could use to describe her experience of working for the kelpies. Whatever was going to happen next, the pirate was quite sure the Eastern Seas would never be the same again.

Author’s Note: Brinewing for Pirate Queen! Vote Brinewing for Pirate Queen! Not that you have a choice in the matter.