• Published 1st Jan 2014
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Stormsinger - Airstream

After four hundred and fifty years of uneasy peace, the balance of power in Equestria has shifted.

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In Which We Travel Forward

Fifteen Years Later

“C’mon, Cob!” the teenaged filly whined, stamping her hooves against the cold. “Would you pick your mark and make the lift?”

“Hush, Ivy.” the elder of the two said, ears erect and eyes darting amongst the crowd. A chill breeze whistled through the alleyway, causing a strand of filthy brown hair to fall in front of her eyes. Cobblestone shivered as icy fingers picked their way through her coat, the off-white stained with dirt, tar, and other things best left unmentioned. The ragged cloak on her back did little to ward away the oncoming winter, but she drew it close anyway. It was better than nothing, which was what her unfortunate companion was wearing.

Ivy frowned, rolling her eyes and trying to stay silent. It didn’t last long. “I’m freezing, tired, hungry, and I’ve been out all night without any warm clothes. All you need is one more lift, Cob. You don’t have to steal Everstar’s bucking crown, just cut a purse and have done with it!”

Cob backed into the rail-thin filly, pushing her partner back as a constable strolled by the alley, wings tightly folded to keep him warm, though he wore the thick woolen coat of burgundy red that they all did this time of year. A nightstick swung by his side, stun runes gleaming in the early morning light. Both shrank into the shadows instinctively at the sight of this. Constables could be nasty if you looked wrong. The older mare glared at Ivy.

“Shut up, stay here, and be ready to move when I get back. I found my mark, but it might get hairy before all is said and done.” She winked at her charge, dispelling any lingering fears. “Better safe than sorry, eya?”

“Oyeh.” Ivy confirmed, an amused smirk on her face. She enjoyed watching Cobblestone work more than almost anything.

And with that, Cobblestone slunk out of the alley, trailing behind a group of ponies about her age, though considerably warmer and better-off than she. Doing her best to look like she belonged without alerting the group they had picked up a passenger, she trailed them down the road, looking for the older stallion she had spotted just moments ago. Smiling brightly at the constable, who nodded in return, Cob melted into the crowd, approaching the unicorn in a roundabout way, eyes firmly avoiding the purse dangling from his belt.

He was well groomed, likely either a minor noble or in the service of one himself, and wore an embroidered vest of deep green and gold under a thick cloak of the same green as his vest. It was a bit patchy, but very well broken in, and Cobblestone knew that she wanted it as soon as she saw it.

She enjoyed robbing unicorns the most, largely because of the challenge they presented for her. Her magic wasn’t exactly what most would call well-developed, but there were a few things she excelled at, among them very small and subtle spells that were hard to notice under the right conditions. This one had the confident air of somepony used to power, and lots of it. This more often than not translated to a substantial payoff when she robbed them blind.

Moving with the currents of the crowd, she drifted closer and closer to her target, who was preoccupied with a stall of pastries and the pretty mare selling them. The smell made her stomach growl, but Cobblestone shook her head to ward off the pangs of hunger. Seeing her opening, she took it.

“Whoa!” she cried, careening into the stallion and sending them both head over hooves. She watched with interest as he grabbed at his pouch, making sure it was still there as they hit the ground. Clearly, this had happened to him before. They landed in a heap, tangled up as both of them tried to arrest their sudden descent to the ground to no avail. In the blink of an eye, both hit the ground, breath whooshing out of their chests. Cobblestone scrambled to her hooves, apologizing profusely as she helped the stallion up.

“I’m sorry, sir, I’m not usually this clumsy,” she said, wincing in pain as she dusted him off. “Somepony bumped into me, and I just got knocked off balance, is all. Are you alright?”

The stallion grumbled briefly before meeting her eyes. “Goodness, girl! Be more careful in the future! Keep your eyes open in these crowds, otherwise you’ll get hurt!”

Cobblestone nodded emphatically as the stallion continued, taking her in.

“And who are you with, anyway? You can’t be more than fifteen; shouldn’t a young lady such as yourself have a chaperone? Dressed like that, you’ll catch your death of cold in no time! And land’s sakes, I can see your ribs! Doesn’t your family feed you?”

At this Cobblestone managed to summon up a few tears. They weren’t entirely fake, grit was in her eye and the collision had hurt. The hitch in her voice, though, was what sold it. “I-I’m sorry, sir. It were just an accident, is all. Please don’t be mad at me.”

The stallion’s eyes softened at that. “Where are your parents, miss?”

“Underground, sir.” Cob said, keeping her eyes averted. “Have been near on two years. Sister too, dead of pox. Don’t know why I didn’t go, but I’ve been living best I can.”

His eyes widened. “How old are you? Don’t you have any relatives?”

The unicorn shook her head. “Me ma said something about an aunt here in Crescent City, but I can’t find her. None of the foals’ houses will take me either, they say I’m too old, rightly so sir. I’m fourteen.” That last part was true, the rest being about as false as a Changeling whorehouse.

The mare at the counter clucked in sympathy. “Poor dear, you’ve been alone all this time? How do you get by?”

“I’m apprenticed to a seamstress, miss, upriver a ways.” Cob said, waving eastward. “She does what she can, but it’s difficult to keep everypony fed, seeing as her husband’s run off and she’s eating for two, if you know what I mean.”

The stallion shook his head. “Shameful. Run off when he found out, did he?”

Cobblestone didn’t say a word, just keeping her head down and averting her eyes. “Miss Stitch sent me out to buy some bread and a few apples for dinner, said we’d have a nice breakfast before starting in on work today.” She reached back under her cloak, as if expecting to feel something there. Her eyes widened as she gasped. “My pouch! It’s gone!”

The stallion’s nostrils flared. “Unbelievable! So that’s why you were bumped into!”

Cobblestone managed to sob. “That was a week’s wages I lost! Miss Stitch will be so disappointed!” The tears came thick and fast now as her shoulders shook. “What am I going to tell her?”

Quick as a flash, the stallion was by her side, cradling her. “There, there. It’s alright. How much was in there?”

“A f-full three silvers!” Cob choked out. “We worked so h-h-hard for those! And I lost it!”

The stallion shushed her, taking off his own warm cloak and draping it over her. “Oh, don’t cry, dear! It’ll be alright! Here, look!” He took out his own purse, shaking it in front of her. “There are six silvers in there. I was just on my way to the bank to get more, you can have the whole pouch, and the cloak, too! It’s a bit old, but better than that thing you’re wearing.”

The mare selling pastries nodded, drawing out two of her breakfast pies and putting them in a bag for her. “And here you are, miss. These are fresh baked, perfect for breakfast. On the house for your Miss Stitch and yourself.”

Cobblestone sniffed, shaking as she took in what was offered to her. “D-do you mean it? Both of you?”

They both nodded. “It’s only right.” the stallion said, smiling at her. “But you should hurry home. There might be more thieves around here who would love to have that money pouch. Go right back, don’t stop for anything except a constable, alright?”

The young mare threw her hooves around his neck, squeezing tightly. “Oh, thank you, sir! Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is wonderful!”

The greying stallion patted her on the back awkwardly. “It’s quite alright, dear. Hurry on home now,” he said, pulling away. “And good luck to you!”

“And you, sir!” Cobblestone said, backing away. “Thank you so much!”

She wove back through the crowd towards her alley, vanishing from his sight behind a large group of workers carrying barrels through the market crowd. Smiling to herself, she felt the heft of the pouch in her grasp and the warmth of the pastries in her hooves. Slipping into the alleyway, she sat down beside an astounded Ivy.

“You’re a regular artist, Cob.” she said, admiration in her voice. “That was beautiful.”

“I love the helpful ones,” Cobblestone replied, sliding out the pastries and passing one over. “They’re so eager to give over what they have that I hardly ever need to pick them. She withdrew from the lining of her older cloak a pocket watch, swiped from the stallion’s vest pocket when they had collided. “That plus the silvers makes it a good haul for me.” She undid the clasp of her ragged old article of clothing, allowing it to drop to the side.

Ivy looked at her strangely. “You’re giving me this?”

Cob shrugged. “Sure. I’ll sew my pockets into this one later on tonight, since we’ve got tonight off. You need it more than I do. In the future, though, steal some warm clothes.” She withdrew the other pastry from the bag with her magic, holding it up to her mouth and getting ready to take a bite before the nausea hit.

She groaned, lowering the warm pie as she felt the familiar urges rising up again. Her stomach weakly heaved and her vision blurred, pulse pounding in her ears, before she forced everything back down. The pie went back in the bag, to be saved for later. “Damn,” she said. “I was looking forward to having that warm.”

“How long has it been?” Ivy asked. “Since you last hit the Den?”

Cob thought. “About a day, I think. It’s getting worse and worse.” Her stomach did another flip, and her face turned faintly green. “Looks like I know what I’m doing tonight.”

Ivy shook her head. “You should at least try to make an effort to get off of that stuff, Cob. It’ll kill you if you’re on for too long.”

“I can stop whenever. Right now, it’s what keeps me from ripping off Chip’s head.” Cob growled. “Just because I’m fourteen doesn’t mean I’ll be heading into one of his Parlours to keep some old stallion warm at night, and hang the pay, too.”

Ivy said nothing, perhaps wisely. They sat there for only a moment before the great clock near the docks began its chime.

“Shit, it’s seven already?” Cob said, shooting to her hooves. “We’re late!”

Ivy crammed the rest of the pie in her mouth, reaching for the burlap bag containing the haul for the night and scooping the pouch of silvers into it. Picking up the cloak as well, she slung it over her shoulder, quickly fastening the clasp.

Cobblestone rose, nearly stepping on the hem of the cloak, which was sized for a full-grown stallion, not her. She made a note to take it in a bit as she fastened it and they both broke into a run, heading for the sewers and the only path available to thieves, the Low Road.

Hooves clattered off of the stone walls of the Crescent City sewers as the two thieves rushed to keep their appointment with Chipped Bit, their benefactor, leader, and all around ass of a gang boss. Turns were made seemingly at random, shouted nonsensical words heard and accepted by unseen eyes, hidden markers obeyed with ease as they wove deeper and deeper into the damp tunnels, heading for the lair of thieves where they were late for tribute.

Soon enough, the rough stone and dark corners of the sewers gave way to flickering lanterns and unevenly cobbled floors. The duo slowed from a near-sprint into an almost disinterested trot as they approached the last checkpoint between them and their ultimate destination. Unfortunately for them, this last checkpoint contained a pony who was habitually difficult.

“Well, now!” the scrawny young Pegasus colt sneered, flipping a strand of greasy black mane out of his watery blue eyes. “If it isn’t Ivy, back from up top! And Cob, too. What’s the matter, Cob? You get lost up there? You’re near half an hour late for tribute.”

“Unlike you, Codger, some of us take pride in our work and pick our targets, thanks.” Cobblestone replied, wrinkling her nose in distaste. Codger’s piebald coat was covered in some strange, tight-fitting red fabric that was richly embroidered and stained with filth. “And what in Shadow’s name are you wearing? You look like a particularly ugly phoenix in that.”

Codger sniffed disdainfully. “Wouldn’t expect you to know. They’re in style up in the Evening Court. Red’s in, white’s out.”

“And you’re going to be in the Evening Court sometime soon, then?” Cob inquired sweetly. “Didn’t know they let scum like you in there.”

The barb hit deeper than it should have, and his face contorted. “You’re calling me scum? Look who’s talking? You’re already on Father’s bad side, and he’s grooming me to take control of this gang once things are said and done.” He moved in close, lowering his voice. “Face it, Cob. You’re slipping, and one day you’ll slip just a bit too far. Then it’s a Parlor for you, or out in the cold and filth.”

Cob remained perfectly still. While Codger was an annoying little toad, he did have his father’s ear. And like it or not, she worked for his father. “We’ll just have to see then, won’t we?”

Codger didn’t budge. “Either way, I’ll be sure to pay you a visit. If you end up in a whorehouse like I think you will, I’ll be sure to stop by and play. And if you choose to get out? Well then…” He smirked unpleasantly. “No gang to protect you, and nopony to hear you scream. I won’t even have to pay.”

That crossed a line. Cob’s horn sparked with static, and a short arc of lightning jumped from her horn, hitting Codger right between the eyes. This was followed up by a short step to the side, and a sharp kick into his gut. The breath left the Pegasus with a rush, and Codger collapsed on the ground, gasping for air.

“Thanks for letting me pass, Codger. You’re such a sweetheart.” Cob quipped, stepping over the wheezing miscreant. She turned to Ivy. “You saw that?”

The bony unicorn nodded once before joining her mentor. “He threatened you. I saw. Like Chip says, ‘Beating’s fine, rape’s over the line’.”

Cobblestone checked herself, making sure she looked at least halfway presentable and her partner did likewise, before she stepped to the door and knocked on it precisely four times. She waited only a moment before the door creaked open, and a rich, calming voice issued forth from the brightly lit chamber within.

“Cobblestone. Ivy. Please, come in.”

The duo did so, leaving the door to shut on Codger, who was just picking himself up as it clicked shut. The room they found themselves in was well-appointed, with colorfully painted walls depicting old battles, and numerous desks at which a small group of clerks sat, running figures reporting the income from all of the gang’s dealings in smuggling, robbery, thievery, and prostitution. Magelights hung from the ceiling, providing a gentle glow to the objects inside, and the room smelled of old herbs and smoke. But it was the farthest desk, and the stallion sitting on the large chair behind it, that commanded their attention.

Chipped Bit was a unicorn who had once possessed prodigious strength, working as a bodyguard for the last stallion who had run the West River Gang. He had done his job faithfully and well, until the untimely demise of his employer left a job opening at the very top of the ladder. Disappointed as he was by the death of his old boss, the then-young stallion had managed to seize power by the simple yet effective method of setting fire to his opponents’ rooms as they slept. If they managed to stumble from their beds, coughing and choking, they were easy enough to defeat and were offered a position in his ever growing organization. All accepted. Those who didn’t make it out had no choice to worry about.

Chipped Bit sighed as he regarded the two unicorns. “I’ll ask why you’re late later. Firstly, why did you feel the need to assault my son, Cobblestone?”

Chipped Bit never used the shortened version of Cob’s name, which somehow infuriated her to no end. Using her politest voice, she made her explanation short. “He threatened to rape me, sir.”

Ivy nodded. “I can vouch for that, sir!”

Chipped Bit’s eyes narrowed as his horn lit up, and Ivy slammed to the ground, pinned by magic. “You need to learn better manners, Ivy. Speak when spoken to, not before. When I want your side of things, I’ll let you up.”

“Sir, Codger’s been crossing lines that he shouldn’t be crossing. I realize that he has on a good face when you’re around, but he held me up for longer than necessary when we were already in a hurry to see you, and he makes life down in the hideout more difficult than it really needs to be, sir.”

“He is my son, and if you’re letting him get the better of you, then that’s your problem.” Chipped Bit replied. “You’re strong, Cobblestone. Clearly stronger than he is, if what I saw through the door was any indication. We respect strength here. Use it.”

Cob kept her face as straight as possible, trying not to betray the anger she felt at this last remark. “I can only stay awake for so long, sir. He’s got friends, lackeys of his own. I can’t keep my guard up all the time.”

Chipped Bit shook his head. “No, you can’t. So what does that tell you?”

Cob froze, unsure. Saying the wrong thing here could have disastrous consequences. Luckily, Chip kept talking.

“It tells you that sometimes, you have to knuckle under and accept that some things are going to go a certain way, like it or not. Like your honestly puzzling refusal to consider a Parlor position. You can’t keep thieving forever, and I can assure your life in a house will be much easier than it is out on the streets.”

Chip rested his two hooves together, looking at her over the steeple they created. “And like it or not, recently, you’ve been bringing in less and less. I don’t keep useless things, Cobblestone. You’ve got three options here. Improve yourself, leave the gang, or find a new line of work here. And besides…” he continued condescendingly, looking at her. “I can tell that one day you will be very beautiful. You could stand to make a lot of money by working a Parlor.”

Cobblestone’s face flushed red as she struggled to contain her indignant, impotent rage at this. Chipped Bit knew how to get under her skin, and speaking down to her was one of the best ways to do it. Coupled with his amorous insinuations and his suggestion that she just lie down and let things go how they were going, this was enough to push her to the edge of restraint.

Fortunately for her, he appeared not to notice. His magic disappeared, and Ivy got back to her hooves, panting slightly with exertion. Cob had been under that spell more than once, and she knew how much it hurt, like a ton of rock pressing down on you all over. He opened a drawer, withdrawing two small ledgers labeled with their names. Flicking through the pages, he arrived at their current contributions. Turning to Ivy, he began.

“Now, Ivy, your tithe for today is set at sixty five percent. Turn over what you got today.”

Ivy did so, placing a hooffull of coins, a small golden locket, and a silver brooch gleaming with a blue stone onto his desk. Chip nodded as he examined what she had brought.

“Well, the coins are good, and the locket’s gold, alright, but the stone in the brooch is paste. Easy enough mistake to avoid, have Cob teach you how to tell the difference. I know you might be new to this, and a fair bit older than most of our thieves, But you should have a head for this by this point.” His horn lit up, and he pushed a few of the coins back to her. “I’m keeping a few extra to make up the difference. Don’t let it happen again.”

Ivy bowed her head in thanks, saying nothing. She was nothing if not a quick learner.

Chipped Bit turned to Cobblestone next. “Yours is seventy five percent, Cobblestone. I’m adding an extra five as a penalty for assaulting Codger.” He saw Cob open her mouth to protest and held up a hoof in warning. “Don’t argue or I’m taking it to eighty.”

Cob’s mouth snapped shut, and without a word, she turned out the contents of the bag, what remained after Ivy had removed her take. The watch, six silvers, one golden solar, a horn ring, and a small bag of copper dust fell onto the table. The haul was impressive, but she knew the worst was yet to come.

Chip nodded. “Add a two silver penalty to cover expense at the Den, and you’re left with one silver, eight copper.” His horn lit up, and out of the desk rose eight copper coins and a small paper bearing his mark and some writing. “Consider your debt there fulfilled. Give this to Sugar Spoon.”

As the pair bowed and prepared to leave, he rose from his desk. “And Cobblestone?” he called, waiting on her to turn around. She did so. “If you really want to keep your job as it is, you’re going to need to do something impressive, and soon. Otherwise, I wouldn’t give you another month before you’ll need to make some very hard choices.”

Cobblestone felt the back of her neck heating up as she turned for the door. As she slammed it behind her, she could hear the quiet laughter of Chipped Bit echoing in her ears.

The ship resting in the bay of Crescent City was a beautiful thing. Her decks were freshly scrubbed, her sails snapped crisply in the breeze, each line was expertly coiled and stowed where it was no longer needed. Her decks were a rich reddish brown, and the royal pennants flew gaily from each topgallant mast. Her name was painted expertly on the side in clear, golden script, and the accommodations for her guests were as luxurious as could be expected, given the amount of space available. The ship had stopped at every major port from the Khanate in the north to the great port of Fillydelphia to Ashtar Sharestan in the south, hosting Gryphons and Minotaurs and Celestial Dignitaries alike. They had stopped in the ports of the Quilin, where their way had been lit by red paper lanterns, and the roofs had curved gently and invitingly, and the populace spoke with the voices of chimes. They had seen wonders enough to last a lifetime, the crew of the Royal Lady. And Serale wanted nothing more than to be off the ship.

“Patience, Serale.” Libra said, resting a light golden hoof on her shoulder. “We’ll be on shore within the hour.”

“I know, Libra.” Serale said, looking over the railing at the bustling city. “I just want to get to shore soon. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen Crescent City, and I miss being home.”

Libra smiled. “I’m sure your mother will be most interested in what her daughter has seen and learned in her travels.”

“Will she be waiting for us?” the unicorn inquired. “On shore, that is?”

The mage shook her head gently, steel grey and brown mane blowing in a stiff breeze. “Unfortunately not. She is currently engaged with a delegation from Trottingham who are complaining about logging rights. They still want to cut north of the river.”

Serale sighed. “They really need to learn about bothering what’s left of the Everfree. Even I understand the dangers of disturbing it.”

“While I happen to agree with you, the ponies of Trottingham don’t really see it that way. They see resources, fuel for their economy, a continuation of a logging tradition that has lasted for four centuries at least.” Libra said, eyeing her young charge approvingly. Serale had proved herself to be an able politician already, playing the Court perfectly without being overly confident in herself. It almost made up for some of her other deficiencies.

“They know the spells to regrow lumber. Hire unicorns to come out and cast them and they could have all the trees they need to the south. The lumber guilds won’t do it, though, because that cuts into profits.” Serale was reciting this mostly from memory, her source of amusement having come from reading up on the state of her mother’s Kingdom from an early age. After all, she was to inherit some part of it someday. She idly smoothed out the front of her dress as she thought, eyes fixed on a point in the distance.

“They can’t log further west because that’s Changeling settlements, and they need the trees. North’s out already, east takes them into the Celestial Empire, and south is Hoofington’s territory.” she continued, thinking the problem over.

Libra nodded sedately. “Which means?”

“Mother will likely arrange for them to broker a deal with Hoofington. After all, they want those northern hills of theirs clear for coal mining, having exhausted the hills to their east, so it works to both parties’ advantage.”

The mage smiled. “An excellent observation. I think your mother would be proud.” A chime from the watch in her coat interrupted her. “Ah! Time for your tea, young miss.”

Serale grimaced. “Do I have to drink that stuff?”

Libra nodded solemnly, her horn lighting up as she summoned a steaming pot to her side. She had set it to brewing as they had left the cabin. It was the last thing her young mistress needed to do before heading into town. “Unfortunately, yes. It will help with the headaches, and if you take it for long enough, we should be seeing some results. It should improve your…condition.”

The mare grumbled unhappily. “Dragonroot tea is disgusting, and even more so plain. And you can stop dancing around the issue, Libra. I told you when we left Crescent City a year ago that you could say what was wrong with me out loud. Every pony on this boat knows it, and I know they won’t say a word.”

Libra sighed. She recognized the mutinous set of Serale’s lip, having seen it often while she met with the Solar delegation. “If I agree to do so while we are in harbor, will you drink your tea without complaint?”

Serale nodded. “But say it first.”

The mage sniffed. “Very well. Dragonroot tea will alleviate your headaches, give you greater energy, and if you take it long enough, your lack of magic has a very good chance of disappearing.”

With that, the young mare took the small clay cup full of tea offered her by her companion and protector, and without pausing to cool it down, drained it in a single gulp. If it burned, she gave no sign of it.

It was an odd case with Serale. Born of the most powerful magic to the most powerful mage ever known, great things were expected of her. Her birth had been wildly celebrated, rumors about her parentage had circulated among the populace, and well-wishers had appeared from all across Equestria to bring gifts to the child of Everstar. But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months and the months to years, less and less was seen of Serale Everstar. The last time the nobility had seen her was at her fifth birthday party, and even then she spent most of her time away from the other fillies and colts, choosing to stay by her mother’s side.

Most unicorns had magic by the time they were five. Almost none were without it by age seven. To be unable to even sense magic, let alone use it, at age ten was unthinkable. Aside from her mother, there were a very few who knew of this condition of hers. Her mother, her hoof-picked, trusted maids, the court mage and alchemist Libra, the Witch of the Wood known as Radiant Zenith, and the three goddesses were the only souls who knew of her complete inability to use magic.

In the Court of her mother’s Kingdom, it wasn’t just a liability or an embarrassment, it was a death knell. She would never marry a prominent House, never garner respect from her peers, never be taken seriously in Court. She would be the strange cripple child of Lady Everstar, a blot on the illustrious history of her House.

And so, steps were taken. When other powerful children were sent to the Collegia Arcana to learn how to become mages and paladins and clerics and mentalists, she was taught privately by her mother and the court mage, “for the safety of others”. She never appeared in public, but began to use rumor to her advantage. It was thought that her magic was so powerful and subtle that it could not even be detected when she was using it, and that she somehow knew how to shield her power from detection. In the Court, she was an unknown quantity and therefore feared and respected. Of course, the requests for audiences had begun straight away after she turned thirteen, the accepted age for audiences with the Houses. And so, after two years had passed and she could deflect them no longer, Serale asked her mother’s blessing to travel and meet her fellow leaders, in order to familiarize herself with them. It was, of course, given.

“Milady Serale, we have the landing craft available for you if you wish to go ashore.” the first mate said, approaching her before stopping a respectful distance away and bowing his head. “We can take you in at your leisure, miss, and your effects have been sent ahead.”

“Bellweather, you’ve been wonderful.” Serale said, all grace and charm once more. “Give the Captain my regards, and tell him I hope to sail with him once more someday.”

“I am delighted to receive them, Miss.” another voice said from behind her, causing her to jump. It belonged to a rather handsome unicorn stallion who sported a mane of curly red hair and laughing green eyes. “It has been an honor and a privilege to sail with you.”

“You’re too kind, Captain.” Serale replied. “Until we meet again, then.”

“I look forward to it, Lady Serale.”

Serale turned, face composed, and offered a hoof to Libra, who took it gladly. “Shall we, then?” she asked, a hint of a blush on her cheeks.

It was not long after that the boat had left the ship, sending them into harbor under its own power, that Libra turned to her young charge. A grin spread across her face. “Still sweet on the Captain?”

“Libra!” Serale hissed, face bright red. “Not funny!”

“If you say so, ‘Lady Serale’. If you say so.”

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