• Published 21st Aug 2015
  • 628 Views, 163 Comments

Daring-Do and the Leaf in the Wind - Sylvian



Daring-Do, along with her friend Leaf Wind, are assigned a mission by Princess Luna. What they find may change Equestria's past and future. And, perhaps, their relationship.

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Wavedancer

Daring stirs slowly from her sleep, fighting hard to stay asleep and within the blissful warmth of the stallion she had been in the arms of all night. Waking would mean facing reality, facing the fact that they would have to go their separate ways soon, and she wishes with all her heart to deny it so as to stay safely in his welcoming embrace. Scooting forward, Daring attempts to make the last of those fleeting moments of blissful sleep, only to find that what she had assumed was there, is not.

Sleep flees her instantly, her eyes snapping open to find herself alone in the large bed her and Leaf had been occupying. Now, however, it is just her as Leaf has vanished.

Sitting up, she starts to panic a little, eyes attempting to look at everything at once to assess every potential threat in the room. Finding none, her heart continues to race as she gets out of bed and grabs her helmet, her hoof touching paper. Pausing she looks down at the note attached to her helmet and narrows her eyes? A ransom note, perhaps? Had someone taken Leaf? She’ll rip apart anypony who touched her stallion…

The instant her eyes land on the first line of the note, those thoughts vanish. In Leaf’s simple yet precise script the note informs her that Leaf was visited by Princess Luna during the night, and that he was commanded to return to Canterlot with the books they had procured from Life’s Library. Sitting back down on the bed, Daring can’t help but let her heart sink a little at the news, no matter how routine it is. The room just feels empty now that she knows he has gone back to Canterlot, and her heart feels heavier. She has never felt this way before when Leaf has had to leave to go run things back to Equestria, this feeling that she needs to get up and go after him to dispel this terrible ache.

Shaking her head, Daring facehoofs and groans.

“This isn’t any time to be getting sappy, Daring!” she chides herself. “What you felt last night was empty, he is your friend. He doesn’t want to be tied down! And neither do you!” The words taste like a lie, but she pushes it down and focuses on making that lie a truth. Standing up again she goes to the chair near the bed and grabs her vest, putting it on and looking at herself in the mirror. She straightens her vest and runs a hoof through her hair, thus completing her morning grooming. She takes extra care not to dislodge the now long dried rose that is sticking out of one pocket, it being a gift from Leaf.

Having it on her makes her feel a little better, as if he is still with her and not hundreds of miles away. Not that she needs that reassurance to feel better.

Sighing she goes and grabs her helmet from the bedside table, then goes out the door. Walking slowly down the hallway Daring does her best to not look like she feels like a foal who just got told their best friend went away for a while. She passes a few others in the hallway as she heads towards the stairs, and smiles to them, even if the smile feels forced. Feels false.

When she reaches the ground floor she just sort of stands there idly, looking around the room to see if perhaps Leaf was still there. Not that she expected him to be, but something made her check anyway. Finding nopony except the usual suspects -- the old veteran over in one corner bragging about his service during the last Griffin-Drake war -- Daring sighs and sits down near the stairs.

“Outta the way youngling,” Distant’s voice comes from nearby. Daring looks up to find the retired explorer pushing aside some poor pony as she heads towards the stairs marked ‘wine cellar’. She is dressed in an outfit similar to Daring’s with a pith helmet, a canvas jungle vest, but is also carrying what seems to be a bullwhip. She grumbles to herself as she goes to the door, pulls a ring of keys out from a vest pocket and flips through the keys using her magic as if it is the most annoying thing in the world. Eventually, she finds the right key and unlocks the door.

Distant then pulls a torch off of the wall just inside the door, lights it, and descends the stairs as if she were entering an ancient tomb. The door closes behind her, leaving everypony who has never seen this before watching the door with curiosity. Daring, for her part, just watches blankly from where she is sitting, knowing full well what the aged unicorn is up to. Having nothing better to do, and not really having the drive yet to go and seek breakfast, Daring watches the door, waiting for Distant to return with her customary items.

It takes a while, perhaps half an hour, perhaps longer, but the door opens again and out comes a grumbling Distant with a bottle of wine and a golden chalice in her telekinetic grip.

“I swear, I thought the ancients had more imagination that this!” Distant laments loudly, shaking the golden chalice with her magic. “Another bucking golden cup! Where are the tablets, the necklaces!?” She tosses the chalice over to a pile nearby of more golden chalices and sighs, “Oh well, guess one more for my pile.” Everypony, except perhaps Daring and the employees in the room, all look very confused. Distant just ignores them and starts off towards the door to her little restaurant, pausing only when she passes in front of Daring. “Hey there, you look like a filly who just got her favorite traveler's guide taken away from her.” Daring sighs and shrugs, causing Distant to narrow her eyes, “Yeah, something is different about you. Normally, you’d have tried to steal one of my chalices so you could bring it home and try and pass it off as something ancient.” She looks around and then back at Daring, “Where’s that coltfriend of yours?”

“He left,” Daring replies curtly, not even attempting to refute Distant’s words. “Luna called him back to Canterlot last night.” Distant frowns, sighs, then shakes her head at Daring.

“Right, well, that answers that.” She gestures towards the entrance to the outdoor restaurant. “You have breakfast yet?” Daring shakes her head no. “Right, then you’re coming with me. We’re going to get you breakfast, then we’re getting you on the first ship outta port and back to the mainland.”

Looking up at Distant with a confused expression, Daring stands up, “And, pray tell, why would I want to go back to the mainland right now?” She follows after Distant, who has started walking without another word. “My room is paid through tomorrow, and I just got back from the desert, I’m tired! I ache all over, and I am pretty sure I’ve still got sand in places I can’t describe in mixed company!” Distant laughs at that but continues on without saying anything until they reach the outdoor seating.

“Right, I am going to drop this baby off,” she points to the bottle of wine still in her magic’s grasp, “while I do that, you’re going to go sit at a table. When I get out, I am going to tell you exactly how you’re going to get on that ship, tired, sore and all, and you’re going to listen to me.” Daring opens her mouth to reply, but Distant holds up a hoof to silence her. “Don’t you start with me young filly. I know you’re wanting to argue, but save it until we’re seated, and having food like civilized ponies.”

Sighing Daring hangs her head. “Yes ma’am.” She then walks off towards a table near the back of the restaurant near one of the walls. As she waits for Distant, she comes up with arguments, retorts, witty banter, anything and everything she can think of to dodge the conversation and the trip home. However, when Distant sits down across from her, still wearing her adventuring gear, it takes all of Daring’s considerable will to not shrink into her seat.

“So,” Distant starts as she waves a hoof at a waiter who quickly comes over to see what his boss needs, “if I remember correctly, you’ll want a bowl of oatmeal with some honey and fruit, and a cup of some strong black tea.” The waiter stands next to the table, looking between his boss and Daring.

“Y… yeah I’ll take that,” Daring says slowly, confused as to why Distant isn’t laying into her. “Perhaps some orange juice, too? I didn’t get a whole lot of fresh fruit out in the desert, and it was rather cold.” Distant smirks and nods.

“Yeah, need to get some more vitamins in you.” She then looks to the waiter. “I’ll take a cup of tea, nothing else for me though.” The waiter nods and writes the orders down, then departs. Distant than looks back over at Daring and continues to smile, “So, heard through the grapevine you found something interesting out in the desert.”

Nodding slowly, Daring scratches the back of her head with one hoof. “Yeah, found an old temple. Lots of old books and stuff…” Distant nods and gestures for Daring to continue. “And, there was a nice flower garden, very well preserved…”

Distant smiles and looks to Daring’s vest. “That where that lovely rose came from?” she asks with a knowing smile. “Can’t say I can fault your choice of coltfriend, he knows his flowers.” Daring’s ears go back against her head and she looks away from Distant.

“He isn’t my coltfriend…” Daring replies with a slight whine to her voice. “He is my friend, and my partner. I bring him along when we go into strange wooded places. He gets to discover and catalogue lots of new plants, and I get to not eat poisonous plants.”

“Mhmm,” Distant replies, her smirk remaining. “Yeah, you certainly discovered something wondrous out in the desert.” She sits back in her seat and gestures with a hoof again. “You said Luna called your friend back? Did it have something to do with this temple?”

Daring nods, looking back towards but not directly at the older adventurer. “Yeah, she wanted us to find some books there.” She shrugs slightly. “Said it was really important, which is why she asked Leaf and I to go, said she couldn’t trust anypony else.” Daring smiles warmly. “I was really happy to have him along, I wouldn’t trust any other pony to watch my back. Not to mention the nights here are deathly cold…”

“Oh, yes, a warm body at your back is always welcome out here,” Distant says smugly, “It’s how I met Sierra Sunset, after all.” Distant then looks over towards the entrance to the hotel proper, her smile growing fond. “That, however, is a tale I can regale you with later.” She looks back as the waiter plus another staff member comes over with trays. “But, our food is here, and the pleasantries are out of the way.” She accepts the teacup on a saucer and sips it as Daring looks at the bowl of oatmeal in front of her.

“I know what you’re going to say, Distant,” Daring starts slowly, not even attempting to reach for the spoon to eat her breakfast, or towards her own tea, “and you’re wrong.”

“Am I?” Distant replies as she smiles behind her teacup. “Care to share some of that ancient wisdom you’ve picked up on your travels?”

“He is my partner, Distant!” Daring says enthusiastically, putting one hoof on the table. “It’s a relationship of convenience, we work well together but at the end of the day we’re more than happy to go our separate ways.”

“Ah, I see.” Distant replies as she puts her tea down on the table. “You two enjoy the fleeting moments, the ability to spend a night and then the next morning be free of burdens.”

Daring nods quickly, her eyes bright, “Yes, that is exactly it! We don’t want to be tied down. We enjoy our freedom too much!”

Distant nods and taps the end of her muzzle with a hoof, “Yes, I can see that. I mean, the great Daring Do hardly needs anypony to bring her comfort.” She gestures with a hoof at the restaurant area. “I know you don’t want this, the stability, the permanent place to lay your head. I guess you don’t want someone else to truly share in your adventures, too.”

Daring nods and sighs, “I just work better if I am not tied down, Distant.” She starts eating her oatmeal, the other mare shrugging and picking up her tea again. It’s silent for a few moments before Distant speaks up again.

“And, how much do you love him,” Distant says without preamble.

“With all my heart.” Daring says without thinking, having been lulled into a sense of security by Distant’s easy line of questioning. When those words register, though, Daring drops her spoon and looks up at a devilishly grinning Distant. “I didn’t mean that! It just slipped out!” Distant chuckles and holds her teacup in one hoof.

“Right, because like I said, Daring Do needs nopony.” Distant’s reply is sarcastic. “But, you’re not just Daring Do. You’re also A.K. Yearling, the young filly who ambushed me at the Royal Equestria Museum in that oversized pith helmet, all smiles and excited questions. The same filly who wrote me whenever she got the chance, begging me to tell her about my adventures, who wrote back about all the things she’d do when she was old enough.” Distant smiles warmly. “You had such a romantic view of exploration. Meeting new ponies, discovering lost worlds, lost treasures. Oh, how you used to write such grand stories about what you would do. You never did lose that talent, Daring, even if your true passion is exploration.” She sighs, shaking her head. “You did lose the romantic view, though. Reality is harsh, and digging through old ruins and navigating through traps leaves little room for trust, let alone a relationship.” She points a hoof at Daring who shrinks back a little into her chair. “That, young one, is why I am putting you on that ship, little filly. Because I saw in your eyes that same romantic, optimistic view that I saw in your eyes the first time I met you. You deserve better than living this life alone, Daring. You deserve somepony who’ll watch your back, and be there for you during the off-season.”

Daring sighs and slumps over in her chair, hanging her head. “What… what if he doesn’t feel the same, Distant?” she asks softly. “I can lie to myself all I want, but… what if he doesn’t like me like that? What if he really doesn’t want to be tied down?”

Reaching over and placing her hoof on top of Daring’s, Distant smiles warmly. “Then, you show him the same charm and determination that’s gotten you this far in this strange and crazy world. I’ve yet to see you take no for an answer from anypony when it comes to exploration. Why should this be any different?” She then leans back and picks up her tea again. “Now, finish your breakfast. We have a meeting with the captain of a ship I know will take you back to Equestria.”

Daring starts to argue, but is forestalled from doing so by Distant raising an eyebrow as she returns to sipping her tea. “Yes ma’am,” Daring says, sighing in defeat as she returns to eating her breakfast.

The food helps her mood greatly, the tea warming her up and the oatmeal and orange juice washing the taste of her lies out of her mouth. When she is finished she reaches into a pocket and withdraws a small coinpurse.

“How much do I owe you for breakfast?” Daring asks, not looking up at her friend until Distant waves a hoof and puts her now empty teacup down.

“My advice, and the food, were both free,” Distant says curtly. “I don’t make lovestruck fools pay for things. Slapping some sense into their heads and ridding the world of one more painful sight is payment enough.” She rises and looks to Daring. “Go get your things, I am going to check you out with Sierra at the front desk.” Distant then goes off towards the entrance, leaving Daring at the table.

Daring sighs and looks around, stalling for a few heartbeats as she internally debates if she should just follow orders or just go back to her room and do nothing for a few hours. But then, Distant could get a key and drag her by her tail to whatever ship she has chartered for Daring, and right now she really did not want to argue with the older mare. Standing, Daring heads to the door and towards the stairs, passing Distant and Sierra at the front desk as they talk about something or another. She gets to her room a few minutes later, unlocks the door, and sets about gathering her stuff before venturing forth again downstairs.

There isn’t a whole lot to grab, as Daring and Leaf both travel light on these expeditions, but what there is does require Daring to use a baggage cart they had stored in the closet. She then heads down the hallway pushing the cart, other guests getting out of her way before getting back to their own business. She has to use the elevator, a contraption that was not used too often back on the Equestrian mainland as it was cumbersome and not very useful for things outside of cargo hauling.

Once more in the lobby Daring is quickly waylaid by Distant, who looks her over and nods.

“That everything?” Distant asks curtly, to which Daring nods. “Good, go give your key to Sierra, and I’ll get your stuff outside and load it onto the cart.” She then starts pushing the cart towards the entrance to the hotel, calling back over her shoulder as she does, “and don’t you dally! The captain of the ship doesn't like to be kept waiting!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Daring mutters as she trots over to the counter and puts her room key on it. A large, yet graceful looking, sand-colored Saddle Arabian stallion smiles to her and takes the key. “Was nice seeing you again, Daring,” he says in surprisingly un-accented Equestrian. “I know she doesn’t show it, and would never admit it, but your visits are the highlight of that stubborn old mare’s retirement.” Daring smiles and shrugs.

“Well, glad I can give your wife a little amusement outside of terrorizing her guests and staff,” Daring replies in a light hearted tone. “You two need to come visit me, though, on the mainland. I can treat you two to a real vacation for once, instead of taking up space in this old hotel.”

Sierra nods and smiles. “I might just take you up on that, if I can drag the old nag out of here. She rarely has anything but this place on her mind.” He winks and motions with his head towards the door. “Now, get out of here before she comes back and forces the issue of you getting back to the mainland.” As if on cue, Distant comes back into the hotel and taps a hoof on the floor and scowls.

“Right, well, see you later, Sierra,” Daring says with a chuckle and a wave as she turns and starts off towards Distant. Once at the door, Daring is ushered out and down the street in the direction of the busy port. As they walk -- or rather as Distant walks behind Daring so she doesn’t get cold hooves -- Daring looks over her shoulder and smiles.

“So, how long have you had this ship booked?” she asks carefully. “I mean, you had no idea when we’d be back, let alone that Leaf would leave like he did.” She then frowns. “Or for that matter my feelings towards Leaf.”

Distant smiles and shrugs as she walks. “You're right, I didn’t know any of that.” She winks to Daring. “Until last night, that is,” she chuckles to herself. “I was up doing my rounds last night, when Sierra told me your coltfriend had just rushed right out the door like he was covered in honey being chased by a colony of ants.” She smiles and pushes Daring a little from behind when she falters at the mention of ‘coltfriend’. “I went out and knocked on the door of a friend of mine who was in port and staying in my hotel.”

Daring smirks a little, allowing herself to be pushed. “I take it he didn’t like being woken up?”

Distance laughs and nods. “Oh, he was furious, but he wouldn’t dare argue with me.” She puffs her chest out and walks with her shoulders back, nose in the air like some Canterlot noble. “I am quite persuasive if I chose to be.” She then shrugs and goes back to her normal demeanor. “Besides, I told him you’re a hard worker and wouldn’t mind working to keep your bunk.”

Daring stops and turns around, narrowing her eyes at Distant. “You promised I would work to earn my pay? I just got back from…” Daring starts, but is cut off by Distant putting a hoof to her mouth.

“Yes, I did. And yes, you will,” Distant says sternly. “I know you want to get back to your stallion as quickly as possible. And don’t you dare argue with me on that.” She lowers her hoof, Daring giving her a sharp glare. “You’ll thank me later. All you’ve promised to do is help with weather should it arise. Which, it shouldn’t, as the skies have been mostly clear between here and the port he is going to.”

“Which is?” Daring demands, “Because it better not be far out of my way. I need to be in Canterlot, not the Crystal Empire!”

Distant winks. “I can promise, my young friend, that you are not going quite that far north.” She then shrugs, “but no promises you won’t end up in some place like Manehattan, or Las Pegasus.” Daring grumbles in response, but stays quiet otherwise. When one gets a ‘favor’ from Distant, it’s best to just take it and not look too deep. If this ship gets her back to the mainland faster, then so be it.

Without much more conversation, the pair make their way into the harbor of Half-Flank. It is a sheltered harbor, with a large wall along the outside that breaks the larger waves so as to keep the waters within relatively calm. A large lighthouse also stands at the far end, its construction preceding the town, local legend even stating that it was built by the Equus Empire. Currently, there are only a few ships in port, including a Royal Equestrian Warship -- a war sloop, the HMS Nightstrider -- the rest being mostly cargo or smaller mail delivery ships.

The one that Daring is led to is a medium sized cargo steam vessel that is in its final stages of loading its cargo, Daring’s belongings presumably amongst them. A rather imposing looking griffin, wearing the coat and hat of a sea captain, stands on the deck shouting orders at the various dock workers. Upon spotting Distant, the griffin’s expression grows all the more stormy -- or perhaps sour Daring can’t quite decide -- and he makes his way down the gangplank towards them.

The griffin, upon closer inspection, is quite a bit taller than Daring. His bird half is that of a white falcon, with his feline being that of some sort of white predator, perhaps a lion or some such. Honestly, Daring has never been good with identifying felines, she only can get this far because the larger ones always seem to attack her.

“So,” the griffin says in a salt-worn voice, “this the welp you insisted I ferry back to Equestria?”

“She is,” Distant says with a smirk as she turns towards Daring. “Daring, allow me to introduce to you Captain Arkos Stormcharger.” She looks back to the Captain and motions towards Daring, “And, Ark, this is the great Daring Do, adventure, explorer, and general pain in my flank.”

Akos grumbles and sighs. “Akos, Distant. AKOS!” He then turns his attention to Daring. “So, you’re Daring? Funny, I expected you to be taller from the descriptions in the books.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what Yearling was thinking,” Daring says slowly, scratching the back of her head. “I mean, she makes me so much… larger… than… Distant stop laughing!” Distant bursts out laughing beside Daring and shakes her head.

“Sorry, Daring…” Distant says breathlessly, “It’s just so…. funny!” She continues laughing as Akos looks at her with a raised eyebrow and crosses his arms.

“Something I should know, Distant?” he all but demands, “or is this another one of those ‘need know know’ things?”

Waving a hoof at the griffin, Distant gets her laughter mostly under control before replying. “No, no, its just. When Daring gets asked about her portrayal in the books, it’s always so… awkward.”

Sighing, Akos turns his attention back to Daring. “Distant told me you’re willing to work. I have no reason to think her word is bad, but I have to warn you; I do not take kindly to slackers, nor do they have any place on my ship. You do as asked, or you fly home. Got it?”

Nodding Daring smirks. “Sir, I know how to take orders,” she looks to Distant and narrows her eyes, “even if she didn’t tell me about the conditions until a few minutes ago.” She looks back at Akos. “But I can help with weather. I don’t have a lot of experience in it, but I’ve got some training.”

“I’ll take what I can get,” Akos grumbles. “Just get on the ship, we cast off in five minutes.” He starts to turn and pauses. “And I hope you have your sea legs, Miss Do, we’re going to go through some rough waters. I’d not like the extra help being sick the entire voyage.”

Daring salutes Akos, “I do indeed, sir. This isn’t my first sea voyage, you know.” She then turns and hugs Distant tightly, much to the unicorn’s surprise. “I’ll see you later, Distant. You and Sierra take care.”

Distant hesitantly returns the hug at first, but then just goes with it and pulls Daring close as well. “I’ll try, little Yearling. No promises, you know how dangerous my wine cellar can be.” She then releases Daring, who does the same, and pats her shoulder, “Oh, and invite me to the wedding, and we’ll call us even for getting you on this ship. She then gestures with a hoof towards the ship. “Now, go. Before you make me cry in public and I have to scowl at everyone.” Daring chuckles and nods before making haste after the Akos.

A few minutes later, the plank is raised, the lines are cast off, and the great boilers below deck are stoked to life. Standing on the observation deck just outside the bridge, Daring looks northeast, towards Equestria.

Towards Leaf.

-----

Daring had been informed, long after they had left port, that the port of call for the Wavedancer -- the ship she was aboard -- was Seaddle. She had cursed Distant loudly a few times, making even the staunchest of sailors in the galley that evening blush at her vocabulary, because although not as far north as the Empire proper, Seaddle was still part of the Crystal Empire.

Even so, it was still the mainland, and she had thanked Captain Akos for taking her even that far.

She had lain awake that first night, in the small room she shared with another pegasus mare, thinking of the fact she was going home. Was this really what she wanted? Does she really want to see Leaf again this badly? A part of her told her she did, that this is what she wanted more than anything else; to go to Canterlot and throw herself into Leaf’s arms and profess to him all the feelings she’d kept locked up deep in a part of herself rarely seen by others. Another tells her that she is overthinking things, and that these feelings are fleeting and will soon pass.

Yet, so far, they had not passed. Even that first night, even with the doubts, thoughts of Leaf had made her heart beat a little faster, a little stronger. Thoughts of him and kept her awake long after the doubts had fled, and the sun had started to rise over the distant wave-filled horizon.

But, that had been two days ago.

Today finds Daring once more standing on the observation deck near the bridge, her gaze out towards the distant shores of Equestria. This time, however, her thoughts are not on Equestria, nor on Leaf. Her mind, as well as the minds of the dozen or so other pegasi, plus a few griffins, are all consumed with the thoughts of the massive rolling storm that blankets the sky before them.

They had seen it at dawn -- the dark and dangerous clouds that stretched from one side of the visible red sky to the other -- a storm so massive the on-board weather specialist had nearly called it a hurricane. He had corrected himself in that, informing the crew that it was just a tropical storm. That hadn’t made anyone feel any better, let alone the Captain. He had gathered together the pegasi and the few griffins who knew how to at least sort of handle weather, and was currently going over their options behind Daring.

“So far as I can tell, Captain, that storm goes on for miles,” the shipboard weather expert -- a white and brown stallion with a light red mane and rose eyes -- explains for what seems the thousandth time. “I don’t know if we can go around it, sir.”

Akos sighs and shakes his head. “Well, we can’t bloody well go through it!” A griffin near him opens his beak to speak, but is cut off by Akos, “No! I know what you’re going to say Fion!”

The griffin, Fion, steps forward and stops next to Daring. He is taller than her, perhaps a few heads at least, and has a dark smoky coloring for his feline half with a black bird-of-prey avian half. “Captain, I have to disagree. If we can’t go around it, we need to go through it.” He points out towards the storm with a taloned hand. “Besides, it’s moving towards us, and with each passing moment of inaction we risk this entire ship.” He then curls his talons into a fist and thumps it against his chest. “I, for one, am not going to sit here like a hatchling. Better to meet the storm head on and give all present aboard a chance, than wait and be struck down.” There is a murmur of agreement from everyone preset, which Daring finds herself adding to. The griffin’s words make sense, and she is not one to sit around on her flank as well.

Pinching the area between his eyes with a pair of taloned fingers, Captain Akos sighs, “Alright. Alright, but I am not sending you all into the storm without scouting it first.” he points to Fion. “You, since you won’t take no for an answer. You take half the flyers, and scout south.” He points to Daring, a small smirk growing on his features that makes Daring’s blood run cold. “And you, Miss Daring, can take the other half. Scout north.”

Daring sighs and nods. “Alright, Captain.” She starts off towards the crew deck, the Captain calling after her.

“And where are you going?” Akos shouts.

“I’m not going to fight insane weather in this outfit!” Daring calls back before opening the hatch to the crew quarters and darting inside. A few minutes later the hatch opens back up and admits Daring back into the open sea-air. She is now wearing her mane tied up with a dark blue headband with tassels in a loose que, and has traded her vest for a blue spandex uniform -- twin yellow lightning bolts blazoned on her chest -- that covered her entire body save for her head. Walking up to her group and Captain Akos, she taps her Wonderbolt Regulation Flight Goggles, and smiles.

“Alright you sorry excuses for flyers… Ready?” Daring asks the group, all of which just sort of stand there with their mouths, and beaks, agape. “What? Never seen a Wonderbolt Reserve uniform before?” Akos smirks from where he is sitting and shakes his head.

“You… You’re a Wonderbolt?” a cream colored pegasus mare asks slowly.

“Part time,” Daring replies as she pulls her goggles down and spreads her wings. “Now… I don’t know about you lot, but I’m not in the mood to let Captain Feather-butt’s son find a way through first!” The others all spread their wings and wait for Daring to get airborne. With a chuckle Daring launches herself skyward, her wings flapping steadily as she gains altitude. “Wish Spitty could see me now. Never lead a squad she said. Pfft, yeah…”

The group is aloft a split second after she is, and quickly follow Daring as they head towards the north. They get as close to the raging storm as they can, the winds even a mile out buffeting them and causing quite a few of the group to nearly tumble from the sky. They fly down the nearly endless expanse, searching in what soon becomes an obviously futile task. The thick wall of dark and rolling clouds extends for leagues northward, and more skyward, and is bearing down on the ship behind them at an alarming rate.

Turning her group back, Daring pushes them hard to get back to the ship before the storm catches it.

They are met above the ship by Akos’ son, a worried look on his own face.

“We couldn’t find a way through!” he shouts over the winds that are attempting to tear them from the air. “You?” Daring shakes her head in response. “Blast. We don’t have time to tell my father! We need to punch through that storm or the ship’ll be torn to pieces!”

“Well, unless you’re packing a whole lot under those feathers,” Daring shouts back over the wind as she points to the storm, “I’m not all that sure how we’re going to punch a hole through that!”

“Figured you pegasi might have an idea!” Fion replies loudly with a shrug. “We griffins aren’t known for our weather manipulation!”

Shaking her head Daring throws her hooves up in exasperation. “Right, right.” She looks around and mutters to herself. “What was it that old windbag of a drill instructor told me about this stuff…” She peers at the clouds, her eyes narrows as if she could pierce them by sheer will power…

Nothing really smart coming to mind, and time quickly running out, she looks back to Fion.

“Right, well, we’re going to need to part the clouds, I guess.” Her voice barely making it over the now raging winds. “Give your father’s ship a nice corridor to sail through!” She points to the pegasi in the group. “We’ll need to clear as many of the clouds as we can in the path. I am not sure how high they go, but don’t strain yourselves trying to clear them!” She points the griffins. “Fion, you and the rest of your feathery friends do what you can, but otherwise I’ll need you the make sure us pegasi don’t fall from the sky and find ourselves an early and watery grave!” Right as she states that, a bright flash of lightning pierces the sky, and a loud clap of thunder rattles the flying group right down to their bones.

More than a few of the group actually panic and start to go back towards the ship, stopped only as Daring gets in front of them, the tassels of her headband whipping around behind her.

“Oh no you don’t!” she shouts. “You go back there and we’re finished!” She flies towards them and pushes them towards the storm. “So buck up! Or I’m telling Akos he has employed spinless sailors!” That seems to put the fight back into them, or rather they’re more afraid of the salty old sea griffin than they are the storm.

The group heads into the storm, Daring shouting orders at her fellow pegasi as Fion and his griffins doing their best to support her group.

The winds and conditions outside the storm are harsh, but inside it is a battle for survival with every breath, every flap of their wings. The wind runs into them like a brick wall, rain and hail like knives and bullets. A few of the weaker flyers are taken out almost immediately, saved from death by Fion’s group quickly swooping in and catching them. The rest battle their way to the roof of the storm, diving through clouds and dodging the bolts of lighting that streak from them every few minutes. Daring herself, along with two others that actually had goggles, make the largest dent in the smallest amount of time, but even so the storm barely shows any signs of clearing.

They press on, though, the ship and the storm drawing closer and closer to each other. Distantly, Daring can almost hear the warning bells on the ship, the call to secure all hatches and cargo to ward against what will come. This only causes Daring to push harder, and by extension her group. They beat at the storm with renewed fervor, a few of the pegasi getting knocked from the sky by lighting, forcing Fion to have them be shuttled back by a griffin or two. Daring herself barely dodges a bolt of lighting, the charge causing her fur to stand on end, but she doesn’t even flinch.

Beside her, the pegasus mare who had commented on Daring being a Wonderbolt catches a glimpse of Daring’s eyes the instant they are illuminated by the lighting bolt. They are narrows, determined, and above all else she can see a will forged of steel and tempered by skills and experience the likes of which makes her own fur stand on end.

And Daring was only a reserve, what in the name of Celestia were the full-time Wonderbolts like?

And so it continues, they battle the storm, and more of them fall to it. Their efforts, and sacrifices, pay off however, as a small pathway starts to form, allowing the sun above to shine through. With hope now all but literally shining on the horizon, the group keeps going. By the time the ship reaches the small corridor, the original twelve have been reduced to just five. Three pegasi -- Daring, the mare, and a large stallion -- and two griffins -- Fion and a brown and red female -- battling the storm with everything they can dish out. The griffins have even joined in, using their larger bodies and wings to hurtle themselves through clouds and disperse them, or even create counter-gusts of wind.

The path expands, growing longer with each passing minute. Those minutes turn to hours, and before long the hours become most of the day. By the time the ship breaks through to the other side the sun is starting to sink on the horizon, and the group is beyond spent.

Wordlessly, Daring and the others glide down towards the ship, just enough adrenaline pumping through their bodies to get them down to the deck. Fion touches down first, and the instant his legs touch the deck, they buckle and he slams into the timbers with a sound reminiscent of the earlier thunder. The mare comes in next, barely missing the telegraph pole, and instead hits the deck and skids into a wall with a nasty popping sound, followed closely by the female griffin who doesn’t even touch down before she hits the wall.

Daring and the large stallion are not far behind, the stallion somehow landing on his hooves before collapsing next to Fion. Daring, having worked perhaps the hardest, grazes the forward observer's post, tearing her uniform along her side and actually cutting into the flesh beneath. She reacts instinctively, almost executing a full roll before she slams hard into the deck on her back, forcing the wind from her lungs.

The world starts to go fuzzy as she feels herself be picked up by a pair of earth pony sailors, their voices barely piercing through the descending veil of unconsciousness.

“Remind me to pick up some of those adventure books when we get to the next port.” The first says, his voice distant and echoing.

“I’d lend you mine, but you’d lose them.” the second says. “Besides, I want to get her to sign mine… if she makes it through the night.”

“Enough of your yammering!” Akos’ voice echoes, the darkness closing in around Daring’s vision. “Get her to sickbay before I tan your hides!” She vaguely sees the captain’s shape in her vision before it all goes black.


----

Consciousness returns to Daring with a sound akin to rushing water, followed closely by the voice of who she assumes to be the ship’s doctor.

“She took quite a beating, as did they all.” The voice says, age worn and gravely, “Honestly, I am surprised any of them made it out of that storm alive. We had it bad down here in the area they cleared, but up there? I shudder to think what they must have faced.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Fion’s voice comes from nearby. “Besides, we had a Wonderbolt on our side.”

“Part time…” Daring croaks, her eyes slowly opening. “I’m only a Wonderbolt part time.” She tries to sit up, but is pushed back down by a taloned hand.

“None of that, Daring,” Akos says sternly. “You gave us quite a scare. If my feathers were not already white, I’d swear you’d have turned them thus.” Daring looks up at him, a weary smile splitting her features.

“Aww, you worried for me, Akos?” Daring chuckles and winks. “Sorry, I’m taken.”

Giving his own chuckle Akos removes his hand, “As am I, Daring, and my mate does not share.” He then sighs and crosses his arms. “But, we should get down to the business at claw. We’ve been knocked slightly off course, and the ship was damaged slightly despite your best efforts.”

With a sigh, Daring rolls her eyes. “How far off course?”

“It’s added two more days to our trip, I think,” Akos replies slowly. “No more than that, though. We should make port in four days at most.” Daring groans and Akos raises an eyebrow. “Now, now. It is not like you will be moving about the ship anyway.”

“You’re blasted right she isn’t moving around the ship in her condition!” the doctor cuts in as he comes over and pokes Daring in the chest. “And if I see you get out of bed, I’ll get Akos to tie you up and put you right back.”

“Now, now, Bones,” Akos says with a slight smirk. “Go easy on her. She isn’t used to your tough love approach to healing.”

Bones -- an aged blue earth pony with a messy salt and pepper mane, wearing an aged Royal Equestrian Navy uniform and a scowl -- grumbles and goes back over to his desk, where he picks up a flask and goes back to drinking. Akos just rolls his eyes and looks back to Daring.

“Ignore him. He is just a bitter old stallion from Dodge City,” Akos says with a shrug before standing. “I need to return to the bridge. Lass I have in charge took a bump to the head, and while she assures me she is fine, I don’t want to leave her alone too long.” He salutes Daring with two taloned digits before leaving.

Daring, left nothing else to do, looks over to Fion who is laying on his stomach on a bed nearby. “So, the doctor is named ‘Bones’? How’d he get a name like that?” Fion opens his beak to reply, but Doc Bones speaks up.

“Wife took all of Equestria, and half the Crystal Empire, in the divorce, kid,” he mutters and takes another swig of his flask. “Left me with nothin’ but my bones.” Daring opens her mouth to say sorry, or something, but he just keeps on going. “Figured a life at sea would be better than rottin’ away back in that city, wife holdin’ everything she took from me over my head…” and the story just goes on from there. If not for the fact that it was, admittedly, a good story and she was on bed rest, Daring might have actually tried to stop him so she could take notes.

And so she settles down, closes her eyes, and just listens. If this is how she is going to spend the next few days, might as well enjoy it.

Author's Note:

I made another thing! I mean I wrote another chapter! :twilightblush:

So, this one feels like its taken me forever... Even if it was only six days. It is so far the longest chapter in the story, and I am quite proud of it because I was able to included a little action! There will be more in the future, I assure you, and hopefully more detailed than what I wrote in this chapter.

Once again, I would like to thank Witching Hour for basically kicking my sorry backside into gear each time I got distracted by shiny objects, helping me edit it so it was presentable and basically bouncing ideas off of each other for each others stories.

Next stop, though, the Emerald City! Seaddle here we come!

Edit: It just occured to me to mention this, but: Who knows who the doctor is based off of :trollestia:?

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