• Published 26th Nov 2017
  • 3,224 Views, 111 Comments

On the Peak of Aris - milesprower06

With her first E.U.P. squad formed and beyond expectations, Captain Berrytwist now turns her attention to the wrongs she committed beyond Equestria.

  • ...

Second Impressions

The HMS Eclipse wasn't exactly a state-of-the-art vessel, but that hardly mattered to Captain Celaeno and her crew. Because what the Equestrian airship was was bigger and faster than what they lost over the Sea of Clouds. Not insanely bigger; it was still manageable with her and her crew of five, now including Capper. With Captain Fizzlepop, Lieutenant Rivet and his construction crew, and Celestia's diplomatic advisor, that brought the Eclipse's compliment for this mission to seventeen.

What the Eclipse also came with was considerably better armaments than their last ship. Before, they had to rely on grapples and boarding enemy vessels, but now they had broadside cannons, and even a chaser gun in the bow. It made raids on the Storm airships much less risky, and they didn't even have to worry about the weight of cannonballs; the cannons were loaded with enchanted spheres that launched bolts of energy instead of physical artillery. They were good for thousands of shots before they needed recharging by Canterlot mages.

"Ahoy! Mount Aris on the horizon!" Capper called from the crow's nest. Celaeno peered forward as the clouds cleared to reveal the Pine Needle Barrens, Basalt Beach, and the South Luna Ocean beyond that, and the single towering peak of Mount Aris began to poke above the horizon.

This announcement brought all attention to the horizon, and the few who were below decks came up to see their destination.

"We're gonna have quite a climb." Celaeno warned, making small adjustments with the wheel. "This region has had Storm mercs lurking around, and we don't want to get too close before we formally introduce ourselves."

Fizzlepop remembered how long the climb took with Grubber all those months ago. If they took it slow and steady, it wouldn't be completely exhausting.

Ten minutes later, they cleared the Pine Needle Barrens, and Celaeno slowly started to descend as they passed over Basalt Beach to the South Luna Ocean. As they closed in on the towering island that was Mount Aris, Celaeno continued to slowly descend by pumping air into the ballonets until they were only 50 feet above the water surface.

Docking the airship was a not-so-delicate balance of inching closer to the island and Celaeno's crew disembarking with ropes to anchor the ship to land. When it was reasonably secure, they deployed rope ladders to make both leaving and returning to the ship an easier task. Then it was time for the climb for Fizzlepop, Speartip, Rivet, and his eight construction workers. The path up the immensely steep mountain was mainly thousands of stone stairs that zigzagged from one end of the front to the other. Luckily the climb wasn't exhausting because of the lack of gear everyone was carrying; most of it was back on the ship.

A half-hour later, they finally reached the peak, where two large, identical bird-like monoliths stood facing each other, serving as the frame of a large wrought iron gate. Two gold-armor-plated hippogriffs stood on either side of the gates.

"Who goes there?" The one on the right called out. The deja vu hit Fizzlepop as she recalled the commanding voice of the Captain of the Hippogriff Royal Guard; Stratus Skyranger.

"Expedition from Central Equestria, here at the invitation of Queen Novo to aid in the reconstruction efforts." Captain Fizzlepop replied, as the group slowly closed in on the gate.

"Approach, and present your invitation." Stratus replied.

The eleven ponies came up to the gates, and Fizzlepop pulled the rolled scroll from her chest plate. As she presented it to the expectant Stratus, his eyes met hers, and the armor-clad Hippogriff immediately took on a look of surprise.

"By the wind... I know you..."

Skyranger brought his spear to bear on Fizzlepop.

"Stop right there!"

Fizzlepop froze in her tracks, and so did the entire party behind her. She stared at the tip of Stratus' spear, inches from her snout.

In the back of her mind, she had been afraid of this.

Keeping his weapon pointed at the dark orchid mare, he carefully eyed the scroll which had been presented to him. Looking it over, his gaze returned to Fizzlepop. He turned to the guard on the left, who had also gone into a defensive position.

"Keep watch. Nobody moves. I'll get to the bottom of this."

With that, Stratus leapt up into the air, scroll in claw, and flew up and over the gate into Hippogriffia. The group stood silently, with some in the back showing looks of confusion; they assumed they would be welcomed here. Three minutes later, they heard beating wings approaching, and it sounded like more than one pair. Stratus Skyranger descended and landed in front of the gate with Queen Novo, ruler of the Hippogriffs.

"Captain Berrytwist?" She asked in a demanding manner, looking over the entire group. Fizzlepop took a single step forward.

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"So that's what you're calling yourself now, is it, 'Cherry Pie'? Did you honestly think we would forget you? Is this Celestia's idea of a joke?"

"No, Your Majesty. I was the one who requested to help you rebuild." Fizzlepop replied.

"I thought I saw you in Canterlot during the celebration. I don't know what strings you pulled to evade punishment in Equestria, but why in the wind do you think I would ever let you through these gates again?!"

Lieutenant Rivet stepped up to Fizzlepop's side.

"Your Majesty, I am Lieutenant Rivet. My team and I are here to help you in your reconstruction efforts. Our Captain is the official envoy of the Princess of Friendship."

"Yes, one Princess Twilight Sparkle. If I recall, she was behind the second attempt at stealing our Pearl."

Fizzlepop slowly reached up and removed her helmet, tucking it under her left leg.

"Your Majesty, please. I know what I did was wrong. I was foolish and desperate... To the point I believed the Storm King's empty promise to restore my horn if I got him your Pearl. That's why I am here. Princess Twilight has spared me from life in prison and given me a second chance. I wish to make amends for my past."

Queen Novo appeared somewhat unconvinced.

"Admirable words, but they are only words. You deceived and lied your way through these gates before. I don't know exactly who you are, but I know what you're capable of. But what of everyone else?"

Major Speartip stepped forward.

"Your Majesty, I am Major Speartip, Diplomatic Advisor for this expedition."

"Major Speartip," Novo reiterated. "I assume out of everyone here, you have Celestia's ear?"

"I do, Your Majesty."

"Then I would speak with you. The rest of you, remain here."

With that, Speartip stepped forward, and Queen Novo showed him through the gates. They didn't leave the sight of the expedition, but they did move well out of earshot, where they sat down at a street corner, the wind and sounds of construction making eavesdropping quite impossible.

"Major, I can only assume there has been some tragic miscommunication here. This 'Captain Berrytwist' is the same unicorn who attempted to steal our Pearl of Transformation, our kingdom's most sacred treasure, months ago. She's the entire reason behind this reconstruction."

"We are aware of her crimes against the Hippogriff Kingdom, Your Majesty. She has not tried to hide it from us. I believe that is why she chose to lead this expedition. She wishes to make amends for her past deeds."

"And the rest?"

"Lieutenant Rivet is the central region's best construction forepony, and he has hoofpicked his crew of eight. The HMS Eclipse is captained by Celaeno and her crew of five privateers, here not only for our transportation, but to aid in the moving of construction materials from the quarry at Basalt Beach to your city, should you wish it. They'll also aid in keeping a lookout for any hostile airships, I understand the region has had mercenary Storm Guards ever since the King's defeat."

"So back to Captain Berrytwist; you believe her intentions are pure?"

"I have only known Captain Berrytwist for the duration of our two-day voyage, I cannot speak from personal experience, Your Majesty."

"Then what can you speak from, Major?"

"Hearsay, Your Majesty. Since her pardon, she has created an exemplary militia in the central valley town of Ponyville in service of Twilight Sparkle. She requested this expedition from you, and volunteered to lead it."

"I would prefer that this joint endeavor not collapse due to trust issues, Major, but concessions will have to be made."

"Understood, Your Majesty, but I am only here in an advisory role; any concessions would ultimately be up to her."

Saying nothing more, Queen Novo made her way back to the main gates, with Speartip right at her side. Standing between the two guards, she looked at the expedition.

"Lieutenant Rivet, you and your team are welcome to assist our builders, under escort at all times, and none of you are allowed in the castle under any circumstances. The Eclipse is welcome to assist with hauling from the quarry and unloading directly above the city. This joint endeavor can proceed on one condition: Captain Berrytwist, you are not allowed inside these gates. You may remain aboard the Eclipse during loading at Basalt Beach, and make camp outside the gates under watch from Captain Skyranger when it is unloading."

Rivet turned to look at his commanding officer, who only took a few moments to respond after glancing over at Major Speartip.

"Very well, I accept these terms. I will stay outside city limits and make camp outside the gates."

Queen Novo eyed her carefully, but found this acceptable.

"Lieutenant, my guards will provide quarters for your team."

"Thank you, Your Majesty, but we will stay with our Captain."

Fizzlepop walked up to her second-in-command.

"Rivet, no. Your team is here to help rebuild, not keep me company by the gates."

"But Captain-"

"That's an order, Lieutenant. We want to improve relations with the Hippogriffs. Accept whatever accommodations Queen Novo gives your team."

Rivet looked like he wanted to continue debating the point, but knew it would be futile, not to mention embarrassing in front of foreign dignitaries.

Queen Novo gave a whistle, and two more pairs of royal guards came to escort Rivet and his team into the city. Major Speartip approached Fizzlepop.

"I'll head back down the mountain to the Eclipse to assist in making way. I'll have Celaeno drop your camping kit here when they pass over. Will you be alright until then?"

"Yes, Major. Thank you." Fizzlepop replied. The major gave her a nod.

"I know this isn't your most ideal situation, Captain, but I commend you on handling it well." Speartip told her, and with that, headed back down the mountain at a trot, leaving only Fizzlepop, Novo, and the pair of guards at the main gate.

"Captain Skyranger, let me make myself perfectly clear; she does not leave your sight, or the sight of the night watch. Clear?" Novo asked.

"Perfectly, my Queen." Skyranger replied immediately. With that, Queen Novo returned inside the city limits, flying back to the castle. For now, Fizzlepop returned her helmet to her head, and sat and watched as Major Speartip disappeared back down the steps to the Eclipse.