• Published 15th Oct 2018
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Friendship Abroad - Starscribe



Ocellus and her friends only planned to sail to Manehattan for their final project. They never imagined a storm could take them... a little further than that.

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Chapter 2

The world returned to Ocellus with a crash. Water smacked up against the side of the Solidarity, and yet it wasn’t moved at all. There was no more bobbing, no floating. She jerked suddenly awake, horn coming alight with green magic to light her way.

She was below deck, in the single large space that was their sleeping area. Blankets, hammocks, and clothing had gone everywhere, covering the ground with a thick layer of cloth. Instead of being behind her, the stairs were on the wall, and gray light came spilling down.

How did we get down here? Ocellus wasn’t alone—all five of her friends had come below, and were scattered across the floor. None looked to have woken yet, though Sandbar and Gallus were stirring.

Ocellus wasn’t much for magic beyond her transformation. She knew there was much more that could be done—Equestrian unicorns had a great deal to teach her. They had medical spells, transportation spells, communication spells—but learning them felt like climbing uphill during a rainstorm, the mud always dragging her back down again.

Even so, she could unfocus her mind a little, sensing for the most basic units of life from her friends. Make sure none of them had died. It was the same sense she would’ve used to sniff out love back when she still needed it.

They were all still there—even Smolder, whose breathing was so subtle she was almost completely still. Good.

They’d made all kinds of backup plans for this trip, mapping out every port and dock they could use along the way. They were never supposed to be more than a half hour from the shore.

From the sound of waves crashed up against them, and the Solidarity having fallen sideways, Ocellus wagered that monster wave had shipwrecked them on an Equestrian beach. At least we didn’t try anything riskier, like going all the way to Griffinstone.

Ocellus took one last glance at her unconscious friends, before buzzing her way up the sloping ramp and out of the ship. I hope Yona can get out of there okay.

Outside, many of her predictions were confirmed. The Solidarity showed other serious signs of damage, most notably a mast that had been split down the middle. The mainsail was in tatters, and bits of rope hung all around them. The sun just barely poked through a haze of gray clouds, revealing a beach like many others. Probably would’ve seemed a relaxing place, if it had been swarming with ponies instead of being completely deserted.

“Hey,” said Sandbar from behind her. He emerged from the forecastle a second later, looking out with her. “Guess we made it. Did you teleport us down there?”

“I don’t think so,” Ocellus admitted. “I’ve heard some unicorns can cast spells reflexively. But most changelings only transform when they get nervous or scared.”

“Hey, I’m not complaining. We made it, that’s what matters. It’s all seagulls and sandbars from here.”

“Not exactly made it.” Ocellus followed his eyes, off the edge of the ship and back to the ocean. “The Solidarity is wrecked. She isn’t going to sail again, and we won’t make it to Manehattan.”

“Whatever,” Sandbar shrugged. “Who cares about our score? That storm almost killed us.”

“Fair. But where did it send us…” She turned around, but she couldn’t really get up to look over the deck and the landward side. “Come with me. Maybe you’ll recognize it.”

“Yeah.”

They clambered together onto the sand, Ocellus buzzing her way and Sandbar just jumping with raw toughness down to beach level. They got another good look at the Solidarity, battered and broken, and got plenty wet from the waves lapping at their hooves. Then they were out of its shadow, and they could look landward.

Ocellus froze in her tracks. Maybe we found Manehattan after all. There was a line of shops and restaurants right on the edge of the sand, almost all of them shuttered and barred with warning placards pinned outside. Ramps and stairways led over them, up into a city of massive buildings stretching up the coast. They kept going in both directions as far as she could see, and that wasn’t even the strangest thing.

“They’re… a little small,” Sandbar muttered. “What kind of creature lives here?”

If it had, it had done a whole lot of other things too. Ocellus hadn’t noticed the sounds over the ocean behind her, but now that she listened they came through clearly. Machines zooming around, an occasional warning horn so loud her ears flattened—and towering above it all, a round white wheel with lots of little boxes attached around its outside rim. From where she stood, it was taller than Canterlot Castle.

Distant shapes moved on the upper level, above the shops and stores down on the beach. Ocellus couldn’t see them well, but she could see enough to tell they weren’t ponies. “What… part of Equestria is this?” she asked, her voice very small. “Manehattan, right? Bigger than I imagined.” But also wrong. There was supposed to be a huge port full of ships, not a beach. And there were no other ships to be seen.

“Sandbar! Ocellus?” a voice shouted from behind them. Ocellus winced at the volume, now that she knew where they were. The beach was an uncomfortably small barrier between them and this alien place. “Oh, there you are!” Silverstream emerged from the Solidarity, hovering in the air slightly over their heads.

Too high. Something will see her. All of Ocellus’s old instincts were waking up, though a single glance down told her that her body hadn’t reverted. She had more love than ever now—but she still felt just as unsafe. I think we’ve gone further than any creature before. But gone where?

“What are you looking at?” Silverstream asked, landing on the sand beside them. “Stairs?”

Sandbar pointed with one hoof. “Yes, Silverstream. Looks like you could skip most them if you wanted to climb up, though.”

“Oh.” Her eyes went so wide Ocellus couldn’t see the color anymore. “That’s… weird.”

“We need to wake the others,” Ocellus said. “Unless Sandbar knows where this is, and we’re not in as much danger as I think we are.”

“Nope.” Sandbar turned away. “I’ll do it.”

“Good.” Ocellus took a step back towards their ship, pulling Silverstream along with her. “Let’s get out of sight. We don’t want to be noticed before we’re ready.”

“Okay…” Silverstream followed along obediently.

Ocellus kept glancing back up the shore, watching for any sign of trouble. And it didn’t take her long to spot it. Something large had appeared on the city level above, something metal and reflective with bright yellow and blue squares. She crouched low in the shadow of the Solidarity, watching as the object opened.

It’s like a covered carriage. Except that she couldn’t see anypony pulling it. The whole thing was sealed, like it had somehow been made of a single piece of metal and glass all fused together.

A figure had emerged from either side of the carriage. They were wearing an awful lot of clothes—so much that she couldn’t see any fur at all. If that yellow wasn’t on a jacket, I’d think they were changelings. But with stripes like that, stripes that seemed to flash when they stepped under the streetlights, these two wouldn’t be hiding.

They stopped on the side of the railing, staring directly at the Solidarity. She couldn’t hear them, but it was obvious what they must be doing. Their arrival had been noticed.

“Everypony’s okay!” Sandbar called from inside the ship, loud enough that Ocellus winced again. “What are we doing?”

“Emergency kits,” Smolder’s voice said, not shouting. “Everything we need. The tide might be up any second.”

Ocellus gulped. She hadn’t even thought of that. But now that she looked down, the water was creeping up her hooves. Will it take the Solidarity back out to sea?

She briefly considered if that might be the better option. This strange land and its creatures were an unknown—the geography of how they’d got here made even less sense. Had they somehow washed all the way south to the Badlands? Was this Minotaur country?

Ocellus had read more about geography than any of her friends. If she couldn’t figure out where they’d ended up, then none of the others would. They all depended on her.

“Yona does not want to be in here anymore. She is leaving,” the Yak shouted, at what amounted for her normal speaking voice.

Loud enough that the figures standing high above them pointed again. One of them was holding a tool in its hand, something flat that made different flashes of light. Then they started jogging down the ramp together, eyes fixed on the ship.

“Hey, everyone…” Ocellus’s voice faltered, but she hoped they could all hear. “I think we’re in trouble.” She pointed back, and Silverstream followed her around the ship.

Yona blocked the way inside, splashing around in the rising tide and rinsing all the sand and seaweed from her coat. “Trouble? No. Yona not think so. We are safe! This trip went better than Yona was expecting.”

“You expected us to shipwreck?” Sandbar called from inside, his face poking out from the doorway.

“No.” Yona stopped, turning back inside. “Yona expected us to sink. This is better.”

“We should go back inside,” Ocellus said, her voice a little braver than before. “Yona, please… some creatures are coming. I’ve never seen anything like them before.”

“Creatures?” Smolder’s voice called from in the ship. “Can you ask them to send a scroll back for rescue? Ember will get us out of this. I’ll never hear the end of it, but I don’t want to walk back. It’s worth a little shame.”

“Yona will ask.” The yak turned, running straight past Ocellus and sending up a spray of salty water.

“Wait!” Ocellus tried to stop her, but at her size she couldn’t even slow the yak down. “Buck.” She glanced back at the others. “I’ll keep an eye on her. The rest of you stay hidden.”

She’d already seen seagulls circling overhead. Ocellus couldn’t match these weird creatures yet, but she could do a seagull. She changed, then took off with an instinctive squawk, rising above the ship and circling overhead.

Seagull eyes were better than her own, tuned to spotting even the tiniest glimpse of food emerging from tidepools and sandbars. She had no trouble watching Yona.

The instant she emerged from behind the Solidarity, both creatures stopped dead in their tracks, and one even stumbled back in surprise.

Now they were close enough to hear. They had a thick accent—thicker than most griffons, even. But Ocellus could still understand them.

“It’s coming for us, Davies!” shouted one, lifting something from his belt with practiced ease—like something he’d done a hundred times. Ocellus had never seen anything like it—but from the aggression in his posture, she could guess it was a weapon.

“Hello!” Yona called, her voice so loud it probably just sounded like a bellow to them. But even with Yona’s great size compared to Ocellus and her friends, she would be a living monster to these little creatures. “Yona and her friends are stranded! They need your help!”

Ocellus swept down in a dive just over the Yak. The creatures weren’t even looking at her—her disguise was apparently good enough. “Yona, stop running!” Ocellus shouted as she passed overhead.

She did, looking up at the bird with confusion. “Why? Long trip up beach.”

The creatures shared a look. “Wilson, are you hearing voices?” This voice sounded higher than the first, and quicker. A female of the same species? Ocellus wasn’t watching as closely as she lifted back up above, hoping they hadn’t seen her. And apparently not.

“I can’t be.” He shook his head once, as though something had gotten stuck in it. “We should… animal control.” He turned, and his companion joined him. They ran back up the stairs from where they’d come, ignoring Yona’s shouts.

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