• Published 1st Mar 2019
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Haycartes' Pluperfect Method - Kris Overstreet

Twilight Sparkle has trapped herself in a shelf full of books. Will she survive- or will she lose herself to the story?

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BRAY TO QUARTERS Chapter 10: Return to Hornseca

Two days after the dinner party, Lydia returned to the Bay of Hornseca. There were no boats, no Cumpleanos, not even a sign of the natives… except for a single arrow which hit the foremast rigging and clattered to the deck, apparently fired from a thicket on the island that guarded the bay. Twilight didn’t order any return fire; if Cumpleanos wasn’t in the bay, there wasn’t any point in bothering natives who obviously had gone from cold neutrals to outright hostile.

Once the Lydia was back out to sea, Twilight held another dinner party with Iron Press invited. This time she pushed a little to get the noble to open up about himself. As it happened, although he held no official government post, Iron Press had been a diplomatic social secretary and clerk for various ambassadors and governors, including his older sister the Marquess, for almost a decade. Although this was his first time in the South Luna Sea, he’d been to Zebrica, Mareitania, and the kirin lands, to say nothing of countries closer to Equestria’s eastern shore.

After-dinner whist was even more pleasant (aside from Hornsparker’s mental kibitzing over everyone’s card playing, which Twilight could only grit her teeth and try to ignore). When Twilight and Iron Press were on opposing sides the battle became long and brutal; when paired together, they swept the hapless Wildrider and Clay off the table.

The afternoon was so pleasant that Twilight almost forgot about the deadly battle to come. As the sun began to set, the trade winds whipping across the deck and the sails crackling and humming overhead, she began to think that her tweaked Haycartes’ Method might not be a disaster after all.

And then Iron Press’s donkey servant emerged from the hold bearing a guitar, presumably from one of the trunks Dipple-Dapple had secured below. Hey! Twilight thought. I haven’t heard any music since I got here. I wonder if Iron Press plays as well as he counts tricks?

Music? Oh, bother. Hornsparker’s mental voice dripped with annoyance, bordering on misery.

Oh, what NOW? Twilight asked.

I don’t know what anypony sees in music, Hornsparker replied. It’s just plinking and banging and screeching, and ponies mispronouncing words.

Twilight couldn’t remember ever meeting a pony who hated music. Oh, just give him a chance, all right?

Iron Press, who had been standing on the quarterdeck on the opposite rail from Twilight, accepted the guitar from the donkey. He plinked the strings, adjusting the tuning knobs a bit with his magic, and then began to strum, and after that to sing.

Are you going to Trottingham faire
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to the green-grocer mare
She once was a true love of mine…

The other officers began gathering around at once, smiling at the sounds coming from guitar and unicorn alike. On the lower deck, idle crewponies began to gather. After about a minute, the sound of a violin came from below- Emerald Fortune, the earth-pony fiddler, had found her instrument and joined in the song. By the end a number of voices had softly joined in with the old, traditional tune.

And Twilight, seeing the obvious pleasure on the faces of everypony else, wept, because she couldn’t hear a word of it.

Captain Hornsparker, it appeared, was tone-deaf. The guitar strings sounded like a rope cable snapping its fibers. The fiddle sounded like a screeching jackdaw or cuckoo. And the singing voices sounded like ordinary talk- except with the words drawn out or run together in a way that only made sense if you could hear the music underneath. The combination of sounds, filtered through Hornsparker’s awareness, stopped just barely this side of being painful.

Not wanting to spoil the fun for anypony else. Twilight went below, not to her cabin but down to the gunroom, where she couldn’t hear the music that she couldn’t hear, cursing that Tartarus-inspired spell every step of the way.

Full immersion, you said. It’ll be a wonderful experience, you said. Experience everything as the characters would experience it, you said.

When I get out of this, Celestia forgive my blasphemy, I’m going to dig out the book I found that spell in and BURN it.

Days passed. The Lydia peeked in at one port of call after another. Two of the ports lay empty, not merely of ships but of life. The third lay in flames, raising smoke that, for once, had nothing to do with volcanoes or magic temples. Xipe Totec had, no doubt, passed that way already, but the Lydia couldn’t do anything about that. Of the Cumpleanos, no sign whatever.

Then the mountains of the coastline became less volcanic, becoming the mountain ranges that represented the southwestern border of the Badlands. The seacoast began curving westwards, as the land extended into the great dividing range between the North and South Luna Sea. Cumpleanos wouldn’t sail much farther north, assuming it sailed north at all; it would stand out to sea, hoping to intercept the treasure fleet from the kirin lands, bringing trade wealth and treasure from one side of the world to the other.

With that in mind Twilight ordered a course out to sea, carrying the ship out into what became, by the next morning, almost a gale. The sails, full of more wind than Lydia could manage, tipped the ship sideways, while the formerly flat seas became rolling waves that sent the frigate plunging down and rising up in violent swoops. The sky remained clear and the sun tropically warm, but in every other respect it felt like a storm was about to overtake the ship.

Thornbush met Twilight almost the instant she came out on deck. “I was just about to send for you, ma’am,” he said. “I think we ought to shorten sail.” From the sounds of the sailing master and his mates barking orders to the crew, Thornbush had already begun preparations, turning up all hands and checking to see that anything loose on the deck was properly secured against the ship’s motion.

“I agree,” Twilight said. “Get… um… the courses and topgall… the t’gallants… get them in, please.”

As Twilight spoke the ship plunged down another wave, and as the trough offered a momentary reduction of the wind, the ship righted itself from its sharp port list. Then, as it bottomed out and began climbing the next wave, the wind strengthened again, and the ship listed once more. Thornbush, noting the motion, asked quietly, “Are you feeling well, ma’am?”

“Fine, thank you,” Twilight replied. She wasn’t seasick-

-yet, Hornsparker muttered darkly.

“I just have a lot on my mind,” Twilight added, silently giving her mental hitchhiker a glare.

“I think we all have, ma’am,” Thornbush muttered. “Excuse me, please.” With that the moment’s conversation was over, as the first lieutenant began belting out the orders to furl about half the sails on the ship. Hooves thundered, whips cracked, orders bellowed, ponies swarmed up the rigging, and ropes began to creak as Lydia adjusted to the almost overpowering weather.

Twilight, watching the process, noticed Iron Press holding to the starboard rail with a fetlock, his blond mane streaming in the wind, bits of sea-spray splashing his face. She walked over to him and asked, “Good morning. Are you feeling all right?”

“Oh, quite so, captain,” Iron Press said. “This is delightful after the heat of the past few days.”

“Well, please be careful,” Twilight said. “We don’t want to get underhoof while the crew is-“

“Sail ho!”

Twilight froze at the cry from the maintop, as the lookout waved off to the north. Before she could ask again, a second voice- young Jack Knave, the youngest of the midshipmen- repeated the cry, “Sail ho, right ahead! It’s the Cumpleanos, ma'am!”

Twilight’s heart sank. Why now? Why, why now??

Author's Note:

Sorry for the brevity, but this is all I have time for before tearing down the booth and driving home...

And yes, Hornblower is entirely tone deaf- to the point that, although he is fluent in French and Spanish, his inability to discern tones of voice makes it impossible for him to pass as a native speaker.

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