• 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 12: Dismasted

Twilight pulled herself out of the tangle of fallen rigging. Fortunately nothing heavier than rope had fallen on her. Thornbush hadn’t been so lucky; he sat on his rump, holding his head in his forehooves, a large pulley block lying on the deck next to him. He wouldn’t be any help for a while.

“Mr. Clay!” she shouted. “Afterguard to the stern! Get this wreckage cut away!”

Potter’s Clay came galloping up the gangway, followed by a collection of ponies, most of whom held axes or cutlasses in their teeth. Along with them came a couple of unicorns from the marine contingent, and these joined Twilight in slashing away at the ropes that littered the quarterdeck. The remains of the broken mizzenmast, with all its sails and spars and lines and rigging, hung off the ship like a grotesque sea-anchor, making the rest of the sails unmanageable and rendering the rudder completely useless. If Lydia was going to survive, the wreckage had to go- at once.

But before more than a quarter of the lines had been cut, thunder boomed from Cumpleanos, and Lydia’s stern bucked like a stung buffalo. Gunsmoke blew across the deck along with flying debris as shot after shot struck home. Something large and heavy whistled past Twilight’s face close enough for her to feel the breeze.

And then the shots ended and the screaming resumed, with fresh screams and shouts coming from behind. The stern-chaser carronade had come loose from its slide, rolling onto the legs of one doomed pony and crushing them. Two of the marine unicorns and a couple of earth pony crewmen were struggling to get it off him.

Leave him, Hornsparker roared in Twilight’s head. Nothing can save him now. But there are hundreds of other ponies yet alive!

Twilight didn’t bother to answer. She just wasn’t going to leave a pony like that, no matter what. She added her own magic to the two unicorns’ efforts, mentally cursing Haycartes’ Method for (a) trapping her in this terrifying experience in the first place, and (b) blocking ninety-nine percent of her real-world magic in the process. I’m straining to lift a single cannon, she thought, when back home I could probably lift the whole ship…

After a moment the five of them managed to slide the ton and a half of metal off the maimed pony. “There!” Twilight said. “Now get back to cutting us free! Mr. Clay, keep them working!”

As two ponies carried off the crushed pony to the cockpit, Twilight looked around at what remained of the sails. Once the mizzenmast was cleared away, the ship would be imbalanced, with the headsails continually pushing the ship before the wind without the mizzen-sails to provide counter-leverage. “Mr. Wildrider! Get the headsails in! Quickly, there!”

“Aye aye, ma’am!”

As the foretop crew got to work, and as the afterguard continued hacking away at the cables holding the mizzenmast wreckage to the ship, Twilight turned back to see Cumpleanos finishing its long, lumbering turn, coming back across Lydia’s stern for a second uncountered broadside. The cutting-away wouldn’t be done in time.

“Keep going, everypony!” she shouted. “We have to take one more round, and then we’ll put a stop to her for good!” We will because we have to. Celestia help me, but it’s them or us…

The wreckage shifted as Lydia pitched down a sudden steep wave, as a heavy line and its attached sail swept the port quarterdeck. Twilight got out of the way in time, but three crewponies didn’t, rolling on their backs. Thankfully none of their legs got caught-

And then the Lydia’s stern leaped again as thunder rolled, one after another of Cumpleanos’s heavy guns piling shot after shot into her exposed rear. The agonized screams of one particularly shrill pony ceased abruptly. Twilight didn’t look, trying to shut out the roar of cannons, the shriek of flying splintered wood and stray cannonballs, and the shouts of ponies, focusing her attention on cutting through one rope after another. One snapped, and Lydia jerked- another snapped, another jerk- and then with one final cut, and a long rumbling and splashing, and the ship was free, and the enemy sailing off to come around for another attack.

The first thing Twilight saw when she looked up from her work was Potter’s Clay… or, that is to say, Potter’s Clay’s body. His head was gone.

Twilight froze, staring at the horrible sight. Her mind flooded with images of the young officer- the young colt, should still have been in school- struggling to keep up with the captain in a hand of whist, gazing with admiring eyes at Iron Press, toasting Celestia at the captain’s table- and now Clay would never see his lieutenancy, never see a world at peace, never return to Equestria to-

A breaking wave splashed over the Lydia, drenching Twilight and bringing her back to her senses. A story, she thought. This is only a story. A horrible, horrible story. But there are hundreds of other ponies in this story that need saving.

I hate this. I hate, hate, HATE this.

A quick glance around told Twilight all she needed to know. The ponies at the ship’s wheel weren’t the same ones who had begun the action. Bodies littered the quarterdeck, mostly unmoving. A dozen ship’s marines under Marine-captain Royal Summons sent arrows and spells at Cumpleanos, whose massive hull seemed to shrug them off. And up in the maintop Thornbush was waving a cutlass and shouting at crewponies who were already mending the rigging; he’d apparently finished the job of cutting away the destroyed mizzen himself.

And there, off the starboard quarter, lay the Cumpleanos, wearing around yet again for another battering. But this time, Twilight thought, this time we’re not going to sit here and take it! “Hooves to braces!” she shouted. “Mr. Thornbush, we’re coming to the wind!”

“Aye aye, sir!”

“Hard to starboard!” Twilight spared barely a glance at the steersponies wrestling with the wheel before looking down at the gun deck. “Stand to your guns! Ms. Freerein, salvo fire as she bears, and make every shot count!”

And Lydia turned. With half her sails either shot away or furled, and with her rigging no longer capable of the fine adjustments that allowed her to sail at angles to the wind, she slowed the moment she began to turn, but her momentum was enough for a time to bring her around, bit by bit, until the ship lay almost perpendicular to the wind and waves. And there, creeping along, lay the Cumpleanos, just in the process of running her guns back out…


For the first time in what felt like forever Lydia’s guns spoke with a single thunderclap of noise. A ragged echo responded- the surprised, unprepared return fire from Cumpleanos, which whistled harmlessly overhead.

“Reload!” Gerard the Griffon shouted at the gunners, even though his crew hadn’t been the ones firing. “Give ‘em another, quick!”

Gun trucks rumbled as the cannon were swabbed out with frantic haste. Gunpowder charges were rammed down the muzzles, followed by wadding and sixteen-pound cannonballs. Lances were run through the touchholes to pierce the fabric cartridges. Powder-horns poured extra powder through the touchholes. Flintlocks were set in place, cocked, guns run out, and one by one the starboard guns fired again, less than two minutes after the massed broadside.

“Good!” shouted Gerard! “Excellent! Yes! Look! There goes her foremast! Well done, ponies!”

The gun crews cheered as the Cumpleanos’s foremast slumped, then leaned forward, dragging sails and rigging along with it. Then the top half of the mainmast followed, the whole mass of wreckage falling over the ship’s side.

There, Twilight thought. Now we can finish her off and make her surrender!

But wind and waves had other ideas. The ponies at the wheel fell away as Lydia, slowing to a stop, fell under the control of the gale once more. The ship turned to port, before the wind, picking up speed as it sailed away from the stranded, drifting Cumpleanos. One last gun fired on the main deck below Twilight, and then it was over.

Shoot, Twilight ranted mentally. Shoot, shoot, shoot! Now was the perfect time to finish off Cumpleanos… but without her full rigging, Lydia couldn’t tack against the wind to get back to her. Somehow Twilight had to repair her ship… which, unfortunately, meant giving Shadetree time to drive her own crew to do the same.

And whichever ship was ready for battle again first… won.

Author's Note:

So far, the naval battle has played out more or less as it did in the original book. That will change before we're done, though.

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