• 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 6: News From Equestria

She didn’t know which was more of a tonic- the first full night’s sleep she’d had in three days, the sea air, or the absence of Xipe Totec and any of his followers- but Twilight Sparkle, pacing on the Lydia’s quarterdeck, felt better than she had ever since putting herself in this horrible predicament.

Xipe Totec, his army, and the rest of Nickeragua lay behind the Lydia, which now sailed down the volcano-studded coast of the South Luna Sea, headed towards the Gulf of Panamane, the core of the Maredrid colonies on the Luna Sea coast. The ship sailed on at a speed of three or four knots, which if maintained would gain them over ninety nautical miles a day towards home- or, if Hornsparker had her way, towards taking the city of Panamane and dealing a lethal blow to Maredrid’s ability to support the Horsican tyrant, as the phantom thoughts put it.

For her part, Twilight wanted nothing to do with that. Naval adventures were much more fun to read about than to be thrown into, especially in a horrible world like this that bore resemblance to actual history only by accident. Tonight she would have the full evening, without the interruption of duties and crises, to focus on breaking through whatever mental block kept her from remembering how to cancel Haycartes’ Method. And even if that failed… well, maybe jumping the rails of the book’s plot would throw her out of the book, back to the real world and Applejack and Rainbow Dash and Rarity and Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie and Spike and Starlight Glimmer and…

A large manta ray broke the surface of the water not far off the side of the Lydia, skipping off the water before diving back in. Beyond it, flying fish breached and skimmed over the ocean’s surface in schools- or was that squadrons? And beyond that, Twilight could see the spray of a pod of whales, blowing the water out of their blowholes and breathing in air after who knew how long submerged. Blue sky above, blue water below, and- for a moment, at least- not a care in the world.

Why couldn’t the book have been just this? Twilight thought. Such a wonderful scene, on a fascinating ship, without the horror and evil and impossible choices. Why did the author have to be such a cruel, cruel pony? This could have been-

“Sail ho!” The lookout at the masthead was waving down at the ponies on the deck. “Sail on the port bow!”

Twilight froze, looking forward from her position on the port quarterdeck. From the deck she couldn’t see anything, but the maintop rose fifty ponylengths above the deck, giving the lookout a potential view of twenty miles in any direction. “What kind of ship?” she shouted back up at the lookout.

“Lugger!” came the reply. “Two-master, I think. And she’s bearing down right on us!”

Almost as the lookout said it, Twilight caught a flash of white on the horizon- a tiny speck, but within a couple of minutes clearly recognizable as lug-sails, of a size to propel a small to medium size coastal ship suitable for pearl-diving or fishing… and equally suited to be a revenue patrol cutter or, worse yet, a gunboat with a boarding crew. So Hornsparker’s unwanted memories insisted, anyway.

Twilight had really hoped not to see another ship until they got within sight of Mount Aris- or until the story ran out, whichever. Of course that had been a foolish hope. Leaving aside the fact that Lydia’s course paralleled the shore just over the horizon, but if the story was in any way still functional, literary structure required some twist, some new complication or conflict. Given the context, that meant another ship.

“She’s run up a flag,” Thornbush said. The first lieutenant had joined Twilight by the rail, holding a spyglass up to one eye. “Maredrid colors under a flag of truce. Parley signal, ma’am.”

Don’t trust it, Hornsparker murmured. It could be a ruse. There’s no law around the Cape.

Twilight allowed her sigh to be audible. “And today began so pretty,” she said. “The usual precautions, Thornbush. Beat to quarters, clear for action, guns out, please.”



“Captain Hornsparker?”

The ponies and burros in the boat that had rowed from the coast-guard lugger to the Lydia ought not to know that name yet, Twilight thought. “Yes, that’s me,” she called down. “How do you know my name?”

“I come to welcome you as the new ally of Maredrid! Viva el rey! Viva la princesa!

No! Hornsparker protested. It’s a trick! Don’t let your guard down!

Twilight’s stomach sank. No, she sighed. It’s not a trick. It’s the plot twist. And… oh Celestia, what am I going to do?

The papers the officer of the lugger brought with him only verified the truth. Letters from the governor of Panamane. Orders sent overland across the Scorching Deserts from the admiral in command in the South Celestia Ocean, commanding Hornsparker and the Lydia back to Baltimare for reassignment, forbidding any hostile engagement with Maredrid forces. There was even, of all things, a personal letter to Captain Hornsparker, though Hornsparker’s memories had no idea who would write him a letter that would be carried across the deserts or jungles, hundreds of miles even across the narrows of the continent.

“We received the news four days ago,” the officer said. “Two months ago Neighpoleon drove our king out of Maredrid and placed his brother on the throne. Your princess was gracious enough to accept our king as her guest and to pledge alliance to help oust the usurper.”

The nonexistent usurper, Twilight thought.

The same usurper who, until a few days ago, you counted as your loyal ally against my princess, Hornsparker’s shade snorted. It’s not even like Maredrid is the first throne Neighpoleon has taken for one of his robber-band of brothers and sisters. He must have a hundred of them…

“We were very much afraid, Captain,” the Maredrid officer continued, “that you would meet our defenders on the Cumpleanos before we found you. She has not heard the news, you see. Given the differences between the two ships, your fine ship would surely have come to serious harm. It would have been most embarrassing.”

Twilight closed her eyes, trying not to cry. Embarrassing. Yes, that was exactly the right word.

Lydia would have to turn around now. Fiction or not, spell or not, Twilight still felt responsible. She had to put things right… and that meant retaking or sinking the Cumpleanos.

And she had no idea how she was going to do it this time.

“I’m afraid I have some very bad news for you,” she said slowly to the officer. “Mr. Thornbush, please bring the prisoners to the deck. At once, please.”

Author's Note:

A little rushed, I'm afraid. I ended up with much less time today than I'd expected. However, I'll have a bit of time tomorrow while I'm waiting for a new tire for my van before driving to Biloxi.

Also fortunately, the next couple of chapters can be shorter than the ones that went before, because.... well, you'll see.

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