• 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 8: the Hunt Begins

Twilight Sparkle released a sigh of relief as her hooves, a little unsteady, hit the deck of the Lydia once again. The feeling of a wool-muffled head and of her legs suddenly developing about twice as many joints as they usually had… she hadn’t felt anything like this since she’d been dragged into one of Applejack’s and Rainbow Dash’s silly bets which involved the Apple family special stash of aged cider.

Thankfully her current condition didn’t come close to that half-forgotten incident. She was not, as no sailor ever said, three sheets to the wind. Topsails only with maybe one reef taken, at most. But that was still enough that, if she didn’t focus on where she put her hooves, she’d fall flatter than her current metaphor.

The reception at the viceroy’s palace had, indeed, been quite alcoholic. News of victories on the Eastern Continent had called for celebrations. The arrival of an Equestrian ship, the new and beloved allies, had called for more celebrations. The orders to send an army of a thousand soldiers to Nickeragua had called for even more celebrations, and every celebration came with a fresh glass of wine.

And then had come the banquet, full of spicy Mexicolti food, including…shudder… the cheesy things. And, of course, the only thing to put out the fires in her mouth was more wine.

But Twilight was grateful for that wine. Without it she might have gone under the spell’s control for days, maybe even for good.

The viceroy of Panamane had been the perfect stereotype of the decadent aristocracy of those ponies not under Celestia’s direct rule; nothing was so urgent, no decision so obvious, that it couldn’t be dithered over and whined about for hours, days, or even weeks. Twilight had spent half an hour trying to get some immediate action against Xipe Totec out of the viceroy to no effect… and then Hornsparker had lost patience and shoved her out of the way, so deeply that Twilight had no clear memories of the hour after that except that, somehow, the viceroy had actually sent people out of the reception to convey orders to the local guard captain and the harbor-master. (Though, to be honest, the wine might have had something to do with that.)

Fortunately, the wine kept working at Twilight’s brain even while she wasn’t in control of it. That made it harder for Hornsparker to keep Twilight bottled up, and when the cheesy things had been served, those plus the wine had been enough to put her back in charge of her mind. (They had also been enough to require her to apologize to the serving-pony and then, with extreme difficulty, to eat a whole cheesy thing to show no hard feelings. It hadn’t been a fun meal.)

In any case, she paid no attention to the pipes and the presenting of arms- foolish frippery, Hornsparker thought, and Twilight agreed. Her attention was focused on standing straight and proud like a proper captain… and, on a purely secondary level, on giving the orders necessary to get back out to sea. “Mr. Thornbush,” she said as the first lieutenant stepped forward to salute her. “We leave at once. Call all hands to weigh anchor and make sail.”

“Aye, ma’am,” Thornbush said, and without a pause he began bellowing orders, sending hundreds of ponies into motion. Twilight didn’t care. She needed to change out of her best uniform tunic and linen shirt, both soaked with sweat from the tropical heat and tropical cooking.

Her hoof was almost on the door to her personal cabin when she remembered that it wasn’t her cabin anymore. She’d given it to Iron Press and his servant. She found Axle Wheel in what had been Bush’s cabin, which might have been half the size of Twilight’s before her cot and desk were moved into it. Axle Wheel actually had to stand outside the door in order to take one uniform and give Twilight her other, the patched, worn-out one used for normal work.

The cold water on her face from the washbasin helped with the aftereffects of the wine, and the uniform, though very shabby, felt much more comfortable than the pressed and starched best tunic with its heavy brass-plated epaulettes. Twilight almost felt like a new mare when she stepped out onto the deck…

… just in time to see the capstan, with its twenty ponies pushing at the bars, come to a complete stop. Twilight had thought one or maybe two skilled unicorns could replace the twenty ponies at the manual winch, which raised the massive anchors from the seafloor below. But now those twenty ponies pushed and groaned, with an occasional pop of a whip from the bosun’s mate, to no effect.

Well, no effect except the soft creaking of the Lydia.

“Hold it!” Twilight shouted, and then, remembering the jargon of the age of sail, “Avast all!” She stepped down to the maindeck, where she found the officer of the forecastle, Lieutenant Gerard. “Foul anchor, Mr. Gerard?” she shouted up at the ship’s sole griffon.

“Appears that way, sir!”

“Very well! Rest the hands at the capstan! Mr. Thornbush, pass the word for anchor drill!”

A foul anchor- one whose flukes had hooked into a reef or some other submarine obstruction it couldn’t plow through- would be as good as lost on any ship without unicorns. The ship would have to be forced to sail backwards- a tricky maneuver that still might not slide the anchor out of the grip of the sea floor- or else the massive rope cable holding the anchor to the ship would have to be cut, losing the anchor and the cable to the ocean floor.

But with about twenty unicorns working in concert, it was the simplest task to run a spell down the cable, wriggle the anchor out of its bind, and leave it lying loose on the bottom of the bay to be brought up by the capstan winch, and in a mere three minutes this was done. The earth ponies at the capstan heaved, the capstan’s pawl began clinking again, and yard after yard of cable wound its way into the ship, pulling the anchor off the bottom with no further trouble.

Meanwhile Thornbush kept up his orders with the ponies at the sails and ropes. Getting a ship out of harbor, in most cases, was a routine piece of business, and whatever his limitations Thornbush was an experienced seaman. Lydia began moving almost the instant the anchor was off the bottom, and ten minutes after that she was making four knots towards the open sea on a southerly tack.

But Thornbush was only first lieutenant, and the decision about where the ship went once out of harbor lay solely with the captain- that is, with Twilight. “Mr. Thornbush!” she shouted.

“Aye, ma’am?” came the reply from the wheel, where Thornbush stood next to the steersman.

“Course south by west once we clear the harbor!”

“Aye, ma’am!”

And that is all he needs to know, thought Hornsparker.

But not all he deserves to know, Twilight thought back, and she trotted back along the deck, up to the quarterdeck and then up from that to the pilot deck, to meet Thornbush face to face.

“Ma’am?” Thornbush asked.

“We’re going hunting, Thornbush,” Twilight said. “We set the Cumpleanos loose on this coast, and we’re the only ship of force on this side of the continent who can face her.”

“Aye, ma’am,” Thornbush agreed placidly. “I figured as much when we came into port instead of sendin’ those burro officers off in that lugger.”

Twilight couldn’t help raising her eyebrows a little. “And you’re good with that?” she asked. “First our orders called for us to take her to help the rebels. Now we have to take her or sink her to stop the rebels!”

Thornbush shrugged his burly, rolling shoulders. “If it was a fair or sensible world, ma’am, we wouldn’t need Princess Celestia, now would we? Say we sink ‘er tomorrow, and next day the Admiralty sends orders to raise her from the bottom. We’d still have to do it.” He smiled a little and added, “And you could do it, ma’am. You’ll make it work. I’m more worried about his Lordship.”

“Is Iron Press causing any problems?” Twilight asked. “I’ll speak to him about it if-“

“No, no ma’am!” Thornbush said. “He’s been a gentlepony, a real gentlepony if you get my meanin’. But I’m a bit worried some of the crew might cause problems, ma’am. He’s a looker, and I caught that corporal of marines givin’ him the eye.”

Twilight blushed. “He’s not that pretty,” she said defensively. “Wildrider’s better looking when he cleans up.”

“Nopony wants to blow two weeks of pump duty on hammock time with Wildrider,” Thornbush said bluntly. “But there’s no regulations about fraternizin’ with passengers not on the muster rolls, ma’am.”

“He’s a grown stallion,” Twilight managed. “I’m quite sure he’ll be able to take care of himself.” With that she retreated back to the quarterdeck to avoid any possible continuance of the conversation.

Iron Press might be able to handle himself. Twilight wasn’t sure if she could.

Author's Note:

"OK, X character needs a pony name. How about Y?"

"Wait a moment... I remember this pony getting name-checked in the first chapter or two. What did I name him then?"

"Oooooooh crap. I didn't change the name AT ALL. It went in as a human name."

"And NOBODY NOTICED."

"Wait a minute... it begins with G. And nobody noticed. Well, problem solved, then."

Thus, Lieutenant Gerard.

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