• Published 23rd Sep 2019
  • 8,284 Views, 524 Comments

Battlestations: Equestrian Seas - Shadow Quill

The greatest battleship of all time was sunk by an Allied task group, left to rust beneath the waves. Or so they thought. Join the sole survivor of the Bismarck's sinking as he rebuilds his nation's flagship in order to fight for his new home.

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1 - On Stranger Shores

The klaxon sounded from the speakers, explosions and the creaking of bending steel echoed through the deserted corridors of the sinking vessel. The captain had already ordered all hands to abandon ship, leaving only the dead to rot as the rush of water began to overtake the thunder of explosions, the remaining ammunition succumbing to the fires raging on every deck. Anyone who could make the jump into the frigid North Atlantic waters had already left, praying the Allied ships nearby would be kind to them and allow them aboard. The only other option was to freeze to death in the unforgiving ocean as their enemy watched from afar, the smoking hulk of their flagship sinking beneath the waves with the bodies of their fellow sailors.

Not that any of that mattered to Leutnant zur See Kepler Wolff, who was trapped on one of the lower decks by a huge mass of collapsed bulkhead and decking. The only other way out of the small storage room was through a flooded gangway that sparked with electricity from several broken wires, meaning it was either death by electrocution or drowning. Part of his mind told the battered and soot-covered sailor to just jump into the charged seawater and end it all, but the idea of getting cooked alive by power coming straight from the main boilers didn’t appeal to him all that much.

Coughing as smoke poured in through the gaps in the metal before him, Kepler searched furiously in an attempt to find an escape route, anything that could get him up to the main deck and out of this metal tomb. Yet as the water continued to rise and the deck began to tilt with the sinking ship, Kepler had to face the fact that he was about to die. If the electricity from the wires didn’t get him, then the lack of air would do the job soon after. Pushing against the mass of broken metal and piping one last time, Kepler fell to the ground as the deck shifted too far for him to keep his grip, sending him sprawling and sliding across the wall as the entire room turned upside down, a section of the jagged metal cutting his face above his left eye. Whether by sheer luck or the grace of God, his landing in the water didn’t immediately kill him, as the wires had been pulled free of the sea as the ship listed, leaving Kepler with just enough room to breathe as the water continued to fill the room. Before long, the terrified seaman was treading water with his head nearly touching the ceiling, only to be forced to hold his breath as the last of the air was forced out of the room by the surrounding ocean.

Panic set in as the air in his lungs began to run out, yet there was nowhere to go, nowhere to escape to that wouldn’t spell his immediate doom anyway. With a final burst of bubbles, Kepler stopped fighting as a large flash of light engulfed his vision, his body slowly sinking as burning water rushed into his air-starved lungs. The last thought that ran through his mind, was curiosity, about if the searing brightness he had seen was the boilers finally detonating.

Border patrol had been dull as always, although that wasn’t saying much when every day was a dull one in the tiny province of Feather’s Cove. Gloria Windcutter could feel her steel armor weighing heavier on her body with every passing second, and there were still several miles of coastline she had to fly over before returning to the fort. The young hen suppressed a yawn as she fought to keep her eyes open under the moonlit sky, her wings moving on little more than autopilot as her gaze traveled lazily over the shore below her.

Life in the Gryphon Empire could be great, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a host of problems that had to be taken care of regularly. One of those duties was patrolling the many shorelines for any signs of enemy ships. Although the navy and air force kept most threats far from the homeland, that didn’t mean something couldn’t slip past the fleet and try to make a clawhold behind their defensive line.

This was why Gloria flew patrol every night over the same stretch of sand and water, to make certain that none of the Empire’s enemies were up to anything sneaky. Yet there were never any ships, nor enemy troops trying to get into the country unnoticed. All there was to be seen was dunes and jagged rocks in every direction save the sea. It was nearly enough to make the black and gold hen grind her beak in frustration. She was meant for more than this, and yet, unless she could prove herself to her commanding officers, there wasn’t anything she could do except deal with her lot in life.

Then, as if answering her prayers for something to happen, she spotted something unusual from the normal coastline and rocky hills. Something big jutted out of the water just offshore, shaped very similarly to the camel-made galleys that gave their navy such trouble. Even in the dark of the night, Gloria’s vision could tell the hulking vessel was much larger than anything her species had built, and if the shine of the moon was anything to go by, it was made of enough metal to be nearly impenetrable to anything but the most punishing cannonade.

Her blood singing at the thought of battle, Gloria swooped down and drew her sword from its scabbard, the polished steel glinting in the dark as she drew closer and closer to the strange edifice. Yet as the finer details became clear, her eyes widened in both shock and disappointment as the damage to the hull became apparent. Huge holes had been torn through the steel plating from bow to stern, the massive cannons on the upper decks bent in several places from powder detonations. Gloria could feel her body drooping as her excitement lost steam, her dreams of drawing blood in her first battle growing dimmer by the minute as she realized the ship before her was little more than a wreck.

And yet, there was something strange about the ruined ship before her, setting aside its sheer size and construction for a minute. For one thing, the name of the ship written on the bow was in perfect Gryphish, and for another, the tattered flag which hung limply from the mast was very close in overall design to the flag of her homeland. The black symbol in the center was foreign to her, but the overall feel of it still seemed familiar somehow, even though she had never seen a standard like it in her entire life.

Her curiosity gnawing at her and her training screaming that this was something important, Gloria slowly flew in and landed on the main deck, her claws clicking against the metal as her gaze traveled around the strange vessel. Everything around her was so alien, and yet somehow familiar. It was a strange feeling that wouldn’t go away as she walked along, her beak falling open as she entered the interior of the ship, and saw both the advancements and the damage that had been wrought to the inside.

Wires and piping hung loosely from bulkheads all around her, while stairs and corridors that were far too narrow for anything larger than a Saddle Arabian lead her deeper and deeper into the heart of the ship. Strangest of all was a distinct lack of bodies or other signs of combat. Given the damage to the ship, Gloria presumed that there had to be some blood, or something left behind, even if whoever created it had removed their dead after the battle.

The silence around her was deafening as subtle creaks and groans echoed from within the dark corridors. Gloria’s neck feathers rose as fear began to overtake her mind, as images of monsters within the shadows started flashing in the corners of her vision. Yet there was nothing she could do but press forward, partly because she hadn’t thought to bring a torch with her and partly because she couldn’t see anything outside of the ship unless she passed one of the large holes that had been blown through the plating. All of the decks looked the same and the only true way she could navigate was by sticking to one of the oldest strategies in the book, keep taking lefts, and you can always find your way back.

Working her way through the bulk of the massive warship, she now realized that was what it was. Her mind was awash with thoughts about who could have created such a powerful machine, and more importantly, what could have destroyed it so thoroughly and not attract the attention of some nation’s navy. There were things in the walls which she had never even imagined before, and that wasn’t even counting the fact that whoever had made this thing had to have technology far greater than what any nation on Equis currently possessed. That much was obvious just by looking at the connections between bulkheads and the intricate parts that were strewn about on all sides where they had come loose from control panels and other such things.

It felt like hours had passed as Gloria finally made it through the majority of the ship, her mind filled to the brim with information that she knew her superiors would be clawing to hear once she returned to the base. Yet there was something which drew her onwards, something that seemed to call to her as she made her way further and further into the dark. There was a scent in the air now, one that had been absent at the beginning of her exploration. Yet now she could tell that there was something in the dark of the lower decks, something that might give her a clue as to what exactly was going on.

The smell, which grew steadily stronger as she ventured ever deeper, was that of fresh blood.

Finally, after running into several closed-off corridors and having to find alternate routes, Gloria managed to make her way into a single room that was partly blocked by a large hunk of metal and piping. Squeezing past the sharp edges and somehow making it into the tiny space unharmed, Gloria beheld something she would not have expected in her wildest dreams.

Lying against the wall with blood slowly running from a cut on the top of his head, was a lone pony. Yet as her eyes adjusted to the darkness further, she noticed there were some things about this pony that didn’t make sense. For one thing, instead of the feathers she expected to see on a pegasus, the wings which lay haphazardly on either side of the stallion’s body were leathery, with long bones to support the membranes. There were also two large tufts of fur on top of either ear and upon closer inspection, she noticed the tips of fangs poking out from under his upper lip.

Something told Gloria this was no ordinary pony, and that she should be careful if she didn’t want a nasty surprise. Yet the officers back at the base needed to know about what she had found, so with one last look at the strange pony before her, she turned to go. She had only made it a few steps before a soft groan reached her ears, her head jerking back around as her gaze locked with a set of bright blue eyes as the pony slowly began to push himself to his hooves.

Gloria brandished her sword as the pony looked around, his expression one of confusion as his head turned this way and that. Yet that couldn’t have prepared Gloria for what was about to happen next. As the stallion’s gaze locked with hers once again, the first words that came out of his mouth were spoken in perfect Gryphish, just like the words she had seen on the bow of the ship.

“Where am I?” His voice was rough, and he coughed several times before speaking again in a clearer tone, “Is anyone there?”

Feeling slightly disturbed by the fangs in the pony’s mouth and the predatory gaze locked with her own, Gloria chose instead to ask a question of her own, “What are you? I’ve never seen a pony that looked anything like you, let alone one that spoke perfect Gryphish.”

One ear folded as he tilted his head to the side, “Pony? I’m not sure what you mean. I’m a human, and I don’t know what you mean by Gryphish. I’m speaking in the language of my homeland, German.”

This night just kept getting stranger and stranger, “Alright then, explain to me what this mess of a ship is doing on our shores. I know the Equestrians never made warships like this one, so how did you get here without our navy spotting you?”

This only seemed to confuse the stallion more, his eyes narrowing as he slowly stepped forward, his legs stuttering and awkward as if he had never used them before. “I can’t see in this darkness. I know you’re there, Fraulein but I can’t tell where we are. I guess I’m still on the ship but that doesn’t explain how I’m alive. We were sunk and the last thing I remember was drowning as the sea filled the room.” He seemed to pause as his own words reached him, crazy as they sounded to Gloria’s ears, “Am I dead? Are you the angel of death come to take me to Heaven?”

Feeling that she was getting nowhere, Gloria decided to do something that screamed “bad idea” in her head. She sheathed her sword and walked up to the strange pony, his ears following her movements before he jerked in surprise as her claws came into contact with his shoulder.

“You seem to be confused.” She kept her voice calm as the stallion jerked back from her touch, the smell of his fear growing with every second. “How about we get out of here and you can tell me more once we aren’t stuck inside this wreck anymore.”

The stallion seemed to hesitate for a moment before nodding, his steps growing in strength and coordination as he began to follow her out of the room. “Very well, but I expect some answers once we get up to the main deck.”

Gloria nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her, using her tail to guide the pony through the dark as she followed her trail back through the corridors. There was little she could do but keep her mind on her path as the duo ventured up towards the open sky, her thoughts jumbled as she tried to understand what was going on. There were just too many things that she couldn’t figure out about this pony, the ship they were walking through, and so many other little details that combined into a confusing whole. So, rather than try and figure it out right now, she kept her mind focused on the present and getting them both out of the ship and back to the base. Perhaps this pony could tell them more about what happened to the ship, and how in Equis a vessel like this managed to end up on their shores seemingly out of nowhere without alerting any of their troops.

Somehow Gloria knew that things were about to get interesting, if for no other reason than there was something about this stallion that kept setting off her instincts. Something strange that went against everything she knew about ponies. There was this feeling that she had only ever felt once when she had been in the sights of a manticore back during her first hunt as a chick.

Something about this stallion made her think she was walking in front of a predator.

Author's Note:

Hello to all of my faithful readers both new and old. My muse decided to hit me upside the head with her baseball bat yet again so we're of on another whirlwind adventure. This time we're diving into a little historical fiction with a slightly different Equestria. Please leave a like and comment in the towel section below if you like what you see and I hope to keep you all entertained.

Also, say hello to my Patrons, WuBzY and Earthpatriot117 who have been supporting my stories for almost a year now. If anypony feels inclined there is a link on my author page to my Patreon just in case any of you would like to give a few of your hard-earned bits to a noble cause.

Anyways, I look forward to hearing from you all and I hope to see you all next time. See you next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon.