Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 203

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Chapter 203

After a brief trek, we come to what I can assume is the pony equivalent of a war-room, with a large table including a map of the continents and little pegs, markers, etc. all around it, the table itself circled by numerous chairs for just about any species imaginable. Rainbow and I sit down, the guard standing and indicating towards a portion of the world-map on the table labelled as the ‘Dark Continent’ and moving a marker towards the north-western portion of the continent shown there.

“The class-four was detected in this general area, we need to send a team down there to deal with it if it’s a demon. Either way, the fastest way to get to the Dark Continent is by boat from the Manehattan docks.”

I think about this and just imagine the table as an extra-large, modified Risk board. “If it’s not a demon and just a human refugee, we may not want to approach with many ponies, so I suggest we take a small team of humans with us.”

“Demonic presence or not, the Dark Continent isn’t anything like Equestria and is incredibly dangerous.”

I nod. “How quickly could we get to the Dark Continent?”

“It’s about a two-week course from Manehattan, which is the closest port to the destination.”

“Two weeks...”

“Assuming there are no complications getting there and the winds are in our favor for the entire trip, sir.”

I think about this. “Rainbow, is it at all possible for a crew of pegasi to be on board to keep a constant wind blowing at our backs?”

Dash seems a little new to the whole ‘war strategy’ mood going on, but composes herself quickly. “It depends on how many pegasi we could support, constant wind control would have to be done in shifts if the pegasi have to be flying along with the ship while maintaining a wind current.”

“Alright, we need a rather large boat to carry Myrna, but she can swim in an emergency.” I recall her rather speedy water-skimming trick. Should be helpful if she doesn’t have enough room to stretch on the boat. “And we’d need a small team of pegasi to help with filling the sails.”

“There are a few on the weather team I’d suggest, but if it has to go during the night as well, I’m not sure how quickly they’d be able to handle their shift while dealing with a schedule change of sleeping during the day.”

“Get whoever would work best.” I turn to the guard. “Do we have a boat already prepared?”

“Yes sir... sort of. There is a boat in the docks for making the trip, but it’s not meant for carrying many ponies at a time and is mostly designed to endure the long trek rather than make it quickly.”

I think about this. “See if we can’t find a way to refit it with bigger sails. Is that possible?”

The guard ponders. “I’m not a sailor, but I think we may be able to quickly enough.”

“And where is this boat docked exactly?”

“Here on the Southwestern coast, it’s called Neptune’s Fortune, and shouldn’t be hard to find, I can send a team down there to do a retrofitting of the sails.”

“Good. Rainbow, I need you to head to Ponyville and tell Myrna and Anne how they can get to the Manehattan docks, once they’re on their way, gather some ponies from your weather team and give them the info they need while you make your way to Manehattan.”

Rainbow gives a salute and gallops out of the room, rocketing out of the first open window she comes to.

“That leaves us to prepare for the trip including food among other things. About how many could the ship hold toal?”

“Last we checked, about thirty ponies, sir.”

“If Myrna stays curled up or spread out along the ship, we should be able to fit her as well as Anne, myself, and a small team of Pegasi.”

The guard turns to a castle servant and orders for a detachment to be sent to Manehattan with the materials they need for stocking the ship and upgrading it. “We’d have to keep rations tight if we wanted to move tomorrow morning, the soonest we’d be able to set sail.”

“That’s fine, I think we can manage. We have our travel situation covered, what can you tell me about the Dark Continent itself?”

“How much do you already know?” the guard asks.

“Nothing, I’ve rarely venture outside of Equestria at all. What’s the basic rundown? What would we expect to find there?”

“Ah... well, for the first thing, it’s home of the Hags, a loathsome race of evil magic users. We don’t know much more about them than that, though, as they tend to be very insular, and the few encountered away from their continent have been invariably hostile.”

“Possibility of the class-four encountering the hags? Rough estimate.”

“It’s been more than half an hour. Depending on how mobile they are, it could be either very likely, as hags are territorial, or not at all, if whoever it is is remaining in place. Hags don’t have many cities, as far as we know.”

“And if they do encounter each other, would a class-four be able to fight off a hag by itself?”

“That depends on the hag in question. We know of five types, and two can be handled by a dedicated unicorn if they know what they’re doing. A class four should be fine.”

“Alright, get an archivist or whatever to head to the library and get me some texts on whatever is known about the Dark Continent. I’m not about to run into unknown territory totally blind and have to potentially deal with a demon on top of that.” I check a clock and it’s nearing midnight. “Have the books moved to the ship, I can study while we’re en route.”

“At once. There are many dangerous beasts, both magical and not, known to inhabit those shores. If... if you’re heading off, you’ll need to request the Princesses return, sir. There’s nopony else to act as a standing regent while you’re all gone, sir.”

Damnit. “Fine, have someone call them back and explain the situation.” They really seemed like they needed this break, but I guess there’s no accounting for when shit happens. “When they get back, or while they’re returning, bring them up to speed and let me know if they have any better plans. I’ll already be on the water by this time probably, so use a sending spell or something.”

“Of course, sir.” the guard turns to another guard and nods, before both begin to move out. A few other guards are in the room, working at their own little desks, keeping serious eyes on their papers.

With all that settled, I guess all there is to do is to head to Manehattan myself and help with preparing the ship. I was never a sailor or well-versed in boats, but if this is as serious as it sounds, we’re gonna need to be out to the Dark Continent ASAP.

The train ride takes a few hours and it’s almost dawn... or at least it should be, the sky is still dark.

I hop off the train and get directions to the docks. After a bit of searching I find the boat and with a quick jolt the sun shoots up over the water. Guess Celly got the news and is in a rush.

Looking over the boat, I see that the sail has been given a very patchwork upgrade, but it looks sturdy enough to hold a strong wind. I leap up the ramp and head for the inside on the back of the deck. I see a stack of books and scrolls which seem to be maps, and the requested information on the Dark Continent. I sit down and grab what seems to be an encyclopedia. First off, how big is this place... okay, that’s pretty darn big. Checking the map I see a marking of where we should be making land and one for where the Class-Four Touchdown was first detected. Looks like a bit of a trek.

I search my books for terrain info, see what kind of land we’d be walking through. Okay, we start at a black-sand beach and there’s a transition to a large river delta, shrouded by a marsh and the touchdown seems to be on the far end of a plain beyond that.

We don’t know if this is a demon or a refugee though. This could either be ‘Heart of Darkness’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and I don’t like the thought of living either of those flicks.

I hear a couple of loud ‘Woosh’ noises outside and I see that Rainbow and some of her weather team have arrived. I leap down the ramp to the dock. “Dash, the sail’s been redone, think your team can keep this thing at top speed for two weeks?”

“Two weeks?” one pegasus exclaims.

“Yeah.” I reply. “Two weeks. Can’t handle it?”

“They can handle it.” Rainbow assures me, then looks up at the sail. “Hmmm... This doesn’t look too stable. We could keep it going the whole way there and back but we’d have to be careful not to overdo it or this thing could bust open.”

I sigh. “Any seamsters in this group?” No hooves raise and the group looks around amongst each other. “Damnit, fine. Dash, you get them situated on-board. When Myrna and Anne get here, we leave for the Dark Continent- does anyone have a shorter name for the place?”

Rainbow Dash shrugs. “None that I know of. But Anne and Myrna were informed before I rounded up the team and they were on the first train here. They should get to the Manehattan station in three hours.”

“Works for me. Seems Celestia is aware of the situation. If anyone gets a message from her, bring it to me.”

“Wait... the Dark Continent! I heard Drizzle say her friend’s cousin’s Aunt went out there once and nopony ever heard from her again!” one of the pegasi speaks up.

I sigh again. “You’re the propulsion, not the rescue team-slash-hit squad. You’re all staying by the boat except Rainbow Dash. Last I knew, Anne was having trouble with flat-ground takeoffs and we’ll need an aerial scout.”

Rainbow nods and turns to her group. “Alright team, let’s get on board and get a shift schedule started, I’m gonna need at least three pegasi in the air every hour. Slackers aren’t tolerated!”

I let out a relieved sigh. At least I’m not the only one here who understands how serious this is. I follow the pegasi onto the ship and head back to my books. After a while of studying the various creatures we’d likely find aside from hags, I think we should make this just fine as long as everyone plays this smart and we make it to the Continent in one piece.


I turn and see Anne in the doorway. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice her chest first, but what really caught my eye was- “Left wing.”


“Your left wing. Some of those edges look a bit dull. I’m gonna need you sharp and fast if we’re gonna survive out there.”

“Wh- what?”

“Look if you need to slice your way through some foliage or cut down some multi-headed beast I don’t want you getting your wing stuck in the process. Sharpen that up best you can.”

“Uh... can you excuse me for a second?”

“Make it quick, we shove off the second you and Myrna are ready.”

Anne nods and ducks out of the doorway back onto the deck. A few minutes later, Myrna slithers in, most of her ‘tail’ probably bunched up on the deck as she worms her way into the room. “Hey there Anthony. You feeling alright?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine as long as this goes smoothly. I already told Anne I need you both in top shape. I trust you’ve been practicing with your stone powers?”

“Well, mainly molding, but yeah.”

“Alright. But if we need a thick emergency wall, you better be up to it.”

“Wow, Anne was right. What the heck is eating you? You’re acting all-”

“What?” I snap. “Worried? Stressed? Bossy? Look missy, we’re either dealing with an escaped refugee just like you and Anne, or a potential threat with unknown powers. We need to be on the ball here. We slip up out there and there won’t be anyone around to carry us back to the hospital. If I lose you two out there, I’m-”

“Chill out Anthony, it’s gonna be fine. You’re stressed, I get it, but we’ll be okay. This is serious, but if you’re just a shouting ball of nerves the whole way there, you’ll be a wreck.” She grabs me in a hug and I return it, her strong arms making me feel better.

“I just... I’ve played war games and strategy games and this is how I’ve always played them. If you don’t cover your ass every step of the way and stay sharp, you’re screwed along with your friends. I’m either in total control or everything gets fucked up, and this is our first ‘mission’. I can’t mess this up.”

“You won’t. You’ll be fine. Just relax, okay?”

“Okay.” I feel something slide up my neck and realize one of Myrna’s hair snakes is, well the best I can describe what it seems to be attempting is feeling me up.

“Uh... you uh, mind reeling in your roommate there?”

“Oop! Sorry.” The snake makes a reluctant retreat back up to her shoulders. She’s blushing slightly behind her facial scales.

“Hey, no problem, just... dinner first, okay?” I grin. “I’m not like a horny teenager out for a quick lay. I like my girls to stay awhile.”

“Well, y’know, I have bought you dinner once already...”

“You wanna cash that in now?” I ask, leaning on her shoulder.

“Heh, nah, just pointing it out. Ya gotta watch your phrasing, after all.”

“Only if I say something I didn’t intend to. Anyway, we should get this boat moving.”

She looks at me a little funny. “Anthony, we’ve been moving for about five minutes, now.” Sure enough, a quick peek out the one window shows the shore getting rapidly distant. Huh, taking ‘smooth sailing’ to a new level, I guess.

I return my attention to Myrna. “And my excuse for that one is: I was distracted.”

“Of course you were, I remember you freaking out a little the last time I saw you on water.”

“Last time you saw me over water you were carrying me with nothing below us. I’m perfectly fine with boats. Though I’ve never caught a single dang thing on any fishing trip I’ve been on.”

“Aww, can’t fish? I’ll have to show you a good marsh some time and ‘fish’ for a crocodile. They’re good eatin’, and I think I could be strong enough now to take one on directly.”

“Prove you can and I’ll do all the skinning and cooking. Just a warning, I like my croc spicy.”

Myrna laughs and sets me down. “Anyways, I’m going to go check out the rest of the ship, and make sure my stuff is stowed correctly.”

“You do that. I’ll just be here reading about our destination. Flirting and jokes aside, it could be real dangerous.”

“Oh, I’ve got a lot of supplies. Dad was in the marines, oh-so-long ago; I know how to pack for survival.”

“Well if you’re set, then I guess we just need to get Anne up to speed. I am an ex-Boy Scout and all.”

“Really, now? Know any good knots?” I think over the few I can remember immediately, others coming to mind.

“Yeah. I could show you one I just came up with myself. I call it the ‘Proud Serpent’. Wanna see how it goes?”

“I don’t wanna see your ‘proud serpent’, Anthony, you gotta buy me dinner first.”

“The serpent isn’t referring to me. You afraid of a little ‘girl-on-top’?”

“Okay, the innuendos are getting thick enough to have their own ego; I’m out.” she says, a joking tone in her voice and a smile on her lips. “I have to make sure my stuff is stowed, we can talk later.”

“Alright alright, seeya later. Though I wonder if Anne’s up for-”

“No! Uhhhh... I mean...”

“Oh no.” I reply to the voice from outside the door. “A creeper. Looks like I’m gonna need... a pussy.” A moment of waiting later, I curse at her lack of gaming. Anyone could’ve gotten the Minecraft reference.

I look out the window again and see it’s almost afternoon and I’ve been up all night long... I’m gonna take a nap. I vaguely remember something about someone at the door or something... eh, I’d remember if it was important. Next Chapter: Chapter 204 Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 38 Minutes

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