The Wreck

by JohnPerry

First published

A.K. Yearling is haunted by dreams of a shipwreck...

A.K. Yearling leads a quiet, peaceful life as a novelist living in Canterlot with her fiancé.

But recently, she has been haunted by dreams of a strange shipwreck, and she doesn't know why.


Close your eyes. Now, what do you see?

A mustard yellow pegasus found herself standing upon sandy ground. The smell of salt filled her nostrils and her ears twitched from the thunderous crash of waves against the earth. She could feel the coarse grains of sand shift beneath her hooves as the wind batted against her form, whipping her mane and tail about her. The barren, rocky land rose unevenly from the water, gentle slopes merging into steep cliffs, all uniformly brown and seemingly devoid of life.

“I’m on the beach,” she murmured, barely hearing herself over the wind and the waves.

Is it the same beach as before?

The mare turned towards the ocean and the strands of her mane quickly blew out of her face. A shudder went down her spine as she glimpsed the shadowy mass lying in the water, towering above the mighty waves. She had seen it many times before, but each time she could not help but shiver when she caught sight of it. It was so alien to the peaceful beach, its presence a foul, haunting reminder of the world beyond this otherwise serene landscape.

She gulped. “Yes.”

The colossal wreck of a huge ship sat unmoving in the water, just beyond the lines of white-tipped waves rolling towards the shore. It rose sharply out of the water, a mass of rusted steel that defied the waves that smashed against its hull. Despite the peeling paint and the trails of rust that streamed down from every porthole, from the front it still looked seaworthy; the bow of the ship pointed optimistically towards land and a single funnel still proudly stood high above the waves below.

But as the mare walked along the beach, now taking in the side of the vessel, the toll nature had taken became terribly clear: the entire stern half of the ship was gone, undoubtedly sent beneath the fierce waves. Its gaping absence made the wreck, which had seemed so imposing from the front, look exposed and vulnerable. Its huge funnel and portions of the upper decks beneath hung precariously over the water, as if some great monster had torn the rear half away. On the side of the ship near the bow, somehow still readable on the corroded metal, were the words “EQUESTRIAN STAR.”

The mare took a step towards the wreck, shivering at the feeling of the cold, frothy remnants of a wave sweeping against her forehooves. Her heart began beating faster, her wings unfurling on their own accord as she awaited the next gust of wind to send her airborne…

Open your eyes.

The mare’s eyes snapped open to behold the inside of a plainly decorated room. She was laying on her back on a leather couch, slowly sinking into its plush, yielding form as she looked up at the ceiling. A potted plant sat nearby, one of its ferns arcing into her line of sight.

She looked to her side, catching sight of a unicorn stallion sitting on a chair across the room from her, watching her over the thin spectacles perched on his muzzle and levitating a clipboard with his magic. His beige coat reflected the color of the walls, and he wore a gentle smile. “Now, what do you see?”

“I’m in the office of my therapist, Neuro Logic. Hello, Dr. Logic, good to see you again.”

Dr. Logic chuckled, making a note on his clipboard. “Just as witty as ever, Ms. Yearling.”

For her part, the mare did not laugh, nor even crack a smile, instead twiddling the tips of her forehooves together atop her chest. The doctor cleared his throat before continuing, “So, it was the same beach? You saw the shipwreck, then?”

Ms. Yearling sighed and began rubbing her hooves over her shut eyes. “Yes. It’s always the same dream, and it’s always so vivid. I could probably draw the ship from memory now.”

The doctor nodded. “And do you ever explore the shipwreck?”

“No, but… I want to. Every time I see it, at first I’m scared of it, like it shouldn’t even be there. But then the longer I look at it, the more I want to get closer. Then when I finally get the nerve to open my wings, it – the dream, I mean, it… it just stops.” Her forehooves retreated from her head and fell limply at her sides as she let out a quick snort through her nostrils.

“Have you been experiencing any anxiety in your day-to-day life? Perhaps any pressing matters weighing on your mind? Any trouble at home?”

Ms. Yearling shook her head. “No, far from it. Things have been great.” She paused, then added, “In fact… better than great, they’ve been… perfect.” She let out a small, easy sigh as she uttered the word. “I know that sounds cheesy, but I can’t think of a better word. Everything’s been wonderful, except for this weird dream I keep having.”

“Have you confided in your fiancé regarding these dreams?”

She nodded, turning her gaze back to the ceiling. “What does it mean, Doc? I’ve never been on a boat or anything… for that matter, I’ve never even seen the ocean!”

Dr. Logic tapped a hoof to his chin, letting out a short hum. “Tell me, Ms. Yearling: when you have these dreams, is it you standing on the beach, or do you take the form of another?”

“It… I think it’s just me. Err, actually, I never really thought about it. Why?”

“I wonder, perhaps, if you have grown envious of the character you’ve developed in your novels. Perhaps you have even begun to fantasize about being the adventurous mare you’ve spent so long writing about.”

“What?” Ms. Yearling sat up on her couch, staring at the doctor. “That’s… no, that’s silly! I’ve lived in Canterlot my whole life! I lead a happy life here! I don’t think about going on adventures and dangerous quests and things like that!”

“And yet you write about a character who does,” the doctor said, studying her over the rim of his spectacles. “Perhaps your writing has been a reflection of a deeper desire within you. Tell me, how long has it been since you wrote something?”

“Oh… a while now, I guess. I just haven’t really felt like writing much lately.”

A triumphant grin emerged across the doctor’s face. “I am willing to bet that without that creative outlet, your desires have begun to manifest themselves in your dreams. I see this all the time, Ms. Yearling; you’re simply having a case of wanderlust. I assure you, it’s quite common in mares your age, especially in a place like Canterlot, where it is common to be surrounded by colleagues who have traveled extensively and like to boast of their travels. It can make one fear they haven’t lived as full a life as they should have, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Ms. Yearling cocked her head. “So, what does this have to do with the shipwreck?”

“The shipwreck is merely a manifestation of the unknown, and your desire to explore it. It’s quite possible that you saw a picture of a shipwreck in a newspaper or a magazine at some point, and it made enough of an impression as to become embedded in your mind.”

She scratched the side of her head, frowning at the doctor. “So… that’s it, then? What should I do?”

“I would recommend making more time in your schedule to write; that creative outlet is a wonderful means of expressing your fantasies. The important thing is ensuring that you don’t identify so strongly with the character you’ve invented that you try to become her.”

“Become her?” She laughed. “Doctor, it’s me. I’m not about to try something dangerous or anything.”

“You don’t feel any envy towards your creation?”

“Come on, Doctor, I’m not that crazy,” Ms. Yearling said with a chuckle. “I know perfectly well that Daring Do isn’t real.”

The Muse

She squinted her eyes against the brisk wind, never tearing her eyes from the colossal wreck that sat upon the waves…

She slowly spread her wings, preparing for the next gust of wind…

She tensed her legs, ready to jump and take to the air…


Yearling’s eyes snapped open, and she found herself laying on her side. The outline of the shipwreck lingered in her vision even as it was quickly replaced by the blurry form of her bed.

She felt the soothing presence of a hoof on her shoulder, and warm breath against her ear. “Hey, sorry to wake you,” the voice spoke again, and she looked over her shoulder to see the silhouette of a stallion’s head looking over her. Even without her glasses, she could make out the twinkle in those eyes—those beautiful eyes—of his.

“Mmm… what’s up, Sight?” she mumbled.

“I gotta run some errands, but I wanted to let you know that I made some breakfast for you. It’s on the counter.”

“M’kay, thanks.” They shared a brief kiss before he walked out of the room, leaving her to get ready for the day. For a brief second, she considered curling up under the sheets, but the lingering image of the shipwreck made sleep an uninviting prospect.

Yearling grumbled and rolled out of bed, reaching out to her bedside table for her thick-rimmed glasses. She placed them on, then stretched her limbs and yawned, hearing her joints pop. Now that she was up, she became more aware of the smell of something delicious wafting from her kitchen. She stood up and started making her way towards breakfast.

She had barely taken a step when something moved out of the corner of her eye and she started. Yearling whipped her head around to find herself staring into her own reflection in a full-length mirror in the corner of the room. It revealed a disheveled-looking mare with her grayscale mane sticking out at odd angles above her red-rimmed glasses. She slowly blinked, staring at a spot above her head. She could have sworn…

She paused, then shook her head and snorted. No. It must have just been a trick of the light, she reasoned.

There was no way she had seen a pith helmet atop her head.

An hour later, Yearling was staring at the words–or rather, the lack thereof–on the sheet in front of her. She shifted her gaze down to the keys of her typewriter, leveling such an intense stare at the device that a part of her hoped she could simply will the typewriter to conjure words on its own.

She took her glasses off and set them on the desk before rubbing at her eyes. Yearling rested her cheek on one of her forehooves and sighed, tracing circles on the table with her other forehoof.

“How in the world did I do this before?” she thought. There was nothing interesting about her life. She never traveled, let alone went on adventures, and she most certainly did not do battle against forces of greed and evil. She led a quiet, ideal life in Canterlot, shared with her fiancé First Sight. She was, in short, the polar opposite of the character of her novels.

“Makes one wonder how I even started writing these things to begin with,” she thought with a wry grin.

After another moment spent staring at her typewriter, Yearling decided she wasn’t going to get anywhere at this rate. She rose from her chair and stretched her limbs before walking towards the front door, pulling her travel cloak and cloche hat off a rack next to the door. Before leaving, she took a piece of paper and scribbled a note on the table beside the entrance.

Couldn’t write. Went out for some fresh air. Be back soon. - A.K.

In the afternoon sunlight, the city of Canterlot seemed to positively sparkle. Whether by means of aggressive cleaning or something inlaid within the materials of the buildings themselves, the inhabitants of the capital city seemed determined to make their home a literal beacon of their prosperity.

It was a mark of how long Yearling had lived in Canterlot that she paid it no mind. Her steps took her down a familiar route along one of the city’s main boulevards, where she was careful to stay out of the way of the carriages that sped down the center of the street or the many denizens with upturned noses and closed eyes who had too much pride for common sense.

Force of habit led her to one of the city’s grand plazas, which was the focus of what tourist guides had labeled “the Cultural District,” owing to the presence of Canterlot’s main library, the opulent opera house, and the sprawling Equestrian Museum.

It was the last of these that held Yearling’s interest. She trotted up the marble steps to the main entrance, briefly glancing up at the soaring columns that held up the classically designed facade. A banner was hanging between a pair of columns, advertising a new exhibit with artifacts from Saddle Arabia.

“Wonder if I could do something with that?” Yearling thought, walking through the entrance. A museum guard nodded at her as she passed by into the grand foyer, where two huge spheres hung suspended from the ceiling, one painted gold and the other a silvery blue. A pair of gilded alicorns stood in the center of the huge room, their backs to each other as they stood on their hind legs, wings spread and horns directed at the two spheres. Yearling allowed herself a moment to admire the statues before continuing on.

Presuming one did not walk up the grand staircase to the upper levels, any visitor who passed through the foyer then entered a wide hall lined with elaborate dioramas, each a miniature representation of an exotic locale from some far-away land. This was where Yearling currently found herself, and it was always her favorite exhibit. It was usually quiet, since visitors tended to drift towards the more flashy exhibits, and Yearling always admired the level of detail that went into each diorama. Jungles, swamps, savannahs, and tundra were among those settings lovingly portrayed in each window Yearling passed by.

She tore herself away from a depiction of a lush tropical jungle, where a stuffed jaguar was lying in wait in the tall stalks of artificial grass, patiently watching a tapir who was eternally frozen drinking from a spring. Yearling’s eyes traveled to the adjacent diorama, where a serene beach awaited her. A pair of stuffed seagulls were facing each other, wings spread and beaks open as they squabbled over some food, while another was frozen mid-flight over the stale sands. On the wall behind them was a matte painting of waves crashing against the shore. Yearling’s gaze settled on the painting, admiring the careful strokes the artist had used to depict the foam of the waves rolling in, one after the other…

How the waves churned, rising and falling before crashing against the shore…

How the wind whipped against her face, heavy with the scent of salt…

How the sands shifted beneath her hooves…

Her gaze lifted from the shoreline, where a colossal wreck sat upon the water…

Her wings spread open as she prepared to catch the next breeze…

Yearling gasped, her eyes flying open as she leapt back away from the diorama. She could feel her heart beating quickly and her wings spread beneath her travel cloak. Yearling hurriedly folded her wings and looked around, her face flushed, but there was nopony in the immediate vicinity.

She spared a final glance at the diorama, with its painted waves and stuffed birds, before hastily trotting out of the room.

The Lover

Yearling paced back and forth through her living room, trying unsuccessfully not to glance at the notepad lying on her desk, pen and glasses sitting astride it with the words “Daring Do and the ____” scribbled on the top sheet.

“What am I missing?” she fumed, glaring at the notepad as if it had insulted her. “Why is this so hard?”

She heard the front door open, shortly followed by her fiancé’s voice. “Hey, I’m home!” A moment later, First Sight emerged from around the corner, smiling upon spotting Yearling. “How’s the writing going?”

Yearling grumbled and gestured at the notepad, causing First Sight’s smile to fade. “Uh oh, the notepad,” he mumbled. “...That bad, huh?”

“I don’t understand it!” she said, flinging herself onto the couch. “I should be bursting with ideas, but every time I sit down to write, it’s as if I’m completely blank inside!” She grabbed a cushion with her forehooves and pressed it to her face, letting out a muffled groan.

There was a brief silence, then Yearling heard the floorboards creak as First Sight moved across the room. The couch shifted beneath her, the cushions sinking a bit as they took the weight of another pony. She felt his hoof rest on her shoulder before something wet suddenly pressed against her neck, making a smooching sound as it left her skin.

“Stop it,” she grumbled, still holding the cushion to her face.

“Stop what?” She felt his lips press against the side of her neck again.

“Stop it! I’m—snrk—I’m trying to be indignant here!” She tensed and pressed the cushion tighter to her face, but she was fighting a losing battle trying to keep from grinning.

“I don’t like it when you’re indignant,” he said. “So I’m gonna do… this!” Her whole body spasmed at the sudden onslaught of hooves rubbing vigorously against her underside.

Stop it!” she squealed, hitting him over the head with the cushion, but she was laughing openly now. A few moments of jostling followed, ending with the two of them wrapped in each other’s embrace, panting slightly between bursts of bubbly laughter.

“Feel better?” he asked.

“Mhmm,” she responded, giving him a lingering kiss. “I still haven’t written anything, though.”

“Well, one problem at a time, I suppose.” He rose from the couch, letting his hooves tease along her sides as he did so. “You have been inside all day. Maybe you should take a break.”

Yearling let her hooves hang limply off the couch, sparing a brief glance at the notepad. “A break does sound nice.”

“Would you like to go for a walk? Maybe we could go to the museum?”

At this suggestion, yesterday’s memory of the diorama sprang to Yearling’s mind. “Not the museum,” she said hastily. “But a walk does sound lovely. Who knows? Maybe inspiration will finally strike.”

“Maybe you just need to think about this whole writing thing differently,” First Sight said. “Write what you know, you know? Talk about your experiences.”

“I don’t have any experiences. The only thing I ever think about these days is that damn dream with the shipwreck. And I don’t even know why I’m having that.” She paused, then added, “Do you think it means I’m afraid of the water, or something like that?”

“Or maybe you’re just curious about ships,” he offered. “But maybe you can work with that! If she was you, what would Daring Do... um, do?”

Yearling cocked an eyebrow at him. “What would Daring do?”

“Yeah, you know, if she was having those dreams.”

Yearling shrugged. “She’d… study it, I guess? Actually, knowing Daring Do, it’d probably be some kind of message sent by... the mystical Orb of, uh, Something-Or-Another, and inside the shipwreck would be a… a treasure map.”

“Great!” First Sight said. “Now just write that!”

Yearling gave him a warm smile before getting up off the couch, so that she stood in front of him. “Sight, it’s wonderful that you want to help, and I truly, sincerely mean that.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before flashing him a smirk. “...But you don’t know anything about the writing process.”

“Well, it was just a thought,” he said, shrugging. “But hey, if you can’t stop thinking about this dream, maybe you should confront it head-on? Study it, try to figure out what it is… What have you got to lose?”

Yearling considered this for a moment. “...Nothing, I guess.” She glanced out the window, where the sky was now a rosy pink. “Ah! But we’re losing daylight! Come on, let’s take that walk. I’ll think about this tomorrow.”

Canterlot’s main library was a massive structure of polished white stone with columns that reached to awe-inspiring height, holding up a building that encompassed an entire city block. Besides the royal palace, it was the largest building in the entire city, a bragging point for those who liked to boast of Canterlot’s intellectual achievements.

Yearling, however, had no interest in the vast atrium she was presently walking across, with its mosaic murals covering the domed ceiling. She was following the directions the pony at the circulation desk had given her, looking for the staircase that would take her down to the Maritime Wing of the library.

A moment later, she was trotting down a spiral staircase, her travel cloak trailing on the marble steps. It was already clear that she was in the right place, as the alcoves in the wall along the stairs now contained ornaments of a nautical nature, such as ships’ bells, wheels, or anchors.

At the bottom of the staircase, she found herself in a long hallway lined with paintings of ships. They seemed to be organized by time period, so that as Yearling approached the reading room that lay beyond, the ships in the portraits grew larger and more advanced, starting with the ancient rowing ships of lost cultures, then to tall sailing ships, then to the first iron hulls, and finally to grand ocean liners. The image of the shipwreck flashed through Yearling’s mind upon seeing these pictures. She continued past them into the cavernous space that was the Maritime Wing’s reading room.

The reading room of the Maritime Wing was in keeping with its nautical theme. The vaulted ceiling was painted in shades of green and blue that seemed to ripple and shimmer in the candlelight of the chandeliers, as if she was staring up at a pool of water overhead. The walls were lined with maritime relics, portraits of sea captains, and glass cases holding ship models next to bookshelves and reading desks.

A great feeling of deja vu washed over Yearling as she looked around. Nopony else was present, save for a lone elderly stallion sitting behind a long desk at one end of the room, who had a pipe clenched between his teeth and was reading a book. He looked up when Yearling approached and took the pipe out of his mouth before smiling at her.

“Anything I can aid you with?” he asked. Despite his gravelly voice, he had a clipped accent that suggested the refinement typical of Canterlot ponies.

“Uh, yes...” Yearling briefly hesitated. “Do you by chance know anything about ocean liners?”

“Aye!” he answered. “I used to sail on them quite regularly!”

“Well, I’m just curious about them is all. I don’t really know anything about them, and I wanted to do some research.”

“Well, you can ask me anything you like! Before I took up my scholarly pursuits, I was a seasonal for the Star Liner Company for many years. I must have worked on every ship they ran! Later, I finished my degree, but…” He gestured around at the room. “Well, I never could give up my love for the sea.”

“Sounds like you’re a perfect fit,” Yearling said, smiling. “Err, you said ‘Star Liner Company,’ correct?”


“This might be an odd question, but…” She paused. “Well, there’s a particular ship I’m interested in, though I’ve probably got the name wrong. Have you by chance heard of a ship called the Equestrian Star?”

At the mention of the ship’s name, the stallion’s eyes lit up and he let out a barking laugh. “Heard of it?! I doubt there’s a sailor alive who hasn’t heard of the Star!”

Yearling’s eyes widened, and she spoke before she could contain her words. “It’s real?”

“As real as you and me! Oh, she was the finest of the Star Liners! Graceful, but built to last. You should have seen her sail! A thing of beauty, she was!”

An image of a stark, crippled wreck sitting on the beach flashed through her mind, and Yearling had to resist the urge to flinch. “...Uh, ‘was,’ huh?”

“Aye, a real tragedy, it was.” The stallion took a long inhale from his pipe before continuing. “Oh, nopony died, mind you, nothing like that. Frankly, all told, it could have been much worse. But an old sailor like me can’t help but mourn the loss of such a good ship.”

“What happened?”

“Well, that’s just it. Nopony rightly knows,” the stallion said in a dramatic tone, his eyes twinkling. “All anypony really knows is that the Star was traveling in calm seas, everything going just fine, when suddenly there’s an explosion down in the hull. The ship slowly started taking on water, so everypony made for the lifeboats and left the Star floating at sea. Eventually, another ship came by and picked up everypony, but by then, the Star had drifted out of sight.”

“And then it ran aground?”

The stallion frowned. “Ran aground? Not that I know of. Whatever gave you that idea?”

“Oh. Uh…” Yearling tried to banish the image of the wreck from her mind. “Never mind, I’m probably just thinking of a different ship.”

“Truthfully, I suppose it could have run aground. Nopony has ever found the wreck, you see. But the real mystery is what caused the explosion. A lot of ponies think it was just a boiler explosion, but I’m not too certain.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well firstly, I know first hoof the Star had one of the best crews in the business, and I doubt they would have let a boiler get into such bad shape in the first place. But more than that, if the boilers had exploded, there wouldn’t have been enough time to get everypony off the ship, let alone for it to keep floating.”

Yearling chewed this over. “So what do you think happened?”

“Goodness if I know. But it makes for a damned good yarn.” His eyes lit up once more. “Say, we have the plans for the Star in here, if you’re interested. Would you like to take a look?”

Yearling agreed and was quickly led into the depths of the Maritime Wing, past tall shelves of thick treatises on maritime law, on ship codes and design standards, of navigational charts and ships’ logs. At last, they finally came to a corner of the wing with books that seemed to be devoted to individual ships, most of them with titles that were simply the names of their respective vessels.

“Here we are,” the stallion said, coming to a stop. As Yearling looked, she saw that he was scanning a shelf filled with titles referring to the Equestrian Star. “This is the one I would recommend to you: ‘Star of the Sea,’ by Fair Wind. Plenty of illustrations in there, and her writing is pretty engaging.” He pulled it off the shelf and offered it to Yearling, then skimmed through the other titles. “Mast Head’s ‘A History of the Equestrian Star is more comprehensive, but his writing can be pretty dry and technical. Yeah, start with Fair Wind.”

Yearling thanked him and then wound her way back through the shelves to the reading room, where she set the book down on the nearest table while the librarian retreated to his desk at the other end of the room.

She ran a hoof over the blank hardbound cover, and it was only now, in the silence of the library, that she realized her heart was racing. She took a steadying breath, then opened the book to find an image of the Equestrian Star on the inner cover.

The hairs on the back of her neck rose as she looked over the image. It was undoubtedly the same ship from her dream. But where the Equestrian Star of her night terrors was a twisted, mangled wreck missing its entire rear half, the ship in the picture was a proud vessel that looked impervious to nature’s forces. Smoke billowed from its twin funnels as it plied the waves, the bow pointed ahead with that same optimistic forward thrust that had somehow endured in the wreck.

A voice spoke from behind Yearling, causing her to gasp and jump in her seat. “It’d make for a hell of a dungeon, wouldn’t it?”

Yearling placed a hoof over her heart, quickly turning around. “Sorry, what—”

The rest of her words died in her throat. There was no one around.

“Did you say something?” Yearling looked over to see the librarian calling her from behind his desk.

“Uh, no, did you?” Yearling called back.


She looked around the room again, but nopony else was in sight.

The Question

Yearling trotted through the streets of Canterlot, a copy of Fair Wind’s “Star of the Sea” clutched under her wing beneath her travel cloak. Around her, the gleaming buildings of the capital city glinted with a pinkish hue in the light of the setting sun, but she paid her surroundings little mind, only staring down at the cobblestones in front of her hooves.

Her mind was racing, struggling to come to terms with what she had read. At the end of the book was a brief chapter on the loss of the Equestrian Star, but, as the librarian had suggested, there was no information on the location of the wreck.

“So where did I see it?” she thought. “And why can’t I stop thinking about it?”

Suddenly, a sharp pain went through her shoulder and she leapt back in alarm, her glasses falling on the cobblestone street with a clatter. She looked up to see the blurry form of another pony shoving past her. The pain quickly subsided, but the shock of being knocked out of her thoughts lingered.

“Hey, watch it!” Yearling snapped, leaning over to pick up her glasses.

“What a shock,” the other pony sneered as she passed out of Yearling’s sight. “The mare with the oversized glasses is near-sighted.”

Yearling briefly froze before gritting her teeth and shoving her glasses back on. She whirled around, preparing her retort. “I beg your par–”

The rest of her words died in her throat. Walking away from her was a pegasus mare with a mustard yellow coat and a green vest, a coil of rope held under one wing and a pith helmet on top of her head, her face hidden from Yearling’s view.

Yearling was rooted to the spot for a moment before her senses caught up with her. “Hey!” she yelled, raising her hoof, but immediately a carriage passed between the two of them, cutting off her view of the pony. Once it passed, Yearling looked to see that in place of the pegasus mare was now a dull-coated stallion in fancy dress, his eyes closed and nose held high in the typical fashion of Canterlot elite.

She blinked, remaining frozen in place as she watched the stallion continue down the street. Eventually, after another fleeting glance around the street, she fled the scene.

It wasn’t long before she was back at the door to her apartment, hurriedly throwing it open and slamming it shut behind her. Yearling leaned back against the door, breathing hard and her heart racing as she slowly slid down into a sitting position.

“Hey, hun!” First Sight’s voice called out. His head emerged from around the corner. “I was just working on dinner. Do you want… uh, are you okay?”

At the sight of her fiancé, Yearling immediately felt a calm pass over her. Her heart slowed to its normal rate and her breathing became easier. She stood up, giving him a small smile. “Yeah, I just… it’s silly, really, I gave myself a bit of a scare.”

First Sight walked up to her, wrapping a hoof around Yearling. At his touch, her body relaxed. “What happened?” he whispered, his breath tingling against her ear.

“Nothing, nothing,” she murmured, giving him a nuzzle. “It’s silly. I just saw something that spooked me, but it was really nothing.”

“Are you sure? You just seemed–”

“I’m fine, really! I’m…” The image of Daring Do walking down the street flashed through Yearling’s mind. She broke the hug and gave Sight a sheepish look. “I... guess I’ve been thinking about my writing too much.”

First Sight frowned slightly. “Well, if you’re sure… Hey, whatcha got there?”

Yearling looked down at where he was pointing to see the copy of “Star of the Sea” still clutched under her wing. She blinked, realizing she had completely forgotten about it.

“Oh, it’s, uh, just some light reading,” she said, showing him the book.

He took it and flipped it open, then gave Yearling a grin. “Ships, huh?”

“Shush, you,” she retorted, smiling as she pushed him lightly on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s see this dinner you were talking about.”

Daring Do stood upon the deck, maintaining her fierce stance despite the rolling of the ship. The storm raged outside, lashing rain against the portholes, but it was nothing compared to the bellowing monstrosity standing before the adventurer–

Yearling paused in her writing, frowning at what she wrote. After a moment, she reached for the sheet and tore it out of her notepad, crumbling it into a ball before tossing it into the corner, where it joined a pile of others just like it.

She sighed and took off her glasses, rubbing at her tired eyes. “It’s just not… right. How the hay did I do this before?”

Yearling slouched over her desk, planting her chin on her hooves. Her gaze traveled around the room, eventually settling on the blurry form of her bookshelf. Volume after volume of her Daring Do series had been arranged along one shelf, bound in hardcover with “Daring Do” printed in shining letters on the side, all of them unopened and collecting dust.

She put her glasses back on, giving the novels a more intent look. Maybe inspiration was to be found in her old works, she reasoned. She lifted herself off her chair and walked up to the bookshelf. “Heh, hard to believe I wrote all that,” she thought, looking at the couple of dozen or so novels presented on the shelf. She grabbed one of the books and flipped it open.

The first page had only a single sentence, written in small, neat text:

What is A.K. Yearling without Daring Do?

Yearling frowned, re-reading the sentence. “I never wrote that… who put that in?” She stared at it for a moment longer, then dismissed it and turned the pages of the book.

They were all blank.

She flipped through the pages, finding each one to be as blank as the last. She grabbed another Daring Do novel off the shelf and opened it, only to find it blank as well. A third and a fourth book produced the same result, each one empty save for a single line of text on the first page.

What is A.K. Yearling without Daring Do?

“Is this some kind of joke?” At this point, Yearling was ripping each book off the shelf and dropping it to the floor once she found them to be blank. “Maybe the publishing company made a mistake?”

After she had exhausted her collection, Yearling paused and looked down at the mess of books she had made on the floor. She sighed before restaking them, then begrudgingly returned to sitting at her desk, staring at her empty notepad.

But she still couldn’t focus, and took to staring out the window, admiring the Canterlot scenery. The skies were ablaze with color and the buildings had taken on a pinkish hue in the light of the setting sun. Pegasi flitted by over the streets of the city, including a mustard-coated mare in a green vest and pith helmet who was perched on the building opposite, waving at her…

Yearling nearly fell out of her chair when the realization of what she was seeing finally struck. She ran to the window and watched the pegasus mare, who was giving Yearling a cheeky grin. She tipped her pith helmet in mock salute and then spread her wings, leaping off the building and out of sight.

“Wait!” Yearling threw open the window and awkwardly clambered onto the windowsill. She cast a brief glance at the street a few floors down and considered taking the stairs, but quickly realized that she’d never catch the mysterious pegasus if she did so. She frantically flapped her wings, managing a brief hover before she leapt out of her apartment, managing an unsteady glide across the street to the roof of the building opposite. She landed, then stumbled across before flapping down into an alleyway on the other side of the building.

The alley was deserted, save for Yearling. Now that she was outside, she was distinctly aware of the fact that she had left her travel cloak in her apartment, and she felt vulnerable for it. She was also growing increasingly aware of the fact that she had just leapt out of her window in order to chase a strange pony whose intentions were unknown to her. “What am I, Daring Do?

“Well, you’re not too far off.” Yearling yelped and whipped around at the sound of the unfamiliar voice, finding somepony now standing in the middle of the alleyway.

The mare before her somehow seemed a poor approximation of the heroine of Yearling’s novels. The mustard yellow coat, the olive green vest, and the pith helmet were all perfect, but nowhere did she see that friendly, youthful expression that brimmed with curiosity and foolhardy confidence. Instead, her face was twisted into a smirk, her pith helmet casting dark shadows across her features. Her grayscale mane seemed to reflect a tiredness in her form; her hooves were cracked, her shoulders were slightly hunched, and her eyes were dulled yet still glinted in the dim light. Everything about her seemed cruder, older, more weary and weathered than the Daring Do of Yearling’s mind.

Yearling inhaled sharply, then pointed at the mare and said the only thing that came to mind.


Daring snorted, giving Yearling a bemused look. “‘Shoo’? What am I, a cat?”

“This has gone far enough! Who are you?”

“Well, that’s a stupid question. Obviously, I’m Daring Do.”

“Daring Do is a fictional character,” Yearling said through gritted teeth. “A fictional character that I created.”

“On the contrary, A.K. Yearling is a fictional character that I created.”

“I… what?!” Yearling sputtered. “You have some nerve! You pretend to be some impossible adventurer who goes on insane quests and saves the world, and you tell me that I’m fictional?!”

“Well, you’re pretending to be a young, mild-mannered mare who leads a perfect life with her perfect fiancé without a care whatsoever in her spotless existence,” Daring shot back. “You tell me which of those sounds too good to be true.”

“You…” Yearling sighed and pressed a hoof to her forehead. “You know what, I’ve wasted enough time on you. Just… just leave me alone.” She turned away from the adventurer and began trotting in the opposite direction, only to feel a hoof grab her shoulder and forcefully turn her around, so that her face was mere inches from Daring’s own.

“I’m not done talking,” Daring growled. “You’re going to have to hear me out.”

“Get your hooves off me!” Yearling yelped, shoving the adventurer away. “Who do you think you are?!”

“I told you, I’m Daring Do. And right now, I’m in danger and you’re the only one who can help me.”

“I’m not listening to this!” Yearling stomped a hoof on the ground. “If you touch me again, I’ll scream for help! I mean it!”

Daring paused for a moment and stared at Yearling, who was breathing heavily and stood tensed, wings spread so that she was ready to leap into the air at any second.

At last, the adventurer sighed. “Alright, Ms. Yearling, have it your way. But I will ask you a question. If I’m fictional and you’re real, then what does the ‘A.K.’ in your name stand for?”

Yearling cocked her eyebrow at Daring, and her stance relaxed slightly in her confusion. “What is that supposed to mean? And why should I even tell you?”

“It’s a simple question, Yearling. If you can answer it, then I’ll leave you alone.”

Yearling huffed. “Is this some sort of a joke?” She turned away from Daring and started marching out of the alley. “Look, I’ve really had enough of this. I’m leaving.”

“You still haven’t answered my question, A.K.”

Yearling groaned. “Fine. It stands for…”

She trailed off, her gait slowing until she came to a stop. Her mind was blank as she stared at her hooves. “Uh… it stands for… uh… for...”

“Who were your parents? Where were you born? What was your life before you started writing Daring Do novels?”

“I… that’s private,” Yearling mumbled.

“Is it private, or do you just not remember?”

Yearling looked back at Daring, who had a grim look on her face. “Daring Do is just a character to you. An idea. But she has to exist in your world, because A.K. Yearling can’t exist without Daring Do. But if Daring Do is fictional, then what could have possibly inspired you to write all those stories about her?”

Daring took a step closer to Yearling, who involuntarily backed away. “You don’t remember what happens in a single one of your own stories, do you?”

“I… uh…”

“So let me ask again,” Daring continued. “What is A.K. Yearling without Daring Do?”

Yearling struggled to find her voice, her whole body shaking for a moment before she turned and bolted out the alley. As she ran, she heard Daring’s voice calling after her, but Yearling refused to look back.

“We’re in danger, Yearling! You need to find the shipwreck!”

“Where is it, where is it?!” Yearling hissed, emptying another binder of documents onto the floor of her study. She frantically began rifling through the sheets of paper before shoving them aside when she failed to find what she was looking for.

“Honey?” First Sight called from the other room. He stepped through the doorway to see the room in disarray; paper littered the floor and various drawers had been yanked out, their contents emptied onto the carpet. “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for my birth certificate!” Yearling yelled. Before Sight could formulate a response, she darted towards him and grabbed his shoulders in her forehooves. “Sight, what’s my name?!” she cried.

“Your… name?” he answered in a meek tone.

“Yes!” she screamed, shaking him vigorously. “Tell me my name!”

“Yearling! It’s Yearling!” he said quickly, trying to pry her clutching hooves off of his shoulders.

“No! A.K. Yearling! What does the A.K. stand for?!”

“I…” Yearling watched him falter, his expression going blank. “...I… don’t know. I don’t think you’ve ever told me. Uh, Yearling, what’s this about?”

She bit her lip, her vision becoming blurred as her gaze lowered to his chest. Her hooves wrapped around him tightly and Yearling buried herself into his form, choking out a sob as she felt the sting of tears. “I can’t remember my own name, I can’t remember my writing… I can’t remember anything!”

She pressed herself into him, staining his coat with her tears. “Sight... what’s wrong with me?”

Yearling felt his hooves reach around her back and his head nestle itself atop hers. His efforts to calm her were fruitless. She clung to him, her body shaking beneath his steady embrace.

The Loss

Dr. Logic cleared his throat. “I understand that you’ve been regressing, Ms. Yearling.”

Yearling didn’t respond. She was sitting upright in her seat, trying not to think about how she looked. She was a disheveled wreck of a pony, her mane and tail unkempt, her coat dulled, and her eyes swollen and bloodshot, with dark shadows beneath them. Her legs were curled tightly beneath her and she stared at the floor, avoiding eye contact with her therapist.

Dr. Logic seemed undaunted by her silence. “Would you like to tell me what happened?”

“I can’t remember anything,” she mumbled.

“Anything at all?”

“Anything… anything important. Anything from my life before. I remember that I’m A.K. Yearling, and that I’m a writer, but… that’s about it.”

“Do you remember First Sight?”

Yearling nodded.

“Do you remember how you met?”

“I… I think so. There’s a few details I remember. But it’s all… hazy.”

Dr. Logic scribbled something on his clipboard, held aloft by his magic. “Perhaps there was a trigger that caused this long-term memory loss. Has anything… unusual happened to you recently?”

Yearling tensed, drawing her hooves in. “I… I met Daring Do.”

“In a dream?”

Yearling shook her head. “No, in the street. Yesterday. She asked me about my name, and that’s how this started.”

More scribbling on the clipboard. “Did she say anything else?”

“She, uh, she said something about the shipwreck, but I didn’t think of it at the time.”

“The shipwreck?” Dr. Logic tapped his chin. “Have you still been having the dreams about the shipwreck?”

Yearling nodded again.

Dr. Logic let out a long sigh. “Frankly, I’m not sure what is causing your troubles. But if your visions of Daring Do and your dreams of the shipwreck have become linked, then I would like to continue exploring your dream, if that’s alright with you.”

Yearling nodded once more, then lay down on the couch so that she was looking up at the ceiling, her forehooves crossed over her chest.

“Whenever you’re ready, Ms. Yearling. I’ll apply the sleep spell.”

She closed her eyes and tried to focus on the shipwreck, as she had done several times before in this very office. She tried to picture the beach, to feel the wind in her mane, to smell the salt breeze, to immerse herself there…

But the picture in her mind remained only that. She concentrated, but she was still too aware of being in the presence of Dr. Logic. She opened her eyes, only to see the ceiling of her therapist’s office, with the potted plant sitting nearby and one of its ferns arcing into her line of sight.

“Doc, I don’t think it’s working.”

“Oh, it’s working alright,” spoke a voice that was very definitely not that of Dr. Logic’s.

Yearling yelped and bolted upright in her couch, looking across the room to see Daring Do sitting in Dr. Logic’s chair, grinning at her.

“What are you doing here?!” Yearling squealed, pointing a shaking hoof at Daring.

“I’m tired of waiting for you to stop running off to comfort yourself in your delusions. We’re in real trouble here, and if you don’t get moving fast, we’re both goners.”

“What are you talking about?!”

Daring glared at her. “The shipwreck, Yearling.”

“What do you have to do with the shipwreck?!” Her whole body was quivering now, the image of the adventurer becoming blurred through her watery gaze.

“I have everything to do with that shipwreck. The Equestrian Star is all that matters to us now.”

“Stop it! Just stop it!” Yearling leapt off the couch and stood before Daring, tears streaming freely from her eyes as she screamed into Daring’s passive, uncaring expression. “What have you done to me?! I was fine! I had a great life! Everything was perfect before you and your damned shipwreck ruined my life!”

“Nopony’s life is perfect, Yearling. You know that.”

Well it was pretty damn close!” Yearling roared. “What did I do to you?! What could I have possibly done to bring this on myself?!”

“Nothing. And that’s just it.” Daring rose from her chair and took a step towards Yearling. “I keep telling you, you’re in danger. But you keep running off into your perfect life, totally blind to the obvious.”

Yearling slumped on the floor, lowering her head. “Why won’t you just leave me alone?”

A hoof roughly forced Yearling’s chin up, so that she was looking directly into Daring’s eyes. “Because we are going to die unless you act quickly. So work with me here.”

Daring let go of Yearling and began pacing in front of her, leaving Yearling to wipe the tears from her face. “Now, try to think,” Daring demanded. “Why would we be obsessed with a shipwreck?”

“I don’t know,” Yearling mumbled.

“Yes you do! Come on, nopony knows Daring Do better than you, right? So tell me, why would Daring Do be obsessed with a shipwreck?”

“I… because there’s something inside?”

“Exactly! Something on board that ship before it crashed. Now, what would that be?”

“H-How should I know?!” Yearling cried. “Why don’t you tell me?”

“I can’t. But maybe your sailor friend at the library can help.”

“What’s he got to do with it? And why don’t you just tell me what you want?!”

“Like I said, I can’t.” Daring flashed her a wink. “After all, this is your dream.”

Yearling gasped, her eyes flying open to find that she was once again lying on the couch, staring up at the ceiling of her therapist’s office. She looked over to see Dr. Logic sitting in his chair, concern etched into his features.

“Are you alright, Ms. Yearling? You were muttering in your sleep.”

“I…” Yearling paused, then leapt off the couch. “I need to go.” She ran for the exit, grabbing her travel cloak and hat off the rack by the door.

“Wait!” Dr. Logic cried. “You can’t leave in the middle of our session!”

“I’m sorry, but there’s something I need to check out right away. Next time!” Yearling bolted out the door, leaving a thoroughly confused stallion behind.

Yearling ran into the Maritime Wing of the library, looking around to find it just as deserted as ever, save for the lone elderly stallion behind his desk at the end of the room. She trotted up to him, catching his attention.

“Ah, fancy seeing you here again!” he said. “How can I help you?”

Yearling spoke hurriedly. “I, uh, I was wondering if there was a way to find out what they were carrying on board the Equestrian Star before it sunk.”

The librarian smiled. “Well, as it so happens, we have a copy of the ship’s manifest in our archives. Would you like to take a look?”

She agreed and the librarian vanished into a back room while Yearling sat down at the nearest table. A few minutes later, he returned pushing a small book cart with two thick books laid atop it, parking it next to Yearling and heaving both books onto the table, both with “Star Liner Company” printed in elaborate lettering on the cover.

“This one’s cargo, and this one is a record of the passengers,” he explained. “They’re both for an entire year, so you have to skip to the end to see what was on the last voyage.”

Yearling thanked him and he returned to his post. She took the cargo manifest and opened it, finding a cross-sectional diagram of the ship on the first page, which indicated where each cargo hold was located. Yearling studied it for a moment, realizing that if something was still inside the shipwreck, it would have to be in one of the forward holds, since the rear of the ship was gone. She ran a hoof roughly over where the ship had broken away, then continued.

An intense feeling of deja vu washed over Yearling as she flipped through the record of the last voyage of the Star. A thorough examination of the contents of Forward Hold A and Forward Hold B produced nothing of interest. But it was in Forward Hold C that she finally found something of interest. Listed in the care of a Dr. Caballeron, marked for transport to Manehattan, was a single crate listed as “Special Care.”

Large, golden ring of foreign origin. Artifact of indeterminate age.

Yearling paused, re-reading the entry. “Dr. Caballeron…” she murmured. The name rang a bell, but she couldn’t place it.

She glanced at the other book lying on the table, then pushed away the cargo records and opened the passenger manifest to find a list of names scrawled in tidy cursive writing on the page, with addresses and a few basic characteristics indicated. On the top on each page was a letterhead with the logo for Star Liners. Yearling idly turned the pages of the manifest, skimming through the long lists of passengers.

There was no apparent order to the names, but occasionally she would see several passengers with the same family name listed in a row, making it clear that they had been listed as they boarded the ship. She spent a few moments scanning the names, looking for one in particular.

Her gaze traveled down the pages, one after another, until she found what she was looking for:

Dr. Caballeron. Earth pony. Male. Equestria.

Her eyes traveled down the page, finding another familiar name listed just a few entries after that:

A.K. Yearling. Pegasus. Female. Equestria.

Yearling walked the streets of Canterlot in a daze. Her head was bowed and her steps were plodding, her expression devoid of emotion. She stared at her hooves as she walked, but somehow never managed to run into another pony. Her surroundings seemed unusually quiet and dulled, as if something had muffled the entire city to her ears, offering no distraction from Yearling’s wandering thoughts.

Eventually, she found herself in the hallway outside her apartment. She looked up to see her front door, taken aback at how... plain it looked, as if she was viewing it for the first time. Yearling slowly opened it and stepped inside.

As she turned on the light in her living room, her breath caught in her throat as she spotted First Sight dozing in a chair across from her, his face an expression of calm serenity. Yearling whimpered, quickly throwing a hoof over her mouth to stifle a sob. She shut her eyes tight, squeezing out a pair of tears as she gritted her teeth. A part of her wanted to run back outside, but she didn’t move.

After a moment, she wiped a hoof over her eyes and swallowed hard, then shakily made her way across the room. She briefly stood over her fiancé before gently lowering herself onto his form.

First Sight awoke with a start at her touch, but quickly relaxed once he saw who it was. “Oh, Yearling, I—” He froze at the sight of her tear-stained face. “Yearling, what’s wrong? What happened?”

“Nothing,” she answered calmly, wrapping her forehooves around him and resting her head against his chest. “Nothing, I just… I never quite realized just how much I loved you.”

She felt his hooves against her back, one traveling up to run along her mane. “I love you too,” he whispered. “I’ll always be here for you.”

Yearling gave him a strained smile before leaning close, slowly pressing her lips against his. She leaned against him, their kiss anchoring them together as every bit of her body collapsed against his, desperate for his warmth and strength. But their lips broke apart as her form was wracked by a sob, her head sliding down to his chest as her tears came.

Yearling felt his hooves wrap around her once more. She lay against him, her sobs slowly subsiding as she murmured, “It’s… It’s too perfect.”

She closed her eyes.

The Answer

The crash of waves. The wind in her hair. The smell of salt. Yearling looked up at the hulking wreck, her brow furrowing as she unfolded her wings. This time she was ready.

It only took a few flaps of her wings to get herself airborne, as the stiff breeze swiftly lifted her skyward. She glided on the air currents, floating above the ship’s bow before she dipped towards the ocean, lazily circling overhead before finally alighting upon the ship’s deck.

The deck was littered with objects; rotting deck chairs sat beside discarded baggage and overturned tables. The metal railings and vents were completely corroded and the wooden boards lining the deck were rotted, and that was when they weren’t missing entirely. Now that she was standing on the deck, Yearling could feel the wreck shifting ever so slightly beneath her hooves, each wave sending a dull rattle through the ship’s crumbling hull.

In the middle of the deck lay a gaping hole, perfectly square in shape. Yearling slowly approached and peered inside, seeing steel beams and shattered glass lying on the floor beneath, recognizing them as the collapsed remains of a skylight. She inhaled sharply, then carefully fluttered her way into the depths of the ship.

Beneath the deck, the air was still. The sound of the wind and waves outside was dulled, but now Yearling could clearly hear the ship grinding and creaking around her, its rusting metal parts sliding and scraping against each other as the wreck slowly succumbed to the elements. The floors were showing strain, slowly buckling from the pressure of the wreck caving in on itself, while the metal walls were rusting away, coated in hues of brown and dark red and spotted with patches of green.

Yearling shivered as she continued further into the depths of the ship, approaching a narrow hallway that vanished into shadow. The creaking of the wreck grew louder with each step she took, now akin to a dull rattle that reverberated through the metal beneath her hooves. Shafts of light cut through the darkness, revealing thick particles of dust hanging in the air.

“Wait… dust?” Yearling peered at the particles hanging in the air. They were huge, far larger than any dust particles she had ever seen, and looked finely detailed even to her naked eye. “There isn’t even anything in here that could create dust. But then…”

Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt something soft beneath her forehoof. She glanced down to see that she had stepped on one of the patches of green. It squished slightly under her weight, and as she peered closer she could see it looked like some sort of moss. Now that she looked around, she could see that the patches of green were becoming larger and more prevalent the further she moved into the wreck, nearly covering the entirety of the walls and floor just beyond the shafts of light.

She picked up her hoof and watched as a cloud of particles emerged from the moss where she had stepped on it. They hovered in the air, floating in the shaft of light before Yearling, who watched them intently.

“It’s not dust, it’s… pollen?” She pressed on, feeling the soft, cool feel of moss underhoof. In the dim light, she could see complex structures in the middle of the largest patches of green: short, purplish red tendrils poking out of thick patches of moss, holding small buds coated in pollen. Yearling stared at it, feeling vaguely reminded of something she had once read…

The rattle of the ship grew louder and a shudder passed through the hull with the crash of another wave, as if the wreck itself was a breathing animal. Yearling continued on, spotting a gaping hole in the blackness ahead. She shuddered, her steps becoming shakier as she approached the hole, still struggling to recall the memory. In her mind’s eye, she could almost see the words on a page, the description of a strange plant, an image, a warning…

Just as she reached the rim of the hole, it clicked together in her mind. She let out a short gasp as the memory returned to her. Yearling paused, the ramifications of what she now knew settling in, before she took the last step and peered down into the hole.

Two ponies were lying on the floor, their forms barely illuminated in the dim light. One a pegasus mare, the other a gray-coated stallion. The mare stirred. She could feel the cold steel pressed against her body, the sensation of something alien upon her. Her mustard yellow coat was dulled, a tinge of green mingling with the hairs of her coat.

She turned her head, groaning at the effort it required. Through her blurred vision, she could just make out the stallion’s body, rising and falling slowly with his breaths, his coat tinged green from the moss that nearly covered him. It covered the floor, surrounding them. She looked down at her body, seeing the moss growing upon her as well.

Her limbs were stiff, and pain shot through them as she tried to move. She gritted her teeth, weakly tugging her forehooves away from the surrounding moss and slowly rolling onto her side. She drew her forelegs close to her chest as feeling slowly came back to them, and with it further pain. But fear drove her on, and she started blindly swiping at her coat, frantically trying to brush the moss off. In the dim light, she could just make out the blurry form of a cloud of pollen lifting off of her.

Gasping, eyes watering, she reached out her forehooves, trying to pull herself across the floor. She made it only a few inches before she felt one of her hindlegs refusing to move. She looked down, seeing it coated in thick moss, holding it to the floor.

“Don’t fight it, Yearling...” She froze at the sound of First Sight’s voice, and looked over to see that it had come from the stallion beside her, mumbled in a weak, hoarse voice.

She frantically began tugging at her hindleg, but it was held in place. Her breathing became frantic, her gasps turning into cries of pain as she continued to pull. Tears began streaming down her face as she planted her forehooves on the floor, struggling to stand up. Something heavy around her neck weighed her down, and she stumbled. She remained on the cold floor, panic overwhelming her as her cries turned to pleas.

“You’re just causing yourself pain, Yearling… Don’t fight it.”

First Sight’s voice was soothing. The pain was excruciating. She wanted to go to him. How easy it would be to just let the pain go… to let everything go…

“Untold riches, Yearling…” he mumbled. “Think of what we could have together.”

She gritted her teeth, snorting heavily as she pushed herself to her hooves once more. She focused on the pain, feeling the fear course through her veins as she stood up and began tugging at her hindleg again, frantically trying to reclaim it from the thick moss.

At last, with a final mighty tug, she yanked her leg out, crying out as the hairs of her hoof and fetlock were ripped clean from her skin. She stumbled and fell upon the floor again, her body racked by her sobbing. She curled into a ball, pleading for the pain to stop.

“You’re only hurting yourself, Yearling.”

The fear drove her on. The fear told her she needed to flee. She rose to her hooves again, now able to see only the dim light through her blurred vision. She took a step towards the light, then paused and looked back at the mumbling stallion, still lying on the floor.

A tug-of-war was fought between two instincts driving her. She couldn’t leave him. She couldn’t stay.

She collapsed on her knees beside the stallion, frantically trying to brush the moss off his coat. She tugged at his body, pulling with every bit of strength she could muster, before she finally managed to yank him onto his back, patches of his coat ripping away to the moss that had held him to the floor. He stirred, kicking out with his hooves and letting out a cry, but soon fell limp again.

“Come on…” she croaked, kneeling beside him and tugging at one of his forelegs, wrapping it over her shoulders so that his body was propped on top of hers. She struggled to stand, picking the stallion up with her, only to collapse under his weight.

She let out a sob, tears leaking down her face as terror gripped her heart. She gulped down air, her legs shaking as she tried to rise to her hooves again. “Come on…” she pleaded.

“Yearling, think of what we could have…” the stallion mumbled, his head hanging limp beside her own.

She took the first shaking step, and then another. The weight around her neck, combined with the weight of the stallion, made each step excruciating, sending stabs of pain through her body. She continued sobbing, but kept moving, fear pushing her on.

The light seemed brighter. Through the fog of her vision, she could sense it coming closer. She took another step before her head suddenly collided with something. Something was holding her back from the light.

Panic struck her. She propped herself against this invisible force blocking her path, feeling its solidness. With one forehoof clinging to the stallion, she raised the other and smashed it against the barrier. She did it again. It rattled with each strike.


Her pounding became more frantic. She heard something crack. She reared back on her hind legs, clinging to the stallion with her forelegs as the weight of both of them fell toward the barrier…

“I’ll always be here for you…”

They struck and the barrier shattered. Blinding light filled her vision and the air was full of sound. A brisk wind whipped at her, smelling of salt. She continued to fall as her whole body suddenly pitched forward, the weight of the stallion pushing her over while the weight around her neck pulled her down. She felt the floor leave her and for a moment all was light and sound as they plummeted through the air.

Her body hit something and suddenly the light and the sound was gone. She gasped and felt water fill her lungs. She immediately lost her grip on the stallion. Her eyes stung and her movements became frantic, her limbs flailing about underwater. She was dimly aware of a faint light overhead and slowly reached up towards it, but the heavy weight around her neck pulled her further down. She stopped flailing as the last bit of air left her, the light becoming dimmer as she sank into the dark depths below.

A sound like muffled thunder filled her ears before she felt herself tumbling through the water, helpless in the powerful current. A great mass of white water struck her and she spun in its midst, unable to tell up from down as her vision began to darken.

Suddenly, the world was filled with light and sound, but it was short-lived as she soon found herself beneath the waves once again. This occurred twice more before her body was flung against something hard, its coarse surface scraping her underside. The force of the impact rattled her body and she coughed violently, choking on the water as it left her lungs. She gasped for air, coughing up more water between frantic breaths.

A wave of water washed over her, submerging her briefly before receding. She reached out with her forelegs, feeling them sink into the wet sand beneath her as she pulled herself away from the water, inching across the ground.

At last, she stopped and rested face-down on the sandy earth, feeling the warmth of the sun upon her back. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the light and a barren, level beach came into focus around her, rising into cliffs and rolling hills in the distance. The sound of waves crashing against the shore filled the air, and in the sky she could see the form of birds lazily circling above.

She looked down at herself, seeing a wet, olive green vest clinging to her chest. A thick golden ring, wider than her body, hung around her neck. She slowly pulled it up over her head and let it fall to the ground, where it struck something solid resting beside her.

She rolled on her side, finding herself facing the stallion, now laying on the sand beside her. In the light, she could make out his black, tangled mane, his white vest and spotted ascot, and a cutie mark of a vaguely skull-shaped gold artifact. He was slowly breathing as he lay on his side, clutching an object in his grasp.

The object was pale in color, round with one part protruding out at an odd angle, with a green band wrapped around the top. She blinked, her vision slowly coming into focus to reveal a pith helmet.

Her pith helmet.

She glanced towards the ocean, seeing the looming form of a huge ship sitting in the waves, its rear half completely missing, the words “EQUESTRIAN STAR” printed in rusting letters on the side of its bow.

Daring Do laughed. She couldn’t help it. A smile spread across her face as she reached out to grasp the pith helmet, prying it out of the stallion’s hooves before hugging it tightly to her chest. She rested her head against the sand and closed her eyes, letting the world around her fade away.


Daring shifted under the covers of her bed, looking out the arched window at the city beyond. From her position she could see the many towers and minarets of Al-Jamal, one of the great cities of Saddle Arabia. Situated in the midst of a flat grassland, Al-Jamal was built upon a prominent hill that had an oddly-shaped indent in the middle, making it resemble a camel’s hump. A huge palace sat atop the highest point of the hill, and over the years the city had built up around it. In the blistering sun, the white-washed city gleamed like a jewel upon the brown landscape.

From behind her Daring heard a soft rustle, and turned to see a camel and a young, pale-coated stallion passing through the silk sheets that hung in the doorway to her room. The camel was carrying a silver tray holding two small ceramic cups and a gleaming brass pot with a long spout and an intricately designed lid. At the sight of Daring, both of them smiled.

“It is good to see you awake again,” the camel said, placing the tray next to her bed.

“How are you feeling?” the stallion asked.

“Dandy.” Daring smirked. “Never thought I’d get you out of the office, Pencil Pusher.”

The stallion shrugged. “Well, Dallah has made me feel right at home,” he said, gesturing at the camel.

“Any friend of Daring Do is a friend of mine,” Dallah said, lifting the brass pot with his mouth and splashing a miniscule amount of coffee into one of the cups. Daring took it and gently sipped, letting the mildly bitter taste wash over her tongue. She turned to one corner of the room where a huge golden ring, wider than her own waist, sat on a table.

Pencil Pusher stared at it as well. “So this is what Ahuizotl is after, then?”

“Yep.” She sighed. “This is what Caballeron was going to sell to him. How is he, by the way?”

“Still sleeping, but he’ll live,” Dallah answered. “How awkward it will be for him when he wakes up and finds out he owes you his life.”

“He didn’t deserve to die in there. Not like that,” Daring said, shuddering. “Now I know what happened to the smugglers he sent in there to get the ring. I feel sorry for him, really.”

“Sorry?!” Pencil Pusher cried. “He almost sunk the Equestrian Star!”

“Well... to be fair, they weren’t intending to sink the ship. I was trying to take the ring from him, after all. I just didn’t think his goons would be armed.”

“They blew a hole in the ship!”

“Yeah… not the brightest bunch,” Daring said. “Still, it wouldn’t have been so bad if the ship had sunk. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the ring safe. Thank goodness that Caballeron’s such a greedy bastard, or he wouldn’t have sent his smuggling ring to find the wreck in the first place.”

“But then Caballeron has to turn to Daring Do to retrieve the ring,” Dallah remarked, chuckling. “The irony is delicious.”

“Oh, it was,” Daring said with a grin. “It’s a shame he wouldn’t let me retrieve it by myself. Then again, he was never stupid, I have to give him that.”

Pencil Pusher took a seat beside her bed, glancing at the ring. “So, now what?”

“As soon as I’m well enough to get out of bed, I’m taking the ring back to Equestria. I have to keep it safe.”

“Caballeron won’t like that,” Pencil Pusher said.

“Let him complain,” Daring scoffed. “He might think the ring is his, but he’s dealing with forces he doesn’t understand. As long as he doesn’t figure out where I live, he’s not a problem.”

Pencil let out a thoughtful hum before smiling. “Well, I’m sure I’ll be reading about this one in your next book.”

Daring was silent for a moment. “I… don’t think I’ll be writing about this one.”

The room went silent as Daring stared out the window while Dallah and Pencil exchanged a look. Pencil Pusher leaned in towards her, frowning. “What happened in there, Daring? You’re gone for nearly a week, and then we find you laying on the beach almost starved to death.”

A shiver passed through Daring’s body. “Don’t let anyone near that wreck, Dallah. Just let it crumble into the sea.”

“What’s in there?” the camel asked in a hushed tone.

“Something I had only read about. I didn’t even think it was real…” She paused, then swallowed. “I’d rather not talk about it. It’s given me a lot to think about.”

“Daring Do doesn’t want to talk about her adventure?” Dallah chuckled, lifting his cup to his lips. “How novel.”

She cast a weary look at him. “Dallah, would you believe that my greatest desire is not to be Daring Do?”

Dallah choked on his sip of coffee. After a fit of violent coughing, he looked up at Daring. “Perhaps you are not as well as we thought.”

“Well, would you at least believe that I grow tired of this life of adventure?”

“In truth, Daring, I would not.”

“I would,” Pencil murmured. Daring and Dallah turned to look at him, and he shrunk back in his seat. “Well, it’s just… you don’t seem very happy doing what you do,” he mumbled.

Daring lay back against her pillow with a sigh before Dallah asked, “So, who does Daring Do dream of being if not Daring Do?”

“Just…” Daring paused, finding her words. “...Normal. Just somepony with someone to love, who doesn’t have to constantly deal with adventure and danger. Just a quiet, happy writer who gets by in the world doing what she loves.”

“Just the ‘adventure keen yearling?’” Pencil asked, cracking a smile.

Daring nodded. “Just A.K. Yearling.”

Silence fell in the room again, all three individuals staring awkwardly into their laps or at the floor, avoiding eye contact before Daring spoke again. “Well, no sense in crying over what we don’t have. I don’t think love was ever meant for me, do you?”

Pencil swallowed. “No offense, Daring, but that sounds… really bleak.”

Daring snorted, chuckling as she replied, “Yeah, well… I’ve got more important things to worry about, don’t I?”

“I suppose…” Pencil trailed off, fiddling with his forehooves. “You sure you don’t want to write about this one?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Cause you know the publishers aren’t going to like hearing that you’re delaying your next book.”

“Ah, let them worry about that,” Daring said, waving her hoof dismissively. “I’ve got bigger things to deal with than disappointed fans. Namely things with blue skin and three hands.”

Pencil nodded, then rose to his hooves. “Well, um, I guess I should let you rest. Dallah, shall we?”

“Just let me see to this,” Dallah replied, pouring another cup of coffee. Pencil nodded and walked out of the room while the camel gave her the cup.

“So,” he said as Daring took the cup. “I suppose it is true what they say? The lands are always richer elsewhere.”

“I guess so.”

Dallah gave her an incredulous look. “You would rather be a normal pony than the great Daring Do?”

“Looks that way,” Daring looked up at Dallah and shrugged. “What can I say? A.K. Yearling is my one work of fiction. The simple writer who leads a simple life, free from danger or loneliness.”

She glanced at the golden ring sitting on the table and sighed. “Oh, how I envy that mare.”

Author's Notes:

My thanks to RTStephens for proofreading and to CouchCrusader for offering his feedback.

This story was inspired by a real-life shipwreck, the American Star, which you can read about here. That image of only the front half of this grand ocean liner, sitting on a beach and almost completely intact, left a major impression on me. And as I learned more about that wreck, I became more intrigued. As it turns out, the tale of the American Star is a fascinating and somewhat tragic story of a ship's fall from grace. Eventually I realized I needed to write something about it, and it would have to be something surreal to match the bizarre nature of this wreck.

This story was also likely inspired by that X-Files episode where Mulder and Scully are trapped in a hallucination caused by a giant fungus, though I only made the connection after I started writing. Go figure.

Thanks for reading!

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