Across the Shimmering Sea

by Albi

Chapter 1: Chapter I: The Unforgiving World

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A battalion of black clouds lined the horizon, obscuring the setting sun. They sent a frigid and fierce gale as a vanguard, rocking the boat against the trembling waves.

“Hmm. This storm wasn’t supposed to hit until tomorrow.”

Twilight Sparkle looked up as her mother observed the gathering storm through her telescope. She reached for her hand and held it as tight as she could.

Twilight Velvet patted her daughter’s head and smiled. “Don’t worry, Twily; we’ll be fine.” The ship gave a dangerous lurch, almost knocking Velvet and Twilight off their feet. As Twilight hooked her arms around Velvet’s waist, Velvet shouted across the deck, “Captain, how soon until we reach land?”

At the helm of the boat, a grizzled old man with a short, scruffy beard gave the wheel a hard spin. “We got about an hour until it pops over the horizon, Mrs. Velvet! We’ll be lucky if we outrun this beast! C’mon lads, put yer backs into it! Batten down the hatches!”

Across the boat, half a dozen sailors manned the sails and the rigging. A wave crashed against the side of the ship, spraying water across the deck. Half the men slipped, and one of the mast ropes went loose, opening the bottom sail. It caught a strong burst of wind and threw the ship forward.

Velvet fell over and Twilight tumbled on top of her. Twilight looked up at the clouds trampling over the sky, faster than any conquering army. A thundering trumpet sounded from within the swelling black mass, signaling them to rain watery arrows down upon the small ship.

Twilight was immediately soaked through her dress. Her teeth chattered as she asked, “M-Mommy, are w-we going to b-be all right?”

Velvet helped Twilight to her feet. “Of course we are; it’s just a little storm.” The world was briefly illuminated by an explosion of light within the clouds, followed closely by the boom of a cannon. “But, you should get below deck where it’s safe.”

She kept a hand on Twilight’s shoulders while leading her to their small cabin. The ship rocked again, battered by the wild waves and wicked wind. As reassuring as her mother’s hand was, Twilight couldn’t stop herself from producing a squeak every time thunder clapped overhead. With every lurch of the ship, Twilight’s heart hammered faster.

Inside their cabin, Velvet sat Twilight on the bed and lit a candle. The room was decorated with star charts, sea charts, and books, with the extra room going to the bed and desk. Outside the porthole, the seas churned under a tempestuous sky.

Twilight watched in horrific mesmerization. Another wave pounded the side of the boat, and she fell onto her mother’s lap. She curled against her while Velvet stroked her purple hair and gently shushed her.

We’re going to be okay, we’re going to be okay, Twilight chanted in her mind. Sailors always talked about how they had escaped terrible storms. After today, she could say the same thing and brag to her big brother.

She hoped.

Velvet sat her up and held her by the shoulders. “Twilight, I want you to stay here,” she said gently.

Twilight’s purple eyes widened to saucers. “Why? Where are you going?”

“I’m going to see if I can help with anything. The more hands they have on deck the better.”

“Well…” Twilight swallowed the fear rising out of her stomach. “Then I want to come help too!”

Velvet smiled and kissed her on the forehead. “You’re a brave girl, Twily, but I need you to stay here where it’s safe. I think you’re a little too small to do the things the crew members do.” She sat up and wrapped the blanket around Twilight, then kissed her again. “Everything will be fine. I’ll be back soon, promise.”

Twilight watched her step out the door, swinging it shut behind her. She pulled the blanket tighter, trembling despite its warmth. Her mother was strong and smart and brave and always kept her promises. Yet, Twilight couldn’t ignore the sick feeling in her stomach.

Their trip had been a simple expedition to keep the sea charts updated and for some leisurely star charting. Twilight had spent the entire month acting on her best behavior to come on this trip—she even forced herself not to tattle when Shining pulled her hair.

The weather had looked so perfect this morning, but her father said that sea weather was unpredictable at times. Twilight had read how strong the storms in the Equestrian Sea could get, but never thought she’d be caught in the middle of one.

Twilight huddled under her blanket and was knocked to her side as the ship careened again. It rocked back, sliding Twilight across the bed and against the wall. An almighty crash came from the deck, and Twilight poked her head out from her quilted sanctuary, biting her lower lip.

Please, be okay, Mom. A wave smashed into the window, cracking it and letting in a draft that extinguished the candle and scattered some of the smaller papers.

“Oh no!” Twilight scrambled out from underneath her blanket and grabbed the charts before they could become more disorganized. Her efforts were in vain, however, when the next wave smashed the porthole completely, letting in seawater and salty air. “Ahhhh!” Twilight jumped on her bed, her boots and socks already soaked.

The ship tilted to the left, and more seawater gushed in, destroying the charts. Twilight watched helplessly as all of her mother’s hard work was destroyed by the cruel sea. Small tears fell from her eyes, adding to the flooded room.

Then, Twilight was lifted off her bed. She floated in the air, ignoring gravity for but a moment before she crashed down, biting hard on her tongue. She clasped a hand over her mouth, feeling blood mix with spit. I want my mommy!

She got up, ignoring the water that now rose to her ankles. The ship groaned in pain as she pried the door open and ran into the hall, where more water sloshed against the floors. She ran up to the deck, stumbling against the wall twice before she reached the chaos outside.

The storm was no longer a battalion of dark clouds—it had grown into an armada of a tempest. The first surge of wind nearly knocked Twilight off her feet and into the churning abyss. She wrapped her hands around the slick railing, hanging on for dear life.

“Mom!” she shouted over the din of the squall. She squinted her eyes against the lashing rain, making out the burly members of the ship’s crew, but couldn’t find the slim figure of her mother. Lightning lit up the world for a moment, but Twilight still could not spy her.

She didn’t need a flash of lightning to see the tidal wall rising up against the ship. Her eyes followed it as it rose higher into the air, dwarfing their small seafarer. It bellowed into the night, or perhaps that was the men screaming. Twilight couldn’t find her voice to scream. She just stared at the wave with large, uncomprehending eyes.

The wall fell on them, tossing the boat over like it was nothing more than a toy. Twilight’s world flipped upside-down before she fell into the jaws of the ocean. Its bitter, cold teeth tore into her skin, and she lost her grip on the ship’s rail, sinking down into the ocean’s belly. She paddled her short arms with all her might, fighting against a vicious and unforgiving current. She could see and hear nothing, only feel her lungs begging for air and her heart begging for salvation.

Mommy, I don’t wanna die!

Her head popped above the water, only to have a wave shove her back down. Twilight refused to yield so easily, however, and she came up again. “Help!” she screamed. Her voice barely made it to her own ears. Still, she went on screaming and splashing.

Something brushed against her back, prompting her to scream in surprise instead of desperation. She twisted around, seeing the outline of a thin strip of driftwood floating next to her. She latched onto it, digging her nails into the soggy bark. “Help! Mom! Anybody!

But there was no one to answer her calls. She quivered against her wooden life-preserver, tears indistinguishable from the saltwater coating her face. Everyone’s gone… I’m going to die at sea… I’ll never see anyone ever again.

Twilight didn’t want to give up, but the odds were against her. She didn’t know which way was home or how far she was from land. As if to put her out of her misery, another wave rolled over her, knocking her from her driftwood and back into the belly of the beast.

No! No! The last spark to survive drove her to swim for the surface. Her hand brushed the air, but the current dragged her back down before she could take a breath. No… Twilight’s mind slipped into a watery haze, her muscles exhausted from trying to keep her afloat.

As she sank into oblivion, a hand grabbed onto her wrist…


“Long ago in the Equestrian Sea, there was a pirate feared by all. Ruthless, cruel, spiteful, and greedy, she was every sailor and land-dwellers’ nightmare. Some called her the spawn of the Devil himself. Others said she was the child of Neptune and a siren. Wherever she came from, everyone feared her name and the name of the ship she commanded.

“Sunset Shimmer of the Crimson Heart.

“A ship with sails painted in the blood of all those that had fallen before it. All who saw them turned away as fast as they could, for standing up to the Crimson Heart meant standing up to hell itself. Sunset Shimmer and her crew terrorized the Equestrian Isles, stealing any treasure they could, and attacking villages just to hear the people scream.

“But while Sunset was deadly and ruthless, she was also beautiful. Survivors remarked on her flawless skin, and crimson and gold hair. She prided herself on her beauty above all else.

“That would become her downfall.

“On a full moon night, the Crimson Heart sailed to a mysterious island said to hold a fabulous treasure: a crown that could grant the wearer eternal life. Sunset and her crew came ashore, prepared to take the crown for themselves. She led her crew deep into the jungle, where she found the cave where the crown rested. She wasted no time in putting it on. Everyone would admire her beauty for all time.

“Unbeknownst to her, however, the crown held a curse. The minute it touched her head, Sunset’s body transformed! Her skin turned an angry shade of red, her hands turned to claws, fangs replaced her teeth, bat-like wings sprouted from her back, and her hair no longer flowed like silk. She had become a monster, reflecting the true look of her black heart.

“In a blind rage, the new, monstrous Sunset attacked and murdered her own crew. When she calmed down and saw what she had done, Sunset tried to take the crown off, hoping to reverse its effects.

“But neither the crown, nor the curse yielded.

“Forced to look like a monster forever, Sunset Shimmer hid away from the world, lamenting the loss of her crew and her beauty. Some say the Crimson Heart still sails the seas, the dread captain its only occupant.”

Twilight Sparkle looked at the picture accompanying the story. It depicted a young woman with red and gold hair, and a bored scowl upon her otherwise beautiful face. Her eyes held a profound thought, one that made Twilight curious as to what had been going on through her mind at the time.

Snapping the book shut, Twilight stood from the bench and stretched, feeling the wind blow through her hair. She adjusted her glasses and gazed out to the sea from her clifftop perch. The Unicorn’s Horn was her favorite spot in Pony Bay to come and read. Whenever she finished a book, she could just stare out at the sea and contemplate its meaning.

In her hands she held Legends of the Sea, a collection of folktales and myths from across the Equestrian Sea. They were myths to most people at least.

Every legend has a kernel of truth. Twilight smiled fondly over the words her mother had bestowed upon her long ago. The world was full of mysteries, many of them unexplainable. But Twilight knew the truth was out there.

“Sunset Shimmer,” she whispered. The fearsome pirate that had been cursed into a monster. Twilight knew she had been a real person—she had evidence and facts to prove it. What she couldn’t prove was the mysterious disappearance of the Crimson Heart and its captain.

Twilight watched the sun cast ripples of light off the water. Is it possible for that curse to have actually happened? I’ve read stranger things. The world was a strange place, vast and mysterious. With all of the stories Twilight had heard and read, she wasn’t as quick to dismiss something as a fairytale like many of the other island dwellers.

The wind embraced her, tousling her purple hair and making the tresses that framed her face dance. She smoothed out the folds of her dress, a simple beige garment that drew down to just above her ankles; it’s only decoration was a pink bow around the middle. Her sandals crunched the crisp green grass as she drew closer to the cliff.

True to its name, the Unicorn Horn tapered off to a sharp point overlooking the ocean. Twilight stopped just before the fence that blocked off the more unstable ground. She looked out over the azure sea, inhaling the mixing waft of brine and spring flowers.

The ocean was calm today. The sky boasted a clear, picture perfect blue, acting as a mirror to the water below. It was days like this that stirred Twilight’s heart with yearning. She could hear the sea calling to her. Or maybe it was all the books she had read, romanticizing the infinite ocean.

She knew firsthand how dangerous it could be—how unforgiving... how cruel. Her chest tightened and her head began to swim. She stepped back and clutched her book to her middle, before she was dragged back under the vicious current.

When Twilight could breathe again, she started down the slope back to town proper, her mouth set in a thin determined line.

I’m not afraid, she reaffirmed. There was only one thing that kept her on the island. Twilight loved him to death but sometimes, Shining Armor was too protective of her.

She slowed as the road began to curve inland, and looked out to the beach in the gap between the hill and town. Twilight couldn’t help it if she wanted to see the world—to follow in her mother’s footsteps of exploring and recording the unknown. Twilight wanted to know the truth behind the legends.

Instead, she was stuck here while her brother got to sail the seas as a naval officer. She had wanted to enlist in the navy when she came of age last winter, but Shining had forbade it.

Twilight gripped the book tighter and puffed her cheeks. She couldn’t understand why. He worked with other women in the navy, so he could never pull the ‘it’s too dangerous for women’ excuse.

Yes, they were the only family each of them had left, so Shining had some excuse to shield his little sister. But Twilight didn’t want to be coddled for the rest of her life—she was eighteen! By all rights, she should have technically been out of the house already. Her reluctance to get married and modicum amount of personal funds were the only reason she hadn’t moved out.

That, and her home was very comfortable.

Twilight’s sandals kicked loose pebbles from the dirt path. It ran flat next to the long fields where the ponies grazed, before snaking past the aviary and turning to cobble as it entered town. The sundial just before the first house told Twilight it was a little before two. She quickened her pace, lest she be late for work.

As dead as it was, Twilight was always punctual.

Next Chapter: Chapter II: Plunder and Pillage Estimated time remaining: 3 Hours, 28 Minutes
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