Chapter 5: The Challenge
It had been a rough day on board the Golden Alicorn for the Mane Six, leaving each and every one of them feeling sore throughout their entire body, as they all made their way below deck where the crew members slept and laid down in their hammocks to rest, every muscle in their body ached. Once they were sure that the Cutie Mark Crusaders were asleep in their hammocks and making sure they spoke quietly so that they weren't heard by the rest of the crew, the Mane Six tried to have a decent conversation without being interrupted by one of the pirates.
"I don't know how much of this I can take guys," Applejack said as she hung her head over a bucket. "Working on a farm is one thing but these pirates have given us work that even Big Macintosh would find difficult."
"AJ's right guys," Rainbow Dash added. "If I have to lift that anchor one more time I'm gonna pull something plus the fact that I had look after her while she kept heaving over the side of the ship doesn't exactly help."
"Still got that seasickness huh?" Spike asked.
"Don't worry guys we'll figure something out," Twilight reassured her friends. "We just have to keep it together until we reach the seventh Element."
"That's easy for you to say," Spike snapped. "You and Rarity have the easier job of inspecting gems while we're stuck doing all the tough work out on deck… I'm Sorry Twilight, I didn't mean to snap."
"That's okay Spike, this whole experience is tough on all of us." Twilight said with a smile. "Although if it makes you feel any better, gem inspecting isn't exactly a piece of cake either."
"That the biggest understatement of the year," Rarity said as she cleaned herself up. "I may have had experience with gem inspection but Gem La Stone has to be one of the most up-tight ponies I've ever met."
“What about you guys?" Twilight asked looking towards Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. “How are things down in the galley?"
"Not as bad as it could have been," Pinkie Pie answered. "We mostly help the big pony with recipes for stews and stuff."
"And half the time we're just trying to pull him off the deserts," Fluttershy added. “He may be big, but he’s not exactly that scary if I’m being honest.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Spike grumbled. “He didn’t send YOU flying through a roof.”
Suddenly the Mane Six were interrupted by a loud assortment of banging as Big Rummy fell down the stairs that led below deck, landing flat of his face. He groaned in pain just as Slash came sliding down the banister behind them and landed right next to him.
"I told you to watch your step!" he snapped as he helped Big Rummy up. "Honestly I don't know how many times we have to go through this!"
"Sorry Slash," Big Rummy said as he picked himself up.
As Big Rummy staggered towards his reinforced hammock, Slash turned towards the Mane Six with a sinister glare in his only eye.
"What are you mares staring at?" he snapped as he made his way to his own hammock, catching Spike in his gaze in the process. "What's up pipsqueak?"
Spike would have retaliated but one look from Twilight made him keep his mouth shut. Smirking to himself Slash slumped down into his hammock, pulled a small wooden guitar out from underneath his pillow and began to pluck at its strings. Listening to the mysterious tune Slash played to himself the Mane Six couldn't help but wonder what could have possessed a dragon to join a pirate's crew, even a baby dragon, in fact what possessed any pony on board this ship to join.
"What is that guy's problem?" Spike grumbled. "Just because he's a little taller than me doesn't mean he has the right to call me names, I get enough of that on deck when I’m tying down the canons."
"Just ignore him Spike," Twilight said reassuring her scaly friend.
"Yeah you're twice as charming as that grimy, single-eyed excuse for a dragon." Rarity added.
Suddenly the clear sound of a snapped guitar string and scratches against wood echoed in their ears, it would seem that Slash's hearing was a lot sharper than every pony first thought.
"What did you just call me?" Slash growled as he jumped out of his hammock and stomped towards the Mane Six. "First you make smart remarks about Big Rummy's weight and now you insult ME by making remarks about me eye! You're digging yourself a shallow grave missy and I'm just about ready to organise your funeral!"
At those words Slash cranked his knuckles and slowly edged his way towards Rarity, claws ready to take a gash out of her cheek, however Spike instantly stepped forward and stood between them, his eyes burning with anger, nobody is going to hurt the mare his heart belonged to.
"Don't you touch her!" he snapped.
"Oh yeah? And what is Spikey-Wikey gonna do about it?" Slash smirked. "Need I remind you that our last fight didn't go so well for you last time?"
"Last time it was two against one and you had that large friend of yours send me crashing through a roof!" Spike growled. "I may be small but I'm just as good as you are if it came to a FAIR fight."
"Then you wouldn't mind proving it would you?"
"Spike what are you doing?" Twilight gasped in shock.
"Out on deck tomorrow at high noon," Slash said with an evil smile. "You and me, one on one, winner gets to keep the loser's hammock for a week. That is of course if the loser is lucky enough to survive the fight."
At any other time Spike would have backed down by now, however since Slash was threatening Rarity, his mind became clouded with anger and three words emanated from his mouth…
"…see …you …there."
Naturally the Mane Six protested but it was too late, Spike had already accepted Slash's challenge, this of course put a smile on Slash's face.
"Sweet dreams Pipsqueak," Slash smirked as he made his way back to his hammock.
As Spike stood there on the spot, he couldn't help but feel an urge of regret about everything that had happened within the last few minutes, how could he have been so stupid as to agree to something like this?
"By Celestia, what have I done!?!" he said biting his claws in fear.#
When the next morning came and every pony was rested, the news about Spike's fight with Slash spread throughout the ship like wildfire, everywhere Spike went there was some pony either rooting for him or making jokes.
"Try not to cry when Slash skins ya alive!" a Diamond Dog laughed.
Naturally it wasn't too long before the news reached the ears of Shimmer and eventually the Captain, Twilight would have assumed that he would put a stop to it but obviously she didn't have to get her hopes up because he gave her the answer she would have expected when she went into his cabin that morning.
"I'm sorry Twilight, there's nothing I can do," he said taking a book from one of the shelves. "Slash has challenged Spike to a duel and according to pirate law no pony is allowed to interfere, not even the Captain."
"Law?" Twilight snapped. "You're pirates, you don't obey any laws!"
"We do obey pirate laws." Jack said as he levitated the book towards her and dropped it at her hooves. "I probably should have given you this thing when you first arrived, because it looks like you might need it now."
"Pirate's law 1-0-1?" Twilight said with a raised eyebrow as she read the title aloud.
"It's chock block full of what you will need to know in order to understand how things work on this ship," Jack explained. "While you and your friends may have gotten an idea of how to sail the ship itself you will need this book to better understand how the crew thinks, turn to page 26."
Doing what she was told Twilight levitated the book and began flipping through the pages, when she reached page 26 she began to read aloud.
"…and thus if a pirate should challenge another crewmember(s) to any method of combat, those who are challenged must participate in said event or face a punishment of the challengers choosing… is this some kind of a joke!?!"
"I'm afraid not Miss Sparkle," Jack said. "That book is an official manual given to any Captain who has performed an act of piracy, I've had that thing for over sixty years."
"And who may I ask did you get it from?" Twilight asked.
"I'm afraid that is none of your concern," Jack replied as he opened the door. "Look I may not be able to stop the fight but I can assure you that no major harm will come to him, the most he'll probably get is a few bruises and gashes at the most."
Seeing this as a clear request that she should leave, Twilight walked out the Captain's cabin with the book and Jack shut the door behind her.#
As the sun began to reach the centre of the sky, every pony and Diamond Dog began to clear an area of the deck so that there would be room for the fight, when it was only ten minutes until noon, Both Slash and Spike walked out on deck. While Slash had a clear of glee in his evil little face, Spike was sweating pints of water out of sheer fear and the fact that Slash decided to boast didn't exactly help.
"You nervous Pipsqueak?" he smirked. "You should be, I may have only one eye but that doesn't stop me from knowing an easy win when I see it."
Slash then walked over to Big Rummy who was holding a drink and towel for him, As Spike made his way towards the Mane Six and the Cutie Mark Crusaders who were also holding drinks and towels, he noticed Twilight had a bigger look of fear on her face than he did.
"Twilight, are you sure he has to go through with this?" Rarity said with a terrified look. "I can't stand the thought of Spikey-Wikey getting hurt."
"I've read that book on pirate law from cover to cover, there's no way around it." Twilight explained. "If Spike refuses then Slash gets to decide how to punish him and I don't want that gecko deciding anything for Spike!"
"Here, here!" Apple Bloom added.
"But do you really think I can beat him?" Spike asked nervously.
"Even if you don't then the worst ya'll get is a few bruises and no hammock for a week," Applejack said as she hung her head over the side of the ship. "If it comes to that then…oh no, not again…"
As the clear sound of Applejack’s regurgitation echoed in their ears, the Mane Six suddenly noticed Shimmer and T-Cog walking right towards her.
"You alright sweetie?" T-Cog asked holding back a smile.
"Nothing that's any of yer concern!" Applejack snapped as she pulled herself back in.
"Here drink this," Shimmer said as she pulled a small bottle out of her vest. "We can't have you feeling sick every time you walk out on deck."
"What is it?" Applejack said taking the bottle.
"Just a simple tonic T-Cog made," Shimmer explained. "One swig will clear that seasickness right up…don't worry it's not poisoned, I take that stuff myself whenever I feel a little queasy."
Not wanting to go through anymore vomiting, Applejack took a swig from the bottle without question and drank a small gulp full of spicy hot liquid, the second it touched her throat Applejack could feel the sickness disappearing.
"That…that's incredible," she exclaimed.
"One of my more brilliant recipes lass," T-Cog smirked.
But Applejack couldn't help but raise an eyebrow and neither could the rest of the Mane Six.
"Why'd you do that?" Applejack asked. "Why would any mare's well-being matter to ya?"
"You see its comments like those that got your scaly friend in trouble," Shimmer said with a scowl. "If Miss Rarity hadn't insulted Slash in the first place then he wouldn't be in this mess. Oh by the way T-Cog, did you make our bet with Blackhorn?"
"Indeed I did," T-Cog smirked. "Thirty Gems on Spike to win, if he pulls it off then we double our loot."
At those words, the Mane Six were instantly confused.
"You bet that I would win?" Spike said scratching his head. "Why?"
"Yeah, I thought you would bet on Slash, I mean he is one of yer own." Applejack added.
"He may be our shipmate but that doesn't mean he's popular with the crew," Shimmer explained as she sat down next to Fluttershy. "Have you ever seen anyone else talking to him besides Big Rummy? Of course you didn't, that's because Big Rummy is the only one who actually likes him."
"But why would the others not like him?" Fluttershy asked.
"Why?" T-Cog said as he sat down next to Applejack. "It's because he's freaking crazy! Every time someone insults the lad he challenges them to a fight and to make things worse he fights dirty, last time I got into a fight with him he bit a chunk out of me leg!"
As T-Cog lifted up his leg to reveal several scars that resembled teeth marks just above his peg leg, the fear in Spike began to expand to gigantic proportions. Suddenly the pirates began to gather around Spike and Slash, it was time to fight.
"Say you're prayers Pipsqueak," Slash smirked.
"Let's get ready to rumble!!!" Jack Silver called out as he stepped out on deck to oversee the fight.
Those were the words echoed through Spikes ears as Slash readied himself to give him a bashing.
"Alright I want a nice clean fight," Jack explained. "There shall be no assistance from anyone outside the two participants, nor will there be any deceitful moves such as biting and especially NO fire… Slash?"
"Hey what are you looking at me for?" Slash snapped.
"Bring forth the sword!" Jack called out.
Upon his word, Dripfang stepped out from the crowd carrying a long slender box, which the captain opened up to reveal a razor sharp cutlass with a jewel encrusted handle. As Jack used his horn to levitate the blade out of its box, the Mane Six couldn't help but awe at its beauty, although Twilight was more interested in the name that was carved into the handle.
"That's the cutlass of Captain Storm Rider," she uttered "But I thought that blade was just a myth, where did Jack Silver manage to get it?"
"You'd be surprised of how many legends become realities when my father searches for them," Shimmer explained. "That cutlass was the first real treasure he ever found and now he keeps it on board as a reminder of his youth, also to use it as a formal token to begin events such as this one."
"They say it's so sharp you can cut yourself just by looking at it." T-Cog added.
While Twilight was fascinated that such a relic existed, that didn't stop her from worrying about Spike who was now standing face to face with Slash, the fight was about to start.
"Fighters!" Jack announced as he raised the cutlass. "Please shake claws, take five steps back and let's have a good fight!"
While hesitant at first, Spike shook Slash's outstretched claw and stepped five paces backward, still keeping his eyes fixed on Slash.
"Aaaaaaaaaaannnnnnndddddd…… BEGIN!!!!" Jack shouted.
Jack then swung the cutlass downward between the two dragons, symbolising that the fight had now began.
"It's SHOWTIME!!!" Slash shouted as he dived towards Spike with full speed.
Naturally Spike tried to dodge but was a little too slow since Slash had managed to tackle into him and send him rolling across the deck.
"SPIKE!!!" Twilight and Rarity cried simultaneously.
As Spike picked himself up he felt a slight pain in his side, it would have seemed that Slash was indeed stronger than he looked. However that didn't stop Spike from coming up with a small attack of his own, when Slash turned his back to show off to the crowd he managed to pick up some running speed and landed a quick punch to the left side of Slash's face, causing him to fall back.
"Nice shot Pipsqueak," Slash smirked as he picked himself up. "But you're not as good as me when it comes to using your claws!"
At those words Slash rushed towards Spike with full speed and took one huge swipe at him with his razor sharp claws, sending Spike plummeting into the mast with three shiny red slits across his cheek.
"Oh, I can't watch!" Fluttershy shrieked as she crouched down and covered her face in her hooves.
However Spike wasn't through yet, he may not have had much experience with fighting but he wasn't going to let Slash push him around like he was his inferior. Seeing his chance to pin Spike down, Slash built up his running speed and readied his claws again for another swipe only this time Spike was ready for him, just as Slash was about to pierce his claws into his other cheek, Spike managed to duck out of the way and Slash ended up impaling his claws through the side of the mast, leaving him trapped where he stood being laughed at by some of his fellow pirates.
"Damn it!" Slash snapped as he struggled to pull his claws out of the mast. "Oh that's it twinkle-toes, your dead! Nobody makes ME look a fool and gets away with it!"
"Oh really?" Spike smirked. "Because where I'm standing you can't even touch me now."
"Alright Spike!" Rainbow Dash cheered from the crowd.
"You show that gecko who the REAL dragon is!" Pinkie Pie added.
Spike couldn't believe it, out of sheer luck the odds were now in his favour, as the Mane Six and the Cutie Mark Crusaders cheered him on he felt an urge of confidence, he was even surprised to see some of the pirates cheering him on.
"Go ya crazy little lad!" T-Cog shouted.
"Show Slash what you are made of!" Gem La Stone added.
"Whose side are you guys on!?!" Slash snapped.
But the fight was far from over yet, while Slash may have been immobilised for the moment that didn't stop him from seizing an opportunity when he saw it. Noticing that the impact of throwing Spike across the deck has left a few of the floorboards loose, Slash suddenly had an evil looking grin spread across his face and he put his plan into action.
"Hey Rummy!" he shouted to his friend. "There's a rat right by your hoof!"
"A rat!?!" Big Rummy shrieked with a terrified look on his face. "Where is it? Get it away from me!"
Smirking at what he knew would happen, Slash watched in glee as Big Rummy jumped in fear out of the crowd and landed on one of the loose boards, unfortunately for Spike he was right on the other end of it. Just as he did back in Ponyville Spike was sent flying high into the sky and just as he was about to drop again, managed to land in the crow's nest before he fell to his death on the deck below.
"Hey what gives?" Rainbow Dash angrily. "That should be a violation!"
"Yeah you said no help from anyone else!" Twilight added.
"Slash didn't directly ask Big Rummy for help, I can't count it as a violation," Jack explained as he looked through his spyglass to the crow's nest. "But don't worry I think he's fine."
"Not for long," Slash smirked as he finally managed to pull his claws out of the mast. "It's time to take this up a notch."
And like a lizard on a wall, Slash all of a sudden scaled the mast and made his way towards Spike in the crow's nest, leaving everyone else to watch from below. While some pirates took out their spyglasses, most of the Pegasus including T-Cog and Rainbow Dash flew up to watch the fight from above.
"That little slime-ball shouldn't be able to get away with that!" Rainbow Dash snapped as she reached the appropriate height.
"I told you he fights dirty," T-Cog said, joining her. "Even if he's playing by the rules that little punk finds a way to play rough. I just hope your friend can take it."
And sure enough that was what everyone was hoping, as Slash finally reached the crow's nest he found Spike staying as far away from the edge as possible.
"What's the matter Pipsqueak?" Slash asked. "Is Spikey-Wikey afraid of heights?"
"Why are you doing this Slash?" Spike asked bravely. "Why go through all this just because of one little insult?"
"What can I say?" Slash smirked. "I have… issues."
Slash then lunged at Spike with full force, as the two rolled across the crow's nest in harsh tussle to overpower each other however little did they know at the time, the spaces between the poles of the Crow's nest weren't exactly narrow enough to keep in two small dragons. This turned out to be disastrous because only a few inches away from the edge, Spike in his struggle against Slash ended up accidently throwing him over the side.
"Aw Crud!" he screamed in fear. "I killed him!"
"Dragon overboard!" screamed T-Cog.
Instantly reacting Spike leaned over the edge and looked down, there he saw Slash thrashing about in the water below, as it turns out Slash managed to grab hold of a piece of rope that was attached to the sail on the way down and somehow swung himself into the sea.
"Help!" Slash screamed as he desperately tried to stay afloat. "I can't bloody swim!"
Knowing that this was his fault Spike knew he had to do something, even if Slash was a psycho he didn't deserve to drown.
"Drop the anchor! Dowse canvas!" Captain Jack screamed. "Stop this ship right now and get that dragon back on board!"
Hearing the urgency in their Captain's voice almost every pirate on board ran and flew at full speed to stop the ship, however while they did manage to drop the anchor and get the sails tied down they were unaware of another purple dragon diving into the sea. Plucking up the courage to do so and because he knew it was the right thing, Spike actually jumped into the sea after Slash. As he struggled against the rushing waves, Spike kicked with all his might towards the now tired Slash as he began to sink. Just as his face was about to go under, Spike managed to grab Slash by the tail. Seeing this from on deck Jack Silver made the call.
"Cast a line!" he shouted.
Following the order, Big Rummy and Gem La Stone grabbed some rope, tied it to the mast and threw the other end out to Spike who managed to grab it with ease.
"Pull them in!!!" Jack shouted.
Acting upon Jack's word, Big Rummy, Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Twilight yanked on the rope and pulled Spike and Slash back onto the ship. As Spike and Slash sat there on the deck dripping wet and gasping for breath, it wasn't even a few seconds before they were surrounded by the Mane Six, Cutie Mark Crusaders and the pirates.
"Spike are you okay?" Twilight said fearfully.
"Speak to us!" Rarity added.
"I'm…I'm okay," Spike gasped as he laid there on his back. "Remind me never to do that again."
"That I can certainly promise," Twilight said as she happily pulled Spike into a hug.
However that moment was short lived when Slash suddenly came to.
"Slash?" Big Rummy said. "Are you alright?"
"Where's that little squirt?" Slash groaned as he picked himself up.
"Seriously?" Applejack snapped. "After all that ya still want to fight?"
But Slash simply ignored Applejack and stomped towards Spike who walked towards him with a determined look in his eye, at first he thought Slash was going to throw another punch but it never came, instead he asked a question.
"Why'd you do it?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "After everything that happened, why'd you save me?"
"Well I couldn't let you drown could I?" Spike said shrugging his shoulders. "But I think the better question is what kind of pirate doesn't know how to swim? You send almost everyday on a ship at sea for crying out loud."
"I never got round to learning alright!" Slash snapped. "But let's not change the subject shall we?"
All of a sudden Slash quickly grabbed Spike's wrist, at first Spike though he was going to hit him again but instead he raised Spike's arm into a victory pose.
"Winner!!!" he shouted.
This was a word Spike never would have expected, he had actually won the fight and Slash actually declared it. As most of the crowd began to cheer for Spike, others seemed a little less thrilled since they lost big on bets against him. However everyone still seemed confused and while every pony else was thinking it, only Spike actually said it.
"B…but why?" he asked as Slash released his arm. "You were winning…"
"Because kid you actually dived in after me," Slash explained. "Not only does that show ya have a good heart, but it also shows you have guts. That only increases my respect for you in my book so… truce?"
Slash then outstretched his claw, and seeing the truthful look in Slash's face, with a smile he took it and they shook.
"Welcome to the crew." Slash smirked.