All Roads Lead To Canterlot: History
I tried. That's all I could do but in the end I failed. I always do. The only thing left for me is to keep him contained. He wasted almost all of his power by getting back, I can feel it. Still, I've been sitting here, too scared to move, for two days, drinking melting snow. Daylight doesn't even reach this alley and I avoided freezing to death just because the room across the wall from me is some sort of big kitchen with ponies working all night. A bakery, perhaps?
Not that it matters. The smell of food is driving me crazy though. I would simply jump from the city walls but I just can't stand heights nor do I have the bits to buy strong booze. Any other... attempt might end up in him getting out. He says he has everything he wants right here but I don't trust him.
Not that it matters, nothing does anymore. I just have to keep him imprisoned for few more days and then my body will hopefully fail from starvation. With him being this weak the chances of his return are zero.
Sitting and doing nothing... I guess that's one thing I'm good at.
He brought the book back with us just to taunt me, I guess.
The clock on the wall tells me we're about halfway through the trip. I opened the book just to see if I didn't miss anything the first time and saw a second entry.
"Guess the smuggler wasn't lying then," I mumble.
I've been trying to get a little rest after... the incident but every time I closed my eyes I saw the smug grin and then the one lifeless eye looking at me. In the end I blissfully managed to pass out for few hours.
I'm sure the dead soldier will be missed on some duty during the trip but I couldn't care less. The door is locked, I turned the white paper inside his plastic badge around and wrote a different name on it and I'm not going to move until I can just jump out of the window and fly onto dry land. In case someone asks I have my badge and for now I'm officially Scruffy, the janitor.
Some sort of shouting resonates throughout the ship.
I've got a decent sum of money if I include what I took from the bastard who robbed me so I should be able to live for few months without having to take anything that comes my way. Not that I'd refuse some odd job but having that kind of freedom is nice.
On the other sharp-taloned hand, it all depends on the exchange rate between griffon gold coins and pony gold bits but from what I've seen of the Equestrian currency both gold coins are fairly similar so my estimate shouldn't be too off. That would mean a hefty amount of free time for me. Free time I'd have to fill with... what?
There is supposed to be a small population of griffons in Equestria but finding them would mean travelling to some bigger city where griffons could buy real food, not some soy nonsense and salads. I don't mind either of those but beef is beef.
I've got some knowledge about Equestria for butt reasons. Granted, griffons are griffons but the hind muscles moving under the skin of hard working earthponies are a sight to behold, not to mention them being well-endowed in the other aspect. I'm not a sexist or a speciesist, I'll tap anything that moves and is interesting in some way.
I might even get some bonus points for being an exotic catch, who knows.
The ferry shakes violently.
Perhaps expecting something good to finally happen was just a tad optimistic.
Putting my backpack on and tying my money pouch as tightly to my belt as possible, I add a sheath with Ferris' sword there to be at hand.
The nervous voices coming through the walls change into panicked screaming.
Looking through the window, I see an incomparably smaller ship connected to ours with steel ropes slowly approaching. The amount of firepower aimed at us proves beyond all doubt that it is a pirate ship.
Yes, there probably is crazy amount of guards, both pony and griffon, on the ferry but that entire point is moot because the usual tactic is to threaten the crew by firing a warning shot and then aiming all cannons at one spot. In case the defending guards don't surrender they will sink the entire ship and salvage what they can. See? Being a port soldier myself I remember some things.
The safest way is just to give them my stuff and hope they don't go for ransom.
Yeah, terrible idea. Considering last few days I sort of think my luck ran out when I stumbled upon Zeph's. A way better idea would be to sneak back into the anchor room and hide in the mass of steel or, if possible, outside of the anchor trapdoor.
With all my things packed I pop my head out of the door. The coast is clear.
I have a pretty good idea where to go so I rush through the tiny hallways, taking stairs down whenever I can. The engineering deck is getting closer and I recognize the mass of pipes and cables leading from and to the propulsion system. There should be an anchor control machine room just behind this door and then a hallway leading to the damn thing itself.
Unfortunately, when I open the door I run into the boarding crew of five griffons already overpowering a single defender. Overpowering might be a strong word though.
The defender is a well-built earthpony, brown with dark brown mane who is currently standing on his hind legs and beating the living crap out of two griffons who got too close with his quarterstaff.
The remaining three turn towards me for a split second which the pony uses efficiently to break half of one's face with and impressively strong jab. Still running, I just charge one of the still standing pirates with my shoulder and slam him into the metal wall. Hoping the other one won't just stab my back, I spin away after the impact just to see the last griffon's head turn upwards at breakneck speed, literally. The griffon's body rises off the floor as the staff upswing hits his chin.
The earthpony kicks the heads of all those lying around him and turns to the pirate I stunned.
"Good job," he grins at me.
He's wearing some sort of insignia I don't fully recognize but the sun symbol is enough to tell me he's an Equestrian soldier.
"Well, at least this one's still able to answer questions," I nod at the unconsious or dead griffons, deeply amazed by the guy's combat skill.
"Too bad I have nothing to ask."
I can't even look away in time before the steel end of his staff crushes the skull of the griffon not even one arm's length away from me.
"Calm down, kid. They knew what they were getting into when they chose the pirate life. What's your name?"
His voice is commanding but he doesn't seem to be a high-rank soldier because those aren't usually in such good shape thanks to all the paperwork. I'd say he's a sargeant or a platoon commander at most.
"Scruffy, I clean stuff."
He narrows his eyes but suddenly laughs and slaps my shoulder.
"So do I. Really now, you are a soldier. Fine, I'll start. My name is Valiant Charge and I'm going back to Canterlot to rejoin the Royal Guard."
"My name is Cromach and I'm... I used to be a Griffon Imperial Legion soldier."
"And now you're a deserter," he grins evilly.
My hand gets hit by hard wood as I reach for the sword on my belt. I'm smart enough to recognize a warning.
"Don't worry. I myself had a... misunderstanding with the Royal Guard and was sent to check griffon passports and protect the port towns. Now, since you seem smart and in a good shape let's do some fun stuff."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I knew they were going to make sure noone sinks their ship by turning the engines back on but the real question is what you were going to do."
"Honestly, I wanted to hide in the anchor storage or behind the trapdoor until this thing passes."
"Is that how you got inside, Cro?"
"Smart guy. I have a better idea though. There's about two hundred soldiers onboard and at most thirty pirates. They keep the crew in check by threatening to kill the civillians by sinking the entire ship. They don't have enough storage space to steal the materials here so they go only for small and expensive stuff. I say we pop out the way you got in, board their ship, kill the few guys operating the cannons and sink it."
"You're shitting me..."
"Pff, I thought griffons had balls."
"And brains," I comment.
"Take it like this... you help me, I help you. You don't help me, I'll have you sent right back to the Empire, possibly missing few limbs."
I sigh. There is no way in hell I can beat that guy in a fight. He might be on a similar level considering physical abilities but he's way ahead of me in terms of experience.
"I'll take that as yes. Let's go!" he swings his staff on his back and, completely ignoring me, begins striding out of the room.
The anchor trapdoor fortunately has a manual override inside the room and we're able to open it easily.
"Now, just remember I can snap your neck whenever I feel like it."
He jumps on my back.
"Swimming would take too long. Just fly low and take us behind the ship so the deck watch doesn't see us."
I imagined my first time being ridden by a pony a bit differently but I'm not one to complain.
Groaning a bit under the strain of carrying an earthpony soldier, I try to glide as much as possible not to make too much sound even if it means slowing our progress a little.
I realize how little hesitation is in Valiant when, right as we almost reach the deck of the ship, a griffon looks down at the noise and he jumps on the deck using the griffon's neck as a base for pole vaulting. I also realize how little mercy there is as well.
"What now?" I recover and land on the deck as well.
"Frigates like these have hand or hoof operated cannons on the lower deck and they don't have the living room for more than fifty guys. We should be able to chew through the few remaining here if we surprise them. As soon as our guys see the ship go down they'll wipe out the boarding crew and we're golden. Simple."
He doesn't give me time to object and just runs through the nearest door. He seems to know the layout of a ship like this so I just follow him, knowing he will not hesitate to make strawberry pudding out of me if I get in the way.
We run downstairs just to see five griffons operating a cannon each and other three sitting around with weapons ready. One of the guarding ones immediately aims his gun at Valiant while the other two ready their swords.
Even he can't be fast enough to dodge the bullet.
"Drop that thing or die!" I pull my gun faster than the momentarily shocked griffon and cock it. All that does is it makes him aim at me and pull the trigger.
The impact runs through my entire body but thanks to the rapid re-aiming the bullet just pierced some flesh.
"Thanks!" Valiant doesn't give the defending griffons a chance and with a sweeping strike crushes the ribs of one, sending him into the other and in turn both of them on the one with the pistol.
I see one of the cannoneers reach for a pistol himself and aim at him.
"Don't you dare!" I growl, "First one to move gets his bits blown off."
The five cannoneers raise their hands but I can't fail to notice them looking sideways to one another.
"Good," I continue and nod, "Now throw that thing to me veeeery slowly."
He does so and now I actually have a loaded gun. I'll be sure to leave a bullet ready just for one very special griffon.
"All of you, here!" Valiant points at a spot in front of him and the griffons shuffle there.
With me still pointing the gun at them and blinking to stop my vision from blurring, they don't resist as he ties them up. After that he takes their money pouches, loots the unconscious three and throws few bags to me.
"You might need something to start you off in Equestria, Cromach," he thinks for a second while doing something with the barrels next to the cannons, "And a little thing I promised for helping me."
He throws me a badge with his name. I look at him, eyebrow raised.
"My badge. Just so you don't get into trouble for the rest of the trip. I'll just say I lost mine during the counterattack. It's good for as much free food in the passenger deck bar as you can eat. And if you ever find your way to Canterlot just ask for me, Royal Guard should greet a naive kid like you with open hooves. By the way, I'd start running."
His horseshoe hits the metal of the cannon and a spark flies, igniting the black powder on the floor.
"You can't just leave them tied here to blow up!" I can't help bursting out.
He just smiles while trotting around me.
"You can either run too or try to help them. Your call."
"Damn! Damn! Damn!" I pull out my sword and slash at the rope binding the pirates, "You're on your-AAAAAAARGH!"
Another bullet grazes me as a griffon immediately claws for a weapon on the ground and shoots without really aiming.
Last bit of compassion disappearing, I run.
I've got gold. I've got weapons and I've got a free pass to Equestria. AND THIS FILTH CAN GO ROT IN HELL!
A spark whizzes by my head as another bullet hits the metal wall. Running upstairs, I ponder my situation.
Valiant Charge is a ruthless killer and that's not what I believe a soldier should be. The problem is he was right in everything.
When the shockwave from the blast throws me off-course and into the ocean I'm able to grab one of the snapping boarding ropes and hold onto it as the frigate behind me sinks into the depths. I don't intend to join the fight in the ferry because I'm glad I'm just able to grip the rope and hang above water, salt stinging and burning the bleeding wounds.
With the sounds of combat quickly fading I can see Valiant Charge climbing up a different rope onto the deck.
When we pull ourselves up I'm grabbed by two sets of talons around my shoulders.
"Good job, soldier!" someone says, "MEDIC!"
"I'm fine," I mumble, unwilling to attract too much attention of anyone.
"Oh shut up," Valiant slaps my back, "Soon you'll have a cool scar that'll make girls gush just at seeing you."
Last thing I hear from him as I just lie there and watch the sky is:
"See you in Canterlot, kid."