Docking Distress
IC date: Summer 76, 1007
OOC date: September 5, 2012
PCs: Mad-Mare, Stormsailor
NPCs: Hardhat, Lightning, Starcaster, Wrecking Ball
GM: None

It's been a while since Stormsailor has had reason to visit Horseshoe Harbor. His trade routes have taken him up and down the Equestrian coast doing some freight hauling and petty trading, but he hasn't had need to load up on the particular goods and wares that his favorite shanty town has had to offer in some months. With fall rapidly approaching, though, and the associated drinking holidays along with it, he figures now is as good a time as any to load up on bubble beer— this little sailor knows there are unicorn farmers outside of town, which means a prime place to buy the always-in-season brew.

"Huh, not as much new construction as usual," the blue stallion says as he trots down the gangplank and glances around the port. "I guess we won't be able to offload all these tools and lumber. Ah well, a little bit of profit is still nothing to sneeze at. Hey, Lightning, bring the lumber up to the deck while I go hunting for some buyers!"

Not as much construction…but still some. Namely in the form of a building next to the docks, where the port authority would have been. It's not there anymore. In fact, that whole section has been blocked off, and a team of construction-ponies are hard at work making something…bigger. A couple stories at least, and a pile of stone blocks to give some indication what all's going into this construction project.

WIth the construction, a canopy has been set up to let the small crew of ponies that have been (recently) assigned to this post continue their work until their new building is completed. It's one of these not-very-happy looking earth ponies that wanders up to Stormsailor's gangplank now, clearing his throat with a gruff, downright sleazy sounding voice. "Hey. I ain't seen your ship around here before. You new to port?"

"Hardly!" Stormsailor says cheerfully. "The name's Stormsailor, and this carrack here is the Pride of the Seas. We come in to resupply every couple months, not to mention bring in supplies for the, ah, inevitable reconstruction projects the town's always got going on." He looks at what was once the port authority building. "Speaking of, it looks like you guys are in the middle of something right now! You already all set for tools and lumber?"

"Oh yeah? Well don't that just make you mister nice pony?" the dock pony gruffs, tugging his hardhat down just above his eyes. "Well we got plenty of supplies already, yeah. Tools, lumber, rocks, labor. Only thing we don't got enough of is bits. Speakin' of which." The tan pony eyes Storm's boat. "This port has come under new management recently. Going rate for parkin' your boat here's a stalleon a day, plus expenses for equipment usage. How long ya plan on stayin' in town, eh?"

A swing and a miss! Stormsailor will just have to check out the rest of the town and see if there are any other active projects, maybe check in with the local guilds and see how their stocks are looking. Not that he wouldn't have been doing that anyway, but it would have been nice to start with an easy sale.

"Fair enough, fair enough," the blue stallion says as with a shrug of his shoulders. "If it turns out you're short of anything, I'm sure we'll be around for a while yet, there's plenty else to do here in port." He's about to turn towards town when he's told about the new fees. "A stal— what!?" Stormsailor shakes his head. "Woah, hold on. There's no way Salty'd authorize a new port master to start charging a docking fee like that."

The Port pony looks hurt! He frowns in this mock-feeling, turning his head towards the canopy, where another of the 'port crew' is already coming to the aid of the first. Hardhat, as he shall be called, turns back to Stormsailor. "What's wrong with that price? It's perfectly reasonable. This place is out of the way, and theres a lot of upkeep these days. Besides." Hardhat straightens up, "Salty don't run this place no more."

Stormsailor isn't about to say that a stalleon isn't reasonable because it kind of is all things considered. He just knew that Salty wasn't a money-grubbing sort of dictator. She's more of a… well, a happy drunk of a dictator. Was. Was a happy drunk of a dictator. The news that she's no longer the mayor at all is a bit of a shock. "Why in Equestria would she give up a cushy gig like the mayorship?" he asks incredulously.

Why indeed! Hardhat can only shrug in reply. He's just a grunt in the grand scheme of things, all he has to go off of are the rumors of what happens around town. And what his boss tells him.

"She didn't have a choice." Hardhat says, post-shrug, "She kinda died, all accident-like. But nobody knows where the body went. So maybe she faked it? What do I know?"

"You schmuck." the approaching pony grumbles, smacking Hardhat behind his hard hat. "Don't you pay attention? The old mayor got murdered by that snow witch thing, and she stole the body. That's the truth." This pony, whom shall be called Wrecking Ball, nods firmly. "So now there's a new mayor, and the new mayor wants a better Harbor Watch to make sure stuff like that don't happen again. But that ain't free. So everypony pays their part, yeah?"

Salty… dead? By the snow witch? That's… that's…!

…surprisingly plausible. Stormsailor scratches his head. "Well, shoot, that's a darn shame," he says. "I liked Salty, you could always count on her as a buyer when I came in with a load of spirits." Another lost profit. If he keeps getting shot down like this, Stormsailor might not be able to turn this trip profitable after all. Especially since he has to stay in port a number of days to collect his next load of cargo. It's not exactly the sort of thing you can get from the local merchants.

"So whose in charge of collecting the docking fees?" Stormsailor asks Wrecking Ball, 'cause he's sure as heck not going to give his money to the construction crew. That sounds like a great way to get conned out of his hard-earned bits.

That's a great question! Hardhat sneaks a glare at Wrecking Ball, straightening his hat from where it'd been knocked. "Well we're the authority until Boss hires a new pony to handle it. We're kinda havin' to pull double-duty due to lack of enough available hooves, y'know? So you can either pay us, or you can go find the Boss. Doesn't matter to us either way."

"Boss doesn't usually like to be bothered though." Wrecking Ball adds, giving Hardhat a glare right back. "I sure wouldn't wanna go bother her. Not now." He lifts his eyes, squinting at the sailor pony. "…But you don't look like the type that's gonna trust just anybody. I don't blame you. I wouldn't trust him either." he states, pointing a hoof at Hardhat. Whom grunts and rolls his eyes. "So if you wanna go talk to the Boss about paying your dues for docking, you can either wait here 'til she shows up, or hike up to the Mayor's mansion. She might be there, too."

Ehhhhhh. Stormsailor was hoping for an easy bribe the guard and be on his way scenario. Spare a couple stalleons of pocket money for a week of off-the-books docking, that sort of thing. This is starting to sound like an awful lot of effort. "I'll wait here," the captain says. "There's still too much work to do on the ship, I can't be wasting daylight hiking up to the mayor's manor to track down a pony who might not even be there. Just send the tax collector my way when she show up." He turns to head back up the gangplank of the Pride.

Both of the dock ponies shrug. "Suit yourself." Hardhat says, giving Wrecking Ball a nudge. "Mebbe you should go find her, let her know huh?" "Yeah? Maybe you should go find her… I ain't in the mood to get kicked right now." "Wuss." "Moron."

They both wander off back to the canopy tent. Apparently they decide that someone else should get the Boss, because a third member of the crew ends up taking off down the street, returning a couple minutes later, albeit with a limp in one back leg. Hardhat and Wrecking Ball go about finding ice for the poor sucker's bruised flank.

Ten minutes later three more ponies march past the canopy tent and onto the docks. One crazy mare and two goonlike stallions flanking her. None of the trio look all that happy. In fact, the two goons look downright pained that they have to be up and about, wandering with the very stern-faced mare.

"Alright, I'm here. Who's ship is this, and what business have you in my Harbor?" the mare asks. Loudly.

"Captain Stormsailor is in his quarters," an elderly purple unicorn on the Pride of the Seas' deck says serenely, his long beard waving in the sea breeze. "I'm sure he'd be more than happy to tell you about the construction supplies he's brought to port to sell and the freight he's dropping off."

Up in the crow's nest a white and gray dapple-patterned pegasus frowns. He recognizes that voice. If only he could remember from where, because whatever impression it left on him is a deep one if he still knows it after all this time. He stares down at the trio of harbor ponies thoughtfully.

"Supplies? Did we order more supplies?" the Mare asks, her head turning to her cohorts. Both of which shrug. "Dunno, Boss." "We don't exactly carry ledgers or anything with us."

Maddie frowns, glaring to her goons. "Useless. Totally. What do I pay you two for, anyway? It sure isn't to help, anymore. I have half a mind to find some new right-hoof stallions." She tosses her head, freshly groomed mane actually fluttering somewhat in the breeze. Even crazy Watchponies go to a salon now and then.

"Okay. Well. We can always use more supplies. I'm sure you'll offer a good price, and we'll all be happy." the Mare says when her gaze refocuses on the elderly unicorn. "If you'll be so kind as to go fetch your captain, we can get this out of the way so I can get back to important duties."

"Of course," the unicorn says without a change in tone as he walks to the door, knocks upon it and walks in. Seconds tick away as the pegasus in the crows nest continues trying to place the voice. What happened last time they were in town? That was when there was the blockade in the port, and it's one of the reasons they've waited so long to come back to town…

Stormsailor eventually comes out of his office. "Sorry to keep you waiting, ma'am," he says as he closes the door behind him. "Was just getting the ledgers in order, making sure all the… cargo's in…" The stallion stares at Maddie disbelievingly, rubbing his eyes and squinting at her. "I'm sorry, there must have been a mistake, I thought Starcaster said the tax collector had come aboard."

"She has." Maddie confirms, setting her rear down onto the docks. She's gotten much better at making her metal legs behave how she wants them to. Forced practice is a wonderful thing. The look the Mare affixes Stormsailor with is far less than amused by his stare though. "All taxes go through me. As does the security of this Harbor, and just about everything else that our dear Mayor doesn't want or need to deal with." One eyebrow lifts, Maddie's head tilting ever so slightly. "Is there a problem?"

"That's bull," Stormsailor says with a scowl. "What the heck are you doing showing your face in this town, Mad Mare? The ponies in this town aren't so dumb as to let your ugly mug stick around after that blockade stunt of yours, let alone put you in charge of the Harbor watch. He takes a few steps to the side, circling around Maddie so that the gangplank will be behind her if she turns to face him.

"My… You really don't come to port much, do you?" Maddie notes wryly, mirroring the scowl aimed her way. She'd just sat down! There's no turning on the Mare's behalf, aside from her head, to track the circling sailor. Her goons, on the other hand, turn just fine, if with a slight wince to their expressions.

"As it so happens, I'm good friends with our Mayor, and she felt the need to put me in charge of the Harbor Watch. Now we're working towards building a better Horseshoe Harbor, and the ponies of this Harbor have so far seen fit to trust me." Or at least, haven't had enough reason to organize a mob to rebel yet. That has to say something!

"Better harbor my flank," the captain says defiantly. "Once a pirate always a pirate. I don't believe for a second that you've gone legit, and if you think you're going to extort a red cent out of me then you've got another thing coming. Get off of my ship." He stomps a hoof for emphasis and glowers at the Watch captain and her goons.

Maddie heaves a weary sigh. "You're being rather rude, you know." she states with remarkable calm towards the defiant captain. "For one thing, I'm not a pirate. I did not engage in piracy. There was no raiding, there was no 'arr', there was only the shooting at ships as per blockade instructions. For another, when I failed in my job, I had to find a new line of work. Why is that so hard to believe?" Neverminding the coincidences of dead mayor -> new mayor -> new watch captain, of course.

The insistance urges Maddie to struggle up from her seat, propped back up onto those metal back limbs, already set to begin ambling right back down the gangplank. "Sorry we couldn't conclude business, captain. If you're not willing to pay the docking tax though, you better shove off out of my Harbor and make room for a trader willing to make a few bits. There's always another boat."

Stormsailor bristles at Maddie's… reasonability? Everything about this conversation is wrong. "Maybe you'd do a better job convincing me if I didn't see you trying to slaughter fillies without a second thought not a season ago," he growls as he turns towards his cabin and walks back into it, slamming the door behind him.

A few seconds later the water around the boat becomes inexplicably choppier. There is no possible way it's a magical effect because there's no tell-tale glow of a unicorn's spell.

The three Watch ponies pause on the gangplank. Rock'em and Sock'em, mostly pausing because Maddie stopped to turn her head towards the ship proper. Two and two add up in the Mare's head, her eyes narrowing to squinty slits!

"…Oh. I remember this boat now…" She raises her voice, despite the choppy waters and whatnot that threaten very bad things! "I said shove off, Captain! If you're going to be unreasonable, I can play that game too! If I see your face in my Harbor again, I'll throw you in my new prison to rot forever! Do you hear me!?"

As if nature herself is answering Maddie, the ship dips down as the water momentarily pulls away from the ship with an incoming wave. Said wave then crashes into the ship, rocking it and, coincidentally, dislodging the gangplank which drops unceremoniously into the water along with anypony unfortunate enough to still be standing on it.

Like the three ponies who now get unceremoniously dunked in the drink! Kersploosh! Oh there's so much flailing about, what with Maddie finding out first and foremost that there is one, extremely definite downside to having legs made out of a dense material.

She sure can't swim like she used to.

This sucks particularly for Rock'em and Sock'em, as now they have the unfortunate pleasure of fishing a sinking Maddie, and swimming in much disorderly fashion, to drag their boss to the nearest ramp out of the water. It feels as though it takes forever, and by the end of it the Mad Mare is sprawled just up the dock, her two goonponies sprawled next to her, the whole crew practically spitting up water and coughing their lungs out.

"By Luna's moons, I hate every pony…" the half-drowned Mare growls between coughing fits. "Every Pony."

Stormsailor comes back out of his cabin, apparently drawn by the sudden splash of Maddie and her henchstallions going into the drink. "Pffft," he snorts. "Hey, Lightning! Grab the gangplank from the water and get the cargo secured again. We don't do business with murderers and thieves."

The pegasus in the crows nest gives Stormsailor a weird look, since he knows that is not the case at all. "Whatever you say, Captain," he calls down before taking wing and floating down towards the harbor to retrieve the wooden walkway.

Maddie flops onto her back, pushing herself to sit up and watch the ship leave her Harbor. "…Boys. Make a note. Any ship like that, or that captain set hoof around these parts, I want him tackled and brought to me pronto."

"Yes Boss." Rock'em and Sock'em chime in unison. They weren't exactly pleased with the dunking either. And this pony could be trouble in the end…