“Arr! No more dilly-dallyin’! Walk the plank, ya swab!” demanded Applejack, ebulliently.

“Yeah!” cried Northern Spy. “Walk the plank, Big Macintosh, right now!”

“Whut plank?” asked Big Macintosh, his ears laid back in dismay.

Applejack blinked. “Why… this one right here, that goes between th’ dock and the boat. Step quickly! Ah tole you, if we went out by Hoofington we could take all the time we like at the dock, but this here’s a Manehattan dock and time’s a wasting!”

“Because you have to go down the river instead of heading straight east to Neighpon?” guessed Rainbow Dash.

Applejack glowered. “Because this is a busy port! We gotta get our boat outta the way so other ponies kin launch!”

Big Macintosh didn’t seem ready to walk the plank. He shied away, raising a forehoof, a look of dismay in his eyes. This wasn’t new: even when leaving Ponyville he’d been anxious, gazing at Braeburn as if frightened of the cowpony stallion’s bright and brazen smile, and then even more alarmed by Rarity’s farewell. And that seemed odd, but Rarity had been in an odd mood herself. She’d hugged Big Macintosh, gazed deeply into his eyes, given him a kiss and told him, “My blessing goes with you, darling. Be well.”

It seemed an odd thing to say, and Sweetie Belle had chimed in with “What was that about?” but Rarity had shushed her and hugged Big Macintosh again with a sort of bold, defiant tearfulness, and refused to explain herself. And Braeburn had bolted and run to his house and shut the door, and wouldn’t explain either, though he paced like a demon in there. And so they’d headed West, on a road trip to Manehattan, where their boat trip to Neighpon would begin. And, on the docks of Manehattan, surrounded by busy maritime commerce, Big Macintosh had developed cold hooves.

Applejack had no patience for landlubber farmponies. “Dang it! Like this, you big lug!” she cried, and leapt onto the plank herself. She trotted back and forth across it, twirling and lashing her tail, then jumped onto the deck of the boat. “Come on!”

“I kin do that!” said Northern Spy, and jumped boldly onto the plank herself.

“You ain’t goin’ to Neighpon!” laughed Applejack.

“So what? I… waugh!”

Northern Spy had tried to twirl like her Mom, gangly filly legs frisking on the narrow plank, but her right rear hoof missed its purchase. With a squeal, she toppled… and with a whoosh, Rainbow Dash zipped under the plank in half a loop-de-loop to catch her wayward foal.

“Not with balance like that you’re not!” proclaimed Dash.

Spy pouted, and gave her a glare. “I meant to do that! I was swimming.”

“In salt water?” objected Dash.

“Ain’t salt water up here,” said Applejack. “This lake’s fed by run-off from th’ mountains.”

“Oh, well in that case…”

“WHOA!” squeaked Vinyl Scratch. “First of all, Applejack’s right, we need to get moving. This is an important port and other boats do need to dock here.”

Rainbow Dash blinked at her, about to drop her recalcitrant filly into the water. “And? Is there a second of all?”

Scratch made a face. “The lake is also fed by the run-off from Manehattan. Look at it. Smell it!”

Dash and Northern Spy looked. They sniffed. Spy flung her forelegs around Blue Mom’s neck. “NOPE nope nope nope nope!” she vowed.

Dash laughed. “Me either! I gotta travel home with you, squirt! Let’s get back onto the dock.”

Octavia cringed. “Is that where the odor comes from? Why ever do they do it? Ew!”

Vinyl Scratch shrugged. “Once you get on the river it’s a lot better. Hoofington doesn’t have this big of a port, and the city’s not so near the water.”

“Why would that matter?” asked Octavia.

“The city’s sewers aren’t as near the water, either…”

“Come on, then!” called Applejack. “We already had a mess o’ harbor horses load our cargo down in th’ hold, and that’s all the ballast we need. This here boat’s shipshape from bilge ta binnacle. All we need is our crew, and that’s you ponies, an’ especially you, Big Macintosh! You’re gonna be my bosun startin’ in about, oh, ten seconds, or I swear I’m gonna run up th’ red flag and then Celestia help you…”

With little eeps, Vinyl, Octavia and Big Macintosh ran across the plank to stand, swaying uneasily, on the deck of the ship.

“Woohoo!” cheered Applejack. “I’ll make y’all sailors yet! Big Macintosh, loose that lanyard an’ cast off!”

“Whut?” mumbled Big Macintosh, his eyes rolling fretfully.

Applejack sighed. “Untie that there rope, so the boat kin go.” She shook her head, and muttered, “Still time to go git a crew that ain’t a bunch of green sprogs…”

“Green what?” asked Vinyl Scratch.

“Nevermind. That’s th’ way, Big Macintosh! Now, all y’all get on the poop and wave bye to Rainbow Dash an’ Northern Spy!”

Octavia’s face showed epic dismay. “Is this some sailor thing? Must we?”

“Well yeah, come on!”

“But I don’t see any,” protested Octavia. “Though I can smell it, now that you mentioned sewers. Can I get on that ledge at the back instead?”

Applejack sagged. “Sure, you do that,” she said. “That’s all Ah meant, sugarcube. It’s called the poop deck. High up at th’ stern. Uhh, the back of the ship. Yep. Go ahead.”

Octavia and Vinyl Scratch scampered unsteadily to the stern of the ship, and clambered up onto the poop deck. “Oooh, a wheel!” cried Scratch.

“Yep!” called Applejack. “I’ll get right to it!” She turned to face Big Macintosh, who staggered sideways across the deck. “That’s th’ way, Big Macintosh! Uh, more to the back, sugarcube, looks like you’re headin’ crossways to the side…”


Applejack’s ears wilted, as she watched Big Macintosh puke into the river.

“Well,” she said, “that won’t make the docks smell any th’ worse.” She twitched. “Still not too late to grab a crew… nah. Not in Manehattan. I’d git keelhauled fer tryin’ and it ain’t worth it, this thing ain’t more’n a yacht.”

“Come up here on this ledge, Applejack!” called Octavia. “Rainbow and Northern Spy are waving!”

“Sure,” said Applejack, “gimme jes’ a minute, gotta help my brother…”

“Come up here because we don’t know how to steer this boat,” called Vinyl Scratch.


“But how did you become such a good sea-pony?” asked Octavia.

Applejack didn’t hear. “Big Macintosh! Don’t puke down in them bilges, they smell bad enough, dang it!” she yelled down into the hold. “Ah’m sorry, what was that again?”

“You seem to know everything,” said Octavia admiringly. “However did you become such a very good sailor?”

Applejack’s eyes widened in surprise. “My sakes! Well, thank you for that… heh! Good, y’say… who would have thought somepony would end up callin’ me a GOOD sailor. Heh, heh…”

“What’s so funny?” demanded Vinyl Scratch. “You look like that’s a big joke. No, wait… you look like it’s an even better story than we thought. That’s a heck of a grin, Applejack. Spill it!”

Big Macintosh, who’d staggered back up above decks, reeled over to the gunwales of the ship, where he clung. “Blurrrghhh!”

“Not you!” yelled Scratch and Applejack, together.

“It’s all right,” said Octavia bravely and a little greenly. “He can feed the fishes some more, I’m starting to get used to it. Curse you, Scratchie, you’ve taken to this like a duck to water!”

Scratch cackled happily. “It’s fun! I feel like some kind of… it makes me want to go yo ho ho, and do a dance, and then climb up the mast or something!”

Applejack grinned. “You got it! Welcome to th’ life, ya scurvy dog of a pony!”

Scratch rounded on her. “And that’s why you have to tell us your story!” she accused. “You’re way too good at this, and you don’t even act like the Applejack we know. I think it’s bumming Big Macintosh out, and he’s my roadie so I expect an explanation, Captain Applejack. I’m, like, responsible for his care while I’m employing him. Even if we haven’t started the tour yet. So what gives?”

Applejack stared back, wide-eyed. “Hang on. You’re protectin’ Big Macintosh… FROM me?”

Big Macintosh glanced back at them, from his position leaning over the gunwale. His countenance was miserable. Then, he turned back to his fish-feeding activities. “Urrrrgh…”

“You’re very fierce,” said Octavia. “I confess, I want to trot about doing your bidding just to keep out of trouble, and really you’re not only our dear friend, but also a sort of hired hoof. You know? We’re only taking a boat, but I’d pictured it as a pleasant cruise. Not as a, a… pirate crew!”

Applejack had gone scarlet in the face and ears. Her eyes were wide and shocked. She gulped, and said, “Old habits die hard. Ah reckon I do owe y’all an explanation. How about you set back, an’ I’ll tell you a story?”

“Is it a true story?” challenged Scratch. “Or is it like a fiction story? Or, what are they called, an allegory?”

“One of them bit off my ol’ captain’s hoof once,” volunteered Applejack. “He dove into th’ sea, beat the snot out of the critter and got it back. We sewed it on again and after a unicorn did some healin’ spells it was almost good as new, exceptin’ it hurt every time he got near a swamp.”

“So you’re making it up?” said Scratch.

Applejack’s eyes widened. “Nuh-uh! It’s all true, all of it, especially them bits that are lies. Cos’ we’re allowed to fib, the kind of pony I was. It’s expected.”

Big Macintosh was watching, his stomach surrendering to emptiness for the moment. “You gave up lyin’, Applejack.”

“Shush, you,” she said. “This is kinda why. You might say I got it outta my system? Ain’t nobody ever heard this story. And it’s all lies, and it’s all true. But you got to never tell. This tale is only for th’ high seas.”

They stared, entranced.

“Er,” said Vinyl Scratch, “it’s pretty calm. If the seas get high, Big Macintosh will throw up again. So you’d better tell us now.”

With a little halfsmile playing about her lips, Applejack began.

“Never did tell anypony what I did after I left Manehattan. It’s true enough that I returned home on account of findin’ the hoity toity ways a lil’ rich for my blood, but I din’t go straight home an’ that’s another lie. I’mma ask you not to tell the foals, especially my own lil’ tearaway Northern Spy, because she would be on the high seas by sunset an’ probably Dashie with her, and we got a nice kind honest family and don’t need no piratin’ kinfolk. Okay?”

The listening ponies nodded, wide-eyed.

“Good,” said Applejack, with a glint in her eye. “See to it you keep that promise. Ah’m still pirate enough to whop you one if you fail me, as I’m sure everypony knows.” She winced. “Except Apple Bloom. I guess it’s in th’ blood. Don’t you dare tell Apple Bloom about this, she’d be even worser than Spy, though she’s found an outlet runnin’ the farm, just as I did…”

“Well, it’s true enough that I was tirin’ of Manehattan. Started to get real cranky, lookin’ at all these soft rich lazy ponies loungin’ around eatin’ fancy food an’ dressin’ up. It was worse ‘cause I myself was doin’ the same thing, and learnin’ to talk fancy and act the fool. I thought that was how I was s’posed to be, thought I’d get my cutie mark in fancy, but the whole time I’m jes’ gettin’ more and more ornery. Never did figure out what was happenin’ to me on account of, I was so mad at the fancy ponies that it didn’t occur to me to ogle them. Yep! I was becomin’ a mare, still with no cutie mark, still a tiny lil’ filly but with a head fixin’ to bust.”

Her smile was narrow, dangerous, her eyes not directed at present company. “And that’s not all that got busted… but that is how I met Blackmane.”

Octavia’s eyes widened. She opened her mouth to exclaim, but a glance from Applejack stopped her cold.

“Ah see you heard of him. I’m tellin’ the story, don’t interrupt. If it’s any consolation, he’s all you heard of him an’ more, but I almost beat him all th’ same. We good here, kin I continue without a passel of questions?”

Octavia nodded hastily, and Applejack drew a deep breath, let it out, and stared into space a while.

“I was down around th’ docks, jes’ like we were. Wanderin’ around, doin’ nothin’ much of consequence, and I see this one ship. Funny lookin’ ship, kind of shabby, all the way at the end of the dock. An’ I see it ain’t tied up, and I know that ain’t right. In fact, the crazy thing is bonkin’ up against another ship, like they rammed it into the dock an’ left it. I could tell that weren’t no way to park a ship, even one with a black flag on it, but I was fed up with doin’ things properly and, lookin’ down the dock at this ship, it give me a sort of wriggly stirrin’ in my nethers jes’ to look at it. Din’t know what I felt, din’t know what I thought, all’s I knew was I jes’ wanted to wander down that ol’ dock and see what was what. And I did.”

“Imagine my surprise when I hear yellin’ behind me, and all of a sudden it’s a stampede! An’ down the dock comes all these wild ponies, fierce as anything, and the next thing you know they’re yellin’ ‘get the filly!’ and I ain’t got nowhere to run. It was get on th’ ship, or get run over. They herded me real good! I know now, that was on purpose: ain’t no police pegasi saw me, or the chase woulda really been on. But them rough ponies, they got me into this cabin quicker ’n a wink. Heh, literally. Remember, I don’t know what’s happenin’ to me, I’m jes’ restless and ready to kick heads in.”

“And I try the door an’ it’s locked, and I feel the ship gettin’ underway, but if there’s one thing I know it’s this: we ain’t stayin’ in Manehattan. So I yell through the door for a while but my heart ain’t in it, and I sulk, and I kick the door for a spell, and then there’s this heavy hoof-step outside and the door opens, and I see Blackmane the Pirate with my very own eyes.”

Octavia gasped, then quieted at a sharp glance from Applejack.

“Thankee. Ain’t half done with th’ story, you just hold your horses. Which, as it happens, is more or less what Blackmane had in mind. He says, ‘Girl’? and I says, ‘Who you callin’ a girl?’ and he says, ‘Would you rather I called you a foal? It won’t change what’s gonna happen’ and I says, ‘Oh yeah? Well I ain’t no foal’ an’ he licks his lips, the nasty critter, and he looks me over and he says ‘Pity…’”

Octavia gave a half-suppressed squeal, and fell silent again.

“You hush. This ain’t that easy, missy, especially among family an’ all. This here’s a secret! But it might explain some things, especially th’ way I took control of th’ farm later… so I’mma continue my story if I may.”

Three ponies nodded, though Big Macintosh looked slightly stunned.

“Anyways,” said Applejack, “Ah look down and there’s a big fat thing a-dropping from between his legs. And I don’t know much but I ain’t a total fool so I tell him, ‘Buddy, this was already a bad annoyin’ day and if you think I’m ending it off by playin’ kissy face with you…’. And then the next thing I see is the back of a hoof comin’ at me an’ POW! Over I go. And I look up, and he’s smiling. An’ I spit out a tooth.”

She paused, for effect.

“And then… I start smiling. Can’t even help it. I’m grinnin’ worse an’ worse. And I just say, ‘Got better right quick, mister’. And I tell you, I came off the floor at him and my heart was singin’ and I did my level best to kill Blackmane, right then and there, in his own captain’s cabin. I was wearin’ some consarned frilly dress and the silly thing practically shredded right off me. I do remember tryin’ to strangle him with one of th’ sashes, but it broke. I musta got him in the head with at least five good kicks. If I’d been a grown mare, he’d have been a goner, but I din’t even have my cutie mark. I bit him, I socked him in the eye, even kicked him in th’ stones a good ‘un. Somehow I thought I was winnin’, felt a million miles tall an’ made of lightning. At the time it din’t occur to me there was two ponies gettin’ that pumped up. All I knew was, I got to take out my frustrations at last. Punched the daylights out of his dumb grinnin’ face, and then I come to an’ I realize, the hoof I’m punchin’ with is the only one I got free. He’s pinned the other three legs. An’ my heart is pounding, and the wriggly feelin’ is worse than ever, an’ then he’s pinned my free hoof with his own, four legs pinnin’ four. Except he’s got that fifth leg back again, bigger’n ever…”

“I can’t figure out why I can’t stop grinnin’. He seems ta like it. I spit in his face. He licks it up, the dirty bugger, which leaves me at somethin’ of a loss. He says, ‘Normally I’d wreck your ass, but you’ve earned better’. I says, ‘Normally I’d kick your head in, let me go!’ An’ he smiles, and he says, ‘This is the final test’. An’ I look down, and here he comes… and the wriggly feelin’ practically explodes an’ I have time to notice my pee-hole’s drooled or sneezed or something, and then the only thing left to think about is the way Blackmane’s massive dick is wedging right into me without a by-your-leave…”

“Ghh!” went Octavia, sweating. Scratch glanced chidingly at her. She hadn’t touched herself, but all the same, the mere story had got the romantic, fantasizing cellist off.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I see you’ve heard of him. You know, if he hadn’t caught me at a mighty strange time of my life, it would’ve been pow’ful different.” She sighed, looking grumpy. “It wasn’t different, though. If I’m honest, it was every stupid filly’s Blackmane fantasy, an’ I fell for it. You see, I was high on fightin’ him, fed up with Manehattan, craving a big change, an’ I tell you this: by the time that dick rammed the end of my gizzards, I was already an outlaw. And a total fool, besides.”

Octavia was blushing, ashamed. Her eyes begged forgiveness.

“Ah am not going to guilt myself for my reactions,” said Applejack sternly. “Only for losin’ my head and being a dernfool filly about them. And for your information, you might say I was lucky and unlucky, both. You see, he was watchin’ me the whole time. If he’d started bangin’ me right off, I bet the pain of it would’ve set me right. It wasn’t kindness. He watched my eyes, and he went real slow because he could see my brains were meltin’ out my ears and he wanted to stretch out that moment as long as he possibly could. It just so happened that this choice of his sealed my fate. By the time he was halfway, I was already comin’ as hard as I ever did come in all my life, and I was screamin’ my lungs out by the time he began to really move, and I reckon I weathered the storm. I was a proper horny mare when I was becomin’ a mare. He got all of that. I believe that mattered, too. Blackmane liked to hurt nice ponies. But a proper filthy wanton wench, long’s she shared his every thought and whim? Well, he liked it, for a time.”

The ponies mulled that over.

“For all that, it didn’t take long for me to wake the buck up,” admitted Applejack. “At first, I was a madmare for fuckin’ and I was happy as a pig in shit, punchin’ anypony I liked. We terrorized the high seas. We robbed other ships. I swung over to ‘em myself, hangin’ by a lanyard, and strong sailorponies ran from me. That first day, Blackmane had blacked my eye and cut my face in our fightin’ and I looked like a tiny, crazy filly, and before they knew it I’d punched them twelve times and they’d run away cryin’ and I’d jes laugh. Beatin’ up ponies three times my size, not even caring… I was Blackmane’s mare and Princess of the Pirates, I thought that was what I was gonna be for the rest of my life. We’d go back to his cabin, play with our loot, fuck… he did end up doin’ every hole but I’d punch him in the eye and tell myself we was even.”

“If you think about it,” continued Applejack, “folks ought to have guessed, when Applesauce died. When we let her spirit rise, by nightfall I’d fucked all th’ farm ponies, present company excepted, into th’ ground. Wasn’t that strange? Worked a treat, mind you, made a big impression, but how was it a seemingly innocent young mare had such a power of the pussy to her? Yep! It was practice. I’d already taken over a pirate ship that way, so it weren’t nothin’ unusual for me…”

“Mind you, I din’t know that was what I was doin’. I know now, Blackmane was a mean bastard. Still is, more’n likely. The crew didn’t love him. They feared him. I feared nothing on account of I thought he was my special somepony an’ I was his match. And then, not long after my black eye healed up, there was that one ship that changed everything…”

“Blackmane din’t care if I fucked the crew. I got a lot of ridin’ in, but it didn’t matter to him at all. Should have known that was a mite unusual, even for horses, but I was in love with Blackmane and his morals were my morals, plus I got to kick fullgrown sailorponies in the head. Mostly our pirate victims. I did also kick our crew in the head too, but me bein’ a soft touch at heart, I would come back later and make nice, apologize. Blackmane didn’t know that, but the crew, they noticed, and what’s more they figured it would get me in big trouble if Blackmane knew. I thought I was Blackmane’s other half, but I wasn’t half the wicked horse that black-hearted bugger was.”

“Well, on this day I was cranky an’ sore on account of Blackmane had got up my ass again. We’re attackin’ another ship. I had this cutlass, because why just punch when you can punch and kick AND cut the rigging? I knew other ponies got up to bloody work with ‘em, but I liked workin’ with my hooves instead, and had never turned my blade on another pony. We swing over to the other ship… and it ain’t all sailors, this time.”

“I’m lookin’ at another filly, even a lil’ younger than me. And I got a cutlass in my teeth, I’m ready to kick heads, and suddenly there I am, facing another pony like me. Our eyes met. And I can tell she is not the sort of pony to kick Blackmane in the head, fire up a nasty pirate romance, and be an outlaw along with him. I can see with one glance that she’s a nice pony. And she’s frail as a new flower, and she’s terrified. Of me. But I ain’t her biggest problem.”

“I glance at Blackmane, an’ he can’t take his eyes off her. And he’s got a raging boner, already. And he jes’ says, ‘Throw Booties overboard. I got an upgrade’.”

Octavia gasped. “You mean…?”

Applejack froze her with a stare. “Ah’ll get to that! You heard right. An’ that was me. And he looks at his crew, and they ain’t too happy, and he tells them, ‘I’m bored of the willing. Do it!’”

She gulped. “Ooooh… Ah tell you, that was the instant a dumb filly’s stupid love turned to white-hot hate. Throw ME overboard? Jes so’s he could rape a filly who din’t have NO kink for the wild side? I look at the crew an’ I can tell they don’t like this. Maybe they’ve seen a lot of fillies an’ most of ‘em mighty sad. Not like me, a crazy filly who’d fuck with ‘em and fight ‘em and then be kind and care about ‘em! They didn’t want to throw me overboard and replace me with this poor kid, they wanted to keep me. And that’s when I realized what I had to do.”

“I spat out the cutlass, and it clanged on the deck. Looked Blackmane right in the eye, and I said, ‘How dare you, you filthy bastard? I’mma keep this nice filly, and your crew too, and I’m gonna cut off your stinkin’ cheatin’ head!’ And I grabbed the cutlass in my teeth, and I charged. Right at Blackmane, and I swung the sword with all I had, right at his neck!”

The listeners waited. Finally, Vinyl Scratch said, “And?”

Applejack chuckled, darkly.

“There never was a pirate like Blackmane. And never will be another like him, thank goodness. I still don’t know whether I won or lost. Maybe he jes’ goes on being the Pirate Blackmane wherever he is?”

“In pony hell?” said Big Macintosh.

“Din’t say that. I swung the cutlass, fixin’ to cut off his head, the one time in my natural born life I was set on cold blooded murder. But my cold blooded ain’t nothin’ to the Pirate Blackmane. There’s two ends to a cutlass. The fucker caught the blade in his teeth, wrenched it out of my mouth, and got me on the side of the head with the pommel!”

Octavia gasped. “Oh, no!”

“Aw yeah he did! But, remember, the crew wanted to keep me? That’s what saved me. My own kindness, and also a bunch of randy sailor-fuckin’, saved me. By the time I could see straight, my crew was around me. That filly, she’s hugging me like some big rescuer hero, and cryin’, stroking my face. And there’s a lil’ spot on the horizon, and it’s a rowboat, and it’s Blackmane. The instant he saw I had the upper hoof, he abandoned ship, left all the loot and me and all his crew behind and off he went. And that was the last I saw of Blackmane the Pirate. An’ my ass hurt for a week, so I did not remember him kindly.”

The listeners were silent, awed. Finally, Octavia said it. “…booties?”

Applejack sighed again, but more in satisfaction. “Yep. I am the Dread Pirate Booties. Well, was. One of ‘em.”

“Whaddya mean, one of ‘em?” pressed Vinyl Scratch.

“Well, it’s the fetlocks, ain’t it?” said Applejack. “Dread Pirate Booties is known by his fetlocks. Well, you know there’s such a thing as socks. An’ I came aboard with a lot of frilly dumb fabric in that dress I was wearin’. Wasn’t too hard to make up some fine white fringey socks, and then I was the Dread Pirate Booties… for a time. That would be the rest of the story.”

“Tell us!” squeed all three listeners, thrilled.

“Gladly. This part I like better… in fact, it’s kinda why I ended up coming home, gettin’ my cutie mark and everything else. Mind you, I still lied for a while as you know. Especially about what inspired me to come home.”

“Seeing Rainbow Dash’s sonic rainboom?” said Big Macintosh.

“Let me tell it my way, all right, brother?” said Applejack. “Well, we all went back onto our pirate ship. I’d had reason to question where my life was headin’, and all of a sudden there I was, the Dread Pirate Booties with artificial fetlocks and a loyal crew that would do anything I asked, provided I laid ‘em and fed ‘em and cared for ‘em. We sailed around for a while, talkin’ about things. Once I got ‘em away from Blackmane, they started coming around, and I din’t have to punch them nearly as hard. The only bad time was, I caught a couple of them fixin’ to get on this filly, tiny lil’ frail unicorn filly with big big eyes. Never did work out how she was so dang thin. I punched their lights out an’ when they came to, me an’ the rest of the crew gave ‘em what for. Told them she was too little and that they should be ashamed of themselves for tryin’. And they cried. Ponies will be ponies, if you give ‘em a chance and let ‘em get their heads straight.”

She cleared her throat, scanning the skyline, thoughtful. “A lot I knew. Turns out, she’s jes’ got a metabolism. She was older than I knew. Came to me a week later beggin’ my forgiveness, on account of she’d balled one of them ponies anyhow, and thought I’d be mad. Well, it gave me ideas. I’d been thinkin’, you see. Thinkin’ about what I’d seen, the night before I took over the pirate ship and kicked Blackmane out.”

“Never did tell anypony that it wasn’t from a room in Manehattan that I saw it. No, sir. I did see Rainbow Dash’s sonic rainboom, and it was indeed pointin’ me back to Ponyville. Maybe it made more of an impression ‘cos I was comin’ my hooves off, stuck on the end of Blackmane’s dick, gettin’ all stretched out inside while he smacked me across th’ face with the back of his hoof. I knew how to roll with it, not get marked, but I do say that when I saw that rainbow leadin’ home, it seemed like not a half bad idea. An’ that’s the truth. And in less’n a month, home I was, and the cutie mark was jes’ a luxury because I’d gained so very much more.”

A pause, and then the three listeners cheered, clapping their hooves.

“Yay!” cried Scratch.

“Glorious!” agreed Octavia.

“Uh…” said Big Macintosh, peering off to the horizon. “Whut happened to the pirates?”

“Don’t you worry!” insisted Applejack. “I am still a Blackmane-trained roughneck an’ experienced pirate captain! Ain’t nopony gonna harm a hair of our manes, so you settle down!”

“You’re the Dread Pirate Booties?” asked Octavia, in awe.

Applejack laid her ears back. “Nah. Not anymore. Ah passed it on.”

“You mean…”

“Dang straight! I’d taught my crew some things about goodness, and them lessons stuck. But you know what also stuck? Them pirate-ponies, gettin’ stuck up that filly, that’s what. She was a damn quick study, and I ain’t sure I was the wisest of horses for what I decided to do about it all. My crew was right to the point of becomin’ honest sailors… well, mostly honest. And they were every bit as respectful of our skinny unicorn filly as they were of me. Hell, I watched ‘em at it sometimes, and it proper defied gee-ometry, but she was sure happy when she wasn’t straight-up faintin’ dead away. That was a happy crew and no mistake. And so, we sailed back to Manehattan, and I kissed ‘em all goodbye, and I passed on my fetlocks to that filly and she became the new Dread Pirate Booties. An’ off she went.”

“Did they stay pirates?” asked Scratch. “It sounds like you’re not sure.”

“Well, I ain’t,” admitted Applejack. “I know she’s a good filly. Mare, she’d be, now. I had other concerns. It’s funny, I learned a lot from her in a really short time, about what feminine could look like. I envied her for that and couldn’t forget how different it was from Apple ways. I was always a roughneck, all stallion-y, ready to kick Blackmane’s own face if it pleased me. She was as different as they come. Willowy, graceful… she had my crew wrapped around her hoof, prob’ly a good thing I left when I did. I do remember the moment when she realized bein’ a pirate involved gettin’ loot. That lil’ face lit up like all Hearth’s Warming Morning, and I had to scold her an’ explain that other ponies deserved to have nice things too. We’d sailed around for a while, robbin’ rich boats and givin’ some of the loot to poor fisherponies, and it never seemed like that was the best way of piratin’ anyhow but she really did not like lettin’ loot go, that one. Tiny frail thing, but damn did she like treasure. Yeah… that was our new Dread Pirate Booties.”

“Could she become as wicked as Blackmane?” asked Octavia.

Applejack thought to herself. “I really don’t think so. Heck, I saw her get her cutie mark, and it wasn’t from bein’ wicked… well, not by Ponyville standards. She was fuckin’ one of the pirate-ponies with all the others jes’ flocking around gazing up at her like she was royalty. Real gentle and nice they were with her, but passionate. She came, and he came in her, and some of ‘em came ON her for good measure jes’ because it was all so beautiful… and she looked out over the others in this benevolent highfalutin’ way, and zang. I was so darn jealous, though I got three things for my cutie mark too, just like her. Apples, mine was. Well, of course it was, we all know that.”

“What was Blackmane’s cutie mark?” asked Vinyl Scratch.

Applejack snorted. “Skull an’ crossbones, of course! What else? That was the piratiest pirate ever. Glad to see the last of him. If he ain’t dead, he’s still prowlin’ the seas. I beat him once and I would delight in beatin’ him again, and now I’m a full-growed mare. Don’t you fret about Blackmane.”

“Or the Dread Pirate Booties?” said Big Macintosh, worriedly.

Applejack smiled. “Why, I’d love to see her again. Don’t worry. We don’t have treasure here. Leastways, she wasn’t the sort of pony to steal instruments from musicians. She’d prob’ly force you to play for her real pretty-like, then let you go, even if I wasn’t here with you. And she would remember me, oh yes. And her pirate ship ran on love… well, that and randy fuckin’. Between grace, love, wantin’ treasure and the randy fuckin’, our Dread Pirate Booties was a sight to see. Wicked? Maybe in some ways, but for all that she was kind. An’ very, very beautiful, of course. I’m sure wherever she ended up, she’s leadin’ a life of elegance.”

“Elegance on a pirate ship?” said Big Macintosh, his ears laid back in confusion.

“If she ain’t captaining the pirate ship, it’s because she found something better to do with herself,” said Applejack crisply. “Our Dread Pirate Booties was all about treasure, but piratin’ requires a mean streak. Now, she might have got her crew to capture a whole mess of loot for her, but I’m tellin you: I rescued her, and I taught her to be good just like I taught my crew, and she wouldn’t be an evil pony. Hell, I even know her real name, though I’m not sure where she ended up. You never can tell who’s got a past as a Dread Pirate Booties. I bet she still loves treasure, mind you, but there are kinder ways to get it.”

Vinyl Scratch peered over the rim of her sunglasses.

“As somepony with a certain amount of skill in the matter… might these ways involve being sexy and impressing stallions? Kind of like she learned to do, from you, as the Dread But Not Entirely Wicked Pirate Booties and beloved captain of a bunch of horny pirate stallion ponies? Beautiful, sweet, kind, and greedy for treasure and randy fucking?”

Applejack shrugged.

“Well… that’s ol’ Fleur De Lis for ya!”

They sailed on.