Chapter 9: Chief of Oceanopolis
Inside the castle-like building, in a room with a window overlooking the city, an indigo hippocampus pony swam worriedly back and forth with his hands folded behind him. His neat hair and goatee were nearly dark grey in color, with a bluish tint. The image of a sparkling drop of water adorned his flanks. Around his neck he wore a necklace with an unnaturally shiny white seashell.
“Oh, what has that Kelptail been up to?” he asked himself, “She’s been leaving the city more often than usual. I just hope she isn’t venturing beyond hippocampus boundaries; there’s nothing but trouble out there.”
Just then, a knock came from the large double doors on the other side of the room. It opened, and a guard poked his head in.
“Sir,” he addressed, “A group of surface ponies has been discovered within the city. We have brought them to you.”
“Surface ponies?” the pony repeated quizzically, “How did they get here? How could they have gotten here?”
“One of the citizens led them here,” the guard answered plainly.
“I think I could guess who that would be,” the pony commented snidely, “Alright, bring them in, then.”
Both doors were opened, revealing the girls and Kelpy, who had been waiting nervously. The guards pushed them into the room, saluted the pony, and exited, closing the doors behind them. The girls looked at him in wonder, but Kelpy stared down at the floor.
“You must be Chief Freshwater,” Rarity said, stepping forward and extending her hoof in invitation. From the looks of her cordial behavior, one could hardly guess that she was actually very nervous.
“Yes, that would be me,” the pony replied, giving Rarity an unsettling look. He took no notice of her hoof, so she moved it back. “So, surface ponies,” he continued, “Ponies of the earth and the sky, but not the sea. And yet, here you stand, on an ocean floor civilization, still able to breathe, mind you. And you,” he added, turning to Kelpy, who continued to avert his gaze, “I’m hearing that you brought them to our city. What is the meaning of this, Kelpy? How could you expose surface ponies to our concealed existence?”
Kelpy didn’t respond, or move, or even look up from the floor.
“Hey, leave her alone!” Rainbow Dash interjected. She walked up to Chief Freshwater and glared directly into his eyes. “The reason we’re here,” she snapped, “Is because we want to know why you guys have been hiding away in the first place!”
“How dare you!” the chief exclaimed in response, “I’ll have you know that our ancestors made an agreement to live in isolation from the surface ponies!”
“And why is that?” Rainbow Dash asked loudly.
“That is on a need-to-know basis!” the chief bellowed.
“Well, we need to know!” Rainbow Dash retorted.
“You are in no position to talk about what should and should not be done!” the chief roared, raising himself up, “You barged into our civilization, you disrupted the peace of our society, and you have shown utter disregard for our way of life! I may be merciful now, but if I weren't, I would have you all bound in fishing net and cast into the deepest depths of the ocean faster than you can say-!”
“Father, wait!” Kelpy suddenly cried, looking up. She swam between Rainbow Dash and the chief.
“Father?” the girls repeated.
“Take it easy on them, please!” Kelpy pleaded, “They don’t know what’s going on! They’re just curious, that’s all! They didn’t mean any offense towards our people!”
“I should hope not,” the chief responded glumly, sinking back to the floor, “Now, I’ll ask again, Kelpy: What is the meaning of this?”
Kelpy sighed, and told him about everything that had happened between her and the girls: how they first discovered her at the lake, how she saved them from the Chimaera, and how they eventually decided to investigate the mystery behind the hippocampus ponies.
“So, you see,” she finished, “We just wanted to look for the hidden records of ancient hippocampus history.”
Chief Freshwater tapped his chin in thought. “You’ve all come a long way for something so important,” he said to the girls.
“So, you’ll tell us where they are?” Fluttershy asked hopefully.
“Sorry, but no,” the chief replied, “You see, these records are not only hidden, they are also secretive, more so than our race as a whole. They were put away for a reason.”
“Whatever secrets they hold, they couldn’t be that bad,” Rainbow Dash objected.
Giving Rainbow Dash a reproachful look, the chief insisted, “They tell of dark times, times of war and unrest. The story they bear is not one to be sought lightly.”
“We seek them because we want to know the truth, nothing more,” Twilight stated, “Perhaps if you knew who we were, you would understand. I’m Twi-”
“Twilight Sparkle,” the chief interrupted, then pointed to the others, “And the rest of you are Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy. You girls have saved Equestria twice, once from eternal night and once from chaos. Yes, yes, I know all about you.”
Kelpy’s eyes widened. “You girls are heroes?” she asked in amazement.
“It’s nice to see that somepony recognizes us for our deeds,” Rarity commented daintily.
“Believe it or not,” the chief continued, “We stay pretty well updated on the news of your surface kingdom.”
“Then y’all know ‘bout Princess Celestia?” Applejack checked.
“Why, of course!” the chief declared almost immediately, “She has ruled Equestria for over one thousand years!”
“An’ does she know ‘bout y’all?” Applejack proceeded.
“Of course she does,” the chief answered, with much less vigor, “She meets with all hippocampus leaders regularly. She agreed to maintain the decision between us and the alicorns.”
“The… alicorns?” Twilight reacted, gaping, “There are alicorns, too?”
“Indeed there are,” the chief stated, “Though, of course, they’ve hidden themselves away, as well. But, seeing as you are now aware of us, you might as well-”
“How can you all stand to isolate yourselves like that?” Twilight blared out, looking dismayed, “How can you endorse love and toleration, and at the same time keep each other separated like this? What happened that was so bad it caused all of ponykind to drift apart?”
Chief Freshwater looked into Twilight’s eyes and sighed. “To tell you the truth,” he replied quietly, “I don’t even know. For generations, we’ve been keeping the records completely hidden away. We’ve never even looked at them, so even we don’t know what they say. From leader to leader, the promise to guard them has been passed down, and nothing more.”
Everyone looked at him, speechless. “Father,” Kelp uttered, “I… I’m so sorry. If only I’d known that… all this time, you were just trying to keep us safe …”
“You don’t need to apologize,” the chief pointed out, “I’ve been more ruthless about it than I needed to be. And I’ve seen how this secrecy has affected the hippocampus ponies. We allowed them to learn of the surface world so they wouldn’t go up and look for themselves, but then we caged them in so they wouldn’t accidentally reveal us. For the most part, we’ve been happy all this time, but even I can see the flickers of misery in the hippocampus ponies. The more independent out of us have instead been afflicted with fear- fear of the unknown, of what could happen to us. Every now and then, I wonder if there’s a better way for us to live our lives.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Then, Twilight walked up to the chief.
“But there is a better way,” she explained softly, “If we could figure out what caused this rift, and fix it, then you won’t have to hide anymore. So, we need to know what it was that happened between the ponies.”
After taking a brief moment to think about it, the chief finally admitted, “I suppose you’re right. Those records may be the key to uniting the ponies.”
Pinkie Pie gave a holler. “And here I thought he would never give up!” she exclaimed casually, looking around triumphantly at her friends.
The chief dismissed her comment by clearing his throat. As he swam over to his desk, he announced, “You’ll need a map, since the sea is much more vast than any land mass. Now, where did I put it… ah, here it is!” He pulled out a wrinkly map, made of a material similar in appearance to paper, and set it on the desk. “This happens to have the precise location in which the records are kept,” he explained.
The girls walked up to the desk and examined the map. To them it was breath taking, since it depicted a world that they were just visiting for the very first time. Symbols with names indicated hippocampus civilizations. Also noted were various oceanic landmarks, including things that could be seen above the surface, as well. After scanning the entire map, Rainbow Dash looked up and said, “It doesn’t… look like it has the location of the records.”
“Well, of course not,” the chief stated matter-of-factly, “Otherwise anypony could steal it and look for them. The location is on this map, but it’s concealed by magic, which is why,” he held up his seashell charm with one hoof and smiled admiringly, “You would need to consult the leader in order to learn of it.”
Bending over the map, he touched the seashell down onto a blank spot. The seashell sparkled and made a harmonious ringing sound, as an image instantly faded into view on the spot. In mere seconds it looked as if it had been on the map the whole time. The girls gasped in awe, even Kelpy.
Straightening up, the chief pronounced, “Here is where your journey for the hidden records will take you. The ruins of the Sunken Temple.”
“The Sunken Temple,” Kelpy whispered in wonder, “I thought it was just a myth.”
“Oh, it’s real,” the chief insisted, “Not that I’ve seen it. You must be careful, though. Vicious sea creatures and renegade tribes have been known to inhabit the surrounding region. I’d go with you, but I must stay here and fulfill my duties as leader, not to mention it would arouse suspicion. Now, before you head out, it would be best if you could safely roam the streets without being reported again.” He pulled out a sheet of the same paper-like material and wrote something on it with a pen-like tool. When he finished, he stamped the paper with a seal matching his cutie mark, then rolled it up and handed it to Kelpy.
“You have to promise me one thing,” he added, suddenly looking grave.
“Yes?” The girls asked curiously.
“Don’t mention any of this to anypony,” the chief ordered.
“We won’t, father,” Kelpy assured, with a quick bow. She rolled up the map and took it in her other hoof. And with that, the girls turned and headed for the double doors.
As they left the room, the chief remarked, “Oh, and one more thing: do try not to cause any more trouble while you’re here. I would appreciate it.”