Going Deep Under

by The Bricklayer

Part 22: Neighlantis

Outside the City of Neighlantis: Unknown Depth

Twilight gazed in equal amounts of awe and terror at the creature in front of her. Well, that’s what she’d like to have said, but to be frank with you dear reader, it was mostly terror. And who could blame her really?

After all, considering the creature in front of her was only spoke about in hushed whispers and legends, tall tales to frighten the weak and yet here it was. Staring right at her with a mask Death herself would probably have been proud of, eyes boring into her soul, Twilight’s legs began to quiver no matter how much she wished they wouldn’t.

Twilight would later swear that she was imagining things, but under that helmet of gilded gold, she saw a smirk. It was almost as if the owner of that smirk was sizing her up.

“Um… Okay… Let’s see here…” Twilight muttered as she flipped through the pages of a journal (Not her father’s) that she’d pulled out of her saddlebags. “That sounded like ancient Greek, not a language I’m fluent in I admit, but who is these days -Well, you apparently- but I think I can at least…” Twilight rambled before she said this in return: “Eímaste exerevnités ...?”

That only got crossbows aimed at them.

“Our situation has not improved…” Spent stated, master of the obvious.

“Here I thought you were a linguist,” Nimbus muttered, as he leaned over to Twilight. “The kind that speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, could blend in, disappear, I’d never see you again.”

“Are you kidding? ...I got lost in my own school once or twice,” Twilight admitted with a sheepish grin, forgetting for the moment about the angry dragoness and seaponies pointing weapons at them. “T-to be perfectly fair, i-it was a big school, but…”

“Is everypony on this journey utterly useless in some facet?” Nimbus exclaimed in frustration, throwing up his hooves in the air in disgust. Then, everybody could hear a rattling sound come from underneath the helmet. It took Twilight a minute, but she realized it was very amused laughter.

“Glad you think that’s so funny… Dragon bâtard.” Twilight grumbled under her breath, not meaning to say that last part, but it had slipped out in both sheer frustration and embarrassment

“Pour l'anecdote, je serais une chienne.” the dragoness replied as she laughed again, and Twilight’s jaw dropped.

“You… You speak Prench?” She squeaked out in amazement, before flushing red as she realized said dragoness had heard every word she’d said. Including the part about her being a ‘bâtard’.

“Assez couramment, oui,” she answered, taking off her helmet to reveal an aquamarine patterned face, with slitted amberish eyes and two tusks sticking out of her head. “Nom de Madame Ember.”

“Twilight Sparkle de nom,” Twilight replied, “Lady… of, um… Books, I guess?”

Ember only laughed at the pony’s awkwardness before she barked out in Greek an order. Although Twilight couldn’t quite catch what she said, the meaning was quite clear visually as her troops lowered their weapons.

“Wait, she speaks Prench? The language of love?” Spent said, almost at once cottoning on an idea before he stepped forwards to Ember in a grand moment of combined idiocy and his hormones doing the thinking for him. “Voulez-vous coucher…”

Almost at once, Ember recoiled in disgust and socked him in the jaw with a powerful right hook sending him flying backwards.

“You know, I think we’re getting somewhere!” Spent said, with a doofy grin.

“Moron…” Gallants muttered as he shook his head. “You don’t just go up and ask a woman for sexual intercourse! Not outright!”

Sudoku facehoofed and muttered to himself: “I thought Italian was the language of love?” as he shook his head in disappointment.

“Glad Ah’m not the one translating here…” Grape Vine muttered as he plucked an arrow from his flank, wincing as he did so. “Ah’d have gotten us all killed by now…”

Nimbus groaned, the combined idiocy of who he had to work with was absolutely ridiculous.

“Heh…” Silver Spanner trailed off, barely hiding her amusement. “'bout time somebody, or in this case, somedragon hit 'im for that. I'm just terribly sorry it wasn't me and that somebody beat me to it.”

That, Ember burst out laughing and said in perfect English: “I like you.”

“Well, you’re sorta growing on me as well,” Silver replied. “Anybody who could put that perv in his place automatically shoots to the top of my good books.”

“What’s a… good book?” Ember asked quizzically and Silver only laughed good-naturedly. Not demeaning, not in a mocking way as one might have expected, but just in a genuinely amused way.

“Lady, you’ve got a lot to learn about the modern ways of speaking,” she chuckled. “I’d be glad to offer myself as a tutor…” Silver said. Ember smiled before leaning forwards.

“And in how many other ways are you willing to offer yourself up? I’m a Lady after all, and you’d make a fine addition to the Royal Harem. Been a long time since I’ve had anybody other than a Seapony. Celestia knows I need a change of… pace.” She trailed off, waggling her eyelashes. Silver’s jaw dropped, and so did Spent’s. Albeit for entirely different reasons.

Then Ember burst out laughing at Silver’s expression, and the mare realized she’d been completely and utterly trolled. By a dragon no less, who were said to have no senses of humor whatsoever!

“I’m… I’m sorry, it’s just been so long since I had somebody to mess with. You provided me with the perfect opportunity, really,” Ember apologized with a bow. “Please forgive me.”

“No, no need. That was actually sorta funny, now that I think of it,” Silver replied. “So… No hard feelings. Believe me, anybody who can get their bee under my bonnet like that, well… I do like them. Still, all the same, you’re getting a tutor like it or not!”

“I look forwards to it,” Ember stated before she gestured with a claw towards the city and a long wooden rope bridge that led to it. “Eh, I suppose I can let you inside. For now at least, as long as you don’t cause too much trouble.”

“Can’t promise you that, not with this crew,” Fancy said, muttering that last part largely to himself. “But we’d been glad to accept the invite.”

“And you are?” Ember asked.

“Commander Fancy Pants, leader of this expedition.” Fancy introduced himself and kissed Ember’s other claw like the gentlestallion he was. “And might I say, it’s an honor and an absolute pleasure to finally meet you.”

Ember smiled, and blushed slightly. “Well, the honor is all mine. Like I said, it’s been a long time since we’ve had visitors of any kind. So then… Welcome to Neighlantis!”

Twilight found herself at a loss for words as Princess Ember -Staff in claw, tip glowing with a blood red ruby, marking her place in the status quo- led them through the outskirts of the city. All around them, signs of a thriving civilization were abundant. Market stalls, made of wood and leather hide, had seaponies (Seaponies! Twilight had to let out a squee at that, though she kept it suppressed as much as possible.) selling their wares. Haggling over prices, shouting to make their voices heard over the din.

Fish of all kinds were on display, amongst other things like various fruits and pottery and Fancy gaped as he saw a live Coelacanth in a glass tank.

“By Celestia…” he whispered, taking his monocle off his face and rubbing it with a small cloth to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. But there it was, still swimming about atop a market stall inside its tank.

Twilight was jotting down notes left and right in her notebook at everything she saw, frantic scribblings at every little thing that caught her eye. The wonders this could do for both history and science, it could change the world’s understanding of culture as they knew it!

“They called me foolish…” she whispered, tears of joy leaking from her eyes. “Called my whole theory of this place’s existence a folly! Laughed in my face!” she shouted before asking to nobody in particular as she looked skywards. “Well, who’s laughing now, huh?”

Then, her mood turned sad again, and her voice lowered as she whispered: “Dad, I finally did it, just wish you were here to see this…”

Fancy smiled as he looked at his niece. “I’d like to think he is, he’s with us both, in spirit.”

Twilight sniffled and wiped away her tears, before smiling sadly. Yeah, he was.

Tall pillars, ancient in both design and age with flowering vines creeping up their sides were all around, roman or classical greek in build. Could have been a mixture of both. And at the far end of the city kingdom, lay a giant pyramid. Fantastically impossible, this city could have been described as if you were wanting to sum it up in two words. It’s blend of different cultures, from all across the globe, and these cultures mixing and meshing so well when in the surface world above, ponies were still struggling to get over long held prejudices.

To Twilight, this was as close to heaven as she could ever think existed on the mortal plane. Poets and philosophers had long since spoken of its beauty, but nothing ever came close to seeing the real deal.

“Stagger onward rejoicing;
And even then if, perhaps
Having actually got
To the last col, you collapse
With all Neighlantis shining
Below you yet you cannot
Descend, you should still be proud
Even to have been allowed
Just to peep at Neighlantis
In a poetic vision:
Give thanks and lie down in peace,
Having seen your salvation.” said once by W.H. Auden of York in the United Kingdom. But even he failed to capture in words, in all of its majesty Twilight thought to herself. Perhaps nobody ever really could. There was that saying, a picture was worth a thousand words, and perhaps in Twilight’s mind for Neighlantis at least, it probably could have been more. After all, how could you sum up this grand, ancient city in just a measly thousand words? Perhaps you could, it would just take a better writer than her to do so.

She noted small little gems hanging around everybody’s necks, (Even around Ember’s) glowing light blue, glinting in the light from the hole in the ceiling above.

“Princess Ember, what’s with those-” Twilight started, before the dragoness gave her a look, telling her not to press. It seemed, some secrets of Neighlantis would have to stay just that… A secret. At least for now anyways…

Twilight then heard the cocking of a rifle as Nimbus pointed his Whinnychester hunting rifle at a very familiar stallion walking up the path. Gasps echoed throughout the street, and a few shopkeepers hid behind their wares. Said stallion resembled her brother in some ways, right down to the mane style and coat coloring. But while Shining was calm and collected in most situations, this stallion was anything but.

A look of anger was on his muzzle, as he stared down Nimbus. In one of his hooves was a scepter, not that far removed from Ember’s, but tipped with a glowing blue gem instead of a crimson one.

“Well, look who it is. The coward who runs from a fight.” Nimbus growled out, gripping his rifle tightly before he found it flung from his grip by an aquamarine aura of magic energy. The newcomer’s horn was alight with that same color, making another difference between him and Twilight’s older brother.

“Well, look who it is,” the Stallion stated, echoing Nimbus’s words right down to the letter. “The stallion who disobeys orders and common sense when it suits him.”

With that, Nimbus had finally had enough of him and pulled out an old Colt M1892 -Great War era dated if you wanted to narrow down an exact date for whatever reason- and pointed it at the Stallion.

“Ask yourself…” the stallion asked, as low growls echoed from the alleyways, and Twilight spared a quick glance towards one. Something, with two glowing blue orbs was hidden in the darkness. A quick check towards the other alleyway to the right of her, and there was another set of eyes gleaming out of the darkness. Interestingly, the Stallion’s eyes were glowing the exact same shade as well, indicating some sort of connection. “Would you really want to do that?”

Twilight then remembered something, an old mural she’d seen a while back.

There was a depiction of a winged lizard of some sort, alongside a duo of nine-tailed canid creatures. Both canids held staves, both glowing with light somehow, both a calm cool blue. Ancient characters were inscribed below the creatures.

“Praise the foxes, for they are the protectors of the lamb…” She murmured under her breath. “So that’s what it meant!” Twilight thought to herself, eyes widened in realization. It seemed this city had many more mysteries to it yet!

“I’d advise you to listen to what he says, and calm yourself Nimbus,” Fancy said warningly. “No need to pick a fight where there isn’t any.”

Nimbus growled, before he re-holstered his pistol and muttered a few none too kind curses under his breath. He then turned to find himself face to face with a very displeased Fancy.

“What the Tartarus were you thinking? We’re guests here in this city, and we could be very easily thrown out, just as easily as we were let in! I’m trying to open up diplomatic relations, and you threatening to shoot somebody isn’t helping!” He hissed out.

“Yeah?” Nimbus growled out, his wings flaring slightly in his anger. “Well, just so you know, not everypony can be trusted. Just ask Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria! He trusted his allies, and where is he now? Oh right, dead! Shot through the jugular, am I not correct?”

Fancy shook his head and sighed as Nimbus walked off grumbling to himself. That pony, he saw enemies where there were none at times. Sometimes he wondered if you could take the pony out of a war, but not the war out of the pony. He’d have to keep a closer eye on him, otherwise, things could go sour really fast…

Later that night, Grape sat on near a small watery pool on the edge of the City. Nearby, a few of the surviving pegasi and griffon crew members from the Moby Dick played in a water fountain, bathing themselves almost like birds did. Sudoku looked on and shook his head while sighing.

“Idiots…” he muttered before walking off. “Least they could do is have some respect for these things, or at least pretend to show it…”

“Gawd…” Grape muttered to himself, while looking at the Colt Peacemaker in his hooves, before tossing it away in disgust. “Not just a failure and a fraud, but Ah’m a murderer as well.”

“You still beating yourself up about that?” Lightning Dust asked, as she trotted up to Grape, and put a wing around him. “Listen, you did what you had to do. Madness overtook him, we all saw it.”

“Yeah?” Grape asked in disgust. “Still doesn’t make it right as rain, now does it?”

“Maybe not… But honestly, it was a spur of the moment choice, if you asking me.”

“Ya’ve got a heck of a way of making me feel better about mahself, ya know that right?” Grape asked, nickering in derision.

“My point is, you saw no other way out, than to stop your father before he killed us all with his bloodlust for the Kraken. Might have done the same thing myself, if I was in your place,” Lightning Dust replied. “Besides, you’re beating yourself up over it. Hardly what I’d call the actions of a monster, right?”

“Yeah, Ah suppose…” Grape murmured.

“Now, what’s this about being a failure and a fraud?” Lightning asked. Grape sighed.

“Suppose it had to come out eventually…” he muttered, and with a purple glow of his horn, his false Cutie Mark of a sextant began to fade away, and was replaced by a double eighth note. Lightning’s jaw dropped.

“Now ya see… Not a navigator, not by a long shot… Just somepony who pretended to be, just get on this here crew, and be close to my pa and make sure he didn’t do anything stupid. Fine job of that, Ah did, didn’t I?”

“Hey, you’re no failure, not in my eyes. Remember all those times in the mess hall, you and your guitar? The crew loved to hear you practice, even if it got on someponies’ nerves about your seeming love for that thing…” Lightning Dust joked. “Tartarus, sometimes I swear you loved that thing more than your marefriend…”

Grape actually burst out laughing at that.

“Now, how did that song go? The one that Trixie and yours relationship reminded me of? Oh yes, I remember…” Lightning trailed off before she began to sing.

“You looked at me, my heart began to pound
You weren't the sort of guy I thought would stick around
Hey, but it don't have to be eternally
My bad, bad Angel put the Devil in me
You put the Devil in me…” Lightning began to sing, and Grape, slowly but surely joined in along with her.

“You lured me in with your cold grey eyes
Your simple smile, your bewitching lies
One and one and one is three
My bad, bad Angel, the Devil in me!
You put the Devil in me!”

Little did they know it, but their singing hadn’t gone unheard. A splash, and a figure poked her head out of the pool.

Grape and Lightning both blinked in surprise. It was a pegasus mare. But at the same time, not exactly a pony, to be entirely honest really. In actuality, it was rather a seapony in their real form. Half fish, half pony. She had a wavy cyan mane that flowed like the water itself, ruby-colored fins on her back resembling pegasi wings, and a tail that like her mane, was cyan colored. Her main body was a tannish color, and a necklace of seashells rested around her neck. Two big, innocent eyes rested on her freckled face.

“Er.... Hi! Name’s Princess Skystar! Absolutely lovely singing, by the way!” the pony introduced herself before looking at Grape and Lightning’s bewildered expressions. “...I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?”