Sovereign breathed out, adjusting to the lack of pressure as his body adapted in seconds to the dryness, losing its streamlined fur, along with the extra bulk his figure gained whenever he found himself in colder or deeper waters.
He was left as a very tall and slender unicorn, mane and tail waving lazily. He never quite liked being on land, it wasn’t as comforting as when water would cradle him all around, soft pressure reassuring on his fur.
The locket levitated in front of him, and he tilted his head at it, using the water’s memories to link it to the descendant. He watched as a stream of water only visible to him slowly trickled through a throng of trees, guiding him out of the forest he appeared in.
It led him into a town, and he frowned. Hopefully his Equish was in order, he hadn’t spoken it in around 1,000 years.
Deciding to present himself proudly, he rose his head high, entering the quaint village with his horn towards the skies.
As soon as he stepped hoof into the town, the happy morning chatter of its residents faded, gobsmacked expressions on their faces. He looked around curiously, ignoring their silence.
Ponies seemed to become more… colorful, as well as more diminutive than the last time he had ventured out and seen the land-dwellers. The majority of them seemed to be mares, which was the same as when he had last interacted with them.
“Excuse me…” A pony approached him, awe in her eyes. She was a white unicorn with a curled mane, and Sovereign likened her gaze to that of an otter when it found something particularly pretty.
“Greetings,” he replied unsurely, noticing that the unicorn was coming more and more into his personal space. She craned her neck to look up at him, a grin slowly making its way on her face.
Rarity beamed. This had to be a blessing from Celestia herself in order to pay for the troubles she had endured the night before.
“Greetings,” said the stallion- and what a stallion he was- and Rarity nearly squealed in response.
His voice was hypnotizing, fitting his handsome and exotic form perfectly. His coat was unique, and Rarity was already forming outfits and color combinations that would look dazzling on him when she noticed something on his chest.
She mentally kicked herself for not noticing it, since it was quite literally level with her horn. Wow, he was taller than Celestia.
“Perfect,” She whispered, reaching with a hoof towards the beautifully crafted necklace, aching to feel the gold and crystal wrapped around-
Her hoof was gently guided away by a blue glow that almost resembled water.
She pouted, whipping her head up before her jaw went slack, realizing something she had noticed about Celestia.
His mane… moved by itself.
It moved soothingly, like waves on a beach, or, or-
Rarity, quickly overwhelmed by ideas on how to adorn such a lovely glittering mane, promptly swooned, waking up just as the tall unicorn caught her gently, levitating her before she could hit the dirt.
Seeing the opportunity for what it was, Rarity kept her eyes barely closed, fighting the blush when he observed her closely, bending to press an ear against her chest.
He pulled back and looked at her oddly, unsure of how to proceed. She wasn’t dead… so what was the issue?
Sovereign mentally cursed. What a great first impression for the Equestrians! He looked around, spotting another mare who seemed to be doing her very best to ignore him, even going so far as to turn around, leaving coins on the counter of a stall without taking the merchandise she had picked.
“Pardon me, madame!” He said softly, not wanting to startle her like the unicorn.
He didn’t notice the mare in his grasp open her eyes and wince when she spotted the mare he was speaking to.
Fluttershy let out a quiet ‘eep’ sound before slowly, slowly, turning to face the tall, taller than a bear, stallion who was holding Rarity in his magic.
For a moment, she panicked before noticing Rarity’s eyes open to adoringly gaze at the unicorn who held her.
He was definitely… unique. His coat’s pattern reminded Fluttershy of a marine animal, and as her gaze traveled up, she hid behind her mane.
His mane moved! And he was almost freakishly tall, taller than the Princess! Was he royalty? Oh, she knew she should’ve stayed at home.
“The maiden hath taken ill,” the stallion said slowly, as though he didn’t quite know how to speak. Fluttershy swallowed, likening his speech to that of Nightmare Moon, only making her more scared.
“N-no.. she hasn’t…” she whispered, voice shaky with fright as she continued to refuse eye contact.
The stallion paused, and observed Rarity before letting out a string of curses in one of the last non-pony languages he used, Molluskian.
Fluttershy’s head jerked up, face reddening at the profanity, ready to ask him to refrain from those words when she realized the odd accent he had. He sounded like he was underwater, almost-
She gaped. “You speak squid?”
The stallion paused again before beaming at her, frightening her into hiding behind her mane once more.
“I speaketh indeed, and if she hath no qualms, I shall let go.” Rarity suddenly squawked, startling Fluttershy into falling back on her rump.
“Don’t drop me! I can get down myself!” She screeched at the prospect of dirtying her white pelt, tossing her mane back once she was on all fours once more. She turned back to the tall stranger, smiling sheepishly at him.
“Fluttershy is right, I wasn’t, ah, ill, per se, but-”
“I would greatly appreciate a lack of deceit in the future,” he interjected gently, voice washing over them like low tides.
Rarity blushed and giggled. “Well- I apologize for that, but if I may, who exactly are you?”
The unicorn startled, as if he remembered his goal suddenly. “Ah, I am called Sovereign Seas. It would be preferred to refer to me as Sovereign,” he said slowly, ears flicking this way and that as he listened to the speech of the surrounding ponies who had gathered while Rarity was playing unconscious. Speech structure seemed to have shortened in some places while lengthening in others. This would take a while.
Rarity sighed, delighted. “What a beautiful name, and it fits you so well, you sound like a prince,” as she began to mutter to herself, Fluttershy slowly backed up, taking her merchandise as intended before turning to leave.
“If you don’t, um, need anything, I’ll just, um, be going, if that’s okay with you guys.”
The unicorn smiled benevolently down at her, reminding her of just how tall he was. “T’was not my intention to interrupt thee, go about your matters, I apologize for the intrusion.”
Fluttershy, unused to the formality, merely ‘eep’ed once more before speeding off at a pace that would make even Rainbow Dash proud.
Once the mellow pegasus was out of sight, Rarity turned to Sovereign. “So, Sovereign…” She began, giving the surrounding ponies a look that promised needles poking everywhere if they didn’t back off.
Sovereign hummed, bending a little to listen to her closer. Sound traveled differently on land as well, he would have to adapt more.
Rarity almost pawed at the ground with how flustered she suddenly became at the direct attention. Those blue eyes had to be a crime!
“... What brings you to Ponyville?” Rarity nearly cursed (though she refrained, refusing to be uncouth in front of such a distinguished gentlecolt.)
Sovereign blinked and brought forth a-
“Oh… it’s lovely,” Rarity lied, eyeing the rusty locket he produced. Sovereign barked out a laugh, the noise great and loud like a wave crashing against a cliff.
“‘Tis not meant to be pretty. One of my subjects… relinquished this from somebody, and I aim to return it to the first descendant of the owner I spy.”
Rarity mouthed the word “somebody” before looking up at him. “That’s quite a noble- wait, did you say subject!?” Rarity became redder and redder.
Sovereign blinked before a look of understanding came across his features. Perhaps certain ponies were supposed to be introduced by title nowadays? Last time, there was someone to do it for him, but Sovereign had assumed the tradition had faded, as many others had.
He took a deep breath, stepping back and dipping his head in a bow, oceanic mane flowing around him as he introduced himself, decorative regalia glittering. If the ponies had left him alone before, they did the complete opposite now, 'ooh'ing and 'ah'ing at the display.
“I present myself to thee, as Emperor of the Seas, Sovereign of all waters, ruler and guardian of the Tides.” He said proudly, stomping his hoof, and for a second, ghostlike yet shining fish of all sorts seemed to flutter around him before dissipating.
Not sure if she was faking it this time, Sovereign let the mare hit the ground, wincing as she did.
He stepped closer, about to check her for issues when two blurs, orange and blue, stopped him.
“What did you do to Rarity!?” The blue one yelled angrily at him, raspy voice heavy with rage.
The orange one checked on the unicorn before stepping towards him, glare in her leaf-green eyes.
“Now mister, I’m sure you ain’t want no trouble, but that’s my friend right there, and if you’ve harmed a hair on her head-!” Sovereign promptly rolled his eyes, cutting her off.
He was largely unimpressed, but sighed. “The maiden- the mare fainted. She hath- she hasn’t a scratch on her.”
The orange mare, an earth pony with a wide brimmed hat, glared at him but could see that he was telling the truth, backing down.
“Yeah, right!” The blue pegasi was not as willing. She launched forward attempting to land a hard-hoofed punch directly to his jaw.
Just in time, Sovereign’s body shimmered, and the pegasi’s hoof passed right through, almost like water. Sovereign’s body shimmered once more and he was solid again.
She didn’t seem prepared for the lack of an object for her force, barreling forward and skidding into the ground. She turned back, suddenly extremely pale.
“Gh-Gh-Ghost!” She screamed, rocketing back into the clouds, leaving a trail of rainbow behind.
The remaining mare looked at him, a bit shaken as well.
“Now what in tarnation was that!?” She said, hovering defensively over the still-unconscious form of her friend, Rarity.
Sovereign found himself impressed by her determination.
“‘Tis an ability of mine. Now, wouldst- would thou-” Sovereign muttered a curse in Atlantean before continuing, “would you like aid in bringing the mare indoors?”
Applejack narrowed her eyes. This tall fella had an odd mouth on him, that was for sure, why, he spoke like-
Her eyes snapped open, wide with caution. “You talk like Nightmare Moon!” The name alone caused a panic (again), ponies scattering left and right and leaving Applejack, Rarity, and the stranger alone.
The name seemed to have frozen the stranger in his spot, even his mane going limp, shining surface turning light like ice, with frost spreading to match.
“I beg your pardon?” Sovereign whispered, the name striking up deep feelings of something in him that he associated with his entire reign as water, the fuzzy, cold corner of his mind that he didn’t feel like delving into just yet.
“You talk- you talk all fancylike, like you were born in the Dark Ages with the Princesses!” Applejack hastily amended, immediately feeling bad for inadvertently causing the stranger pain. Odd speech or not, that was not Good Apple Behavior.
The stranger seemed to calm, mane returning to its state prior to freezing. “Nay, I was conceived years before those two.”
Applejack paused. Just about nopony aside from the Elements and a few Ponyville residents knew that there were two princesses. “Hey, how’dya know th- now wait a minute, did ya say you were older than them? You’re no alicorn,” she said, unsure for there was a distinct lack of deceit in the stranger’s voice.
At this, the unicorn shuddered. “Wings! I have no need for wings or a- a hollow skeleton! Wings have no place in the sea!” His voice was sure and convincing, and Applejack found herself nodding.
She decided not to press on the matter, turning back to Rarity. “Well, Mr. No-wings, I’ll still take ya up on that offer of yours if ya don’t mind,” she changed the subject, smiling up at the unicorn.
Now that she had her neck craned back to see him, she realized that he was tall, taller than Celestia and Big Mac and just about every tall pony she knew. Deciding not to comment, she led both unicorns to the closest establishment, which happened to be Sugarcube Corner.
Sovereign blinked at the building in front of him. This amount of decor on a shop was- well it was odd, at the very least. Either this family was prosperous, or things had changed a lot for earth ponies.
He was hesitant to walk in, but obliged as per Applejack’s (as he had learned her name was) instructions. Dipping his head, he bent to fit without scratching the doorway, stepping in carefully and setting Rarity down where Applejack was sitting in a small booth.
“Thanks for the help, lifting Rarity would’ve been no easy task by my lonesome!” Applejack remarked.
Both (conscious) ponies jolted when Rarity bolted upright. “Did you just call me heavy!?”
“Sweet Celestia, Rares, I meant balancing you!” The two mares promptly began arguing and Sovereign took the opportunity to look around.
When he turned back, he met a pair of very, very close blue eyes, along with a grin full of white teeth on a pink mare.
“Hi, Mister Sovereign! Welcome to Ponyville, or maybe I should say Welcome to Land? But you have land, but Ponyville is its own thing, right? Ooo, ooo, do you have parties in Atlantis? Do you have cupcakes in Atlantis!? Please tell me you do, can cupcakes even be made underwater!? They gotta dissolve, right? The structural integrity of a cupcake is greatly affected by water and...”
The pony seemed to say it in one breath, and Sovereign blinked slowly at her, comprehending absolutely none of what she said, his grasp on modern-Equish shaky already.
He blinked once more before sitting on his haunches, dignity be damned, tilting his head at the pony before realization lit his face up in a soft grin.
“Dolphin.” He muttered, cutting off her rant.
Pinkie paused before grinning back. “Do dolphins like to party!?”
Sovereign’s grin promptly vanished, looking queasy and muttering something about pufferfish. “I suppose they do… party.”
At that moment, two pegasi entered, one talking animatedly to the other.
“And I swear it was like my hoof met water, absolutely no hit, no pain, no force, no nothing! It was a ghost, I swear!”
Fluttershy looked up from Rainbow’s rant and saw the tall unicorn from earlier. Deciding he wasn’t an enemy, seeing as he had not lashed out at Rarity for the personal-space invading, she waved shyly at him.
Rainbow followed her gaze, seeing the unicorn sat on his haunches waving back.
And for the third time that day, Sovereign made a mare faint on the spot.
Celestia winced as Luna stumbled over her words yet again, the subsequent tantrum sending her speech tutor into a fright.
“Lulu, it’s okay-”
“‘Tis NOT ‘OKAY’!” Luna snarled, stomping her hoof on the ground, leading the tutor to flee out of the study. Why had they changed speaking? Luna had spoken the same language for 1,000 years and had had absolutely zero issues, yet these ponies-
But who did we speak to? Luna paused, suddenly freezing and leading Celestia to tilt her head in caution.
More frustration built when she couldn’t find an answer despite knowing in her very bones that there had been a voice not belonging to her or the Nightmare.
“We- I am sorry, Tia… it’s just… so different.” She finally ground out through clenched teeth.
Celestia smiled sadly at her. “I know, dear sister, but you’re a smart mare. If anypony can learn it quickly, it’s you!”
Luna gave her sister a sour look before turning to face the window, thinking.
Without thinking, she muttered out, “If anypony could adapt quicker, it would be him…”
Celestia looked out the window that Luna was facing, and upon not seeing anypony, turned back. “And who would that be?”
Luna blinked, realizing what she had said. “It’s- He… we do not know.” She finished morosely, sitting on her haunches and closing her eyes, searching her mind for any hints to the mysterious stranger.
So all she knew is that he had spoken to her and the Nightmare at some point, and that he was adaptable. Great.
Celestia decided to change the subject. “You’ll learn in time, just as I learned to do your job,” she teased playfully, nudging her sister’s side.
Luna finally smiled softly, squinting at the horizon where the sun was crawling to hide.
“And what a mess you have left us!” She announced, standing up and whirling around. “Certainly, the ocean would have been in disarray if not for…” Her mind blanked again, and she batted down the frustration that threatened to return.
Celestia sighed inwardly. Ever since her return, Luna had had random bouts of forgetting things, from the littlest thing like how to pour a cup of tea without spilling to large gaps in memory regarding her time on the moon.
Not that Celestia wanted to push her. If she had her way, she would want Luna to forget it all for her own sake.
There was one other thing. Sometimes, Luna was say things that implied she hadn’t been completely alone when she had been on the moon. Or had she become the moon? Celestia had always wondered if those craters really resembled a pony or not…
But Luna was convinced that it wasn’t the Nightmare, and the stranger had been distinctly male.
“Lulu… if not for who?”
Luna had sat down once more, eyes welling up with tears. Celestia’s heart broke a little more and she joined her, draping a wing over her sister’s back. Luna was small, too, and hadn’t grown quite as tall as Celestia had in her absence. These details only served to stab Celestia more with guilt.
“We do not know!” Luna cried, turning and burying her face in Celestia’s side.
“We do not know and we feel- we feel useless! Like a cup with a crack or a fire with no wood, there is an abundance of things we must learn but an even larger heap of things we must remember!”
Celestia cradled her little sister, gently patting her on the back and allowing her to sob.
“Lulu,” she said quietly, holding her close. “My dear sister, I know it’s hard, but we have time. You might not have patience, or practice, or motivation, but you have time, all the time in the world to get it sorted. Okay?”
Luna would deny it to the skies and beyond, but she sniffled loudly, nodding slowly. “Yes, Tia. We do.”
“We- I should apologize to mine- my tutor.” Luna said once they had both settled, pouring a cup of tea in front of her.
Celestia shook her head. “All in time, Lulu… and it’s okay if you can’t answer, but what did you mean about the ocean?”
Luna paused, answering her sister’s question with another question. “When thee- when you had control of my moon, didst thee ever feel… a dance? Or a rhythm of sorts?”
Celestia paused. “I might’ve, but I didn’t know what to do about it.”
Luna hummed thoughtfully. “I had assumed as such. The ocean and the moon are connected, w- I think. There is a- a balance of sorts, and when my control was seized the sea was forced to dance alone.”
Celestia frowned. “The sea? You say it as though it’s alive. I know there are fish and such, but-”
Luna had gotten out of her seat excitedly. “Nay! There is life, albeit hidden, and they have great, glittering cities with serpents and pony-like fish and whales and- and…” She sunk back into her seat, unsure of just how she knew that.
“... and they depended on me. What if in our absence, they....” She said, horrified suddenly. Her mind, emotionally battered as it was, couldn’t handle the new stress.
Luna sunk to the floor in a heap of emotional exhaustion, leaving Celestia to panic and rush over.