Secret of Andalantis

by Fizzy Orange

Chapter 5

“Are you sure about this Charybdis?” asked Sea Stone, his voice deep and rumbling. “I don’t know what we’d do if…”

Sea Stone looked away from his leader, letting the implications hang in the water. Ditzy could detect worry on the faces of all the seaponies that were going to be left behind.

“Yes I am. Don’t worry Sea Stone, I’ll be careful. Even without me, I’m sure you would endure,” replied Charybdis, before swimming next to Ditzy. “I will go with Sea Youaround and Sea Racer to escort Ms Doo. You all stay here until we come and get you, and please take care of Sea Lion.”

Strapped to the seapony’s back, carefully wrapped in seaweed, was a very precious cargo: the map that could potentially lead them to Andalantis. One of Ditzy’s eyes trailed the cargo as Charybdis moved passed her, while her other remained on the group of worried ponies left behind. This scene made Ditzy even more certain of her goal. She swore to herself to bring those poor refugees to a peaceful home, no matter what.

The small group waved goodbye and then left the small depression the seapony called home. Ditzy realized it was in the middle of a thick field of kelp that obscured her vision almost immediately. The large sea plant was reaching nearly to the water’s surface in this relatively shallow area of the sea, making it a perfect hiding spot if you were hiding from things that could swim. The group, lead by Charybdis was taking a very tortuous route through the thick underwater forest, making it that much more difficult for anyone trying to follow their movement.

“Don’t lose sight of us miss dry pony, you don’t want to get lost,” mentioned Sea Racer as, true to his name, his blue shape pulled ahead of their little group.

“How do you know how to maneuver in here?” asked the confused pegasus.

Sea Youaround pulled up next to her, performing an aileron roll. “That’s our best kelp secret!” she said, giggling like a certain party mare Ditzy knew.

Sea Racer groaned “Ouch! A pun like that could split an oyster open!”

“Geez, don’t flipper out Sea Racer, no need to tell me to clam-up because of a few jokes!” replied the giggling female, much to her companion’s dismay.

Ditzy made a mental note to never let Pokey and Sea Youaround meet.

For the moment tough, Ditzy had other ponies to worry about, and not just her Ponyville friends. “What about Sea Cucumber? Is she going to be okay? The others said she left on her own.”

“Sea Cucumber can handle herself. She is my best scout and has a long experience avoiding kaosharks,” explained Charybdis, a sad tone to her voice.

“We found Sea Cucumber five years ago, after the kaosharks had driven us from our last hideout… she had been left alone when all of her own clan had been taken by the kaosharks and had survived on her lonesome for six months,” explained Sea Youaround, sounding suddenly very serious. “We had just lost many of our own so we let her join our clan.”

“That’s awful,” whispered Ditzy.

“Sea Cucumber gets very emotional when we lose somepony, far more than any of us. She always goes out looking for them but always manages to come back, safe and sound, but even more depressed than before. The best we can do is make sure it never happens again by finding Andalantis.”

Ditzy couldn't help but thank the stars to have been found by such a brave little sea-filly as Sea Cucumber. She shuddered at the idea of what could have happened if the Merponies had gotten to her first. She hoped her friend hadn't run afoul of them yet.

“You got to take us where you saw her!” said Lyra, suddenly grabbing hold of the pale green merpony’s shoulders.

The merpony stammered, sending bewildered looks to her leader and then looking back at the unicorn before her. A white shape came along and pulled Lyra off her.

“Maybe we should let…what was your name again?” began the white unicorn.

The merpony looked to Scylla, who nodded her ascent, before answered. “Lute…Lute Turtle.”

“…Lute Turtle tell her whole story, and then we can decide on a course of action. Let’s try to not scare our only link to poor Miss Doo.”

Lyra sighed at the suggestion. “You’re right Miss Rarity,” she said, turning back to Lute with a sad smile, “I’m sorry I startled you Lute. I’m Lyra, and this is Rarity and Trixie. We lost our other friend and we ran into Rock Beauty on our search. We’re hoping you can help us find her.”

“And if what you’re telling is true, this search party just turned into a rescue mission,” added Trixie, frowning.

“Rescue? But…but you can’t, it’s too…” began Lute, before a glance from Scylla made her stop and sigh, “I guess I can at least tell you what I saw. It wasn’t much really. We’ve been scouting to find trace of seapony activity and I think we got the border of their territory figured out for now, so I was over there when I spotted a seapony! It was alone, which is really rare, so I hid and watched what it was doing. It looked like it was guarding some type of cave. It held a big piece of rock, or coral I couldn’t really tell, in its fin. After a minute somepony swam out of the cave at full speed, and the seapony just whacked her behind the head with what she was holding! It was a grey drypony, with the funky fins like I said, and she had a yellow mane and golden eyes.”

“That’s Ditzy for sure!” commented Lyra, gasping at the idea of her friend being brutally knocked out like that.

“Then what?” asked Trixie

“Two kaosharks came out of the hole afterward. There was the one with the tiger head and the one with the crab claws! The seapony gave them some orders, getting the one with arms to carry their prize while the other one was sent back on patrol,” continued Lute, “I waited for them to get out of sight before heading back to tell Scylla, but the blue kaosharks was still around and I kept getting delayed because I had to hide. I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything to help your friend, or be here sooner.”

A green hoof patted her on the shoulder. “It’s alright, we just got here anyway. Now you can lead us back to that place and we can track down Ditzy!”

Scylla picked that moment to cut in. “That would be foolish of you. The kaosharks are way too dangerous to tackle, and I’m not risking any of my ponies helping strangers.”

“Your concern is touching, Scylla, but we’re not giving up on our friend. All we ask is to be lead to the place your scout saw Ditzy last, we’ll handle any tackling ourselves,” simply replied Trixie.

“Then you’ll disappear too,” added the merpony leader, crossing her front hooves.

“Funny you should mention that, because you see I can…” began Trixie, before a white elbow painfully lodged itself into her side.

She glared at the owner of that elbow who just glared back at her. Scylla looked at the two glaring unicorns in confusion. The paler of the two unicorns realized it and quickly moved in front of Trixie.

“What my dear friend Trixie is trying to say is that you shouldn’t underestimate us. We are quite capable in a scrap, isn’t that right dear?” she said, turning back to Trixie.

“Trust us, Trixie and I are Elements of Harmony you see,” added Lyra, puffing her chest.

A white hoof met a white forehead with a subtle groan, while a single gasped resonated throughout the room. Scylla looked at Lute with a raised eyebrow.

“Lute, Do you know what the Elements of Harmony are?” Asked the merpony leader.

“No…” admitted the pony, looking down sheepishly. “It just sounded so important. I thought I should sound impressed.”

Scylla sighted a little before looking back at the trio of unicorn, her face cold and distant. “I don’t know anything about any Elements of Harmony, so brandishing some made up title around isn’t going to convince me that you aren't complete fools for wanting to take on the kaosharks.”

“Made up title! Now see here, I’m Princess Luna’s personal protégé and I…” began Trixie, swimming forward before a pair of hooves, one white and one green, held her back.

“We just need Lute to show us where she saw her friends and we’ll be out of your mane,” said Lyra, turning a pleading eye to Scylla.

“I can…I can go with them, it’s not a bother,” said Lute herself.

There was a moment of silence as all present looked to Scylla for an answer.

After a second or two she finally spoke. “No.”

Trixie was about to object when the merpony continued, turning to Lute as if the unicorns weren’t in the room. “I’m not letting you go back to kaoshark infested waters without back-up. Let me see if I can find two or three volunteers and I’ll accompany the lot of you there myself, that way you’ll be safe on the way back.”

“Thank you! Thank you very much!” said Trixie, smiling while clapping her hooves together.

“Don’t make me regret it,” simply grumbled Scylla, disappearing down into the common room below.

Trixie was then suddenly pulled away into a huddle by a white hoof draped over her shoulder. She was really starting to regret having brought along the purple-maned diva of a mare.

“Are you really that stupid?!” the ivory unicorn whispered in her ear, her put-on Canterlot accent slipping in her anger.

“What the hay are you talking about?” asked Trixie, in the same ushed tone.

She glanced back at Lute who was chatting with Lyra, the minty unicorn doing her best to show how ponies walked on land. It wasn’t easy while floating in water, but it was enough to make the merpony giggle. Confident that they wouldn’t be interrupted, she went back to the temporary member of her group.

She found a pair of cold blue eye glaring at her “You were about to tell her you could make yourself invisible! After I specifically told you to keep our magical ability under their radar in case we need a wild card! What kind of stage magicians reveals all her tricks before even doing them?”

“Since when are you this paranoid Rarity? They agreed to help us! We’ll be escorted to the bad guys territory and then we’ll find Ditzy! Then we can find someway to help them back. I’m sure Luna knows something about Andalantis she could tell them,” said Trixie with a pout.

An exasperated sigh, sounding rather odd underwater, came out of the unicorn before she spoke. “And since when are you this gullible? Of course they’ll escort us, but only when they outnumber us. They talk about these fancy kaosharks enemies but we haven’t seen hide nor fin of those things so far, and what makes you so sure their enemies are the bad guys?”

“You’re really acting strange, once we get back to land I think I’ll buy you a drink. You have to learn to trust ponies more. These merponies are clearly in trouble here, even if their enemies aren’t really bad guys, and they’re not entirely truthful with us, they can’t afford to make enemies out of us. For all we know we could easily talk some sense into the seaponies and find some way to solve this without too much scuffle,” explained Trixie, putting a reassuring hoof on the other mare’s shoulder.

“You got it all figured out huh? What about that one?” she said, pointing to Lute Turtle, “She apparently doesn’t know the diference between fins and wings, but somehow she can recognize a tiger’s head on a chimeric creature? It doesn’t add up, I think she’s smarter than she would have us believe.”

Trixie opened her mouth to answer but stopped halfway, her mouth gaping open.

“That’s a good point,” she finally said.

She looked around, to make sure no one was listening in on them, and she leaned forward, casting a low grade spell to mute their talking.

“Look, Rarity, maybe there is something suspicious going on, but right now we can’t do anything. Let’s just keep our eyes peeled and our ears open so we can react if something goes down. I’d rather avoid fighting those guys.”

“Of course, Miss Lulamoon,” simply replied the other mare as she swam toward Lyra and Lute Turtle, quickly joined by the perplexed Trixie.

Lyra was explaining to Lute Turtle the concept of Cutie Marks and what her own meant.

“No, my Cutie Mark doesn’t mean I can only play the lyre, or the harp, or any other string instrument, or that I instantaneously knew how to play it. It means I have a deep appreciation for music, and the History of music. I’m a musician in tune with the sounds of the past, I can compose new pieces using instruments some would call outdated, and I’m always curious about the events surrounding a musical piece,” explained Lyra with a big grin, “music doesn’t exist in a vacuum you know? There is always a context, circumstances, around compositions. Sometime it’s an Historical event, like Zaldian occupation of Prance in 448, or simply the personal one like when I composed a new piece for Bonnie’s birthday...but I think I might be prattling a little bit too much here. Point is a cutie mark is much more than just a…a…

“Butt emblem?” provided Lute Turtle, giggling.

Lyra returned the giggle, “Yes! That too!” she said, grinning, before motioning to the approaching unicorns. “Miss Rarity here has a Cutie Mark of three jewels and she can find gemstones, but her real talent is in bringing out the hidden beauty in everything, like the jewels hidden inside a plain rock. She’s really good at it, you should see when she gets Trixie into a dress!”

“You’re too kind, but I do try to do my best, despite the limited material I am given,” she said, taking a bow.

“And what is that supposed to mean?” asked Trixie, glaring.

Any further discussion was interrupted by the return of Scylla, accompanied by Rock Beauty and the violet male merpony they had been introduced to earlier, Dusky Jack.

“Hey dry pony girls!” said Dusky, flicking a strand of his dark blue mane out of his eyes. “I heard you were heading for trouble? A gentlestallion like me can’t possibly let three beautiful mares head into danger alone.”

A strand of purple mane was moved out of cold blue eyes as a mocking imitation of his previous move. “Thank you, but don’t get any ideas,” replied one of those same beautiful mares he was eyeing.

Lyra couldn’t help but giggle, as Dusky’s smile seems to falter at that comment.

“I found you guys, so I kinda feel like it’s my responsibility to volunteer!” explained Rock Beauty, a determined look on her face.

“Enough dallying, let’s get moving so we can get this whole mess over with!” said Scylla, gathering everyone’s attention.

“I’ve been meaning to ask something…” began Ditzy, swimming next to Charybdis.

The pegasus and her escort had been swimming for a while now, taking all sorts of detour and keeping low to the ocean floor, all in an effort to keep out of sight. For quite a while now they had been swimming in silence, even Sea Youaround had stopped with the jokes, and Ditzy felt like there was enough time to sate her curiosity.

“Yes?” replied the seapony leader.

“If you don’t mind me asking…how come you don’t have ‘sea’ in your name like everypony else?”

Charybdis looked a bit forlorn and nostalgic at the question, sighing subtly and looking off in the distance before she began to answer.

“When a seapony is born, it is a momentous occasion. A new life is brought into this world, and seaponies who were but children themselves become parents. To denote this change, the parents take on a new name, while they give one, sometimes even the one they had previously, to their newborn child,” explained Charybdis.

Ditzy smiled, “I’m a mother too you know. I have a daughter named Dinky. She’s with my friends and her half-sister right now… did I meet your kid at your settlement?”

“Sea Jewel was taken away last year,” simply answered Charybdis.

Ditzy felt terrible for asking now. It must be very painful to bring it up and for a while she didn’t know what to say. She knew what it felt like to have your own flesh and blood taken away from you, even for just a short while.

“My daughter was kidnapped once,” she mentioned, not daring to look at Charybdis and instead staring forward. “I risked it all to get her back and succeeded. It was a dangerous journey but I had friends with me, and together we saved the day and I got my little muffin back.”

For a second she considered to add some encouragements and telling the seapony not to give up, however she couldn’t help but feel those words were unnecessary. Charybdis didn’t look, or feel, like a pony that had given up hope. All that mattered was that they understood each other’s pain and fears. They continued on in silence until they crested a short hill and found themselves before a vast field of kelp. The small group stopped and stared, shocked at what they saw across the undulating seaweed.

Three unicorns and four merponies were staring at them in shock.

Trixie decided that she had stared at the violet tail and white backside in front of her long enough by now and began to swim harder in order to pull ahead and change her view. After leaving the merpony hideout Scylla had insisted they take a very convoluted path through winding underwater canyons and confusingly similar coral reefs, all in a paranoid effort to make it impossible for the unicorns to find their way back. Trixie had been lost on the second turn, so she didn’t quite understand why they had wasted so long going through this charade.

Besides, she reasoned, it probably wouldn’t be difficult to spot a wrecked ship from above in the crystal waters of the southern seas.

Lyra had taken to Rock Beauty like a fish in water. The grey merpony had turned out to, surprisingly, know quite a lot about music. Her education wasn’t as thorough or formal as Lyra’s, but the two had since devolved into an esoteric conversation on comparative music theory, trying to grasp how much common ground they shared. Lute turtle was interested as well, but seemed to only have a basic understanding of what was being discussed, yet seemed content to remain on the periphery of the conversation, asking a few questions from time to time. Dusky Jack had, likewise, taken to question the third unicorn in their group. She, in turn, would, in a teasingly flirtatious and breathless voice, completely deflect his questions, which seemed to both deflate him and encourage him at the same time. The whole thing would be fascinating to Trixie if it weren’t so disgusting. Scylla had remained silent, for the most part, only barking an order to change heading every once in a while, or to remind her troops to not get too loud in their discussions.

“We should be getting close!” declared Lute Turtle as they crested the top of a coral reef, revealing a large field of swaying seaweeds.

The whole group stopped suddenly when they spotted another group, way out on the other side of the kelp forest. Lyra and the merponies gasped and Trixie quickly guessed that the three seahorse looking creatures ahead were seaponies. What made Trixie react though was the presence of Ditzy along with them!

“Ditzy!” she gasped.

There was a second of silence that was shattered by the panicked screams of Lute Turtle, signaling the moment where the metaphorical gates of Tartaros flew open.

“AAAH! SCATTER! SCATTER!” she shouted, grabbing onto the nearby Lyra and dragging her into the undulating mass of seaweed below.

“Wait for me!” called Rock Beauty, diving after the green pair.

Before Trixie could react she was grabbed by Scylla and pushed into a different direction down into the underwater forest. The last thing she saw before her field of vision was filled with green was Dusky Jack also dragging her final companion into the seaweed. The white mare didn’t look happy at all.

“Go, go, go! Don’t let them catch us all together!” insisted Scylla.

“Stop panicking! My friend is right out there, I need to get to her,” replied Trixie, breaking free of Scylla’s hooves.

“No time, any second now and they’ll…” began the merpony leader before a new voice, resounding over the entire field was heard.

Kaosharks! Capture them!” called a decidedly female voice.

“Oh barnacle!” cursed Scylla, pushing Trixie away. “Go that way and keep moving!”

Trixie stared in confusion as her merpony escort vanished amongst the kelp in an instant. The whole area was thick with the stuff, making it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead, and the taller strand partially blocked the view of what was aboe. It made for excellent cover but it was also very disorienting. The blue unicorn wasn’t sure what to do when a large shadow fell upon her.

She looked up and saw, gliding through the water with ease, the shape of a shark blocking the glare of the sun. To her horror she realized that shark had huge crab arms sticking from the sides! She swallowed and quickly turned herself invisible. It didn’t take long for the creature to just swim away, without noticing her, and so she returned to being visible. She needed to find her friends. Her eyes began to glow as she casted, again, the spell that allowed her to see magic. It didn’t take long for her to spot the familiar trail of Lyra’s water-breathing enchantment. She followed the trail through the thick green mass until, somehow, the trail vanished. It was not unlike following hoofstep in the sand and finding an area where the sand had obviously been disturbed to mask the trail. It wasn’t in anyway subtle, but it still meant she lost the trail. She grumbled a little, wondering if she should keep going in the same direction or try something else.

“Miss Trixie! I’ve finally found you!” came a familiar, if annoyingly snobbish, voice from behind her.

Trixie turned around, expecting to see the fashionista from Ponyville. She still had her magic sight activated and it made a simple fact plain as day:

The white unicorn before her was not Rarity.

“You!” She gasped, pointing a hoof at the pony wrapped in subtle illusion before her.

“What…what did you just say?!” Asked Lyra, staring in disbelief at the inconspicuous form of Lute Turtle before her.

The merpony had her back turned to Lyra, but the unicorn could still see from her angle a smirk growing on her face. She was simply floored by what had just transpired. First the elation of seeing Ditzy, then the surprise at the sight of the seapony, followed by the confusion and then panic when Lute had dragged her away. And just as they had found a decently clear spot in the forest of seaweed, something even more confusing happened right in front of her.

“Don’t you mean, what did I just shout?” asked the merpony, in a voice far more mature than one would expect from her, “I just ordered the Kaosharks to capture you and your friends of course. I wasn’t very subtle.”

Lyra wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she still prepared a spell nonetheless. Just as her horn began to glow, something smashed into the back of her head. She was losing consciousness as a large pair of hairy arms took hold of her, and the last thing she saw was the form of Rock Beauty emerging from the forest of kelp.

The merpony was struggling against the tentacles of some unseen creature that was binding her limbs and holding her muzzle closed. And all the while, the one who called herself Lute Turtle chuckled to herself.