• Published 1st Oct 2014
  • 3,594 Views, 435 Comments

Story Shuffle - FanOfMostEverything

Thirty-one one-shots inspired by thirty-one random Magic cards.

  • ...

Marine Biology

Saddlantis was a beautiful place. The capital of Aquastria shone in the sunlight, and a thousand anglerlamps glimmered in the night. The buildings were crafted with beauty in mind: spiraling minarets like nautilus shells, mother-of-pearl bas-reliefs coaxed into being from specially trained giant oysters, squid-ink frescoes that charmed the stoniest heart.

King Leo's palace was the most breathtaking sight of all. (Well, gill closing. Some terms don't translate well between air and water.) Its countless gilded spires were a blend of brilliant glory and unassailable might, glimmering like a crown for the sea itself.

And yet, the dreamlike splendor was marked by a blemish of reality. The sunken, sullen brown dome appeared like nothing more than some enormous horseshoe crab that had made its home next to the palace. Armored seaponies swam about it with purpose, doing laps, practicing formations, and otherwise preparing for what the rest of the city denied. This was the Merroan Military Academy, or at what could be seen of it. Much of the structure was made up of caverns dug into the sea floor. There were found the barracks, the officer school, the mess hall, and most importantly for this story, the lecture halls.

One such hall had a semicircle of stadium seating with room for three hundred seaponies, and today it was packed with recruits in every color of the rainbow. A scarred, kelp-green stallion looked over them with one eye, the other milky-white and blind. He was clad in a ventforged steel helmet and a sash marked with numerous commendations.

"Hello, and good afternoon," he said. "I am Instructor-Sergeant Riptide. You are here because you want to be Aquastria's first line of defense against whatever the world throws at us. That, or you took a very impressive wrong turn and are wondering why this dance hall had you doing spear drills."

There were a few laughs there. Riptide waited for them to die down. The fry would treasure laughter in the coming days. "Now, your other instructors have begun training your bodies. Here, I will be training your minds. On the field of battle, you will need to recognize anything you might face and react appropriately in a matter of seconds, or you will die in at least one of a number of terrible ways. Here, you will learn everything you will need to know about each and every one of our enemies, also known as just about everything that swims. Needless to say, this will not be done in an afternoon. Today, we will simply be reviewing the coming curriculum."

He looked to the wall before him. His helmet conveyed his thoughts to it, and magic like octopus skin writhed with color for a moment before displaying a variety of common sea life. "Our first subjects will be the mundane bestial predators, which you will be spending most of your time putting down. These include cephalopods from cuttlefish up through demi-krakens, the living war machines known as giant crustaceans, and every kind of shark that blights the sea. Fortunately, such creatures are stupid enough that the same tactics will almost always work against them, unless some more intelligent foe has trained them. Don't worry; you will also learn how to detect the signs of such training. Untrained, they are simple-minded brutes, and several of them are good eating. However, don't let your guard down because of that. Sharks can still bite, and the rainbow death doesn't need magic to blast you into bloody chunks."

Stranger beasts appeared on the projector. "Then we will cover the magical beasts, supernatural foes that still have the minds of animals, thank Svyelun. Devilfish, blood tides, charybidises, and such like. They are often more dangerous than the mundane predators, but they are similarly easy to defeat. Easier in some ways; they're far harder to train, and thus you'll rarely find any taught something other than their normal habits.

"After that, we will begin covering the more intelligent threats, beginning with those roughly on our level." Riptide changed the image again, and the cadets murmured in concern at the lobster-like figures now displayed. "Thankfully," he said, "homarids have not been seen in these waters for many years. Some believe they may be extinct. But you will learn their ways nonetheless, for we shall never forget the manatee city-state of Moo, or our own Lemareia, lost but not forgotten.

"The manatees themselves are of course among our few allies. As such, we will review their capabilities only in brief. Let us hope that that knowledge will never need to be used.

"Then we come to the dolphins." Riptide looked about the room and nodded to himself. "I see some of you are confused, and I'm not surprised. You think that the dolphins hate sharks, and thus are allies of convenience, if nothing else. You would be wrong. Dolphins don't hate sharks. They have no concept of hatred. They are innocent as fry, and those of you who liked to tear the legs off of shrimp when you were young will understand just how dangerous that makes them. Dolphins only understand 'fun' and 'not-fun,' and only in relation to themselves. They are a frighteningly unpredictable force.

"Whales come in two camps. The toothed whales are like dolphins, only with greater size, an understanding of cruelty, and magic. This makes them exactly as terrifying as you would think. The baleen whales are capable of compassion and are our nominal allies, but they are like indulgent, protective parents to their kin. They can also sing songs that will make your head explode, and I say that from experience.

"Then we come to the intelligent monsters, creatures that are more magic than flesh. A few, like naiads, are content to live and let live. The rest are the likes of sirens, sea hags, and nightwaves. You'll need skill and no small amount of luck to take them down if they're prepared for you. Some of them are still dangerous even when taken off-guard. We'll cover them in more detail when the time comes. For now, if you see one, run.

"Finally, we will cover those beings as beyond us as King Leo himself. That will be brief, for there is little you will be able to do against them. Thankfully, they have little interest in us. The sea serpents are consumed by their age-long game of politics. We are as alien to the krakens as they are to us, and thus we avoid one another. And the leviathans slumber, hopefully until the end of time."

Riptide looked about the room one last time. "These are your enemies. These are the creatures who would destroy us, who see us as little more than meat on the fin. You will prove them wrong, and I will show you how. Class dismissed for today."

Author's Note:

I wasn't really sure what to do with this one at first. Seaponies, obviously, but what and how? Well, why have we seen so little of them in G4? One possible answer is that they're kind of occupied. What if sirens were just the first fleck of foam on a tsunami of aquatic horrors?
I pulled a few elements from Beneath the Sparkling Sea, since that's about the only even remotely canonical source we have on the matter.

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