• Published 5th Sep 2015
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Equestria’s Changeling Queen and the Abyssal Empress - vren55

After Alternia, changeling queen and former regent for a missing Celestia, is coronated as Equestria’s third ruling princess, she must face her first crisis in the depths of the Eastern Sea. Sequel to Princess Celestia: The Changeling Queen.

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Chapter 14: Out of the Maelstrom to Stare into the Abyss

Although the Empress only as tall as she was, Alternia could not help but be afraid. Her black, pupil-less eyes, carapaced hull and her tentacles squeezing around Celestia’s horn, neck and body like an anaconda, all made her want to run, but she refused to let her fear show.

Though, oddly enough, Alternia could just see the outline of dark green magic surrounding Tethys. It was as if she had cast some sort of spell on herself. What the spell was for she was not quite sure, but it had likely been cast some time ago as Tethys’s horn was not glowing.

“Who are you?” demanded Tethys.

“I am Princess Alternia of Equestria, Celestia and Luna’s co-ruler and third member of the Equestrian Triumvirate,” said Alternia loudly, and clearly as she could, over the roar of the whirlpool. The water in it was going so fast, the entire air was filling with mist.

“A changeling queen? More like you subverted the ponies to your own design,” said Tethys in a deadpan tone.

Alternia shook her head. “Not true. I’ve previously ruled Equestria for the last thousand years disguised as Celestia, while she recovered from her battle with Nightmare Moon.. When Celestia returned, she and Luna appointed me to mediate between them.”

Tethys snorted. “Before it sounded as if you were lying. This sounds like some child’s fantasy.”

Alternia brushed some of the seawater out of her eyes. “Look, I’ve spoken to Prince Typhon, for whom you reign. He has led me to realize that there has been a miscommunication between our races. We never received the messages you’ve sent and because I was ruling for Celestia, I never knew about the treaty between our race.”

“Typhon is inexperienced at best, untested in the eyes of both sea ponies and kelpies. It would not surprise me if you misled him somehow. And how can you not know of the treaty? This one knew of what I spoke of.” Tethys shook Celestia with her tentacles, who whimpered as her aching neck moved.

Alternia’s eyes widened as she stared at Celestia in disbelief. Not knowing about the treaty was one thing, but that Celestia knew about it?


“Whatever you call her. She knew of what I spoke of and still led her fleet here.”

Despite the tentacle around her neck, Celestia managed to croak. “Memory, transfer…”

It finally clicked for Alternia and she cursed inwardly. By the Hive Mothers… this had just evolved into a very complicated situation.

“Empress, there was a situation where I had to transfer a thousand years of my memory to Celestia. It’s likely blurred her memory of the events of the treaty—”

Tethys cut her off. “Even if that were true which I highly doubt, ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

Biting her lip, Alternia shook her head. “There’s also the matter of intentionality, Empress, and we have, to our detriment, forgotten not only about the treaty, but your entire race who has not been seen regularly for a thousand years. Our ignorance of the law was an accident.”

There was a spike of rage from Tethys that took Alternia aback. “And it is to our detriment that you’ve chosen to ignore the old shipping lane that were agreed upon and in doing so have devastated our waters and polluted them. Someone needed to keep you marauders in check or there’d be nothing left for those that actually live here! And I know damn well Samudra was too busy to do it.”

Samudra was busy? But with whom? Alternia swallowed, forcing back her resentment of Tethys and her kind. She didn’t need feelings of anger right now.

“What was she busy with?” asked Alternia.

“In short, the kelpies. We revolted against Samudra about a thousand years ago and fought against her rule. It was only a couple months ago that I managed to slay the empress in combat.”

“Does that not mean you are indirectly responsible for the treaty being forgotten, Empress?” asked Alternia in a low tone that bordered on a growl. Her lips twitching, she gritted her teeth and pursed her lips together in a thin line.

“It was Samudra’s duty as Empress to enforce the treaty. Due to her negligence, it wasn’t until I took power that it was actually enforced.”

Alternia… understood part of Tethys’s reasons, but she couldn’t stop her lips from pulling back slightly into a half-snarl, her brow furrowing and eyes narrowing.

“By enforcing, you mean destroying anyone who violated your waters with little warning instead of pursuing other means of communication? Could you not have just approached us with your demands?”

Tethys’s eyes narrowed and her tentacles tightened and Celestia whimpered as the tentacles over her neck tightened around her throat. “I sent multiple missives to both you and the gryphons and both of you ignored them. I warned the Gryphons about violating our waters before we destroyed their fleet and I gave them a message I know they passed on to your fleet, and yet this one decided to move an armada over the sea pony capital, in light of an agreement that this one has confessed to have known about! From what you’ve shown us, talk would have been useless.”

Alternia could hear the muscles in her legs tighten as she fought to keep her rage from taking over her mind. She was not that successful.

“That doesn’t mean you can just attack and destroy anybody who violates your waters! Especially if the seaponies haven’t asserted their claim for the last one thousand years,” Alternia retorted.

“Don’t you dare place the blame on us! You ponies forgot about the treaty in the first place. Not to mention, you have been reminded you about the consequences multiple times and you ignored them, which is why we are here!”

“Then why did your kind not warn us as soon as the treaty was broken? Why didn’t you try when we apparently ignored you?” roared Alternia.

To Alternia’s horror, Tethys’s tentacles flexed and Celestia screamed as her head was twisted to the right by the tentacle on her horn and those on her head, while the tentacles around her neck held her body in place. The Empress was going to snap Celestia’s neck!

“Empress Samudra was too concerned with annihilating the kelpies. How were we kelpies supposed to inform anybody when we were forced to confine ourselves to the darkest trenches for our own safety? Since Samudra didn’t try, how were the seaponies supposed to do anything if they can’t even go on land supposed to talk to you arrogant surface worlders? Seaponies can’t even speak above water and we kelpies can’t do so without magical aids or transforming ourselves!”

The gears in Alternia’s mind whirred. Right, gilled creature, probably a different voicebox structure. It certainly explains why Tethys is casting a spell on herself.

Tethys sneered, her tentacles continuing to twist Celestia’s head. “Besides, talk would have been useless. You’ve broken your oaths deliberately, which this one confirmed, and you ignored us. There was nothing we would have gained with it.”

Cursing, Alternia decided to implement an idea she had been thinking over while Celestia had been gripped by Tethys. She hadn’t wanted to do so, but she had no choice.

Alternia had considered attacking Tethys, but that was a terrible idea. For one, the Empress could just use the alicorn as a barrier. Two, Celestia was too close to Tethys. So only something unexpected and incredibly desperate could possibly save Celestia at this point.

A cutting spell shot to Celestia and cut off the top half of her horn. Celestia gaped in shock, but just as her horn went, so did the Empress’s grip on Celestia’s horn.

This had been Alternia’s aim all along. She could have hit Tethys’s tentacle on Celestia’s horn, but that may or may not cut the tentacle and it could also cause Tethys’s other tentacles to spasm and twist Celestia’s neck harder. Also, Tethys losing her grip on Celestia’s horn was just enough for Alternia to give a titanic telekinetic yank on her co-ruler. Horns could regrow anyway, they just took time to do so.

Celestia screamed as she shifted in the tentacle's grip, but she wasn’t escaping the grip just yet. Alternia grimaced, if she didn’t get Celestia out, the alicorn was as good as dead!

That was when a trio of Royal Guard pegasi, spears fixed, dived headlong through the whirlpool at Tethys. The Empress released three tentacles and swatted at the guards. The pegasi barely managed to dodge the hit and were forced off course, but undaunted they pulled up and charged back at the Empress.

That was the moment that Alternia was waiting for. The grip on Celestia loosened considerably, and she managed to rip the moaning alicorn from the Empress’s grasp. Not wasting any time, Alternia shot up for the top of the whirlpool.

Harlequin! I’m coming out! Support me!

Chancing it, Alternia glanced back to check upon the guards that had saved Celestia and swallowed.

Tethys had that same peerless glare, but Alternia could feel the Empress’s new and incredible fury, and it showed. The first guard’s broken body and twisted armor, which had been probably crushed by the Empress’s tentacles, was already spinning in the whirlpool.

The second guard had been frozen. Soaked by the spray of the whirlpool, Tethys had frozen the pegasus mid-flight, stopping his heart. Now he fell, to be lost into the depths.

The third guard was fleeing, following Alternia’s flight. She hoped he would make it out, but the Empress stretched forth and with one tentacle, seized his tail and arrested his flight.

Alternia didn’t want to watch what she suspected was going to happen next, but she owed it to the guard. So she kept the corner of her eye on him as the Empress wrapped her tentacles around his chest and his hindquarters.

But she couldn’t do so for any longer, because the whirlpool was collapsing. The walls of water were slowing down, waves filling the misty space as water welled up from the bottom of the maelstrom. Turning her eyes forward, Alternia shot into the night air, a geyser of water splashing her and the limp alicorn she held in her magic.

The Mirror Guard and Chrysalis’s changelings that had waited at the top of the whirlpool were by her instantly. Quickly, Alternia levitated the dazed Celestia to them.

“Diamondshell, take your squad and protect Celestia. Get her to a ship if possible. Corporal Asclep, and Private Caduceus, she has a neck injury, a broken wing, and is likely going into shock, tend to her as well as you can.”

Diamondshell saluted, as did Asclep and his companion, Caduceus, a female pegasus with a white armband with a red cross on it. Holding Celestia in their magic, the group flew off toward the Llamrei, which was still floating, to Alternia’s surprise, though with a bit of a list.

“What about the rest of us?” asked Harlequin.

“Escort Celestia. I don’t doubt Tethys will send her kelpies to target her.” Alternia licked her oddly dry lips and grimaced.. “Be prepared to extract me if necessary. I do not know if I can beat her.”

Harlequin’s eyes were narrowed in concern but he nodded flew away to give orders to his guard, who took off positions around Celestia.

And not a moment too soon, for Tethys burst from the water in a plume of spray, standing upon the sea as if she was walking on land.

“I suppose that’s a no to talking,” muttered Alternia to herself as she called upon her magic and reached into the reserves of love she had hoarded for a thousand years.

She would have to be careful about how to use it, though: Tethys had defeated Celestia, and that was no easy feat. First, if her planned tactics were going to work, she needed more vision. Changelings had good night vision, but it was so dark that even she felt the need to use some light.

Six green flames shot out from Alternia’s horn to several points around her. Once they were where she wanted, they stopped, hanging in the air like a green starshell. Then, Alternia launched a several darts of magic, piercing spells intended to cut through metal and carapace.

The darts were small green bolts of light that looped through the air like hovering flies as Alternia bent their trajectories to her will. Tethys raised her tentacles, using the armored side to block the darts.

Well, that didn’t work! Let’s try again, with some variation. Note one to self, tentacles are armored and their armor works.

There was no time to reflect on why this was so, though, as Tethys’s tentacles were scything towards Alternia. Using her wings, Alternia hovered left, dodging one blow before diving down to evade another. Even then, Alternia’s eyes narrowed in concentration and she cursed to no one in particular, though she was pretty sure Tethys could hear it if she was anything like Typhon.

Note two, tentacles are fast! Not that I didn’t know about that already, but they’re really fast!

Twisting to the left, Alternia buzzed her wings harder so she rose above the water. She needed some distance for what she planned to do next.

Not that Tethys was making it easy for her. As Alternia buzzed upward, she was slammed from the right by a torrent of water. Sputtering as the water knocked her off course, Alternia flailed as she found herself falling with more tentacles rising to seize her. It was only by forcefully bringing out her reserves was Alternia able to teleport a short distance away, and to her dismay, she found herself panting.

Note three, very good hydromancy. Note four, you’ve been out of direct magical combat for too long!

Hopefully though, this next play of hers might work. Tethys was swimming her way, but not directly though. It was more like she was stalking her, staying in the shadows just outside the light one of her werelights provided.

Allowing herself a somewhat victorious sneer, Alternia completed the spell matrix she had been building in her glowing horn and activated it.

A hundred green darts filled the sky around Alternia all at once and launched themselves toward Tethys’s head like a wave of arrows.

Alternia could sense Tethys’s slight surprise as she immediately raised a wall of water to the sides of her and extended her tentacles. Swiping at the arrows, Tethys’s tentacles hit many of them, only for most of the spells to burst into a harmless puff of green flame and vanish. The ones the tentacles missed were neutralized by walls of water, leaving a few of them to smack into the Empress’s shoulders, some turning into green flame, others making a “pinging” noise but not drawing blood.

Alternia blinked, eyes wide. Most of her “arrowstorm” had been illusory. It was a way that she could sneak blows on troublesome enemies without having most of her attack deflected, but even though some of her blows landed, the fact that they drew no blood was astounding.

Note five, Tethys’s carapace is substantially thicker than changeling carapaces, queen or otherwise. This just got very difficult.

“Celestia! Celestia!”

Celestia’s eyes opened slowly to see Sunset beside her. Behind her were several changelings, some of whom were casting spells on her.

“I’m fine, Sunset,” rasped Celestia.

“Don’t speak, your highness, your neck was quite badly hurt,” said the changeling Celestia recognized as Diamondshell.

It all came back to Celestia rather quickly. Her battle with Tethys, Alternia saving her.

“Where’s Alternia now?” demanded Celestia.

“Fighting the Empress,” said Diamondshell, her features grim. Standing up, Diamondshell stood aside to let Celestia see.

Celestia realized she was on the bridge of the Llamrei now and from her makeshift bed at the back of the room, she could see the changeling queen fight the kelpie empress.

There were three Alternias in the air facing down Tethys, who had returned to her usual titanic proportions. Celestia was momentarily taken aback until one of Tethys’s massive tentacles swiped at one of the images of Alternia, leading it to combust into a body of flame. It was just an illusion.

At the same time, the two other images of Alternia circled the Empress, one of them suddenly fired a bolt of magic that detonated against Tethys’s raised tentacle but in a rather ineffectual manner. Tethys responded by a raising a column of water at that image, which must have been Alternia, for she raised a shield around herself but was tossed high into the air by the water like a beach ball. The shield absorbed the brunt of the impact, but Alternia was still tossed up into the air where she was forced to teleport away, lest Tethys’s follow up, a barrage of ice shards, skewer her.

Alternia ran then. Likely still half-stunned by the blow of water, she flew away as fast as she could, a new green bubble-shield around herself, when she suddenly staggered mid-flight.

From the solid block of hair that was now Alternia’s mane and tail, Celestia guessed that Tethys had cast a freezing spell on the very wet Alternia. Most of the water from the earlier splashing had slid off her carapace, but her mane and tail had been frozen.

And now Tethys was in hot pursuit, firing shards of ice that smashed against Alternia’s shield, further wobbling the changeling’s course and nearly causing her to crash.

Alternia recovered just before she hit the water though and fired back a torrent of green flames. Tethys created a large wave that blocked the flames, but they didn’t hiss and steam, only dissipating. Another illusion.

But it made Celestia think back to some of the things she had seen in her battle with Tethys. A general pattern, a common response that she had noticed from Tethys. As Alternia continued to flee from Tethys, Celestia racked her tired mind.

And blinked as she came upon the answer. She might be wrong, and if she was, it might cost her her life, but if she was right...

“Captain Harlequin,” called Celestia. Harlequin reluctantly tore his gaze away from the battle and faced Celestia.

“You can contact Alternia right?” asked Celestia.

“Yes. You want me to tell her something?” asked Harlequin frowning.

“Mm hm. I have a plan, now listen very closely,” said Celestia.

Alternia would have thought that she’d be sweating at this point, but she was freezing. Her mane and tail was solid and some of the water had gotten into her leg-holes and now that it was frozen into ice, it felt very, very uncomfortable. Her leg holes were highly sensitive after all.

Tethys, still of the size of a ship, was now swimming after Alternia, who flew as fast as she could away from the empress. Shivering, Alternia cursed as she glanced back and saw she was not shaking her massive opponent. She needed to disengage and prepare a larger spell that might actually hurt the kelpie, but she was having very little success.

Note… screw it I’ve lost count. Don’t try to challenge Empress Tethys to a swimming meet.

Her horn hurt from several of Tethys’s massive tentacle blows completely overloading her shields, and she didn’t have the time to put up a stronger ones.

Not to mention, she was really feeling the drain on her available power. Most of her love energy had been kept in reserve, as extra nourishment on a bad day. It was not meant to be suddenly implemented in a battle. It was one reason why she had lost to Chrysalis at Cadance’s wedding, she couldn’t just use all of her magic at once.

Which is why Alternia really hated that she had been forced to use this specific spell.

Her horn glowing, Alternia wrapped herself with magic and disappeared from sight.

The Invisibility Spell was incredibly difficult to maintain. It used a lot of power, and already Alternia could feel herself breaking out into sweat. Yet, in spite of the growing hollowness she now felt in her stomach, Alternia maintained the spell, allowing herself to turn to face the alicorn-sized Tethys as she winged away as quietly as she could. She knew that there was a chance Tethys could hear her as demonstrated by her conversation with Typhon. Alternia did not want to risk that.

The Empress had stopped the moment Alternia vanished and she floated in the water, her eyes narrowed. Her nose was flared for some reason and she continued to suck in air with it. Alternia frowned. Just what was Tethys doing? It looked as if she was…

Alternia saw it a second before she felt it. Tethys’s extremely long whip-like tentacles lashing out toward her, their armored tips rolled up at the ends, ready to roll-out and slash whatever they hit.

And they impacted her chest, the place right where her prosthetic carapace of scale-mail was.

A shriek of pure agony was ripped from Alternia’s throat as the most vulnerable point of her body was hit by what felt like a freight train running at full tilt. The reality was perhaps less dramatic, but no less horrifying. With the corner of her pain-narrowed eyes, Alternia could see the frame of the prosthetic, with its bolts still attached to torn fragments of her carapace, flying off with the shattered scale mail.

In short, it bloody hurt, and it caused Alternia to lose all control of her magic, and even her wings. Screaming, she spun through the air for a second before she managed to buzz her wings, moaning as she did so.

Eyes filled with tears, Alternia knew she had to keep moving and so she forced herself to fly away, even though her chest throbbed with excruciating pain.

Your highness!

Harlequin’s mental shout took Alternia off guard, but his voice was comforting to her.

I can’t beat her, Harlequin. I have to withdraw.

I know your highness. Just try to draw her to the Llamrei. Celestia has a plan.

Alternia gritted her teeth, and found the Llamrei not too far in the distance.

Alright. I’ll try.

Painfully raising herself another shield, Alternia flew toward the Llamrei as low and as fast as she could. She could tell Tethys was in pursuit by the shower of ice shards that smashed against her shield, eliciting a grunt from Alternia as she had to pour more of her dwindling magic into the barrier.

Whatever Celestia’s plan is, it better be good, Harlequin! mentally screamed Alternia.

There was no response from Harlequin, and as Alternia neared the Llamrei she saw why.

Celestia, her neck wound freshly bandaged, her horn half-chopped off, was standing on the bow of the Llamrei facing Alternia, surrounded by the Mirror Guard, Chrysalis’s changelings and the remainder of the Royal Guard. Together, they formed a cordon around Celestia, fighting against the kelpies that assailed her position, while a shield over Celestia absorbed the blasts of magic that seaponies were shooting her with.

Alternia’s eyes widened. Harlequin! Get Celestia away from the bow! She’s going to get killed if Tethys lays even an eye on her!

Just trust her, your highness! Get onto the Llamrei!

Praying to her mother that whatever Celestia had in store for Tethys was going to work, Alternia landed heavily onto Llamrei beside Harlequin, who was directing the changelings fighting. Several of Chrysalis’s changelings were already dead, and beside them, Royal Guard.

And not too soon, the humongous Tethys was charging towards the Llamrei and Celestia, her kraken-sized tentacles reaching for the alicorn, ready to smash right into the packed bow section. Alternia cringed, terror gripping her in place as the shark-toothed monster lunged at them.

Which was when Celestia released a simple, although massively overcharged, light spell, right into Tethys’s massive face. The golden flash forced Alternia to shield her eyes, but all she could think as the light engulfed her vision was, what could a light spell do against Tethys?

The answer was, plenty.

Alternia sensed the flare of rage and indignation from Tethys right before she heard something that sounded as if someone had screamed while gritting their teeth. Blinking away the spots in her eyes, Alternia just saw Tethys’s black-carapaced form diving back into the water, her massive shark’s tail vanishing with a splash, the water rippling out from she had disappeared.

Immediately afterward, the whole ship reared back. Alternia who had managed to seize the railing with a hoof found herself awestruck as a massive wave, rippling out as if someone had dropped a massive stone into the ocean, raised the Llamrei into the air and threw it backwards.

Alternia lost her grip then and fell back as the Llamrei tipped backward, changelings, ponies in armor all tumbling down the deck. Alternia scrambled for purchase on the deck, but only slid backward, unable to stop herself, or her scream of horror.

The long slide suddenly stopped, but she hadn’t hit anything. Looking up, Alternia saw Harlequin, gripping onto the capstan, his horn glowing as he levitated her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sunset Shimmer and an earth pony guard holding onto the anchor chain, grabbing onto Celestia’s hooves. The alicorn had screwed her eyes shut, her teeth clenched as she hung on for dear life.

Yet in spite of this, the ship would not right itself, it continued to be propelled back by the wave. No matter how Alternia and the rest of the crew screamed until their throats were hoarse, the ship would not right itself, but continue to sail backward.

Then finally, although Alternia didn’t notice it at first, the angle of the ship’s deck slowly decreased, ebbing back to the flat equilibrium that she was so used to.

A trembling hoof, Diamondshell’s, helped Alternia up to her hooves. As she looked around, her heart sank.

It looked as if the massive wave had thrown all ships clear from the battlefield. In the distance, she could see the tilted hull of a cruiser, which had not fared as well as they had. Somewhere over to the other side of her ship, she could see the fleet’s remaining battleship, the Red Hare, which had seen better days and was also listing heavily.

“Your highness, what are your orders?” asked Harlequin.

Alternia tried to find Celestia, but only saw her unconscious form lying next to Sunset Shimmer and some of the less injured Royal Guard. Only then did it click for Alternia that she was in charge.

“Begin recovery operations. Get somepony onto the radio, and get it working if it’s failed. All uninjured pegasi are to get airborne and prioritize scouting for the remainder of our ships. We need to regroup the fleet and retreat to Venecia. Someone should also contact my flotilla and have them join us.” Alternia winced and held a hoof to the hole in her chest. “Someone get me a doctor. I’m certain I’m bleeding internally and I need healing.”

Was that it? wondered Alternia. Had she got everything?

No, there was one thing she had nearly forgotten. Or perhaps she didn’t wish to remember?

Alternia sighed. “And begin the funeral rites for our dead.”

One day later…

Alternia trotted through the corridors of the Llamrei, her heart heavy and shoulders sagging. Harlequin, Diamondshell, Cyndra and several of her Mirror Guard were following her. She had fought a number of battles and one or two naval battles herself. Quite a few of them had been decisive defeats, but time dulled the pain she supposed.

Four thousand and five hundred dead in one night’s fighting. More than half of the seven thousand four hundred and four ponies that had crewed Celestia’s fleet were gone, along with most of the crew of Alternia’s single battleship. Only one of the ten destroyers of Celestia’s fleet remained, seven of the ten cruisers, and two of the four battleships. Two of those cruisers had to be abandoned, the damage to them had been too great and they did not wish to risk being in open water any longer than they had to.

So in a single day, three quarters of Equestria’s Eastern Fleet was destroyed, along with the greatest loss of pony life in years.

And oddly enough, what hurt the most for Alternia was the loss of seven of her own guard. Losing so many of her ponies in a day hurt, but it was a dull ache, whereas Buzz’s death seemed like a sword through her chest.

Alternia halted, shutting her eyes in a vain attempt to blot out his last thoughts. She could feel his disappointment, how he had resigned himself to losing. She could recall the emotions her changelings had last felt on this earth. And now, Buzz, Diarmuid, Arethusa and Boudicea were gone, lost forever to her along with three other loyal ponies...

Diamondshell trotted up next to Alternia, “Your highness?”

“I’m fine.” Alternia scratched at her new, jury-rigged prosthetic. A simple rough frame bolted into her carapace that extended a sheet-metal covering over the hole in her chest.

Harlequin joined his co-captain. “With respect, your highness. You need to talk to your sister.”

“After this. I need answers and I can’t wait.”

Alternia’s jaw tensed as she approached her destination. The infirmary where Celestia lay, which lay behind two oak doors flanked by two guards.

“Is she awake?” asked Alternia.

Perhaps it was the clipped tone of Alternia’s voice, or maybe it was just her look, but the guards nodded hurriedly and let her in.

Celestia was leaning against her bedrest, Sunset sitting beside her. As Alternia entered, Sunset stood up respectfully. Celestia turned and smiled at Alternia, but that faded as she took in the expression on her co-ruler’s features. Alternia actually wasn’t entirely sure what she looked like at this point.

She did know she was angry. Maybe today she wasn’t so good at hiding it. But she was furious at the loss of lives, at the miscommunication that had caused this debacle, and she knew that it was what drove her to this room to seek answers.

“Alternia?” whispered Celestia.

“Celestia, what exactly did you do to Tethys that caused her to unleash that massive wave on the fleet? It just looked like a light spell, but from what I heard and saw, it seemed to be quite painful for her, though it didn’t really hurt her,” said Alternia.

Celestia opened her mouth and closed it, her brow furrowing. “That is because it was a light spell. I realized while you were fighting Tethys that she deliberately avoided bright light. That is why she ducked every time you or I used flame spells or spells that gave off a similar amount of lights. It’s also likely why the kelpies have only attacked at night.”

Alternia blinked as she mulled over that new fact. An actual weakness to the kelpies. They actually knew something about them that they did not like. It was definitely a comfort to Alternia that the kelpies did have something that restricted their movements.

Of course, that led to Alternia’s second question, a much more pointed one. Looking Celestia in the eye, the changeling queen asked:

“Why did you not tell me about the treaty?”

Celestia arched an eyebrow. “Because the memories you forced on me muddled my mind to the extent that I couldn’t remember it?”

Alternia’s lip twitched as her eyes narrowed.

“Firstly, I was referring to the incident a thousand years ago when you stuffed all of your memories into my head. Secondly, oh right. That’s why I gave you those memories! The question of who to blame for the memory loss is a moot point here, Celestia. Just answer the question.”

Celestia glared right back at Alternia. “I was on my deathbed and had just been forced to banish the pony most dear to me into the moon for a thousand years if you don’t remember! Forgive me if I wasn’t able to figure out exactly what I wanted you to see and what you didn’t need! Samudra was also far more understanding and would not have resorted to enforcing the treaty so ruthlessly!”

And the two sat, eyes locked on one another, each daring the other to move as their companions watched them helplessly, like an audience watching a battle between two wrestlers.

It was Alternia who gave in and closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath to calm herself. As angry as she was, Celestia had a point. How was she to know her decision a thousand years ago to trust in her friend, Samudra, would backfire on her? Alternia, as much as she wanted to blame Celestia for that, couldn’t find it in her conscience, no matter the hurt she felt and how she just wanted to blame somepony.

“Alright, what do we do then?” asked Alternia.

Celestia regarded Alternia for a second, as if she didn’t quite believe the changeling was letting her take the lead, before nodding. “We hit them back. They clearly are not going to listen to us.”

The proclamation caused Alternia’s frown to return. “With what Celestia? We’ve just lost half of our fleet and every ship left is damaged.”

“We bring over our Western Fleet. This has been a serious setback, but we know now that they are weak to light. Moreover, the Western Seas have been quiet for years, and our fleet there is only for assisting the Zebricas and Saddle Arabians. Our shipyards in the East and West have also been building new battlecruisers as well as battleships. We know where their capital is—”

“Are you seriously suggesting we fight them after they defeated us so soundly! Look what happened to you! Are you so eager to engage Tethys in single combat again?” Alternia demanded.

Celestia grimaced, her hoof pressing into her mattress. “My loss notwithstanding, Alternia, we are now at war! Tethys has rebuffed your peace attempts despite your attempts to be reasonable and nearly snapped my neck!”

Alternia shook her head. “There’s still a chance that we can avoid war yet, Celestia. Prince Typhon of the Seaponies seemed reasonable and wished to open a dialogue.”

“And his regent told us quite bluntly that he has no power!” retorted Celestia.

This time, it was Alternia’s turn to grimace and grind her teeth in frustration. Celestia was right, war… war was upon them, and it was unlikely Typhon could stop this if his regent refused. Celestia grinned triumphantly.

"Clearly he told you that too. So we must attack, force them to surrender: we know their weakness and we have a target, Aquamaris.”

Everypony and changeling stared at Celestia, while Alternia started, her jaw dropping open in horror.

“That’s a city full of civilians!” exclaimed Sunset, voicing Alternia’s thoughts.

“It is also unlikely the same use of light would work a second time, your highness,” added Diamondshell.

Alternia agreed. She doubted a kelpie as intelligent as Tethys would let the same trick work twice.

“Pollution, by their own admission, affects them, and so we can use that to our advantage.” Celestia grimaced. “As for the civilian casualties, they attacked us without provocation! They deserve only retribution.”

Alternia shook her head. “Celestia, that is going too far! If you look at it from their point of view, we broke the treaty and when they warned us we ignored them. They have a justifiable grievance against Equestria.”

Celestia fixed Alternia with a wide-eyed gaze of horror, which slowly morphed into a snarl of fury.

“You believe them? They hit our fleet first!”

Alternia’s jaw clenched, a pained look on her features. “Look, the kelpies acted ruthlessly and unbecoming of a cordial species, but what would you do if Tethys moved a fleet of airships over Canterlot? Of course you’d strike. Especially after they’ve broken an agreement that you made in good faith with them.” Alternia took a deep breath. “I’m just saying is that we should try to keep the diplomatic option open, even as we go to war.”

“Oh that’s rich! Now you want to go to war and yet you are still defending Tethys!” spat Celestia. The alicorn was enraged and in hindsight, Alternia realized that she probably shouldn’t have said what she had said or worded it differently.

“How could you have the gall to play Devil’s Advocate all this time, when she destroyed an entire Gryphonian fleet, blockaded Venecia likely ever since the tsunami, killed four thousand Equestrians, and from what I heard, killed several of your own hive! And now you want to go to war, though you have been told time and time again the kelpies can’t be reasoned with, and yet you still defend this monster?”

Alternia’s eyes narrowed and her lips pulled back to reveal her bared fangs.

“Celestia, stop right there for your own sake.”

Celestia scoffed and shook her head. “No. I will not! Tethys and her kind are monsters and you still defend her! You hypocrite! Do you not care that so many of our subjects have died?”

Sunset was staring at Celestia, her eyes wide and jaw open. She was telling herself that Celestia had not just said what she said, but the shock on every pony and changeling’s faces in the room only confirmed it for her. Next to Alternia, Harlequin stiffened, while Diamondshell nearly lunged forward in rage, but before they could respond in defense of their queen, they froze.

An intense rage had cascaded down the hive links of the Mirror Guard and sent their psyches reeling. It was as if their minds were suddenly taken over by a terrifying outside force, except this presence was one that was familiar, one that usually was serene, calm, and comforting. Now though, it was almost alien and they could now sense only too well the fury and indignation of their queen.

How dare you? All I ever have been trying to do is prevent the deaths of our subjects! Trying to look from another point of view! How dare you accuse me of not caring? After how long I have served it and its citizens! How long I suffered for its sake!” roared Alternia, her voice deafening the room and forcing the ears of every equine including Celestia to flatten against their heads.

In fact, Celestia’s jaw was slowly hanging open and she was sitting frozen as Alternia railed at her. Her gaze slowly dropping down to her bedsheets as she cringed at the tirade.

“For one thousand years, I’ve toiled for Equestria, I’ve cried over my subjects dead bodies, I’ve bled in battle, and I’ve been heartbroke. For one thousand years, I couldn’t be anything that a changeling queen is supposed to be for Equestria’s sake! I couldn’t start a hive, take a mate, or have children!”

Harlequin, Diamondshell and Cyndra grabbed one of Alternia’s legs and tried to pull her out of the room, but Alternia refused to be budged. In fact, her lips twisted in wickedly vindictive sneer as she continued to scream obscenities at Celestia.

“My queen, calm down! This isn’t you!” yelled Harlequin, pulling as hard as he could, but Alternia wouldn’t budge.

“You’re hurting her! You know you don’t want that!” cried Cyndra.

But Alterna didn’t stop.

“Oh yes, my diplomatic overtures have failed, but your efforts were no better. By tartarus you are pathetic. You LOST to Tethys! I had to bail you out. Like I did a thousand years ago and did for a thousand years! Come on! What do you have to say for yourself you useless old piece of horse-flesh!”

Celestia swallowed, but didn’t cry. Yet, her hooves pressed against her bedsheets as if they were the only firm ground in the world, and although her head was held high, her entire body was trembling like a leaf in a gale.

“That’s enough, Alternia!”

Everybody in the room was arrested by Chrysalis’s imperious tone as she slammed the doors open and strode in. Celestia barely moved. It was all she could do to keep her posture, while Alternia turned, a blank look on her face.

“Chrysalis? What are you doing here?”

“Delivering a message, but the better question is” — Chrysalis stepped right up into Alternia’s face — “What in tartarus were you doing? No really, what were you doing, sister?”

Alternia frowned. “I was—” Alternia blinked and her eyes widened. Her head slowly turned to the still-shaking Celestia, and just stared as the alicorn’s fearful eyes.

Had she just done that? What in tartarus had come over her? How could she do that to someone she respected…

“Oh by the Great Hive Mothers. Celestia!” Falling to the side of Celestia’s bed, Alternia reached out her hoof, but Sunset’s glare stopped her.

Sputtering, Alternia’s mouth opened and closed helplessly as she finally saw how shocked Celestia was, her entire body paralyzed.

“Celestia… please, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”

The alicorn heaved in a deep breath and sighed, her eyes dropped at the bedsheets. “No, you’re right. I am useless, a relic of the past, whose mistakes keep piling up onto you.”

Alternia cringed at simply how broken Celestia’s voice sounded. “That’s not true.” Celestia didn’t respond, even if she was only whimpering now.

“Celestia, you managed to figure out Tethys’s weakness when nopony or changeling could. I may have saved you, but you saved my life as well.” A shudder ran through Alternia’s frame as she recalled herself falling through the sky, reeling from Tethys’s strike. “To be honest, the thought of facing Tethys again terrifies me. That you are willing to fight her again if necessary attests to your courage.”

Silence, only broken by the Celestia’s breaths continued while Alternia stood helplessly. Until finally her eyes rose to meet Alternia again.

“Thank you, Alternia.” And to Alterna’s relief, she could feel the hurt in Celestia’s emotions fading away, at least enough for now.

Chrysalis coughed loudly and levitated a folded telegram. “And now that that’s wrapped up, mostly, I have a very important message to deliver from Princess Luna. I haven’t read it, but the radiopony who wrote it down seemed incredibly shocked, so quickly please.”

Her horn glowing, Alternia took the paper with her magic and opened it, skimming it over.

What she read made a hard, cold lump sink into her stomach.

“Alternia? Alternia!” Alternia looked up to see her sister’s eyes wide and even Celestia looking concerned.

“You’re shaking,” said Chrysalis.

Alternia blinked as she finally noticed she was trembling. Unable to respond, she passed the paper over to Celestia, who seized it with her hooves and read it.

A moment later, Celestia turned whiter than bone.

“We need to talk to Luna, now,” said Alternia, voicing the exact thought that was running through Celestia’s mind.

In the Western Seas, the destroyer RENS Glowworm...

The Western Seas were known for being a pretty quiet posting. Sure, half of Equestria’s standing navy was deployed in the region, but mostly for patrol and rescue duty.

Patrol duty was what the RENS Glowworm and its crew of fifty under the command of a very young Captain Atlantia.

“Karkanos island sighted, captain,” said the helmspony.

Atlantia nodded from her captain’s chair, her eyes briefly spying the small dark speck on the horizon. She remembered passing Karkanos island when she was a lieutenant on another destroyer a few years back. Captains in Equestria’s navy liked to make a habit of passing the island on their patrol as it was the only one around for miles and a sore sight for land-sick sailors.

“Maintain heading,” she said as she turned back to examining her crew, who were also very young and untested. Yes, the sight of land will definitely help crew morale—

The phone to the crow’s nest suddenly rang and Atlantia sat up a bit straighter as one of her officers answered it and his eyes widened.

“Captain! Large waves spotted, heading right to us!”

Atlantia blinked as she rose from her chair and galloped out to the wing of her bridge. Large waves could mean anything, she needed to get a good look for herself.

It was as if the sea decided to have an earthquake. Waves nearly three meters high were rippling out toward her ship like an oncoming pack.

“Full speed! Helm, turn five degrees to starboard!” screamed Atlantia into the bridge as she charged back in. Seizing the microphone for the entire ship, Atlantia roared.

“All hooves! Brace! Brace!”

Right then, the waves hit, nearly throwing Atlantia to the floor as the ship bucked up and down, and up, and down, as the rapid series of waves slammed the destroyer. Atlantia knew her ship was nowhere in danger of sinking, but that was hardly a comfort to the rest of her crewponies and her flip-flopping stomach.

And just as it had started, the waves stopped.

“What in Equestria was that?” cursed Atlantia, trotting out of her bridge again.

Was it another tsunami? But why were there so many waves at once then? It was as if it was a patch of rough waves.

Which brought up the second weird observation she made. As Atlantia looked down into the water, she noticed that it was no longer clear. Instead, the water was murky, as if someone had decided to stir up the seafloor and kick up all the dirt and sediment. Heck, she even spotted seaweed and some bits of coral in the mix.

“Note our position down in the ship’s log and what we observed. Then radio Equestria,” Atlantia ordered, trotting back into the bridge.

“Yes captain!” returned the navigator. Nodding, Atlantia was about to go into her cabin to get her personal logbook, when there was a squeak of surprise from her navigator.

“Captain… um, is it just me, or… is Karkanos island gone?”

Atlantia snorted. “Karkanos island gone? How can an island disappear…” And her voice trailed off as she stared at the horizon.

The dark shape of Karkanos, had vanished, as if it had slipped beneath the waves.

Author's Note:

That was a packed chapter.

Regarding the argument, clearly neither of them are right. Alternia lost her temper, Celestia was out of line.

And yeah Tethys… I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, she’s not supposed to be nice. She feels from her perspective that she’s been wronged, and while that certainly does not agree with the ponies morality, much less my own, she has… a reasoning process. I mean, if Alternia waltzed up and tried to explain her story to a stranger, I doubt they believe her.

Which brings me to two points.

Why can Tethys smell Alternia? Well, she’s got a shark’s sense of smell, and those are good, above or below water.

Two, Tethys’s carapace and Alternia’s “arrow” spell. Alternia obviously hasn’t fought a lot of naturally armored creatures in her life. She’s just not used to how thick Tethys’s carapace is which is basically really good plate armor.

Also… disappearing island in the western sea? Huh?

One clue though, it is not the work of kelpies. They’re not even in the Western Sea.

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