• Published 5th Sep 2015
  • 12,159 Views, 2,565 Comments

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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An Equestrian Interlude


As Twilight had heard from Luna and later, Alternia, Manehattan was shocked and terrified by the recent kelpie attack and it showed as she, Spike, and her friends arrived in the once bustling city.

Sure, Manehattan was bustling, ponies walking to work and all, but there was a greater deal of nervous tension than usual. Twilight had seen it the moment she arrived in the train station. Many of the more well-to do ponies were moving out, spending bits to get inland and away from the sea. The opposing platform was therefore packed with whining foals and nervously glancing adults.

“Oh my, I didn’t realise ponies were so afraid. I mean, aren’t they overreacting a bit?” asked Rarity.

Twilight cringed. “Not exactly, Rarity. The news hasn’t quite gotten out yet, but the kelpies really are that dangerous.”

“Wait… what happened, Twilight?” asked Rainbow Dash as the group trotted into the city proper.

“I don’t have all the details, but we’re probably going to see it in the news soon—”

“Manehattan Daily Special Edition! Special Edition! Equestrian Fleet destroyed by kelpies! Thousands dead!”

Heads snapped to the left. A newspaper pony was yelling out at the top of his lungs next to several massive stacks of papers and ponies were starting to crowd around him. Her brow furrowing, Twilight seized one of the papers, deposited a few bits and quickly skimmed the front page, with her friends looking over her shoulder.

“This is an incredible exaggeration!” proclaimed Twilight.

The newspaper pony narrowed his eyes at her, while the rest of the ponies surrounding him turned to look at Twilight. “And how do you know that?”

Twilight grimaced. “I’m Princess Alternia’s personal student. She told me the Equestrian Fleet still exists. Besides, how would Princess Alternia and Celestia have gotten away with their lives if it had been destroyed?”

“Then it isn’t true that thousands have died?” asked another pony desperately.

Twilight felt a lump growing in her throat and the temptation to swallow as that pony gazed at her expectantly.

“My teacher wasn’t forthcoming on the casualty figures, but she told me half of the fleet was destroyed, ships and ponies,” admitted Twilight.

That news elicited a loud groan from the audience, as well as a flurry of more questions. Twilight found herself looking left and right, unable to figure out which ones to answer as some were as complicated as “Why are the kelpies attacking us?” to as personal as “Is my son alive!?”

That was until Rainbow jumped into the air and yelled. “Oi! Lay off! She’s just the Princess’s student. She doesn’t know everything!”

Twilight smiled in thanks and nodded. “Yes. Unfortunately I do not. I’ll be going to ask the Manehattan Daily to retract the current paper so for now, keep calm, listen to the authorities and their advice and keep hold of your questions until then.”

Pausing for a moment, Twilight bit her lip and added, “I will say that right at this time that Aquestria’s reasons for attacking are suspected to be related to a territorial dispute, but it unknown as to the reasons for their lack of warning. Rest assured that the Equestrian Triumvirate will attempt to use all diplomatic channels to resolve this situation.”

“And what if they fail?” a stallion asked.

Twilight hesitated and sighed. “I don’t know. I suppose we will have to defend ourselves.”

There seemed to be a unanimous sigh from the crowd as they slowly began to disperse to their homes, the most pressing of their questions answered.

“Are you sure it will come to war, Twilight?” asked Applejack as the seven friends continued onto their original destination, which was Applejack’s Uncle and Aunty Orange’s house in Manehattan. Applejack had to make sure her kin were alright and her friends had volunteered to come check with her.

As they trotted down the street though, they didn’t notice was a mare wearing some really large leather boots trotting down after them, just in hearing range.

“I don’t know, Applejack, but it's looking highly likely. I have yet to receive precise details from Alternia about what exactly happened on the sea, but… from the little she told me, the dispute appears to be related to some thousand year old treaty signed by Celestia and that the day the fleet was destroyed, they apparently sailed over forbidden territory marked by this treaty and hence drew kelpie retaliation. Celestia hadn’t been able to remember this until just then because of Alternia transferring her memories to Celestia.”

“Forbidden territory? That’s ridiculous! Why the kelpies didn’t warn us beforehoof, before all of this?” spat Rainbow in frustration.

“I don’t know. Alternia wrote in her letter though that they had new news on that front and that Princess Luna was going to check,” explained Twilight.

“That’s odd, the princess is usually more precise than that,” remarked Rarity.

Twilight stopped walking for a moment, her lips pursed and her friends crowded around her cringed.

“She was in mourning, Rarity. She lost several of the changelings in her hive on that day and… from the little she said in her letter, she nearly died.”

Fluttershy nudged Twilight comfortingly. “Oh Twilight…”

“I’m fine… I wish she was here on land… safe and sound instead of out there, facing monsters,” sighed Twilight.

“You sure we can’t just use our rainbow magic to blast the meanie empress back to the moon?” asked Pinkie Pie.

Shaking her head, Twilight sighed. “I don’t think so. We’ve only ever used the Elements of Harmony against single targets, aberrations of balance, but we’re talking about an entire species here. I’m not sure if it would work, and besides, we don’t have any ships to take us out in the first place.” Twilight grimaced. “Besides, I don’t think Princess Alternia would want to endanger us anyway. I get the feeling she’s trying not to tell me too much because she doesn't want to put me in danger.”

“Um, pardon me.”

Twilight and her friends turned to see a blue-furred pegasus wearing a very stylish wide-brimmed hat with a single black feather stuck into its bonnet. She also wore some really large boots that went up to her knees.

The pegasus pushed up her hat a bit to reveal a wide, if a bit nervous smile. “Hi, I’m Sea Skipper. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation just a little. You seem to have a good handle on things, and I just retired from sailing the world only to land into this mess.” The pegasus smiled roguishly. “So I was wondering if you could tell me more about what’s going on, I can regale you with a couple of my tall tales.”

Twilight blinked, but smiled. Weird as this pony was, there was no excuse for her not to treat her in a friendly manner. “Hi Sea Skipper, I’m Twilight Sparkle. What would you like to know?”

Twilight raised her right hoof, while Sea Skipper raised her left, which was a bit odd, but Twilight thought nothing of it and switched to her left hoof.

“Well, while on my trip, I heard about Princess Luna returning, but ever since I got onto shore, I keep hearing Equestria described as the Equestrian Triumvirate and some kind of Changeling Princess of Equestria? I mean, I know about changelings, heck, even met a few of the buggies and they don’t seem that bad, but how did one end up as our Princess?”

Chuckling, Twilight recalled the frantic events after the Royal Wedding and gave the short version to Sea Skipper, explaining how the Princess Celestia they thought they knew was actually the changeling queen now ruling and that Celestia had been sleeping for a thousand years.

“Wait a minute, and you all just accepted this?” said Sea Skipper her eyes wide.

“Well, it's been taking most ponies some time, and a lot of history books are being rewritten as we speak, but yeah Equestria has accepted it. As Princess Alternia’s student, I know she acts just like she usually does and more ponies are slowly beginning to see that.”

Sea Skipper blinked and her now narrowed eyes seemed to look off into the distance for a moment. “Huh. Well that changes a lot of things.”

“Well yeah, for the better though. I mean”— Twilight gestured to a troop of changelings, their armor marked with the sigil of two crossed daggers atop of a cloak, Belladonna’s insignia, marching down the street — “We have much better relations with the changelings now. Helps when Princess Alternia’s sisters are Queen Chrysalis, Simulacris and Belladonna, who command pretty large hives.”

Sea Skipper nodded, her eyes narrowing even further at the changelings, who were greeted respectfully by the ponies in the street. “I see…I remember hearing about changelings helping out defend Baltimare. Didn’t think it was true though. ”

Twilight chuckled. “I suppose it does take some time to get used to, but considering the danger we’re all in, I think we need all the allies we can get.”

Sea Skipper nodded, but her brow was furrowed. “I heard though that the Equestrians were the ones that broke some ancient treaty though.”

Twilight sighed. “Well yeah, but we didn’t know anything about the kelpies or the seaponies. I mean, I’ve heard that they apparently gave a warning, but we never received any messages.”

Sea Skipper seemed skeptical as she raised an eyebrow. “And just how do you know this? I mean, I heard your earlier pronouncement about you being the Princess’s student, but that doesn’t mean she would tell you everything. How do you know that the princesses really had no idea about the kelpies and seaponies?”

Twilight was getting the sense that there was something a bit odd about this pony. A glance to her left and right allowed her to see that her friends had mixed expressions. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash seemed to trust Sea Skipper. Applejack’s expression was neutral. Rarity’s eyes were narrowed discerningly and Pinkie Pie’s face was hilariously scrunched up.

Yeah, it looked like Twilight couldn't rely on her friends to help her judge this one.

“My mentor doesn’t tell me everything, but she is an incredibly trustworthy changeling.”

“You do realize that’s a contradiction in and of itself,” said Sea Skipper.

Twilight pursed her lips. Actually that was quite a valid assessment, at least before Alternia had told her her true identity. However...

“Apart from concealing her own identity, she has never lied to me and would never purposely ignore an agreement just to get some sort of advantage.” Twilight had a momentary brainwave and she grinned. “I suggest you check out the Manehattan library. It has many articles written on Princess Alternia’s recent diplomatic triumph with the Changeling Non-Aggression Pact and some of the challenges she faced and overcame.”

Sea Skipper nodded and grinned again. “That I will. Thank you for your time, Miss Sparkle,” she said, taking off her hat and bowing briefly.

Twilight nodded. “It wasn’t a problem, though I believe you owe us a story?” said Twilight pointedly, not quite relaxing.

“Perhaps another time, Miss Sparkle. I have to report to my employers,” said Sea Skipper. Putting her hat back on, the pegasus jumped into the air and flew toward the town library, leaving the seven friends glancing at one another.

“Is it just me, or did she seem just a bit weird?” asked Spike.

Twilight shook her head. “No, it was not just you, Spike.”

“Oh Applejack! I’m so glad you came, but you shouldn’t be here!” exclaimed Mosely Orange, Uncle Orange to Applejack.

“Well I ain’t going to leave my family hanging, whether it's safe or not. Beside, I live next to the Everfree Forest,” proclaimed Applejack.

“Well, alright then, Applejack,” said Mrs. Orange, also known as Sun Kiss Orange, as she welcomed the seven in and let them seat themselves in the living room.

“So where’s Babs?” asked Applejack, once the group was seated.

Mosely Orange and Sun Kiss glanced at each other nervously. “We actually sent her to Ponyville to stay with Granny Smith for a while,” said Mosely Orange.

Applejack blinked, along with the rest of her friends. “Well Granny won’t mind her visiting. In fact, I know Applebloom will be overjoyed, but I don’t think you have to worry.”

Sun Kiss Orange winced, her blue eyes trembling. “Applejack, the Equestrian Army couldn’t stop those monsters from killing all those ponies and destroying our dockyards. While I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again, I won’t have my daughter here if that happens.”

“But Ponyville’s no less dangerous than Manehattan. Heck, we’re right next to the Everfree Forest. We got a monster attack there every odd week.”

“But… oh…” Mosely Orange swallowed. “We hadn’t considered that.”

“Besides, I doubt the princesses will let something like this happen another time, Mr and Mrs. Orange,” added Twilight.

Mosely Orange frowned. “But you’ve read the news. Princess Celestia and Alternia’s fleet was destroyed—”

“Only half of it,” insisted Twilight.

“But… that’s still not very good, isn’t it? I mean, how many were we able to defeat in return?” Mrs. Orange asked, a glimmer of hope appearing on her face. “Did our princess manage to hurt the Empress?”

But to the rapidly saddening features of her friends and Mr. and Mrs. Orange, Twilight could only mutter this.

“I don’t know, Mr. and Mrs. Orange. I don’t know.”

“It’s all thanks to these lies that the Manehattan Daily has printed that has led to ponies panicking like this!” raged Twilight as she and her friends cantered (well, Pinkie bounced) to the offices of the Manehattan Daily.

Fluttershy, trying to keep up with the enraged unicorn, tried to speak up as her friends ran onward. “It’s not just that though, Twilight, the attack here really shook the ponies. You can’t blame them for being afraid.”

“I know that, but these newspapers aren’t making it any better! They’re making it a ton worse!” snapped Twilight.

“And what are you going to do about it, Twilight. I don’t think you being the Princess’s student actually gives you any right to barge into the offices of a Manehattan newspaper and ask them to print a retraction,” pointed out Rarity.

A cunning smile came over Twilight’s features. “Technically it doesn’t.”

“Oh? So what can you do then, egghead?” asked Rainbow.

“I can suggest that they print a retraction by reminding them of my mentor’s desires for the news to tell the truth and how their inaccurate guesswork only serves to create unnecessary panic,” Twilight said in a cheeky tone.

“Huh, that’s pretty sneaky of you, Twilight,” said Pinkie.

“Well, my mentor is a changeling queen after all. I was bound to pick up some skills in deception from her.”

Perhaps it would be slightly disturbing later on, but Twilight seemed incredibly proud when she said that.

True to Twilight’s expectation, the group was ushered in past office cubicles and whirring printing machines to the office of one of the senior editors of the paper, one Ms. Read It, according to the placard on her desk.

“So, Ms. Twilight, I heard you have some issues with how our paper discussed the destruction of the Equestrian Fleet…” Read It paused and pushed up her orange-shaded spectacles with a pale white hoof as she checked the hastily printed memo on her desk. “And our coverage on the kelpie attacks on our Eastern ports.”

“Yes, I believe that what was printed exaggerated the casualty figures, understated the role of the Equestrian Army in preventing further casualties and only encouraged the panic that is gripping Manehattan right now,” — Twilight frowned — “Which is directly against everything my mentor has said that a newspaper is supposed to be, an organization that disseminates truthful narratives for the betterment of Equestria.”

Silence filled the office as Read It pursed her lips and used her magic to levitate a copy of the heavily highlighted, and noted newspaper Twilight had laid on her desk.

“... All of what you’ve written about the statistics for the Equestrian navy’s loss is true? Wait, forget that I asked that, your article in the Foal Free Press also perfectly predicted the danger of engaging the kelpies.” Read It lowered the newspaper. “It must be nice having Princess Alternia inform you of all this.”

Twilight’s cheeks reddened. “Not everything, but enough.”

Read It nodded and groaned. “Dangit. I told Quick Quotes that he should wait until our Army and Navy made a press release, but did he wait, oh no.” Read It then sighed and folded the paper. “But I will not print a retraction, Miss Sparkle.”

“What!?” half-screamed Twilight.

Read It’s eyes narrowed. “I’ll have our writers note that our initial estimates were exaggerated once we get news from the Equestrian Army and Navy Press Corps, but I cannot in good conscience, retract our newspapers or deny that they were in spirit, right about the situation.”

“What do you mean? You’re basically implying that our government and the Triumvirate of Princesses aren’t able to do their job!” snapped Rainbow, unable to hold her silence for any longer.

“That’s because they clearly weren’t able to Miss Dash,” said Read It firmly. Turning her attention back to Twilight, the unicorn crossed her hooves in front of her face. “Ms. Twilight, I know you are confident your mentor and her co-rulers will be able to resolve the situation, but right now, I don’t think it is safe or right for us to express faith in our rulers when they have been unable to protect Equestria’s ponies and end this conflict.”

“And so you’re just going to abandon the princesses when they need you?” demanded Twilight.

“I’m trying to help them, Miss Twilight. It is better to quash any false confidence ponies have now so that they will not turn on our rulers asking for help they cannot give. That is, unless you are aware that the princesses have a way to stop this conflict?” asked Read It, her orange-shaded glasses boring into Twilight’s eyes.

Twilight swallowed and glared right back at Read It.

“No, I do not, but I still strongly advise you Ms. Read It, to get your bosses to retract all of their papers.” Read It blinked, the steel in Twilight’s voice ringing throughout the room.

“The press is allowed to publish what they wish,” pointed out Read It, but her voice lacked the confidence it had before.

Twilight nodded. “Freedom to speak the truth, which your paper has done otherwise. While I am sure Princess Luna has been informed of this situation by the REINS, I will be sending a letter and a copy of your paper to her and Princess Alternia after I leave.”

Her eyes narrowing, Twilight grimaced. “So yes, as we both know, the press can print what they wish, but those same freedoms do not restrict the Equestrian Triumvirate from showing the truth. Such as revealing that your paper has incited panic in one of Equestria’s major cities and sowed distrust for our government by fabricating stories. It also does not prevent the Equestrian Triumvirate from printing an official statement indicating the propensity of the Manehattan Daily to print lies, nor does it prevent the Triumvirate from seeking legal action against your paper due to their actions, which falls under the charge of treason.”

There was a sharp gasp from Twilight’s friends as the unicorn glared right back at the paling Read It, who sat still, very still. Twilight only got up from her desk and with a last glance, trotted out of the office.

“Have a good day, Ms. Read It.”

The next day…

It was a rather dejected group that made its way through the Manehattan streets to the city’s “central” train station.

Twilight was the worst off of all of them. Sending the letters and newspapers to Alternia and Luna had barely made her feel any better. She still couldn’t figure out a way that she could help restore some trust in the princesses despite all she knew

However, the kelpies had basically shown they could not be stopped on sea. Twilight remembered hearing something about Baltimare actually resisting an attack by the Aquestrians, but that news did not comfort her when she knew that so many had died. She knew that the papers were exaggerated, but without any official royal statements, there was nothing she could do to point out how the Manehattan Daily was wrong.

So engrossed in her thoughts that Twilight didn’t notice when her friends stopped and when she did, she also realized something very loud was going on in front of her.

“What the…” Twilight raised her head and looked forward. A massive crowd of ponies, with fillies and colts, and babies on their shoulders and prams, were massed in front of the white limestone columns of Manehattan Central Station. A line of Manehattan Rangers in red uniform stood in a line in front of the station, slowly letting a few ponies at a time in.

“What’s going on?” asked Rainbow Dash to a nearby pony.

“There aren’t enough trains and so they aren’t letting us leave!” said the stallion.

“But that’s hogwash, look, they are letting ponies leave!” said Applejack, pointing at the station.

“Only a few! And they are telling us to stay calm, but how can we?” demanded a nearby mare in overalls. She paused and cringed. “I work at the docks and two of my buddies died on the day of the attack. I don’t feel safe staying here.”

“I have fillies and colts! Let us go first!” screamed a mother in the crowd.

Twilight gulped. The crowd was only getting louder and more agitated as more Rangers stepped into the thin red line in an attempt to instill calm, but only causing the crowd to become more panicked.

“We’re not safe here!”

“Let us leave!”

“The princesses can’t protect us!”

“Twilight! What do we do?” asked Spike desperately as the masses moved forward, pushing up against the Royal Guard. Twilight swallowed. She didn’t know. There were colts and fillies in the crowd, crying, wailing with their parents as the crowd’s demands grew louder and louder.

Twilight swallowed and funnelled magic to her horn.

A bright flash and Twilight was standing beside the nervous wall of Manehattan Rangers. Focusing her magic to her throat, Twilight swallowed once and spoke.

“Citizens of Equestria!”

There was something oddly firm, perhaps a little awkward, but altogether commanding to the tone of Twilight’s voice and the crowd ceased its throes for a moment.

“Please do not panic. I know you are all afraid, and that there seems to be nothing Equestria has been able to do, but at a time like this, the worst thing we can do is to turn on our neighbours, on our fellow ponies, on our friends.”

“And who are you to say that?” demanded a mare in the crowd.

“I am Princess Alternia’s student, Twilight Sparkle, who has been studying the magic of friendship in Ponyville. I helped seal Discord away and free Princess Luna from Nightmare Moon.” Twilight Sparkle swallowed. “And they were not as easy as some may think. I was afraid. I was scared and I wanted to run and hide like many of you do right now. I wanted to do things my own way, but that’s not the right thing to do in the face of fear.”

“And is it so wrong to run?” yelled a stallion.

“No! It is natural to be afraid,” said Twilight. She knew now more than ever that it was, she could not deny that. “But that doesn’t mean we should abandon all our bonds, all those who we used to trust, much less turn on them!”

Looking at her smiling friends in the distance, Twilight straightened up. “One of the most magical things I have learned about friendship is that it gives a pony a strength he or she would never have if alone. My friends have taught this to me, and because of my friendship with my mentor, Princess Alternia, I trust she will be able to resolve this.”

“Yeah right, but not all of us have the comfort of being the princess’s student,” spat a mare sarcastically.

“You’re right, but you have each other.” Twilight swept her hoof to gesture to the entire crowd. “Look around you, look beside you. Are you not surrounded by your fellow pony? I cannot ask you to trust in princesses who cannot be here right now, but can you not trust those beside you right now and those in front of you? Can’t you be comforted in that you all, dockworkers, officeworkers, guards, Equestrians, are all in the same boat?” asked Twilight, pointing to the Rangers.

Some muttered in consideration, while the Rangers tried to look the part, smiling and straightening up in pride.

“Please everypony, all I ask is you try to think not of your own fears, but to remind yourselves that everypony else shares those same fears and that you all are Equestrians and that you all care not just about yourself, but for each other.”

The crowd nodded, though many seemed uneasy. And Twilight wasn’t sure if she had gotten to them.

Which was when a commanding and yet, calm voice spoke from behind her.

“Well said, Twilight,” said Princess Cadance. Twilight spun around and gasped as her old foalsitter landed beside her. Winking briefly at Twilight, Cadance stepped forward.

“New trains are currently arriving at the station, so for those who still wish to leave, they may board when they are ready.”

A cheer went up from the ponies and Twilight sighed in relief. Words were good and all, but it was nice that the Princesses had something in place.

Queen Belladonna appeared beside Cadence then, stepping out from behind the station’s columns like a shadow. She was accompanied by, to Twilight’s joy, Shining Armor, who was dressed in his burnished purple guard armor.

“And for those who cannot leave tonight, the changelings of Queen Belladonna of the Shadow Empire and my husband, Captain Shining Armor of the Royal Guard, will guard this city until this crisis has been resolved. So do not fear my friends, the kelpies would be very foolish to try another assault,” said Cadance confidently.

The pink alicorn then coughed and then held up a rather familiar roll of newsprint that Twilight recognized as the copy of the newspaper she had sent to the alicorn of the night, a reproving frown coming over her features.

“Finally, the Manehattan Daily is currently being indicted for printing false and exaggerated information on the fighting in the Eastern Sea and the battles on our Eastern Ports, for slander against the crown of Equestria, for the fabrication of falsehoods, and for high treason. While the Equestrian Triumvirate encourages trustworthy reporting and well thought out opinions on the crisis at hand, wild speculation for the purpose of sensationalism, as well as the publishing of exaggerated and false articles will not be tolerated. For now, please do not trust what the Manehattan Daily has printed in their paper and wait for the Royal Statement which will be published later today by the Equestrian News Service.”

Twilight nearly clapped her hooves in a bit of vindictive glee as Cadance said that.

It was later on, just before she got on the train, that Twilight found out from her brother (who had accompanied Cadance) that full mobilization had been declared for the second time in a year, and that recruitment drives were being accelerated across Equestria. Not that Twilight didn’t see it coming, but it was still a sobering thought that war was upon Equestria.

All Twilight could think though, and probably the same with her friends, was how to contribute to the coming conflict. What role could she play?

One thing was certain, Twilight knew she wasn’t going to enlist in the front lines. She didn’t have the temperament for combat magic like some of her fellow magic students such as Sunset Shimmer at the renamed Alternia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Most of Twilight’s battle magic training extended to the creative use of normal spells like telekinesis and teleportation, not combat magic.

There was another thing that Twilight had realized though, something she had found out after speaking to the crowd in Manehattan.

She wasn’t actually that bad at public speaking.

She had known about her own good writing skills ever since she had started writing articles on what was known about kelpie lore and changeling lore in the Foal Free Press. That she knew she was going to step up with an article that basically would try to explain Equestria’s current policy options. She would probably have to ask Alternia for information about that.

But considering that she had heard that Vinyl Scratch, Ponyville’s local DJ, was starting a radio show… perhaps there was an avenue there.

“Hey Pinkie Pie,” said Twilight as she turned and froze. Pinkie was stuffing herself with train snacks that included peanuts, pretzels and cupcakes, which come to think of it, weren’t on the train’s menu.

“Yes Twilight?” asked Pinkie, swallowing her cupcake whole with one bite.

“I was wondering if you can put me in touch with Vinyl Scratch.” asked Twilight.

“What for?”

“Well, you see...”

A few days later...

Ponyville Radio, run by a mainly volunteer production crew was mainly a local station. It had began to branch out though, ever since Vinyl Scratch and Octavia Melody had moved to Ponyville. Vinyl wanted to make a music channel that would feature the talent of more rural music artists. as such, Ponyville Radio now broadcasted all the way to Canterlot, though most nobleponies saw the channel as “too uncouth for their ears.”

However, when Twilight Sparkle, student to Princess Alternia, reported in several Equestrian newspapers as having quelled an entire crowd in Manehattan, published a very detailed timeline in the Foal Free Press and in the Equestrian News Service on the Abyssal War to date and then announced at the end of the article that she would be discussing Equestria’s current options with another (albeit former) student of Princess Alternia’s, General Hanna Belle of the Equestrian Foreign Legion, ponies heads started to turn in curiosity. This also led them to turn on their radios at the time Twilight announced.

“Morning, this is Ponyville Radio, your DJ Vinyl Scratch speaking. You are tuning in just at the right time on this channel, for we have a very special discussion between two of Princess Alternia, our very own Changeling Queen’s, students. Twilight Sparkle, known as the Element of Magic, who helped re-seal Discord the Spirit of Chaos and General Hanna Belle of the Equestrian Foreign Legion. Glad to have you both here.”

“Thanks Vinyl!” Twilight’s voice was cheerful, even if there was a brief high pitch of nervousness at the end of her exclamation. She couldn’t help it though. Twilight was fully aware that she was speaking to hundreds of radios across Equestria.

“Good to be on, Vinyl,” said Hanna Belle rather casually.

“I’m still surprised you agreed to come on, General Hanna Belle,” said Vinyl a note of curiosity in her tone.

“I was in Canterlot and had a bit of time in my schedule. Besides, I know Twilight from my odd visit to Alternia. Well, I knew her as Celestia then and she looked just like Celestia…” Hanna Belle chuckled sheepishly. “Gosh darn, it still confuses me a bit even today.”

Vinyl laughed. “I can imagine! But onto the elephant in the room.” Vinyl paused and in a lower tone, asked, “Twilight, you announced in your newspaper column that today, you will be talking about Equestria’s current options against the kelpies?”

“Aquestrians, Miss Scratch. Our enemy is not just the kelpies,” said Hanna Belle firmly.

“Fair enough, so what should we all normal ponies do?” Vinyl asked.

“Well first of all, don’t go over the Eastern Sea in any boat. The Aquestrian’s dispute with the surface nation's stem over ownership of those waters. If you are in the Western Sea, everything should be fine,” said Twilight in a matter-of-fact tone.

“That’s good to know, but what about if you’re attacked by a kelpie or you see one?” Asled Vinyl.

“Well, the best way to fight a kelpie is not to fight them up close, especially if you are not a trained soldier. If you are on land, travel with a friend for safety, and if you see one, get as far away from them as fast as possible,” explained Twilight.

Hanna Belle coughed to clear her throat and continued. “Another thing we have found out is that kelpies have an aversion to bright lights. So they are unlikely to attack in the day.” She paused momentarily and added, “However, if you do encounter one here’s what to do. If you are a unicorn, try to maintain your distance and be creative because your standard magic bolt will be useless against a kelpie’s thick carapace. Pegasi should just fly away. If you are an earth pony, just run as fast as you can.”

Hanna Belle then took a sip of water.“Finally, I’m happy to report that the Equestrian Army has been formulating defensive plans and fortifications based upon experience gained from the attacks on Manehattan, Fillydelphia and Baltimare. I can’t give any details, but we’re far better prepared to deal with another Aquestrian attack.”

“Alright, that’s very comforting, but is there any way to resolve this conflict to our advantage?” Asked Vinyl, a hint of hope to her tone.

Hanna Belle hesitated, while Twilight just launched right into it.

“It’s too early to tell. With our Eastern fleet heavily damaged and blockaded into Venecia, we have little offensive options, so Equestria’s current priority would be to evacuate Venecia and secure our ports so that our ship production facilities will never be attacked again.”

“At the same time, Aquestria hasn’t shown any interest in actually taking land, as their attack on our ports was to restrict our seapower and not to take land,” added Hanna Belle, a bit reluctantly.

“Oh… well um, I suppose it could be worse?” Vinyl said nervously.

Hanna Belle sighed. “Yes, and for good reason. Please do not panic as I explain and, listen very carefully until I finish. This is something we found out from our information sharing with the changeling queens.” Hanna Belle took an audibly deep breath and coughed to clear her throat again.

“Kelpies according to the changelings, like eating sapient, intelligent beings such as ponies and gryphons. In fact, according to what we’ve been told, they actually have a preference for hunting changelings. Nobody is sure as to why, but this is what they eat. This makes their demands to stay out of our waters quite… limited so to speak, judging from the low casualties on the attacks on our ports.”

Twilight’s voice came over the radio. “All the same, we’d like to remind everypony to travel with a friend, especially at night and to run away from kelpies on sight. Our military is stepping up the defense and patrol of our coasts but we’d still like all ponies not to put themselves at risk.”

Vinyl gulped audibly over the radio. “Alright. You sure the Equestrian military has a handle on protecting our coastal cities though? I mean, what’s stopping them from coming out to take a bite?”

Hanna Belle hummed in agreement. “Yes, or at least, I can confirm we’ve learnt a lot from their attacks on our ports and won’t be making those mistakes again.” A quick slurp signalled Hanna Belle sipping from her glass. “Our biggest problem at the moment is the evacuation and supplying of Venecia, which is slowly starving to death because of the blockade the kelpies have essentially imposed. We don’t have enough airships. Even with the current rate of supply achieved by all of the REINS airships, Venecia has an estimated one month and a half of food before they run out and starve. Thus, I’d like to reiterate the message the Triumvirate has been making, that all owners of all air transports henceforth are to report to their local recruiting stations. We need every last airship we can get, even small balloons will help.”

“I actually just donated my balloon this morning,” remarked Twilight.

“Hmm, I think my cousin has a dirigible. I’ll tell him to turn it in.” There was a brief scratching sound as Vinyl wrote something on her notepad. “Alright, so what is Equestria and her princesses doing at this moment? How are Princess Celestia and Princess Alternia by the way? I heard that both of them lost against Empress Tethys, the ruler of Aquestria, but that can’t be right.”

Hanna Belle and Twilight were silent for a moment.

“Well, to put it bluntly, yes. They both lost,” said Hanna Belle in a grim tone.

Vinyl didn’t respond immediately and radios all over Equestria emitted a disquieting static.

“Oh [bleep]. What happened, how badly are they hurt?” Demanded Vinyl in a panicked voice.

Twilight sighed. “Princess Celestia was nearly killed by the empress and sustained serious injuries, although she is on the road to a full recovery. Princess Alternia had lighter injuries, but was unable to overpower Empress Tethys. What ended up happening was that Princess Celestia figured out the kelpies aversion to light and temporarily blinded Tethys.” Twilight swallowed audibly. “However, that only led to the Empress launching a large wave which did disengage the Equestrian fleet from the Aquestrians, but also damaged it.”

“But if neither of them could beat Tethys… aren’t we screwed?” Vinyl asked, voice filled with fear.

“Well circumstances meant that they engaged Tethys one on one. It's possible if they actually fought Tethys together, they may have had a better chance,” said Twilight quickly.

“But yes, the situation is incredibly serious at this point. This is why Princess Alternia, Doggess Sebastiana and the Changeling Queen of Venecia, Retariusil of the Sea Snakes, are working together in Venecia and what remains of its libraries to continue researching the Aquestrians and answer our many questions about their weaknesses, capabilities and motivations,” explained Hanna Belle.

Vinyl groaned. “Dang… well, I for one am glad they’re still working on it. Have they found out why the Aquestrians have declared war on us? I mean, we’ve been hinted that it is a territorial dispute, and that the Empress has declared the waters to be hers due to some sort of treaty, but there’s been very little information about what exactly happened.”

Twilight spoke this time, her voice holding a note of frustration. “That is unfortunately clearer than we expected, judging from what the Empress has declared to us directly and what we’ve found. Apparently, more than a thousand years ago, Princess Celestia, and the Empress of Aquestria then, Empress Samudra of the Sea Ponies, signed a treaty declaring the waters of the Eastern Sea to be Aquestria’s, apart from several established trade lanes. None of which unfortunately, go directly to Venecia. However, as everybody knows, Celestia fought Nightmare Moon and was sealed away.”

“Right! That makes sense! So the treaty was forgotten!”

“It’s more along the lines of… Princess Celestia didn’t inform Princess Alternia about the treaty for fear of revealing the seaponies, which she agreed to keep secret due to her friendship with Empress Samudra,” amended Twilight.

“We’re searching our archives for evidence of the treaty, but from what it looks like, a few months ago, when the tsunami hit Venecia, there was a leadership change in Aquestria,” commented Hanna Belle. “The current Empress Tethys had been fighting a war against the then Empress Samudra. At the time, sea ponies and kelpies were separate, with the kelpies not being included as part of Aquestria and from some reports, appear to have been persecuted by Empress Samudra. However, Samudra was killed in a duel, leading to a massive release in magical energy, which caused the tsunami.”

Vinyl paused and asked, her voice incredulous. “So that wasn’t on purpose?”

“No,” said Twilight in a firm tone. “What happened next gets a bit complicated. Because the treaty had been forgotten by all of us living on the surface, our ships strayed from the allotted trade routes as steam technology enabled us to take more direct routes instead of the old ones, which were based on wind patterns. Moreover, commercial fishing near Venecia and pollution from our ships really angered the Aquestrians and Empress Tethys. It was then that she decided to enforce the old treaty according to the wording which it was signed in.”

“By that, we mean, the old one thousand year old wording which declared death to the party who broke it,” elaborated Hanna Belle.

“Exactly. Samudra had been too concerned with fighting her war against Empress Tethys to alert us, and she was more lenient with enforcing its terms. Empress Tethys has appeared to take them… very literally,” said Twilight.

“Wait, what evidence is there that we agreed to this treaty? How do we know that they’re just not trying to take the waters back for their own gain?” Vinyl demanded.

“That, is due to some new information we just came by. As you all know the Aquestrian attack on Baltimare was less successful than the attacks on Fillydelphia and Manehattan, leading the seaponies in their attacking force to take some losses.” Hanna Belle pulled out a folder and opened it to refresh her memory. “The REINS has been performing autopsies on the seaponies we recovered. In these autopsies we’ve discovered that their concerns about pollution are pretty valid. Just from being in Baltimare port for a morning, the seaponies have accumulated enough debris and poison in their gills that about a year of their life would be knocked off.”

More static came on before Vinyl simply summed it up with:


“I know. We haven’t got any kelpie corpses to examine, but suffice to say, we know the seaponies make up the majority of Aquestria’s population, and so for them, pollution is the real deal,” said Hanna Belle.

The audience listening to the radios could practically hear Vinyl wince. “Alright, you’ve made your point clear, the Aquestrians definitely had some reasons to try to enforce their treaties, but why didn’t they just ask us to negotiate? Seems rather ruthless of them.”

Hanna Belle groaned. “Well, here’s the thing, they did.”

“What?!” Gasped Vinyl.

“Going off a lead we found, we checked the Castle of the Two Pony sisters and found that the Aquestrians sent several missives magically to the castle, warning us about violating their waters,” said Hanna Belle.

“Wait, why would they send the missives there!?” Exclaimed Vinyl.

Hanna Belle took in a deep breath. “The treaty was signed a thousand years ago and from what it appears, the Aquestrians have been very out of touch with the surface world and the change in our capital. This is unsurprising, considering the kelpies were being contained by the previous Empress Samudra and seaponies, according to our autopsies, can’t actually talk above water level and dry out when out of water for too long.”

“So we’re at war because of a communication error?” Asked Vinyl, slowly, deliberately, still not quite believing what she was hearing.

“In a manner of speaking,” admitted Hanna Belle.

“But why can’t we just explain to them that there was a mixup?”

Twilight spoke up. “Princess Alternia tried to explain to Empress Tethys, but she didn’t believe that Princess Celestia has been in hibernation for the last one thousand years, likely due to how well Princess Alternia pretended to be Celestia.” Twilight paused. “And as to why Princess Celestia forgot about the treaty, when she came out of her sleep, Princess Alternia had some of her memories transferred to Celestia, which was what Celestia did to help Princess Alternia pretend to be her. The extra memories have affected the quality of Celestia’s recollections, which is why she didn’t remember about the treaty until now.”

“So it is a series of very unfortunate coincidences that have gotten us into this mess.”

Hanna Belle nodded. “That appears to be the case. Nevertheless, you can be assured that I, my fellow generals and our three princesses are working hard to get us out of this.”

“And so for now, all we have to do is to trust them, and do our part. Some may find it in them to enlist in the army, others may have to take up tasks that are not completely suited to our talents, but that is no different from what we did in the Gryphon-Equestria wars and the Equestrian-Yakyakistan War. Every time then, we triumphed by putting our trust in one another, and in working together with our friends to win the day.” Twilight smiled, her voice filled with confidence. “I believe we can do it again.”

Vinyl frowned for a moment, thinking about it and smiled. “I can’t see why not, Twilight.”

At the time in Venecia…

True to Alternia’s prediction, Celestia and herself had suffered a major hangover the next morning. Yes, Celestia was naturally alcoholic resistant due to her being an alicorn, but she had purposefully cast a spell that temporarily suppressed her own resistance.

Since that terrible morning of major headaches though, the pair had been busy. Celestia was still recovering from her battle injuries in the infirmary, while Alternia had been consulting Retariusil about the layout to her mother’s hive. Glad to be able to assist Alternia in finding a weakness to the kelpies, Retariusil had been very forthcoming.

Apparently, Murmillar and her Sea Snakes had built their hive into lava tubes running from the original island of Venecia into the sea, underneath the wooden piles that most of Venecia had been built upon. Lava tubes, being tunnels created from past volcanic lava flows. The tsunami however, had caused several of them to cave in, leading to much of the hive being flooded, which was going to be the chief difficulty for this expedition.

Now, Doggess Sebastiana was understandingly supportive of their plan, providing old maps of the Venecian foundations. What was surprising to Alternia though, was that Sebastiana seemed completely unfazed that her city had a changeling queen and Retariusil seemed absolutely fine with the Doggess knowing about her hive’s location. The pair simply greeted each other and started discussing possible entry points.

“Wait, wait, how do you two know each other?” Alternia asked perplexed beyond belief, Harlequin had a similar expression on his face, while Diamondshell was practically petrified.

Retariusil and Doggess Sebastiana glanced at one another before the changeling queen coughed. “Oh, well, I decided that after my hive was flooded, my mother murdered, the entire island of Venecia blockaded, the secrecy of the changelings on Venecia could take a hike.”

“So Retariusil came to me. We decided to be discrete about the existence of a hive, but I appreciated her warning me about the kelpies and so I helped her stow away on a supply vessel, fashioning documents for her that identified her as a Venecian who had passed on in the tsunami,” said Sebastiana.

“Ah, well good for both of you. Now, Retariusil, perhaps we can try—”

“Alternia, you need to take a look at this!”

Alternia turned around to see Celestia trotting to her, a telegram in hoof, a worried look to her features. Biting her lip, Alternia thanked Celestia, braced herself and read the telegram.

“The entire island of Karkanos disappeared?” Half-squawked Alternia as she stared at the telegram.

Celestia nodded. “We’ve mobilized the Western Fleet to investigate why and have ordered our western ports to fortify against a possible kelpie assault, but if the kelpies can make an entire island disappear…”

“Then we are in deep sh*t,” spat Diamondshell.

And everypony and changeling present became suddenly and acutely aware of exactly where they were.

“Damn it. How did they destroy an entire island!” Alternia demanded as she read the telegram and the notes sent with it. There was nothing important about Karkanos island, but the fact that it had just disappeared was alarming enough.

“Unsure. The destroyer captain said their was a series of major waves in the water, a lot of sediment kicked up, and then they realized the island had simply disappeared mid-day,” explained Celestia.

Sebastiana swallowed and gestured to the map of Equestria and its surrounding seas hung onto the wall. “If the kelpies are in the Western Sea, then we are going to be fighting a two front war.”

“Wait, but something doesn’t make sense,” said Harlequin.

Retariusil peered closely at the map. “What do you mean?”

Harlequin jumped into the air and buzzed to the top of the map, tracing his hoof island-dotted channel of blue-mapped water behind Yakyakistan, the Yaket Mountain range, and the Mount Everhoof, all the way down to Manehattan.

“This is the legendary “Northwest Passage” that connects the Eastern and Western oceans together. It’s the only way that the kelpies, heck, any ships or water-swimming creature can get from the Eastern to the Western seas.”

“So the kelpies used it to get to the Western Ocean, big deal captain,” said Retariusil sarcastically.

Alternia and Celestia though glanced at each other though, their eyes widening in realization.

Harlequin noticed and grimaced. “There’s a reason I say, “legendary”. It’s sealed by ice. Many pony explorers have died in their attempts to explore and map this complicated passage. That was until Through-Road found out that there was no route. Theoretically, if the ice melted, then ships could pass, but the ice is constant throughout the seasons and according to recent surveys, the ice extends to the sea floor.”

Alternia frowned and tapped the map. “So how would the kelpies and seaponies be able to get across the land and into the Western Sea? I mean, theoretically you could use the river system.” Alternia traced the river from Horseshoe bay and toward the Everfree Forest, and stopped. “But the river serpent Steven Magnet guards the rivers of the Everfree Forest, which is the only way from the rivers of the east to the rivers of the west and last I checked, he’s still alive and kicking.”

“When was that, your highness?” Diamondshell asked curiously.

“Three days ago. Luna visited him on her way to check on the Castle of the Two Pony sisters in order to thank him for helping Twilight and her friends to cross his river… and to apologize for nicking his moustache,” said Alternia. When the other ponies and changelings stared at Alternia perplexed, the queen shrugged. “It’s a long story.”

“We also have to consider that rivers are fairly shallow and clear in Equestria, which means that the kelpies have to travel by night only and find ways to seek shelter from the sun while in daytime,” pointed out Sunset Shimmer.

“So, assuming it wasn’t the kelpies, who can’t exactly get to the Western Sea, what exactly happened, and how could it make an island vanish?” asked Celestia.

Nobody had an answer to her question.

After a moment, Alternia decided not to waste any more time on thinking about this conundrum and turned to her co-ruler. “Celestia, I think we should recall the Western Fleet closer to our coasts and ports instead of trying to investigate it directly. Whatever happened, we need to make sure they can help prevent or respond to any emergency. Instead, I suggest using some of our smaller ships to check out what happened.”

“Agreed, I’ll tell Luna about our findings,” said Celestia.

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