• 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 22: Complications

Venecia, a week later…

Two black-painted REINS zeppelins descended toward the beach, where Alternia and Tethys’s delegations waited patiently. Larger than the non-rigid blimps, the zeppelins also had sleeker forms and more powerful engines.

As the ships approached Alternia wondered if Tethys, who had just arrived fifteen minutes after the sun had set, could spy the guns underslung in the zeppelins’ carriages. They were small guns though, only firing three inch diameter shells and more for use in surgical strikes and against other airships. They wouldn’t do a thing against Tethys.

Gently, the two airships were brought in by hooks, cables and magic, working in synchronization to anchor the airships to the ground. Only then could the passengers disembark.

The changeling princess was understandably nervous and she imagined Luna,, Simulacris, and Belladonna, who were in the first zeppelin, shared her fear. However, Alternia was more concerned about Twilight and her friends, who were in the second zeppelin.

This would be the first time they had ever seen anything like Tethys in person and she imagined their bladders were feeling loose. Granted, the darkness of night meant they probably could only see the bare outline of Tethys. However, some of the airships’ interior lights reflected off of Tethys’s carapace giving the alicorns and changelings some indication of her size.

The Equestrians and changelings had spent the week before the arrival of Luna and the others discussing with Tethys to figure out a plan of attack and for the details of when Queen Murmillar would be returned to Venecia. Every time they had a meeting, Tethys had shown up in her full battleship-dwarfing glory. Understandably, Alternia and the others hadn’t dared to interrupt Tethys as she had spoken, even if there were opportunities to interject.

So far, the Aquestrians and Equestrians had confirmed the roles of Tethys and the Equestrians and changelings in the operation, and had drawn up several joint contingency plans in case they had failed. They had agreed that Cadance would stay in Equestria, but that Luna, Belladonna, and Simulacris should come assist in the operation. However, the Equestrians’ need to worm information out of the Aquestrians had made joint contingency plans incredibly difficult to plan out.

At least this meeting shouldn’t be dogged with too many issues. They were just greeting and introducing the new arrivals before continuing with their strategy discussions. Before too long, the weapon should be forged and they would be ready to start the operation.

The problem was that Alternia could sense Tethys was feeling angry at something and she didn’t bother to hide it. Her tentacles were twisting together, huge coils of armored muscle that created an ear-screeching grating sound as they rubbed together.

“Is there anything wrong, Empress?” asked Alternia.

“Yes. I can smell the one known as Nightmare Moon.”

Nobody could miss the vehemence in Tethys’s tone and Celestia’s head snapped to stare at Tethys, her eyes wide with terror. Alternia froze, paralyzed with indecision.

“Empress, what did Nightmare Moon do to the kelpies?” Retariusil asked in a quavering voice.

“It’s a matter of what she didn’t do. She offered a chance to live on the surface during the time Samudra was trying to purge kelpies from existence and without “the tyranny of the sun.” I gave her a hundred of my best warriors to complete her task and only one returned to tell of her defeat.”

“The army in the river…” Celestia swallowed. “Then you know of my role in killing your soldiers, Empress.”

Alternia couldn’t help but glare at Celestia to try to silence her, but it was too late and Tethys’s massive eyes now focused on Celestia.

“That you burned them from on high where they could not fight back. Yes, but Nightmare Moon was the one I trusted my warriors to. Under her command, she threw them away.”

“Luna— Nightmare Moon is dead, Empress, she doesn’t exist,” spluttered Celestia, even as her eyes glanced at the now anchored airship and the ponies getting out.

“Yet I can smell her,” said Tethys, the edge of her lips curling upwards to reveal more of her teeth.

It was at that moment that Alternia, who had been inching closer and closer to the landed airship, saw Luna regally step forward onto the airships landing ramp leading to the beach. Immediately, the changeling abandoned all sense of subtlety and ran for her co-ruler.

Wait, why did the air feel so cold all of a sudden? Why couldn’t she move? Why were her muscles locking up?

Luna’s regal expression had slowly given way to terror as ice rose to lock her legs in place. Desperately, Luna managed to break one of her hooves out of the ice, which she used to smash her way out. However, more ice formed on her wings and her body, so much so that Luna, in spite of her using magic to blast some of the ice off, soon found herself encased. Celestia resisted a little longer, but the lack of magic control she had due to her shorn off horn meant she soon joined her sister’s situation.

That same ice formed on the wings and hooves of her thestral guards, pinning them to the ground where they were trapped. Icicles also formed on the airships themselves, spears of frozen water that suddenly hung themselves off of lines and off the airsac.

At the same time, Tethys’s tentacles stretched out to wrap around the airship locking it in place, making sure there was no escape. And just to be absolutely sure, several of her other tentacles seized the second airship, with Twilight in it.

Alternia couldn’t see her student, but she did see the blast of purple fire cut through the night to try to melt the ice that was quickly forming on the airship.

At that sight, the changeling princess’s heart dropped to her stomach. Twilight must have been panicking in the rocking airship and reacted instinctively. If she shot Tethys by accident…

“Twilight don’t attack! You’ll hit the Empress!” Alternia roared and thankfully, the purple fire stopped.

Whipping her head around, Alternia tried to find Typhon and Ebb. They were actually scrambling away from the water of the beach, which was beginning to freeze. A web of cold fractal patterns that spread to cover the water near the beach, freezing the waves in place. Typhon and Ebb had gotten the hell away from the water and instead of trying to blast the ice off of themselves, they resorted to hydromancing any moisture off of themselves. They didn’t seem to be too badly affected by the cold though, which in Alternia’s hindsight made sense. The water in the deep sea trenches were known to drop to freezing after all.

However, nopony, alicorn or changeling could move much. Most of them were covered in ice so heavy they were pinned in place. They couldn’t even break through the ice as it was too cold to do anything but try curl up in a ball for warmth. Their very muscles were twitching due to the sudden freezing drop in temperature. The gun crews on the airships couldn’t move their jammed weapons and neither could the airships escape. One or two had their hooves actually frozen to the steel. Alternia herself was pinned, all four hooves stuck to the ground or weighed down by chilling ice that had formed on her carapace.

And yet, despite having all of the Equestrians and their allies frozen, Tethys did nothing but stare at the shivering Luna.

“Why did you throw away the lives of my soldiers so lightly?” demanded the Empress coldly, her tone bleak as the arctic north.

“W—what do you mean?” asked Luna.

“A thousand years ago, you asked me for some of my best warriors.”

“What? But I…” Luna’s eyes widened and as far as she was, Alternia could feel the guilt well into the forefront of Luna’s moist eyes. “The Nightmare… I must not have been in my right mind! The Nightmare had taken over my body and I—I’m so s—s—sorry your soldiers paid for it,” stammered Luna.

“Had you accompanied them as you said you would and led them in the attack, I wouldn’t have minded the loss. But instead of letting them bring you to victory, you wasted them. As mere diversions.”

Luna averted her eyes. “I know… I know…” Swallowing she forced herself to look up at Tethys, even though she was quivering. “What do you want of me?”

“N—no! I—I killed them! I—I’m at f—fault!” exclaimed Celestia.

“Celestia, shut up!” snapped Alternia. They were all in danger. Celestia, Luna, her sisters, Retariusil, Sebastiana, Twilight and her friends. What was said right now could kill them or save them.

But what would satisfy the Empress? Princess Luna was already going to be the kelpies hostage for five years! Alternia dared not risk allowing Luna to be in the kelpies hooves for any longer.

The airship shook as Tethys’s grip momentarily tightened on it before relaxing, slightly.

“Normally, I’d have already enacted punishment, but circumstances will not allow it. Princess Luna, we will need your power, but do not think I will ever forget that.”

Alternia let out a chattering sigh as she looked up at the furious Tethys.

“We thank you for your mercy and discretion, Empress. I would also like to remind you that L—Luna is going to be your h—hostage for f—five years as agreed upon! D—during that t—time can you not assign her some k—kind of penance for her c—crime? S—she clearly is sorry for w—what she did to you!”

Tethys didn’t even spare Alternia a glance, but narrowed her eyes at Luna. “If we survive, you’ll be working in the most toxic of the polluted areas created by your vessels. The fact you don’t breath water will give you a distinct advantage over my sea ponies.”

“T—thank you, E—empress,” said Alternia, trusting that the Empress’s punishment would not harm Luna physically, even if it would likely be very unpleasant.

Luna nodded shakily. “Thank you, Empress.”

The Empress didn’t respond, still staring at Luna and she continued to star even as Celestia summoned more of her magic and cast a spell that seemed to warm the air, before galloping to Luna, blasting the ice from her and seizing her in a hug.

Unsurprisingly though, even as her icy prison melted, the fear Alternia had for Tethys remained, even as she was released from her icy prison. Moreover, the changeling couldn’t help but narrow her eyes at the Empress and doubt. Would Tethys really keep her word if her hostility to Luna, and those on the surface, was so great?

“So, Archmage Meringue, what is the plan for forging this weapon?” asked Ebb Flow as the delegation approached the forging area.

An entire steel factory on Venecia had been vacated for the creation of the weapon. Now within it, the delegation from Aquestria and the Equestrian leaders were watching ponies scurry around, bringing materials and plans back and forth.

Well, trying to do so anyway. Tethys had not reduced her size and joined them on land. The trip to the factory had therefore been… interesting. The Empress had been so large, even now, her tail slunk all the way back into the ocean where she had left for the moment. Not that the factory was too far from the ocean, but it was still nearly five hundred meters inland.

It also meant that the entirety of Venecia had basically shook as she walked to the factory. Alternia doubted the kelpie was stomping on purpose as Tethys moved in a very methodical manner, only knocking a couple of street lamps over and she really couldn’t help it. Despite this though, Alternia and her friends couldn’t help but watch with terrified fascination as the Empress, most of her form shadowed by the night arrived at the factory, which she dwarfed. At least it was night, which meant the Empress’s terrifying form was basically invisible unless you were right next to her.

Tethys didn’t let the smaller size of the factory obstruct her from observing though. She basically stuck a tentacle through the door and to the onlookers disgust, the tentacle morphed into a grotesque single black eye flanked by two ears.

It was this group that a nervous Meringue led to the master design table where the blueprint for the weapon lay.

“After measuring Empress Tethys’s size and accounting for her preferences, we decided on a long-bladed spear one hundred meters long, with a blade fifteen meters in length. In order to forge the entire weapon though, we will have to create the shaft and the blade separately.”

“What will the shaft be made of?” asked Chrysalis.

Meringue directed them to a group of welders working on assembling a mold that stretched across the factory floor. “Steel, low carbon of course. We want the shaft to have some flex. Luckily, although the smiths of Venecia aren’t used to making a solid steel shaft, since they often have to shape sheet metal into ship masts, they do have the molds necessary to make a solid steel one. We just had to weld a bunch of them together.”

The archmage pointed to the mages writing formulas on paper.

“After the shaft is cast, we’ll inscribe the entire thing with reinforcing runes and set up a framework so that you can pour in the power to fuel the strength enchantments. We haven’t done this on such a large scale and in such a short time, but with so many minds working together, we should be fine.”

“The real problem is the actual blade,” said Meringue. The archmage gestured to the group of arguing blacksmiths in heavy aprons and mages in elaborate robes in the corner of the factory. “It’s too big for normal forging tools so we’re trying to figure out how to incorporate telekinesis with the forging. We might even have to use some of the steam power tools we employ to make ships.”

“Why don’t we help levitate the blade, Archmage?” asked Belladonna.

Meringue shrugged. “You could, your highnesses, but we don’t really need that kind of assistance. We are debating more about the actual forging steps. Nopony has forged a spearblade this big after all.”

“What material will the blade be made of?” asked Ebb.

“High carbon steel. We have plenty of iron from the ships destroyed into the tsunami. We’ll also be applying clay to help control the tempering of the blade as well. The blade itself will have a hexagonal cross-section. We believe we would need extra strength over penetrating power after all,” said Meringue.

The archmage pointed to another group of mages trying to write down formulas and runes. “The spearhead is going to be enchanted with reinforcing runes, but also with a powerful paralyzing enchantment. It should immobilize the Great One, allowing Empress Tethys to devour him.”

“Good. Could you think of anything to counter the Great One’s mind control ability, Meringue?” Alternia asked.

Meringue coughed nervously, her eyes averted. “Unfortunately, no. We still can’t seem to figure out how to break the mind control on the protestors and neither can we detect how they were even mind controlled in the first place.”

Despite being outside the factory, and clearly lowering her voice to a rasp, Tethys’s voice boomed through the factory.

“It’s likely because it’s a result of the old one’s presence as opposed to an actual spell of any kind, since they unconsciously dominate the weak minded through mere proximity. The greatest danger is the Old One mentally dominating one of us once the battle starts.

Belladonna frowned. “That’s going to be a problem. But we might have a limited countermeasure. I’ll have to do some theorizing and research though.” Alternia wondered what it would be, but didn’t question her sister now.

“Please keep us informed,” said Ebb. She and the Empress’s eye turned to Alternia. “Now, considering you’re keeping to your side of the bargain, we have decided to allow Queen Retariusil to talk to Queen Murmillar via a scrying spell we will perform.”

Retariusil made an attempt to prevent her joy from affecting her diplomatic stoicism, but she couldn’t help but glance at Ebb with wide, hopeful eyes.

“What time?” asked the young queen.

“Once the sun sets,” said Ebb.

As thanks for arranging for the construction of the weapon, Alternia had invited Meringue to her private chambers for dinner with Celestia, Luna, Shining Armor, her sisters, Retariusil, and Sebastiana. Although they were still rationing their food, the chefs had managed to make do and produce a fresh, albeit somewhat slimy, unfamiliar and very salty tasting seaweed salad for the Equestrian princesses and the changeling queens.

The seaweed had been sent from Aquestria to help feed the herbivore population of Venecia. It was edible, although rubbery, but it was nutritious and after days on rations, the ponies of Venecia appreciated a little more variety in their diet.

Only half the remaining population of Venecia were herbivores though. There were many gryphons and minotaurs who needed meat proteins in their diet.

Luckily, the Empress had that covered.

Alternia tried not to recall that moment as she chewed on her food. Tethys’s massive tentacles had hauled out onto the sand, two corpses.

Two whale corpses.

One of the oceanographers on their team had identified them as a blue whale. Alternia didn’t know how significant that classification was, but the whales were huge. They were both thirty meters in length, and were so heavy that Alternia could see their bodies compressing under their own weight as they lay on the beach. Of course, they looked rather small compared to Tethys… who was more than twelve times their size.

Rather thoughtfully of Tethys, she had brought several kelpies along to explain to the gryphon chefs on what parts of the two animals could be used for food, and what could be used commercially. It turned out that a whale was rather useful. The fat could be used for oil, the baleen used for combs, the bones for jewelry and the meat could basically feed all the meat eating citizens of Venecia. Of course, the kelpies had also warned the gryphons in particular, but also the Equestrians that by no means were they going to trade any more whale corpses unless in special circumstances. Apparently, the whales were rather important to keeping the number of plankton in check.

Alternia had sampled some of the cooked meat herself along with Chrysalis and Retariusil, much to the disgust of Celestia and Luna. It was very heavy, and almost beef-like compared to some of the other fish and meat she had sampled over the years.

Swallowing her food, Alternia turned her attention back to the dinner conversation, but to be honest, everybody was too exhausted by an entire day of preparation to talk too much and so dinner conversation was light, the topics inconsequential.

At least, until Meringue suddenly sat straight up in her seat, her eyes wide with sudden revelation.

“What’s wrong, Meringue?” asked Alternia,

The archmage frowned. “Your highness, I just realized. The weapon isn’t much practical use against Equestria, but we could actually use it against Tethys if she turns on us.”

Shining Armor’s eyes narrowed and he put down his fork. “Go on.”

“Assuming we defeat the Old One and the weapon works against him. That would mean the weapon would be equally as effective against Tethys.”

Alternia sighed and averted her gaze. “It’s an idea, but let’s not talk shop at dinner, Meringue.”

The archmage sighed. “I know… but we really do need some kind of assurance that Tethys won’t turn on us. Allowing the weapon to be kept in our possession would at least provide some kind of buffer against the possibility of Tethys turning on us.”

Celestia shook her head. “Unfortunately, I am going to have to disagree with you, Archmage Meringue. Tethys can change size. Our spear won’t be able to do anything against her if she shrinks. Besides, none of us have used a weapon of such size before, much less an enchanted one.”

Alternia grimaced, her food forgotten. “With all this talk of trying to kill Tethys, I’m beginning to see why she doesn’t trust us to uphold our end of the bargain.”

“She basically froze all of us in a moment of anger, Alternia. Are we unreasonable for not thinking of ways to stop her if she turns on us?” Belladonna asked.

Alternia was about to reply, but stopped and instead, sighed. “Yes and no. We’re all scared of what she can do and so I think it is reasonable to think of ways to protect ourselves. However, trying to tamper with the weapon itself or use it against her is a stupid idea that could simply reignite the war between our factions. After all, the weapon can’t be used against us and we can’t use the weapon against her. It’s too large and unwieldy. Moreover, trying or even coming up with schemes to neutralize her entirely will be seen by her as an aggressive act if she finds out and I am even more terrified of that prospect.”

“So we basically have to think of contingencies and just bolster our defences I guess,” said Luna dejectedly. “At least Tethys has briefed us on the Old One’s abilities.”

“Thank Equestria she did because I and our librarians couldn’t find anything about the Old Ones in our archives. She must have some pretty old works to refer to,” said Meringue.

Retariusil nodded and immediately afterward frowned. “Wait, that can’t be right. Kelpies don’t use writing. Seaponies do, as do deep ponies, but not kelpies.”

Celestia glanced at Retariusil. “What do you mean—” The alicorn paused, her eyes widening. “Hold on, you’re right, the kelpies have good nocturnal vision but they rely on their hearing and their smell more than their sight. This and the fact they’ve been confined to the deep sea trenches for years meant they developed an oral-based tradition of history and education, not a written-based one.”

“Tethys is old though, she must know how to read or else she wouldn’t have sent us that rock,” pointed out Alternia.

Chrysalis cut in. “Yes, but how would she know so much about the Old One then if the kelpies never had a need to keep archives? Sure there are seapony archives she could have familiarized herself with, but did you notice that Typhon, Ebb Flow and Brinewing deferred to Tethys, Alternia?” she asked.

Alternia’s brow furrowed even more. She had in fact, and hadn’t thought much of it, but now…

Chrysalis continued. “That indicates that they know very little, while the Empress knows a lot. Typhon and Brinewing I imagine would not have access to any seapony or kelpie archives, but why would Ebb, Tethys’s guard commander, not know as much as her own Empress if there were books or a book to read?”

“More importantly, how does Tethys know so much about this Old One, when we know that they can essentially enslave them permanently?” asked Sebastiana eyes wide with trepidation.

The dinner table was silent as they pondered the questions they had raised.

Alternia dropped her head into her hooves. “By the Great Hive Mothers. This is why I hate talking shop during dinner.”

“Sorry,” said Meringue, having the grace to avert her eyes.

“It’s alright, Meringue. At least we now know and can ponder these questions. For now though, I think finishing dinner is first,” said Alternia.

Try as she might though, the changeling couldn’t banish those questions from her mind.

Alternia had one final stop before she retired to her chambers that night. She hadn’t had much time to write to Twilight ever since the negotiations began, but now that she was here, the princess wasn’t going to miss this chance to talk to her student.

She went to Twilight’s room with Harlequin and temporary captain Hydrangea. Taking special care not to make any noise, she and her escort trotted through the hallway leading to the rooms where the rest of the Elements of Harmony were probably sleeping.

However, Alternia was fairly certain Twilight would not be doing so. This was Twilight Sparkle after all.

Knocking on the door, Alternia waited for a moment until it opened to reveal Spike, his bedcap already perched on his scaly head.

“Princess!” exclaimed the dragon.

“How are you, Spike,” said Alternia smiling.

Spike was about to reply, but the urge to yawn cut him off and Alternia chuckled as the dragon rubbed his eyes. “Sleepy.”

“Well it is rather late, Spike. Is Twilight still up?” asked Alternia, trotting in with her guards.

“Yes…” Spike yawned again. “Well, it was nice seeing you, Princess. Goodnight,” groaned Spike as he waddled off.

Laughing quietly to herself, Alternia made her way to the room’s study.

Twilight’s quill was swishing across a piece of parchment, a single candle, almost completely burned out, flickered next to her right hoof, providing her a bit of light. Because Alternia entered behind her though, the unicorn didn’t see her.

“What have I told you about staying up too late, Twilight?” asked Alternia in a cheeky tone.

Twilight jumped in her seat and turned eyes wide. Upon seeing her mentor, she lept out of her chair and almost tackled the taller changeling to the ground, stopping only due to her noticing Alternia’s carapace. After a moment’s recovery though, Twilight settled for wrapping her forehooves around Alternia’s legs.

“Alternia! I’ve missed you so much!”

“I’ve missed you too, my faithful student,” said Alternia, nuzzling Twilight’s ears.

It was a long moment before Twilight and Alternia finally released each other.

“So, what’s the reason for your visit, Prin—Alternia?” asked Twilight pulling a few cushions for her mentor to sit.

“Can’t I visit my student and dear friend, whom I haven’t seen in more than a month?” asked Alternia, sitting down on the cushion.

Twilight chuckled nervously, as Alternia continued to smile. “Right… it’s just been so long and you’ve been so busy…”

“That it’s been a while we’ve had a talk,” finished Alternia somewhat saddened. “Why don’t we start with an easy question. How has it been in Ponyville? I’ve heard you participated in a radio interview with General Hanna Belle.”

“Oh! You heard about that? Well I’ve been trying to contribute to Equestria’s wider efforts to negotiate with and defend against the kelpies. You know, just writing knowledge articles, giving insight on the Equestrian crown’s actions and explaining your policies. I’ve also been um… training myself in more combat-orientated magic,” said Twilight.

Alternia nodded, impressed. “That explains the purple fire you shot at the ice. Was that Elminster’s Flare?”

“Yes. I was thinking I might need it if… well, you know…” Twilight swallowed, silent for a second before she looked up at Alternia.

“Alternia, everything I’ve learned about friendship tells me that we should try to make peace with the kelpies. We have… or are trying to, but all my instincts are saying that we need to keep them at leg-length or else get killed. That the best we can achieve — even if this treaty is successful — is an uneasy peace.” Twilight took a deep breath. “What I’m trying to say is, if friendship is a magical force that can affect all creatures, then why do I feel… well know, that we’re not going to be friends with the kelpies anytime soon?”

Alternia pursed her lips eyebrows furrowed, she inclined her head slightly and her eyes gazed off into the distance.

“Even now I’m not sure how the Elements of Harmony and the magic of friendship work, Twilight, so I don’t have a definite answer. What I do know Twilight is that sometimes the magic of friendship plays a long term game. Take the Griffons. Fifty years ago, we couldn’t stand each other and we still are worried about their military might, but now, at least we have a detente in our relations. I suspect that we’ll have to apply the principles of friendship in the same manner in regards to the kelpies.”

“We actually have been applying these principles now. Since, the kelpies do not trust us, so we have tried to be honest with them and it has worked to some degree. As the kelpies want what was theirs, so we have been generous in facilitating and meeting their rightful demands. In time, with the familial exchange, I hope the seaponies will remember us treating them kindly.”

Twilight frowned. “But loyalty and laughter? After all that has happened between our alliances, how can that begin between our species? They’ve collapsed Queen Retariusil’s hive, kept her mother hostage, after they destroyed it with a tsunami. I can sortof see why they destroyed our fleet, but that’s still something ponies will remember for years to come. It won’t comfort the mother who has lost her child.”

“I agree. Even now, I very much suspect Tethys has not been completely upfront with some important issues. That’s why I will play the long game. I will do my best to ensure Equestria’s safety, but I do believe that if I continue in this endeavour, one day in the future, when memories of our faults have faded, when kelpies learn to trust us, and when we both have better memories of each other, perhaps ponies and kelpies can be friends.”

Alternia sighed. “I have no illusions of the distant nature of this goal though. Tethys will kill in cold blood when she sees it is fit to do so and all the kelpies we have met are aggressive, abrasive and highly dangerous. Typhon is friendlier, but then again, he grew up with sea ponies. Yet, I still don’t want to believe this is a world where we have to destroy each other to survive unless I absolutely have to.”

Twilight seemed to understand that and she nodded solemnly.

“I hope you’re right, Princess.”

Alternia sighed, her shoulders sagging. “So do I, Twilight. So do I.”

The Next Morning...

Retariusil held her breath as Ebb’s tentacles slowly waved through the air as she hydromanced the waters near the beach into a perfectly smooth pane of water, almost like a mirror, except colored in perfectly sea-green turquoise. Beside her stood Alternia, her sisters, Luna and Celestia and Sebastiana, all of whom wanted to meet the fabled queen.

The image of a changeling queen faded into view in this water-mirror’s very centre, and as Retariusil saw it, she couldn’t help the tears from springing into her eyes.


Alternia winced at the forlorn sob in Retariusil’s voice. No daughter deserved to see their mother so guant, so clearly malnourished. Oh the kelpies had kept their promise. Murmillar did look clean and her still-bright amber eyes indicated she was well hydrated. Alternia knew though that the larger than normal holes in her legs and wings meant that the other queen’s body was pretty much in famine mode.

Somehow though, the relieved grin on Murmillar’s features made things just a bit better.

“Retariusil. I…” The changeling queen wiped away the rapidly forming tears with a hoof. “You’ve grown.”

“Really?” Retariusil asked.

“Yeah.” Murmillar smiled. “I’m so proud of you right now.” Retariusil nodded, unable to speak.

Celestia coughed loudly, drawing Murmillar’s gaze to her. “Sorry to interrupt, but may we see some proof that you are Queen Murmillar.”

Ebb’s eyes narrowed, her tentacles tensed as Retariusil gawked at Celestia in horror. “You think we would deceive you?” demanded the captain.

“Can’t you?” quipped Belladonna.

“Well it’s a good thing we prepared for this eventuality, right Queen Murmillar?” asked Typhon tapping Ebb with one of his tentacles in a not-so-subtle fashion.

Murmillar chuckled. “Indeed.” Eyes focusing on Belladonna and Simulacris, Murmillar wet her lips. “Queen Belladonna, I trust that my information on the disappearance of your mother and older sister proved useful?”

Belladonna’s eyes narrowed, as did Chrysalis’s. “Yes it did. Do you know what I paid you in?” she asked.

“You gave me the location of Queen Ratched’s hive,” replied Murmillar.

“That was you? You were responsible for leading Sarar to her?” gasped Chrysalis.

“I had some contacts in Griffonia, and you know as well as I do that Ratched deserved what Sarar gave her,” said Belladonna coldly. Glancing at Simulacris, Belladonna flicked her head. “Well, your turn Simulacris. You know Murmillar better than Chrysalis did after all.”

Simulacris nodded, her eyes narrowing. “Alright. Murmillar, who are your parents?”

Instead of responding though, Murmillar sent Simulacris a flat look. “Grandmother, you know who my parents are. Queen Veil and the chevalier Furcifer.”

Alternia, Chrysalis and Belladonna’s eyes widened and as they turned to their sister.

Retariusil’s jaw had dropped. “What? How is that… we… you…” The young queen shook her head. “That doesn’t make sense! We don’t have red eyes or a red mane! We can’t be related! I even tracked our lineage! We’re descended from the Fourth Great Hive Mother, Theraphosia, not the First, Zagara!”

“We are, though it’s a tenuous connection. I only was familiar with your great, grandmother Queen Shroud about six hundred years back. She acted as one of my vassals for quite some time. During her service to me, she had a thing with one of my sons and eventually we separated on good terms when she moved her hive to Venecia.” Simulacris sighed. “I never knew what happened to them until Murmillar showed up about a hundred years later.”

“We had a talk and discovered our relation, but frankly, we didn’t feel any sense of family with one another. We both agreed we would keep it secret though, to prevent the knowledge from attracting attention. After all, it was would give me more freedom to lead an independent hive rather than one affiliated with a line that attracted as much attention as Chamelia’s,” said Murmillar.

“A wise decision,” said Alternia frowning, despite her admiration of Murmillar’s discretion. Alternia’s mother Chamelia was after all, the daughter of the first changeling queen in the world, the Great Hive Mother Zagara. Alternia hadn’t quite relearned about her family history until recently, but the mere mention of their mother’s name often attracted quite a bit of unwanted scrutiny from other queens.

Murmillar turned to Alternia, and smiling affably, she dipped her head out of respect. Alternia was five-hundred years her senior after all. On the other hoof, the changeling princess could also see the younger queen’s eyes narrow out of interest.

“You must be Queen Alternia. I’ve heard quite a bit about you from my captors.”

“And I’ve heard a lot about you from your daughter, Queen Murmillar. Retariusil is a bit on the hotheaded side, but she does your lineage proud,” said Alternia. Retariusil was torn between pride and embarrassment as she smiled at her mother.

“Thank you, all of you, for taking care of her,” said Murmillar, still smiling, but her voice was serious and Alternia could tell just from the queen’s eyes of how grateful Murmillar felt toward them.

Chrysalis smiled and glanced at Ebb. “Unfortunately, we don’t have much time. We’ll be leaving you and Retariusil to catch up. But before we do that, we do have one question though.” She pursed her lips. “Can you fight?”

Murmillar winced. “Unfortunately, no. Even if you send me packets of love jelly. I wouldn’t be able to recover fast enough to help you face the Old One. I should be able to help bolster Retariusil mentally, but that’s all I can do.”

Alternia sighed. “Understood. See you soon, Queen Murmillar.” With that the changeling queens and Celestia, bowed and left.

“I take it you enjoyed that time with your daughter, Murmillar?” said Ebb.

Queen Murmillar nodded emphatically as she read over another one of the books the kelpies had taken from her library. Tethys may know much about the Old One, but any more information was useful information.

To complicate her research though, Tethys had said nothing as to where her knowledge of the Old One came from.

“I did. Unfortunately, my daughter and I did not appreciate your close watch,” said Murmillar flatly.

Ebb shook her head. “We are already making a rather big sacrifice letting you go. You can’t begrudge us for trying to keep secret the fact that the Empress has been spying on the Queen network.”

Murmillar rolled her eyes even as her shoulders sank. “And once I’m out, I could hardly tell anybody or else I’d be punished for revealing the secret of the Queen Crystals.” The changeling queen glanced at Ebb. “You know, for a species who prefers direct conflict, you are far too experienced with intrigue and blackmail.”

A dark look came over Ebb’s features. “When you deal with someone as backstabbing, lying and traitorous as Samudra, you get smart or die. The Empress and I, well we were among those who got smart.”

Nodding, Murmillar turned back to her book. In spite of her situation, for some reason, she felt somewhat glad that Samudra was dead.

A week later...

North of Manehattan, in one of the small coves that dotted the coasts, nearly a hundred ponies, about ten griffons, a minotaur and even a zebra had gathered near the beach.

Just like those on the Western Ocean, they were chanting, but the name on their lips was… different. And unlike those on the Western Ocean, they did not bow, and scrape their mouths on the sand. These ponies and griffons stood in the water.

The leader, a gauntly thin white earth pony, wet a white bone dagger, likely made from a whale’s skeleton in the seawater, before slashing it across his foreleg and dunking it into the seawater. Gritting his teeth against the sting of the salt, he then passed the dagger to the mare next to him. She slashed her foreleg and did the same.

They then dragged a rope-bound green earth pony mare to the beach. They had gagged her at first, but dragging the struggles of the mare had meant the cloth sealing her mouth had slipped. Now she lay on the beach, her neck over the sea, pleading with her captors.

“Please! Stop! Why are you doing this? What are you going to do to me?” whimpered the mare.

The gaunt priest grinned. “Do not struggle, little pony. We have awaited a thousand years for this. Given ours lives for this. Unlike those foolish Vanhoover and Las Pegasus ponies, we actually made our choices to be patient, to wait for our god, and now, the hour of our reward is at hoof.” The priest gripped the bone knife in his hoof and licked it. “But first things first, you must die.”

“What? NO! Please—”

The priest was swift, he slit her throat with practice and within seconds, the pony’s eyes had closed, her whimpers faded to silence. As her blood was taken out to sea by the waves, the group began to chant. They didn’t wave, made no ceremony, just chanted, and let the tide take their blood out to sea.

Speak to us, mouth of the Old Ones.

Hear our pleas, ears of our Great Gods.

Demon of the Abyss, come with your mighty host.

Shadow of his majesty,

Fiend of a thousand faces

Let us glimpse thy ever-shifting form!

We offer our service to thee.

We offer our lives to thee.

We bear gifts to satisfy your everlasting hunger.

So come and devour, oh Ist’ytal

And let us adore you.

Oh come, let us adore you,

Great devourer, oh hungry Ist’ytal

Come and devour.



As the cultists finished, a dark form burst out of the water, and continued to rise, until it towered over the congregation, its massive bulk filling the cove.

Tethys’s black eyes narrowed at the cultists who looked up at her in wide-eyed awe and joy.

“It’s has been millennia since I have answered that summons. What is the purpose of this?”

“Ist’ytal! First Priestess of the Great One Yoth-Atal! The hour is upon us! What we have waited for and prayed for a thousand years has happened! The return of our gods are at hoof and the lands and oceans are still ruled by false princesses, and weak kings. All three false princesses of Equestria still live and they are all upon Venecia, in the midst of your domain! We call upon you to devour Alternia the Deceiver, Celestia the Liar and Luna the Corrupted!”

“In return, we offer you our services, our lives, our eternal loyalty! Send us to do your bidding, to incite revolts across the land, to spread the gospel of our gods, the good news that will open the eyes of all!”

“Has the Great One whispered it’s true name to you?” asked Tethys.

“Oh yes, priestess of Yoth-Atal! We have heard its whispers, seen its portents and observed the signs. The first to return is Sh'Nihalar, The Conqueror! He Who Will Unify Land and Sea! He has awakened and already he calls our fellows on the western coast to bring about a new order, a new era where there will be no separation from the ocean!”

“I have not sensed the Great One’s presence in my ocean. From where has the reclamation of this world began?” said Tethys slowly, every word spoken clearly.

The priest bowed low. “The Great One Shi-Nihilar spreads his grip throughout the Western Ocean! He awaits your arrival and your armies on the western coast of Vanhoofer Island. It is the northernmost pony city on the coast, backed by mountains, and with two large islands just off its coast. Vanhoofer island is the southernmost island.”

“Excellent. Before you depart allow, me to grant you the one true blessing the Great Ones bless all who follow with.”

Eagerly, the cultists trotted deeper into the bay’s water their heads looking up toward Tethys’s face.

For some reason though, as they gazed up toward Tethys, the cultists found themselves needing to blink a lot more. It was as if their eyes were drying up, but they felt cold.

Too cold.

Screams filled the bay as the cultists shut their eyes, hooves and claws covering them as darkness enveloped their vision. Their eyes shutting down as ice crystals formed within and around them. Some were so maddened with pain they threw themselves into the blood-soaked water, and didn’t surface.

Death was slow, as the ice progressed into their brain, shutting down essential functions. One by one, the cultists dropped onto the beach, or into the water and never got up.

All that was left was the priest, the gaunt pony, screaming in pain, completely blinded.

“Why Ist’ytal? Why did you blind us? How did we spurn thee? Should we have sacrificed more for you?” he wailed.

Tethys’s tone was cold and her gaze hard. “You were already blinded before I arrived. The Old God’s “gifts” to the mortal races has always been insanity and death.”

And that was the last thing the priest heard before darkness took him.

Another week later...

Celestia smiled in satisfaction as a massive power hammer, normally used to hammer steel for ships, to give one last hammer blow on the rivets sealing the massive fifteen-meter spearblade to the shaft. Alternia was a bit less enthused as she increased the pressure on her earmuffs with her magic, but she felt a bit of exhilaration at the sight.

Just to give an idea of how large this steam hammer was, the whole thing was sixteen meters high. According to its builders, it could deliver up to 100 tons of force per hit and yet, thanks to a series of complicated valves and gauges, it was precise enough to cork a bottle. Yet, in spite of the aid of this equipment and the magic of the smiths and mages, it had taken three weeks for the team of ponies, and seaponies to finish it.

It didn’t help that they had needed to specially build a twenty-meter long forge-kiln that had been specially built to heat-treat and temper to the spear blade to the appropriate hardness.

“Do all your tools generate this amount of noise?” yelled Archmagus Mareel. The seapony archmagus and her compatriots, who had also been given earmuffs, were still clamping their hooves over their ears. The underwater seaponies and kelpies had far better hearing after all, and so the forging was a rather irritating process to them. It was one reason why Tethys would not remain near the factory for the forging and would send representatives instead of meeting the princesses in person.

“Unfortunately, the bigger they are, the more noise they tend to make. That being said, without these tools, I doubt we would have ever completed the weapon before the Old One arrived,” said Alternia. Pausing, the changeling princess looked Mareel in the eye. “We’re working on regulations for factories near the coast.”

“Ah. That is much appreciated Princess. Now can we please get on with the ritual? We appreciate you accommodating us here, but we’d rather get out to sea,” said Mareel curtly.

In order to strengthen the steel shaft of the spear and the blade with magic, both had been engraved with runes and sigils. These were intended to help channel the magic that would later be imbued into the weapon. However, in order to get the seapony mage team to the factory, the ponies had to dig a channel from one of the canals in Venecia to the factory. It worked and Mareel and her team currently had their forward halves out of the water, with their flukes in the canal, but the seaponies still found it uncomfortable to be so far inland and away from open water.

Now, forty mages in total including Sunset Shimmer and Twilight, as well as Celestia, Luna, Alternia, Chrysalis, Belladonna and Simulacris, surrounded the spear, their horns glowing.

“On my mark, simply channel your magic at the spear. My team will set the pace, you follow,” said Meringue.

“How many thaums?” asked Mareel.

Meringue and the other Equestrian mages briefly at Mareel who raised an arch eyebrow. “We may not use the thaumic measurement so often, but the concept is hardly unfamiliar to us.”

“Good point. Alright, let’s say ten thaums and keep it at that until the princesses completely take over,” said Meringue. Taking a deep breath Meringue focused her magic, green in color to her horn. “Begin.”

Multicolored rays of magic struck the spear. The almost garishly colored magic of the ponies contrasting with the blues and sea greens of the seaponies. This Rainbow of colors only intensified as Alternia and her sisters added their green colored magic, while Celestia and Luna added their blue and gold.

To Twilight, the myriad of colors that now surrounded the massive sphere held some resemblence to the Elements of Harmony’s rainbow. The Rainbow of the Elements seemed more pure though, more ordered. The light around the spear seemed menacing as it wrapped around the metal and sunk into it.

And the spear continued to take more and more. Several mages were forced to stop casting as they were unable to maintain the output. Retariusil looked as if she was going to topple at any moment, while Belladonna, Chrysalis’s and Simulacris’s teeth were gritted as love drained out of them. Alternia, Celestia and Luna were also feeling the strain, their legs trembling slightly. Yet, on and on the ponies, changelings and seaponies poured their magic into the spear so that it grew brighter and brighter until nopony could look directly at the spear without shielding their eyes.

“The spear’s about to overload!” roared Mareel.

Meringue nodded. “Understood! Everybody, end channel…. NOW!”

The alicorns, changelings, ponies and seaponies immediately stopped forcing magic into the spear and stepped back as the weapon continued to glow with colors, and yet at the same time, fade until all they could see was the steel.

“It worked. I can’t believe it,” gasped Meringue.

“It is pretty unbelievable,” said Mareel affirmatively.

Luna glanced at Meringue. “Wait, I thought you said you could pull it off.”

“Oh I did, but thing is, nopony has ever forged such a large magically enhanced weapon before in such a short time,” said Meringue.

“Indeed. However, sister, it just occurred to me that if we’re going to have to maintain a constant assault on Tethys as she devours the Great One, who will steward the celestial bodies?” Celestia asked in a worried tone.

Alternia turned to Celestia, eyes wide with alarm. “If the battle continues for too long and if even one of us is distracted with the duty of continuing the celestial cycle, we’ll be overwhelmed.”

“Unfortunately, I suppose a misalignment in the normal day cycle will be something that we’ll have to risk,” said Luna.

Cyndra trotted into the factory, several telegrams floating behind her. “Um, I’m afraid we have bigger problems than that.”

Author's Note:

We have an Ask Me, Alternia and Company going on, the deadline being tomorrow at 12 midnight Pacific Standard Time. SO HURRY UP ask your questions on the blog and me and Zerv will answer them. Question to Tethys are allowed XD

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