• Published 20th Jul 2016
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Going Deep Under - The Bricklayer

The seas harbor many mysteries, and one of them is about to be uncovered. Question is, will those that have uncovered it survive the experience...?

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Part 25: Desperation and Heartbreak


To say Fancy, Twilight, Night Glider and Princess Ember were all shocked at what they saw when they ventured outside the main temple was an understatement.

There they were, Nimbus Breaker and Xenophilius laughing and joking together over a bottle of the city’s finest wine.

“No, I’m bloody serious mate, this guy… And I’m not joking when I say this… My drill sergeant, he was a literal Ass!” Nimbus laughed. “He was an actual donkey, and I’m not using a metaphor!”

“Oh, I have every reason to believe you, man…” Xenophilius sniggered as the white unicorn took another sip from his goblet. “What, did he have you do 50 laps around the base, wings strapped to your body so you wouldn’t cheat?”

“Yeah, he did, now you bring it up! The guy was always keep up the pace this, keep up the pace that, so cranky! Swear he had a whip on him, just so he could crack it just for kicks!” Nimbus replied, still laughing. If it was from the wine, or he was actually quite amused by the whole thing… Well, it was impossible to tell really. “Seriously, a party or two probably wouldn’t even make the Ass, both literally and metaphorically, crack a smile! He wouldn’t know a joke if it danced up to him in the shower, completely in the nude, singing hello my baby, hello my honey!”

“Yep, that’s him alright!” Xenophilius chortled. “That’s Cranky alright. Always was a hardflank, that one…”

“Well, I’ll be damned…” Fancy whispered in shock. “Never thought I’d see the day when those two got along...”

“Yeah, idiots, the both of ‘em…” Night Gilder agreed, before realizing who she was with. She let out a small whimper, and gulped as she looked up at a certain dragoness. “...With all due respect ma’am, I mean that in the best possible way.”

But to her surprise, Ember was laughing as well.

“Yes, they are idiots aren’t they?” she agreed. Meanwhile...

“You mean hardass!” Nimbus shot back, and that set off another wave of laughter from the two, as they pounded their hooves against the table. “...Seriously, you’d think he’d know my credentials just from where I came from, former Pinkerton and all. One who got thrown out, I might add!” the stormy gray furred Trottingham borne pony continued. Yeah, he was definitely completely and utterly plastered, alright.

“Well, did you forge your identity like I heard that young mare named Daring did, or did you go with your real name?” Xenophilius asked.

“Forged my-” Nimbus began, before he blanched in shock. “Wait, you mean that story’s actually true? There was this mare who really forged her identity as a Belgian and pulled it off, just to fight in the war?”

“Yep, that wasn’t just a story. I actually met her once, while me and my troop had made a stop-off in Prance one day to help rescue this Prench noble, Lady… Oh, I forget her name. White as snow, and had this pink mane. Exceedingly beautiful…”

“Miss Fleur Dis Lee?” Nimbus guessed, and Xenophilius smirked.

“Yeah, that’s her! What a mare!” he exclaimed, with a wistful smile.

“You’re drooling,” Nimbus deadpanned before Xenophilius flushed red and quickly wiped away said drool. “Ugh… Please don’t tell me you’re fantasizing…”

“I was not,” Xenophilius denied a little too quickly for Nimbus’ liking. “Besides, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, if I wasn’t already in love with somepony at the time… But c'est la vie,” Nimbus admitted using some of the only Prench he knew before his eyes narrowed. “You do not repeat that, understood?”

“Aye-aye, sir!” Xenophilius saluted, before the two broke down laughing once again. With a smile, Fancy continued onwards.

“Oh, if they only knew…” he thought to himself, thinking of a picture of the mare and him -Taken by a budding photographer in his troop- they were talking about when he was in Prance back during the war. He remembered the day all too well, he’d just been shivering in the cold on a bench trying to stay warm, when Fleur had come up to him in a light blue coat, wearing the most adorable earmuffs. In an act of sheer kindness, she’d taken off her coat and wrapped it around him.

When Fancy had asked why she would do such a thing and risk freezing, she’d said: “Prench Hospitality. I may be a lady, but you are a guest in my homeland, and I know there are others like you less fortunate than I.”

Fancy still remembered those words to this very day.

Later that day, he had learned she’d been giving out to the ponies rendered homeless by the war warm home-cooked bread made by her own hooves. Prench Hospitality indeed, he’d mused. If any mare deserved a medal for sheer kindness, it was her.

Speaking of seeds of romance blossoming, there was Grape and Princess Skystar.
“Honestly Princess... Ah'm waiting the day Ah get back to the surface world... If that ever happens…” the purple unicorn muttered, shaking his head as he looked up towards the giant skylight that provided one of the only natural light sources in the underwater city. He long suspected, ever since seeing Neighlantis's layout, that the entire city was part of an underground -And hopefully extinct- volcano. The pony shuddered involuntarily, he’d hate to see that thing go off. No, it wouldn't go off, he reassured himself. After all, Neighlantis had been here for thousands of years, and it was still standing wasn't it?

“Mental note, don’t let any of the Blast Sisters test any of their explosives down here…” Grape thought, sweating slightly. Skystar must have mistaken his worry over the Blast Sisters and their antics for something else.

“Aww, don't worry buddy, I'm certain well get home soon! Especially if we all work together!” Skystar said, patting him on the shoulder. Grape blinked, as he heard a splash from behind him.

“We, who said anythin' about we?” Grape asked in surprise, quirking an eyebrow in confusion quite oblivious to Skystar's advances. Speaking of the Princess, currently, she was in her seapony form in one of the city's many natural pools -Least to the naked eye, Grape knew better- flipping up out of the water again and again, much like a dolphin would.

“Uh heh heh, we're both stuck down here aren't we?” Skystar asked nervously, popping her head out of the water, and resting her fins on the pool’s edge. If a fish could blush, Grape would swear she was.

“Uh... Not exactly... Ya can fly, can't ya?” Grape asked. “Ah mean, just change out of that there fish form of yers, and ya'd be able to fly away from this place…”

“But then how do I know you can get home?” Skystar had to ask, looking quite worried as with a flash of light, she changed back to her hippogriff form and shook herself like a dog to get the water out of her feathers. She laughed nervously and said: “Oops. Sorry, I sometimes forgot which form I’m in, and where… Rather embarrassing really...”

Grape had to chuckle at her antics a little. She was rather adorable, in her own way. He then smiled. “Ya'd be quite a catch for any of the seaponies down here, really... Just sayin'.”

“Oh, heh, really you think so?” Skystar flushed through her feathers, tracing the ground with a paw nervously.

Grape nodded. “Probably even mahself, if Ah wasn't already promised ta somepony back home…”

Skystar let out a little squeak of surprise, her beak dropping slightly in shock. “Did... did Ah say somethin' wrong?” Grape asked with more than a hint of trepidation.

Skystar tried to say something back in reply, but it was to no avail, as all that came out of her beak were little squeaking noises once more.

Grape slapped himself on the forehead, and muttered "Idjit, idjit, idjit!" to himself. How could he have not seen this one coming, with the way Skystar had been acting around him? Even now, he was flashing back to their first meeting.

“Thank you…” Skystar whispered. “B-But just so you know, I do have friends! Here, see?” Skystar asked, holding up two clam shells. One an indigo color, the other a burnt orange. “This is Shelly, and the other’s Sheldon! Oh! Oh! There are so many things we can do together now! We can make friendship bracelets out of shells, and... picture frames outta shells, and... decorative wastebaskets out of shells... Oh, I have so, soooo many projects that involve shells! Like my necklace here, did I tell you I made that?” Skystar babbled in a tone of excitement. Although if you listened closely, you could tell it was a forced tone. “Now I have someone new to share them with. I mean, aside from my shell friends here. Oh, did I tell you I named them Shelly and Sheldon?” she asked sadly, visibly deflating as she sat ‘Shelly’ and ‘Sheldon” aside for the moment atop a rock.

Of course, she'd gain a crush on him, someone so lonely like that, with only one male acting kind towards her and extending a hoof of friendship... it was inevitable really.

“Skystar…” Grape asked, his breath trembling with every word. “Do... Do ya have a crush on me?”

“I um…” Skystar laughed nervously. “No of course not, haha!”

Grape looked at her directly. “Yer deflecting. Little trick Ah picked up from reading Sudoku's books. Now tell me the truth. Do ya, or do ya not have a crush on me?”

Finally, Skystar gave up the ghost.

“Alright… Fine, yes… I do sorta, maybe, have this tiny little crush on you… But can you blame me, you’re so cute, and so kind…” she replied, pressing her paws together nervously.

“Ah'm... Ah'm sorry Princess, Ah really am…” Grape whispered as he tried not to look at her in shame, thinking of things that could have been. If things had been different, if he wasn't in love with Trixie back home, they might have had a chance. “But... But Ah promised mah father, Ah'd marry this mare Ah'm in love with back home…”

“No no it’s not your fault, of course, someone like you would already have a special somepony…” Skystar whispered, sounding completely heartbroken, tears dripping to the floor from her cyan orbs.

Grape placed a hoof on the bottom of her head and moved it up so that she could look at him. “For the record... If things were different, if Ah wasn't really, truly in love with this girl, and Ah wasn't intent on respectin' a dyin' stallion's wishes... Maybe, just maybe…” he trailed off.

Skystar didn’t respond.

“Ah'm truly very sorry....” Grape whispered to her.

Skystar could only look away, and say: “Go… Just go…”

As Grape walked off, he felt a part of his own heartbreak, and a tear of his own slipped from his eye. “What have Ah done?” he asked a part of himself. He knew it was for the best, but why did he feel so sick with himself?

The Great Temple:

Twilight, as she’d seen all throughout Neighlantis, really believed that they, with all their technology, could really change the world for the better once they learned to use it again.

“Yeah… Once they learn to use it again…” she muttered. “Damn it dad, wish you were here right now… You knew more about Neighlantis than me. You could help…” she thought sadly to herself, as she sat across the negotiating table from Ember.

“Twilight. Are you really sure that this is a good idea?” Ember slightly raised her claw to the table. “Isn’t this magitech stuff kinda dangerous?”

“Ember, I appreciate your concerns, but think about how much we could accomplish with all this technology,” Twilight gazed out towards the rushing walls of water around the room. “All the ponies in the world. We could make their lives much easier this way!”

“Or you could be playing with fire, Twilight,” Ember crossed her arms. “And even dragons know that if you play with fire, then you’re gonna get burned.

“It’s a danger I’m willing to risk if it means we can better everypony’s lives,” Twilight took a deep breath and pushed her hooves out. “And once we learn how to properly refine the magitech, then we wouldn’t have to worry about all the bad stuff anymore. Only the good.”

“Twilight. Don’t you think there’s a reason this kinda stuff stayed down here all this time?” Ember’s wings started to curl up. “Other than the people of Neighlantis going down with their city and all?”

“Ember, this technology could help millions! And not just ponies, but for all of the other creatures in the world!” Twilight smiled from ear to ear. “What pony wouldn’t want to take that chance?”

“I wouldn’t.” Ember stood up. “What you’re proposing is just an experiment. You can’t honestly think that this stuff is safe to use. Who knows what lives you could be putting in danger because of this?”

“Ember. Are you… against this?” Twilight blinked rapidly. She couldn’t believe Ember was still being as stubborn as a mule.

“This kind of stuff doesn’t belong in the surface world, Twilight.” Ember’s claws tightened up into fists. “If you take it out, you’re essentially robbing Neighlantis and then try and use this magitech on ponies who may not even want it! Do you want to be seen as a thief?”

“No… I… I just want to help the world… Once you learn your own language again…” she trailed off.

“Twilight,” Ember violently slammed her right claw down on the table, the noise reverberating out through the room. “You’re just a foreigner to our lands. Why would you want to take what’s rightfully ours and use it on a whim on ponies who have no idea what this stuff even is, or what consequences it could have for them?”

“I… I just want to help. That’s all I ever did want…” Twilight whispered softly, tears coming to her eyes.

“I know you mean well, Twilight. But let me be perfectly clear with you,” Ember crossed her arms. “There is no way, no matter how much you beg to me and my kind, that we would ever give our technology away to the surface world,” Ember’s eyes gleamed with flame as she gripped her scepter tightly. “I swear it on my mother and the others before her, that our magitech shall not fall into the hands of ponies who would dare abuse it’s power.”

“But here you are… Living in prosperity amongst sea-ponies and hippogriffs, while up above… Others, we’re still mired in prejudice. Griffons, zebras… They’re treated as second class citizens!” Twilight snapped back.

“That’s enough!” Ember roared, sending another loud blast of sound across the conference hall. “Don’t make me do something I’d regret, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Maybe you’re not the perfect leader I envisioned. You’d leave the surface world to rot?” Twilight snarled, a mixture of rage intertwined with her sadness. “You could teach others how to live together in harmony, help do away with prejudice!”

“Or we could be stripped of our powers, captured, locked up by greedy surface dwellers, and have Neighlantis conquered,” Ember’s brows arched down so much that they almost made a perfect ‘V’ shape on her forehead. “I’ve seen the way your kind acts, Twilight. They act all innocent on the outside, but inside, they all have their own personal agendas and goals that only benefit them and nobody else. Ask yourself, am I wrong?”

Twilight sighed as she sat back in her seat, no… Ember wasn’t wrong at all. The first expedition to Neighlantis, the one Spent Thrift was on, fell through to the greedy desires of ponies like the ones Ember talked about.

“Exactly,” Ember finally sat down again. “Now. Think nothing more of that and I’ll put this little spat behind me. We can be friends again.”

“Yeah…” Twilight whispered, lying through her teeth as she got up to leave, wiping her tears away. “I’m sorry dad… I failed you. I failed everypony…”

Her slow trots broke into a sprint, and then into galloping as she rushed out of the temple, past the twin Anubis Statues on either side of the entrance, tears rolling down her face. The Blast Sisters, and Solar Blitz all shared looks of shock and surprise as Twilight ran past them.

“There just has to be something I can do!” she thought to herself as she found one of the reflection pools, and let the tears flow freely. After a few minutes of quiet sobbing, her eyes looked towards the water, and Night Light’s journal sticking out of her saddlebags.

She quickly pulled it out, and began flipping through the pages in search of a solution. Then, perhaps she found one. Perhaps.

“Neighlantis continues to elude us,” she began to read, her father’s words flying off the pages. “And my insistence that we press on in spite of these failures has moral low. I suspect Jenkins to be the author of this sedition… And now, I find it’s my own dearly beloved daughter Twilight alone who I can turn to…”

Author's Note:

Okay, and here we go... Coming up on the end of the story here. Just two more chapters left, and things have reached their highest point in drama yet! Grape's found himself in the middle of a pickle with Skystar, and Twilight's found her efforts to convince Ember thwarted. Two princesses, two different kinds of problems.

(Thank you to RainbowSurvivor and Shadowmane PX-41 for their help here, Rainbow for helping me with Skystar and Grape's scene, and Shadowmane for his help with Ember. Thanks, dudes!)