• Published 18th Mar 2013
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Siren Song - TheDarkStarCzar



My name is Sea Swirl and I love swimming in the Ocean. That hardly tells you anything about a pony, though. My name is Sea Swirl and my Mother is a thief and a murderer. Maybe. Maybe that tells you too much.

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Keeper of the Light

My name is Sea Swirl, I love to go swimming in the ocean. That doesn't tell you much about a pony though, does it?

My name is Sea Swirl and my mother is a thief and a serial killer.

Maybe.

Maybe now that tells you too much.




I stood at the precipice and looked over, down to the waves breaking below and the black jagged rocks spread out on either side.


"Thirty yards if it's an inch." I told nopony. Even my dog ignored me, preoccupied with the stink of some long departed animal that permeated the patch of dirt he was chomping at.


Cappy, a big black lab, was the dumbest dog I'd ever owned, but what he lacked in brains he made up in longevity. My other dogs, Luna rest them, would have sensed something amiss with me dancing around the verge, back and forth. Norry would have known I was about to jump and would have barked pensively. Scounder would have jumped right along with me. He was fearless and loyal, like I am on my good days.

Not Cappy, though. His big moronic self would just look around after I'd jumped, find himself inexplicably alone and eventually wander home. Even my cats were more intuitive and sensitive than him and you know how cats are.

Regardless, the time was right. A beautiful black storm was coming from the West, inland, and it's lightning flashes and ozone smell set just the menacing tone I love. My mind was made up and I was just intoxicated enough to finally go through with it. I looked over the edge again to the whorls of foam and vicious rocks reaching up like the erratically spaced teeth of a shark, then I kicked over the smooth stone obelisk that sat near the cliff edge, breaking it off even with the ground. Cappy started and looked searchingly for the source of the sharp sound.


"I'll put it back later." I lied, but not for the reason you may think. That obelisk was a marker of my mother's passing, the spot where she plunged to the rocks below, memorialized by the pink granite engraved with a name, Ocean Song. That's the name she was using then.


I wouldn't be replacing it because I was going to jump off the same exact spot and I knew I wouldn't die. In my mind that would prove to me she hadn't died so there wouldn't be any purpose in it.

Maybe that sounds a little crazy but I'm not suicidal, not these days. I'm just a seeker of truth and a fatalist and I was already galloping past the point where I could stop so I pushed as hard as I could for the last leap into the yawning void and hung there seemingly forever.

Thirty yards into open water is nothing to sneer at. From that high up the water slaps you like it was made of concrete even when you land well and that's ignoring the rocks, but I'd swum the gap below and I knew I wouldn't die.

In theory.

If I knew for sure I suppose I wouldn't have had to take the plunge.

The world moved so slow up here, I had time to idly ponder my strange and wasted life as the ocean loomed. The booze, the drugs, the unfinished novels, my three quarters complete college education that just kind of tapered off into nothing. Thirty four years old and still a foal living off Daddy's spare bits trying to become a writer. Statistically it could be stated that nopony ever made it as a writer, the few that did, so very few as to be effectively zero and everypony knew that trying to become an author was just a method of procrastinating to keep from joining the real world.

Bucking writers ought to all be shot.

Legs down, head up, eyes closed, take a deep breath...

I didn't land well, I'd listed uncontrollably starboard and hit a quarter ways on my side. The stinging slap of the ocean didn't slow me. Momentum carried me deep into the abyss, my speed seemingly not being scrubbed off by the fluid resistance of the dark, briny water that forced itself up my nose and down my throat.

The moonlight barely penetrated this deep but I realized my eyes had sprung open. My hind legs and plot skittered against a sloping wall of rock, the cliffside moving outward as I sank, cutting my flanks and hind quarters. Just as I had started to paddle and my momentum had been nearly neutralized I hit a rocky shelf and my legs collapsed under me and spilled me in a pile.

It effectively knocked the wind out of me and I was a long way down and I panicked, I'll admit.

It was as reasonable a place for it as any.

I sprung upward, paddling madly and inefficiently, buoyancy my only indicator of which way was up until I glimpsed that wavering moonlight.

I had no air in my burning lungs and my body fought to convince me to inhale and it was such a long way that I very nearly complied. It scares me how easy it would have been, how welcome, but I finally bobbed up to the surface. An eternity later I sucked in a deep, much needed breath along with more seawater than I had intended which caused a coughing fit while I unsteadily tread water.

I had survived with only scrapes and light injuries but it was nearly a mile swim to anywhere I could climb out without being dashed against the rocks and I was already exhausted.

Were there anyone who cared I would admit that this had been a bad idea and beg for either forgiveness for my stupidity or some manner of help. Lacking a proper confessor I just got to the business of churning my big clumsy hooves homeward. That, of course is when the storm finally cleared the coast and it started to rain fat, cold, stinging drops.

There was even a little bit of hail.

If you want the worst case scenario, stick with me, I'm pretty sure it's my special talent. That's what I was thinking then with a big, mad smirk on my face.





I climbed up the ladder that lead to the cramped dock. It was nestled precariously between the rocks that marked the cliff the lighthouse sat on. Nothing bigger than a dinghy could make use of it without risk of being crushed but I was glad for it just the same. It gave me a resting point before the rope ladder, which is an invention not well suited to pony physiognomy. Waiting patiently at the top was Cappy, tongue lolling and wholly serene.

If I had thrown him off the cliff before me he'd still have been here waiting patiently for my return with no ill feelings. I ruffled his fur with my dripping hoof.

This short trip over a cliff was a long time coming. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, that marked a longer one to be undertaken.


"C'mon Cappy, we've got packing to do, seems like momma's alive and I probably ought to do something about it." I said, talking tough to impress that idiot dog. Truthfully I had no clue what I was going to do. Ocean Song had turned up after twenty some years in Ponyville and I've little enough idea what to feel about it, much less do.





The morning after my graceless swan dive found me sitting high atop the stone tower that defined my home as a lighthouse. Former lighthouse, mind you. It had been decommissioned when I was a teenager, days after my mother's fateful but demonstrably not fatal dive. The light beacon itself was gone, scavenged by some collector of nautical memorabilia, no doubt, leaving a hollow in the center of the concrete floor, reminding me of an absurdly tall wishing well.

I had a few bits.

I had fewer wishes.

I lacked the faith required to make them without planning on bringing them to fruition myself.

Directly.

Wishes should be reserved for forlorn hopes and things that cannot be achieved in reality, not just for things one wants but is too lazy to bring about on one's own. All my wishes were of the latter sort.

The glass had been knocked out, maybe by wind, probably by vandals and all that was left was the barest skeleton of the roof, it's tiles made to last the test of time but it's wooden supports having given way and spilled them to the ground far below like a tray of cookies. A few of those old clay soldiers didn't know when to give it up and hung on tenaciously askew.

Celestia's sun was the barest sliver, just risen from the horizon and I looked to it pretending that I found inspiration in it. I did not. I rose with the sun religiously as a matter of discipline. It was one of the few things I did to alleviate my feelings of being the complete loser I knew I was. I'd instituted this bit of routine when I realized that I was getting a minimum of ten hours of sleep a day. I took to running three miles and doing a hundred and fifty pushups every day, no excuses. Discipline of this sort was all well and good but here I was at sunrise with half a bottle of cheap champagne and a saddlebag full of my favorite little herb which I nibbled at liberally.

I sat up here most mornings in a similar state as a matter of routine. On good mornings, like this one, I would hear hoof falls on the stair that announced Wave Crest had chosen to greet the day with me. She was not a morning mare, not a bit, but she had to be up early to see her foals off to school so sometimes she would join me. She worried about me, I know. We're friends of the sort that make the words "best friend" seem like a trite banality.

My horn lit with a purple aura, a monochrome to match my lavender coat and purple mane, as I plucked a fat little bud from my saddlebag and greeted her with it as she broke from the dark stairs into the dawning light. She snatched it from the air and chewed it eagerly, her jaw making little circles as she crushed the seeds.

So you don't judge I should say some things about that particular bit of foliage. She wasn't so much of a fan as I was, but she'd take her share because she knew it made me feel like she was a conspirator with me. She'd brought up that I should lay off, worried that my lack of motivation was brought on by my habitual ingestion of the sacred plant. I don't feel that this is the case. Some of the smartest, most motivated ponies I know partake and it keeps my anxiety in check.

Unlike Wave Crest who's had a perfect little life, I've been through some things. This is the part where I'd tell you about my childhood but I don't actually remember much of it, only bits and pieces and brief images I'd rather not recall.

Flashes of mad eyes, overpowering magic, destruction before me. Lovely little halcyon glimpses.

Repressed memories, that's what my therapist says and even though I pointedly do not believe in horseapples like that I do wonder if it might really be the case from time to time.

In further defense of my extracurricular habits I should like to offer the noble tomato in my defense.

The tomato is sweet, juicy and divine but that's just a ploy. The tomato is, in fact, payment for a service rendered. If you try to bite an individual tomato seed it's frog egg like covering makes it a difficult task. The seed tends to slide out of your bite to travel undamaged into your belly to later be deposited, in a pile of ideal fertilizer no less, some distance away.

Thus the tomato is remuneration for propagating the species and it wouldn't do for it to be harmful to it's benefactors. Biology class taught me that.

Now if there were another plant that had a bud where grazing animals such as yours truly were likely to get at it and this bud contained seeds for the selfsame reason as the tomato does, and let's say this bud had certain psychoactive properties. Would it not be fair to, say, take as logical that the effects of this particular bud were wholly salubrious? For if they were not how would the plant survive?

It is, in the wild, considerably more plentiful than tomatoes, I notice.


Enough about that, though, I tend to do that. My therapist calls it rabbit trailing, I didn't get at first that she meant it pejoratively and I was proud of my unruly mind. I get off the path I intend to follow and crash through the underbrush after every stray little thought. I can't help it, though, I have so many things to convey and they all explode out in a tangle. I want to spin them into my yarn, into a rope and a hawser that moors the point I'm trying to elucidate to the greater narrative.

It tends, as I do, to drift.




Wave Crest was a blue earth pony with an unlikely straw colored mane, wild and spiky. Predictably she had the curl of a wave as her cutie mark. It reminded me of my mother's but for the music note that was missing on Wave Crest's. She grunted a greeting, still very much bleary eyed, sat down and took a dainty swig off of my warm, flat champagne. She expected it to be thus, though, she'd been around me enough. For a while we stared out at the sun slowly rising over the godless expanse of endless ocean.


Finally she spoke, "Your mom's marker was knocked over when I walked by it this morning." To this I grunted. "I suppose that means you finally went and jumped off the bucking thing?" She asked.


"Yeah, I did. A bit." I admitted casually, "How'd you know?"


She cocked her head towards me, "I know you is how. I've seen you staring over the edge for weeks now and I saw the newspaper clippings. Me, I would have thought the pictures in the paper would be enough to convince you she was alive, I mean I recognized her and I'm not even related, so why you had to go cliff jumping is beyond me!"


"I knew I'd be okay..."


"Exactly!" She interrupted giving me a full on glare now, "You said yourself the rocks formed a little notch there that went down deeper than you could dive, the extra drama is just...just...infuriating! Everything's got to be all angst and revelations with you, doesn't it?"

"Honestly I get so Celestia damned sick of worrying about the stupid things you do!"


"I'm sorry." I said simply and genuinely, "It just seemed like the only way to know for sure."


She took another little swig off the champagne and let the bottle clatter back down clumsily, "I don't think that's even true. The only way to really know for sure is to go to Ponyville and see for yourself."


"I know." I said, "I've known it all along, I suppose, but you know what? I'm scared."


"How would you be scared of your mother?" Wave Crest asked, "She was always the sweetest mare in the world so far as I ever saw."


"Yeah, well..." I thought of how I could possibly explain this and finally settled on the lighthouse itself, "When you're out in the bay on your surfboard and you look back at the lighthouse, have you ever noticed the crack in the tower?" She nodded so I continued. "There was a whole story to go along with it, about how my folks met. Dad told me that he'd been piloting a big freighter, a four master, one of the modern ones at the time, through some light fog. Not so thick you needed the foghorns, but thick enough you were glad they were there. He was sure he was in the deep channel right up until he rammed his ship right into the cliffside."

"Threw him right out of the wheelhouse onto the deck and when he came to there was my mom yelling about how dumb was he that he not only wrecked his ship but managed to nearly knock down the lighthouse that was warning him off the shore. When he looked up he couldn't argue because there was that old beacon blazing out into the night, so he came up with some line. 'As soon as I saw you I just couldn't delay introducing myself to you as expediently as possible. Do you expect this is sufficient to make an impression?'"

"Something like that, anyway, he's good with that sort of loose talk. Well she was taken in by his flattery, she didn't get much of it being a lonely lighthouse keeper so they got together and she testified in court that the lighthouse had a temporary failure. In the end the insurance company paid for the whole thing except the ceremony."

"Dad told me that that big crack in the tower is from where his ship hit the cliff. I don't think it's actually true, mind you, but he sticks by it to this day. He also views the whole thing as his greatest failing, thinks he should have seen the cliff and doesn't know how he could have missed it."


Wave Crest had walked over to the edge of the tower and was looking down it's side at the very crack. At the top it tapered away into nothing. Towards the bottom it expanded to a hoof wide fissure that traveled deep into the cliffside. Some day soon the whole tower would collapse into the sea, "How DID he miss the cliff if the lighthouse was lit?"


"See, that's the thing." I paused a long while for dramatic effect, "I think my mom shut off the beacon on purpose."


"That's crazy Sea Swirl, why would she even do that?" Wave Crest demanded.


"Actually I think she did it a lot." I said and understanding finally dawned on Wave Crest. There had been a lot of shipwrecks on this side of the bay. It was so bad that they dredged the channel out farther in the bay and put an automated beacon out on an artificial island at a cost of millions of bits. The wrecks simply stopped after that, but that was also the same time of my mother's fateful leap.


"You're telling me your mom was a shipwrecker?" She asked incredulously, "The sweet mare who baked us cookies and told us bedtime stories and always had a smile on her face? Why?"


I shrugged. As a foal I was too young to know anything was amiss and as a teen I was too oblivious to notice. So when the sheriff came to serve the eviction notice, a notice mom and I had both been expecting, I lead him in to the storehouse that was attached to the lighthouse's base. It was an admittedly stupid thing to do since it was full up with crates of cargo with various labels that indicated them as coming from local shipwrecks.

I was used to them being there and never even thought about it. After a wreck they'd show up in the middle of the night and they'd mostly disappear over the next month or so. A few crates were there for years. If I'd thought about it at all I would have thought mom was salvaging cargo, I'd certainly never thought it was anything illegal.

The sheriff caught on pretty quick that the storehouse was full of ill gotten goods and there stood my mother in the middle of a tower of crates, dumbstruck and defenseless. She sighed and seemingly acquiesced to going with the sheriff, who had yet to speak a word. He didn't need to, she knew she was busted and he knew she knew.


What happened next has shaped my life to this day, but I know now that I interpreted it wrongly. "I've told you about what happened that night, when the sheriff came to evict us and mom jumped off the cliff?" I asked. Wave Crest nodded, "Well it wasn't the eviction notice that drove her to it. I don't think she cared that much about that, it was the sheriff seeing all the cargo from the shipwrecks that spooked her."


"I heard about that, after the fact, but you can't condemn her for gathering up a bit of lost freight, even if it's not strictly proper." Wave Crest said by way of comfort.


"Yeah, but it was more than a bit of it and all from the wrecks that happened around here, the wrecks this old tower was meant to prevent." I shook my head. It appeared to me that Equestria had spent their millions of bits because of one petty thief whose take was how much? Maybe in the hundreds of thousands at most. She certainly didn't lavish any bits on me. It's bad enough from that perspective even when not considering that nearly every wreck resulted in the loss of the entire crew, which was statistically improbable.

Those suspicions, though, I wouldn't bring up with even Wave Crest.

"Also, this may only be hindsight lying to me, but I have to think she knew that cliff was safe to jump from. Like it was her contingency plan in case she ever had to disappear one day and if she'd kept herself out of the papers I suppose it would have worked, too."


"Maybe that's true, I can hardly believe she'd just run off and leave you without ever sending word for twenty years, though." Wave Crest said. She didn't know my mom, though. Not really. She was all manner of sweetness and light on the outside, but she had a hard streak that lay just out of view. The kind of scary hard that I wouldn't put anything past.


"If she's really in Ponyville I'm going to be asking her about that." I said dryly.


"So..." Wave Crest considered at length, picking up the nearly empty bottle and swirling it's contents aimlessly. She wouldn't drink it, I knew. She always left the dregs to me as a matter of courtesy. "You need me to feed your cats?"


"Yup." I confirmed and a lot had been passed unspoken in that short exchange.


Was I really going to Ponyville to take care of business? Yes.

Was I coming back? No.

Ever?

I didn't know.

Things hadn't been going well for me out here for some time and I'd been looking for an excuse to make a break.

Wave Crest worked with her family, repairing wooden boats and had a sideline making surfboards. That was her special talent and she hired me on from time to time to help out, but once I got good at it and the challenge was all gone all I wanted to take on was the hard jobs.

I had a way with seemingly unmanageable billets of koa that were otherwise going to be discarded. I could wrestle and finesse them into some of the finest boards to come out of that shop, right up there with Wave Crest's work, but I was slow, balky and I swore the whole time, generally making everyone miserable. It made it look like I was fishing for praise and maybe I was, but it made me uncomfortable and I eventually slacked off to nothing, having left a half carved board on the bench and never returned to it.

Essentially I was unemployed and unattached. The lighthouse I lived in was condemned (though it had been for a decade now) and it wasn't my property anyway. Dad lived in town when he was home, which was almost never. He was a sea captain now and in high demand. He loved me and lavished bits upon me that I might maintain my theoretically hedonistic lifestyle of swimming all day and trying to cobble together the great Equestrian novel at night.

I would miss Wave Crest immensely and certainly I'd come back to visit, but this chapter of my life was over, I decided solemnly.

I swigged the rest of the champagne and flung the bottle towards the sea. The wind pushed it back towards us and it shattered satisfyingly against the tower's rough masonry.

I hugged the still seated Wave Crest goodbye, swiftly gathered my few effects and headed off before she could think to walk me out of town. It was hard enough without that, it may be that I even sniffled the barest little bit.

Cappy by my side, I turned back to the ruined tower, "Tell the Captain when he gets back into town!" I yelled back to Wave Crest, who saluted from her perch, eyes glittering with tears.

Author's Note:

Okay, so about that...
The inspiration for the character of Sea Swirl is my best friend, a forty some year old stoner who wants to be a writer, film maker, painter, boxer and sometimes even a politician at different points in time.
I am ambivalent about her drug habits. It's a big part of defining who she is at this point, but mostly relevant to the story to show her attitude.
I have enjoyed her warm, flat champagne for many a year.
"Why Sea Swirl?" You may ask. Since she's a canon background pony who's been in Ponyville where do I get off bringing her in towards the end of season three? Well...I've no extenuating details that justify it just now, I'll admit.
I actually fixated on her because when I finally gave in and bought a blind bag pony she was it. When I got the code that tells you what's in the blindbags I realized that multiple hers and Peachy Sweets were the distilled discards from any number of cases. Being cast off like that made her an endearing character for me and I wanted to tell her story, sad though it may be.
So that's the why.
Now as to the quality, I'm a mediocre writer. I'm well aware of it but I'm not doing this for practice, I'm compelled to write this and cannot help it. Therefore, as arrogant as it is to say, critiques of my general style aren't all that helpful, but if it makes you feel good to break out your English major destructo vision in the comments, feel free, I guess.
Ooh, and tell me why feet of clay means what it does while you're at it.

Point out any of the dumb spelling and punctuation errors if you see them. It's proofread and somewhat edited, but by someone who's not keen on ponies so...that.
This is meant to be somewhere under 100,000 words when it's done.