Chapter 5: The Lemon Grotto
We made some good progress towards getting our treasure today, and surprisingly we didn’t almost die this time. But that’s not to say we didn’t have a weird and awesome day. In fact, it was even weirder than the time I tried to understand Pinkie Pie.
I woke up just before Celestia raised the sun, so I decided to make some breakfast for Dash, Derpy, and the rest of our crew. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t much hay or anything else to eat on the open ocean, and I didn’t want to dig into our provisions without permission. So, I had to do something which makes me cringe: I went fishing. Actually, I just lowered a big net on the side of the ship into the sea and let the fish swim into it, but I still hated having to see them squirm around. It made me shudder, thinking about how anything could eat meat without vomiting once or twice. But we were out on the ocean, and a pony can’t let herself starve, right? Oh, I hope so.
The crew didn’t seem to mind eating the fish as much as I did, but I guess they’re just more used to it than I am. Even when I was back at the harbor, just seeing ponies selling fish was nauseating. Dash congratulated me on taking some initiative, and then told everypony to dig in. I only took a few bites, before I noticed Derpy wasn’t eating with us. I decided to tell her that there was nothing else she could eat, but then she pulled a muffin out of nowhere and started chowing down. I trotted over and asked,
“Derpy? Where’d you get that muffin?”
“Oh, I always carry muffins on me! They’re the best!”
She smiled with crumbs in her teeth as she said this, but I didn’t really mind; the thought of not having to eat fish was music to my mind. So I turned my head to the side, and suggested,
“Hey Derpy, why don’t you toss one of those muffins my way. I could really use one.”
She nodded, and pulled another muffin out of nowhere, this one blueberry flavored.
She’s like a mellowed-out Pinkie Pie.
But right then, I didn’t care. I was just happy to know I wouldn’t have to eat much fish as long as Derpy would share her muffins with me. I’ll have to pay her back for them someday.
And then our ship crashed. Well, not really crashed, we just bumped up against an island. We weren’t really going fast enough for it to sink us, but it did make everypony fall over. Dash got up in a flash and turned the ship to its side, and stopped it.
“What the hay is that, and why did we run into it? Derpy! You’re supposed to be our navigator. Why’d you make us crash into this lame rock?”
Derpy stood up at hearing her name, and flashed that same clueless innocent smile of hers.
“Well, the map said to go to Lemon Grotto, so I brought us here. I mean, lemons ARE yellow, right?”
She pointed towards the top of the island when she said this, and the crew started to murmur.
The tip of the island was a bright yellow color!
While most of the crew started to get real excited, I wasn’t so happy.
“Alright, so we reached a big rock with a yellow top. But there’s supposed to be a grotto here, right? I don’t see anything.”
I gestured towards our big rocky friend, and the crew’s eyes followed my hoof. Sure, it was a big pretty shiny island-sized rock, but there were no caves in site. If there was an entrance, it definitely wasn’t going to be easy to find.
Dash’s eye lit up, and she turned to me.
“Yeah, there’s no way to get in here, Twi. But maybe it’s underwater, ya know? Grottoes are supposed to be watery, right?”
She grinned at me, and the crew started whispering in approval. How Dash knew anything about grottoes is beyond me, but I decided to give her theory a test. I walked to the ladder on the side of the ship, and climbed down until I was right above the water. I encased my head in a magic bubble, and took a look under the sea.
I have to say, it was pretty wonderful. I always read a lot about underwater life back in Canterlot and Ponyville, but I never got to see much of it since I wasn’t by the ocean. There were all sorts of fish, vibrant coral, and even an old shipwreck not far in the distance. It had a gaping hole right through its center, like somepony had launched a big tube at it. Pequod was written on the bow, but I’m still not sure I saw it correctly.
I was saddened when I realized there was still no cave down under the water. The big rock got thicker as it got closer to the sand, but it was still just a big rock, and not a grotto.
Just as I was about to get back on the ship and tell everypony this wasn’t the grotto, I saw some strange creature swimming around the rock. It looked kind of like a pony, but it definitely didn’t have four legs. All of a sudden, it nudged the rock, and a cavern opened up! The creature swam inside, and the hole closed not long after.
I emerged from the water, and climbed back on board with my announcement.
“Alright, everypony, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is there is a grotto, and we can get in.”
The crew cheered, but I knew it wouldn’t be for long, so I interrupted them saying,
“Don’t cheer yet, because that’s not all of it. The grotto is deep underwater, is activated by touch, and closes the instant you get inside.”
The clamor on board died down as Dash and the others groaned thinking of how much work it would take to get us into a cavern underwater.
“There’s something else. I saw…something open the cavern up. I don’t know what it was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a pony. It might be dangerous.”
Derpy gulped and huddled next to Dash, who just flashed her yellowed teeth.
“Oh, yeah? Well, we handled a ghost ship, so I’m sure we can handle some little fish. I mean, we DID just eat a whole bunch of them a few minutes ago.”
Rainbow’s encouragement got the crew riled up, and I knew there was nothing stopping them now. I sighed, and asked Dash how she planned to get a buoyant ship underwater for so long.
“Well, you’ll just use that head-bubble spell you used on ur’self on the entire ship. Ye can do that, right?”
“Yes, but it’ll be really tough, and it only lasts as long as I can hold my breath normally. What if there’s no air in there?”
Dash wasn’t phased at all.
“It’s a grotto, Twi. There has to be air pockets somewhere, otherwise it’d just be an underwater cavern.”
She scoffed at my lack of in-depth grotto knowledge, and trotted off to command her crew.
“Alright, everypony, we’re going under! Lock down everything that could float away, and put everything in the barracks for now! That includes the sail! Once everything’s put away, we’re gonna go down there until we come up for air, so be ready!”
Instantly the crew started running around gathering everything on board and tossing down into the barracks. By the time I grabbed the map and got down there, it was more crowded than the harbor market. I gathered up all the magic energy I could, and cast the bubble spell on the entire ship.
I struggled constantly with the spell, but I did manage to make us water-proof for a bit. Meanwhile, I directed the ship towards the spot I saw the swimming thing go earlier, and gently rubbed the ship against the spot. A cave opened up, and the rushing water pulled our ship in. For a few seconds, we saw the bright green walls of the grotto welcome us. But then the opening closed, and it became pitch black.
Well, we’re screwed.
The entire crew held their breaths, even though they didn’t really need to. It was me they should have been worried about. I was moving the ship slowly through the dark cave, and I only had a little bit of air left. If I didn’t find a spot to breathe above water soon, we were all going to die.
Out of the blue we received a blessing straight from Celestia and we surfaced. I don’t know how I didn’t notice the light coming from above me, but it definitely felt great just to breathe again. The crew was ecstatic to be safe, and we all rushed aboard. What we saw stunned us.
The entire grotto was made of yellowy gems lining the walls and ceiling. I’m sure Rarity would have loved to see it; she probably would have had a fashion-gasm. But while Dash and everypony else started floating up to the gems to get a closer look, I was much more interested in something in the water.
There was a pony’s head poking out of the water, but it was no pony. It had no legs, just fins on its side and a curly-tail. It was a seapony! I’d heard of them in Equestrian folklore, but they were supposed to be extinct. It was just looking at us, like it had never seen ponies before, which it probably hadn’t.
Meanwhile, Dash and Derpy decided they wanted some of the gems. So they started pulling at the walls, trying to get their hooves to pull one or two out. When the seapony saw this, it yelped.
“Bargle bargle bargle!”
We immediately stopped what we were doing. It obviously wanted to say something, but it was a seapony, so of course it couldn’t speak. Instead, it went back underwater. While I scratched my head trying to figure out what would have provoked her, I saw something coming up from under the water.
“Uh, everypony? You might want to look at this.”
The crew turned their heads just as hundreds of seaponies surfaced, and they looked angry. They collectively sucked in a breath, and shouted at us,
“BARGLE BARGLE BARGLE BARGLE!”
It was one of the most annoying sounds I’ve ever heard, and they wouldn’t let up. They were almost as bad as Pinkie Pie! As soon as their barrage started, a voice from somewhere else yelled and they stopped immediately.
“Ugh, what is it now, you guys? What, did another crab climb onto the walls again or something?”
I hadn’t heard it happen, but another secret opening appeared in the wall while the seaponies shouted at us. Out of it stepped a pony I recognized all too easily.
She looked like she had just rolled out of bed, but what really got my attention was that she was wearing the yellow gems all over herself. She had a dress and tiara made out of them, and her hair was tied with coils made from the gems. She had a particularly big gem on her necklace, and it shined brighter than the fire ruby Spike gave to Rarity years ago. But more importantly, why the hay was Lyra here in Lemon Grotto?
Her eyes snapped to focus when she saw us, and she gasped,
“Twilight? Rainbow Dash? Um, uh…w-what are you guys doing here?”
She put on her best poker face, and tried to hide all her gems, failing miserably. Dash flared her wings, and spoke up.
“We could ask ye the same thing, ya harpey!”
Lyra narrowed here eyes.
“Bitch, what did you just call me?”
“You heard what I said, now answer the question!”
Lyra was steaming at this point, and I couldn’t help but giggle just a little.
“For your information, I happen to be the queen of this seapony colony. One day after no sales at the harbor, I went to the beach wondering whether I’d ever be successful. And then one of these guys popped up out of the ocean, and started staring at me. I must have been the first pony he ever saw. He swam up to the shore and grabbed my tail with his teeth, and started dragging me out to sea. I fought hard with my magic, but seaponies are immune to it. Eventually, he brought me here, and showed me off to all his friends. They were all real excited, and started giving me these gems. I started telling them what to do, and they somehow understood me, so I made myself their ruler. Now, I live a double life. By day, I’m just a hopeless merchant at Horseshoe Bay trying to make a living for me and my wife. But when the sun goes down at the bay, I head out to sea for my life as queen of the seaponies!”
She struck a dramatic pose to fit her fantastical story, expecting us to praise her, I think. Instead, I heard Rainbow Dash mutter under her breath,
Instantly, the crew burst into laughter at Dash’s joke. Even I had a hard time suppressing a smile; it WAS kind of funny, after all. But Lyra didn’t think so.
“Alright, if that’s how it’s gonna be. Get them, my seaponies! Devour their entrails!”
At her command, the water turned a briny white as the seaponies rushed our ship. We all stopped laughing and began to scream as the seaponies tried to climb aboard and even eat our hull. I tried to remove the seaponies, but like Lyra said they were immune to my magic; I was useless against them! I had to try negotiating with Lyra, so I climbed to the observation deck for safety, and shouted,
“Lyra, please stop this! You wouldn’t kill your friends, right?”
Lyra gestured for the seaponies to stop by waving her hoof, and they stopped attacking us in an instant.
“Oh, I’m your friend now? Typical. Everypony runs away from me when I try to strike up conversation back home, but with your backs against the wall suddenly we’ve known each other, like, forever.”
Lyra was sneering at us now, but I could hear the sadness in her voice. I had to do something.
“Lyra, I am your friend. I always have been.”
“Oh yeah? I bet you don’t even know me that well. Who’s my special somepony?”
Oh, this is too easy.
“Bon-bon, of course. Everypony knows that.”
Lyra gritted her teeth, and prepared more questions.
“Where was I born, and why do I hate that place?”
“You were born in Canterlot, and hate it because of the stuffy attitude you think everypony there has. You also got bullied there for liking mares.”
I noticed Lyra wipe a small angry tear from her eye on hearing that; I didn’t realize how bad it had been for her.
“Alright, one last question. I saw you at the harbor, remember? What was I trying to sell you when you blew me off, like I was crazy?”
That one I had trouble with. I remembered her frantically trying to sell me some kind of body part, but I had no idea what it was. It was a hand, but to what? What was Lyra obsessed enough about to try to sell its body parts?
As I racked my brain trying to figure it out, Lyra started crying more openly, but she was still pretty steamed. She looked like she could blow at any minute, and I knew we wouldn’t survive a new onslaught from the seaponies.
She’s obsessed with mythical creatures…that’s it!
“You were trying to sell me a human hand!”
Lyra stopped crying abruptly, and choked back a sob. Her eyes were wide in disbelief, but after a few seconds she was smiling bigger than I’ve ever seen her before (except when she’s been with Bon-bon).
“Wow, Twilight. I didn’t know you knew me so well. I guess…we really are friends.”
Her horn lit up, and she built a bridge using the seaponies to our deck. She frantically ran up her bridge, and hugged me almost as tight as Pinkie Pie used to.
“I’m so glad that at least you care about me, Twi. It’s nice to have one friend.”
It was hard for me to breathe, but I managed to squeak out,
“Lyra, you have more than one friend. What about Bon-bon? You two love each other very much. And what about Vinyl Scratch, Octavia, Derpy, and the Doctor? I used to see you guys hang out all the time in Ponyville.”
Lyra let me down, and started to explain.
“Yeah, but Bon-bon and me aren’t getting along right now. She seems real nervous around me for some reason, and I don’t know why. As for the rest of them, I haven’t seen them since I started living at Horseshoe Bay. I don’t know where any of them are, except Derpy here of course. But she’s always traveling and doing pirate stuff.”
I felt guilty for laughing at Lyra earlier, and so I decided to cheer her up somehow, even if my guessing wasn’t correct in the end.
“You know, Lyra, maybe Bon-bon’s acting nervous around you because she wants to step forward in your relationship? If you know what I mean?”
Lyra’s pupils dilated drastically, and her face turned beet-red.
“You, you really think so? That she’ll, you know…propose?”
“I think it could definitely happen.”
I winked at her, and she squealed in delight.
“Oh, this is SO awesome! Come on you guys, I wanna celebrate! I’ll have the seaponies throw us a feast fit for a queen! A queen of the seaponies, that is!”
Lyra giggle-snorted, and led the crew and I off the ship down into the cave she came in from. She led us into a huge throne room with a lavish dining table in the center. And we ate better than we had eaten our entire trip, talking and laughing the entire time. Lyra sat next to me, and kept thanking me for being her friend. It felt good to remember the magic of friendship.
I can’t wait until tomorrow!