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Stay at Home

by Limonene

It was day 63 of the Stay-Underwater order put in place by Queen Novo, and Emerald Shears was five minutes from going crazy. Admittedly, she had been five minutes from going crazy for a week now, but she figured that that just showed her resilience in the face of hardship.

Perhaps Emerald had already gone crazy a week ago, and hadn't noticed.

The Storm King's troops had invaded their beautiful town of Mount Aris, and started a war. The survivors had fled underwater, using newly developed magical technology to turn themselves into ocean-dwelling creatures called "Seaponies". There, they hid from the battle, as soldiers sacked their town and burned their land.

Emerald Shears recalled the day the war broke out. She had been in her mane and tail studio, giving a haircut and dye job to the one of her regular customers who had a particularly long mane.

"Klugetown folks said they sighted the Storm King's fleet heading this way," the customer had said.

"I hope they don't come here," Emerald had said. She snipped at a stray lock of newly dyed red-orange mane. "I'm sure they wouldn't attack Mount Aris, considering how well defended we are."

Of coures, Emerald had been wrong. Less than an hour later, she had been rounded up with the other hippogriffs, watching as her hair studio burned. Once on the Storm King airship, it had been shot down, crashing into the ocean, where she was rescued and transformed into her current seapony form.

Now, she had nothing left to do.

Her studio had been burned to the ground. She wondered, did she even have insurance on it? Would it cover an act of war? She couldn't remember.

It didn't matter, anyway. She had given up a month ago on planning for life out of exile. The Stay-Underwater order had been originally only for a week. Then, they sent up a scout, but he didn't return. After another week, they sighted more airships, and extended it to a month. And then another month. Now, it had been two months, and the order was rescinded, only to be replaced by a Stay-Off-The-Surface order.

After wandering in the sea for a few hours, she found herself, perhaps by reflex, at her friend Prairie Feather's home.

"Prairieeeeeee... Prairie Featherrrrrrrr... I'm so bored. Is there anything new happening?"

"Nothing new," Prairie said, swimming lethargically out of the stone structure. "I'm just as bored as you. Why don't you write your friends? Don't you know griffons in Griffonstone?"

"It's not the same. They never write back. I wish I could see them in person. Once all this is finally over, that's the first thing I'm gonna do. I'm gonna travel all around Equestria, and see everyone."

"Yeah, me too."

"That's what I miss most. Seeing everyone. What about you? What are you going to do when this is all over?"

"I want to go to a concert. It feels like I haven't been to one in years."

"But there are concerts. Even during the isolation order. You can go to them."

"It's not the same. I wanna have a mosh pit! I wanna bump into other hippogriffs! These underwater concerts aren't the same at all."

"Not to mention the screaming chicks."

"Yeah, I think they've had it the hardest."

"No, I think their parents have. I'm glad I don't have children right now. All I have to worry about is my own boredom."

"Hey, why don't you give a haircut? Somegriff must need one."

"Everygriff has fish tails now. No hair. And the manes have hardly any hair. It's all rigid."

"Here. Try me." Prairie turned around, exposing the back of her head to to Emerald.

Emerald pulled out the steel scissors, now slightly rusty, out of her apron. She always kept them close, as her only two remainin possessions. "Alright, now hold still."

She looked into Prairie's mane. It was short and rigid. It extended neatly out of the head fin, like whiskers, or thick bristles on a brush.

She cut an uneven patch, and then looked for another. To her disappointment, the hair was mostly even, and quite short.

"It's pointless." She sighed. "If only manes grew long on seaponies."

"Then it would all be flopping around in the water, getting in their faces, and they'd all need haircuts. You'd be rich."

"Yeah... then I wouldn't have to live off twelve hundred bits of government stimulus money. Not like there's anything to spend it on, though."

"You could buy the rarest of fruits -- an apple!" Prairie said, suddenly perking up, swimming up to meet Emerald's face.

Emerald knew that Prairie hated swimming. Prairie had always loved running and flying around Mount Aris, and the lack of open space was starting to get pretty hard on her.

Emerald gave a curious look to Prairie. "An apple? Prarie, you know we can't have those any more. They don't grow under water. I'd love nothing more than an apple right now, believe me. I'm so sick of fish. It seems like that's all we eat."

Prarie only grew more excited, swimming circles around Emerald. "No! There is one! I would have told you, but... I've kinda been sleeping for the last twelve hours, and I forgot."

"Where? How?"

"In the center of town! Diamond Wand, that mage, remember? She's auctioning off one that's been magically preserved."

"Hmm, so it wouldn't have been turned to mush over time. Like all those apples I brought down on the first day."

"You mean that you hoarded?" Prairie wasn't one to panic, but he seemed to have spent his entire savings on apples on the day of the battle. No matter what he called it, it was panic buying.

"Do you want to go see the auction?" Prairie asked, changing the subject.

"Not like I have anything better to do."

"Forty eight hundred! Do we have forty nine hundred?"

"Six thousand!" shouted a blue seapony.

Four seaponies let out a collective curse at being outbid.

"Where did you get six thousand bits!?" somegriff shouted.

"I had money saved away," the blue seapony responded dismissively.

"You're hoarding bits, living in luxury, while the rest of us are going without!"

Accusations started piling up. A crowd surrounded the blue seapony. The auction quickly started into a confrontation.

"We're dying, here!" shouted one seapony. Emereald had assumed it was simply an exageration, but then she recognized the voice as Red Feather's brother. She felt a sudden pang in her heart, remembering Red Feather's death, by suicide.

Emerald felt as though a riot or lynch mob would break out.

Queen Novo appeared. "STOP," she commanded. The crowd went silent, listening to her.

"I know these trying times have been hard on everygriff. Please don't give up hope. Don't become violent.

"I'd love to tell you all that I have some sort of good news, but I don't. This isn't temporary. This is going to become a permanent part of our lives.

"We need to rebuid, not destroy. This is the new norm.

"This one apple isn't worth destroying a kingdom over. Do not forget everyone who has given their life."

The crowd dispersed, mumbling to themselves.