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As Above, So Below

by Flashgen

Long ago, before the Hippogriffs came to roost upon Mount Aris, they were nomadic creatures. From place to place they would soar, land, feast and rest, before taking off to elsewhere when the sun rose above the horizon. Unbound by the land, they were content to travel the skies and the world forever, seeking new sights and wonders and joy.

However, their ruler was not so certain that it would be their ultimate fate; she, a mighty and wise chieftain of her tribe, saw that each day the Hippogriffs took off to new horizons and destinations, they would travel shorter. Where once she remembered traversing the breadth of a continent in hours, now it seemed that her people could scarcely cover half of that if they traveled without rest. She feared that one day, long beyond her rule, the Hippogriffs would awake to find themselves tethered forever to the spot where they had landed.

And so, every night when the Hippogriffs landed, she would wander off from the tribe and let her thoughts wander farther. She thought, perhaps, that coming to rest somewhere would at least leave her tribe with the strength and will to enjoy the breeze and skies about them. It was on one such night, as they roosted upon a great peak by the shore, that she scaled to the top of the mountain to take in the horizons about her.

There she found a tree, battered by the winds and bent beyond its will. While its branches seemed weak and thin, they shook and swayed within the breeze, and its roots were strong and held it to the rocks of the mountain’s peak. And there, hanging from the strongest branch, was a bright, glowing fruit, glimmering with all manner of colors. The chieftain pulled the fruit from the branch and took it as a sign from fate.

That night at the base of the mountain, she showed the fruit to her tribe and told them that they would take root there, as the seeds of this fruit had. But, as she began to take a bite, there was a commotion from the shore. Strange creatures emerged from the waves, with scales and fins that glistened in the moonlight. The chieftain saw that the colors they made were the same as those the fruit had produced.

One of the creatures approached, holding something within its fins. When it spoke, its voice was melodic and soothing. “You, who have plucked our twin from the peak. We seek to be as one, to grow and change and experience together. As you may see what is below, we may see what is above.”

The chieftain heard the creature’s words, and as it held its fins aloft, she saw that they held a fruit nearly identical to the one she had found on the peak. The creatures exchanged their fruit for the chieftain’s, and they feasted upon one another’s. Within a bright burst of magic, the creatures became Hippogriffs, and the Hippogriffs became them.

---

Filigree looked on, rapt, as the aged hippogriff with faded blue feathers and coarse talons finished his tale. His companion, Calligraphy, let his eyes wander out of a nearby window at a sunlit square of Mount Aris

“The legends say that on that day, the Hippogriffs and Seaponies became one tribe. Like the tree atop Mount Aris that our ancient chieftain found, there was another plant deep beneath the waves. Eventually, these twin plants bore one final fruit each, strong as the bond the two had shared. One became the Pearl of Transformation, plucked from the top of Mount Aris, but the other was left abandoned beneath the waves.”

“And it’s never been found?” Filigree asked about the pencil in his mouth before jotting down a few more lines of notes.

Coral Crest chuckled as he closed the book before him. “Certainly not. Honestly, I don’t think the legend holds very much truth, but it is the oldest tale of Hippogriff culture that we’ve recorded.” He took a few steps forward, placing the book down on the table where Filigree and Calligraphy sat. “If you’ll excuse me, I do have a few other things to take care of around the library. The older hippogriff took off, flying towards a nearby shelf.

Filigree pulled the book close and flipped it open to the legend, eyes scanning the page while he sat his pencil down. “This is just what we needed to find, isn’t it?” His thoughts wandered to all manner of stories that he could write about something like that: adventure, drama, mystery, thrills and more! His view, however, was soon reduced to just the cover, and a light brown hoof resting on it.

“Honestly, Fil? You heard what he said, and I can come up with a dozen extra reasons the whole thing is false.” Calligraphy pulled his hoof back and then lifted the book with his magic. Flipping it open and going through the pages, he pointed out a few passages. “He didn’t even mention this part. It says the tree underwater was as deep below the waves as the peak of Mount Aris. That’s got to be at least, what three or four thousand feet? It’s impossible for a plant to survive that far beneath the ocean.”

Filigree narrowed his eyes at Calligraphy as he leaned back in his seat. “Just because you’re more concerned with writing the same thing everypony else has doesn’t mean I am. It doesn’t have to be true to be exciting or interesting.”

Calligraphy sighed and closed the book before setting it down. “I told you, Fil, I came here to do research. I’m not looking for myths and legends. Hippogriff history could be an interesting subject to write on, and even compare to pony history. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something in this library that connected the two.” He pushed his chair away from the table and stood up, setting his sights on one of the shelves. “If you want to keep reading it, go ahead, but I’m going to try and find something more substantial.”

With a huff, Filigree pulled the book closer and opened it, returning to his notetaking. Still, as he read, he couldn’t help but let his thoughts drift to such a treasure. Could the fruit be a second Pearl of Transformation, or something even more powerful and mysterious? Eventually, he found his pencil tracing maps.

---

Filigree felt strange, swimming beneath the waves with such ease and breathing through gills like he had been his entire life. His body was different now, no longer constrained to the form of an earth pony. Instead, he had a fin in place of his hind legs and flippers instead of hooves on his forelegs. The pack strapped to his torso felt light despite the book and papers it held. The salesman told him it had a special enchantment that reacted in a particular way to the Pearl of Transformation. To Filigree, it just felt like the thing had been pumped full of air with how it tugged him towards the surface.

Unfurling a special parchment, he scanned the map of Mount Aris’s reefs. It was marked with arrows and numbers from his research the day before. Turning about, glancing up at the rippling shape of Mount Aris behind him and the glare of the sun ahead, he oriented himself before swimming off towards the nearby shelf.

Filigree’s journey was an easy one. The waters about Mount Aris were calm that day, and the bright sunlight was enough that he could see clearly, so it wasn’t long before the ocean floor and reefs gave way, slowly and then suddenly, to a great black void beneath him. This was the closest shelf to the beaches of Mount Aris. It only made sense to Filigree that the seaponies would have come from this direction to meet the early hippogriffs.

Looking down into the black, Filigree felt his spine shiver. Even though the water around him was warm, he couldn’t help but feel cold glancing down at such emptiness. But this was the kind of excitement he enjoyed to read and write: a perilous adventurer braving the unknown. And so, Filigree swallowed his fear, steeled himself, and swam down.

It was simple at first. The sunlight was bright enough to illuminate the sheer edge of the shelf as he followed it down, and the water gave little resistance. However, the deeper and deeper he swam, the stronger the pressure below him became and the dimmer the light filtering from above. He slowed down, clinging to the rocks of the shelf while tugging and pushing himself down. Filigree knew how deep the light should reach, and how much farther he would have to go.

So when the sunlight finally gave way to nothing, his progress stopped entirely. It was colder now, with the warmth of his body sapped away by the water around him, but it was also still. The motion of the waves that could have been felt back in the reefs was absent. Only the movement of his tail fin or flippers broke the stillness. He dreaded going forward, but turning back felt like more of a loss.

Then, he heard something: a shift of pressure in the water, like a great, massive thing swimming through it. He oriented himself towards what he thought was the surface and began to climb, pushing himself with his fins and flippers up and up. His heart pounded in his ears, blood racing through his veins, but then it was gone.

His ears became muffled, like when he had dunked his head into a bucket back in Equestria to quench his thirst. His vision grew blurry, and his eyes stung from the feeling of salt water against them. The pack on his back became heavy, and then he felt his two forelegs kicking uselessly within the black. His fins turned to hooves, and they clung desperately to the rocks. He opened his mouth and sucked in salt water, flooding his lungs.

Through the pressure against his ears, music seemed to reach him, soft and calming and melodic. Just before his vision went black, he felt at peace.