• Published 1st Dec 2013
  • 4,851 Views, 399 Comments

The Book of Water: The Heart of Winter - TalonMach5



Part two, of books two of four, in the Great Slave King Saga. An anthology of Equestria's history

  • ...
20
 399
 4,851

Prologue: He Who Has Many Names

The Book of Water: The Heart of Winter

A Story by TalonMach5

Prologue: He Who Has Many Names

It was a warm summer morning. In the distance, she heard the cheerful melodies of songbirds and the buzzing of insects. That which had once been oppressive and frightening, now held a sense of normalcy for her. And the otherwise intimidating forest, felt somewhat pleasant to travel through. All around her, sunlight filtered down through the thick canopy overhead, while her caravan followed in the hoofsteps (or was that in the footsteps?), of her unusual guide.

From beneath her faded blue and threadbare silken peaked hat, she looked at the scenery around them. Though she’d not forgotten the dangers this place offered respectable ponies such as herself, now that the sun had banished the night’s shadows, she no longer felt the fear she once had. Her kind were so accustomed to the order and tranquility their land possessed, it was easy to forget that these wild places still existed.

Her contemplation of their journey through the forest was interrupted as the caravan rattled and violently shook. It was another one of those blasted tree roots! Though she was grateful for the protection that her guide offered her, and the rare opportunity the knowledge he possessed presented to her. She wished that he would’ve chosen a less treacherous path through the forest. If for no other reason than to save her caravan’s shocks and struts, which she was sure would need to be completely replaced once this little excursion was over.

She heard a soft snoring come from her bed, and looked over at its occupant with concern. Using her magic she lifted the blanket up, and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that she was still fast asleep. Looking down at her for a moment, she still had trouble believing that the unicorn filly peacefully sleeping in her caravan was his daughter. Truly, there couldn’t be a parent and child more far removed than those two. Like her, the filly’s had a deep blue coat and pale blue mane. In fact, if anypony were to make judgments based on looks alone, they might be tempted to say she was sooner related to the foal than her father was.

Returning her attention to the road, she studied him carefully. Though the fire they had shared last night, had cast shadows that made him appear quite frightening. In the daylight, he was less so. Though the pelt of the great beast draped over his shoulders and metal mask obscuring his face, did little to make him anything but intimidating. Looking at his metallic right arm, she wondered how he’d originally lost it, and what magic was used in the construction of its replacement that allowed it to act almost like flesh. There was so much she wished to ask him, but remembered the previous night’s rebuke when she’d pressed him for more, and knew he’d not speak before he was willing.

Though the stories she’d heard of the wayfarers over the years, described them as a hearty race, she’d been surprised by his steadfast endurance. By now, they had been traveling for hours, and the pace his legs carried him at hadn’t faltered once. Not only was his strength remarkable, he was an experienced woodspony as well. Bushes and vines seemed to melt away at his touch, and what seemed like nearly impossible terrain for all but the most surehooved of ponies, revealed itself to be a passable trail for her caravan.

The scent of wild grass and rotting leaves filled her nostrils. Moments later, the putrid scent of decay made her curl her lips back in disgust. By the smell, she could tell they were approaching a bog. Suddenly, flashbacks of her travails at freeing her caravan from the mud raced through her mind. Remembering how filthy and exhausting yesterday’s ordeal had been, filled her with dread at possibly facing it once more. Looking at her guide, she hoped he’d be able to scout a path for them to travel. Because she wasn’t looking forward to crossing the marshy bog on hoof, and couldn’t afford to abandon her caravan to the wilds.

Without missing a beat, he walked barefoot into the sticky mud without slowing down. Though ordinarily the thick muck might have mired a lesser creature, the wayfarer was crossing the swamp without issue. Stopping her caravan where the putrid muck of the bog met the wild and unruly forest, she looked down at the thick oozing mud with trepidation. If she got stuck here, there was no way she’d ever be able to free her caravan. And judging by the half sunk logs and the submerged and broken trees the swamp had already claimed, if the caravan sunk here, she’d be lucky to escape the bog’s thick, sticky clutches with her life.

When he sensed her hesitation, he stopped and looked at her with his burning eyes. Even midday, those magical flames burned bright. Peering at her from beneath his iron crown, the green flames accused her of doubting him. Earlier he’d promised her, she had nothing to fear if she obeyed him as they traveled together. It seemed that he expected her to honor her promise to him now. Fearful of losing all her possessions to the swamp, she held her breath and drew her magic into her horn, as she prepared moving the caravan forward.

As the caravan’s wheels inched forward, she could feel her heart beating hard in her chest. As the wheels rolled into the mud, she breathed a sigh of relief when she didn’t sink like she’d expected to. Still feeling apprehensive about moving her very heavy and fully loaded caravan across the mud, she looked at what seemed to be a nearly endless expanse of reeds and dying grass, before casting one last wistful look at the dry ground of the forest they were leaving behind them. She felt a slight chill run up her spine, he was looking at her impatiently now. She supposed, that he was expecting her to keep up with his brisk pace across the swamp. A feat she found difficult in the forest, but something that should prove easy enough on the soft mud, unless the swamp claimed her caravan first.

Not wishing to annoy him any further, she decided to trust him, and moved the caravan forward at a nice clip. Seemingly satisfied with her, he began walking forward once more. The further away from the sure and rocky soil they had left behind them, the more nervous and afraid she got. She made sure to follow in his footprints, knowing the slightest deviation from his path would surely allow the muck to claim her caravan. Though the ride was much smoother now, she’d give anything to feel the caravan rocking back and forth. At least then, she’d have the comfort of knowing that she was safely on sure ground.

All around the caravan, the swamp bubbled with life. As they passed clumps of tall grass, all manner of mallards, cranes, and waterfowl of all kind noisily flew away as the large caravan disturbed their roosts and nests. Though it wasn’t noticeable at first, the croaking of frogs and buzzing of flittering insects was all around them. In the beginning she didn’t really mind it, but after about twenty minutes of hearing the racket nonstop, the incessant noise began digging into her mind like a knife. Pulling her hat tightly around her ears with her magic, she tried her best to ignore the constant thrum of life, but found the task next to impossible.

“The Great and Powerful Trixie, shall go mad if this keeps up much longer!” she softly moaned, being careful not to wake his daughter. Giving the filly an envious look, she sighed. “Trixie wonders how Little Bleu manages sleeping through this racket.”

As she bitterly complained to herself about the unceasing noise, she failed to notice that her guide was standing still. Noticing that he’d stopped, she locked the caravan’s breaks and prayed she stopped before hitting him. The caravan shuddered, as it slid forward on the slippery mud beneath its wheels and struggled to come to a complete stop. Fearful she was going to hit him, Trixie closed her eyes and hoped for the best.

With a lurch, the caravan finally came to a halt. Cautiously opening an eye, she looked out the hatch that served as the driver’s seat. To her relief, the caravan had stopped just shy of hitting her rather large, tall, and intimidating guide. Looking up at him questioningly, she was about to ask him why he’d stopped, when he held up his metal hand to silence her.

She was sorely tempted to ask anyway, but then she noticed how quiet it was. It was as if the pale pony of death, had dropped down its scythe on all the annoying noisy creatures of the swamp, silencing them with one fell strike. Something about the silence seemed rather unnatural and off, making her skin crawl. She saw his burning eyes darting back and forth, as if he was searching for some hidden thing. Then she felt it. Beneath her hooves, the caravan was vibrating. In fact, as the seconds passed the vibrations became stronger until they made her teeth rattle.

“Stay inside and watch my daughter,” he brusquely said, giving her the distinct impression that if she disobeyed him, he’d withdraw his offered protection without a second thought.

From her vantage point inside the caravan, she looked out the hatch as he stepped away from it, and deeper into the swamp. As he moved away from her and his sleeping daughter, she felt a tinge of fear clawing at the back of her mind. Would the mud continue holding the weight of the caravan, now that he was so far away? What if he abandoned her? Would she be trapped in this deadly bog, miles from the safety of dry ground?

With a single rebuking glance at her direction, his burning eyes quelled all her doubts and fears. She waited to see why he’d walked into the depths of the bog. A few moments later she had her answer, breaking free of the muck was four, rather large heads. Each was covered in dull brown scales, which dripped with the foul smelling water and muck of the swamp, and possessed a pair of shining green eyes, each of which were much larger than the circumference of her caravan’s wheels.

Red fins attached to the heads fluttered, as the nostrils on their muzzles flared in search of new prey. The heads attached to massive serpentine necks, slowly rose out of the dank muddy swamp. Each of the heads bobbed to and fro as they towered over her guide. Slowly, they opened their maws, revealing rows of large sharp teeth and flicked their tongues, tasting the air. As four pairs of lantern like eyes looked down at the much smaller being below them, they narrowed predatorily at what they presumed would be an easy meal.

Trixie felt her heart stop in terror. That was a hydra, one of the most feared predators in Equestria! Though hydras were nearly as large as their draconic brethren, dragons could at least be reasoned with, not so with hydras. Though they had four heads, and possessed as many brains between them. These beasts were dimwitted eating machines, who would just as soon devour you as let you be on your way. Many a pony had ended up as a hydras meal when they had made the mistake of suing for peace, instead of running away to safety.

Whether her guide knew this or not, she didn’t know. He only looked up at the four hungry maws, and tightened his metal hand into a fist. Though she couldn’t see him as clearly from her vantage point, his burning eyes filled her with a sense of wonder and dread. Looking up at the hydra, she could see by its hungry eyes that it didn’t share her appraisal of him. One of the heads licked its maw appreciatively and nodded to its fellows. Immediately, all four heads rushed to meet their prey with their maws wide open. Their saliva covered teeth glistened in the midday sun, as they hissed in anticipation of their meal.

Drawing back his fist, her guide slammed it directly into the maw of the closest head, before leaping back to avoid being gobbled whole. The sound of metal, meeting bone and flesh, made a wet crunch that sent a shiver down her spine. The struck head screamed in pain as its fellows looked on in confusion. Her guide said nothing, only offering the other heads a look of warning with his burning eyes, as he held a stance that suggested further violence would be the result if they persisted in accosting him.

The struck head drew back in fear, as the others gave their companion a withering look of disdain for its cowardice. Each of its four necks bobbed and weaved, as they tried deciding what to do next. One of the heads, impatient and hungry to eat, decided it had waited long enough, and rushed towards her guide with its maw wide open. Without blinking, he moved with a speed and grace his large form suggest was impossible, and deftly avoided its bite. Crack! Once more, the sound of metal meeting flesh made her cringe. This time her guide had pounded the offending head’s skull, burying the hydra’s head deep inside the muck.

With a roar of frustration, the other heads released a soul piercing shriek as they attempted devouring him. What she saw next, defied what she thought was possible. He ran up the stunned head’s neck, easily avoiding the three pairs of biting jaws nipping at his flanks. As he ran along the beast’s serpentine neck and towards its back, each of head’s reeled back in pain, as the only reward they received for their continual attempts at eating him, was a painful crack from his metallic arm.

As the jaws snapped at him, he landed a series of blows, each of which seemed to her more painful than the last. Uppercuts, jabs, and even elbows were being thrown by her guide left and right, as he avoided all their hungry bites. All the while, his eyes glowered defiantly at the supposed apex predator, offering it not a shred of mercy for the pain he dealt out as they fought for their survival. At times, several of its heads looked hungrily at her caravan, filling her heart with a chill of fear. But each time their attention towards him began waning, her guide dissuaded them of the foolish notion that any other should be its concern.

The fight had seemingly been going on for ages, for how long, she didn’t know. To her, it seemed like an eternity had passed. As her guide brawled with the hydra, it seemed to her that the world consisted of only of those two, locked in mortal combat. Though they’d been fighting tooth and nail, and the hydra seemed fatigued, her guide wasn’t missing a beat, and still moved like quicksilver. Though from the little fighting she’d seen over the course of her travels, the stallions (and even griffins in some cases), often made a big show of whinnying and snorting intimidatingly at their opponents. But beyond the hydra’s roars of frustration, her guide was nearly as silent as the swamp. Besides the ringing of metal as his hand and arm met the hydra’s flesh and bones, he was as still as death itself.

Even though he’d promised her protection and safe passage through the Everfree Forest, she was beginning to wonder which the greater danger was, the unnatural, untamed magical wilds of this place, or her wayfarer guide. When she was much younger, she’d once had the opportunity to see Princess Celestia from a distance, when her hometown had hosted that year’s Summer Sun Celebration. The power and majesty she saw displayed by the goddess that day, had left an indelible mark upon her. It was the impetus for her desire to seek out her fortunes on the open road as a wandering storyteller. And now she felt something similar about her guide.

Though the princess had filled her with a feeling of warmth and benevolence, this wayfarer filled her heart full of terror and wonder. Like the forest she feared him, but at the same time the secrets he held filled her with an insatiable desire to know more. She’d decided that no matter what, she had to hear the rest of his story, and learn all his hidden secrets. From behind her, she heard Little Bleu beginning to stir, and knew what she needed to do. Like all fathers, the key to their hearts were through their children, and she was sure her guide would prove no different.

A loud bellow sounded outside, causing the snoring filly to wake with a start. “Daddy?” she whimpered, as the hydra’s roars roused her from her deep slumber.

Trixie approached her with a smile, trying to calm her down. “Little Bleu, he’s outside,” she insincerely said, trying to mask her own fear as best she could. “Trixie was told to stay inside and look after you.”

“Alright,” she said, seemingly satisfied with the answer, as even more roars shook the caravan. “Miss Trixie, I’m hungry. Do you have any food to eat?”

At the mention of food, Trixie’s own stomach began rumbling in complaint. Truth be told, she had little in the way of provisions, and had hoped to fill her larder at the next town. However, those plans had gone out the window when she’d met the filly’s father, heard him tell her his half-finished tale, and had begged him to allow her to join him.

Knowing her guide would be displeased if she let his daughter go hungry, she began rooting through her cupboards looking for something she could offer her. Finding a bruised apple and some stale bread, she picked up the meager meal with her magic and offered them to her. “Trixie knows this isn’t much,” she said, trying to ingratiate herself to the filly. “But hopefully this will ease your hunger.”

Little Bleu looked up at the offered food with gratitude in her purple eyes. “Thank you,” she said, before biting into the bruised flesh of the apple with gusto.

Had she been somepony less hungry, she might’ve turned up her muzzle at the offered fare, but her empty gut made the meal seem like a feast. Looking enviously at the filly, she resumed the search for a meal of her own. As her stomach rumbled and growled in displeasure, her eyes lit up when she discovered a hidden cache of food containing several apples and some hard tack. Though the apples had certainly seen better days, and the hardtack was probably older than Little Bleu, her empty stomach made the decision for her.

Lifting up a piece of the hardtack with her magic, she closed her eyes and prayed that no weevils had been making their home in her food. But before she could eat her questionable meal, a great roar followed by a heavy thud got her attention. Dropping her food, she looked out the caravan’s hatch to see what had happened. She gaped in amazement when she saw her guide standing before the hydra, wearing the same dour look he always wore. The hydra’s heads bowed low in submission before him, as he stood unwaveringly in front of the beast.

Without a sound, he raised his metal hand and pointed towards the distant horizon. The bruised and maimed hydra nodded in understanding, before limping away. The sight of the large hydra cowering with its tail between its legs before the much smaller wayfarer, left in her the impression of somepony disciplining a wayward pet. Had she not seen the sight with her own two eyes, she’d had said what she’d seen was merely the ramblings of a madpony or liar.

Sensing that she was looking at him, her guide turned his attention towards her. Suddenly, she felt the full weight of his searching gaze resting upon her. Shaken, she pulled her head back into the caravan, and returned to her nearly inedible meal. Before she could bite down into the rock like hardtack, she felt him looking at her.

“I was worried, daddy,” Little Bleu said, looking up at him with her large purple eyes. “When I woke up, you weren’t there.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you awoke, Little Bleu,” he said, spying the remnants of her meal. “I had something that needed to be taken care of.”

“I understand, daddy,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the unpleasant odor emanating from him. “Eww, you stink.”

She thought she saw him flash a quick smile at his daughter for a moment, before brushing away some of the muck that still clung to him. “Well we are in a swamp after all,” he said, before looking at Trixie’s unappetizing meal. “I require sustenance. Give me that food.”

Had he been any other stallion, Trixie would’ve told him no. But how do you deny somepony capable of singlehoofedly beating a hydra into submission? “Please, Trixie is so hungry,” she plead, hoping that he’d leave something for her to eat.

Seemingly unaffected by her plea, he shook his head and expectantly held out his metal hand. “I require it all,” he said, not so much asking as ordering her to give him the remainder of her meager rations.

She wanted to object to his ‘request’, but a single look into his burning eyes reminded her that her guide was somepony unaccustomed to taking no for an answer. With a heavy heart, she levitated the last of her food into his waiting hand. She was so hungry she wanted to cry. She remembered the oath of obedience he’d forced her to swear before allowing her to join him, and bitterly wondered if he planned on abusing her oath any further during the rest of their journey together.

“We must keep going,” he said, turning away from the caravan and back into the swampy bog. “Little Bleu, mind her.”

“Yes, Daddy,” she obediently said, as she looked up at Trixie.

“But Trixie is hungry!” she angrily said, as her hunger compelled her to speak.

“Then eat something,” he replied in a tone suggesting he wondered why she was wasting his time with such foolishness.

“There is nothing left to eat!” she exclaimed, bemoaning her sorry and famished state.

“Check your cupboards,” he brusquely said, before walking away.

When she heard his ridiculous suggestion, she wanted to blast him with her magic. Didn’t he know, she’d searched high and low for the last scraps of food he’d so callously demanded from her? Did he honestly think she would’ve bothered eating those crumbs, if there was better fare to be had?

“Is there any more to eat?” Little Bleu asked, looking up at her with hope in her eyes.

It took all her will power to hold back her tongue, from giving the filly an angry scolding for having the audacity to ask such a thing when hadn’t yet eaten. “No, there is nothing more to eat!” she said, raising her voice slightly. “You and your father ate it all.”

“But daddy said to check your cupboards,” she reminded her, feeling slightly guilty she’d asked for more, when Trixie had given them all the food she possessed.

“Trixie already checked them,” she replied, feeling frustrated and agitated that she was having this discussion with the filly. “The cupboards are all bare. There’s nothing there”

“My daddy doesn’t lie,” she protested, feeling her eyes welling up with tears.

In anger, Trixie marched towards the nearest cupboard and flung it open with her magic. “See, nothing’s insi…” she started, before staring slacked jawed at the shelves stuffed to the brim with foodstuffs of all kind.

“See, my daddy did speak the truth,” Little Bleu angrily said, stamping down her tiny hoof in righteous indignation.

She didn’t know what to say. Feeling shame for her earlier outburst at the filly, she lowered her head. “Trixie is sorry for doubting him,” she said, removing her hat with her magic. “Trixie was just so hungry.”

“I forgive you,” the filly said, with a warm smile. “Just don’t talk bad about my daddy ever again.”

“Trixie promises,” she said, levitating a large loaf of sweet bread from the cupboard and breaking it into two. Handing half to Little Bleu, she began stuffing her face with the sugary sweetness of the bread. Never before had she tasted anything as divine as this, and couldn’t wait to eat even more. But before she could reach out for seconds, she felt the all too familiar gaze of her guide boring into the back of her skull. “Little Bleu, Trixie thinks your father is getting impatient with us.”

“My daddy's in a hurry,” she said with a small giggle.

Drawing on her magic, she made the caravan move forward once more, as they resumed their journey to wherever it was that her guide was leading them. Helping herself to another piece of sweetbread, she turned to look at the filly. She saw Little Bleu eagerly eating her piece without a care in the world, and wondered if her father would be displeased that she’d fed her sugar instead of something sensible like carrots and alfalfa instead. Wanting to know more about her mysterious guide, she decided to ply the foal for additional information.

“Where do you live?” she asked, while watching the road.

“Home,” Little Bleu replied, humming a happy tune to herself.

“Where’s that?” Trixie asked, hoping for a less vague answer.

“I donno,” she said, hopping up on the driver’s seat beside her.

“What’s it like?” she asked, guiding the caravan carefully along her guide’s chosen path.

“It’s a sad and lonely place just like my daddy,” Little Bleu replied, looking at her father with slight worry in her purple eyes.

“Trixie wonders how he could ever be sad and lonely?” she asked, deciding to steer the conversation towards her father. “When he has such a wonderful filly as you.”

When Little Bleu heard her compliment, the filly beamed with happiness before whispering to her. “Daddy tries to hide it from me, but I sometimes see him being sad.”

Trixie said nothing as she digested this new information. She wondered if what he’d told her earlier and his unfinished story were somehow related to each other. Whatever else she’d learned about her guide, he was definitely somepony complicated. Sitting in quiet contemplation, she watched as her wayfarer guide trod silently through the boggy muck. Chewing absentmindedly on the sweetbread, she wondered where their ultimate destination would be, and why he’d chosen to travel through such inhospitable terrain.

She felt Little Bleu staring at her, and turned her head to meet her gaze. “What is it?” she asked the filly.

“Please tell me a story, Miss Trixie,” she implored, hoping to be entertained.

“Very well, Little Bleu, Trixie shall tell you a story,” she said, thinking of a good story to tell.

“Thank you, Miss Trixie,” she said, sitting still in rapt attention as she waited to hear her tale.

“Perhaps Trixie shall tell you how she defeated the dreaded Ursa Major,” she said, giving the filly a sideways glance.

“Oh please!” Little Bleu excitedly said, eager to hear the story.

“Well Trixie’s ascent to greatness began several years after she started traveling…” she said, generating an illusion with her magic.

*****

It was beginning to get dark once more, and her guide had yet to grow weary from his nonstop barefoot trek through the swampy marsh. Then she saw it, a tree line in the distance. Her eyes lit up with excitement. Finally, dry ground and safety! she silently cheered. She looked at the distant shoreline impatiently, wishing to put the treacherous bog and the terrible hydras it held, behind her forever. Though the safety of the shore was within reach, her guide made no effort to pick up the pace. He was content to keep moving at the steady gait he’d been walking since they had first started this journey together.

Before she knew it, she felt the caravan jostle about as its wheels ran over some gravel and loose stones. She was safe from the dangers that the swampy bog posed now. Looking at her guide, she saw that he’d stopped. She was tired and hoped that he wanted to break camp here. Applying the brakes, she slowed the caravan down. With a creak and a hard lurch forward, the caravan came to a complete stop. Looking to her side, she saw Little Bleu sleeping peacefully once more. She wondered how long they had walked together, before discovering their campfire last night. Grabbing some rolls and a few pears, she began to eat her fill as she looked at her guide who was currently crouching low to the ground.

Absentmindedly taking a hearty bite from one of the pears, she paid no mind to the succulent juices running down her muzzle as she studied him. Though she knew little of his illusive race, the one thing she did know, was they possessed little magic of their own. Covering his daughter with one of her blankets, she grabbed some food, quietly exited the caravan, and walked towards him.

His lips moved as he stared intently at the ground before him, if she didn’t know better she’d have sworn he was holding a conversation with somepony. Creeping closer to him, she could almost make out what he was saying, when the ground in front of him exploded with green flames, nearly blinding her with their brilliance. When her sight had recovered, she saw to her amazement a green fire burning without fuel.

Her guide looked at her, and saw her wonderment. “The wood here… it’s too wet to burn,” he said in a low rasp, as if that was all the explanation she needed to hear.

“Who are you?” she asked, unable to fathom how he was able to perform feats that even Celestia might have issue with.

“I’m known by many names,” he replied, removing his flask and taking a slow swig, before looking past her towards the caravan and the sleeping foal that it held within. “Child. Monster. The Last. Murderer. Slave. Master. Even husband. But I think my favorite is father.”

Despite her best efforts, she found herself feeling greatly fatigued as she opened her muzzle wide and yawned. Seeing her exhaustion, he held out the small flask. Grabbing it with her magic, she laid back her ears as she gingerly sniffed the contents. “Trixie is curious. What is this, some kind of liquor?” she asked, as the liquid inside sloshed about.

“Drink the draught. It will renew you for the next leg of our journey,” he explained, as he looked at her expectantly.

With slight trepidation, she drank the offered draught. The moment the cool refreshing liquid touched her tongue, she found all the fatigue and weariness that had been crushing her like some great weight, lifted off her shoulders. Eager for more, she tilted her head back and did her best to empty the tiny flask. But no matter how much she drank, the flask never seemed to get any lighter.

After a minute of her trying to inhale the draught, her guide grabbed the flask from her magic’s grasp. “That’s enough for now,” he said, placing the flask back inside the satchel he carried on his hip.

“But Trixie is still thirsty,” she complained, desperate to taste more of that delightful green liquid that seemed to call out to her.

“No. Anymore of the draught, and you might not be able to live without it,” he said, pointing a metal finger at her. “Believe me, that’s one addiction you’d want to avoid.”

“Alright, Trixie understands,” she reluctantly said, wishing she could have just another sip from his flask.

The green flames flickered in the dusk’s waning light, as the night approached once more. She watched him there, sitting before the magical flames, as he occasionally glanced east towards the rising moon on the horizon. Now that they were no longer moving she wondered if he was willing to resume telling her his tale.

“Ask your question, pony,” he said with a voice that made him seem merely a hollow shade of the formerly frightening being she’d once considered him, while he watched the moon rise overhead.

“Trixie wants to know, did the Slave King ever love her?” she asked, hoping he’d share more of his story with her.

He seemed taken aback by her question. Refusing to look at her, he rested his gaze on the caravan once more. “If you betrayed them, did you ever truly love them?” he replied, looking up at the moon once more.

When she heard his reply she looked at him questioningly, she didn’t quite know how to respond. “Trixie knows not,” she said, unsure if she could betray one she loved.

“Pony,” he said with a heavy heart. “What do you choose when confronted with an impossible choice?”

“Tell me,” she said with baited breath.

Turning towards her, the flickering green flames framed his face with dark shadows. “His choice was this…”

Author's Note:

Thank you, gentlereader, for reading, as always comments are always welcomed and appreciated. I would like to thank you for your patience as I wrote either the conclusion or book two of three in the Book of Water, of the Great Slave King saga. Hopefully you found the prologue sufficiently interesting, If you haven't yet read the first two entries, I invite you to stop now and do so here: The Great Slave King, and here: The Book of Water: The Marriage of the Slave King. And if you've enjoyed what you've read thus far might I tempt you with a side of: Equestrian Tales Told by Tavernlight.

Expect the addendum and chapter one to be posted shortly. And as an additional bonus, if the story is featured I'll publish chapter two to sweeten the deal. Otherwise, expect it sometime next week.

Once again gentlereader, thank you for reading and all your kind words and support. You make writing worthwhile. Until next time!