• Published 19th Aug 2014
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The Fire and Embers - Tamara Bloodhoof



A girl in Equestria simply looking for a way home, forced to live in a place where she knows nobody and nobody knows her. Un-cannon part of the CGoTG's universe.

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Chapter 4: The World Around Me

Chapter 4
The World Around Me

I could feel the sun hitting my eyelids and I groaned. I didn’t want to wake up. I’d be forced to face the day, and that would mean talking to dad about the track trip. He had no reason to say no, but I couldn’t help but feel this sinking feeling whenever I thought about it. Dad wouldn’t like it, and I after sending that college resume I didn’t know if I could take anymore. I rolled over and pressed my face harder into my leaves…leaves?

With a splutter I sat up and looked around, my sight blurry from sleep but I could see that I was in a cave resting on top of a nest of vegetation large enough to fit my entire room into. I looked around, trying to figure out why I was here and what was going on. This didn’t make sense, where was my room and bed? Why was I in a cave in the middle of a forest?

‘While the morning is the time for beginnings, forgetting your past makes one an idiot.’

Everything clicked back into place and I gasped, realizing where I was and what had happened. I quickly stood up and got off of the nest, looking at the massive pile of ashes that lay in the cave, remembering the events of last night. But if everything that happened last night was true, then where was Coalheart? I walked towards the cave entrance but stopped as I felt my stomach give a roar that would rival his.

How long had it been since I had food? I tried to remember, but I had no firm time-frame to make a sound judgment upon. Evidently far too long as I felt all the strength leave my limbs, the need to find food dominating my mind. I immediately looked for something, anything to eat. After fifteen minutes I gave up, dropping myself onto the floor and crossing my arms in frustration.

All that I had found was a pile of gems by the entrance and the vegetation that I had slept upon. The gems would have made any jeweller have a heart attack. It was at least fifteen feet tall and twice that in width, filled to the brim with gems so clear that I could see the sun shining through them all. The gems were also varied, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, jets, and more in the pile. But gems weren’t edible, so I plucked up the courage and tried to eat the leaves. The next few minutes were spent in the corner of the cave gagging and hacking up whatever had gone down my throat. If it wasn’t poisonous in its own right, the taste was bad enough it could kill anything.

“Pray tell thee, why is thou devouring ones bed?” came a deep rumble from the door.

I turned to see Coalheart and gave him a small glare which he returned with simple bemusement. “I was looking for food and I couldn’t find anything else!” I grumbled, blushing slightly.

“Art thou blind? Can you not see the nourishment before you?” he asked, his clawed hand tapping the pile of gems.

“Wait…those are food?” I asked, eyes boggling at his comment. “Gems? Seriously?”

“Hast thou forgotten even ones food?” he asked, starting to laugh at the idea, even though it was apparent to both of us by this point that I didn’t even know what I was supposed to eat. “Truly, to eat one’s own bed in favour of gems of these calibre one must have forgotten!”

By this point I would swear that my face was bright red despite the black scales. I didn’t bother responding to his jokes, instead walking to the pile and grabbing what looked like a sapphire as big as my head, giving him a muttered, “Thanks…”

“What a delightful person you are!” he chuckled, curling around himself as he began to eat as well. He didn’t differentiate between gems as he ate, simply taking small mouthfuls of mixed colours, his eyes never leaving me. It was slightly freaky, but I didn’t begrudge it. He had listened to me last night, had given me shelter, and had comforted me when I was sad. In all fairness, he was being closer to a father than dad ever was, and I had just met him. Pathetic really.

When I took a bite of the Sapphire I tasted water. Not the tap stuff that always seems to taste like bile, but clean mountain water straight from the source. It was somewhat weird to taste such a thing in solid form, but it was still delicious and I relished the food.

After a few minutes of silent eating he spoke up, posing a question I never thought that someone who was practically a stranger would ever ask. “You seem embarrassed. Is your lack of knowledge irking you?”

I choked on the gem, coughing harshly as I tried to rid myself of the stinging sensation in my throat. “Why would something like that irk me!?” I asked, annoyed anger underlining every word.

“Because you seem like one who seeks such things, and I can always help.” he said, a small smile playing across his lips. “If it really does annoy you so much, would you like me to teach you?”

I opened my mouth, ready to argue with him, but stopped as I registered what he had said. “You’d be willing to do that? For someone you don’t even know?” I asked.

“You are a hatchling, and I a wyrm. It does not matter who you truly are, I impart my knowledge and you receive it. That is how it has always been, and if you need help, then I am not one to treat you as scum for simply not knowing who you are.” He rumbled, and I could hear the sincerity of his words, his smile warm and caring.

I didn’t know what to say. I had always been told to do everything on my own, had never been given help and most definitely never been offered it by someone. I looked up at him again, then gave a small nod before turning back to my gem, hiding my smile in my food. Things were looking brighter now, even if I didn’t understand over half of what was going on.

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“So then, if you truly can’t remember anything about our world then it would behove us both if I taught you basic geography first.” Coalheart murmured, his finger cutting into the stone like a hot knife through butter.

“Sir, can I ask a question?”

“As I said before, knowledge is power, and if I’m giving it away for free, then ask away.”

“Where did your accent go?” I asked, something I had been wondering since earlier this morning.

He simply looked at me in dumb shock, eyes blinking and mouth opened in a comical ‘o’. “Has it really changed already?” he asked, a smile coming to his features. “That is a relief.”

Now it was my turn to look like a stand-up comedian, my head resting in my hands as I tried to piece together just what he meant. “What do you mean it’s already changed?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, you wouldn’t remember would you. Many truly ancient dragons can change how they sound in order to accommodate their guests. Few do so, as it’s seen as an act of weakness to care more for a guest than yourself. I just never truly cared about which accent I had, and I never saw the reason to change it afterwards.”

“So how long has it been since you last had a guest?” I asked, wondering just who would come a calling for Coalheart.

“Around five hundred years, and they were rather abrupt I can tell you!” came his deep laugh. “But all the same she was a nice guest. Now then, onto the lesson. Do you remember the shape of this world?”

I didn’t want to sound stupid, but not answering was impossible for me, so I simply said what came to mind and hoped that I wouldn’t buck it up. “It’s a sphere, right?”

“Correct, the entire world is a globe of land that is surrounded by water. As for the shape of the landmasses, irregular is the only word for them.” he chuckled. “We are on the border of two different dominions right now, can you remember which?”

“…no?” I whispered, feeling something well up in me. Was it resentment at being unable to answer such a simple question? Why would I even feel that?

‘It’s easy to hate oneself for being unable to something, and even simpler to do so if you could do it before.’

‘Shut up for a moment, will you?’

‘No.’

I blinked as my conscious actually spoke back against me. I didn’t know how or why, but either I was starting to go insane after all of these different incidents kept piling on top of one another or my brain was actively rebelling against me. Neither of them were situations I wanted to be in.

“Well then, we are right now in between the Griffin Dominion and Equestria, a border that is heavily contested at the best of times. It has known little peace in nearly a millennia of struggles, but neither side has never succeeded in penetrating the others defences. Now then, which groups live in the two lands?”

“I can’t remember.” I sighed, realizing that now wasn’t the time to get petulant over not understanding the geography of a world that didn’t even resemble my own.

“Well then, Equestria is named after its occupants, and is almost singularly inhabited by equines. The resident monarchs are Celestia of the Sun and her sister, Luna of the Moon.”

“Wait a moment, you’re joking right? Equestria is full of ponies and is ruled over by them as well?”

“Yes, but they do prefer to be called ponies. Why do you ask?”

“Well, how do ponies hold office if they can’t talk? How can creatures that can’t speak even build a government?”

“…Now it is my turn to ask if you’re pulling my leg. Have you really forgotten about everything in the world?” Coalheart asked, looking at me in slight worry.

“I…but…it’s complicated. I remember a lot of things, but none of it seems to apply to anything here!” I groaned, flopping onto my back, eyes closed as I just tried to stop the throbbing in my head.

“Well then, simple lessons. All creatures have at least the knowledge of language, whether they can speak it or not. A few of the races are blessed with proper speech. Among them are ponies, zebras, diamond dogs, griffons, and dragons of course.” He said, smiling slightly as he began to explain the about the different species.

The ponies favoured a loose matriarchal system of government, based upon their higher ratio of females to males. Men still held office yet many more were happy to work in manual labour while their wives took the more thought consuming tasks. They made their home in Equestria, a gem in the middle of the world, a land mostly free of the problems that other species faced, protected by their two seemingly immortal princesses.

The griffins were almost the exact opposite, their government focused solely upon their patriarchy. They also had a greater number of female children to male children, so they instituted a system of polygamy where a male could wed as many females as he could provide for, yet all females must be willing to wed the suitor. To be a single female meant one of two things in their society; either you were so weak or unattractive that no man would take you, or that you were so powerful that you would accept no males advances. Women could hold office, but unlike the ponies it was based upon ones strength and the grandeur of their deeds in battle. As such few girls held office as men were the most common warriors of their race. Their home was the Griffin Dominion, a mountain region with especially tall cliffs that had long intertwining cave systems in their peaks. At the moment there was no king in the mountains, but tales of warring families had been circulating for decades according to Coalheart.

Diamond Dogs, named for their love of said gems, were a mere step away from anarchy, their government simply glorified gangs. Their society was one based upon raw might alone, and if a dog was capable of killing their ruler, then he became the new one. Most of them lived in small self-sustaining groups, usually nomadic and practically always bandits. They did have a few holdings of great size in the region of Gem Fido, but they were simply the combination of multiple leaders putting their groups together for mutual protection. Many of those alliances had broken down in a sea of blood when one leader decided to take more than their ‘friends’ would allow.

Then came the dragons. They were the oldest race, the original race, but they were also the most pathetic out of them all. Long ago they were considered the rulers, not just of themselves but of everything. They had been the titans of the planet yet squandered their gifts on small vanities and trite treasures. Now they were simply sleepy beasts of legend, residing in the Badlands and sleeping upon their centuries old hordes. Few of them bothered to do anything more than press the diamond dogs for gems, and I could hear the distaste that Coalheart held for them.

Though each species had its own central language, all of them were based at least partially off of ancient draconic. It was a tongue that most people had forgotten about, even dragons, yet supposedly a deep understanding of it made all the other languages simple to learn. I guess Coalheart spoke from experience, but I didn’t know if he was stating a fact or just being vain. From what he said it seemed that most people spoke at least a smattering of the Equine tongue, like English back on Earth. As for other races, many speculate that there are dozens to hundreds of others who were blessed with speech, but few have propagated themselves far enough to be considered a central species of Gaia. A few of those were the zebras, minotaurs, and even buffalo.

After geography and politics came biology, and for the first time I wasn’t interested in this so that I could do my best on a test, but purely for a want of knowledge. I was absorbing everything he said, and every new shred of information made me feel even more interest at the world I was in.

‘Curiosity killed the cat.’

‘But what will this knowledge do that could hurt me?’

‘I don’t have all the answers you know.’

First was the ponies again, and with it came four pictures, one of a unicorn, one of a simple horse, a third depicting a Pegasus, and the final being a creature that seemed to be some strange pega-corn. All of them had manes, tails, and hooves, and from the colours that Coalheart described seeing on them, they were able to have coats and hair of any possible combination of colours. The only restriction was that their coat had to be a single block colour and the manes had to have stripes of colour. They also had something they called cutie-marks, each one supposedly a gateway into the ponies special talent or calling in life. As for the obvious physical differences between the races, each one supposedly controlled a different aspect of the world and their bodies helped them in that regard. The Earth Ponies being farmers of great skill, the Pegasi were able to control the very weather, and Unicorns could channel magic.

“Wait what!?” I spluttered, looking at Coalheart in shock. “Magic!?”

“Yes, and I will explain more about that when we reach dragons.” He rumbled, a small grin on his face at my sudden shock and my obvious interest. If his previous comment about guests wasn’t enough of a hint, his joy at teaching me made it certain that he didn’t get many visitors out here in the boondocks.

Evidently each creature was connected to magic, something that actually existed in this world in a seemingly endless supply that coursed through every being and the very land itself. Pegasi used it to control the weather in active spurts that pulsed whenever they tried to control the weather while Earth Ponies had a continuous automatic blessing that helped plants in their care to grow. Unicorns had something which neither Earth Ponies nor Pegasi had. In their case they had manual control of their magic, from levitation to teleportation, almost anything that could be thought of was possible if one had great enough supply of magika and enough control over it.

The final pony was called an Alicorn and they were exclusive to the royal family. Only two were known to exist, one called Luna and another named Celestia. Coalheart drew their pictures into the stone for me, and I drank them in. Celestia was outlined with his claws, her body filled in with the light stone, a long mane with a multitude of lines to differentiate between the colours covering half of her face. Her sister was literally the opposite, her body carved out of the stone, her coat made out of the dark indented space, her mane full of little dots. Luna was supposedly the princess of the moon and Celestia that of the sun, raising and setting them each day.

“Wait, the heavens rotate the Earth?”

“Yes, Gaia is the centre of our heavens, and all including the stars rotate around us.”

There goes years of astronomy lessons. Other than that though, they were supposed to be able to do anything that the three races could do, only better, their supply of magic far larger. If one was to compare it, the normal pony would have a pool of magic in them, the princesses had a sea.

After that came the Griffins. There weren’t that many special species of griffins, nor were they divided into a multitude of sub-species like the ponies were. They all shared a few key traits, plumed bodies, massive wings, clawed fingers that had just as much dexterity as a human hand and lion paws, all of them sporting beaks of varying size. Other than that they were simply a mixture of bird and lion, their rear sometimes being slim and lithe or else being massive and muscle bound. The front half of them was something of a regional difference, from hawk to crow, but the royal family had been led by an eagle fronted griffin since time immemorial.

They were strong and aggressive, being carnivorous to the bone, and they were excellent aerial predators. Despite the logical fallacy of their wings, the magic that coursed through their body kept their bodies aloft and allowed them to move clouds, though admittedly not as finely as pegasi. As for their eyes, they were able to see like birds, spotting prey and catching them in a snap. The only reason that they had yet to beat the ponies in open battle was sheer numbers, for griffins had far fewer children and citizens in general than the ponies, nature building in a natural quality versus quantity balance.

The Diamond Dogs were the lowest on the central races, considered little more than a pest by the ponies who knew and cared about their existence and a growing calamity by the griffins. Just like the Griffins they were usually the same as one another, but they also had sub-species depending on what dog they resembled, from pug to poodle. They were big, strong, dumb, and had a voracious appetite for gems, their jaws built with enough strength to break through the precious minerals. They even had the ability to dig through the ground with massive spade-like paws, able to practically swim through the water when compared to practically every other species. However they were also lazy, exceedingly so, and would rather enslave others to dig for their food than do it themselves. So came to be a species of slavers and torturers, snatching members of all races and forcing them to work in their mines.

They also had two strains running through them, that of the Alpha dog and that of the Beta. Beta’s created the majority of their population, and while they were large and strong, they were all fairly dumb and cowardly, using only their brute strength and rarely relying on their brains to survive. The Alpha’s were exceedingly different, many times slimmer than their Beta cousins, but they were built compact and intelligent. Few had the size of their dumber kin, but they had strength that no true Beta could compare with. Coupled with an intellect and cunning for creating and enslaving, they ruled over their societies as living gods, everyone to afraid to do anything to them.

Then came the dragons. They too had a variety of different sizes and strengths, but they were very similar on a component level. Dragons had the strongest source of magic out of all the races, their very blood supposedly coursing with it, and most of our attributes were attributed to our insane pool of magika. Every dragon had claws and scales, wings and fangs, and each dragon could use their renowned breath. There were tales of dragons who were able to bend the very elements to their whim, but Coalheart regarded these as nothing more than simple fancy. They

‘We’

…we started off bipedal and as we grew larger and larger we started to use our forelegs to support our massive weight. Dragons also ate gems, but we had gained a taste for meat, if only because meat had many other flavours that gems seemed unable to retain. Gems were much better in the long run though, the main supply of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins for our bodies. We could also eat vegetables and fruits, but for some reason they garnered no nutritional value, only pleasing our taste buds and becoming a source of indigestible fibre.

Dragons were also different from one another, but the differentiation seemed to be based upon colour rather than sub-species. Each picture that he drew looked different from the other, horns of differing lengths, wings shaped differently from one another, some dragons with shorter necks and other with longer necks. There were dozens upon dozens of colours, but seven stood out over the rest. These seven Coalheart had dubbed as the ‘Seven Lords’ of dragons, beings so powerful that none but other lords could ordinarily stand up to them.

The weakest of them were the Green dragons, creatures who were jealous to the point of being nigh upon insane. They would give anything to have what they wanted from others, and many families of green dragons had been killed thanks to one of them pushing their luck too often.

Next came the Yellow dragons, creatures who, like the green dragons, were envious of others things, but only because they felt enormously self-entitled. A normal yellow dragon would do anything to climb up the social or monetary ladder, and whole towns would be ransacked by one who simply wanted something they had decided they liked.

Then came the Pink dragons. They too wanted more than they deserved, but they were rarely without it, for they desired that of carnal satisfaction. They would woo and bed anything that would even attempt to try it. For many of them their hordes contained little gems and jewels, instead housing multitudes of other creatures whom were both lovers and suitors.

In the middle was the Blue dragon, a creature who was lazy yet intelligent. They only truly held two things dear, research for the sake of knowledge or sleeping, and most focused more upon sleeping than anything else. A few of them did nothing more than sleep, and many were known to go hundreds of years without eating, killing themselves in the process. They were few in number now, but when they woke up they would either be the best of conversationalists or the most destructive of all creatures.

Next was the Purple dragon, and they were perhaps the most idiotic of all dragons. They were prideful to a point of challenging foes that were obviously more powerful than them. Sneak attacks were considered dishonest, and most tales of the brave knight slaying the dragon evidently came from them, their pride tying them to fight until they either won or died.

The penultimate dragon was the Red. Stories of rampaging monsters were brought about when one of them, a being called Vesuvius, had decided that a pony who had insulted him was enough of a reason to commit genocide. Though it happened easily over five millennia ago, it still brought back fear and hatred of dragons when it was retold.

Finally there where the Black dragon, a creature who was the strongest of not only the dragons, but of all recorded beings. They were strong enough to kill their weaker kin with a simple swipe of their claws, wise enough that the dimmest of them could outsmart even learned scholars in a match of wits, and fast enough that they’ve destroyed entire forests with the backlash of their flying. It was simply fact that they were powerful, but they had never learned when to stop. They would eat whatever they wanted, try to experience anything and everything they could, and once they had been hooked they never let go. It had led to their own destruction, and now Coalheart couldn’t recall any others living besides the two of us. When I looked at my scales I felt a new appreciation for what I had become, even if it still surprised and frightened me.

‘Seven dragons of seven paths, all part of the same deadly circle.’

‘Wait, what?’

‘Seven dragons, seven sins.’

Coalheart was obviously done with the lesson and as I finally stood up and stretched my tired bones I realized that the sun had begun to set long ago, the last few rays of light turning the cave a glowing red. “I didn’t realize that we were talking for so long!” I chuckled, looking over at Coalheart with a small smile. “I hope you didn’t mind.”

“It was a pleasure! It’s rather rare that I get a guest, and even more so that they actually wish to talk. I do hope I wasn’t boring you with all of those details.” He rumbled, giving me a small wink.

“It was informative and interesting, why would I complain about something like that?” I asked, sticking my tongue out at him.

“Well then, you are free to do as you want, but I want to stretch these tired wings of mine and you have a lot to think about. Go ahead and eat what you want from the pile while I go out for a while. I promise to be back before darkness truly falls.” He said, turning around and flinging himself into the air.

I waved at his retreating form before walking back into the cave and making myself comfortable on his nest. I wasn’t hungry for some reason, probably because I had such a large gem, but I was tired. Thinking back on the day, I was surprised how much fun I had, despite the location, despite practically everything. Maybe it was Coalheart in general? He made everything feel so sane, so secure even though I knew it wasn’t. I don’t know why but the assurance of his return made me feel safe and happy. Then again, when you have a multi-ton dragon telling you he’ll be back before anything strange comes out of the woods does dispel some of the fear one might have about going to bed in a strange place. I slowly drifted off to sleep, a small smile crossing my face.