• Published 7th Jul 2018
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Exiles - Coyote de La Mancha



Before recorded history, there was the terrible and primordial Age of Chaos. And in this age, there were two sisters. This is their story.

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About Five and Nine

“Oh, Luuunaaaa… where arrrrt thooouuuuu…”

Again, there was that tell-tale giggling. Tia spun around, hoping to catch her little sister sneaking up on her. The unicorn blazed her horn for extra illumination, dispelling any shadows her sister might have been hiding in.

And yet again, nothing but soil, stones, and a few trees.

“’Twas Brillig, and the slithy toves did gire and gimble in the wabe…” muttered one of the trees.

“Sshhhh. If thou cannot be helpful, be still.”

“Mimsy were the borogoves.”

She glared at the speech tree, and it lapsed into a sullen silence.

Tia concentrated, straining her ears. It was a dangerous game, though an important one. Teaching the skills of stealth and cunning were paramount to a child’s survival. In the long run, a foal would be more likely to reach maturity after a childhood playing hide and seek. Of course, that assumed nothing happened to them while playing. Which was also a risk, however calculated.

Then again, Luna was powerful in her own right, and not just considering her tender age. For like Tia, she had magic far beyond that which other ponies possessed. At least, beyond those Tia recalled from before their nomad life together, or the few they’d met since the walled place had fallen, years agone.

Another giggle. Tia spun in circles, the giggling becoming more uncontrolled. Eyes narrowing in her smile, she suddenly reversed direction, thinking to catch her sister in mid-flight. Instead, all she got was dizzier. She staggered, shaking her pink mane to clear her head. More giggling.

A terrible suspicion occurred to her. “Luna?” She shuddered, despite the day’s heat. The clearing's pattern still felt stable, at least for the moment. But nothing stayed so for long. Complacency brought death.

She glanced around again. Everything, every tree and branch and stone, was as it had been. Tia had memorized the clearing and its surrounding areas before they’d started playing, as was her custom. But then again, sameness was not to be trusted overlong. And there were some speaking folk who could change shape, and hunted other speakers. “Luna, sweetheart, come out.” Her voice was unsteady, her mind envisioning the worst. “Thou wins. Just be—oof!”

“Gothee!”

Part of her own shadow had leapt out from where it was cast by the sun of the moment (a reddish cube, with a dark shape wriggling on its surface) and tackled her from beneath, raising her up with its wings and then bearing her to the ground. Laughing now, the little shadow rolled with her in the leaves, its blue mane gathering as many leaves as Tia’s pink one. It seized her mane in its little teeth, growling and snarling as it pulled and tugged.

“Grrr… Rowr…”

“Yea, my fay, I’m got,” Tia laughed with relief as she came to rest on her back, her younger sister straddling her in triumph. “Lo, I am conquered. The day… is thine.”

“Yay!” Forehooves and wings upraised in triumph, the little pegasus crowed her victory to the trees around them.

“Mome raths,” muttered the same tree, frowning. “Outgrabe.”

Without warning, a stone outcropping nearby burst asunder, the beast emerging from its essence roaring with new life. It shook itself, thorned tentacles writhing unevenly and matted fur shivering in the light. Then it stared at them hungrily with its seven mismatched eyes, whiffling their scents eagerly, razor sharp incisors gleaming.

“Rabbit!” screamed Luna.

Instantly, Tia rolled over, protecting her sister as she fired. A ray of blue and silver magic erupted from her horn, burning into the newly-born monster even as it was forced back. It howled, gargling slightly, slime dripping from its broken antlers as it prepared to renew its attack.

The area’s time of pattern was obviously at an end. Tia cursed herself for not feeling the change when it began. It would be a flux realm again, for however long. The flux might last a few moments, or a lifetime. Tia’s eyes narrowed. Then again, if she couldn’t end this quickly and escape, it would definitely last more than either of their lifetimes.

It leapt at them, massive hind limbs hurtling it forward as it burbled, blood and bile flowing freely from its mouth and nose. Its claws scraped against Tia’s hastily thrown up yellow globe of energy, its tentacles curling around it and the sisters within, scratching and squeezing against the barrier. Drawing upon her few years of experience, Tia remained calm. The most important thing was to get them both out of the flux, before it could start affecting them. There would be time for fear later.

Then, there was a sensation for which Tia had no words. It was like sliding, yet it was not. She was herself, yet not, for there was an Otherness to it all. There was no light nor sound. It lasted only a moment, yet that moment was endless and without awareness of time.

The monster glared about itself, gurgling, dying as its own organs tore at one another, trying vainly to find where its meal had gone. Meanwhile, a nearby tree grew to immense proportions with a terrible creaking, groaning sound. It grabbed up the giant beast with a many-flanged branch, and savagely sank teeth of wood and bark into its ribs. The rabbit howled and screamed in agony and terror, flailing and clawing blindly, tentacles tearing at its hunter in vain. And all the while, the newly-transformed murder tree continued chewing it, with its powerful, blunt maw. Finally, either through its injuries or its own treacherous metabolism, the rabbit shuddered and was still.

“Jabberwock,” the tree growled through a mouthful of gore. Meanwhile, ice and snow began to swirl around it in a sudden, furious wind.


“What...was that?”

“A rabbit,” Luna answered, belabouring the obvious. “Didst not see how it leapt?”

“Yes, of course,” answered Tia, a little cross. “I mean, what happened? How did...” she peered at her sister, head cocked to one side. “Didst thou take me with thee?”

“I... I'm sorry,” said Luna, starting to tear up. “I had no time to ask thee, I was afraid...”

“No, no,” Tia shook her head, lying down to better make eye contact with the little filly. “I'm not angry, dearest. Merely amazed. Walking as thou dost, first in dreams, an' lately in shadow. Likely, thoud'st save us both.”

“Thee hath greater magic,” Luna sniffled. “Fire, and light of all colours. Thy shields keep us safe, and thou feels the patterns as they weave, strong or weak. I dare not e'en fly as I would, lest I be caught. So I hide.” She looked down miserably. “And I run away.”

“And glad I am,” nodded Tia. She booped her sibling on the nose playfuly as she added, “And my sense for patterns helped us little just now, I think.”

“I distracted thee.”

“Nay, the fault was mine. 'Twas thou who saved us... Luna?” The unicorn frowned as her sister, crying more, just started shaking her head furiously. Tia tried to put her forelegs around her, but Luna pushed her away. “Luna, what ails thee?”

“I don't know!”

“But--”

Sobbing now, “I don't know!”

Tia looked furtively about them both, completely at a loss. Pattern was strong here, and would resist flux a little when it came. There was no sign of magic, nor of speaking folk who might be affecting the foal. This had to be something from within, somehow. Certainly, Luna had been possessed by melancholy moods before, but never like this.

“Luna, it's alright,” she tried. “The rabbit is far behind. We're safe.”

“It's n-not that,” Luna sobbed. “I just feel... I just c-can't stop...

“Then don't stop,” said Tia, drawing her into a gentle embrace. “Just let me be with thee.”

“C-can't...”

“Shhh. It's all right,” Tia said, feeling more helpless by the second. “If thou cannot stop, then fight it not. I will be with thee for as long as thou needs.”

Eventually, the terrible sadness released Luna from its hold. The sun had departed or become something else, and the canopy shielded them from whatever the evening sky might hold, for however long. Exhausted, the younger filly looked wistfully around them, and the shadows that dusk had brought.

“Art sure I was not born of shadow?” she asked at last. “Sometimes, when I walk between them, I feel as if I could just be them if I wanted.” She reached out towards the darkness beneath some bushes. “Spread out, like small water in a bigger pool.” She sighed, looking away. “Perhaps it would be better. I could not feel such sadness, then.”

“No!” Tia gathered her up and hugged her fiercely. “Don’t ever do that,” she whispered through her own frightened tears. “Don’t speak it! Thou’rt no shadow, thou’rt my sister, I saw thee born! Please,” she wept. “Please, don’t. My dear, my beloved. When thou speak’st thus, thou makes my heart hurt!”

Luna hugged back. “Nay, I’d never leave thee, fay! I love thee, I’m thy shadow.”

But Tia held her away a little then to look at her with a desperate intensity, smoothing out her little blue mane. “Nay, my fay. The world hath shadows enow. Pray, be my sister, instead.”

Luna frowned in childish deliberation. “An' that thou saw me born,” she’d said carefully, “I cannot be any shadow.” Then she smiled. “For thy memory is awesome.”

Tia held her again, fearful to let her go, even as Luna hugged back.

“But wilt thou tell me of that day?” Luna yawned into her big sister’s pink mane.

“Yea,” promised Tia with a loving smile, still holding her. “And of my own birth, if thou wish it. And of our mother, and our father, and I shall teach thee the songs they sang to us both. But one question, first.”

“Mmm?”

“If fortune divides us, e’en as I search for thee, wilt thou return to me?”

“I promise.” She nuzzled into Tia, sliding down into her lap as she added, “If thou doth but dream, I shall find thee, so thou shalt know how much I love thee.”

Tia snuggled the filly, relaxing at last. “Well then,” she whispered, “I shall sing lullabies to thee in my dreams, so thou canst hear me.”

Luna smiled as she drifted off to sleep, safe and warm in her sister’s embrace.

“Agreed,” she murmured.