• Published 26th Nov 2012
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Letters From a Friend at the End of the World - alexmagnet

Twilight receives a letter from Trixie one day, but it raises more questions than it answers.

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11 — The Steel Bit

Chapter 11:
The Steel Bit

“Well, we don’t. I’m sorry, ma’am,” said a burly-looking earth pony standing behind the bar counter, rag in hoof, wiping away the soap scum from a thick glass. “This ain’t an inn, we ain’t got any rooms for rent, and I definitely ain’t running a charity.” He set the glass on the counter, leaning forward. “So either buy something, or get your broke flanks outta my pub.”

Rainbow Dash slammed her hoof down on the counter, rattling the pint glasses. “All right, guy,” she said, giving him a squinty-eyed glare. “I don’t think you understand.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I do.”

“We came all the way from Ponyville, on the last freakin’ train” —she jabbed at his chest—“to get to this stupid backwater town.” She rose up in the air, puffing out her chest. “And all we want is a place to stay the night, and you’re tellin’ me that you don’t have any rooms? Where the hay is somepony supposed to sleep in this stupid town?.” She rose a little higher. “What kinda half-flanked business are you running here? I already wasted a whole day I coulda spent doin’ something useful, like reading my stupid book that I’ve been wanting to read ever since we got on that stupid train to come to this stupid town.”

Twilight and Spike stood behind Rainbow Dash watching her bob up near the roof, waving her hooves around angrily. The bartender’s face grew increasingly bemused as he watched Rainbow get angrier and angrier.

“—and I got dragged all the way out here for some stupid mare that we haven’t even seen, or heard from, in almost a year. So now you’re tellin’ me that we can’t even get a stupid room to sleep in?” Rainbow floated to the ground and let her head fall against the countertop. With her forehead smooshed against the counter, she let out a long groan. “I just wanna go home.”

The bartender scratched his chin and looked down at Rainbow Dash. “Ya all done now?”

She didn’t respond.

He nodded, picked up another glass and started to clean it. “All right then, now that that’s settled, you all can scram.”

Spike pulled at Twilight’s leg. She looked down at him. “So, where are we gonna stay now?”

She smiled comfortingly. “Don’t worry, Spike. I’m sure we’ll find somewhere to stay.” Lifting Spike onto her back, she put a hoof on Rainbow’s back. “Come on, Rainbow. Let’s go look somewhere else.” She looked up at the bartender and bowed her head. “Thank you anyway,” she said courteously. He nodded curtly, focused on wiping off a particularly stubborn bit of dirt.

Twilight nudged Rainbow again after a moment. “Don’t worry, Rainbow. I’m sure we’ll find somewhere else to stay.”

Rainbow gave a muffled response. “Hmph, whatever.” She lifted her head from the counter and glared at the bartender. “I wouldn’t wanna sleep in this dump anyway.” Spinning around, she said, “Let’s get outta here, Twilight.”

The bartender stopped wiping the glass and looked up. “What’d you say?”

Rainbow looked back over her shoulder and gave him a cold, hard stare. “I said, ‘I wouldn’t wanna sleep in this dump anyway’.”

He set the glass on the counter and tossed the rag aside. “No, not that part.” He nodded towards Twilight. “What’d you call her?”

“What’s it matter to—”

Twilight stepped in front of Rainbow Dash, cutting off her intended reply. She placed a hoof over her chest. “My name is Twilight Sparkle,” she said. His eyes lit up and he leaned forward. Twilight took a small step back. “Do I know you?” she asked.

He just stared silently at her for a few seconds. She stared back, a nervous smile cracked across her face. After a long, and awkward, pause, he sat back and let out a boisterous laugh. “Well, I’ll be damned. The infamous Twilight Sparkle.” He shook his head slowly, a smile working its way across his face. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

Rainbow Dash shoved her way past Twilight, followed by Spike. She stomped her hoof against the ground. “You got some kinda beef with Twilight?”

Spike looked back at Twilight. He put a hand up to his mouth and whispered, “Do you know this guy?”

She shook her head. “No, I’ve never met him.”

The bartender didn’t seem to hear Rainbow, so she stomped her hoof again, her face scrunched up in an angry glare. “Hey! I’m talkin’ to you.”

He waved dismissively at her. “Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Hang on a sec.” He turned towards a darkened corner of the room. “Oi!” he shouted. “Thunderclap, you’ll never guess who just walked in here!”

A silvery voice shouted back. “Oh? Who might that be?”

He glanced back at Twilight, giving her a wink. “Twilight Sparkle.”

There was the sound of someone knocking over a chair quickly followed by the click-clack of hooves against the stone floor. As if he were the Princess himself, everyone turned their attention to the stallion as he came into the light.

His black mane, split down the middle by a white stripe, bounced jovially as he trotted up to them. His deep, forest-green eyes, the same color as his coat, gleamed in the light, and his wings were curled up against his sides. He looked back and forth between Twilight and Rainbow Dash excitedly. “So which one of you is Twilight?”

Twilight grinned awkwardly. “Umm, that would be—”

Rainbow Dash flew up into the air and flung her hooves out, yelling, “Hold up!” They all looked up at her with raised eyebrows. “Somepony needs to start explaining this to me, because I don’t know what the hay is goin’ on anymore.” She looked down at Twilight, jerking a hoof over her shoulder. “You know these guys?”

Twilight shook her head. “No, I keep saying that.”

Thunderclap held up a hoof. “Maybe we better start from the beginning, eh, Lager?” He glanced up to his friend. “And it might be better if you tell it. I’m not so great with stories.”

Lager chuckled. “Says the guy who was in drama club.”

“Yeah, that was only, what, twenty years ago?”

“Something like that, yeah.” Lager ran a hoof through his mane. “All right, fine, I’ll tell the story.” He scratched his chin, gazing upwards like he was trying to spot his memories on the ceiling. “So, where do we begin? Ah, I know.” He cleared his throat. “I’d say it was nearly a year ago that a mare came in here pretty late at night. Much like yourselves,” he said, gesturing towards Twilight and Rainbow Dash, both of whom were still looking at each other wondering what was happening. “Anyway, this mare was pretty stubborn. I tried to get her to leave but she wasn’t having any of it.” Thunderclap nodded in agreement, a smirk on his face. “Eventually, she tells me her name, Trixie, and then—”

“Trixie was here?” Twilight interrupted.

Rainbow Dash placed a hoof against her forehead, closing her eyes. “What was Trixie doing here?”

Lager sighed. “If you two’d let me finish, you’d know the answers to those questions.” Thunderclap chuckled under his breath while Lager scratched his chin. “Now where was I? Oh, right, right. So, Trixie starts goin’ off about this ‘Twilight’ pony who she says wronged her.”

Both Spike and Rainbow Dash started to speak, but Lager cut them off. “Just sit there quietly and let me finish my story,” he said, a hoof aimed pointedly at them. “If you’ve got questions, sit on ‘em. I don’t wanna hear it until I’m done. Sheesh, now I know why you didn’t want to tell the story, Thunder.” He shook his head. “These damn mares are always givin’ me trouble. Anyway, I couldn’t get her to tell me anything about it. She just sat there mumblin’ to herself like she was hearin’ voices or something. I only caught bits and pieces, but she seemed to be pretty hung up on this ‘Twilight’. Always saying that name like it was the most evil word imaginable.”

Twilight’s eyes drifted downwards. She stared at the ground.

“This went on for awhile and she kept scarin’ away patrons. I’d see ponies walk inside, see her sittin’ there, mumblin’ to herself, and they’d just turn right around and start walkin’ away.” He looked down at the wooden counter, his eyes squinted. He scratched at some discolored mark, scraping away a bit of dirt. Brushing away the remains, he said, “Eh, business had been pretty good the day before, so I wasn’t worried. Couple hours later, she was still sittin’ there, and wouldn’t leave.” He let out a long sigh. “Most stubborn mare I’ve ever met, this Trixie. To her credit, her stubbornness did work out for her.”

Spike cocked his head to the side. “What do you mean?”


“That’s when I showed up!” Thunderclap said suddenly. He grinned toothily at them. “Being the kind-hearted stallion I am, I bought her some food and drink.”

“You wanted me to tell the story, didn’t you?” Lager asked, eyebrow cocked high enough to make his expression look equal parts questioning and accusatory.

Thunderclap held up his hooves in mock-surrender. “Sorry, didn’t mean to step on your story, buddy.” He gestured towards him. “Continue.”

Lager rolled his eyes. “Anyway, like Thunder said, that’s when he showed up. We got Trixie all fed and watered and managed to pry some information from that iron jaw. She was surprisingly unwilling to talk for somepony so hard to shut up. Once we got her started though, words came spillin’ outta her mouth like water from a waterfall.” He leaned back, looking upwards. “Long story short, she spilled her guts about the whole ‘Ursa Major’—”

“Minor,” corrected Thunderclap.

“Minor’ debacle,” Lager finished, shooting a warning glare at Thunderclap.

“She told you about that?” Twilight said, her ears flattening slightly. “What did she say?”

Thunderclap laughed heartily. “What didn’t she say? She went on and on about how it was all your fault that she lost her home and that she was now the laughingstock of Equestria. Thinking back on it,” Thunderclap said, tapping a hoof to his chin. “She didn’t have a single nice thing to say about you. Which I guess isn’t surprising given what you did to her.”

“What!? Twilight didn’t do anything to that stupid jerk!” shouted Rainbow, rising into the air. “That loudmouth bragged to the entire town that she ‘vanquished’,” she made air-quotes with her hooves, “an Ursa Major.”

“Yeah!” Spike jumped in. “She was trying to prove that she was the best unicorn in Ponyville, but Twilight wouldn’t show her up.” He crossed his arms. “It’s not her fault that Trixie couldn’t actually do any of the stuff she said she could do.”

“I kinda always knew that she wasn’t tellin’ us the whole story,” said Lager thoughtfully. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“That jerk got what she deserved,” Rainbow Dash snorted.

Twilight, who had been quietly thinking to herself through most of the conversation, spoke up. “It’s true that Trixie may have lied about what exactly happened that day, but she does deserve some credit.”

“Huh?” said Spike and Rainbow Dash in unison.

“Well, think about it,” Twilight said, looking at each pony, and Spike, in turn. “Even though Trixie knew she had never actually ‘vanquished’ an Ursa Major before, she still tried. She didn’t run away, or put anypony else in harm’s way to save herself. She actually tried to stop it.” She looked Rainbow Dash in the eye. “Even if she didn’t stop it, that has to be worth something.”

“Well—I—she.” Rainbow sighed. “I guess you’re right. It was pretty brave of her to stand up to that freakin’ huge bear that she had, like, no chance of beating, let alone ‘vanquishing’. But,” she said, holding up a hoof. “That doesn’t mean I forgive her. She’s still a big show-off and a complete jerk. A stupid, but kinda brave, jerk.”

“But what happened after she told you two her story?” asked Twilight.

“Oh!” Thunderclap said excitedly. “This next part was my idea.”

“What was?” she said, looking back and forth between Lager and Thunderclap.

Lager rubbed his chin. “Well, after she ranted about you for such a long time, we knew we had to do something. Now, it ain’t my place to go meddlin’ in other ponies’ affairs, but Thunderclap suggested that she write a letter to you. A letter that said everything she wanted to tell you about what she was feeling. Ya know how you sometimes write letters to ponies that made you mad? And you tell them exactly how you feel, just to let it all out? Right, well that’s what we told her to do.”

Twilight’s horn lit up as an opened letter bobbed its way out of her saddlebag. “So that’s why she wrote me this letter?”

Lager’s hoof shot out and he snatched the letter. “Wait, she actually sent you the damn thing?” His eyes shot back and forth as he read the letter. His eyebrows rose higher and higher as he read more and more. Finally, he finished the letter and turned it over, seeing if there was more on the back. Seeing that it was empty, he handed it back to Twilight. “I didn’t think she’d actually send the damn thing.” He placed a hoof to his forehead. “But what was that bit about, ‘the End of the World’?”

As Twilight slipped the letter back into her saddlebag, she said, “That’s what I was hoping to find out from you. In the letter she says she found out about it while staying in Emerald Falls. We came here hoping to get some more information.”

Lager whistled slowly. “You’re plum outta luck there, missy. That’s the first I’ve heard of this, ‘End of the World’. Sounds like one hell of a place though. I wonder what the End of the World would look like?” he mused. “Can’t imagine it’s a very pleasant place.”

Thunderclap, lost in thought, was tapping his hoof against his forehead. After a moment, he let a sigh escape his lips. “I know I’ve heard of that somewhere, but I can’t think of where.” He ground his teeth together. “Gah! It sounds so familiar.”

Lager shrugged. “Well, I’m stumped. This ain’t exactly a travelin’ town so we don’t always hear all the stories.” He stroked his chin. “The only pony I can think of that might be able to help you folks is that damnable witch who lives on the edge of town. She ain’t a unicorn, but that hasn’t stopped her practicing magic. It ain’t natural.” He sighed. “But, I suppose she’d be able to help you, leastways she could point you in the right direction.”

Rainbow Dash floated back to the ground. “Looks like we know where we’re goin’ then, eh, Twi?” She nudged Twilight’s shoulder roughly. “C’mon then. Might as well get goin’ now.”

“Do we have to go right now?” moaned Spike. “My feet are killin’ me.” He lifted one foot and began massaging it gently while balancing on the other. “Can’t we do that tomorrow?”

“Why bother waiting?” said Rainbow Dash. “We can’t stay here anyway.”

Thunderclap shot a glance at Lager. “Oh come on, big guy. You’re not gonna let these kids stay out in the cold, are ya?”

Lager let out an exaggerated groan. “All right, fine, fine. I’ll tell you what, I wasn’t lyin’ when I said that I didn’t have any rooms and that this ain’t a charity, so you gimme twenty—ten bits and I’ll let you three sleep in the storage room. I won’t lie, it ain’t gonna be like sleepin’ at your mother’s house, but it’s a damn sight better than sleeping in the cold.”

“Ten bits!” Rainbow shouted. “That’s—”

“That’s fine,” Twilight said, cutting her off. “Ten bits is fair.” Magenta light surrounded her bag as it opened itself and a small drawstring bag floated out. She emptied it into a ball of magic and began counting it. “...thirty-eight ...thirty-nine ...forty” She separated ten bits from the pile and passed them into Lager’s outstretched hoof. Rainbow looked at her incredulously. “Don’t worry, Dash. We’ve still got another thirty. That should be more than enough.”

“Tch, not at these prices,” she mumbled.

“Hush, Rainbow. Don’t be ungrateful.” She looked at Lager and nodded politely. “Thank you very much, sir.” Lifting Spike onto her back and nudging Rainbow towards the back of the pub, she said, “We’ll go ahead and get out of your way now. We should really be getting some rest anyway. It looks like we might have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“You’ll find sheets and pillows in the cupboard. Try not to get them too dirty,” Lager called after them.

Thunderclap shook his head slowly, staring at Lager in disbelief. “Ten bits is too much. What do you have against helping some kids?” he asked quietly.

Lager picked up a glass and started wiping it down, glad to be back in his routine. “I told them, this ain’t a charity. I gotta make a living too.”

“Sometimes, I just don’t get you.”

As they walked away, Spike wrapped his arms around Twilight’s neck. “I just hope that this witch, whoever she is, can help us. I don’t wanna end up wandering all across Equestria looking for Trixie. Sheesh, I wonder what’s so important that she had to go to a place called the End of the World?”

Rainbow Dash following behind her, Twilight trotted into a small, cramped room with barely enough room for three ponies. After setting Spike down and finding the sheets and pillows, she said, “I don’t know what Trixie’s after, Spike. But I intend to find out.” She watched as Rainbow Dash looked distastefully at the barren room. She tossed blanket and a pillow over to Rainbow, and set a pair down for herself and Spike. As she lay down, she said, “Something tells me that this is only the beginning.”

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