• 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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14 — Old Friends and New

Chapter 14:
Old Friends and New

Chill wind blew in her face as Twilight stepped outside. She glanced over her shoulder and saw a sleepy-eyed Spike covering his yawning mouth with one claw. He noticed Twilight looking at him and said, “Did we really have to leave so early? It’s not even light outside yet.” He leaned forward and lay his head against Twilight’s neck. “Let’s just go back to sleep for a few more hours.”

“Aww, is poor wittle Spike still sweepy?” said Rainbow Dash in a mock-baby voice. She was standing next to Twilight with a silly grin spread across her face. She nudged Spike’s side with her foreleg. “Ya can’t sleep all day, Spikey-boy.” She unfurled her wings in one fluid motion, spreading them out like an umbrella. With a few powerful strokes she lifted herself several feet into the air and gazed skyward. Looking back down at Spike, she said, “We’ve got a mysterious mare to find.” Without so much as another word, she beat her wings and shot upwards, leaving Spike no chance for a rebuttal.

Twilight watched with detached interest as Rainbow Dash soared into the still-dark sky, briefly silhouetted as she passed in front of the dawning sun that was rising just past the mountains. “Lager said that the pony we’re looking for lives past the west edge of the town, about a three hour walk from here. He said that she’s gone frequently, so leaving earlier was the best chance of catching her.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Spike grumbled. “But couldn’t you just have teleported us there? We could’ve slept in a little longer that way.” He sighed wistfully. “I could still be all warm and cozy right now.”

Twilight watched as Rainbow Dash did loops in the sky, leaving a rainbow trail of light behind her. She flew through a couple of smaller clouds, bursting them apart in a silent explosion. Taking her eyes off Rainbow, she trotted westwards up the street. “Teleportation doesn’t work that way, Spike. You should know that. Didn’t you read that book I gave you for your birthday last year, Teleportation, Psychokinesis, and Other Unicorn Magic?”

Spike yawned again. “Must’ve missed that one,” he said, nuzzling his head against Twilight’s. “I get so many great books from you, sometimes I just can’t find the time to read them all.” Twilight thought she could detect a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but she ignored it, writing it off as a figment of her imagination.

“Well,” she said matter-of-factly, “if you had read it, you would know that blind teleportation is extremely dangerous, and could lead to fatal splicing if performed imprecisely.” She glanced up to make sure that Rainbow was still overhead and saw that she had already managed to pick a fight with someone. She had her forehooves splayed out, and her wings were flapping angrily. It looked like the pegasus she was arguing with, a rather small stallion with overly large yellowish wings, was probably part of the weather crew given that he was pointing fiercely at the clouds Rainbow had just destroyed.

Twilight shook her head inwardly. Rainbow always seemed to cause trouble wherever she went. But, she supposed, that was an integral part of what made her the way she was, and she wouldn’t change that for anything. She just hoped that Rainbow could see that about Trixie.

Curious, and oblivious to Twilight’s skygazing, Spike asked, “What do you mean, ‘blind teleportation’? And what’s ‘splicing’?” He sat up. “That doesn’t sound like a good thing.”

Twilight chuckled, “Well, no, no it’s not really a good thing.” As she continued walking, she lifted a twig from the ground and levitated it above her head so Spike could see. “See,” she began, “when you perform a teleportation spell, you imagine the place you want to teleport to inside your head, kind of like if you were drawing a picture. You have to do this because if you don’t, then you could end up anywhere, or, even worse, nowhere.” Spike watched as the twig, surrounded by magenta light, disappeared in a flash of light and reappeared a few inches to the right.

“What do you mean, ‘nowhere’?”

“I can teleport this stick because I can picture where it’s going, but if I were to attempt to teleport it without picturing a place then it could end up anywhere, or, perhaps, simply disappear entirely.” The twig flashed white again, but this time didn’t reappear. Twilight looked over her shoulder at Spike, her face serious. “This is why teleportation magic is so rarely used, and so dangerous. Only a few unicorns can even manage it, and the only reason I know it is because I was Celestia’s student. They would never have taught us this in ordinary magic school.” She turned back to the street, now noticing that the early-morning light had begun to creep over the small town.

All the shops and homes, and market stalls were bathed in a soft dark orange light. She could hear ponies begin to stir in their homes, the occasional rattle of a door closing, or the telltale trickle of a faucet being turned on. This sleepy little town was beginning to wake, and soon would be bustling with activity.

“So,” Spike said slowly. “what happened to that twig just a second ago? Where did it go?”

“I can’t answer that, Spike.”

“What? Why not?”

“Because I don’t know where it went.” They were nearing the edge of the town now. She could see where the stone path turned into a dirt one about a quarter of a mile up the road. “As far as I know, Spike, nopony knows what happens when you do a blind teleportation. Maybe the twig just ended up in the middle of the ocean somewhere, or maybe it’s back in the forest.” She shrugged. “For all I know, it’s disappeared entirely, ceased to exist.”

Spike whistled softly. “Whoa, so, like, if you did that to somepony would it kill them?”

Twilight shook her head. “Not necessarily, it might just send them somewhere random, or maybe even to another dimension.”

“Is that possible?”

“It’s magic, Spike. Anything is possible.”

For a few more minutes they trotted along in silence, occasionally Twilight would look up and see Rainbow Dash still arguing with that poor stallion. She was sure Rainbow must’ve talked his ears off already. It was a wonder he was still able to continue arguing with her. Eventually, he shook his head and flew off, leaving a thoroughly pleased-looking Rainbow Dash behind.

With a smug look on her face, and a joyful beat of her wings, she soared down towards them. As she gently glided downwards, Spike remembered something.

“Oh yeah,” he said suddenly. “You said something about ‘splicing’ before, but you never said what it was.” He watched Rainbow descend towards them, the light of the new sun showering her in an almost regal light. “I get the feeling that it’s not something you want to happen.”

“Well we did establish that it was not a good thing,” Twilight chuckled. “Basically, it’s when—”

“Man, it feels so good to be right!” Rainbow shouted, interrupting Twilight. She was just a few dozen feet above them and falling fast. Pulling out of her dive in time to land, then skidding to halt in front of Twilight and Spike, she said, “These Emerald Falls weather pegasi think they know more about clouds than me.” She laughed derisively. Ignoring Twilight’s attempt to speak, and Spike’s raised eyebrows, she continued on. “That dude told me that I shouldn’t be doing any cloud-busting ‘cuz they were scheduled to have overcast today, but those were cumulus clouds. Rain clouds, Twilight!” She shook her head, laughing even more. “What an idiot. If I hadn’t busted those suckers up then they woulda had more than a little overcast today. That dude shoulda been thanking me. That’s free weather service right there, provided by Rainbow Dash, weathermare extraordinaire.” She puffed out her chest proudly, but only received exaggerated eyerolls in return.

“Even if you’re right, Rainbow,” said Twilight calmly, “you still shouldn’t be messing around with other towns’ weather. It’s not your place to do that.”

Rainbow Dash waved her hoof dismissively. “Pff, whatever. I did that dude’s job for him. He’s probably got, like, tons of free time now.” She curled her wings against her chest and tossed her mane out of her eyes. “They should call me the Element of Generosity,” she said jokingly.

Spike and Twilight exchanged glances, head-shakes, and more eye-rolls. “Anyway, Spike,” Twilight said. “Like I was saying, splicing is when—”

“Splicing?” Rainbow Dash asked, cocking her head to the side and interrupting Twilight yet again. “What’s that? Sounds kinda cool.”

“As I was about to explain to Spike,” Twilight said, slightly annoyed. “Splicing is anything but ‘cool’.” She spat the word ‘cool’ out like it had insulted her mother. “Teleportation can be extremely dangerous, especially if an inexperienced unicorn attempts it. Like I said before, the subject can end up anywhere, or, if focus is lost during the casting, only part of the subject will be teleported.”

Spike scratched his head. “So, wait, are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

Rainbow Dash’s eyes lit up. “Whoa! So, like, if you tried to teleport and messed up you could, like, lose a leg or something?”

“Yes, or worse,” Twilight replied dryly. “Again, this is why only a few unicorns have ever even been taught how to teleport, and even fewer use it regularly like me.” She tilted her head thoughtfully. “Come to think of it, I don’t think I know of anypony else who can teleport. I mean, I’m sure Celestia and Luna can, but I’ve never seen them do it. Huh...”

“All right, so I guess teleporting is out of the question, huh?” Spike said. “Guess we’re walking.”

“Hold the phone,” Rainbow Dash said, holding out her hoof. “You can teleport us to this mare’s house, Twi? Why don’t we just do that?”

Twilight shook her head in disbelief, and Spike just stared at Rainbow, his mouth slightly open. Sighing, Twilight said, “Come on, let’s get going. We’ve still got a decent walk ahead of us.”

Rainbow Dash watched them walk away, her head cocked sideways. “Are you saying we aren’t going to just ‘poof’ over there?”

“Come on, Rainbow,” Twilight called over her shoulder.

“Man, walking sucks...”

After a few hours of walking, and more than a little grumbling from Rainbow Dash, they had reached their destination, a dilapidated old shack that was a little off of the trail that led back towards Emerald Falls. It was nestled in a small grove, covered in vines that ran like snakes across its wooden surface, and surrounded by tall trees. They were standing in a small clearing just in front of it.

It seemed to be a sort of garden area, only the plants that grew here were unlike any that Twilight had ever seen. They were bizarre and twisted, with sharp growths poking out of some, or colorful but ominous-looking flowers protruding from others. It was the kind of garden that Twilight was sure Zecora would’ve had a field day with. It’s too bad she’s not here, lamented Twilight. I’m sure she could help us. She always seems to know what to do. She sighed softly. I wonder what she's up to right now. Probably making some new potion or something. Maybe I should go talk to her when I get back. I'd like to catch up with her; it's been so long—"

“You know,” said Dash suddenly, bringing Twilight out of her thoughts. “As much as I love standing in front of creepy houses with weird gardens, maybe we should knock and see if she’s home? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could sit here and look at this,” she pointed at a black flower, “all day, but with Trixie being imminent danger and all, maybe it’s best if we hurry this whole operation along.”

Spike laughed. “Since when do you care so much about Trixie?”

“I don’t,” she shot back, her eyes glowing angrily. “I just want to get the heck outta here. This place is givin’ me the creeps like you wouldn’t believe.” She looked around cautiously. “Something’s seriously up with this place, like, something weird.”

Twilight smiled comfortingly. “Don’t be silly, Rainbow. I’m sure there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“Afraid? Who said I was afraid? I’m just a little, uhh, creeped out, y’know. Anyway, where is this mare?”

Twilight peered into the window, holding one hoof over eyes to block out the light. She saw a cramped little room filled with bottles and baskets filled with Celestia-knows-what. There was a small fire burning beneath an iron cauldron in the back of the room, but it was otherwise unlit. If she strained her eyes, she could almost see something hanging down from the ceiling. It looked like a string of... bones. She backed away, removing her hoof.

“It doesn’t look like she’s in there,” she said. “Plus, I’m sure she would’ve heard us by now if she were.” She sighed, turning to face Rainbow and Spike. With a shrug of her shoulders, she said, “I guess we’ll just have to wait for her to come back.”

Rainbow shook her head vigorously, unfurling her wings and lifting into the air. “Nuh uh, there’s no way I’m staying here to wait for some creepy old witch that we aren’t even sure lives here.”

Twilight’s lips curled into a sly smile. “I thought you weren’t scared?”

“I’m not, I’m just—don’t look at me like that!”

Twilight covered her mouth to stifle her giggling. “Good thing you’re not the Element of Courage,” she joked. “Otherwise we might—”

Rainbow’s hoof moved over Twilight’s mouth, cutting her hoof. Twilight pushed it out of the way with her own hoof.

“I’m sorry, Dash. It was just a joke.”

She pressed her hoof against her lips, shushing Twilight. “Shh,” she whispered. “I think I hear somepony.”

Spike hurried over to them, whispering, “What is it? What’s going on?”

Twilight looked down at him, his eyes wide. “Rainbow said she heard somepony, but I don’t—”

Rainbow held up a hoof, silencing her. “Quiet,” she said. “Listen, you can hear two ponies not far from here.”

They stood silently, straining their ears. Twilight and Spike heard nothing, but Dash on the other hand seemed to be listening intently, as if she were eavesdropping on some far off conversation. Her head was turned so that her right ear was facing back towards the road and her eyes were narrowed in concentration.

“It sounds like they’re arguing. Something about... hold on.” She leaned a little farther forward. Suddenly, her eyes widened, and then narrowed again. She relaxed her muscles, leaned back and chuckled. “Gimme a sec,” she said. Before Twilight could ask what had happened, Rainbow was already flying back towards the road.

Twilight cocked her head to the side. “Well that was weird.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed. “I wonder what’s up with her.”

She shrugged. “Must have something to do with what she heard, I guess.”

They waited patiently for a minute or so for Dash to return, their eyes trained on the trail leading into the clearing. Eventually, they could hear the familiar sound of hooves against dirt, and the rustling of bushes not far away. As the sounds got louder they began to hear voices with them.

“I just don’t know how in the heck we were supposed’ta find this place way out in middle of the woods. It’s not like there was sign or somethin’, sayin’ ‘Come on over, witch’s house this way!’”

“Dear, I think you may be taking this rather personally. If we had simply stopped back when I said we should, we could’ve asked for directions and then we wouldn’t be in this predicament now would we?”

“Now look here, missy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been around a few times. I know what I’m doin’ when it comes to navigatin’ and such. It ain’t my fault that this place ain’t on the beaten path. Heck, it ain’t on any path for that matter. Still though, probably wouldn’ta found it if Rainbow hadn’t gone and found us, so I guess you could be right.”

“Heh, yeah, if it weren’t for me, you guys’d still be lost. Lucky for you, Rainbow Dash, navigational extraordinaire is here to save the day.”

Even though she couldn’t see them, Twilight knew that Applejack and Rarity were rolling their eyes right now, probably because she was doing the same. Meanwhile, she just heard a simple, “Ugh,” from Spike.

About ten seconds later, a trio of ponies came crashing through the underbrush, Rainbow leading them with her head held high like she was leading an army into battle. Applejack was right behind her. Her hat, covered in leaves, nettles, and vine, was in her hoof being cleaned with her mouth. She would delicately bite a vine and toss it aside every few steps. Behind her, Rarity somehow managed to look elegant even while tromping through the woods. Her hoofsteps were light and dainty, like she was walking through a glass house.

As they entered the clearing, Dash lifted into the air and put her hooves at her sides, sucking in her stomach. She waved a hoof behind her. “Ta da! Look who I found, Twi,” she said proudly. “Looks like we weren’t the only ones looking for this creepy place.”

Noticing the house for the first time, Rarity was taken aback. “My, my, my, it does have a certain air about it, does it not?”

Dash nodded. “Yeah, like a creepy air or something. Like I told Twi, this place gives me the heebie-jeebies something fierce.”

Applejack, after spitting out the last leaf, placed her hat back on her head and said, “This place don’t look so bad to me. Might need a little TLC—”

“And a flamethrower.”

“—but it looks downright cozy if you ask me.”

Twilight laughed. “I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it has a certain charm to it, I must say.” She glanced over her shoulder at the still-empty house. Looking back at AJ and Rarity, she said, “Anyway, what are you girls doing way out here? Shouldn’t you be back in Ponyville?”

Applejack opened her mouth, about to respond, but Rarity quickly cut her off. “Yes, well, dear, I was looking for some emeralds for my new design, and I thought, what better place to find emeralds than Emerald Falls, no?”

“And she conned me into goin’ with her,” Applejack said bitterly. “Shoulda known there weren’t no apple convention that I ain’t heard of.”

Rarity glanced around shiftily, playing with her mane. “Regardless of how I, er, convinced dear Applejack to join me, we eventually found ourselves scouring the town in search of emeralds. To my great dismay, not a single shop sold the ones I was looking for. Can you believe it?”

“Breaks my heart thinkin’ about it,” said Applejack, shaking her head slightly. “A real cryin’ shame.”

Ignoring her, Rarity continued, “In any case, it appears that soulstone emeralds are exceedingly rare, even in these parts. But, with a little sweet talk, and no small amount of perseverance, I was able to ascertain where I could find soulstone emeralds.”

“Basically, some stallion we met at a pub, Lager I think his name was, told us that this here ‘witch’, or whatever, might have some she’d be willin’ to part with. Course, then we had to find the darn place, which obviously took a little longer than we had anticipated.” She glared at Rarity. “And that is the long and short of it, Twi.”

Twilight let out a quiet sigh. “Well, I guess that explains that.”

“Indeed,” said Rarity, “but it doesn’t explain why you girls are out here.”

Spike, and Rainbow Dash let out a collective groan. “Trust me, Rarity,” said Spike. “You don’t wanna know; it’s a long story.”

“Yeah,” added Dash, “and one that involves Trixie, too.” She lowered herself to the ground and placed a hoof around Rarity’s shoulders. “Like Spike said, it’s a long story. You don’t wanna hear it.”

As soon as Dash had said, “Trixie”, Applejack’s curiosity had been more than whetted. She held up a hoof, pushing Rainbow away. “Now hang on a minute, Dash. Rarity here might not wanna hear this, but I do. What’s all this about Trixie now? What’s she got to do with you bein’ way out here.”

Rarity’s eyes lit up. “Yes, yes, I’m quite interested as well. I can’t for the life of me figure out what reason you could possibly have to be out here that would have to do with that... that beast who destroyed my beautiful mane.” She pulled her mane down in front of her eyes. “It took me nearly three days to get it back to this color,” she complained. “What could this have to do with that ruffian?”

“Well...” Twilight said slowly, trailing off.

Before she could continue her thought, a loud, ear-splitting roar rocked the woods, shaking the trees and raining leaves down on them.

“Uhh,” said Spike, “what was that?”

“Probably not good,” Twilight replied.

They waited for a moment, then heard another roar, loud as the first, echo through the forest, followed by a much quieter, though still loud, scream. All five of them turned to face the sound, their eyes widening.

“Do you girls think we could finish this discussion another time?”

They all nodded in unison.

Without another word, Twilight grabbed Spike with her magic and tossed him on her back. They tore off into the woods, following behind Applejack and Rarity who were leading the way with Rainbow Dash overhead.

As they went deeper and deeper into the trees, the sound grew louder and louder. They followed the screams as best they could, adjusting their path on the fly. They leapt over bushes and ducked under branches, nearing ever closer to the source of the roars. Once, Applejack nearly tripped over a rock, but Twilight and Rarity were able to catch her without stopping, and soon they were back on their way.

Twilight looked up and saw Rainbow dive downwards, she knew that they must be close.

A few seconds later, they reached a clearing in the woods. They didn’t know how deep in they had come, but they had run for at least a minute. Laying on her back, and with a massive chimera looming over her, a mare was holding up all four hooves. One of them, Twilight thought, looked peculiar, almost like it was made of metal. She was pushing against the beast, but was unable to keep it from pressing down even harder.

From somewhere above the trees, Rainbow Dash crashed through the branches and flew straight at the chimera’s side. With one leg extended outwards, she rocketed towards it in some kind of ‘flying-kick’ attack. She crashed into it with all the force of a hurricane and caused it to tumble backwards.

The mare quickly picked herself up and shot a glance back at them, then up to Rainbow. “Thank you for the help." As she turned back to the chimera, she said, “Perhaps you’d be willing to offer a little more.”

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