• 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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16 — Captured

Chapter 16:
Captured

The sun beat down on Trixie’s back, through the light foliage, as she trotted along happily through the woods. A cheerful smile split her face, spread from ear to ear. She relished the feel of the dirt beneath her hooves, so different from the frigid ice of the frozen north. And the smell of the grass, and the leaves, those too she savored, breathing in their scent deeply. It smelled like home to her. She heard birds chirping happily in the trees, and light wind rustled the leaves ever so slightly. The flowers, the tree bark, even the halcyon blue sky, they all felt so remarkably familiar to her, and yet so inexplicably remote. But her attitude remained decidedly bright and sunny, much like the current weather, she noted.

Her ever-present violet hat and cloak were perched atop her head and wrapped about her shoulders respectively. They felt oddly heavy, but she chose not to notice and instead cast her eyes forward as she saw the tips of a few stone chimneys and thatched roofs peak over the top of the hill. Her eyes shone in the light, and her pace quickened to a light trot.

As she followed the winding path, up the hill, past the lone tree standing like a sentinel over the town, and into the town, her smile grew wider and wider. With every step, every bounced of her hooves, she drew closer to that place she called home. Trotting through the cobblestone streets that were chipped and uneven, she passed several ponies, smiling at them and giving them a spirited wave of her hoof.

“Hey there, Trixie!” a snow white pegasus called down as she pushed a cloud across the sky.

“Oh, you’re back, Trixie!” said a passing unicorn. Her cerulean mane and tail bounced joyfully as she spun around to wave at Trixie as she went by.

“Hello, Trixie!” said a pair of earth pony colts in unison as they pulled two wooden carts loaded with vegetables. Trixie gave them an especially enthusiastic wave, for she was nearing her destination and she could feel her excitement building.

Even more so than the grass and trees, the sights, sounds, and smells of the town, it was the other ponies, their welcoming smiles and warm hearted gestures, that told her she was where she belonged. Her heart soared as she came upon the massive oak tree in the center of town, its branches splayed out like the welcoming hooves of some immense wooden pony, welcoming her into its leafy embrace.

She noticed one of the windows was propped open with thick book. Its spine was creased from years of use, but it held the window wide open, the yellowed pages, worn with age, fluttered lightly in the subtle breeze. She could almost smell the decades old scent of hundreds of books wafting through the open window. Again she was reminded of how good it felt to be back. With a tiny skip, and flourish of her hooves, she removed her hat and knocked on the door in one fluid motion.

Knock, knock, knock.

She waited patiently, her heart beating out of her chest with anticipation as she rocked back and forth on her hooves. Hat and cape gone now, she didn’t need them anymore, Trixie let her lustrous mane flow down her neck like a silvery waterfall. Aglow with an inner fire, her eyes, like cut amethyst, blazed with excitement, and her smile, stretching from ear to ear, spread across her face, revealing pearly white teeth that gleamed in the mid-morning light.

There was a rustling on the other side of the door as she heard someone fiddling with the doorknob. A moment later, the door swung open, revealing a miniature dragon whose snake-like eyes stared up at her. His claw, still clutching the doorknob, slipped off and fell limply at his side.

“Trixie?” he asked, utterly confused. “What are you doing here?”

She beamed. “I’ve come back,” she said proudly. “Twilight should be expecting me.”

He scratched his head, pushing back his scaly green spines, and said, “Well, uhh, come on in then, I guess.” He stepped aside as Trixie brushed past him on her way into the foyer. She spun around, gazing at the seemingly endless array of books stacked upon innumerable shelves. Spike watched her for a brief moment, then said, “Just wait here for a sec; I’ll go get Twilight.” He padded his way across the room and up the stairs to what Trixie presumed must be Twilight’s room.

With Spike gone, she was free to scour the books. Running her hoof along the spines, she ran down one row of books with her eyes closed, stopping randomly on a thin red book with some faded letters printed on the spine. Her horn burst into life as she pulled the book from the shelf and flipped it over so she could see the cover.

Printed in dull golden letters were the words, The Understanding, and Interpreting of, D—. The title cut off at the end. Only the letter ‘D’ remained, but she seemed not to notice. Flipping the book open, she began to read from the first chapter, titled, “The Unconscious Mind”. Her eyes flitted back and forth as she read. After a few seconds, she became bored and decided to place the book back in its home and instead she pulled another book, one higher up, off the shelf.

This book, this was one she could enjoy. Daring Do and the Dragon’s Downfall floated gently down into her hooves. On the cover she saw Daring, her mane blowing in the wind, and her trademark pith helmet seated upon her head, standing at the top of a snow-capped mountain, gazing out over a vast landscape filled with even more mountains and swirling clouds. Far, far off in the distance, she could see what must have been a massive dragon silhouetted against the sun. Its wings were flared out, and the tail stretched down twenty or thirty feet she guessed. It was hard to guess how big it was just by looking at the picture, but she felt certain it was a massive beast, far larger than any dragons that she had seen at any rate.

As she went to flip the book open, she heard a familiar voice, sweet as honey, call down to her. “Did you know that that was one of the least popular Daring Do books?” Trixie whipped around, the book still held in her hooves, and saw her standing at the top of the stairs, Spike right behind her. “The author killed one of the main characters at the end of the book,” she continued as she walked down the stairs. “Not Daring, of course, but somepony else, and fans weren’t too happy about it. Apparently they thought it was ‘out of place’ in a Daring Do novel to have somepony die.” Her whole body seemed to shine and sparkle as the sunlight streaming through the window caught her just right. Trixie said nothing. “Now me, on the other hoof,” she said, pointing at herself. “I thought it was a very fitting end for that character. His story had come full-circle, and he had already lost his love, so there was nothing left for him to do. Having fulfilled his purpose, there was no reason that he should live, and he was ready to be reunited with his late companion anyway, so why not have him die in a heroic sacrifice?” She shook her head, sending waves through her silky lavender mane. “I guess other ponies just didn’t see it that way.” Sighing, she said, “But it wasn’t all bad. At least Daring still finished her quest and returned home. And her best friend lived too. I guess that’s what you’d call a ‘bittersweet’ end.” Clear, bell-like laughter burst from her like a fountain.

Trixie’s eyebrows rose, and she cocked her head to the side. Wiping away a tear as she calmed down, Twilight said, “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just, you looked so lost, like you had no idea what I was talking about. I’m sorry, please, come into the kitchen. I’ll make us a cup of tea.” Violet magic scooped the book from Trixie’s hooves and replaced it on the bookshelf. She turned away and began walking towards door nestled under the stairs.

“Umm, wait, Twilight,” Trixie said, reaching her hoof out half-heartedly. Twilight stopped, turned back around.

“What is it?”

Trixie suddenly found herself unable to speak. Her tongue, now dry and thick, stuck in her throat. She had to force herself to say, “I was hoping we could talk. You know, about my letters.”

“Oh?”

Trixie shuffled her hooves nervously. “Well, I mean, I said a lot of things. A lot of mean things.”

Twilight’s left eyebrow was cocked up above the right, and her eyes had taken on a piercing quality. She seemed to stare straight through Trixie, pinning her to the wall. “Do you mean these letters?” she asked as she produced a stack of envelopes of varying size and shape, all held together by a long piece of twine tied into a knot at the top. “The letters you’ve been sending me for the past year? The letters where you poured your heart and soul out to me, but only after continually insulting me?”

“Well, yes...” Trixie replied sheepishly. “I—I wanted to say that I’m sorry for the things I said.” Her face was red, and her voice seemed as if it were about to crack at any moment. She shied away from Twilight’s penetrating gaze, mumbling an unheard apology.

“So,” Twilight said, her voice dripping with malice. “Is that how you thought this was going to work? You just show up after all this time and make peace and everything would change for you?” She laughed, but not the clear laughter from before. It was more of a cackle now, harsh and cruel. “Do you think that’s how the world works? Just write a few letters, mumble a few insincere apologies and then everything would be sunshine and daisies? Ha!” Twilight’s face grew dark, and shadowed as she spit on the ground. The envelopes she held in her hooves floated between the two of them, and then burst into eerily familiar violet flames. The room darkened into an impenetrable blackness where the only thing Trixie could see was the flaming pile of letters. She sank to her knees, staring up at the blazing inferno that threatened to engulf her.

Dancing through the amethyst flames, Twilight’s head appeared. She wore a disdainful expression and her eyes were icy cold. “You’re the worst kind of pony, Trixie,” she said. “A wretched little showoff not even deserving of the tiniest amount of pity. What did you hope to accomplish coming back here, hmm? Did you think that we would become ‘friends’?”

“I—”

“Shut up. You don’t deserve friends. You came into my town, and insulted my friends, and even got those two innocent colts involved.” The flames around Twilight’s head burned brighter, and Trixie could feel the heat getting closer and closer to her face.

“I didn’t mean for them to get involved,” Trixie pleaded. “I—I just wanted ponies to be impressed, and to look up to me.” She fell forward, hitting her head against the ground, and began sobbing. “I’m sorry, Twilight. I’m sorry.”

Now the flames swirled all around her, and she spun around in circles, seeing Twilight’s angry eyes staring down at her from all sides. Then, she stopped spinning and Twilight walked through the wall of fire in front of her, not even flinching as the flames licked her sides. She walked right up to Trixie and then stared down at her, unmoving. Casting her eyes away, Trixie couldn’t bring herself to look at Twilight. “Look at me,” said Twilight. Trixie didn’t move. “Look at me!” As if by some unseen force, Trixie felt her head being forced up so that she stared directly into Twilight’s eyes. Silently, she stared at Twilight, waiting for her to say something, then finally she did. “You don’t belong here, Trixie. You will never belong here.” Twilight lifted up one hoof, holding it high above Trixie’s head. “You’re worse than the lowest piece of trash in this town. Even the dirt between my hooves belongs here more than you.” And with that, Twilight brought her hoof crashing down on Trixie’s upturned face.

“Ah!” Trixie cried, as her eyes shot open. She tried to move her hooves shield herself from the blow but found them strangely immobile.

“Oi, it appears as though our little pony ‘ere’s gone and woke ‘erself up from ‘er pleasant nap,” came the gruff voice of something very close to Trixie’s face. But it was too dark for her to see anything. “‘Ang on a sec, love. Lemme get us a bit a light so’s I can see ya clear-like.” A moment later, a bright light filled her vision, and she clenched her eyes shut. A scaled claw slapped her face. “Wakey wakey, princess. Nappy time’s over.”

Trixie slowly opened her eyes and saw an upside down face looking back at her. In the orangish glow of the lantern light she could tell that it was unlike any face she’d seen before. A long snout, punctured by two slits near the tip, led up to an arrow-like head that was icy blue and at least as long as her entire body. Its eyes were golden yellow, and seemed to give off a glow of their own in the dim light. Above the eyes were thick, bony arches that were covered in scales, much like the rest of its face. On either side of its face was a row of spikes that grew smaller in a radial arc that sloped downwards. They almost looked like bizarre ears, she thought to herself. But perhaps the most threatening part was the twin horns that jutted out nearly a foot above its head. They were a yellowish-white ivory color, and they were sharp as a tack on top. It looked as if they had been filed to a point. In fact every spike on the creature’s face looked sharper than any needle she’d ever seen.

It smiled at her, revealing a row of razor-sharp teeth and forked tongue. “Wot’s the matter, eh? Never seen a drake up all close-like?” He laughed the same cackling laughter Trixie had heard Twilight use. She tried to move and felt herself get lightheaded. It was at this point that she noticed she was hanging upside down, looking through her fore-hooves. Through the haziness she felt, she noticed that her hooves felt cold and they were definitely stuck, she determined, as she tried to move them again.

“What did you do to me?” she asked, frantically. “Why can’t I move?”

He laughed again. “It wants to know what’s keepin’ it in its place, eh?” he said to no one in particular. “‘Ave a look, love.” It moved the lantern down a foot or so and illuminated Trixie’s fore-hooves. Now illuminated by the orange glow, she saw that her hooves were encased in ice, thicker than any she’d ever seen. She struggled to break free, but it was no use. She slumped back. “It’s no use strugglin’ like that, my dear. Drake ice is tougher ‘an steel, and right bit shinier too.” His gravelly laughter filled the room. “You ain’t gettin’ outta there ‘less I sees fit to release ya’s. And as it ‘appens,” he paused, “I ain’t seen fit to release ya yet! Hahaha!” Trixie closed her eyes, trying to shut out the raucous laughter.

After a moment, he seemed to calm down, and Trixie said, “What do you want with me, and why did you bring me here?” She screwed up her face in the most determined look she could muster, but that only elicited even more laughter from the drake.

“Is that the best ye can muster? That your ‘war’ face?” He practically doubled over with laughter after that, nearly dropping the lantern as he writhed around. Finally, after another bout of laughter, the drake ran one of his sharp talons across Trixie’s face. She tried her best to remain unmoved, but she couldn’t help but flinch as it passed over her mouth. “To answer your question, my dear, it ain’t me wot brought you ‘ere, and it ain’t me wot wants anything to do with ya’s.” He spun around so that his face was right-side up from Trixie’s perspective. As he did, Trixie noticed that his body was surprisingly slender. It was just like Polaris had described it. Snake-like and thin, his body was perhaps a foot or so in diameter but stretched for at least ten feet, as far as she could see. From what she could tell, he only had one set of limbs, and those were the claws that were a few feet down from its head which held the lantern aloft. He appeared to simply float in the air, unsupported by any second set of legs. “If I ‘ad my way,” he said, “I woulda killed the lot of ya soon as ya got ‘ere. But I ain’t ‘ad my way in a good long time, so’s I keep me mouth shut, and says not a word when they be bringin’ in new stock. Wouldn’t do to go upsettin’ ‘er, wouldn’t do at all, says I.”

“What did you do with my friends?” she asked. She was doing her best to keep her voice strong and confident, but she felt her strength waning away quickly. Hanging upside down was making all blood rush to her head, and she was beginning to feel somewhat sleepy.

“I ain’t done nothin’ with ‘em, love, not a thing. They’re safe as safe can be. Got ‘em all put in separate cells-like.” He indicated three different directions with his free claw and then said, “Wouldn’t be doin’ me job if I put ye in all the same room so’s ya can strategize-like and escape. I’d be downright incompetent iffin I’s let ye communicate. But worry not, my dear. Ain’t no ‘arm gonna come to ‘em ‘less she ‘erself be orderin’ it.”

“She?” asked Trixie.

“She,” he repeated, “be the Queen wot runs this gatherin’ of drakes. I’d say she be not too dissimilar from your ‘Princess Celestia’, what with ‘er royal guard and castle-like. It be ‘er that be bringin’ ya’s here, ‘least by ‘er orders, and it be ‘er wot’s keepin’ you from bein’ a meal, and keepin’ me in me job.” He twisted back around, returning to his upside-down state. “Me job which, sadly, my dear, I must be gettin’ back to. Apologies.” With that he gave an exaggerated bow and turned away, slithering snake-like out of the room.

“Wait!” Trixie called, hoping he would hear her. For a second, she thought he didn’t hear her. There was no sign of him returning, that is, until she saw the orange glow of the lantern come swimming back across the room. He held up the lantern, revealing his scaly face yet again.

“Yes, my dear, what is it?” His voice, still like crushed gravel, seemed oddly sweet.

“What’s going to happen to me, to us?” She could feel her head swimming as she did her best to stay conscious. “Are—are you going to kill us?”

He smiled, teeth shining in the lantern’s light. “As I said, love, it ain’t up to me wot ‘appens to ya’s. Think of it as game, my dear. Play your cards right, and ye may yet live to see the light of another day. Play the wrong hand, and you’ll be lucky to see this ‘ere lantern again.” He waved the lantern in her face, rattling its cage. “Anymore questions ‘fore I leave ye again?”

Trixie’s head felt full of questions but she asked the most obvious one, “Where are we right now?”

“Why, ain’t I told ya that already?”

Trixie shook her head, causing her to feel somewhat nauseous.

He grinned toothily. “This ‘ere be the jail, love. And, since I suspect ye’ll want more information ‘an that, to be a bit more broad, we are in the ‘eart of the Drake Kingdom, wot’s ruled by the Queen as I told ye before, and even broader, the Frozen Chasm as you calls it.” He spread his arms wide, saying, “Welcome ‘ome, my dear.” Crossing his arms back, he said, “All right, since I’m feelin’ extra generous today, ye can ask me one more question, love.” He held up one talon. “Just one.”

Her mind raced as she tried to think of one last question to ask. “What’s your name?”

He looked taken aback for second, then regained his composure. “Me name? And why should ye care wot me name is? I ain’t even asked yours.”

She smiled, despite the blackness pressing in the corners of her vision. “My name is Trixie,” she said. “And yours is?”

He moved closer to her, putting his face right up next to hers. “My name,” he said, “interesting last question.” He stroked her face with his free claw. “Sypher, my dear, at your service.”

“Sypher,” she repeated. He nodded. “Lovely name.”

“Well, I must be off now, love. Your friends need tending, and I need me job.” He spun around in the air and slithered away, leaving Trixie frozen in ice, alone with her thoughts.

Sypher, huh?

With the darkness now about to fully engulf her, she let herself slip into unconsciousness, hoping it wouldn’t be the last time she was alive.

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