• 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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24 — And Around the Moon the Brothers Did Gather

Chapter 24:
And Around the Moon the Brothers did Gather

Trixie rolled about fitfully in her sleep, never staying still for more than a few minutes at a time. Her eyebrows were furrowed in a look of semi-pain, almost as if she were wincing, and her legs kicked now and again of their own accord, making it seem as though she were trying to run away from something in her dream. Although, it could also have been that it was nigh impossible to find a comfortable position.

Through most of the night, she was never fully asleep, always waking herself up only to glance around the room as if she were looking for something, or someone, and then, with a disappointed sigh, fall back into the ragged cloth blanketing the ground. Several times, she mumbled a few half-words and almost-thoughts in her restless sleep, but only one word came out even semi-coherent.

“Midnight,” she whispered to herself in her dreams, only to have the word torn away from her as a loud bang heralded the entrance of an all-too-familiar voice.

“Oi, Lady Tiamat be requestin’ your presence in ‘er royal oculary,” said Typhon as he slithered into the room holding a flickering lantern in one claw and a long spear in the other. He waved the lantern in Trixie’s face, forcing her to hold her hooves up to block the light. His gravelly laughter echoed distantly as he moved the lantern away and used the blunt end of the spear to jab her roughly in the ribs. He chuckled again as she squirmed. “And by ‘request’, I mean get your rump up and get outta this room. I’m takin’ ye there meself, and I ain’t aimin’ to be late again, sees?.”

With a particularly strong jab, he forced Trixie to her hooves and shooed her out the door. She didn’t put up a fight because she knew that there was no point, and besides, she wanted to speak to Tiamat again. Perhaps she’d be able to work out some kind of deal with the drake queen. If she played her cards right, maybe she'd get her friends saved, get all of them saved.

As Typhon pulled the heavy door closed with his tail, he produced a bag and gave a knowing nod to Trixie. Again, she didn’t bother protesting, knowing that it was useless.

Her instinct was to seize the bag with her magic, but as she tried to excite the leylines in her body and force magic to course through her, she found herself unable to produce so much as a tiny spark. She felt cold, naked almost as the normally electric energy she was used to failed to make an appearance. It was like someone had simply turned the flow of magic off.

Her mind went back to the first day of their capture, when she had tried to use her magic to escape and found herself in a similar circumstance. At the time, she had thought it was simply fatigue, but now she wasn’t so sure. Something far more sinister was at work here, but she knew better than to ask Typhon about it. She could likely get the somewhat slow-witted drake to give up the answer, but she didn’t want him to know how weak she was. Instead, she did her best to play off her failed magic attempt as feigned reluctance and then awkwardly grabbed the bag with her hooves and slipped it over her head.

Once she was engulfed in darkness, she said, “I can’t tie it by myself. You’ll have to do it for me,” though it was somewhat muffled by the thick material.

“Do I need to?” Typhon asked. “You ain’t plannin’ on misbehavin’ I ‘ope. That would make this little adventure very unpleasant for the both of us.” He brought his face right up to Trixie’s and let out a puff of warm air from his nostrils. In a low growl, he said, “You keep yer ‘ood on yeself, and I won’t be forced to tie you up and carry ye meself. Clear?”

Trixie nodded slowly, but said nothing.

“And don’t go thinking I’ve gone soft, or nuffin’. This ain’t my idea, it’s the Queen wot told me to ‘ood ya, but let ya walk free." He huffed. "Somethin’ about seein’ how willin’ you were to cooperate,” he added quickly. “If I had it my way, it wouldn’t just be your ‘ead in a bag.”

So, a test then? Hmm, I’ll play along for now.

With another jab of his spear, he pushed Trixie forward and began leading her down the damp pathway.

“Keep movin’, sweet. So long as you don’t get too far in front of me, you won’t get lost. Ain’t too far anyhow.”

Ain’t too far, as it turned out, was much farther than it sounded. They had already been walking for about fifteen minutes when Trixie asked, “What’s happened to my friends? Are they all right? What about Astrid? Is she still sick?” Muffled though his voice was, Trixie could still hear Typhon grumble something about being stuck with ‘the annoying one’, but he didn’t answer her question. Deciding to push her luck, she asked him again. “What about Polaris, or... or Corona? Where are my friends?”

“I don’t remember sayin’ you could ask me questions. You keep yer mouth shut and yer eyes forward and we won’t ‘ave any problems, see?” He jabbed her again, just for good measure.

Trixie winced as she felt the butt of the spear poke into her hindquarters. Gritting her teeth, she sat down suddenly and crossed her fore-hooves. She looked rather silly sitting on the ground with her black hood over her head, and her legs crossed, but her face, though he couldn't see it, showed anything but mirth.

Typhon snorted. “You ‘avin’ a laugh, sweet? Think this is a game, eh? Get your ass up and get movin’ before I get angry.”

“No, I don’t think I will,” Trixie replied firmly. “I’m quite comfortable right here.” She wiggled her hindquarters a bit and settled in more deeply.

“You little—”

“Yes, me,” Trixie said. “It’s me that your queen wants, and clearly she wants me unharmed, she said as much herself earlier. So what do you think is more important to her, bringing me to her unharmed, or say, your head?”

He sputtered angrily, but no words managed to find their way out.

Trixie spun around to face him, her head still hooded. “Perhaps Tiamat would like to know how you threatened me, or maybe I’ll tell her that I refused to cooperate because of you. How do you think she would take that? Do you think she’d just kill you right there? Or would she let you rot awhile in a cell first? Maybe she’d even—”

“All right, all right, fine,” Typhon said quickly. He let out a heavy sigh. Fine, ‘ave it your way. Your friends ain’t been ‘armed. They all been kept in separate cells-like, but ain’t been nothin’ done to ‘em.”

“Well, what about Astrid? How’s she doing?”

“The old lady’s been given some medicine, and she’ll be all right for now. She was in a bad way for awhile there.”

“Thank goodness. What about Corona?”

“That young bloke wot attacked the Queen’s a bit bruised, but he’ll live.”

“Polaris?”

“He mostly just stands at the door yelling to see his wife. He’s fine too. A bit loud, but fine.”

Trixie breathed an inward sigh of relief. Thank Celestia they’re all all right still, especially Astrid. I wonder if I’ll get to see them soon? I suppose the only thing I can do is see what Tiamat wants and maybe talk my way into seeing them.

“There, that satisfy your curiosity, sweet? ‘Ave I answered your questions thoroughly enough?” Typhon said gruffly and with a detectable amount of bitterness.

Trixie smiled, though he couldn’t see it. Standing up, she said, “Yes, it’s good to know that my friends haven’t been injured.” Turning around, she added, “Shall we continue, then?”

“Aye, we shall,” Typhon grumbled.


After another ten or fifteen minutes of stumbling through the darkness, Trixie felt a gust of fresh air as the bag was pulled from her head. Just judging by how long it had taken them to get here, Trixie was sure that they were a good distance from her cell, and, by how much of that time had been spent climbing, a good deal higher as well.

She shivered as she felt cool air waft in, and she wondered whether they were outside or not. Her eyes were still busy adjusting to the dim light that permeated the area and she couldn’t see anything really. It was sort of like looking at the world through a muddied window with a fire on the other side of it. It was all just a mess of lights and darks all dancing around in an incomprehensible ballet of colors. Through the haze, a voice, familiar again, but different from Typhon’s, floated down to meet her.

“I trust you slept well, Miss Lulamoon?”

Trixie’s vision came into focus just as the drake queen’s head came into view. Her long slender body seemed to dance in the torchlight, and she was silhouetted by a white glow that made her look almost angelic, though she would undoubtedly have made for a terrifying angel. With a curt nod to Typhon, she turned back to Trixie and cocked her head slightly to the left, waiting for an answer. Trixie watched Typhon slither back down the tunnel they had come from before facing her.

“As well as you would expect of a pony who’s been kidnapped and held against her will while her friends suffer an unknown fate at the behest of that same kidnapper,” she said without any discernible expression. Her face was deadpan, but her eyes said everything her words did not.

“Mm, quite,” Tiamat said in reply. “You have been granted all the amenities befitting one in your position, and the others as well are being well cared for, I assure you.” She seemed singularly unperturbed by Trixie’s eyes or her words. In fact, she looked more bored than anything, as if this is exactly what she had been expecting and she was just waiting for Trixie to be finished.

“But we are still your prisoners, yes?” Trixie asked, slightly more accusatory than she had intended.

Tiamat considered her for a moment, her breathing slow and steady. “Yes,” she said finally. “Until such a time that I see fit to release you, you are, for all intents and purposes, prisoners of Drakkengard.” Waving her hands dismissively, she continued, “But lets us be done with this wearisome conversation. I have no interest in discussing your position right now.”

Trixie huffed. “It may not be important to you, but it’s slightly more pertinent to me. All I want is to see my friends again,” she pleaded. “We’ve done nothing to earn your distrust.”

Tiamat’s eyes narrowed. Her slender neck curved downwards, bringing her eyes level with Trixie’s. “Nothing? You’ve done nothing but earn my distrust, my dear,” she said harshly. “In my own throne room, I was attacked by your fiery-tempered friend, and after that, you lied to me when I asked you what the Eye had shown you, even though I divulged to you information about the Mountain’s Soul that only I was privy to before. Miss Lulamoon, my dear, you’ll have to remind me, why exactly do you deserve my trust?”

Trixie’s lips pursed. She’s right...

“Nothing to say?” Tiamat said, almost mockingly.

Trixie remained silent, but kept her eyes trained on the Queen.

“Enough of this,” she said, rising up again. “I didn’t have you summoned to squabble over petty details.”

Trixie’s lips tightened, whitening around the edges.

Tiamat turned around and began gliding away, into the white light that shined down a little way away. “Come,” she said as she went. “I have something to show you.”

Trixie watched her silhouetted form slowly shrink before looking over her shoulder towards the inviting tunnel. It seemed so close. I could go right now. Run. I’d be halfway back before she knew what happened. She heard Tiamat’s voice rumble into her ears.

“You’re welcome to try, my dear. Though, you’ll find that a damp cell will be the least of your worries if you do.”

Then again, I can’t leave the others behind. Especially not Astrid...

Taking a deep breath, Trixie turned back to see Tiamat staring at her, once again wearing a shimmering white coat. “I wouldn’t dream of it,” she said.

Tiamat’s lips parted into a sharp grin. “No, of course not.”

Following in the massive drake’s shadow, Trixie navigated her way across the rocky floor towards an area a little bit from the entrance where the mysterious beam of light that had silhouetted Tiamat had shined down, creating an almost perfect circle. As they approached the light, Trixie began to feel the breeze from earlier again, though stronger this time, and she thought she could hear the wind blowing faintly.

The nearer they got to the center of the room, the more apparent it was to Trixie that the circle of light was actually much bigger than she had initially thought. It poured down into a stone basin with curved edges that must have been at least thirty or so feet in diameter. The sky hung over the basin like someone had torn the mountain in half. A massive gash stretched across the length of the curved stone and was opened wide enough that the entire night sky was visible clearly. Not a single cloud obscured Trixie’s view as her mouth fell open slightly.

Somehow, it felt like she was closer to the stars than she had ever been before. Like she could reach out and pluck the Moon from the sky and cradle it in her hooves. She had never seen it so clearly before. It was like looking into a black sea that was dotted with flits of white and yellow lights, and, if you looked hard enough, you could just barely see a few far off planets, blue and red, floating in the distance.

Trixie had drawn with the stars before, using them to help tell her stories, but this was different. It was like a massive canvas just waiting for someone with the skill to use it. She felt a shiver run down her spine as the immenseness of it hit her. She simply stared upwards, neck craned and eyes wide, for what felt like hours before Tiamat’s voice broke the silence.

“I discovered this place during my first few years inside Jormungdur,” she said softly, almost as if she were speaking to herself. “I used to come here every night and watch Angar the Black hold his council in the sky, and wait for Scytherian to drag the sun from its slumber and start the day anew.” Tiamat’s eyes gleamed in the moonlight, reflecting the thousands of tiny dots in her massive pupils as she watched the stars with a pensive look upon her face. A thousand year’s worth of memories played across her crimson eyes.

Trixie didn’t know what to say, or if she was even supposed to say anything. Eventually, she decided to just go with her gut instinct. “It’s beautiful.”

The Queen didn’t respond, but there was a low hum that seemed to voice her agreement.

For another minute or two, the pair didn’t speak. But finally, Tiamat broke the silence yet again. “Do they have star-drawings where you’re from?”

Trixie lowered her gaze to look at Tiamat. “Some, but what does this have to do with anything?”

“Indulge me.”

She sighed. “Well–” she pointed to a group of stars clustered near one particularly bright star “–over there is Mythos, the scribe who penned the Celestial Annals which described Princesses Luna and Celestia’s ascent. And then a little to left of him is Strongarm the Brave who was the first pony general to defeat the Griffons in open battle.” She brought a hoof to her chin as she recalled the location of another constellation. “Oh, and waaaaaaay over there, next to that red orb are Brio and Morient. They say those two stars are the mother and father of the Princesses, but I’m not sure I believe it.”

With more than a hint of curiosity, Tiamat asked, “Oh? Why is that?”

Trixie shrugged almost apologetically. “They’re just stories mothers tell their foals to keep them entertained when there’s nothing else to do. What makes those stories anymore real than my stories? I convinced an entire town that I had single-handedly defeated an Ursa Major, and they believed me, but that doesn’t mean my story is the truth just because people believe it. Even if everypony in the world believed it, it still doesn’t make it true.”

Tiamat’s lips tugged into a sly grin, and her eyes narrowed. “A sound argument, but what if I told you that my stories were the truth?”

Trixie considered her for a moment. “But, I don’t even know what your stories are.”

“Does that matter? If I tell you they’re the truth, then does it matter what I say?”

Trixie’s brow furrowed in thought. “Hmm, well... I guess not. But still, just because you say they’re the truth doesn’t mean they are. It’s the same thing as before, only now it’s you telling the stories instead of my mother.”

Tiamat’s grin widened into a toothy smile. She pointed through the crack and up into the sky. “Angar the Black was the firstborn son of the dragons, and it was he that first wove the stars into his image. When he created the night, he left his mark in the form of constellations. Later, when Scytherian was born, he brought light unto the world and so was given the title Scytherian the Kind. He was the first of the dragons to take pity on the lesser beings bring unto them the Sun.”

Trixie shook her head. “No, it’s still just a story. I was taught Celestia and Luna were the ones who raised the Sun and the Moon, not this Angar, or this Scytherian. It’s the same tale with the names changed around.” She stamped her hoof into the ground, somewhat impatiently. “They’re just lights in the sky and nothing more.”

Tiamat ignored Trixie and continued. “After Scytherian came Calidor the Builder. He was weaker than either of the two older brothers, but he had a mind for creation, so he built himself a new race of mortals. These are the dragons you see today. They may look like trueborns, but they are far from it. Long-lived and just as fearsome, they lack the raw magical strength of the trueborns however, and are not immortal. Then finally,” she said, pointing to the blue ball of light hanging innocently in the sky, “Akatoss was born.”

Akatoss? The name sounded familiar, though why, Trixie couldn’t say. It just had that sort of sound to it that made it seem as if she had been hearing it her whole life. “Akatoss?” she asked, cocking her head to the side.

“Akatoss,” Tiamat repeated, her grin souring into a scowl, “or as he’s better known, Death, was the last of the Dragon Brothers, and the most powerful.” She turned her head skyward, the moonbeams playing across her face. She let out a long, slow, breath. “Akatoss saw it as his duty to usher dying souls into the Abyss, where they may rest in peace, and for many years, that’s exactly what he did. But he grew tired of his work, and hungered for more power, more control. He tried corrupting his brothers, but they wouldn’t listen to his madness, so instead he forced them to do his bidding. Calidor he forced to make twisted creatures, amalgamations of normal animals such as the manticore, or the chimaera. But worst of all, he drove his brother to create the creature you know as ‘Discord’, chaos incarnate.”

Trixie’s mind reeled. This was too much to take in all at once, even if it wasn’t real. She massaged her temples, trying to work out everything in her head. “So Akatoss, or Death, used Calidor to make monsters? But... why? What purpose did that serve?”

“He plotted to overthrow his brothers so that he could control the universe and he needed an army to do it, but when Angar learned of his treachery, he and Scytherian were able to save Calidor from their brother. Once he was safe, they asked him to create a creature that could stop Akatoss, and so, with the last of his magic, he brought to life the ‘goddesses’ you know as ‘Princesses Celestia and Luna’.”

Trixie’s hoof shot up almost immediately. “Wait, he created the Princesses?”

Tiamat nodded solemnly. “It took all that he was, but he split his godhood into two separate beings, one for the day and one for the night. Those beings are your Princesses.”

“But, but what about them raising the Sun and the Moon? Wouldn’t that still have been Scytherian?”

Tiamat’s own hand raised in answer to Trixie’s. “If you’ll let me finish.” Her claw extended towards the Moon as she stared down at Trixie, one digit pointing directly at its surface. “It was shortly after the birth of the Princesses that Calidor perished, the immense magic required having taken his own immortality from him. But before that, Angar had held a council of the Brothers around the Moon so as to decide how to defeat Akatoss. You can even see their last meeting etched into the sky if you know where to look,” she said.

Trixie followed the invisible line created by Tiamat’s claw all the way to the Moon where, if she looked at just the right angle, she could sort of make out three vague shapes arranged around the Moon in a triangular fashion. She traced between the stars to create images in her mind that possibly could’ve resembled great dragons convening around the Moon, but then again. These were stars, you could make whatever images you wanted, so long as you had the skill to do so.

Tiamat watched Trixie draw the lines and waited for her to finish before continuing. “As I said before, it was after this meeting that Calidor’s immortality faded and he passed into the Abyss. With him gone, Angar and Scytherian’s positions were weakened and they were more susceptible to Akatoss’s attacks. However, with the rise of the Princesses, they were able to drive Akatoss back, forcing him into his own domain in the Abyss.”

“But, wouldn’t that be incredibly dangerous?” asked Trixie, turning back to Tiamat. “I mean, they’d be fighting him on his own turf, right?”

“Exactly,” Tiamat replied with a knowing smile. “You catch on quickly. Angar and Scytherian were able to drive him back, but once they entered the Abyss, they weren’t able to defeat him. He had become too powerful, wrapped up in the souls of the vanquished, so they were forced to retreat.” Her claw moved from the Moon, to another grouping of stars to the north. “There you can see what happened next.”

Trixie looked, and she tried to see what the Queen was talking about, but nothing in particular stood out to her. I just looked like a mess of bright spots of light surrounding a decidedly black patch of the sky. “I don’t see anything,” she said. “It’s just a black spot.”

“That’s because there’s nothing there to see, at least not anymore.” Tiamat’s body stretched up and she reached out as if trying to touch the sky. “Angar and Scytherian, once they had trapped Akatoss inside the Abyss, did the only thing they could: they sealed him inside using the last of their magical ability. And so it took the combined strength of the three older brothers to subdue and trap the youngest.”

Trixie’s eyes flowed up Tiamat’s curving form, all the way up to her head. “So what happened to Angar and Scytherian, then? Did they die as well?”

The Queen slumped back down, coming eye-level with Trixie, though maintaining a healthy distance from her. “Sadly, yes. Neither survived the ordeal as the wounds they had suffered at the hands of Akatoss combined with the energy it had required to seal him away had been too great. As their dying wish, they had granted the remainder of their powers to Celestia and Luna. Unfortunately, it was this extra power that corrupted the Princess Luna, eventually turning her into the one you call ‘Nightmare Moon’, but that is neither here nor there,” she said, waving her hand. “The reason I have told you all this is because I want you to see that sometimes the stories we tell are true.”

All you’ve done is tell me a long story about a bunch of dragons who kill each other.

“You say they’re true, but that still means nothing. I could say they’re not true just as easily,” Trixie retorted. “Where is your proof that this is how Equestria was made?”

A smirk split Tiamat’s face. “Proof?” she asked. “Why, I am living proof.”

Trixie’s jaw dropped. “You? But, you weren’t even in the story.”

The Queen nodded. “True, I was not there in the beginning, but I know someone who was.”

“Who?”

For a moment, Tiamat considered the question, but said nothing. She gazed back up at the sky. Trixie followed her line-of-sight to a shooting star that happened to be crossing the sky as they had been speaking. Its shimmering tail traced a wide arc across the black wash of the night sky and eventually it disappeared into the void again, leaving the two of them staring at the Moon’s scarred surface. Riddled with pockmarks and valleys, the Moon looked more like a wounded veteran than a celestial body. It hung in the sky like a massive cocoon, with some unknown mystery hiding inside.

Something about looking at it suddenly made Trixie sad, as if she had just remembered a long-forgotten friend. She looked away, at her hooves, wishing she still had her brooch with her.

“Do you know why the Brothers gathered around the Moon?”

Trixie looked up into Tiamat’s ruby eyes as they stared back at her. “I... assume because it was far away from the Abyss and Akatoss.”

“Mm, not quite, no,” she hummed. “I didn’t tell you who their father was, did I?” Trixie shook her head and Tiamat nodded. “He was the first of the Dragons, a true god. Abraxas, they called him. He and his wife, Sirana, bore the four Dragon Brothers, and it was he that first breathed life into the universe. Unfortunately, Sirana was killed when Akatoss was born. He tore a hole through her belly to escape, but his father, their father, he lived on. After the death of his wife, he came down to this world to find a mate. He found that mate in the form of an immense serpent called, Nymael.”

Wait a second...

“She gave birth to multiple daughters over the years, but the first...” She paused.

There’s no way.

“The first was me.”

Trixie felt her knees tremble a bit. She wobbled slightly, steadying herself after a moment. “So...” She trailed off. The night sky felt like it was crushing down on her now, no longer open as it had been a few minutes ago. “So, you’re the daughter of Abraxas?”

“I am. He abandoned me after I was born, unhappy that I was not a true dragon like himself, but little did he know that Nymael would only bear drakes for him. His sons all gone, he would have no one to carry on his seed,” Tiamat said with a half-laugh. “After Nymael had given him only drake-daughters, he left her as well, heading for the one place he could safely wait for another true dragon to be born: the Moon.” Trixie’s head felt like it was spinning in place. She suddenly felt dizzy. “It was after he had taken refuge inside the Moon that Akatoss had made his move, and so when the three remaining brothers had convened to plot his defeat, they joined our father in the Moon.” She watched with detached amusement as Trixie looked around wildly, as if waiting for someone to spring out and tell her that this had all been an elaborate practical joke. “Abraxas refused to help, claiming that he would not kill one of his own sons, and so he instead entered an eternal slumber deep within the Moon, communicating with the outside world only through visions and dreams. After that, he became known as Abraxas the Undying.”

I think I need to sit down, Trixie thought as she fell to her haunches rather ungracefully.

Tiamat regarded her with a look of bemusement. With the hint of a smile playing across her face, she leaned in to Trixie as she stared blankly ahead.

“So, I’ll ask you again, my dear,” she said. “What did the Dragon’s Eye tell you? What did my father say?”

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