• 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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28 — Moonlight

Chapter 28: Moonlight

Tiamat stood in the center of the room, liquid moonlight raining down on her through the cave’s oculus. Even drawn up to only half her full height, she still cut an imposing figure. A figure made all the more imposing by the harshness in her eyes and the way her claws laced together to form a network of sharp points. She had a sort of half-smile on her face, the same one that adorns a wolf’s face when their pack has surrounded some unfortunate prey. Only, Tiamat didn’t need an entire pack of wolves to be intimidating. She managed just fine on her own.

Trixie, on the other hand, could barely bring herself to stand up. She sat back on her haunches, looking up at the drake queen and contemplating her response. She opened and closed her mouth a few times, only empty, wordless air coming out. Eventually, Tiamat grew impatient. She unlaced her fingers.

“It’s not a difficult question, my dear,” she said. “All I ask is that you tell me exactly what my father—what Abraxas—told you when you spoke. And before you try to lie to me again, know this: one word from me and all your friends’ short lives will be made even shorter.” Her face hardened, as much as it could, being scaly and hard to begin with. “I know you must think of me as some kind of monster, but I have no intention of bringing harm to your friends, nor you. Not unless I need to, and should that be the case, I will not hesitate. That, I’m sure, you can believe.”

Trixie chuckled humorlessly, despite the situation. “I don’t suppose I have much choice then,” she responded. Propping herself up using a nearby rock, Trixie did her best to look calm and composed. Her eyes upturned, she looked to Tiamat and said, “But how can I know that you won’t just throw me back in that cell and keep us all locked up forever once I tell you what you want to know? How will you guarantee their safety, and mine?”

Tiamat’s laughter boomed in the cavernous room. She swooped down and came face-to-face with Trixie. With her ruby eyes, she studied Trixie for a moment, then said, “My dear, I think you misunderstand the situation. From where I’m standing, you have no leverage. You can’t bargain with something you don’t have.”

“But I do have something. I do have some leverage.”

“Oh?” Tiamat raised an eyebrow.

Trixie nodded. “Yes, I have the information you want.”

The drake queen’s lips curled into a serpentine smile. “You do have that,” she admitted. “But let’s imagine, for example, that you didn’t tell me what I want to know, what then? I have your friends killed, and you placed back in the dungeon. Yes, you may win temporarily, but your friends will be dead, and it will only be a matter of time before you open up to me.” Her smile grew even wider. “Time, might I remind you, is an old friend of mine, and he is certainly on my side.” She brought up a claw to Trixie’s face and stroked her jawline. “So, my dear, it’s up to you what happens from here, but might I suggest that you be a good girl and just tell the truth? It really is in your best interest, as well as your friends'. I told you before, if you do as I ask, no harm will befall you, or your friends. I give you my word as queen of the drakes.”

Trixie considered Tiamat’s words for a moment, then shrugged. “You drive a hard bargain,” she said. “I won’t let Polaris and the others be hurt because of me, so fine... I’ll tell you what the Dragon’s Eye told me.”

“Good answer,” Tiamat said, her lips curling back to reveal sharpened teeth.

Trixie sucked in her breath, then let it out in a slow sigh. “So where do I begin?”

“At the beginning, of course,” Tiamat said expressionlessly.

“Ah, yes...”

“And I expect to hear everything.” She added.

“Well, obviously—”

“So get on with it.”

Trixie nodded quickly. “Right, of course,” she said, looking away. “So, it all started when I traveled to the backwater town of Ponyville. After a successful performance, and through no fault of my own, an Ursa Minor was brought into the town where it wreaked havoc and destruction and whatnot. Anyway, unable to stop it... again” —she muttered under her breath—” another mare, Twilight Sparkle, stepped in and saved the town. Naturally, I—”

Tiamat waved her hand dismissively. “I’m not interested in whatever squabbles you have with any other ponies. I care only what you were told while speaking with Abraxas. You may skip to that part.”

Trixie held up her hoof. “Ah, but this is important to the story, because it was due to this defeat that I sought out Nadir, and it was Nadir who told me about the Dragon’s Eye.” She looked up to Tiamat for approval to continue, but she said nothing. Taking that as her answer, Trixie returned to where she had left off. “Nadir told me about a potion that I could drink to speak with the 'Dragon's Eye'. She told me that it would tell me exactly what I needed to hear, and nothing more. After I drank the dragon’s blood, I woke up in a dream, in the far north, past the Onyx Mountains.”

Tiamat bobbed her head, like she had heard this all before. “Yes, he did always have a certain fondness for mountains and snow,” she mumbled. “Continue. What did he say when you arrived?”

Trixie brought a hoof to her chin as she thought. “It was all very cryptic,” she said. “There was lots of talk about this being my destiny and how it was fate that I should speak with him. He went on and on about that. It seemed like he wanted to make sure that I knew that..." Trixie said slowly, as if realizing something.

“Mm, and a flair for the dramatic, it seems,” Tiamat said under her breath. “What else?”

Trixie tapped her chin again. “He said that it was my destiny to choose my own destiny. That I would have to travel to the End of the World to see what it had in store for me, and that I would meet a pony along the way who would help me. He said that I would have to face the Shepherd, whoever that is.”

Tiamat’s eyes narrowed. “The Shepherd?” She frowned, muttering, "I'm unfamiliar with this name."

Trixie nodded. “That’s what he said. Although, he did say that I didn’t necessarily have to fight it, the Shepherd I mean, or anything. He said that I would have to choose what to do.”

The drake queen stroked her jaw. “And this is all Abraxas told you? About your fate, and your destiny? Anything else.”

“I didn’t really believe him at the time, but...” Trixie’s words trailed off. She bit her lip, looking up to the starry sky, hoping for some kind of guidance. “I... I don’t know,” she admitted. “It seems like things have sort of been falling in place since I was told it was my destiny to pass the Onyx Mountains. I met two ponies who agreed to help me get there, just like he said I would. I’ve nearly died countless times, but I’ve always made it through somehow. It all feels too convenient to be luck.” Trixie shuffled her hooves. "Maybe it is my destiny?"

“Clearly you must believe Abraxas at least in part,” Tiamat observed.

“What do you mean?”

She splayed out her hands. “Look at where you are, my dear. You didn’t come this far for something you don’t believe in. If you really didn’t believe it was your destiny, then you wouldn’t have traveled this far to test that theory. Whether or not you consciously thought it, you always believed what Abraxas told you, even if you may have doubted it at the time. I’m sure whatever he said you would gain from this quest must’ve sounded very enticing.” She frowned. “But I still can’t discern what his goal his. What is my father getting out of this?”

Trixie shook her head. “What is he getting out of this? I thought he was just telling me my destiny? Isn’t that his job as the Dragon’s Eye? Why would he gain anything from it?”

Tiamat chuckled. “Oh, my dear, you are so delightfully naive. Do you really think that an all-powerful dragon such as Abraxas, the very being who brought your world into existence, would do something as menial as speak with mere mortals, describing with cryptic words their fates or their destinies?” She chuckled again. “No, I assure you, Abraxas is very much doing this for himself and no one else. I just don’t know what it is he’s after.” She flicked her tongue. “Abraxas, you crafty old dragon, just what the hell do you want?”

Trixie stared at Tiamat, her face clouded in confusion. “But, what about all that destiny stuff? Aren’t I meant to face the Shepherd and scale the Onyx Mountains?”

“Destiny, fate, these words mean nothing,” Tiamat said harshly. “They don’t exist in this world anymore than they do in any other. Every choice, every decision you’ve made that’s brought you here was exactly that: a choice. A choice you made, without the guidance of any preordained path set before you by some cosmic being. You said that you had cheated death numerous times in coming here, correct?” Trixie nodded slowly. “You did so by your own strength, or the strength of others, not because it was meant to be. Destiny, as you see it, simply doesn’t exist.”

“But—but why?”

“Why?” Tiamat raised an eyebrow.

Trixie stood up, tilting her head to the side. “If that’s true, and destiny truly doesn’t exist, then why would Abraxas lie to me? And further, how come everything he told me would happen has happened? I found it hard enough to believe that I wasn’t in control of my destiny, but after everything that's happened, it seems more and more likely. Now you’re telling me that it's all a lie. Who am I supposed to believe?”

Tiamat sighed. “You ponies are such simple creatures. It’s like you can’t think for yourselves, or logically for that matter.” She pointed up to the Moon, through the hole in the ceiling. “Abraxas, my father, is up there, right now. He lives in an actual physical place. If you were to travel to the Moon this instant, you would find him in the center, still slumbering away, speaking with gullible mortals like you through mystical potions and other ethereal means. He may be the only true dragon left, but he doesn’t hold so much power as to be able to shape the fate of the world, or even individuals, himself. I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing in this world is certain, and especially not the future. Time is the true ruler of the universe. The only reason everything has happened the way he said it, is because you believed what he said was the truth, so you’re own belief in this false truth made you subconsciously follow through with it. You have been fulfilling your own prophecy.” She brought her hand back down and pointed at Trixie’s chest, jabbing for emphasis. “The short and simple truth is that you are being played by my father. He has fooled you into believing you're on some noble quest, but really you're just his errand girl. For reasons unknown to me, he has chosen you to be his pawn in whatever cosmic chess game he's playing. I don't know what he's after, but I know that it's not your happiness, and I know that he'll do anything to get what he wants. Especially if it involves fooling mortals.”

Trixie slumped back down. “So... all this time? I’ve been doing this for nothing?” She glanced up at Tiamat. “How am I supposed to believe you? Maybe you’re the one who's trying to trick me into believing that destiny isn’t real so that I won’t complete whatever it is Abraxas wants me to do. How can I know what you’re saying is the truth?”

Tiamat laughed. “I don’t care what you believe, my dear. All I’m doing is telling you the truth. Whether or not you want to see it that way is your business, but regardless, you will pass through the Onyx Mountains and reach the End of the World.”

Trixie’s jaw dropped slightly. “What?” she said slowly.

“You will do exactly was Abraxas has told you. You will cross those black mountains north of here and face this ‘Shepherd’. I want to know what my father is up to, and this is the best way to find out. You will follow the path he set for you, and when he reveals his hand, I’ll be there to see it.” She wrung her hands. "I won't let whatever scheme he's hatching come to fruition."

“So... you’re letting me go?” Trixie asked cautiously. “I’m going to be allowed to leave?”

Tiamat nodded. “Yes, you are free.”

“And my friends?”

Tiamat remained silent for a moment, considering this, then said, “Yes, and your friends may go free as well.”

Trixie did her best not to let her excitement get the better of her. Despite this, she couldn’t keep a grin from exploding across her face. “So then it must be destiny? I’m getting to continue my journey, and with the two ponies I need still unharmed.”

Tiamat smiled for what felt like the hundredth time that night. Her sleek features pulled back into a tight, wolfish, smile. “Destiny,” she repeated. “As I said before, I don’t care what you believe, but know that you and your friends are leaving safely because I have made a choice, and certainly not one that was made lightly, not because of your imagined destiny. To cement this, I’ll inform you of another choice I plan to make in the future.” Trixie cocked her head to the side. “I’ll have you escorted back out of the caves tomorrow morning, and you will be sent on your way to Frostvale. From there, you will continue on your journey to the End of the World. However, should you stray from your path, or attempt to leave or run away,” she grinned again, “the choice I’ll be making won’t end so pleasantly for you or your friends. I’ll be keeping an eye on you and your journey, and I won’t hesitate to remind you of your duty, should you forget.”

Drawing herself up, Trixie said, “I won’t try to run. I’ll do as you ask, but not because you told me to. Because it’s my destiny. I’m meant to reach the End, and so I will.”

“Whatever you must believe in order to do this,” Tiamat said, waving her hand flippantly. “It does not matter to me. So long as you keep to your path, we won’t have any problems. Fate or no, you'll do as I ask.” She looked to the door behind Trixie and said loudly, “Typhon!”

The door rattled open, swinging wide to reveal a very familiar drake. Typhon, his head bowed respectfully, said, “Aye, my queen?”

“Escort our guest back to her friends and then have them set up in a more comfortable room. Then, tomorrow, after you have fed them breakfast, take them from our caves and back to the surface. The Frostvale exit, if you please.”

“My lady?” He said questioningly.

Tiamat sighed. “Typhon, I did not ask you to question my orders, only follow them. Take the lady back to her friends now.”

He bowed. “ Of course, as you command.” Grabbing Trixie’s waist roughly, he pulled her close and began to tie a blindfold around her eyes. “C’mere, little pony,” he said gruffly.

Before he could finish tying it, Tiamat stopped him. “Please don’t bother with the blindfold, Typhon. It’s such a needless hassle.” She shook her head. “Honestly, what are you trying to hide from her?”

Typhon grumbled something about just following orders and then removed the half-tied blindfold from Trixie’s eyes. Stuffing it into a small pouch on his side, he turned back to the door and held it open for Trixie. We waved for her to go through, saying, “Well, go on. I ain’t got all night, missy.”

Trixie, not knowing what else to do, followed him through the door, but not before giving one last look over her shoulder at Tiamat. Bathed in silvery moonlight, she stared up at the sky, lost in her own thoughts and ignoring Trixie. As the only pony in the room, Trixie couldn’t help but feel somewhat small compared to the other occupants, and yet, somehow looking at Tiamat now, she didn’t seem so big and frightening. The way the cold light played across her face made her look rather stunning, almost like one of the statues in Canterlot. If anything, she now looked... serene. Finally making up her mind, Trixie, before exiting the room, called out to the drake queen. “Thank you.” she said, “for letting us go.”

Tiamat slowly turned away from the light, and looked over to Trixie. She smiled once again, but this time it wasn’t the cruel smile of a predator, but the soft smile of a mother. “Don’t thank me,” she said. “Not yet.”

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