• 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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29 — Out of the Frying Pan and into the Lake

Chapter 29:
Out of the Frying Pan and into the Lake

It wasn’t often that Twilight found herself in a situation where she was unsure of what to do; where she didn’t have an answer for everything. She was, after all, the personal protege of Princess Celestia. She was her star student. But right now, in this moment, she felt like a helpless filly in front of a panel of keen-eyed judges all gauging her performance. Except if she failed this test, she wouldn’t just be told, “Sorry, better luck next time,” she’d be putting her life, and the lives of her friends at risk. There was no easy answer to this pop quiz.

As Twilight surveyed the scene before her, time seemed to slow down. A few dozen feet away from her, lining the shore of the glassy lake, stood twenty or so armored seaponies wielding cruel-looking tridents. They moved with liquid-like smoothness into a readied position with their tridents raised against the charging ponies. Two in the middle had their weapons pointed at the necks of two prisoners, namely a very angry Rainbow Dash, and a frightened Spike.

Twilight’s heart raced as she watched in grim terror as Rarity and Applejack, their mouths open in primal screams, galloped at full speed towards the line of tridents. Recklessly they kicked up dirt and lowered their heads in preparation for ramming into the seaponies. Twilight racked her brain for an answer, a solution, but nothing worthwhile came to her.

If she acted now, she could quickly pull back Rarity and Applejack, but for what? They still wouldn’t be in any better a position. It was still three against twenty. On the other hand, she could attempt to teleport herself and her friends out of harm’s way, but that was potentially more dangerous than doing nothing. Between the fact that she’d be spreading her magic across a large area and over multiple objects, and the fact that doing this in a split second, even under the best of circumstances, would be near impossible, she didn’t really see how teleportation could possibly be the answer. Another possibility would be to join Rarity and Applejack in their charge and hope that they could fight off the seaponies together. But even with her magic, Twilight wouldn’t be able to dispatch the seaponies quickly enough to be assured that neither her nor her friends would be harmed. She briefly entertained the idea of simply teleporting herself away so she wouldn’t have to deal with this problem, but that was obviously out of the question since she wouldn’t abandon her friends even if it cost her her life.

In this moment of desperation, Twilight, oddly enough, found herself wondering what Trixie would do. It seemed a weird thing to ask herself, but she asked it nonetheless. When Trixie was faced with the Ursa Minor, she didn’t run away despite the fact that she was facing a foe she knew she couldn’t defeat. She stood her ground and fought. Granted, it was still in vain, but it still sounded somehow appealing to Twilight. She could stand her ground here and fight, even if she knew there was no way she could be assured of victory.

As she was resolving to throw herself into battle with her friends, a thought occurred to her. There was no way to know this plan was going to work, but neither was she sure of any of her other plans and at least this one stood a somewhat better chance of success.

Acting quickly, Twilight combined several of her plans into one and scooped up Rarity and Applejack moments before they clashed with the seaponies while simultaneously fishing a certain object out of her bag and teleporting herself forward. In the blink of an eye, Rarity and Applejack landed on the ground where Twilight had been a split second before, and Twilight appeared in front of the seaponies that had captured Rainbow Dash and Spike holding a familiar-looking coin in the air in front of her. Her eyes were hard, and her face serious, as she stared at the pair of guards.

“Here,” she said, moving the coin forward, “take this.”

The seapony hesitated a moment, then his eyes went wide as he saw the coin Twilight was presenting to him. He quickly held up his arm and yelled at the others to halt. Gingerly, he reached forward and plucked the coin from Twilight’s field of magic. After taking a moment to examine it, he nodded to the guards holding Rainbow Dash and Spike. They nodded in acknowledgment and released their prisoners.

Spike quickly ran over and hugged Twilight’s leg while Rainbow Dash followed close behind him.

“Twilight,” she whispered, “what the heck did you give him?”

Twilight kept her eyes on the seapony holding the coin. “Trixie’s coin,” she explained. “I remembered I had it and what Rarity had said about it. It seemed like a longshot, but I was hoping it would mean something to them.”

“Sheesh, well I guess you were right.”

Suddenly, the seapony holding the coin looked at Rainbow Dash. “Yes,” he said, “your friend here was right. This coin does mean something to us.”

“Whoa!” Rainbow Dash recoiled a bit. “You guys can talk?”

The seapony raised an eyebrow. “You’re surprised by this?”

“I mean, I guess it makes sense. I just wasn’t expecting it for some reason.”

The guard grinned, revealing sharpened teeth. “Is that so? Then you’ll be even more surprised to learn that this coin was stolen from us nearly a year ago.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide. “What?”

The grinning guard turned to her. “That’s right. A pony, much like yourself came here almost one year ago and stole this coin from us. I’m sure his highness would be very interested to learn how you came into possession of it.” He looked to both sides and motioned to the guards. “I’ll ask that you come quietly and save us all some trouble. If you refuse, we’re more than prepared to take you by force.”

Twilight cursed herself. Had she known where this plan would lead, she never would’ve gone through with it. Of course, it was the only real plan she had at the time, so it wasn’t like she had much choice. She turned back to look at Applejack and Rarity who had been inching closer all the time.

“It’s okay, girls,” she said. “I’m just going to go explain what happened and everything should work out fine. You girls wait for me up here.” Twilight turned back to the seapony holding the coin. “My friends stay here. You only need me.”

The guard chuckled. “I don’t believe you understand the concept of leverage. You see, you have none. We’ll take all of you to see the king, and not a one less.”

Twilight smirked. Her horn flared up as she waved it menacingly at the guard. “I do have some leverage,” she said.

The guard recoiled, his face contorting into a grimace. “Horns,” he muttered. “Fine. The two standing back there may stay, but you, the blue one, and the little dragon are coming with us.” He pointed to each subject in turn.

Twilight considered this for a moment, then nodded. She faced Rainbow Dash and Spike. “You’re okay with this, right?”

Rainbow Dash made a face that seemed to indicate the answer was obvious. “Uh, duh,” she said. “Like I’d leave you to go down there by yourself.”

Spike nodded in agreement, thumping his chest. “Yeah! Same goes for me!”

Twilight smiled. She turned back to Rarity and Applejack. “I guess Spike and Rainbow Dash are coming with me. You girls stay put until we get back.”

“Horseapples ta that!” Applejack shouted. “I ain’t gonna sit around waitin’ for you to come back. I’m comin’ with ya.”

Rarity, with a flick of her mane, said, “And I would feel terribly awful if something were to happen to you. I will accompany you too.”

The pair made to follow Twilight, but before they could even get a few steps, Twilight held up her hoof. “No. You stay up here. I just need to explain how I got this coin and everything should be fine. I don’t want to unnecessarily drag you girls into this.” She smiled softly. “Trust me. Everything’s going to be fine. We’ll be right back.”

Applejack pursed her lips. “Hmph, if you say so. C’mon, Rare, will stick it out up here. If Twi’s right, shouldn’t take ‘em long to get back anyhow. Plus,” she said, leaning in towards Rarity and whispering out of the corner of her mouth, “we ain’t just gonna sit here. Soon as they’re gone, we’re gonna follow ‘em.”

Rarity smiled. “Oh, how devilish. A ruse then,” she whispered. “Yes, Twilight,” she said, turning to Twilight, “as Applejack says, we shall wait for you up here on dry land.”

“Good,” said Twilight. “We won’t be long.”

“My left hoof you won’t be,” muttered Applejack.

Twilight turned back to the seaponies and said. “Okay, we’re ready. Let’s go see this king of yours.”

The seapony guard nodded. “Yes, I’m sure he’ll be very pleased to speak with you. Oh, but you’ll be needing these,” he said, handing Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Spike each a small necklace. “Wear these or else you’ll drown, and that won’t be good for anyone.”

Twilight took the necklace and examined it with a trained eye. The chain was thin and seemed easily breakable, but the pendant that hung from it was something else entirely. It was a small, but thick, chunk of coral shaped to look like a series of interwoven lines probably meant to represent something, though Twilight wasn’t sure what. Cautiously, she slipped the necklace over her head and waiting for, well, something to happen. At first, she didn’t notice anything, then suddenly she felt herself gasping for breath. She saw Rainbow Dash and Spike doing the same thing and quickly ripped the necklace off. Her breath restored to her, Twilight sucked in a big mouthful of air, then looked at the necklace again.

“There’s some kind of enchantment on these, isn’t there?” she asked.

“Wouldn’t be much good if there weren’t,” said the guard.

Twilight inspected the pendant again. A faint glow faded away just as she held it up. She squinted her eyes, but nothing in particular stood out to her. “Hmm,” she mused. “Is it perhaps some kind of breathing spell? It must affect lung function in some way.”

He nodded, impressed. “Quite right. It modifies the user’s oxygen intake so that they can more easily extract it from water. Of course,” he added, “that also means it doesn’t work out of the water. Essentially, you become a fish, or a seapony I guess, out of water.”

“I see,” Twilight mumbled. She furrowed her brow. “How is that you can breathe both out of and in water?”

He reached towards his neck and pulled out a necklace from beneath his armor. It was identical to the one Twilight held in her hooves.

“It works in the opposite fashion for us,” he explained. “Though, it is possible for us to breathe out of water. The problem is that it requires we expend a great deal more energy, so it is not very practical.” He slipped the necklace back under his armor. “But that’s enough talk for now. My king will be waiting for you, and though he may be patient, his daughter is not.”

Twilight cocked her head to the side. “His daughter?”

The guard grimaced, but said nothing. Instead, he turned to his companions and jerked his head towards the water. They nodded in return then began to file into the lake. Twilight barely had time to slip the necklace back over her head, and see that Spike and Rainbow Dash had done the same, before the guard gave her a smirk and said, “Time to go for a swim.”

Twilight shot one last look over her shoulder at Applejack and Rarity. Neither of them were smiling. They were whispering back and forth though. From this distance, however, Twilight couldn’t make out what they were saying. She just hoped they weren’t planning anything risky. She was sure she could resolve this situation non-violently.

Twilight turned back to the lake and watched as her friends cautiously entered. Before long, their heads had sunk below the surface and she and the guard standing next to her were the only ones left. He nudged her forward. Instinctively, Twilight took a deep breath before entering the water.

As soon as she broke through the surface, she instantly felt the chill water wash over her. It wasn’t frigid, but it certainly was no hot spring either. Twilight held her mouth shut, still afraid of breathing in the water. Eventually though, lack of oxygen forced her to open her mouth and breathe in the cool lake water. She expected it to feel like drinking water, though she wasn’t sure why. Instead, however, it felt more like breathing, just… wetter. It was difficult to explain and Twilight feared that if she concentrated too hard on thinking about the logistics of breathing water, she may drown herself. So, she pushed those thoughts out of her mind and focused on finding where Rainbow Dash and Spike had gotten too.

While the pendant may have allowed her to breathe underwater, it certainly didn’t allow her to see any better. The lake was dark and murky, and the lower she descended, the harder it was to see. However, if she strained her eyes, she could just barely make out Rainbow a dozen or so feet ahead using her wings to propel herself forward. Twilight considered telling Rainbow Dash that the upward motion of her wings would create more drag than the downward stroke was worth, but then she remembered that she couldn’t speak underwater either. Perhaps these pendants weren’t so great after all.

A little behind Rainbow Dash, she saw Spike paddling his way forward. His method may have expended less energy than Rainbow’s way, but it was a heck of a lot slower. Clearly dragons weren’t meant for swimming. Twilight decided to see where the seapony she had spoke with was and looked to her left and right, but he was nowhere to be found. Then, she looked up, and there he was.

It was amazing how at-home they, the seaponies, looked in the water. Though, Twilight supposed, it wasn’t that surprising given their name and all. On land, they had been somewhat sluggish, and their movements, practiced as they were, didn’t look normal. But here, under hundreds of gallons of water, they moved through the water like Rainbow flew through the air. Their fins propelled them forward at great speeds, though it was clear they were purposely moving slow so as to not lose track of their prisoners.

Twilight then realized that she was moving awfully slowly. She had been so focused on gathering information on her surroundings, that she hadn’t even realized she was barely kicking at all. Ponies, as anyone can guess, weren’t exactly made to be water-faring creatures, but Twilight had done some swimming before. She wasn’t particularly good at it, but she was able to flail around enough to propel herself forward at an acceptable speed. She wished she had had more time to develop some sort of transformative spell to give her more hydrodynamic limbs specifically for this purpose, but she knew it was just wishful thinking. An explosive spell would’ve also worked, but she had a feeling the other ponies, and seaponies, and Spike, wouldn’t appreciate the concussive blast she would’ve had to create.

As it stood, Twilight had to be content with slowly doggy-paddling her way towards, well, now that she thought about it, she didn’t know where they were headed. She was just following Spike and Rainbow Dash, who were following the seaponies ahead of them in-turn. Without anything else to do, Twilight resigned herself to following blindly for the moment and she was rewarded for her patience not too long after.

It started off as a faint glow, just a sort of vague light in the distance, but as they got closer, that glow became brighter and brighter. It was only now that Twilight realized how far down they had gone. It appeared that this lake was a lot deeper than she had previously thought. They were now approaching what appeared to be a building. It had a few lights hanging around the entrance that were made of some sort of bioluminescent material, and as they got closer, Twilight realized that there were a pair of guards hanging around the entrance. The entrance, by the way, was not a hole in the rock as she would’ve expected. In actuality, the entrance was beneath the rock-face. And as they got closer and closer, she noticed that the seaponies leading the pack were diving beneath the wall of rock and disappearing.

She had only begun to suspect that perhaps they were entering some sort of underwater cave when it was her turn to dip beneath the rock. She looked up. She could see the surface of the water where Rainbow Dash had just broken through and was helping Spike up and her suspicions were confirmed.

With a few extra-powerful kicks, she pushed herself towards the water’s surface and broke through into a damp, though well-lit, cave. She attempted to take a deep breath when she realized she was still wearing the necklace and her deep breath turned into a gasp. As she was busy struggling with removing the necklace, she felt a pair of hooves, and dragon claws, grasp her flailing limbs and pull her up.

She felt the necklace being torn from her neck, and oxygen was restored to her lungs. She inhaled deeply, feeling a wave of relief wash over her. As she attempted to regain full cognitive function, she felt a hard pat on her back. Coughing, she looked up. Rainbow smiled back down at her.

“Not bad, Twi. Never figured you for much of a swimmer. Did better than Spike though, heh.”

Spike frowned. “Dragons weren’t made for swimming. It’s not my fault I have these stubbly little arms.” He waved his arms around to show their stubbliness.

Rainbow chuckled. She gave Spike a playful noogie. “I’m just messin’ with ya, bud. No offense meant.”

He pushed her hoof away. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He looked around. “Hey, wait,” he said suddenly. “Where’re all the seaponies?”

Twilight looked around. He was right, there were no seaponies to be found. It was odd. It was like they had just disappeared without a trace. Before Twilight could offer an explanation though, the guard from before clambered out of the water and into the cave with them. He looked down at Twilight.

“The king is right through here,” he said. “He’s waiting for you.”

Twilight nodded solemnly. “Let’s go meet him then.”

Rainbow Dash nodded too. “I’ll tell him what’s what.”

Spike sighed, mumbling, “My gut tells me it isn’t gonna be that easy.”

The seapony motioned towards the tunnel leading away from the pool they had exited from. “Shall we?” he said.

With a collective intake of breath, the pair of ponies and singular dragon gathered themselves up and followed the guard down the torch-lined hallway.

Meanwhile, up on the surface, Applejack glanced over to Rarity.

“Welp, I think we’ve given ‘em long enough. Whaddaya say, Rare?”

Rarity, who looked even more restless than Applejack, nodded firmly. “Yes, it’s been quite long enough indeed. Let’s go get them.”

Applejack chuckled. “Heh, yer more fired up than I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gung-ho, but mind if I ask what’s got your bridle in a bunch?”

Rarity’s lips tightened. “Spike, he…” she trailed off. Her eyes drifted to the lake, then hardened. “He told me something earlier,” she finished. “But let’s not dwell on the past. Let us look to the future. The future where we rescue Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Spike from villainous seaponies that is.”

Applejack grinned. “Now that’s a future worth fightin’ for. Well, heck, we’ve kept ‘em waitin’ long enough. I think it’s about time we head after ‘em, don’cha think?”

Rarity simply stared at the lake, unmoving. “Quite,” she said.

With that, they pair headed towards the lake’s shore. As they were about to dive in, Applejack held up a hoof.

“Hang on, a sec. I was just thinkin’ about somethin’,” she said. “How’re we supposed to, y’know, breathe down there?”

Rarity stopped in her tracks, all her previous conviction suddenly vanishing. “Uhh…”

“Well, shoot…”

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