• 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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32 — In the Hall of the Seapony King

Chapter 32:
In the Hall of the Seapony King

The damp air of the subterranean tunnel felt heavy in Twilight’s chest. Its wetness stuck in her throat with every breath. Along the slick walls, patches of bioluminescent algae grew sporadically, giving a soft glow to the whole cave. However, the light was not quite bright enough for Twilight to be able to make out much in the way of details. She imagined that the seaponies must have adapted quite well to these low-light conditions a long time ago. Still though, that didn’t make it any easier for her to see where she was going. More than once, Twilight found herself nearly tripping over Spike’s tail as he waddled in front of her, or bumping into Rainbow Dash as she tried to squint through the darkness.

Several uncomfortable minutes later, and they had entered a large dining hall, if that indeed was what it was, that was far brighter than the tunnels they had just come through. At the head of a long table, a robust seapony sat slouched in a tall chair. He was drumming his hooves against the wood and had a bored expression on his face. That, however, changed quickly as soon as he saw Twilight, along with Rainbow Dash and Spike, enter the room. A wide smile split across his face and he straightened himself up.

“Ah! My guests have arrived! Come, come, sit down, please.” He gestured to the empty chairs on either side of the table. “Makes yourselves at home.”

Spike started to approach one of the chairs, but Twilight put a hoof on his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. “Thank you,” she said, “but we’d rather not, if it’s all the same to you.”

The seapony frowned, his jowls sagging into a blob of fat. “What kind of host would I be if I didn’t show you common courtesy? Please, sit. I insist.” He gestured more harshly this time.

Twilight sighed, then nodded. “If you insist—”

“I do.”

“—then so be it.” She looked at both Rainbow Dash and Spike and then shrugged.

The three of them crossed the cavernous hall to the table and seated themselves at the far end, as far away from the seapony as they could reasonably manage. Once they had settled, the seapony grinned. “Now then, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Adrius, and I am the ruler of this lake. These are my people.” He motioned to the seapony guards surrounding them. “We don’t often get visitors around here, especially not from your kind. What brings you to my domain?”

Rainbow Dash slammed a hoof on the table suddenly, startling the whole hall.

“Look, buddy! Quit jerking us around, okay? Let’s just get this over with.”

He stared at her silently for a moment then sighed softly. “My my my, such impatience.” He clicked his tongue, tapping his hoof against the table. “Very well, then. Enough with the formalities.” He leaned forward. “My guards tell me you have something that belongs to me. Something that was stolen from us nearly a year ago.”

Twilight nodded. “That’s right. Although, I didn’t know it had been stolen.”

Adrius raised an eyebrow. “No? Then how did you come by it?”

“About a year ago, a friend of ours came this way in search of something. See, she was on a quest of sorts and she had been writing letters to me chronicling her journey. It wasn’t until very recently that I received those letters due to an ,err, unfortunate mishap. In one of those letters, our friend had left this coin with the words, ‘Things are not always as they seem’. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, and I still don’t now, but I had a feeling this coin, and your people, were connected.” Twilight fished out the coin and held it out. “Another friend of mine told me that only those who the seaponies are greatly indebted to may hold these coins, so I knew it must hold some significance.”

“We didn’t know it had been stolen, all right? We’ll just return it and be on our way,” said Rainbow Dash heatedly. “We’re kind of in the middle of something right now, so we don’t have time to be sitting around doing nothing.”

Adrius smiled, showing off rows of sharpened teeth. “Oh no, we wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. That would be terribly rude of us. However… I can’t allow you to leave just yet. You see, my daughter, Aria, has quite the appetite and it wouldn’t do for me to leave her wanting.” He looked over to the guard on his right. “Would you bring Aria in here, please? I’m sure she’s growing quite impatient.”

The guard nodded. “Right away, sir.” He spun around, and slinked off into another damp tunnel.

The seapony king turned back to his guests. “Now then, while we’re waiting, perhaps we could discuss some terms?”

Applejack took her hat off and scratched her head as she stared at the glassy lake. “Well, this is quite the pickle, huh?”

Rarity, perfectly still, said, “Quite.”

For a moment, the two of them simply sat in silence as they watched the empty lake that had so recently swallowed up their friends. It remained perfectly still, almost mocking them and their inability to overcome the limits of their biology. Applejack sighed.

“If only there were some way we could, I dunno, make a bubble around us, or somethin’. That would sure make things a heck of a lot easier.” She kicked at stray pebble, sending it flying into the lake.

Rarity, meanwhile, was concentrating as hard as she could coming up with a solution, tapping her head angrily. “Oh, I’m not nearly as good as Twilight with this problem solving. I know there’s an answer somewhere, I just have to find it.”

Applejack frowned. She approached the edge of the lake and stuck her hoof in. “It’s pretty cool,” she remarked. “Dependin’ on how deep it is, maybe we can just hold our breath? I mean, unless you’ve got a better answer, Rare?”

Rarity bit her lip in concentration. Then, all of a sudden, her eyes lit up. “Wait, what did you say just a second ago?”

“That the water is cool?”

“No, no, before that.”

“That I wish we could make a bubble?”

“Yes! That!”

Applejack’s frown deepened. “Okay, Rare. Ya lost me. Are you saying you can do that?”

Rarity’s cheeks tugged into a sly smile. “Well, my dear Applejack, it just so happens that I may be able to do just that.” She approached the water’s edge and stood next to Applejack. “You see, some time ago, I developed a spell for keeping clothes dry.”

Her eyebrow raised, Applejack said, “Okay, and how does that help us?”

“Well, the idea was I created a sort of bubble around the clothes that kept them safe from, not only water, but anything else that might dirty them. If I were to apply that just a pony’s head, for instance, then I may be able to allow you to survive under water. Although, it probably wouldn’t be for long since the bubble can only extend so far, and allow so much oxygen in.”

Applejack blinked. “You really think you can do that? That’s mighty impressive.”

Rarity sighed. “Yes, well, it’s not a perfect solution. Like I said, the bubble would only be so large, and only hold so much oxygen, so it would hardly do us any good if we had to stay down there for an extended period of time.”

Applejack grinned, patting Rarity on the back with a heavy hoof. “All righty then, guess that means we’ll just have to be quick about it, huh?”

“Very quick. I shouldn’t think we’ll have more than a few minutes at most.”

“Good thing I’m a strong swimmer. Besides, if we’ve got a shot to save ‘em, then we need to take it no matter what, right?”

Rarity hesitated for only a moment before nodding her head firmly. “Yes, you’re right. We have to try out best, regardless of the circumstances.”

“Well shoot, sugarcube, you’re all fired up and ready to go, ain’t ya?”

“As ready as I can be.” Rarity sucked in her breath. “Okay, let’s not wait a moment longer.” Her horn began to glow a bright blue as soon as she finished her sentence, the light increasing in intensity as she poured more magic into it. She closed her eyes and creased her brow, horn sparking with life as she first directed it at Applejack.

The spell worked quickly. First, it flowed out like a strand of wispy silk from Rarity’s horn, then attached itself to Applejack’s head, slowly working its way around her entire face and down to her neck. Once the substance had covered her whole head, it expanded several inches until it looked as though Applejack had stretched a balloon over her head and blown it up slightly. Like a balloon, the shell wasn’t solid and it bobbled and rippled as Applejack moved. She tried to speak, but only a muffled sound made it past the bubble’s walls. She frowned, then shrugged. Next, the spell wrapped itself around Rarity’s head and did the same thing. Within a few seconds, Rarity had her own amorphous bubble. With a silent sigh, she let the spell go and looked over to Applejack.

Like a funhouse mirror, the other mare’s head was distorted by the shape of the bubble and its ever-changing nature. She almost laughed, but then realized that that would waste precious oxygen, so instead, she motioned to the lake and nodded. Applejack returned the nod, and both mares stepped into the cool waters, breaking the surface’s otherwise perfect stillness. With one last look at each other, they slipped beneath the water and began to swim downwards.

It was almost immediately that Rarity realized a major flaw in her plan. She had completely neglected the fact that they had no idea where to go, or where Twilight and the others had been taken. She was almost about to surface again to rethink her plan when Applejack tugged on her hoof. She followed the other mare’s hoof to where she was pointing. Far down, she could just make out a small light. She nodded to Applejack and the pair made their way towards the mysterious glow.

As they got closer, they began to realize that the light they were heading towards was no, in fact, one light, but rather a series of lights that led underneath a big rock. Kicking their hooves in sync, they pushed onwards towards what they would soon find out was the entrance to the underwater cave. Once they had swam beneath the boulder and up the shaft, they found themselves emerging in a wet cave, slick with water from recent use. Heaving themselves onto, relatively, dry land, the pair stood up and looked at each other.

Rarity reached a hoof up to her face and poked the bubble, causing it to burst into a shower of magic. She then did the same to Applejack’s bubble.

Applejack coughed, doubling over as she breathed in heavily. “Whoo…” she said slowly. “That was an interesting experience. That air in the bubble did somethin’ funny to me.”

Rarity nodded. “Yes, the magic in the air is a bit odd. I suppose I don’t really think about it anymore since I’m so used to it. But regardless, it appears as though we’ve made it somewhere.” She glanced around at the slimy walls and dimly-lit tunnel before them.

Pounding her chest to get out one more cough, Applejack said, “Yesiree. I’m not sure if this is the right place, but at least we’re makin’ progress. This thing definitely leads somewhere.” She righted herself and then stared into the mostly black tunnel. “The question is: where?”

Meanwhile, back in the dining hall of the seapony king Adrius, Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Spike sat in silence as they waited for the king’s daughter to maker her appearance. Twilight looked around, carefully assessing the number of guards and their relative positions. If it came to that, she wanted to be ready this time, and she wasn’t going to let her friends lives be at risk like last time. Luckily, it seemed, there weren’t too many guards still in the dining hall with them. Many of the ones who had escorted them back, had left after leading them to the king.

She shot a glance at Spike. He looked calm enough, rocking back and forth in his chair slightly, more as a show of boredness than anything. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, looked impatient. Her eyes darted back and forth, and she was fidgeting with her hooves constantly. Twilight was about to place a hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder to calm her down when she was interrupted by the sound of a new pony entering the room.

“Oh, look! Land ponies!”

The voice was saccharine sweet, filled with a bubbly tone that almost sounded like laughter without any actual laughing. The pony belonging to that voice, however, did not have that same feeling. She was small, but her eyes were wild and her smile filled with razors. She looked like a wild beast who’d been kept in captivity for years, only let out for brief periods of time. The little monster licked her lips, looking up to Adrius.

“Daddy, are they staying for dinner?”

He smiled, patting her on the head softly. “Perhaps, my dear, perhaps. That still remains to be seen.” His smiled turned into a more serious look as he gazed across the table at Twilight. “Now then,” he said, “all that remains is discuss what exactly will happen from here on out.”

Twilight sensed Rainbow about to blurt something out as the mare leaned forward and her mouth began to open. She placed a hoof on her shoulder and pushed her back into her seat, eliciting a confused look from the mare. She shook her head lightly, then looked back to Adrius.

“We told you. We didn’t steal your coin, and we are returning it to you as a show of good faith. All we want to do is leave your lands and your people in peace.”

Adrius nodded. “Yes, yes. It’s all well and good that you returned something you did not steal, but the fact remains. It was stolen from us, and someone has to pay the price, and besides, little Aria here doesn’t get visitors very often. It would mean so much to her if you were to stay for dinner.” He grinning wolfishly.

Spike leaned towards Twilight, whispering to her, “Does he mean what I think he means?”

“I don’t know, Spike. But we’re not going to stick around to find out,” she whispered back. Twilight looked first at Aria, then at Adrius. “Perhaps there is some sort of deal we can make? We have a few supplies if you want, or perhaps there is something you need magic to fix?”

Adrius tilted his head to the side, smiling softly. “A deal may be possible, yes, but allow me a moment to consult with my daughter.” He leaned down towards Aria. She spoke quickly, her eyes moving between Rainbow Dash and Spike as she whispered into Adrius’ ear. He nodded occasionally, his eyebrow raising now and again. After some time, he eventually nodded and said, “It seems as though she’s only really interested in one of you.”

Twilight cocked her head to the side. “What do you mean?”

“The little one. The baby dragon. She would like to have him alone. If you give him to us, the rest of you may go free.”

Spike’s eyes went wide. He instinctively grabbed Twilight’s fur and tugged. “You can’t let them take me, Twilight. Who knows what sort of crazy stuff will happen to me.”

She smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, Spike. I’d never let something happen to you.” Twilight placed a hoof over Spike, shielding him from view and pushing him slightly behind herself. “Look, we want to settle this peacefully. We won’t give up Spike, but we’ll give up the coin. Can’t you just find it in your heart to free us?”

Adrius brought a hoof to his chin and tapped it thoughtfully. “Hmm… No, I think not.” He put his hoof down on the table and said, “So, then, is that how you want it? You won’t hand your friend over to us?”

“Never!” shouted Rainbow Dash before Spike or Twilight could even say anything. “We wouldn’t give up Spike for the world. That little dude means more to us than you could possible imagine.”

Adrius gave an exaggerated sigh, rolling his eyes. “Well, if that’s the way you feel, then alas, it seems as though a peaceful resolution was always going to be just out of reach.” He turned to the guard to his right, motioning towards Twilight and the others. “If they do not want to cooperate, then make them cooperate. Seize them. Oh, and do be careful of the one with the horn. They can be feisty.”

The guard nodded. “As you wish, sir.” He looked to the other guards and the room and said, “You heard King Adrius, get them!”

Within a split second, the room went from relatively calm, to utter chaos. Twilight had sprung up onto the table and began to fire up her horn, grabbing one seapony by the tail and flinging him across the room. Rainbow Dash meanwhile spun around and kicked another hapless guard in the face, sending him reeling across the floor. Spike, however, was not as fortunate and before he could even seek cover under the table or beside Twilight, a silver seapony guard grabbed him by the arms and lifted him into the air. Neither Twilight nor Rainbow noticed when this happened as they were too distracted, and before Spike for call out for help, the guard placed a hoof over his mouth.

Just as the guard started to carry him off towards the king, a booming voice echoed through the hall.

“Unhand him, you brute!”

They all stopped and turned to see Rarity standing in the entrance, her horn ablaze with fiery blue magic as her eyes burned with anger, and Applejack standing next to her with a smirk on her face that was wider than seemed physically possible.

Applejack let out a laugh. “I’d listen to her if I were you. She can be a right pain when she’s mad.”

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