• 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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34 — Frostvale on the Horizon

Chapter 34:
Frostvale on the Horizon

Trixie stared at the crackling fire, watching as the logs slowly crumbled apart and turned to ash. A sudden wave of dread washed over her. She felt cold, and no matter how much closer to the fire she moved, the cold stayed, persistent and omnipresent. Glancing around the room, she saw that everyone else had long since fallen asleep.

Polaris and Astrid had wrapped themselves up in a blanket and were sound asleep on the bed. The other bed, however, remained empty, and Corona, curled up in his own cloth, lay in the middle of the room. The only one still awake was Trixie, and try as she might, she couldn’t get to sleep. It’s not that she didn’t feel tired—she did—it was more the unshakable feeling of foreboding hanging over her.

She got up and paced about for a bit, her teeth clattering from the cold. Her hoof moved unconsciously to her breast, feeling nothing but her bare fur where her brooch had been. She wished, not for the last time, that she still had it with her. That thought brought her to Twilight, and how she would most likely be receiving the brooch any time now.

Somehow, the notion of Twilight opening the mail and finding her brooch in an envelope comforted her. She smiled, despite her current situation. The idea crossed her mind to use this current wakefulness to pen another letter to the mare, but as she made her way to her bag to retrieve the writing utensils, she heard a faint knock on the door.

She cocked her head to the side. Slowly, she approached the door and opened it slightly. Through the crack she could see the body of a drake, and a tall one at that. A bit of light spilled into the room from the lantern he was holding. Trixie opened the door a little more and saw that it was Sypher standing on the other side.

Carefully opening the door so as not to wake her friends, Trixie slipped through the crack. She looked up and saw Sypher grinning down at her. “Sypher? What are you doing here?”

His grin widened. “Just thought I’d stop by is all.”

“In the middle of the night?”

Sypher’s grin curled upside down into a mock frown. “What?” he said, bouncing he lantern as he spoke. “We ain’t good enough friends that we can meet in the middle o’ the night for no reason?”

Trixie frowned.

He gave an exaggerated sigh. “All right, all right, fine. Look, if I’m bein’ ‘onest, it ain’t an accident you’re in this ‘ere room, and not in me dungeon.”

Trixie’s eyebrow rose. “Tiamat ordered Typhon to take us here, so of course it wasn’t an accident.”

“Yeah, well, that ain’t an accident neither,” he said, chuckling quietly.

Glancing back at the door, half expecting Corona or Polaris to wake up and find her speaking with Sypher, Trixie said, “What do you mean by that?”

Sypher’s grin returned wider than ever. He buffed his chest, looking entirely too smug. “Let’s just, missy, that ol’ Sypher ‘as still got some influence ‘round ‘ere. I may ‘ave put in a good word for ya to the Good Lady Tiamat. Convinced her that perhaps you’d be more inclined to ‘elp ‘er if she showed a bit ‘o compassion, innit?”

Despite herself, Trixie smiled, shaking her head slowly. “Why though? Why help us? Why help me?”

He shrugged. “Eh, what can I say wot ain’t already been said?” His claw came down softly on Trixie’s head as he patted her like an uncle ruffling his niece's mane. “I like you,” he said. “Ya got some moxie, innit? Remind me a bit o’ meself when I was just a boy, come ta think of it.” He tapped his chin thoughtfully.

A soft smile found its way to Trixie’s face, and the dread she had felt before seemed to ebb away like the tide receding. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you,” she said.

Sypher waved his claw dismissively. “Weren’t nothin’, love. Lady Tiamat was freein’ ya regardless, so I just thought you could use proper room ‘fore ya left.” His eyes lit up suddenly as he reached for a bag hanging off his shoulder. “Oh! But that reminds me.”

As he fished through the bag, Trixie said, “Sypher, I wanted to apologize to you.”

He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t look up from the bag.

“You know, for what I said to you earlier. You called it ‘false kindness’, and you were right. That’s exactly what it was.”

Rifling through the bag, Sypher grinned as he came across the item he was looking for. Pulling a thick bone-white dagger out the bag and displaying it, he said, “Words ain’t nothin’ but tools for the powerless, love, and you and I both know you’re anythin’ but. You’ve got more power in ya than ya realize, I’d wager, and that’s why I’m givin’ ya this.” He handed Trixie the dagger.

She took it in her magic, but not without a bit of hesitation. Twirling it about, she examined the dagger. It was thick and round, more like smooth rock than a forged blade. But despite that, when she ran her hoof along its edge to test its sharpness, she cut herself a little. The blade part of the dagger was clumsily bound with bits of leather to a roughly cut rock that served as the handle. As she held the dagger up, she couldn’t help but notice that the color of the weapon was very familiar.

Sypher grinned. “Ah, noticed it, ‘ave ya? Ain’t a regular dagger, innit?” His grin widened, and it was then that Trixie noticed a suspicious gap in Sypher’s teeth. “Got in a fight with me mate when we was kids, I did,” he explained. “One thing leads to another and next thing I know, poor ol’ Sypher’s layin’ on the ground and me tooth’d gone missin’.” He laughed. “Well, I ain’t one to take that sorta thing lyin’ down, so I found me mate, knocked ‘im senseless, and took back me tooth. Now, it’s not like I could just ram the thing back in my face, so I did the next best thing: turned it into a weapon, I did.”

Trixie examined the dagger again, and sure enough, once she took a closer look, it was very clearly a tooth. The white color aside, the dagger had ragged edges and wasn’t as smooth as it first appeared. “This is your tooth?” she asked, almost not believing it.

He nodded. “Aye, love, that it is.”

“Why are you giving this to me?”

Sypher sighed, casting a glance towards some unknown corner of Drakkengard. “Ya got somethin’ special in ya, love. Somethin’ I wish I had when I was younger. Lady Tiamat sees it too, so it ain’t jus’ me. It’s in the eyes, it is,” he said, smiling at her. “Saw it when we first spoke, and I still see it now. More than anythin’, ya got courage, confidence in yourself, and more heart than I could ‘ope to ‘ave in a lifetime.”

Trixie felt her heart catch in her throat. “What… what are you saying?”

He placed a claw on her shoulder, and leaned down so he was face to face with her. “Lady Tiamat says she’s sending you on a mission, innit?”

Trixie nodded.

“I don’t need an apology, love, never have. I jus’ need ya to do what she tells ya, that’s all.”

Trixie said nothing at first. She simply stared at the daggger, its razor sharp edge glinting in the candlelight. After what felt like an eternity, she said, “I don’t know if it’s fate, or destiny, or whatever you want to call it, that’s been guiding me here, but I’m glad that I met you, Sypher.”

He gave a single laugh. “Destiny… fate… they’re just words, love. Words ain’t mean a thing in the face of action. The only thing wot matters it the choices ya make. Fate is for the weak, the ones wot ain’t strong enough to shape life into what they want it ta be. It’s easy to say screw up and pin it on destiny, love, but it ain’t easy to take responsibility for your decisions and the consequences wot follow.”

“But, what if destiny is real? What if I’m supposed to be having this conversation with you now?” said Trixie, gesturing to him.

He shook his head firmly. “Fate ain’t told me to come down here, love. I did. I made a choice, innit?”


“And you made a choice too, to open that door.” He sighed again. “Look, it’s late, and ya got a long road ahead of ya, so it’s best if you get some rest. I’m goin’ back to me dungeon, so I guess this is goodbye, love.” He gave one last smile and then turned away, leaving Trixie standing in silence. “Oh,” he said, glancing over his shoulder, “I forgot to mention, but seein’ as that dagger be one a me own teeth, it’ll be ice cold all the time. With your ‘ooves I imagine ya won’t be able to wield it exactly, but I’m sure you’ll find a use for it.” With that final statement, he turned his head back and disappeared into the darkness of the hallway.

Trixie watched him go, and only after she was sure he wasn’t coming back did she return to the room. Once inside, she held the dagger up in the fire’s light and whispered to herself, “Goodbye, Sypher.”

Trixie was woken by a gentle nudge and a soft voice whispering in her ear.

"Trixie... Trixie, it's time to get up," it said.

Her eyes opened slowly, and she saw a fuzzy orange outline bobbing around on the edge of her vision. She didn't remember falling asleep, but she found herself wrapped up warmly in bed with Sypher's dagger hugged tightly to her chest. It felt cold, and yet was at the same time comforting. She slipped it into her bag over the side of the bed as she got up.

With her vision coming into focus, Corona as well became sharper. He had a worried smile on his face, and Trixie saw Polaris helping Astrid out of bed behind him.

"C'mon, Trixie," he said, "Anshar and Sirrush are waiting outside for us. They're going to lead us out of Drakkengard."

Trixie nodded and rubbed her eyes before rolling out of bed. She grabbed her bag and slung it over her back, turning to Astrid and Polaris as she did.

"How is she?" she asked, gesturing to Astrid.


"I'm fine," said Astrid, interrupting Polaris. She gave Trixie a reassuring look. "Really, I'm fine."

Polaris stared at her, his eyes fraught with worry. He shook his head, sighing a bit. "She's fine," he said. "But let's not waste any time getting to Frostvale, all right?"

As Corona slung his own bag over his back, he said, "Shouldn't take too long from here. Depending on where we exit, we may only be a few hours walk from the city." He gave a cheery grin to Astrid. "Don't worry, ma'am. We'll be there in no time at all!"

Trixie looked around at everyone. They were tired, she could tell, but none of them seemed to want to show it, least of all Corona. His baggy eyes belied his eager attitude. She wondered if she looked the same.

"Is there a road we can follow once we leave Drakkengard?" she asked, turning to Corona.

He grimaced, rubbing the back of his neck. "It's hard to say, honestly. I don't know where we're coming out, so there may or may not be a road. I mean, there is a road that leads to Frostvale, but assuming we're even near it, there's a good chance it's covered in snow anyway. Winter hits hard in the north, and they don't call it Frostvale for nothing."

Trixie frowned. "Well, there's no point sitting around here any longer. Along with the snow comes short days, so we better use what little light we have to get there."

All three ponies nodded in agreement. So, without another word, they gathered the few things they had left, and exited the room. On the other side of the door, Anshar and Sirrush stood with folded arms waiting impatiently for them.

"Oi, you lot done wastin' me time?" said Anshar, punctuating the question with a jab of his claw.

Trixie gave a curt nod.

Sirrush sighed with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. "About bleedin' time, innit? Been waitin''ere all damn mornin', we 'ave. 'Bout ready to gnaw me own legs off if I 'ad to wait any longer."

"Oh, shut up," said Anshar. "It ain't been that long." He shook his head, looking down at Trixie. "C'mon, little pony, let's get you lot the 'ell outta here." He jabbed a claw over his shoulder, down the opposite way they had first come. "Exit's this way."

After a bit more mindless grumbling from Sirrush, they were on their way. The two drakes led the way, and Trixie followed behind, with Corona trailing her slightly. In the back, Polaris followed behind Astrid, keeping a close eye on her as they walked. In silence, they trudged through the still tunnels, illuminated only by the pair of lanterns held aloft by Anshar and Sirrush, and the occasional torch jutting out from the rocky walls.

They travelled wordlessly for what felt like hours. Though they were heading towards the surface, it never felt like they were rising any higher, just going deeper.

“S’what happens when you’re in the middle of a mountain,” Anshar had said, though the thought didn’t ease Trixie’s anxiety.

Down, down they went, further along until Trixie was sure they were being tricked, led into some kind of trap, but the life of her she couldn’t figure out what or why. She started to slow her steps a bit, falling in line with Corona. Leaning towards him, she was about to whisper her concerns to him when she suddenly felt cool air wash over her. Gone was the musty, dank air of the tunnels, and in came the fresh, crisp air of the mountains. It was like an oasis in the desert to Trixie. She had forgotten how good it felt running through her mane.

Corona eyed her suspiciously, and opened his mouth to say something, but chose not to when she leaned away from him again and returned to her normal pace. He glanced over his shoulder at Polaris and Astird, making sure they were still getting along, and was pleased to see that the clean air seemed to perk the older mare right up.

“I assume we’re close to the exit, then?” asked Corona, turning back to look at the drakes ahead of him.

Without bothering to even glance back at him, Anshar answered Corona. “Aye. It’ll be right ‘round this bend.”

“Impatient, ain’t they?” said Sirrush with a snicker. “Like wee little babies, they is.”

“Said the kettle,” replied Anshar with a sarcastic snap.

The smaller drake folded his arms and huffed. “Fine. I’ll jus’ keep quiet then, shall I?”

“Aye. You shall.”

Sirrush huffed again, though Anshar seemed not to notice… or care.

For another minute, they shuffled along in quietude, until a ring of light crowned a rise ahead of them. It looked like the sun cresting a hill in the morning, and felt just as invigorating. All four ponies perked up at the sight, and they hurried along a little bit quicker up the last stretch of the tunnel.

When they reached the top of the rise, an opening displayed itself to them. It was so bright, they had to squint just to look at it, but to Trixie at least, it was the most beautiful sight she’d seen in a long time. From this distance, and before their eyes had adjusted to the light, it looked like little more than a spot of a light in a dark tunnel, but it was more than that. To Trixie, that spot of light meant freedom.

With hurried steps, they trudged down the last bit of the tunnel and appeared at the mouth of an innocuous-looking cave. All four ponies made their way out of the tunnel one after the other, stepping into the frigid air like they were taking their first steps. The snow, before their enemy, was now a welcome sight, and its powdery softness felt like spring grass beneath their hooves. Trixie breathed in deeply through her nose, letting the mountain air course through her.

“Here it is,” said Anshar as he too stepped out into the light. “You’re free to go now.”

Sirrush grinned toothily. “And good riddance, I says.”

“From ‘ere, just ‘ead straight north and you’ll reach Frostvale before noon. Ain’t more ‘an a few hours walk from ‘ere, even with such short legs.”

Corona nodded. “I know this area well enough,” he said. “I remember seeing this cave in my travels, but I never dared to enter it.”

“Smart of ya,” said Sirrush with a cackle. “Not many are foolish enough to wander into caves in drake lands, but there ‘ave been some.” He licked his lips.

Anshar shot a glance at Sirrush, though he was ignored. He shook his head. “Anyway, we done our duty. You lot best get a move on ‘fore ‘Er Benevolence has a change a ‘eart.”

“We understand,” said Trixie. “We’ll leave now.” Nodding to her friends, she motioned for them to start walking. As they left the cave, leaving a trail of hoofprints in the snow, Trixie cast a glance over her shoulder once more. She considered giving the drakes a farewell and thank you, but they had already disappeared into the darkness once more.

Corona wore a wide grin on his face as he led the way down the mountain and through the sparse woods that populated this face. He pointed towards the bottom of the mountain where, through the trees, they could just barely see the edge of a road. “What a stroke of luck!” he said excitedly. “That big drake was right. We’re practically on the edge of the city right here.” He frowned, suddenly thinking of something. “Huh, come to think of it, I had no idea the drakes lived so close.”

Trixie’s eyebrow rose. “You’ve never had a problem with them before?”

He shook his head. “Not as far back as I can recall. I’d heard stories about them living in the mountains, but no one had ever seen them until now.”

Polaris let out a deep chuckle. “S’pose you’ll have a good story to tell your friends now, eh?”

Corona chuckled back. “Yeah, I guess so. To be honest, I’m surprised we made it out of there alive. All the stories I heard about drakes said they didn’t take prisoners.”

Astrid, leaning slightly against Polaris as they made their way downhill, said, “Stories are just fiction, dear. The only truth is what you see.”

“Well,” said Corona, “even if that’s the case, what I saw was them taking us prisoner, so I’m not sure that’s much better.”

“But they released us, didn’t they?” said Astrid, giving him a knowing look.

He shrugged. “True, but I’m not sure that would’ve been the case were it not for Trixie here.” He turned to Trixie, giving her a pat on the back. “Right?”

Without really thinking about it, an image of the dagger Sypher had given her popped into Trixie’s mind. Her mouth curled into frown. “They’re not all bad, and even if Tiamat had to let me go, she didn’t have to release you three as well.”

“No, I guess she didn’t,” said Corona with a shrug. “Regardless, I’m glad to be out of there.”

“Yeah…” said Trixie with a long pause. “Me too.”

After that, no more conversation was had until they reached the foot of the mountain and found themselves on the road once more. It was a little icy, and poorly maintained, but just being on the path to civilization made Trixie feel better. She relished the feeling of rocks beneath her hooves, even more so than the snow when they had left the cave. All of it just meant she was getting that much closer to the End of the World.

Onwards they walked towards the city of Frostvale as the winter sun hung in the air, barely visible through the hazy clouds that dripped snow out in slow streams. There was almost no wind, and it somehow didn’t feel particularly cold, but the snow still came down, drifting lazily like autumn leaves.

Trixie looked over at Corona who was walking with his head held high and a grin creeping its way along his face. “So, Corona,” she said, drawing his attention. “What’s Frostvale like?”

He sighed wistfully. “Oh, it’s an amazing city, like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”

“Oh?” said Trixie, raising an eyebrow doubtfully. “I’ve been to Canterlot, and that’s not a city I’ll soon forget. You think Frostvale is more amazing than that?”

Corona’s lips tugged into a smug smile. “Let’s put it this way: Canterlot is like Ponyville compared to Frostvale.”

Trixie’s eyebrow rose higher. “Somehow I doubt that,” she said with a giggle. “You don’t think that you’re maybe exaggerating just a litt—” She stopped suddenly as they rounded a corner and saw a massive city looming in the distance.

Its icy blue spires jutted out from the white landscape like candlesticks on a birthday cake. The walls, higher than any she’d ever seen, surrounded the city in a stone barricade. The outskirts of the city were dotted with many small cottages and cabins. Ponies, just dots in the distance, worked the fields around these homes despite the snow continuously falling. Many tall towers spiked above the walls, giving the city the appearance of a thorny crown, but one of them stood far above the rest. Higher and higher it rose, seeming to almost disappear into the clouds as it spiralled upwards like a lance.

Trixie’s mouth hung open slightly. Corona noticed this and his smirk deepened.

“So? What do you think?”

Trixie, unable to articulate any thoughts, simply mouthed wordlessly as she stared at the city before her. “It’s… It’s—”

“Astrid!” Polaris cried out, ripping Trixie away from her listlessness.

She turned just in time to see Astrid collapse to the ground, stopped only by Polaris’ hoof reaching out to catch her. He held her up, his face ghostly pale. “Astrid!” he cried again.

A weak smile came over Astrid’s face. She brought her hoof up to Polaris’ cheek and said, “I’m fine, sweetheart. I’m fine.”

He shook his head. “No. No, you’re not fine. We’ve got to get you to somepony that can help right now.” He quickly turned to Corona, making sure to not let go of Astrid. “Where can we take her?” he asked hurriedly.

“There’s a place just below that tower for sick ponies,” he replied, pointing to the large spiral tower in the distance. “They’ll be able to help.”

“Good. Let’s go.”

Corona nodded. He turned to Trixie. “C’mon, we’ll help Polaris carry her, okay?”

She shook her head. “No. Corona, you go on ahead and warn them that we’re coming. You know these ponies, we don’t. I’ll help Polaris myself.”

Corona hesitated a moment, casting a glance at Astrid. “But—”

“Go!” shouted Trixie.

His face hardening, Corona nodded and then began sprinting towards Frostvale, leaving Trixie and Polaris alone with Astrid. Polaris helped her up so that she could stand, and then placed his forehead against hers.

“She’s burning up,” he said. “Even in this cold.”

Trixie’s eyes lit up. “Wait! I have something.” She quickly flung her bag off and began rummaging through it as quickly as she could manage. “Ah ha!” she cried, pulling out the white dagger Sypher had given her the night before. “This is a drake tooth,” she explained. “It’s permanently cold. I’ll keep it pressed against her forehead while we carry her, and it should help keep her fever down.”

“A drake tooth? Where did you—nevermind, that’s not important right now.” He looked back down at Astrid and managed the most confident smile he could. “We’re gonna take you to the city, okay? I’ll make sure you’re taken care of.”

Astrid’s weak smile faltered slightly, but she forced it to stay put. “I know you will.”

Before she could say anything else, her eyelids fluttered, and then closed as she fell unconscious. Polaris gritted his teeth.

“I’m not letting anything happen to you, you hear?”

Trixie put a hoof on his shoulder. “I won’t either. Now, let’s get her to Frostvale.”

As her horn began to glow, Astrid’s limp body lifted into the air and onto Polaris’ back. He would support her as they ran, and Trixie would make sure she stayed stable while she simultaneously kept the dagger pressed against the unconscious mare’s forehead. With one last look at each other, they both started trotting as quickly as they could towards the waiting city, and hopefully… a waiting nurse.

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