• 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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35 — Back on Dry Land

Chapter 35: Back on Dry Land

The dining hall of King Adrius which had, just a few moments ago, been neat and orderly, with plates of food spaced out evenly along the long table that sat in the center of the room, and perfectly symmetrical chairs lining the sides, was now a scene of incredible chaos. Chairs were flung this way and that way, hitting the walls or the ground and splintering into thousands of tiny pieces. Bolts of magic, violet and blue, zipped around the room, striking seaponies in the chest or in the face and sending them reeling backwards.

King Adrius, cowering behind his tall-backed chair, was shouting orders to his guards, but none of them could hear him over the din of battle. Twilight, meanwhile, was maneuvering her way closer to the King, hoping she’d be able to get a clean shot at him and so end the battle quickly. Unfortunately, as she was circling around the table, her focus on the seaponies opposite her, she failed to notice the guards approaching from beside her.

As she shot another blast from her horn and made a seapony collapse into a crumpled heap, she turned just in time to see another guard raising his trident high, poised to strike. She flinched, unable to force herself to teleport out of danger in time. Before the blade struck, though, the trident was blasted from his grasp, skittering across the floor, snapped in half.

“Don’t you dare,” growled Rarity from the other side of the room. Her horn was glowing bright blue, and she was panting heavily.

“Watch it, Rare!” shouted Applejack as she slipped underneath Rarity, knocking her to the side just in time to throw yet another guard’s trident off target. Instead of coming down on Rarity’s head, like the guard had been hoping, the trident grazed past Applejack and put a clean slice through her hat, causing it to fall to the ground. Applejack’s face hardened. Spinning around and cocking her back legs in one fluid motion, she released them like a coiled spring, hitting the guard right in the chest. Her practiced thighs packed quite a punch, and when the blow struck, it caused him to stumble backwards into another guard, clutching his chest.

Applejack bent down and swiped her hat off the ground, flipping it up onto her head as she gave Rarity a wink. “Gotta keep an eye out,” she said. “These guys aren’t kidding around.”

Spike peeked out from behind one of the few pieces of furniture that wasn’t a pile of rubble. “You’re telling me.”

After Rarity and Applejack had burst into the room mid-kidnapping, she had blasted the guard right in his head and sent Spike tumbling to the side. Twilight had warned him to take cover, and the battle continued on as more and more guards had poured in from the halls.

Just then a guard jumped up on the table where Spike was hiding and tried to take a swing at the dragon as he poked his head out. This time, however, he was saved by Rainbow Dash as she bolted towards the guard and rammed him with her side, bumping off the table and onto the cold hard ground. She puffed out her chest proudly, but the gesture didn’t last long as more guards approached her and started swinging their weapons at her. Her wing may have been injured, but she was still light on her hooves, and as tridents flew at her, she dipped and dodged out of the way, kicking at one of the guards as she ducked under his swing.

“Whoa!” she cried, tossing herself to the side to avoid another blow. “That was pretty close.”

“Stay down, Spike,” Rarity said, propping herself up with a random trident. “It’s dangerous.”

Spike gave her a pained expression, but said nothing.

At the same time that this was happening, Twilight was still making her way around the table. She was almost even with Adrius now, and she caught a glimpse of his daughter disappearing beneath the table just as she rounded the corner.

“Adrius!” Twilight shouted. “We can end this now, just tell your guards to stop.”

The seapony king, huddled up against his chair, motioned to a pair of guards who’d just came into the room. “Stop her!” he cried. “Don’t let her get to me!”

They nodded obediently and slithered across the floor towards Twilight. She grimaced. “Fine, that’s how we’ll do it.”

Twilight’s horn, encased in a pulsating violet glow, started to glow even brighter as she ripped the trident out of the hooves of one of the seaponies. He looked surprised, but before he could do or say anything, Twilight spun the trident around and used the shaft to trip the guards up. As their flippers were pulled out from beneath them, they crashed to the ground in a heap, and Twilight tossed the trident out of their reach. She dodged out of the way just in time as another trident, this one thrown from across the room, whizzed past her and stuck in splintered chair. Diving forward, Twilight slid past another guard and stopped right in front of a cowering Adrius.

Moving quickly, she seized the king and dragged him up so that she was holding him hostage. She was about to demand that he order his guards off, when a trio of guards surrounded her and all held their tridents to her neck. She backed away slowly, but she only made it a few inches before another guard appeared and stopped her.

Adrius, who, only a moment ago, was shivering with fright, now chuckled quietly under his breath. “It seems you’re trapped, my dear.”

“My friends aren’t trapped,” Twilight noted.

His lips curled into a thin smile. “No, but if they try anything, you’re finished.”

The guards around Twilight raised their weapons a little higher, and moved them a bit closer to Twilight’s neck. Twilight’s mind raced as she tried to think of a solution, but she was coming up blank. She was about to release Adrius when a voice called out from the far side of the dining hall.

“Hey, Adrius. Look who I’ve got!” shouted Spike as he crawled out from beneath the table, dragging with him a squirming little seapony filly. She was writhing around, trying to get free, but Spike’s grip was tight, and as he pulled her over to Rarity and Applejack, Rarity magicked a trident off the ground and held it up next to Aria’s head.

Applejack jabbed her hoof at Aria, and then at Adrius. “We got your kid, guy. Now, we can end this like civilized folk and nopony needs to get hurt. Well… nopony else,” she said, noting the litany of guards that were all over the room, most of them unconscious or nursing wounds.

Twilight raised her eyebrow, looking down at Adrius. His tail went limp, and he sighed. “Just… don’t hurt her.”

“First, tell your guards to back off,” Twilight said, nodding to the guards surrounding her.

Adrius gave a resigned sigh and nodded to his guards. They nodded in return and withdrew their weapons. Stepping back a few paces, they moved away from Twilight. Satisfied that they were a safe distance away, Twilight gave Applejack the okay to release the squirming seapony. At the same time that Applejack released Aria, Twilight let go of Adrius and she watched as the two awkwardly stumbled across the room towards each other. Twilight followed behind them and stood over Adrius as he scooped his daughter up and hugged her to his chest.

Her horn was still lit up when she said, “Now, just let us leave and you won’t have anymore problems.”

He cast a quick glance over his shoulder at Twilight. “I won’t stop you,” he said. “Just go,” and then turned back to Aria, giving her a soft smile.

Twilight let the magic in her horn die out, the flow fading away as she walked past Adrius and headed towards her friends. Applejack gave her a grin while Rainbow Dash motioned towards the exit. Spike nudged Rarity and pointed in the same direction. Twilight nodded. “Let’s go,” she said. “It’s only a few hours until dusk and we’ve still got a bit of a walk until we reach Hoofington.”

Gathering themselves up, the five of them headed back towards the tunnel they’d entered the cave from. “Hey, how’re we getting back out?” asked Spike, glancing over at Twilight.

She tapped the pendant still hanging about her neck with a hoof. “We’ve still got these,” she said. “It’s just a simple matter of swimming back to the surface.”

“Y’all think you do that spell of yours again, Rarity?” asked Applejack. “We weren’t quite so lucky as to get magic jewelry.”

Rarity nodded. “I think I can manage it again. It shouldn’t be too difficult to repeat the spell, especially now that I know how to do it better.”

“Shoot, Rare, you’ve got a lot more talent than you let on.”

“I only know what I need to know, dear,” Rarity replied. “Nothing more and nothing less.”

“Still though,” Rainbow chimed in, “it is pretty sweet that you girls managed to get down here so quickly.”

“All thanks to Rarity,” Applejack said, patting her friend on the back. “Couldn’t have done it without her.”

“Wait,” said a voice from behind them.

They all stopped and turned to look at the one who’d suddenly spoken out. Adrius was standing up, Aria beside him, and his lips her pursed. “Wait,” he said again.

“Oh man, this guy better not be trying to pull somethin’,” Rainbow said, scowling.

Adrius shook his head. “No. I want to ask you something, before you leave.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Ask us what?”

“The coin. The one you showed my guards. Do you know what it is?”

“Rarity mentioned something about it being a type of coin usually given as a gift,” Twilight recalled.

The king smiled sadly. “I’ve heard of other clans giving them away, but for most—for us—these coins are the lifeblood of a clan.”

“What do you mean?” asked Twilight, her brow creased.

“It rests in a special chamber in a pool of water that is constantly being filled by a spring from underground. As the water passes over the coin, it flows through channels carved into the coins bowl and into the lake, take the coin’s magic with it.”

Twilight took a few steps closer to Adrius. “What does the magic do?”

Adrius let out a long slow sigh. He gazed around the room at all the fallen guards. Falling back on Twilight, he said, “It gives the lake life. Without it, all the plants and animals in this lake have been slowly dying over the past year. My people are starving, and I can’t provide for them.”

All the ponies fell silent, and Spike did as well. After a short time, Twilight gestured to the king. “You’ve got the coin back now though, right? Will the magic still work?”

“We’ve got it back, yes, and the coin will still work its magic.”

“So, what’s the problem?” Rainbow Dash asked, holding her hoof out.

“When the unicorn from a year ago stole the coin, she also stole a piece of this lake as well, and that will never come back.” He sighed. “But that doesn’t matter anymore. We can go back to the way things were now.”

“Will you also stop luring unwary ponies to your lake?” asked Rarity, giving Adrius an admonishing look.

“It’s in our nature. We’re sirens,” he said with the intonation of a verbal shrug. “But I will tell my people to stop attacking land ponies. You spared my life as well as Aria’s. I am obligated to repay that kindness.”

“What about trying to eat me?” Spike asked, jumping in. “How’re you gonna repay us for that?”

Adrius considered the question for a moment, then he waved to some of the few guards who were not incapacitated. “They’ll show you the quickest route out. It’s an underground passage which will lead you right to Hoofington. Well, right outside of it anyway.”

Rainbow’s eyes narrowed. “And we’re just supposed to trust this isn’t another trap?”

“Even if it were, my dear, you’ve proven more than capable of escaping my traps,” said Adrius waving his hoof over the dining hall and all the unconscious guards. “I also give you my word that my men will only lead you to the exit and nothing more.” He put a hoof on Aria’s head, ruffling her mane slightly. “I won’t try to stop you any longer.”

Applejack leaned in and whispered to the group. “Y’all think we can trust this guy?”

“I think he’s telling us the truth,” said Twilight, whispering out of the corner of her mouth. “I don’t see any indications that he’s trying to trick us.”

Rarity gave a short nod. “I agree.”

Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Whichever way is fine with me. I wouldn’t mind kicking some more seapony butt.”

Twilight looked down at Spike. He sighed. “Yeah, might as well follow them. It’ll probably get us to Hoofington quicker anyway.”

Having all come to an agreement, Twilight spoke for the group. “Fine,” she said, “lead the way.”

Adrius nodded to the guards and they began to slither off towards another tunnel near the back of the room. With one last look at each other, the ponies and Spike trotted to catch up with the seaponies and followed them as they left the room. Casting one last glance over her shoulder at Adrius, Twilight saw him nudge Aria’s cheek before patting her on the head and sending her off into some other room. He looked up and saw Twilight watching him.

Just as they were entering the tunnel, he said, “Do send my regards to that unicorn if you ever meet her. I doubt she has fond memories her time here.” Twilight didn’t respond, instead she turned back to her friends and disappeared with them into the damp tunnel.

For the next half an hour or so, they followed the seapony guards through the winding tunnels and past more than a few empty halls and branches. Twilight only caught a few glimpses of seaponies here and there that weren’t guards. Most of them were no older than Aria, and only a few seemed to be in their adolescent years. She briefly considered asking where all the rest of the families were, but she thought better of it and said nothing instead. Apparently everyone else was either thinking the same thing, or the thought had never crossed their minds as they were equally silent.

When the group finally reached the exit, a small hole which was covered by some brush, the guards motioned them forward and helped them clamber awkwardly out of the hole and back above ground. Once they’d all come up, the guards disappeared back into the depths of the cave. Twilight glanced skyward and saw the sun was still relatively high in the sky.

“Looks like we’ve still got plenty of daylight,” she noted. “I guess that way was much quicker.”

“Maybe them seaponies ain’t so bad after all,” said Applejack thoughtfully, taking off her hat.

“You weren’t the one they wanted to eat,” Spike shot back. He crossed his arms and tapped his foot impatiently on the ground. “And where’s the thanks for catching that slippery little Aria? It wasn’t easy to keep hold of her, you know.”

Twilight chuckled, mussing up his spikes. “Thank you, Spike. You really did save our necks back there.”

Rarity smiled at him. “I thought you were very brave.” She leaned down and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “A real knight in shining armor.” Spike froze up, blushing hard from the kiss. He brought a claw to the spot she’d kissed and let out a soft sigh.

Rainbow Dash interrupted this moment of bliss rather abruptly when she clapped him on the back. “Heh, I don’t know of too many knights in shining armor who hide under tables during a battle, but it worked out in the end, so I can’t complain. Good work, bud.”

Spike rubbed his back, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, yeah.” Straightening up, he tilted his head towards the road a few feet away from them. “Should we get going then? We’ve still got some walking to do.”

“Yeah, it’s best if we get into Hoofington earlier,” said Twilight. “There’s a place we can stay, but it’ll be best if we arrive while the sun’s still up.”

“You got a place in mind?” Applejack asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Puh-lease tell me it’s somewhere with a bath,” said Rarity as she fussed with her mane. “All that awful lake water really did a number on my mane.”

Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. “We just survived an awesome battle with seaponies and you’re worried about your mane? That is so you, Rare.”

“A lady must strive to always look her best, especially while visiting another city. Good first impressions can be a life-saver, you know?”

“Uh huh… whatever you say.”

“Well, to answer your question, Applejack,” said Twilight after she was sure Rainbow Dash and Rarity were done, “I do have a place in mind. With any luck, she might be able to help us find out more about Trixie’s journey as well as give us a place to stay. I just really hope she doesn’t mind having so many ponies over.”

“What, is this some old friend of Trixie’s?” asked Spike.

“Well, not a friend, per se, but someone who knows about Trixie at least.”

“As long as she can help us, I don’t really care who she is,” said Rainbow Dash.

Twilight chuckled. “You say that now, but you might care when you meet her.”

Rainbow shrugged. “Whatever you say, Twi.”

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