• 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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7 — Not Out of the Woods Yet

Chapter 7:
Not Out of the Woods Yet

Polaris’ gaze shifted downwards. He opened his mouth slowly. “Well... I guess we’re not camping here.”

A loud shriek ripped through the forest, causing them to wince, as the clouds descended further. Astrid looked at Trixie, and then to Polaris. “I think it’s best that we leave,” she said. “Right now.”

Trixie’s eyes shot back and forth between Polaris and Astrid. “What are wendigos? What’s happening?”

Polaris pulled Trixie up as he said, “No time to explain, miss. Astrid’s right; we need to leave.”

As she stood up Trixie noticed that clouds above them had begun to take the shape of a herd of malevolent-looking stallions. Their stormy manes and tails bounced as they circled faster and faster downwards. Silver eyes, alight with malice, stared down at them.

Another ear-piercing shriek, followed by a series of whinnies, broke out. The branches shook, raining needles and pine cones on them.

Her eyes widened as one of the stallions broke formation and charged at them. He was quickly followed by several more, and soon a whole slew of celestial stallions were stampeding towards the ground.

Polaris shouted suddenly, “Run!”

Before she even knew what was happening, Trixie was tearing through the forest, barreling through bushes and branches, following Polaris, and with Astrid trailing slightly behind.

They ran for a full minute, never slowing or stopping. Not even pausing to glance behind them. Polaris led the way, his hooves thundering against the ground as he ran through the woods. Not far behind, Trixie kept up a steady, but slightly slower, pace, keeping herself just ahead of Astrid, who was beginning to feel the effects of a full sprint.

She was much older than Trixie, and not nearly as strong as Polaris. Trixie could hear begin to draw ragged breaths as they continued on. But she didn’t look back. Astrid would be fine, she’d make sure that nothing happened to her.

She kept her eyes facing forward. She couldn’t see the wendigos as they closed in, but she could still hear them. She could hear their shrill winnies, and she could feel their chill breath upon her back. She galloped faster, leaping over a downed log and skidding into Polaris who had stopped and was staring down one of the wendigos.

A moment later Trixie felt another pony bump into her. She turned and saw Astrid, mane frayed and filled with leaves, right behind her. Polaris, without breaking his stare, called out to them.

“You two go on. I’ll hold them off here.”

Trixie was about to protest but Astrid beat her to it. “No!” she cried. “I’m not leaving you here.”

“I’m not either,” said Trixie. “You think that after all you’ve done for me, I’d leave you behind?” She laughed despite the danger. “I owe you more than my life, and I’m not going to let you die for me.”

He shouted angrily at her. “I’m not going to die! I’ll be fine, just get my wife outta here.”

Astrid put a hoof on Trixie’s shoulder. “We’re not leaving him,” she whispered.

Trixie grinned. “I know.”

Blue aura surrounded them as Trixie’s horn burst with magic. Sparking and sputtering, azure light poured from her horn, forming a dome that separated them from the wendigos. As the dome completed, Trixie began to breathe heavily.

Polaris whirled around. “What the—I told you two to leave!”

Trixie smiled weakly at him. “And we told you we weren’t going to.” She started to fall over, but Astrid caught her. “Heh, I don’t think I’ve ever managed this spell so completely before. Good thing it worked.” She slipped further and Polaris moved to catch her.

Propped up between Polaris and Astrid, she chuckled weakly. “Guess it took a little more out of me than I thought it would.”

Astrid smiled at her. “That was amazing, dear. Now we’re safe from those horrible wendi—”

A dull thud caught her off mid-sentence. They all looked up and saw that the wendigos had surrounded the magical dome and they were now kicking at it with their muscular legs. They kicked, and another thud echoed. A small crack appeared as they kicked a third time. Then it grew larger.

“We’re not safe yet,” Polaris said. He looked down at Trixie. “How long do you think you can hold them off, miss?”

“I don’t know,” she replied groggily. “Maybe... a few more minutes at most. I don’t think I can keep the spell up any longer than that.”

He nodded. “That might be enough.” Hooking his hoof through Trixie’s, he said, “Astrid, you grab her other side. When I say to, lift her onto my back.” She nodded and slid her hooves beneath Trixie’s belly. Meanwhile, the thudding grew louder as the crack grew larger. “Okay,” he grunted. “On three. One. Two. Three.” Pushing with all her strength, Astrid helped Polaris lift the mare onto his back.

“Will you be okay carrying her, dear?” Astrid asked worriedly.

“I’ll be fine,” he grunted. “Now, we’ve gotta get out of this forest.” Glancing over his shoulder he saw that Trixie’s eyelids were fluttering weakly. He frowned. “You need to stay awake, miss. Wrap your hooves around my neck and hold tight.”

As she snaked her hooves across his neck she criss-crossed them and locked them together. “I’ll be fine,” she whispered.

There was another echoing thud, and the crack spread another few inches.

Astrid shot Polaris a worried glance. “Will we make it out of here in time?”

“...I don’t know,” he answered gravely after a moment’s pause. “I don’t know.”

***

The crack had turned into a hole, and it was growing bigger by the second. Pieces of the magical shield chipped, broke off, and then melted away as the wendigos pounded on the dome. For the past five minutes, Astrid and Polaris had been sprinting through the forest. They had to keep slowing down their pace as Astrid became weaker and weaker. But they could see the edge of the treeline now.

The sun’s rays poured in, washing the ground in its warm light. They were only a few hundred feet from edge, but the shield wouldn’t hold much longer, and Trixie was fading fast.

Her hooves slipped off Polaris’ neck for the dozenth time, and she began to slide off. His right hoof shot out to catch her, and, with Astrid’s help, he pushed her back onto his back.

“We’re almost there,” he said. “We just need to hold out a little longer.”

A large chunk of the shield broke off, crashing to the ground where it melted into the earth. The wendigos kept up their barrage, now able to angrily fit their muzzles through the hole. Their cries rattled the barrier, breaking off even more pieces of it.

“I don’t know if we can hold out a little longer,” Astrid cried. “And even if we do, what then? We can’t fight them off like this.”

“At least out in the sunlight we’ll have a chance. In here, in this blackness, they have us beat. I don’t know what’s going to—”

He was cut off abruptly as huge slab of azure shielding snapped off, kicked in by one of the wendigos. Trixie groaned, and what little was left of the barrier began to flicker. The wendigos pounded tirelessly on it, nearly breaking through with every kick.

Polaris’ face hardened, and his hoofalls became more powerful. He lowered his head and charged towards the treeline, now a mere fifteen feet away.

Astrid struggled to keep up, inching further and further away from him as he gained speed. But Trixie’s dome held strong for the last few precious seconds until they burst through the last layers of fern and out into the open, snow-covered field.

Polaris’ eyes gleamed as the sun shined down on his face, and a smile found its way on to his face. Maybe a quarter of a mile away, he could see the Frozen Chasm, waiting for them with open arms.

He strained his neck to look over his shoulder as he shouted, “We made it! We’re throu—”

Just then, the shield finally gave way and shattered into a thousand tiny pieces, throwing Polaris off-balance.

Trixie was sent flying from his back as he flipped over. She slid through the snow, coming to a stop a few feet away.

Astrid, equally unprepared for the sudden destruction of their shield, was sent hurtling through the air, landing five or six feet away in a heap.

As Polaris rolled over, he saw Astrid and Trixie sprawled out in the snow. He cried out to them, “Astrid! Miss! Are you all right?”

Astrid didn’t respond, but he could see Trixie’s hooves moving as she struggled to stand herself up. A wave of relief washed over him. A wave that was quickly overcome by the wave of despair as the wendigos descended upon them, their fangs bared and their eyes gleaming.

He managed to kick one of them in the face, causing it to recoil, but only briefly. He backpedaled as quickly as he could. He tripped over a soft, warm object and landed on his back again. He looked to his side and saw Trixie’s eyes flutter as she struggled to stay awake. On the other side, he saw Astrid, eyes closed, lying motionlessly. The wind blew her mane about, and the snow had already begun to pile on her sides and face.

He looked back at Trixie as the wendigos drew ever closer. Alight with magic, her horn glowed brightly. She was fully awake now, but unable to stand. He watched as she tried to force a final bit of magic from her horn.

Before he could call out to her, one of the wendigos kicked his head and his vision went black. But the last thing he saw, before going unconscious, was a wave of light washing over them.

The last thing he noted, was that the light felt warm, pleasantly warm, and then he was out.

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