• Published 17th Mar 2013
  • 984 Views, 106 Comments

The Devil's Details - Carabas

Three stallions are hurled to the other side of the world from Equestria, and must survive the journey home across a vast and perilous continent. Worse still, they may even have to become friends.

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Interlude: The North

Maybe you're an antiquarian, looking to hunt out the Pre-Equestrian roots of the ancient pony tribes. Maybe you're the sort of scientist with a hunger for unsounded knowledge and a cavalier attitude to life and limb. Maybe you read too many Daring Do books at an impressionable age. In any of these cases, your eye has surely wandered to a map of the world and the great expanse of grey marked as 'The North', and plotted adventure.

Here is my advice if you are planning on a trip into the North.

Don't. Go elsewhere. The Asinial Republic is nice most times of year, from what I've been told; and if adventure is what you truly desire, then Saddle Arabia offers as much potential with a much-diminished likelihood of your horrific death as a result.

If you cannot be swayed, however, then at least know what you are getting into. Prepare accordingly. Look up the inventories and skills possessed by those expeditions that made it back to Equestria with some of their members left alive. Every foal knows of the horrific fate of Borealis and her expedition for the Utmost North, of the tragic end of Scolt and Oat's quest for the Flowers of Youth, of the deprivations endured by Galloply's party before a rescue expedition could reach them. The mistakes of those journeys are in every relevant book and you have no excuse for not learning from them.

But even that may not be enough. You may have trained yourself in surviving cold-weather conditions beforehand, made sure of your equipment and provisions beforehand, and gathered a team of similarly brave ponies to go with you; the very least of the preparations you should make. Maybe you've even planned for your initial journey through the Greycairns, and have arranged for emergency assistance from a friendly dragon, transit alongside one of the nomadic griffon tribes, or even established a starting base within a Diamond Dog underhold. The Diplomatic Office has channels through which it can reach stranded ponies in the world, and you may have explored those in detail.

Even all of these may not be enough, because nopony – perhaps not even the Princess Herself – can guess at the full extent of what lies North of the Greycairns.

The whole territory is an Everfree writ large, with everything left up to the random and fickle whims of nature constantly intruded upon by wild magic that permeates the very air. The bestiaries we have are horrific enough in their scant detail, but are known to be incomplete. In the western forests and tundra, large predators such as hydras and manticores top their food chains and occasionally migrate down into the Everfree forest. Where the tundra turns to a sheer ice-sheet, snow leopards haunt the waste, as cold and dangerous as the icebergs which spawn them.

Eastwards, where the North's terrain turns in expanses of ragged mountains and steep river-valleys, is where it becomes stranger yet. That is where wild magic holds sway, creating a climate of horrors amidst the desolation that only equal horrors can survive and thrive in. Elementals, beings born where concentrations of wild magic give the landscape itself life, thrive in these places, and have absolutely no instinct beyond savage territorialism. Lesser beasts become infused with magic also, becoming augmented or deformed or savagely resilient to it. We know next to nothing of what lurks in the dense forests and valleys of the North-East. Borealis's bloodstained notes left little to go on.

Consider this. The nation in the best position to expand into the North-East is Corva. The corvid clans – the corvids, I'll emphasise - have never established anything like a lasting settlement there.

If none of the above has dissuaded you from going forth and giving everypony who loves you cause to fret, then all I can say and warn you about to my own knowledge is contained within these very pages. If nothing else, heed the following.

Prepare past the point of sense. You will need food, sturdy travelling equipment, and the training to handle the conceivable and inconceivable alike.

Do not be afraid to simply admit defeat and head back to Equestria when the going becomes tough. One living pony is worth a thousand dead heroes.

Remain ever vigilant. Anticipate danger in every square metre, and don't be careless with your life or the life of your expedition comrades. Be paranoid, and the North will be more than happy to prove you justified.

Above all, remain a coherent, trusting, and disciplined team with whatever friends travel by your side. In the North, you unite. It will not permit you any other option.

Extract from Wildflower's The World Beyond Our Borders: The North, courtesy of Royal Manehattan Press, 1406.