The Mail Always Gets Through
Chapter 1: Destiny Delivery
A light breeze blew through the streets of Ponyville, pulling gently at the mailmare’s blond mane as she closed the final mailbox on her route. Ditzy Doo trotted along the streets of the town, stomach rumbling angrily in a reminder that she had missed lunch again, and was several hours overdue. There were few ponies outdoors at the current hour, summer sun beating down with intensity and forcing most into the cool shade of homes or down to the river for some recreation. Passing through the nearly deserted streets, Ditzy stopped in front of the Sugarcube Corner, hoping there were muffins in stock as she pushed open the door and stepped into the blissfully cool bakery. The mouth-watering product sat gracefully in the display window, beckoning to Ditzy earnestly. Dropping a few bits onto the counter, she gratefully snatched the muffin from its glass prison and headed back outside into the withering heat, sitting in the shade cast by the bakery and devouring the delicious baked good.
“Derpy! I need to talk to you!” a green pegasus called out, landing next to the mailmare and pointing off towards the post office. “A letter came in, destined for a place I’ve never even heard of, and Logistics specifically requested I find you.”
Ditzy frowned slightly, confused. “Why me? I’m off for the rest of the day, is it really that-”
“Yes!” the pegasus interjected, visibly agitated and toying with her spiky mane. “Please, just hurry.”
Ditzy nodded and set off at a gallop towards the post office, wondering what could be so important to merit someone seeking her out off duty. The tall building came into view quickly, a steady trickle of ponies entering and exiting every hour of the day. Pushing into the lobby, she flinched as the manager yelled across the room, almost telepathic in his ability to tell when an employee had entered the premises.
“Derpy! Get to your desk, I need you outbound now.” he barked, eyes never leaving a report sitting in front of him.
Ditzy walked up to her small, battered workspace and inspected the letter, looking back up and catching the attention of the pony responsible for inbound mail and giving her a look of disbelief.
“Hey, this can’t be right! Three orange stamps? The highest priority you can have is two!”
“There’s nothing wrong, it’s that important. Get flying, you’re the only one in the office right now certified for long distance delivery!”
She grabbed the ultra-high priority letter off her desk, reading the destination as she headed for home to pack.
“The Queen, Royal Palace, Akhal-Teke.”
Ditzy stared at the strange address printed across the envelope with confusion, immediately reversing direction and heading towards the library to consult the smartest person she knew, Twilight Sparkle.
The mailmare walked into the library and drifted to the nearest shelf, suddenly daunted by the towering books. Twilight Sparkle dropped a tome she had been reading and stood, eyeing Ditzy with a quizzical look.
“Hi, Derpy. Do you...need something?”
“Do you have a map of Equestria I could look at? This mail address makes no sense.”
Twilight pulled a large roll of paper from a cabinet, spreading it across the table in the library and weighting the edges with various objects. Ditzy stared at the paper, scouring its surface until she was absolutely sure there was no place named “Akhal-Teke”.
Frowning, she turned to Twilight, who had resumed her studies.
“Hey, Twilight; have you ever heard of a place called Akhal Teke?”
The purple unicorn laughed, moving back towards the map cabinet, saying, “If you wanted to know about Akhal Teke, why’d you ask for a map of Equestria? That’s about as far away from its borders as you can get.”
Dropping a second map on top of the previous, Twilight pointed at a black dot in the middle of a vast desert, tracing her hoof back towards a forest labeled “Wild Lands”.
“It’s beyond the Whitetail Woods, keep going through Trottingham and follow the road; after the Wild Lands comes the desert, then you’re there; whatever it is. I’m sure I’ve got something else on Akhal-Teke around here somewhere...” Twilight explained, Ditzy nodding and memorizing the route as only a professional mailpony could.
“Thanks, but I’d better be going,” Ditzy said, slipping out the door and flying low over the rooftops of Ponyville. She landed gently at the door of her house, pushing it open and receiving an eager hug from a small grey filly.
“Momma!” she exclaimed, practically bouncing with joy, “You’re home!”
Ditzy gave her daughter a quick nuzzle, dropping a loaf of bread and a bundle of hay into her mailbags.The grey unicorn stared as Ditzy packed for her journey, realization dawning on her.
“You’re leaving?” she asked quietly, joy turning to disappointment.
Ditzy sighed, closing her mailbags and giving her daughter a hug.
“I’m sorry, muffin. They need me to make a special delivery, to somewhere far, far away.”
“Stamps will visit and check on you until I’m back; you’re going to be fine. I’ll bring you back a souvenir from Akhal-Teke, ok?”
“But what if you don’t come back?”
Ditzy froze. It was a question she asked every time, and still didn’t have a good answer.
“I will, promise. Alright?”
“Ok...” the unicorn mumbled, giving Ditzy one last hug. Goodbyes said, Ditzy strode out the door into the street, launching into the afternoon sky and turning towards the Whitetail Woods. Unknown lands lay between her and the mysterious destination of Akhal-Teke, likely fraught with many dangers. She never faltered, and all doubts were pushed away. It was her duty to deliver the mail. And the mail always gets through.
Chapter 2: Trottingham Troubles
Ditzy landed in Trottingham just as the sun touched the horizon, watching the sky turn pink as she walked down the main road. She stopped at one of the first inns on the road, asking around for an open room. She paid for her stay and gratefully collapsed in the surprisingly clean bed, drifting off within minutes.
Ditzy Doo gradually awoke to the noises of the bustling town, completely rejuvenated after a windy flight over the Whitetail Woods and keenly aware of a sharp hunger. The mailmare purchased breakfast from the innkeeper downstairs and sat against one wall enjoying the hearty meal of oat pancakes topped with apples, anticipating the coming day. She had nearly finished the stack of pancakes when a brown earth pony sidled up to her, quietly speaking with darting eyes.
“Hey...mailmare. Whatcha got in the mailbags? Anything you want me to take off your hooves? I’ll make it worth your while...”
Ditzy almost choked on the food, turning to him with an angry expression.
“Are you actually trying to tamper with the mail? How stupid are you?” she asked incredulously, “That's a serious crime!”
The pony glanced around, becoming nervous as several ponies looked in their direction.
“Listen, you wall eyed goody-four shoes.” he growled under his breath, “ Hand over the mailbag or things get violent. I’d hate to hurt such a...pretty...face.”
Ditzy stood, hefting her mailbags and walking towards the door. “Not a chance, the mail always gets through.”
“Hey! Don’t you just walk away from me!” he shouted, grabbing her tail and pulling. Ditzy spun and slammed a hoof into his sneering face, knocking him to the floor in a jumbled heap. Staggering to his hooves, the pony called out to a second stallion leaning against one wall.
“Hey, Gleam! Help me persuade her to give up the goods, wouldja?”
Many of the other customers in the restaurant backed away nervously as the two earth ponies circled the pegasus, tension building rapidly in the small inn. The pony known as Gleam lunged at Ditzy, who sidestepped and kicked out at the charging shape as he flew past, spending him crashing through a table. She turned towards the second pony and rammed into his side, sending the assailant reeling back several steps.
“Wow, Bell. You sure know how to pick em.” Gleam grumbled as he pushed the wrecked table off him, advancing on the mailmare. Ditzy stepped in close and swept his hooves out from under the pony with a swift kick, dodging back as he fell heavily and throwing all her strength into a single blow, connecting with Bell’s head and dropping him. She stepped over the two dazed earth ponies and stopped at the door, turning to the speechless innkeeper.
“Sorry. I didn't mean to break your table,” she said sheepishly, slipping out the door and taking to the skies.
Chapter 3: Worrying Wilds
The border between the Wild Lands and Equestria was a vague, blurry line where the cheerful trees became grim and the path fell into disrepair, no pony alive willing to repair it. Ditzy, flying high above the foliage, was able to see the steady shift in colors to the dark, forbidding tones of the forest with ease and smiled as she passed into the Wild Lands, another leg of her journey completed. From here on out there was no information, and she would be relying only on her skills to get past whatever she faced. Up ahead in the unusually clear skies a large, unruly mass of clouds hung in the air, spanned together by white bridges in some sort of primitive Cloudsdale. As Ditzy flew past an orange shape dropped out of the clouds, the pegasus catching up to her and gliding alongside.
“Hey! Not often we get visitors way out here!”
He scrutinized her more carefully, remaining locked on her mailbags, which were plastered with postage stamps and emblazoned with the letters “EPS”. He spent several seconds silently mouthing words until he figured out the acronym.
“Mailpony, eh? Aren’t you a little off the beaten path for Equestria Postal Services?”
Ditzy shook her head, trying to ignore the slightly annoying pegasus as he edged closer.
“What’s in the bags? You delivering something valuable?”
Barely waiting for an answer, he grabbed at the mailbags while Ditzy veered to the left slightly, knocking him off.
“Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” she berated.
Indignant, the orange pegasus rammed into Ditzy, sending them both tumbling through the sky and dropping several yards before she kicked him off and came into a hover. barely hesitating the orange pegasus snarled and threw himself back at Ditzy, both pegasi grappling and fighting as they wove across the sky. One wing aching from a powerful kick, Ditzy pulled a sudden loop, hooves connecting solidly with his back and sending the orange pony plummeting through the sky. Pulling into an unsteady glide far below, he glared up at Ditzy, words ringing through the skies.
“Know this, mailpony. No one has ever bested me and lived to tell the tale. I’ll find you. Watch your back.”
Ditzy let out a relieved breath as he turned back towards the distant sky-city, his flight unsteady and drifting. She landed in the thick forest, angry that the chance encounter had wasted the rest of her day, unable to continue on her bruised wing. The mailmare continued on through the trees, wary of any other dangers that might lurk nearby. The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and as night grew closer the mailmare flew up into a tree and settled on one of the branches, enjoying a quick hay sandwich and a drink from her canteen before falling asleep.
The next day Ditzy flew low in the sky, almost brushing the treetops in an effort to avoid anymore bothersome pegasi who seemed to have it fixed in their heads that mailponies carried solid gold on their travels. The sun had just reached the top of the sky when voices made Ditzy slow, circling above the trees and honing in on the sound before dropping quietly onto a tree and watching the small group of ponies sitting on the ground below, conversing in loud, jovial tones. Reassured by their easy demeanor and nonchalance, Ditzy dropped out of the tree and walked up to their camp, smiling as they waved her over and continued their talk.
“-and I told that guy, Hey, either you get outta the way or I show you why they call me Battle Axe, Eye of the Storm. You bet your granny apples he cleared out after I pulled out ole’ Summer-cleave.” an earth pony finished triumphantly, hefting a large battle axe and slamming it into the trunk of a nearby tree for emphasis. A unicorn shook her head with a smile, gesturing for Ditzy to sit next to her.
“Pay no heed to that braggart,” she chuckled, “He should have been named Silvertounge, Teller of Tall Tales. Only thing I’ve seen you chop with that relic is firewood, Axe!”
The stallion pulled the axe from the tree with a sharp tug and stared at the ground, mumbling something unintelligible.
“I’m Clear-eyes,” she continued, pointing next to a second earth pony seated on the other side of the camp meticulously polishing a large claymore meticulously, “That’s Slash Cayuse the Whirling Blade; and you’re acquainted with Hatchet over there, who prefers Axe,” she finished, gesturing to “Battle Axe”.
“Eye of the Storm my hoof; a wee laddie with a sharp toy,” Cayuse commented, almost unintelligible with his thick accent.
“I’m Ditzy,” the mailmare said, feeling oddly inadequate among the extravagant names.
“Snake Charmer,” she added proudly, drawing a surprised look from Clear-eyes.
“Well, good to meet you, Ditzy the Snake Charmer. I’d offer you a meal, but our little roving group has hit some hard times, and we don’t have much to eat ourselves.” Ditzy pulled the loaf of oat bread and hay from her mailbags, offering the food to Clear-eyes with a happy smile.
“This is all wrong,” Axe said angrily as the food was passed around and the ponies ate lunch. “We should be able to get our own food, not rely on the welfare of some random mare we meet in the woods. Take it by force, if we need to!”
Ditzy noticed the unicorn looking her over critically. “Say, Ditzy. Where do you come from? Not often I see Equestrian script out here; EPS?”
Ditzy froze, finally managing, “Uh...I’m from that pegasus town back that way a bit, going to visit my cousin. In Akhal-Teke. He’s a...doctor.”
Clear-eyes resumed her meal, Ditzy relaxing slightly. Several minutes passed before Cayuse asked, eyes narrowing, “Now missie, should ya really be tellin’ lies to three armed ponies? Don’t take a genius ta know yah from Equestria.
“So you’re obviously hiding something. Care to tell us, mailpony?”
“What? I don’t-”
“Oh, come on!” Clear-eyes shouted, glaring. “How stupid to you take us for? Your bags are covered in postage stamps, and I just figured out EPS, I’ve seen it all the time in Trottingham. Equestria Postal Service. What could you be carrying that makes you want to lie about your identity? Must be something really important. Valuable.”
The three adventurers jumped to their hooves, slowly encircling Ditzy.
“Hand over the mailbags, Ditzy. I’d rather not kill you, but I’m not making any guarantees.”
The mailmare knocked Axe to the ground, tearing off through the trees at a rapid pace. A sharp whistling noise passed over her head, an arrow thudding into a tree in front of her as Clear-eyes called out, “Stop right there! Next shot goes dead center if you take another step!”
Ignoring the warning, Ditzy added another burst of speed, weaving through trees in an effort to throw off her pursuers. A loud, jarring thud accompanied the arrow’s impact into her side, sending Ditzy stumbling to the ground as she screamed in agony. Clear-eyes arrived at the fallen mare almost out of breath, a second arrow already hovering in the air, suspended by magic.
“Honestly, did you think I would miss you? Magic makes this laughably easy.”
She leaned in towards Ditzy, a sadistic smile playing over her lips. “Still, you made me run for nothing. I think I’ll kill you, just for fun.”
“No, please! I need to deliver this! The mail always gets through!” Ditzy pleaded, pushing herself to her hooves and swaying slightly.
“Hm...no. Killing you sounds better. Easier too.”
Ditzy knocked the arrow out of her magical grip and launched into the sky, several hooves above the treetops in seconds. A loud whistling noise was her only warning, a second arrow plunging into her leg with a sharp pain that felt like hot coals. Stifling a cry, Ditzy set off through the sky, only managing a few miles before making a hard landing and rolling up against a large tree, gritting her teeth while digging around in her mailbags. She pulled out a small medical kit, grabbing the arrow lodged in her side and already regretting what she was about to do. Taking several deep breaths, Ditzy savagely tore the barbed projectile out, letting out a tortured howl and biting down hard on the bloody shaft until the blinding pain abated enough to think clearly. She turned her attention to the second arrow, snapping it in half and gently sliding each bit out where it had gone clean through her leg, wondering how she could possibly walk on it the next day. By the time she finished bandaging the wounds the sun was already gone, prompting Ditzy to curl up beneath the gnarled willow and sleep.
Ditzy awoke to a throbbing headache and dull pains across her side and leg, standing stiffly and shouldering the suddenly heavy mailbags. She walked down the road for about an hour before stopping and leaning against a tree, out of breath. Ditzy felt lightheaded, and was unsteady as she limped onward.
Poison, she realised with a rush of panic, her breathing becoming more and more labored. Ditzy stumbled on, insides burning like fire and legs becoming shaky as the toxin from the arrows continued to take its toll. Quiet singing drifted into her ears, the words unfamiliar yet strangely inviting. Delirious and resigned to her fate, Ditzy moved towards the cheerful melody, pushing through a hanging curtain of vines into a sunlit clearing and managing several steps towards a pony standing by a small hut.
“Please...help,” Ditzy said weakly, collapsing into the grass.
Her dreams were filled with cascading waterfalls of orange stamps, an ocean of liquid hues lapping at her hooves as she wandered down the beach of her feverish mind, a brown earth pony turning to face her. “Ditzy,” he said, “You need to get up.”
Ditzy awoke to the noise of a pounding waterfall, staring at a wood roof. She rolled off the small cot and almost fell, immediately dizzy. Shrugging off the disorientation, the mailmare stepped outside into the clearing, confused at the noon sun.
“Well, she lives!” a cheerful, voice said in an amused tone. “How you managed to get stabbed twice and ingest some unholy blend of nightshade, acorns and who knows what else in one day is beyond me.”
“I didn’t get stabbed,” Ditzy argued, walking over to where the earth pony stood in a small garden, tending to plants. “Some stupid mare shot me full of poisoned arrows. Thanks for saving my life, by the way.”
“Think nothing of it. I’m a sucker for damsels in distress.”
“I wasn’t in that much distress...”
he gave a small chuckle, inspecting the bandages on Ditzy’s side and leg. “You stumble into my glade, blood loaded with toxins and suffering from two arrow wounds, and you’re not in distress. I’d hate to see you in peril; couldn’t be much left of you at that point!”
“Hey, where are my mailbags? I need to-”
“Relax, your mail is fine. Akhal-Teke isn’t going anywhere.”
“I must confess I couldn’t resist taking a quick peek while you were getting your beauty sleep. You’re a long way from home, Ditzy Doo.”
“I need to do this, no matter the cost. The mail always gets through.”
The earth pony let out a long sigh, shaking his head ever so slightly. “I packed your bags with some fresh vegetables, and you’ve been out for two days so your leg should be healed enough by now to walk on it without looking like a wobbly stool. Be careful out there, Ditzy. They don’t call it the Wild Lands for nothing.”
“Thank you,” Ditzy said softly, shouldering her mailbags and throwing one last wistful glance at the stallion in his peaceful green world. It seemed so easy to stay, and live in the tiny slice of paradise with the pony who had saved her life. Ditzy pushed away the urge, thinking of her duty to Equestria and the filly waiting eagerly at her door each day, unwilling to abandon either. She launched into the sky, turning towards a distant band of rolling dunes on the horizon.
Chapter 4: Deadly Dunes
A raging torrent of water tumbled through the rocky gorge along the edge of the forest, cutting a clear line between the Wild Lands and the barren scrub that rapidly became sandy and shifting. Ditzy stood on the edge of the gorge, staring into the churning waters while she ate a quick breakfast of fresh carrots.
“Could really use a muffin right now,” Ditzy mumbled to herself as she repacked her mailbag and stood, rapid hoofbeats behind her causing the mailpony to turn. The orange pegasus from the sky-city slammed into her with full force for the second time, sending them both tumbling into the river as he yelled angrily.
“May Celestia burn you, stupid mailmare! Give me the bags!”
Her response was lost among the roar of the river as both ponies plunged beneath its surface, everything becoming a confusing melee of water and sound.
Ditzy rolled onto the sandy bank of the river, coughing up water and staring across the bank at the orange pegasus laying dazed on the rocks. She turned away from him and began galloping off towards the sandy dunes, his final words echoing behind her.
“Fine! You journey into the desert, and seal your fate. Your bones will bleach in the sun!”
Ditzy ignored the orange pony and stepped into the sand, cresting the first hill and gazing out at the endless ocean of rolling dunes as far as they eye could see. Checking on her sodden mailbags, she confirmed the letter was unharmed by its soak; all high priority letters were magically sealed and protected against any such damage.
The sun beat down with ferocity, sending waves of heat rippling off the dunes and making the entire desert waver and bend. High above the burning sand, Ditzy glided through the clear sky effortlessly, riding an endless series of thermal drafts from the desert. She finally succumbed to the relentless heat after several hours and angled towards a distant outcrop of rocks almost completely covered by the sands, crouching in the meager shade and splashing the last few drops of water onto her sun-dried tongue. Dropping the empty canteen onto the ground, she fell back into the shade cast by the weather worn rock and drifted off.
A loud echoing howl jolted Ditzy awake, launching into the night sky in seconds as the horrible, blood chilling noise continued to fill the air. Several more voices joined in to create a terrifying chorus, abruptly stopping and leaving an ominous silence in its wake. The moon hung overhead, a weak sliver of light that left the vast desert in total darkness. Deciding flying by night was better than burning by day, the mailmare launched into the sky, keeping the moon on her left as a simple navigation tool. She had been flying for a few hours, throat burning with thirst when a tiny flicker of light caught her attention, twinkling below in the desert. Ditzy dove towards the tiny procession of lights as they moved across the sands, discovering it to be a group of ponies.
“Hey!” she called out hoarsely, landing nearby and stumbling towards the caravan. “Do you have any water? Please, just a sip!”
A tall stallion strode out of the group, wearing a safari hat similar to the one Ditzy had seen Twilight wearing while she was stalking Pinkie Pie a few months ago. He doffed the hat with a burst of magic and smiled, beckoning towards the line of earth ponies clutching torches and hoofing supplies.
“Professor Glimmer at your service, madam. I would be happy to give you water.”
Ditzy eagerly slurped at a canteen as he passed it to her, each drop sweeter than any drink in the world. Raging thirst quenched, Ditzy turned to the stallion as they walked in the middle of the caravan, the torches fending off the intense blackness of the desert night.
“Professor, what are you doing out here in this wasteland? It can’t be the scenery.”
“Oh, quite the contrary, miss! Desert sunsets are some of the most spectacular in the world. I feel inclined to ask you the same question, mailmare. You seem a bit...off the beaten path for Equestria Postal Service.
Ditzy squeaked and jumped back, eyes darting as she considered escape angles and who she would have to take down. Glimmer gave an amused chuckle, regarding her with a wry smile.
“Rather interesting reaction,” he noted.
“Sorry. I’ve been attacked four times when ponies figure out I’m a mailmare. I was expecting another greedy foal to jump me trying to steal my mailbags.”
“How absurd!” he chuckled, looking off into the dark desert. “I seek a much greater prize than a few baubles or love letters. Somewhere, out in this hellish wilderness there lies the resting place of King Trot. The historical significance alone would make its discoverer legendary! I seek his burial tomb, filled with unimaginable wealth, both monetary and in knowledge. The scrolls there would reveal untold centuries of unknown history to the scholars, and usher in a new understanding of the desert culture!”
“So you’re just wandering around in the desert, looking for a dusty tomb?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it just any old dusty tomb. Surely you’ve heard of King Trot.”
“He was the greatest king of these parched lands, and crafted a glorious city a thousand years ago that put Canterlot to shame. I’m so close to discovering this lost figure I can almost taste it! Think of the-”
A horrific shriek of a pony cut short their conversation, followed by an eerie howl. A darting shape brushed past Ditzy in the dark, and as the sun rose, large clawed tracks were discovered in the sand. Three ponies were missing.
Ditzy stumbled out of the tent Glimmer had allowed her to use, squinting in the blinding glare of the sun and walking over to the unicorn as he gazed out at the dunes.
“What was that, last night? Those howls; I heard them earlier.”
“I’m afraid we may never know. This desert is home to many fierce creatures, and they have struck three times since I set out. I’m worried if I don’t find the tomb soon, this whole journey will have been in vain.”
“Well, you’re not really going about this right,” Ditzy pointed out, looking up into the blue sky. “Shouldn’t you have brought along a pegasus, to fly up and look for it?”
“You’re a pegasus,” he stated, a hint of anticipation creeping into his voice. “Would you...?”
“Of course! It’s the least I could do to repay you.”
Ditzy flew into the sky and drifted high above the dunes in ever widening circles, scouring the endless desert for anything resembling a tomb. After three hours, panting from the growing heat, Ditzy sighted an irregular bump amid the rolling dunes and skimmed low over the burning sand, landing near a large stairwell almost completely filled with sand and noting its location based on how far she had flown. By nightfall Ditzy was able to lead the expedition to it, earth ponies digging away at the sand while Glimmer sat in the shade of a large parasol and sipped at a canteen of water. The blockage was cleared within thirty minutes, Glimmer stooping to enter the partially cleared hallway and pulling her along excitedly.
“I’ve dreamt about this since I was a little colt!” he said eagerly.
“You dream about dead ponies?”
“The awards, the prestige! I’ll be the talk of the town, everyone will be honored to have my presence at their high class parties! I’ll probably be invited to speak at lectures!
”Couldn’t this be dangerous?”
Glimmer laughed, coming to a large stone door and forcing it open. “Just dust and cobwebs, they can’t hurt you.”
“Look for bugs,” he added, glancing around quickly. “I hate bugs.”
The door finally gave with a grinding screech, revealing King Trot’s tomb. Professor Glimmer stepped into the room, staring about in evident confusion. “This can’t be right! His sarcophagus should be solid gold, walls flowing with precious treasures! Where are the scrolls?”
The chamber was a barren room, dominated by a box made of dark grey stone. Ditzy blew a layer of dust off the lid and took a step back as a strange script, swirling and spiking across the stone, came into view. Glimmer pushed her aside, leaning in and translating the text out loud.
“Anubis guard over the tortured soul within. May he never rise, and a thousand plagues upon him if he does.”
Pausing, he re-read the line several times. “Odd. Doesn’t seem like something to carve on the resting place of an honored king.”
Ditzy took another step back, the room suddenly feeling sinister. “Glimmer, we should go. There’s something wrong here.”
“And forsake the resting place of a King Trot? When I’ve already come so far?. This deserves investigation!”
With a flash from his horn the stallion lifted the great stone lid, sweating from the effort as he slid it off to the side and peered into the sarcophagus.
“I...don’t think this is King Trot,” Ditzy said, legs suddenly weak.
A skeleton lay in the box unlike anything Ditzy had ever seen, and she spent several seconds in stunned silence taking in the odd form. The long, slender bones were charred black in some spots, and others were shattered in half. The skull was oddly shaped, with a long snout and pointed teeth. It was missing a canine tooth, and several tufts of dried grey fur lay in the bottom of the casket, which was splashed with dried blood.
“I don’t get it,” Glimmer mumbled, bending low over the skeleton. “It should be painstakingly preserved and embalmed, not thrown in a stone box and left to rot!”
The investigation was cut short, a loud scream reaching their ears from outside along with the chorus of chilling howls and sharp snarls. Glimmer and Ditzy ran out of the tomb and scrambled back up the stairs, met with a scene of total chaos. Dark, flitting shapes darted across the edge of the camp, large yellow eyes glinting in the torchlight. The still forms of several ponies lay among the sand, long gashes oozing blood and staining the dunes crimson. Ditzy took several steps towards one of the bodies, suddenly knocked flat and pinned against the sand by a heavy form. The mailmare stared into the eyes of the predatory monster, getting her first good look at the horrors of the desert in the torchlight. The beast was covered head to paw in coarse grey fur specked with brown, and its pointed, canine head was identical to the one in the tomb. The monster of the dunes grinned, revealing wickedly pointed teeth and bloody fangs, eyes narrowing to slits.
“Tonight you die, defiling mare. The jackals will feast upon your bones and your blood will soak the sand for desecrating our tombs,” it hissed, raising one paw; claws glinting in the torchlight. A wet smack issued from the jackal’s side as a thin saber hacked into it, sending the beast tumbling off to the side with thick blood seeping into the sand. Professor Glimmer stood next to a fallen torch, saber floating magically around him and flashing out like lightning at the monsters assailing him.
“Come forth, beasts of the dunes! Your opponent is Professor Reginald Glimmer of Canterlot! I swear each and every one of you shall die tonight, fiends!”
Ditzy grabbed her mailbags from where they sat by a trampled tent, launching into the dark sky and looking back at the horrific scene forever burned into her mind. Glimmer stood at the top of a dune lashing out at the jackals with his bloody saber as they slowly surrounded him, torch sputtering in the sand and dying; dark shapes closing in. Ditzy fled across the desert as the final, tortured scream echoed across the dunes.
The mailmare sighted a sea of lights on the horizon, like a tiny galaxy of stars among the blackness of space. Trembling with exhaustion and on the verge of tears, she landed on a thick sandstone wall, startling a sentry watching the night dunes.
“Whoa! How’d you get here, they spotted a pack out tonight!”
Ditzy leaned against the guard as he led her to a small guardhouse, letting her fall onto a bunk.
“How?” he mused, “The jackals haven’t lost a victim in years! Why aren't you dead?”
Ditzy smiled weakly, sleep calling irresistibly.
“The mail always gets through.”
Chapter 5: Akhal Arrival
“Alright, mystery mare. Time to get up and see Ember,” a distant voice said, drawing Ditzy back into the waking world.
“Ditzy,” she mumbled, still half asleep as she followed the sentry out into the bright daylight. “My name’s Ditzy Doo.”
“Well then, Ditzy Doo. Let me be the first to welcome you to Akhal-Teke, Jewel of the Desert.”
The city of Akhal-Teke stretched out across a small valley, an oasis in the desert. The building were almost exclusively made of sandstone, giving the city an ancient, weathered look. Bright streamers hung from windows and roofs, fluttering in the light breeze as small fillies ran through the streets, laughing. Large towers dotted the city, intricate designs spiraling up them in a multitude of colors. Ditzy followed the pony through the sandy streets towards a large palace at the heart of the city, staring up at the marble doors with apprehension.
“Hey, don't worry,” the stallion said, giving her a reassuring pat. “She’s really nice, most of the time. Address our ruler as Queen Ember, look her in the eye when speaking, and you’ll be fine.”
Significantly more nervous than before, Ditzy pushed open the doors and stepped into the palace. An ornate hallway stretched before her, ending in a second set of doors. Ditzy walked through the hallway, listening to her steps echo in the vast space and passing several small side doors before arriving at the second set of doors, knocking tentatively.
“Come in,” a voice called cheerfully.
Ditzy stepped into the throne room, eyes moving from the empty throne to a red pony with a dark, fiery mane standing by a large window, looking out over the city.
“Well, come on. What’s the matter, jackal got your tongue?”
“I...have a letter for Queen Ember,” Ditzy managed, wondering how she was supposed to look her in the eyes if she was facing in the other direction. The red unicorn spun, dashing over and skidding to a halt in front of Ditzy energetically. She had a dark stone circlet on her head, and wore an earring with four white, fang shaped objects hanging from it. The pony’s cutie mark was an orange, arcane looking symbol that reminded Ditzy of flames.
“That’s me, ruler of Akhal! Please, just call me Ember. Everypony’s so stuffy and formal about it; “yes ma'am, no ma'am, three dunes east ma'am”. And always so timid! Relax, I’m not Anubis!”
Ditzy was completely thrown off by her casual, chaotic demeanor, pulling out the letter and presenting it to the red pony with bewilderment. Ember gently tugged the letter from the mailmare and opened it, skimming over the words and mumbling to herself.
“Queen Ember...Summer Sun Celebration...further the diplomatic ties between Equestria, Akhal-Teke...cordially extends an invitation, on behalf of Princess Celestia!”
Ember tossed the letter into the air behind her, paper bursting into flame and ash drifting onto the floor as she smiled.
“Please inform Princess Celestia I would be honored to attend her celebration! Is there anything you need before-”
A guard burst into the throne room, bowing low and panting. “Queen Ember, the jackal filth demands your presence at the eastern gate.”
Ember frowned and galloped out of the throne room, Ditzy leaping into the air and trailing above her as she ran through the streets. a small group of jackals stood among the dunes outside the walls, the red unicorn striding through the opened gate out towards the massed dogs, Ditzy landing at the doorway next to the guard she had met yesterday.
“Ditzy! Jackals out in daylight, I wonder what it means?”
“What’s Ember doing? She can’t seriously-”
“I dunno if you figured this out, but she’s not exactly the most...stable...pony.”
“Yeah, I picked up on that. What’s she going to do?”
“They don’t call her Jackal-bane for nothing. Canine heads are gonna roll.”
“Queen of Akhal-Teke,” the lead jackal growled, separating from the pack and moving towards Ember, teeth bared. “let it be known that a pony has desecrated the tomb of our ancestor, even after your kind entombed our slain in the first place!”
“You know as well as I do no resident of this city would disturb the tombs of your kind, sand wolf.” Ember retorted, holding her ground as the jackal snarled.
“You lie! That mare, and her friend who wields bright slashing death raided the halls of a mound, and she must die for it!” the jackal shouted, muzzle pointing accusingly at Ditzy. “She must pay for her mistake!”
“She is not from Akhal-Teke, merely a messenger from a distant land. I place her under the protection of Akhal-Teke, and she shall come to no harm.”
The jackal lunged at Ember who calmly sidestepped and laughed, turning to Ditzy with a eager smile as she pinned it against the sand.
“You want this one? He did come looking for you, after all.”
Ditzy became uncomfortable as several ponies looked at her expectantly, trying to understand what was happening.
“Say no!” the guard whispered urgently.
“Uh, no it’s fine. All yours!” Ditzy stammered, wincing as Ember dealt a crushing blow to the back of the jackal’s neck. The remaining dogs turned and walked off into the dunes as Ember knelt near her slain enemy, speaking quietly. Two sharp cracks later, she stood back up, brushing by Ditzy and walking back into the city, facing the cheering crowd with another fang dangling from her earring.
“Thank you again for the letter, mailmare. I hope we meet again at the Summer Sun Celebration!”
“Yeah, it should be better this year without eternal night messing everything up,” she murmured, taking into the sky and leaving the city behind within minutes.
Chapter 6: Mail Mare
The flight over the Wild Lands was uneventful. Ditzy stopped by the glade of the earth pony briefly, thanking him again for his hospitality before setting off for Equestria. It was late in the afternoon the next day when Ditzy finally landed in Ponyville, favorable winds speeding up her trip significantly. The mailmare walked into her home and greeted her daughter; dropping her dirty, sand filled mailbags on the counter and collapsing into a chair.
“Whaja get me? Is it shiny?” the unicorn asked, bouncing around as Ditzy realised she’d forgotten her vow to find a souvenir in Akhal-Teke.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I couldn’t-”
“Whoa, cool! so, is it like for a necklace or something?” she asked excitedly, dropping a gleaming white fang she had found in Ditzy’s mailbags onto the table.
“Yeah. Something like that.”
The following morning Ditzy walked into the post office after a brief stop at the bakery and reclined at her desk, no mail waiting in the out box.
“So, how’d it go?” Stamps asked calmly, barely glancing up from his work.
“Oh, it wasn’t too bad,” Ditzy answered, staring off into space. “broke a table, shot with a couple poison arrows, nearly drowned, almost eaten by jackals. Recipient was a little odd.”
“Hey, at least it was warm. I don’t envy the poor chump who had to deliver something to Stalliongrad, those crazy earth ponies living in the middle of the mountains. You’d think Celestia would have just sent the letter along with one of the merchants, spare them frostbite.”
“Oh, I’m sure they made it just fine. EPS couriers are the best there is at what we do.”
“Delivering mail to the craziest places anypony can dream up. Why you signed up and continue to take long distance assignments I’ll never understand.”
Ditzy smiled, grabbing a muffin off her desk and taking a delicious bite.
“No way I’d give it up. The mail always gets through.”
(The story is over, by the way.)
according to wikipedia the proper pronunciation for Akhal-Teke is
but I find myself saying Akal Tekay, pronounce it however you want
just an interesting bit I thought you might like to know.
If you see me in the chat or something feel free to ask questions or make comments. I’ll try to leave the edit cursor down here if I’m on. I show up in the chat window as “wyattbot” or wafflepan.
Special thanks to the pre-readers of Equestria Daily for helping me make this story good.
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