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Ponies of the North, Book 1: Journey to the North: Chapter IV: The Soothsayer Cometh

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Along the snow covered road to Canterlot, a wizened old Caribou with his left foreleg wrapped around a gnarled oak staff with a string of beads and a gray falcon’s feather adorning it walked. The Old Caribou’s pelt was snow white with not a speck of color upon it. Hanging upon the Old Caribou’s antlers were even more colorful strings of beads and feathers, all tied together, not a single loose thread or a single hanging piece anywhere. It was all perfectly tied together. As the Caribou opened his mouth to take a breath, he revealed a mouth full of misshapen teeth. Very few were straight, white, or even present. Compared to some of the more perfect Earth Ponies, Unicorns, and Pegasi the Old Caribou had passed, he was quite pathetic looking.

The Old Caribou had made his way through the Frozen North nearly a month ago after a fever dream had struck him in the middle of the night. The dream was of the North itself covered in the bodies of Caribou, Ponies, Pegasi, and Unicorns as far as the horizon stretched into the distance. And in the distance, the dawn was colored red with the blood of the innocent. Then… as a voice began to chuckle, the bodies were lit ablaze by a fire that spread across the lands until it found a great tree as tall as the sky. The fire consumed the tree as the chuckle turned into a maniacal laugh. As the tree collapsed into ash, a Unicorn with wings (or was it a Pegasus with a horn), as white as snow with a mane that was the color of the most beautiful of rainbows. She spoke to the Old Caribou.

“Find me in the South. Convince us of all this. Our future depends on it.” And with that, the Old Caribou woke up. He checked the runestones to make sure that what he saw would come to pass. They spoke that what he saw would indeed come to pass. Against the protests of his tribebucks, he was adamant about heading south.

“There is nothing beyond the mountain range, Father,” his eldest son had told him. “Nothing, but endless wastelands.”

“The runestones told me to head south and south I go,” the Old Caribou had replied. “Besides, I heard tell from our merchants and traders that there is plenty of land down beyond the range. Cities full of them. I remember Olaf talking about a city made of crystal glass. He said even the ponies were made of crystal. If that doesn’t reek of the prospect of adventure, then I don’t know what does.”

His son put a hoof on his father’s shoulder. “Even so, you are the village elder and soothsayer. We need you here more than some Southerners do. What if One-Eye’s armies attack us? We’d have no warning nor chance to prepare ourselves. We need you, Father.”

The Old Caribou laughed at him. “You’ve been listening to your brother again. I told you before. The eldest son does not need to listen to the younger brother. You need to remember your place. Your place is above your brother. Not below him. Besides, I am old and I need some excitement. It would be nice to have different weather patterns for a change and to see the clear blue sky without a single cloud blocking it.”

He limped over to his son and motioned for him to pick up his staff and his saddlebags. His son picked it up with his teeth and the Old Caribou wrapped his foreleg around it. His son then picked up the saddlebags and draped them over his father’s back. The Old Caribou looked his son in the eye and spoke the last words he could remember telling him before he departed. “You are head of the tribe until I return. Keep everydeer safe. Keep them fed. And don’t worry about your brother. Let me worry about him while I am gone.” Before his son could respond, the Old Caribou interrupted him. “And don’t worry about my safety. I am not meant to die on my journey. Not yet. I have seen my death. And it is far more disappointing than dying while fighting a mountain troll. Did you know that’s how I wanted to die when I was younger? Gods above, I was foolish.” Using the staff to keep himself balanced, he hugged his son and left the shabby brown tent and left the camp and made his way through the wilderness. Eventually, he made it to the passage under the mountains that lead to the Southlands.

When he emerged from the passage under the mountains, the Old Caribou had arrived at the city of the Crystal Ponies, fittingly dubbed the Crystal Empire. He hadn’t stayed long there, but he did find the buildings impressive. They were all made of sparkling crystal and were taller than the tallest trees. Olaf, who had done trading in this city before, had been correct in stating that even the Ponies were made of crystal. They had sparkled so brightly in the sun that the Old Caribou had been nearly blinded.

He heard that there was a Princess in this city, so clearly she’s filling in for the King and Queen who are probably at the Capital city these Southerners call “Canterlot”. Strange name for a city. Obviously, the Unicorn with wings (or the Pegasus with the horn) was the queen and she was living at Canterlot while her daughter took care of this Crystal Empire. Or the Emperor or Empress were visiting Canterlot while their daughter took care of the homestead. Without a thought, and after refilling his supplies, the Old Caribou had set out from the Crystal Empire to the city of Canterlot.

That was nearly a month ago and he was sure that he had gotten lost a few times on the way. He had met only two or three of his fellow Caribou on the road to Canterlot. Very few were in this land. This uneven land. The whole place was wrong to the Old Caribou. The land was temperate, yet could shift on the whims of its inhabitants, these Southerners. At least, that was what he had heard about the land of Equestria. It was supposed to be Spring by this point and the Old Caribou had been looking forward to seeing his first true spring. To feel the heat of something other than a fire would have been wonderful, but apparently that was asking too much in this country.

At least the deep snow had been a pleasant source of nostalgia for the Old Caribou. The crunch of the snow under his cloven hooves had been the music he needed on his journey. Though the sporadic songs the Southerners had broken out into had been entertaining enough. Though he wasn’t sure where the music they sang to had come from. That was the strange thing about this country: It was impossible.

As he walked up the snowy path around the bend in the mountains, he saw it in the distance: Canterlot. It was untouched by the snow piles around it. Gleaming white towers that seemed to be carved from marble. All standing on the end of a cliff that overlooked the entire kingdom. The Crystal Empire had been one thing, but this, this city was beautiful. Gleaming white buildings that were either skyscrapers made of metal or white marble. It was no wonder why this was the capital of the Southlands. He made his way up the path towards the city. His mission was nearly complete.