Twilight was walking about in a forest covered in pure white snow. Unlike her previous snow dream which had instilled a sense of loneliness and isolation, this dream filled her with peace and serenity. The way the snow highlighted the green pine trees gave her a sense of Déjà vu, like she had been here before. Like she was meant to be here.
As she walked through the forest, she thought she heard the sound of a raven calling in the distance. She looked around to see where the call was coming from. She heard it again. This time it sounded like it was coming from behind her. She turned around to see nothing but snow and trees blocking the way she came. Her eyes narrowed and her horn began to glow as she readied a defensive spell in case she was trotting into a trap. Twilight had been in these situations before and she was not going to be caught unaware.
She heard the raven call behind her again. She spun around and let loose a blast of magical energy that felled a tree. Her eyes darted back and forth, the peace and serenity gone from her mind, as she looked for the raven.
For a few minutes, silenced passed. The raven call did not sound out, but Twilight’s ears were trained for the raven’s call should it sound again. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the call sounded again. She spun around and her eyes met the raven’s. Or at least her eyes met the raven’s one good eye. The other eye was just an empty socket. But what made Twilight uneasy was that there was no exposed flesh. No sign that the eye had been removed. Nothing. Just a black void. No flesh, no bone. Nothing.
Twilight forced herself to stop staring into the socket and instead focused her attention on the whole of the raven. It was black with gray feathers and its beak was visibly scraped. Its talons were covered in dried blood, the sight of which made Twilight a little nauseous. She then noticed what the raven was standing on. It was a pony skull, bleached white. The talons were gripping the rim of the skull’s eye socket.
Twilight backed away slowly and turned around to find the Raven alighting itself upon a tree branch, still staring into Twilight. Twilight flared her horn up in warning to the Raven, but it didn’t move an inch.
Twilight couldn’t take it anymore and just asked it, “What do you want?”
“More,” the Raven replied. It then looked around at the snow covered forest. “I want more.”
“More land? More trees?”
The Raven looked back at Twilight and answered again. “More.”
Twilight was getting annoyed with this. “Fine. Don’t give me an answer. Whatever. I’m out of here.” If this Raven wasn’t going to give her any answers, then she wasn’t going to spend anymore time in this dream than she had to. She turned around to leave, but was surprised to see two ponies emerging from the trees.
Her horn flared in anticipation for a fight, but the two ponies just stopped and stared at her. She stared back, gauging the two ponies. The oldest of them was a sky blue mare with a snowy white mane tied in a long braid, draped over her left side. The younger was a stallion, a year or two older than Twilight, with a tan coat and a brown mane that had been cut and shaved into a very short mohawk. He also wore what looked like the pelt of a wolf draped over his left foreleg.
She noticed couple other things about the pair. The first was that upon the stallion’s back, he carried a sword wrapped in oilskin. The other thing she noticed were their eyes. The stallion’s eyes were hard, angry, and completely centered upon her. The mare’s eyes frightened her the most however. They were completely devoid of emotion of any kind. Happiness, sadness, anger, nothing was seen in her eyes, but cold emptiness.
Twilight was about to back away and find another way out of the clearing when the Raven alighted on the mare’s back and turned to face her.
“In four days, you shall meet my children,” it said, gesturing to the two ponies with its wings. “It is time. Awaken.”
With a jolt, Twilight sat up in bed and looked about the room. The forest was gone and around her was a room of crystal and glass. She sighed and got out of bed and trotted over to the window and gazed out at the city of the Crystal Empire, home of her sister-in-law Princess Cadence and brother, Shining Armor.
Twilight and her friends had been at the Empire for the past two days after spending a full day traveling to the Empire the day Sven arrived at Canterlot. They had been welcomed with great pomp and revelry from the citizens and happiness from Cadence and Shining Armor. For two days, they had been exploring the city and learning about its history, as well as catching up with Cadence and Shining Armor. They had meant to only spend half the day there before leaving, but Cadence and Shining Armor had insisted they spend a few days there before continuing their journey. Twilight had accepted of course. She hadn’t had much time to visit her former foalsitter/sister-in-law nor her big brother thanks to recent events.
The last couple of days had been good. Exploring the city, seeing the preparations for the Equestria Games, and Spike’s reaction to finding out that thanks to his part in restoring the Crystal Empire, he was a national hero to the Crystal Ponies. And as a result, he had been sleeping in the palatial suite next to Twi’s. Now it was time to wake him up and burst his bubble and prep him for the big journey.
At breakfast, Twilight explained everything about her dream to Cadence, Shining Armor, Spike, and the rest of her friends. She explained the One-Eyed Raven and the appearance of the two ponies at the end.
“I think the Raven was meant as a sort of allegorical reference to another pony. Probably their father.”
Sven trotted up with a large tray of food from the kitchen and sat beside her. “Aye, that would be King Odin Borson. King of the North and central figure of the three Pony tribes. He bares the Raven Claw as his mark.” He began chowing down on his breakfast with vigor while the others watched in fascination. Nopony expected the old Caribou to have an appetite that large. Eventually, Cadence cleared her throat.
“Ahem. You were saying about his ‘mark’ and him being ‘King of the North’?”
Sven swallowed his food and looked at Cadence. “Oh, right. His mark. Well, as you know, all ponies have marks. Odin’s is a Raven claw with a spear. And yes, he is King of the North. Preceded by his father, King Bor the First, also known as Bor the Conquerer. Funny thing, I thought your countries were monarchies. What happened to your Kings and Queens?”
Twilight looked at Cadence and Shining Armor with a puzzled look. That was a question they had never been asked before by anypony. As long as they had been alive, Princess Celestia, and recently, Princess Luna, had been the rulers. They had never thought of why Celestia wasn’t a Queen or why Cadence wasn’t an Empress. It just hadn’t occurred to them to ask why.
“I… I don’t think we ever had any in Equestria,” Twilight answered.
“Huh,” Sven replied. “Might want to fix that. Could help with uniting your people against invaders. Like those Changelings that attacked your wedding,” he said motioning to Cadence and Shining Armor.
Cadence cleared her throat. “Umm, do you have Changelings in the North?”
Sven let out a burp before answering. “Nah. Just wolves, bears, and trolls.”
Applejack asked the next question. “Umm, did ya say “Trolls”?”
Sven nodded as he drank a cup of cider. “Mmhmm. A bit taller than the average pony and strong as all get out. Though they usually stick to the mountains. So we don’t have to worry about them attacking us.” He slurped the rest of the down, not noticing the uneasy looks the ponies were giving him.
That afternoon, outside the gates of the Crystal Empire, Twilight looked over her friends as they made the final adjustments to their luggage and supplies for the journey. Applejack was in charge of the food, Rarity was in charge of their extra layers to wear in the North (And Spike was in charge of carrying the layers), Fluttershy was in charge of the tents, and Pinkie Pie was in charge of the fire kits. Rainbow Dash would be the scout and Sven would be the guide for the group.
They said their goodbyes to Shining Armor and Cadence, with Shining Armor giving Twi a bear hug that took the breath out of her.
Before letting go, he whispered in her ear. “Be careful, Twiley.”
Twilight hugged him back and whispered, “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”
As they trotted up the path away from the city towards the mountains, Sven held back a bit to talk to Twilight.
“So, those two ponies you saw in your dream. You’re sure that they were the Raven’s children?”
Twilight nodded. “He referred to them as his children. You know their names?”
Sven nodded in return. “Aye, many a caribou know of the three children of Old King One Eye.” He turned back towards the path and continued trudging forward.
“Three? I only saw two.”
“Which ones did you see? Describe them for me.”
“Well, one was a mare with a blue coat, a long white braided mane, and…” She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “Oh, and she had a pair of foreleg blades.”
Sven gave a small smile. “That’d be Skadi, Huntress of the North. Second born of King One Eye. She’s a fierce warrior. One of the deadliest. When you meet her, do not get on her bad side. Trust me.”
“You met her?”
Sven shook his head. “No. But I’ve seen her… handiwork.”
A bit of color left Twilight’s face after hearing that last word. “Handiwork”.
Sven continued on. “What about the other one?”
Twilight described the other pony and Sven nodded. “Aye, that would be Týr, third born of the King. Also known as the Whelp of the Wolves.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Why is he called that?”
Sven gave a shrug. “Dunno. Never asked him. From what I heard he took on a pack when he was a young colt. You might be able to ask him for the full story when we meet them.”
“Why have you never met them before?”
“Oh, it’s simple: Caribou hardly ever go beyond our territory.”
“Why is that,” Twilight asked.
Sven smiled. “Long story, Princess. Best to be told around a fire. Come on. We got a long way to go.” He motioned forward towards the base of the mountains they were heading towards.
Directly in front of them was a gaping cave that seemed to be carved out of the mountainside. Ten feet high and wide with jagged rocks and icicles adorning the edges. To Twilight, it looked like a mouth that was about to swallow the ponies whole. And it was a bit intimidating. Sven looked at Twi and gave a gap toothed grin.
“Not scared, are ya, Princess?” He gave a chuckle as he looked around at the Ponies and Spike, all stopped in their tracks.
Twilight looked at him and back at the cave entrance. If they went through this cave, that would officially begin their journey. They would be leaving Equestria and would be in unknown territory. They could die if they went through that cave… But it wasn’t about their safety. It was for the sake of Equestria. They had to head into the North.
Twilight straightened herself up and motioned to her seven companions. “It’s time. Let’s get going, everypony.” And thus, Twilight trotted through the cave entrance followed closely by her companions and began her first hoofsteps into the North.
In the North itself, a falcon that was sleeping in a pine tree raised its head. It looked around as if it had heard a noise in the distance. Something was coming. Something was, what was the word, returning to the North. The falcon had to find out who it was. It had to know. With a gleam in its eye, the falcon took flight and headed towards the southern border of the North.