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Antipodes

Chapter 23

by PK

Jigsaw found himself standing in a verdant field. Flowers of all shapes and sizes bloomed around him and the air was fresh and clean. The sun was almost directly overhead, but it wasn't harsh or burning. It felt pleasant against his skin, warm, life-affirming. Now that he had felt it, the light of the midday sun, he wondered how he had lasted so long without it, and how he could ever go back to the pale imitation of the sun that resided on the surface now, or the heartless light of arcane fire or electric filaments.

There were ponies, too. To the right, and a short distance ahead, a small town was visible. A majestic clock tower grew from the center of town, the hands having just recently struck noon. The skies above were criss-crossed with pegasi, flitting to and fro among the clouds. Jigsaw took a deep breath, allowing the cool air to fill his lungs, filling him with energy.

Then, as he watched, a green shockwave emanated from somewhere beyond sight and began to spread, inching unrelentingly towards the town and the field and all the frolicking ponies in it. Just before it reached him, Jigsaw closed his eyes. His coat stood on end, and he heard the sound of distant screaming.

He took a breath in and nearly choked. The air was smothering and dank. He opened his eyes.

He was underground, back in the caves of his youth. The musty, humid air suddenly invaded his lungs, bringing with it, a wave of panic that slowly subsided. After taking a few moments to compose himself, he set off at a trot, passing by the flickering lights, placed at uneven intervals throughout the tunnel.

He came into a large atrium. On either side of him, carefully carved stone staircases led up the ledges in the yellowish rock of the cavern. He was back in the main chamber. Ponies bustled around, pipes clutched in their mouths, notepads levitated in front of them. In the center of the chamber was the council chambers, jutting up towards the ceiling like some thorn in the earth, wide at the base and narrowing as it went up before ending in a flared tip. Jigsaw made his way inside the doors. The carvings on its surface seemed to writhe and squirm at him as he passed- images of ponies cowering from the sun, the large metal door slamming shut, the bolts sealing them both inside and out.

He walked into the lobby and made his way down the stairs into his office: a small room, deep underground the main chamber, decorated with blazing arcane torches and bisected by a network of pipes, gauges, and a small bronze fountain, which he had made himself and which depicted a beautiful pegasus pouring water out of a large jug and into a small pipe which led down into the floor of the office.

Jigsaw shut the door and the lights immediately shut themselves off, plunging him into near-total darkness. He attempted to light his horn, but to his horror,  he found it was gone. The magic welled up inside him and dissipated. Before the terror of his situation set in fully, the scene before him was suddenly illuminated. He was standing on a floor made of a strange, slippery, metallic substance, and before him a mountain of the stuff grew. At its crest was the council building, larger than life, and next to it, a giant replica of the fountain stood.

He was drawn to it inexorably, but as he moved, the metallic material of the mountain began to collapse and slough away, crumbling and cracking under his feet. The tower fell, crushing the fountain, and the ground under Jigsaw gave way.

He was falling now, chunks of metal raining down around him. There was no floor, no ceiling, and no walls, only black nothingness as far as he could see. Black and chunks of metal, and that was all there was.

Then, from one of the chunks, a figure burst forth. Tiptoe flew towards him, a yellow streak in the featureless black of the landscape and the mirror-like surface of the metal.

Tiptoe scooped him up and began to fly up, towards a bright light directly above, the disk of the sun, but her flight was erratic and jerking. Jigsaw turned his head and was shocked to discover she only had one wing. She was flapping it for all she was worth, but it wasn't enough to support his weight. With one final effort, she gave a mighty flap, bringing them tantalizingly close to their goal, before they fell back, falling down into the black gloom, faster and faster, towards that field near the town of death and darkness...

Jigsaw awoke with a start, shivering from the cold. It seemed he had kicked all the blankets off his body in his sleep. Tiptoe slumbered next to him, so entangled in the covers that only her head was visible.There was light outside the window of the small room, causing long stripes to be projected out of the slats covering the windows. Totemhoof was awake.

~~~

Half an hour later, Jigsaw, Incendia, and Tiptoe were gathered in the small kitchen. Incendia was chopping a long, slender green root into slices and magicking them onto rectangular plates. Jigsaw had never seen it before, but Incendia swore up and down they were delicious. Hesitantly, Jigsaw lifted a slice up to his mouth and took a bite.

"Oh, Goddesses!" he gagged. "That's disgusting!" The root tasted bitter, like spoiled fruit, but he was the only one that seemed to mind.

"You're crazy," Incendia said, dropping several slices into her mouth and chewing greedily. "These are delicious."

Before Jigsaw could respond, however, he heard the front door to the house creak open. Through the doorframe and the dim light from the torches, Jigsaw could make out the shape of Quill Dipper entering the house.

"Jigsaw? Is anypony home?" he called. He had two weighty saddlebags draped over his back, and he looked exhausted.

Jigsaw walked out to the living room and called for the others to follow.

Quill Dipper greeted them and shrugged the saddlebags off his back. They hit the ground with a dull thump.

"Good morning, everypony!" he said, panting slightly from the exertion of carrying the bags. "I trust you all slept well?"

"Best night's sleep I've had in a long time," Jigsaw said.

"I'm glad to hear that," replied Quill Dipper. "Today is going to be a busy day for you all!"

Without further ado, he opened up the heavy burlap saddlebagsm which Jigsaw could tell was full of clutter, and pulled out three pairs of much smaller saddlebags, and three scrolls of rolled-up parchment.

"These are yours! You're lucky you came when you did. We had some extras! Now, we're stretched a little thin today because of the-" he stopped for a moment, then shook his head and continued. "We're stretched a little thin, so we can't give you the usual tour. All I can really do is give you these."

He unrolled one the tubes of parchment to reveal a beautifully illustrated map of Totemhoof.

"This ought to direct you to anywhere you might need to go. I don't have a map of the skies for your pegasi companion there, but I'm sure she can handle herself well enough on her own in the air, right?" he said with an absentminded smile.

"Thank you," Jigsaw said, "this is very generous."

"Don't mention it," Quill Dipper said. "Now, I'm sorry, but I really must go now. I'm already late!"

"Really, we do appreciate it-" Jigsaw began, but Quill Dipper threw his saddlebags back over his shoulder and began to make his way out.

"I'll talk to you all later!" he called, hurrying out the door.

"That was odd," Jigsaw said. One of the maps flew into the air in a hazy cloud of blue light, unfurling at hoof's distance from Jigsaw. The calligraphy was beautiful, and the lines on the map were crisp and clear. At the bottom lefthand corner of the map was a stylized image of a quill and the name "Quill Dipper".

Jigsaw cracked a smile and curled the map back up and stuck it in one of the saddlebags.

"So what are we supposed to do?" Incendia said.

Jigsaw turned to find them looking at him expectantly.

"Well, don't look at me! I don't know any more than you do. I suppose we'll just do what Quill Dipper said. Wander around the town, see the sights."

"I'm not convinced that's such a good idea," Incendia said, shuffling her front hooves.

"I really don't think the townsfolk mean us any harm. If they did, they would have done something when we were asleep, wouldn't they? Or have poisoned the food in the kitchen, or something," Jigsaw said dismissively.

"I still don't know," Incendia said.

Jigsaw sighed and focused all his attention on Incendia. Her ears were pressed flat against her head, and her pupils were wide.

"I understand why you're nervous," Jigsaw said, "but this isn't Stalliongrad. I don't know why, but this place- it feels better. I think we're okay here."

"I know, I know," Incendia said, "it's just that this place brings back memories. I thought I was away from Stalliongrad, then this place came right out of nowhere and- and I wasn't ready, is all. I'll be fine."

"You did get away from Stalliongrad," Jigsaw said.

Incendia nodded, and began to make her way towards the door. Jigsaw and Tiptoe grabbed their saddlebags and maps and followed.

~~~


The door opened, and the intensity of the light made Tiptoe blink and squint. When her eyes got the chance to adjust to the harsh light, she was shocked at what she saw. The sky above was still blocked off with clouds, which seemed to glow with an internal light. The strange, ominous radio tower protruded out from the hilltop, but something was noticeably different about it. Near the top of the tower, searing through the clouds, was an enormous glowing orb, bright enough to illuminate the streets of the town below. It wasn't quite daylight, but everything was easily visible. Curling up the sides of the tower, like vines, were heavy cables pulsing with light, like giant fiber optic cables. Near the center of the sky was a brightly illuminated patch of cloud. Black specs- Tiptoe thought they must be pegasi.

When she turned back to point this out to the others, she found they had disappeared while she was staring at the clouds. From all over the town, pegasi were flying up, wings flapping furiously as they shot up into the sky. Tiptoe wasn't sure if she should join them or not.

She set off down the narrow sidewalk. Their house was built rather high on one of the hills that encircled the town, and most of the buildings near it were unoccupied, so Tiptoe had to walk for several minutes before she came across anypony else. An elderly electric blue earth pony was walking around her garden, a bag of feed clutched in her mouth. Every few seconds she would shake the bag, sending a spray of feed to the ground below. In the corner of the yard was a chicken coop, full of loudly squawking chickens, just waiting to be let out.

Tiptoe cleared her throat nervously.

The earth pony looked up at her and dropped her bag of feed. "Was there something you needed, dear?" she said, cocking her head to one side.

"Yeah, I was just wondering... I'm, uh, a refugee of Stalliongrad, and I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go," she said, stumbling over her words.

The earth pony smiled. "The immigrant pegasi usually report for concealment duty, just like the natives. They'll teach you up."

"Concealment duty?" Tiptoe asked. "Where is that?"

"The sky, of course!" she said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "Goodness, you are new, aren't you? Where's your guide?"

"M-my guide?" Tiptoe said, taking a step back unconiously.

"Your guide!" the elder pony exclaimed. "They sent out a notice to every household the day before yesterday, giving procedures on how the immigrants are to be handled. You are to be shown around with a guide. Luna wills it!"

"I... took a wrong turn. Got separated. Please, can you just tell me where to go?"

"The hole in the clouds. Be careful, her will obscures." The elderly pony said, he eyes focusing on the bright area in the sky.

"Thank you," Tiptoe said awkwardly, backing away from the earth pony and her garden. She made her feel uncomfortable.

Deciding she really didn't have any other option, she extended her wings. She paused for a moment, savoring the anticipation that came before flight, then flapped her wings down. With a buffet of air and a gentle swirling of dust, she left the ground.

When she was only a few dozen yards, it suddenly hit her that she had never flown up to cloud level before. In fact, she had never really flown much higher than a hundred feet or so. She hovered in mid air for a moment, watching the few remaining straggler pegasi take off into the sky. For a moment, panic gripped. What if she fell? Did she have the skills to catch herself?

But then she felt the wind, the warm breeze blowing from the west. The weightless sensation flying gave. The freedom, and the promise of something new to explore directly above.

She soared upwards, feeling the changes in the air currents, the updrafts and downdrafts, the give-and-take of flying, until she burst through the cloud layer.

What she saw nearly made her fall right out of the sky. All around her, sculpted out of cloud, was an entire second town. The moon, bright and silvery, was visible in the east, and most of the buildings were turned to face it. Pegasi were bustling around, trotting right on the surface of the cloud, going to and fro between the buildings in the clouds. Some, in uniform, were marching out to the west, while others, dressed in yellow, were flitting about in the air, catching stray bits of cloud and redirecting them to where they were needed. The most striking aspect of the city in the clouds, however, was the sculptures.

Larger than life, they were molded out of cloud in the shape of ponies of every sort, though pegasi were by far the most common. They appeared to be leaping and bounding up the center of the cloud city, faces turned towards the moon, each sculpture spaced a few dozen yards apart, flanking the main street. As they got closer to the eastern edge of the city, towards the moon, they began to take on more and more desperate appearances. They were crawling, hooves outstretched. At the edge of the cloud city, the barrier where the cloud floor ended and the sky began, stood an enormous sculpture of an alicorn- Luna herself, molded out of dark storm clouds, wings outstretched to encircle the moon. It made Tiptoe decidedly uncomfortable.

To the west, the top of the radio tower poked through the clouds, providing illumination to the entire cloud city. Tiptoe couldn't help but notice that not only were there no buildings anywhere near it, but there were no ponies- not within three hundred yards, at least.

She began to make her way east, towards the strange statue of Luna. It took her longer than she thought- the statue never seemed to get any closer as she walked forward, though the tower behind got farther and farther away, until she suddenly found her self at the edge of the layer of cloud, directly under the torso of the gargantuan sculpture. It looked so much larger close up. Her thoughts wandered back to the thing that had been protecting the fragment- and she shuddered.

The clouds did something odd when they reached the end of the city limits. Instead of dissipating and spreading like natural clouds, they billowed and poured over the edge, creeping all the way down to the edge of the hills and sliding over, forming a thick fog that covered most of the land below. It was like watching a cloud waterfall in slow motion, tumbling over the precipice.

"You really shouldn't stand that close to the edge, you know."

Tiptoe spun around to find that a grey pegasus was standing directly behind her, a scowl on his face.

"We can't do anything if you fall here. Your wings won't help you, either."

"Who are you?" Tiptoe spluttered.

"Probably who you're supposed to be with. Stalliongrad refugee, right? It's not hard to tell. You look like you've never stepped hoof on a cloud in all your days until just now. Bet you never even made so much as a drizzle."

"Uh, yeah, I am," Tiptoe said.

"My name's Thunderclap and I'm supposed to teach you foals about weatherworking. What are you doing over here? Nopony's suppose to come this far east unless they have business over here, and you most assuredly don't."

"I got separated from my group," Tiptoe said defensively, "and if nopony's supposed to be over here, what are you doing here?"

The peagsus narrowed his eyes.

"I live here," he said, gesturing to a small building near one of the front hooves of the sculpture.

"Oh."

The grey pegasus stared at Tiptoe for a moment longer, then rolled his eyes and turned away. "Follow me."

Tiptoe hesitated for a moment, then began cantering off behind Thunderclap. She couldn't help glancing over her shoulder at the massive sculpture of Luna, and the dull, crumbing orb framed by its wings. She felt a stab of sadness- a longing for something she had never known.

An hour later, Tiptoe was seated on a small translucent stool with a group of about thirty other pegasi of all shapes and sizes. Most looked to be in significantly worse condition than she was. Many were missing large patches of feathers. One had such a large gash across his face he could barely open his left eye.

Thunderclap paced back and forth on the cloud surface, looking the group over, the perpetual scowl clearly etched on his face.

Without warning, he pounded his front hooves down on the ground and flapped his wings. He soared up in the air, taking a large column of cloud with him. With a few deft wing flaps and a single buck from his back legs, the cloud began to condense and rain- directly onto Tiptoe and the group.

"This is quite possibly the most important job in the entire city. Weatherworking allows us to stay hidden from those that would do us harm and gives us the water to provide crops. Luna's grace may be great, but even She cannot summon clouds from nothing. They are drawn here from farther west, but they're hard to come by, understand? Do not ever let me catch you wasting a cloud, understand?"

"Now then. Let me ask you all a question. Did any of you stumble across this place by accident? Did you just waltz into the city limits?"

A few ponies shook their heads, and a few weak "no"s rose from the group, but Thunderclap pounded down on the clouds. A huge flash of light and a monstrous book echoed out from under him.

"No, sir!" he shouted. "If you expect to be doing this job, I expect proper discipline!"

"Yes, sir!" the group called.

"Excellent. Now, how many of you have worked the weather before?"

One hoof raised uneasily into the air.

"Step forward."

Tiptoe watched as a very small brown pegasus made her way off her stool and stood in front of Thunderclap.

"What did you work?" he asked.

"I moved a cloud that managed to get inside the city shield," she said. "Just once."

Thunderclap was silent for a moment.

"That's it? You moved one cloud?"

"Yes, I was a servant in one of Rubidiu-"

"I didn't ask for your life story," Thunderclap said quietly. "Go sit back down."

The brown pegasus hurried quickly back to her seat.

"Now, here's what's going to happen. I'm going to give you all areas of the town. Your job is to make sure that the rain that's scheduled to happen today happens. If it doesn't, it's on your throat. Luna be with you, you'll need it!" Thunderclap said.

Before long, Tiptoe had been assigned to some nondescript patch of grey cloud. The area was apparently over a farm and was scheduled for heavy rainfall, so there were three other pegasi in the area, all flapping their wings and bucking the cloud to try and squeeze water out of it. The clouds swirled and shifted, but nothing more than a few drops got squeezed out.

Tiptoe fared no better. The clouds seemed to obey her even less than the other ponies. She kicked and bucked, flapped and flew, but the cloud just billowed and drifted away, forcing her to corral it back into the blanket of cloud. Even the other pegasi were giggling. She just couldn't understand why she couldn't get it to rain. It was just water, after all...

Suddenly, an idea hit her. This was just water, right? She knew about how water worked. She'd been groomed to operate a huge network of water, after all. What was this but slightly more primitive water management? She turned her head and looked at the feather on her flank. This may not have been her special talent, but she knew she could do this. She had to.

She dived through the clouds, barreling through a blanket of grey until she burst out the other side. She hovered just underneath the clouds and flapped her wings- once, twice, three times. The clouds billowed and swirled under the buffets of air, rising up into the sky. When she was satisfied with the result, she flew upward again, punching through the clouds. The other pegasi had stopped to stare at the huge wall of clouds which was now advancing steadily upwards. Then, she begin flying around the clouds, closing the distance around the cloud with each revolution, until she had compacted the clouds into a narrow pillar of quickly rotating cloud.

From that point, all she could do was wait and mutter a prayer to Luna.

The pillar began to sink under its own weight and turn grey. She dove down through the cloud layer again, and began to push up on the grey pillar of cloud now trying to poke it's way out of the sky. She pumped her wings as hard as she count until-

Rain.

The water poured out, a nearly solid sheet that almost caused Tiptoe to fall out of the air. Before she could lose control, however, the water broke apart into narrow droplets and began falling down towards the green carpet below.

She hovered, letting the water soak into her coat, looking up at the circle of cloud she had made.

~~~

She didn't listen to Thunderclap's admonishment of her "unorthodox" style, or that she had sent way too much rain over a far too small area, or that she could have hurt herself flying below the clouds. She didn't listen to the adulation of the two ponies who had been working near her, who insisted that Thunderclap himself probably couldn't have made so much rain out of such a small cloud. Her mind was still down there, in the weird light of the tower, with the rain spattering on her face. When she headed back down to the ground at the end of the day, she was freezing cold, exhausted, and happier than she had been in a very long time.

She arrived at the house at roughly the same time as Incendia, who was smoldering slightly. She could feel the heat coming off of her from a few feet away and kept her distance.

"Tough day?" Tiptoe asked.

"You could say that," replied Incendia. She smiled weakly and they went into the brightly lit house together.
11:30

COULDN'T FOCUS ON WRITING, WROTE THIS ALL IN BITS AND PIECES

NONE OF MY PROOFREADERS ARE AROUND SO I JUST SAID FUCK IT AND UPLOADED IT

I HOPE THIS CHAPTER ISN'T AWFUL
Add a Comment:
 
:iconenuwey:
Enuwey Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
For not having been proofread this is a pretty good chapter.

My personal favorite bit was Tiptoe the Weather pony! :D
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:iconnova225:
Nova225 Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2011
>Incendia was chopping a long, slender green root into slices
-Huh... Are those celeries ?

>The peagsus narrowed his eyes.
-'pegasus' (small error)


... Well, quite short but good chapter. Also, no need for 'CAPITAL letters' description ...
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:iconnaxts:
Naxts Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2011
Ya know. I actually thought this was really well done and I had no clue that it was rushed until I read the description.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really liked how vivid and imaginative some of the details are. And the whole Luna Statue things, quite mysterious to say the least.

Well done bro.
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:iconpsuedo-prince:
Psuedo-Prince Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2011
I always love having to google for word definitions. I had to google twice this time xD. *Applause* GJ.
Reply
:iconelescoltadibuja:
ElEscoltaDibuja Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011
well it was a very interesting chapter, i like how you put every detail on how to make the cloud rain, but what I need to ask is why Tiptoe was amused by Luna statue? i dont get that very well.

also your descrition FTW!
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:icontirgal:
Tirgal Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011
Ugh, no socks.... no ovenmits... and no awkward dryer scene.. time for me to take action, may Luna have mercy on me for the atrocity I am about to commit.
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:iconnosnibormada:
Nosnibormada Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011
Have no worries, this story is cantering along nicely I think. Just watch out for the occasional spelling errors. Also, I hope the next few chapters will be about what happened to Jigsaw and Incendia at the same time. (like what you did with Chapter 19)
Reply
:iconnines-tempest:
Nines-Tempest Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Since I do not have an upgraded account, this is the closest thing you'll get to a critique.

Some weird phrasings and typos:

>The elderly pony said, he eyes focusing on the bright area in the sky.

>"Probably who you're supposed to be with. Stalliongrad refugee, right? It's not hard to tell. You look like you've never stepped hoof on a cloud in all your days until just now. Bet you never even made so much as a drizzle."

"Uh, yeah, I am," Tiptoe said.
^Doesn't follow with what he's saying.

Now, past that...

The dialog is pretty dry. You tend to just have "said" at the end of every sentence or in the middle if there is a pause. You should definitely vary it up, have it at the start of the paragraph, or sometimes not at all. It would help it quite a bit.

I did like this chapter; no reflection, and totally tiptoe focussed. I'm not sure if you're going to focus on everypony during this day one chapter at a time or what, but it was interesting to see such organization in the city. There is definitely a cult-ish feeling going on from their choice of words when it comes to Luna, but what else can they really do?

I think this was a pretty decent chapter, so keep at it!
Reply
:iconquercusrobur:
QuercusRobur Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011
agree with Fartman , and wonder what Jigsaw is up to , they worship Luna and he has a part of her soul in him hehe
Reply
:iconfartman51:
Fartman51 Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
Don't worry, it's definitely not awful! Quite the opposite!

I can't wait to hear what happened to Incendia, though.
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