“A Lovely Light, Part One” (2200 words)
by Scribus Caballus
“Nothing’s forever, so count your days”
“What in tarnation!?” Applejack awoke to an unrelenting pounding on her front door. She rose from her bed, moving slowly through the darkness, feeling out each step. The pounding continued.
“Applejack?” she heard her little sister ask. “What is it? What’s happening?”
“Just go back to bed, sugarcube. It’s going to be all right.”
“But what is it?”
“Go back to bed.”
Applebloom didn’t obey, but Applejack didn’t push further. They made their way through the darkened farmhouse together, Applebloom staying silent except for a whisper. “What do you think it is?”
“At this hour? Only trouble.”
They entered the main room just as the pounding stopped. Big Macintosh had already answered the door, and was bent low to speak with someone Applejack couldn’t see. “Who’s there?”
Big Macintosh stood and turned. Before he had a chance to answer, Applebloom shouted and ran across the room.
“Spike? What are you doing here?”
The baby dragon was wringing his hands and breathing like he’d run the whole way. “It’s Twilight.” He swallowed. “She’s gone.”
Twilight’s friends were gathered at the library. Books were strewn across the floor, a spilled inkpot was dripping from a table onto the floor, and a lantern sat slowly losing its magical power and dimming in the corner. Rarity summoned a light to counter the fading green gloom.
Applejack paced back and forth. “All right, then, Spike. You tell us all what happened.”
“Well, I really don’t know. I went to bed early, and when I did Twilight was reading one of her books.”
“This is a lot more than one book, Spike,” Rainbow Dash said.
“She was only reading one of them, the rest, well... You know how she was. How she is, I mean.” He shut his eyes and shook his head. “I just don’t know. I went to sleep, and I woke up when I heard a crash down here. By the time I got downstairs, Twilight was gone.”
“So, where did she go?” asked Pinkie Pie.
Spike stared at her and blinked. “I don’t know, Pinkie. No one knows.”
“Now, you’re sure she didn’t leave a note someplace, Spike?” Applejack asked.
“I couldn’t find one. And the way she screamed... She was panicking. She was scared.”
“So what are we waiting for!?” Rainbow said, darting into the air. “Let’s get this party started!”
“I think we’re just the teensey-weensiest bit late to throw Twilight a going away party.”
Rainbow shook her head. “Pinkie Pie-”
“I know... ‘You’re so random.’”
“Rainbow Dash has a point, ya’ll. Time’s a-wasting, and we’d best get a move on.” The other ponies voiced their agreement. “Now, Rarity: can you magic up something that’ll give us a hint of what happened in here?”
Rarity looked at the disorder around the room. “I’m afraid not. Twilight had far more talent than I for matters like that.”
“And something still got her. What can we do? What if it gets us?”
“We don’t know that something ‘got her,’ Fluttershy. For all we know, nothing at all’s wrong and we’re just overdoing this, here.”
“But what if-”
Applejack cut her off. “But nothing!” Fluttershy cowered, turning to leave the library. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Fluttershy squeaked and stammered. “Well, it, uh, you see, it’s almost morning... And I just thought, well... I’m sorry.”
Applejack took a few deep breaths. “No, I’m sorry. But what’s morning got to do with anything?”
“I just thought, maybe, I could ask if the animals saw anything.”
Applejack nodded slowly. “That’s a good idea, Fluttershy. Everypony, we’re going to see if anypony saw or heard anything last night. Spike, you stay here, in case Twilight comes back.”
“Should I tell Princess Celestia?”
“I wouldn’t. Ain’t no point in worrying her. Y’all split up and ask around, and we’ll meet back here before breakfast.”
As they all left the library, Applejack heard somepony muttering under her breath. She ignored it, going back home to let her family know what had happened.
Applejack got back to the library first. She had packed her saddlebags, just in case, and was just setting them down when Rainbow Dash came flying in, followed on the ground by Pinkie Pie. “Y’all find anything?”
Rainbow shook her head while Pinkie nodded enthusiastically. Rainbow sighed. “That mail mare said she saw somepony galloping through town while she was on her rounds, but she couldn’t even tell us if she saw a unicorn or not.”
“Did she say which way they ran off?”
“Nope!” Pinkie Pie chimed in.
“Did y’all ask?”
“Of course we did! We’re not stupid.”
“I didn’t mean nothing by it, Rainbow Dash.” Applejack looked up and down the street for her other friends. “Y’all might want to go on home and pack your bags. If we have to go looking for Twilight, we don’t want to waste no time.”
“Aye, aye, captain!” Rainbow answered with an exaggerated salute, then sped away into the clouds.
“Pinkie Pie, what’s wrong with her?”
Pinkie gasped. “Something’s wrong with Dash!? This is just terrible, first Twilight, now-”
“Never mind. Just get on home and get packed, all right?”
“Okie dokie!” Pinkie bounded away, singing to herself.
Applejack sat down to think. It ain’t like Twilight to just up and run off, but I can’t think of nobody who’d want to hurt her. She stood back up, pacing back and forth. It just don’t make no sense either way.
She was snapped out of her reverie by Rarity. “Excuse me, but are you quite all right, darling?”
“Just thinking. Did you find anything?”
“Afraid not. By that hour of the morning everypony with any sense seems to have been deep asleep.” She yawned, covering her mouth with a hoof. “I see you have your bags packed.”
Applejack shrugged. “I just figured if we had to go looking for her, we’d best be ready.”
“I couldn’t agree more. I’ll be right back!” She left at a trot, nodding to Fluttershy as she arrived.
“Fluttershy! Tell me you found something.”
“Well, some of the animals that were awake at night saw a unicorn galloping out of Ponyville towards the mountains. I don’t know if it was Twilight or not, though.”
“Well, that’s about all we got right now. Thank you, Fluttershy.”
Fluttershy scraped at the ground with a hoof. “Oh, well. It was nothing. You’re welcome.”
“They didn’t see something chasing her or nothing, did they?”
“Um. No. I’m sorry, I didn’t ask.”
Applejack grunted and kicked up a cloud of dust. Fluttershy winced at the sound. “Well, we’re going to have to get a move on. Head on home and get packed, and make it quick.”
“Oh, yes, of course. Uh - bye.”
The summer heat had left the mountain trail dry and the five ponies tried not to stir up too much dust as they traveled. Rainbow Dash flew high above, her eyes scanning the distance, gliding smoothly on a gentle updraft.
“Now, Fluttershy: if we meet any critters, I want you to ask them if they saw anything, you hear?” Fluttershy nodded. “Everypony else, just keep your eyes peeled. I’ll keep a look out for tracks, but I don’t know if this dust’ll have anything.” Rarity and Pinkie Pie voiced their consent. “Rainbow Dash!” Applejack called out. Rainbow didn’t reply. “Rainbow Dash!” Applejack called again, louder.
Rainbow swooped down, landing hard and kicking up a choking cloud of dust. “What is it?”
“I just wanted to know if you’d seen anything, is all.”
“If I did, I’d let you know.” She flapped away, again stirring up dust. “If you don’t mind, boss, I have to keep an eye out!”
Applejack gritted her teeth, muttering under her breath. “That flighty filly...”
“Poor Dash,” Pinkie Pie said. “She’s taking Twilight disappearing really hard, don’t you think?”
Rarity shook a cloud of dust from her mane. “I think we all are.” She turned to look at Applejack. “Well, what shall we do?”
“We keep on. Twilight wouldn’t give up on none of us, and we’re going to find her.” Whatever happened to her.
The sun climbed higher in the sky as the ponies climbed higher on the mountain. So far the path hadn’t forked, but Applejack worried to herself what they would do if it did. They stopped for lunch, everypony eating quietly; Pinkie Pie without her usual glee; Fluttershy even more withdrawn, somehow; and Rarity flustered and trying in vain to keep the dust out of her food, her mane, her horseshoes.
Rainbow Dash finished first, then bolted back into the sky. “Come on, girls, we’re not getting anything done sitting around here.”
“Just give them a minute, Rainbow. Not everypony can keep going without a break.”
Rarity gasped. “How gauche! We are right here, you know?”
“I’m sorry, y’all,” Applejack said. “But we ain’t doing Twilight no favors if we all get ourselves too worn out to do anything.”
“Fine.” Rainbow flapped higher. “I’ll go look ahead, you guys just catch up.”
Applejack called after her.
Rainbow Dash didn’t reply.
Their lunches and their break finished, Applejack started packing her saddlebags again. “Come on, ladies. Let’s get a move on.”
The other three ponies followed her lead, trudging up the mountain. The sun beat down on their backs, and their progress was much slower than it had been that morning. Rarity staggered and almost fell, but she was caught by Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie.
“I simply cannot continue in this heat!”
Applejack squinted her eyes and checked the sun. It would be falling behind the tallest of the mountains soon. “We ain’t got much time, y’all, and it’s going to stay hot even when it’s dark.”
Fluttershy was trying to cool Rarity with her wings. “Oh, please, Applejack. She really doesn’t look well.”
Applejack grunted and stomped at the ground. “All right. Y’all take another break, then. I’m going to see what’s around this bend.”
Her hat lowered against the setting sun, Applejack marched, alone. I hope Twilight’s okay. She kept a steady pace, her eyes on the path, but her mind wandering. We just can’t check all of these mountains. What if she’s already back home? What if she went home and now she gets lost trying to find us?
The sun had just met the top of the mountains in the west when Applejack came to a fork in the road. “Consarn it!” Three paths stood before her, now, and Twilight could have gone up any of them, if she was on this mountain at all.
“So, which way do we go now?”
Applejack turned to find Rainbow Dash leaning against a rock, legs crossed. Applejack sighed, hanging her head. “I don’t know.”
“No? Well, you sure acted like you knew what you were doing.”
“Somepony had to do something.”
Rainbow stood up, squaring off against Applejack. “Yeah? Well, who said it should be you? Who put you in charge?”
Applejack raised her head, glaring at Rainbow. “I’m in charge because I took charge! Weren’t nopony else doing nothing!”
“You’re not the only one who’s ever been in charge! I lead the weather team every winter! Even Fluttershy takes care of the animals!”
“And I lead the planting! So what? Before Twilight came along, y’all never got done on time!”
“Yeah, well... Neither did you!”
“Maybe not. But the harvest gets done!”
“And none of that even matters now! Twilight’s gone, we’re lost, and you brought us out here!” Rainbow lowered her head, scraping at the ground and snorting.
“That’ll be the biggest mistake you ever make,” Applejack said, following suit.
“STOP IT!” Pinkie Pie shouted as she came around a bend in the road.
“I simply cannot believe the two of you!” Rarity said as she followed, supported by a shivering Fluttershy. “Our friend is in danger, and you two are fighting!”
Applejack thrust a hoof towards Rainbow. “Well, if she hadn’t been acting like some little foal with her head in the clouds, none of this would’ve happened!”
Rainbow snorted. “You know what, Applejack? Why don’t you just go your way, and I’ll go my way? The road splits here, anyway.” She didn’t wait for an answer before flapping along the southern path.
Pinkie Pie galloped after her, shouting for her to slow down, to wait, to come back. Her voice quickly faded as she turned out of sight.
Applejack bucked a boulder, cracking it. “Well. Which way do y’all think we should go?”
Rarity stood tall, taking her weight off of Fluttershy. “I’m inclined to agree with Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy and I shall go north.” Rarity didn’t wait for a response from anypony before she trotted off, heedless of the dust she stirred.
Fluttershy followed, stopping briefly beside Applejack. “I’m sorry, Applejack.” Her eyes quivered, tears welling in them. She turned and walked away. “You’re scaring me.”
Applejack was alone.
She bucked the bolder again, splitting it in two. “If that’s the way y’all want to be about it, fine!” She turned and walked alone into the sunset.
(to be continued...)
(continued from Part One)
“A Lovely Light, Part Two” (1450 Words)
by Scribus Caballus
“A dream reminds you / Always shines through / Shows the light that took my fears”
-- D.C. Cooper
Applejack was alone. The fact had settled in slowly, but as the sun fell further and further below the mountains, there was no denying it.
Applejack was alone.
Her own hoofbeats came back at her from the cliffs and boulders. When the path was smooth, she trotted, but as she moved deeper and deeper into the heart of the mountains, she found herself forced to slow to a walk more frequently.
She rounded a sharp bend just as the sun set completely, still leaving enough light for her to see that the path had fallen out in front of her, nothing but a thousand-foot drop to boulders below.
She sighed, turning away from the edge, and began to walk back. “Now, I know I saw another fork a while back there,” she reminded herself. “I sure hope Luna raises a full moon tonight...”
She didn’t. The moon was a cruel, distant sliver, giving only enough light to see one’s own hooves. Applejack tried to keep going, one shoulder to the mountainside to feel her way. She tripped over a rock, stumbling to the ground. “Darn it!” She grunted, standing again, placing her shoulder to the mountain again.
A stray cloud passed slowly across the moon. The mountain walls blocked most of the night’s usual array of stars. Applejack shut her eyes, leaned into the mountain, and stepped high to avoid rocks.
The mountain wall ran out, and Applejack tumbled to her side, falling. Her heart raced, her scream echoed back to her, and her eyes shot open, still showing nothing.
She landed immediately.
The cloud passed from the moon, giving just enough light to see that she had found the fork in the road. The other path followed along a ridge, wide enough for one pony at a time, but lined on either side with a drop into pure darkness below.
Applejack sat up, shaking dust from her mane. Even in the middle of summer, the nights were not warm this high up. A shiver passed through her as she thought about her situation. I’m alone. It’s too dark to go anywhere. Nopony else knows where I am.
She slid off her saddlebags, then dug through them for an apple. She chewed slowly, not tasting; lost in the mountains, lost in thought. When she finished her apple, she laid down to sleep.
She was awoken by somepony shouting her name. “Applejack!” She knew the voice, but she couldn’t place it. “Applejack, where are you?” It didn’t make any sense; she couldn’t be here. “Applejack, come home!”
She heard her sister call again. She stood up and called back.
“I’m right here, Applebloom!” The night was still dark, but she could clearly see the filly coming up the path.
Applebloom, however, couldn’t see her. “Applejack, where are you?” She kept trotting up the path, looking left to right and back again.
“Right here! Applebloom! I’m right here!”
“Applejack!” Applebloom kept trotting, not looking where she was going.
“Stay right there, sugarcube! I’ll come and get you!”
Applebloom didn’t hear.
“Stop! Stay there!” Applejack galloped for her sister, but the distance between them stayed the same. She pushed, harder, faster, still going nowhere. “Applebloom!”
“Where are you?” Applebloom kept trotting, further away from Applejack.
Applejack pushed harder, straining every muscle, still losing ground.
“Apple-JACK!” Applebloom fell, screaming.
Applejack’s knees gave way. She tumbled. She didn’t get up. A rock stabbed into her ribs. She didn’t move. She laid on the ground, watching the stars go dark as the moon turned a deep red.
Applejack woke up. She was covered in dust; it was caked in streaks around her eyes. She had been thrashing in her sleep, and had kicked her saddlebags off of the mountain. “Horseapples!” she swore, standing and trying to shake some of the dust from her body.
She snorted and flicked her tail, looking at the three paths. One was the way she’d come, headed back to Ponyville. Alone. The second was pointless, she’d backtracked it last night. Failure. The third was unknown.
“What would Twilight do?” She wouldn’t go getting her and her friends lost, that’s for sure. Applejack took a step towards the unexplored path, then stopped. Her knees felt weak. The morning sun was already warming the day, she had no supplies, no map, no help.
And that dream was still fresh on her mind.
She shut her eyes, trying not to remember. Fresh tears came through anyway. Applebloom. “I’m sorry, Twilight.”
Applejack turned and started walking back to Ponyville.
She walked, numb, ignoring the dust she stirred, not hearing the echoes of her steps, only aware of the hollowness in her chest. She was thankful for the protection her hat offered as the sun rose higher, burning hotter, but it also reminded her of her family. She tried to convince herself that Applebloom was okay, but she couldn’t shake the fear in the back of her mind. She didn’t even know for whom she was more afraid.
She plodded on, down a slowly winding path, kicking small rocks with her shuffling steps. From here she could see nothing but the mountain range; close and towering to the east, standing between her and home; far and wide in the west, spanning further than she could see or think.
Once, she thought she heard voices. She stopped, perking up her ears, trying to find them again. At first, nothing. She shook her head, tried to clear her mind. There it was, again, coming from below her. She walked to the edge of the path.
“Applejack?” Rarity called back. “Is that you?”
Applejack peered over the edge, looking down at her two friends. “What are y’all doing down there?”
“Well, I should think-” Rarity stopped when Fluttershy tapped her shoulder. Fluttershy said something Applejack couldn’t hear. Rarity replied, also too quiet to hear from this distance. Rarity nodded, and Fluttershy flew up to Applejack.
“I’m sorry I interrupted. I was afraid we might start an avalanche, or wake up a... a dragon.”
“T’aint no problem, sugarcube.” Applejack smiled. “Now, where were y’all going? I didn’t expect to find anypony after last night.”
“Oh. Well, we got kind of lost after we left, and... well... I wasn’t sure where we were.”
“I see. Well, these mountains can get tricky, I reckon.” Fluttershy didn’t meet her eyes. “Well, I’m just happy to see a friendly face again. Eh, we are still friends, right?”
“Of course we are, darling,” Rarity answered, coming up the path at a delicate trot. “Everypony was having a hard time last night; no one holds it against you.”
Well, I hold it against myself.
“Now, tell us, what are you doing on the road back to Ponyville?”
Applejack turned from them, blinking away tears. She took quick, shallow breaths. “I gave up. I lost my packs last night, and I kept thinking about Applebloom... and I gave up on Twilight.” She took a step away, leaning against the mountainside, fighting back sobs. I’m sorry.
“Oh, you poor thing!” Applejack heard Rarity digging through her saddlebags. “Here, you’ll feel better after you’ve eaten, darling.” She laid a bundle of carrots in front of Applejack, then backed away. “Fluttershy, would you be a dear and try to find Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie for us? I’ll send up a light every half-hour so that you can find us.”
A moment later, Fluttershy flew away, and Rarity walked back to Applejack.
“Darling, eat, please.” She nudged the carrots closer. “You said that you’d lost your bags, you can’t have had breakfast yet.”
Applejack swallowed a lump in her throat. “I found some grass.”
“Certainly not enough. Not up here. Eat.”
“Eat. I insist.”
Applejack did. She tried not to eat too fast, but she was hungry, and the last harvest had been particularly good for carrots. “Thank you kindly.”
“Don’t mention it.” Rarity smiled. “Now, let us get one thing straight,” she continued, her expression becoming firm. “You have no reason to be ashamed for thinking of your family. Twilight would not have wanted Applebloom to grow up without a big sister, and you’re well aware of that.”
“I know,” Applejack said, taking deep breaths.
Rarity nodded. “With that said, are we going to continue searching?”
“Sure will,” Applejack nodded, blinking her eyes clear. “If y’all will let me help you, that is.”
“Of course,” Rarity smiled. “Shall we?”
For the third time in two days, Applejack retraced her steps, leading her and Rarity back into the mountain range. Rarity sent up a dazzling light show, cascades of purple and gold reaching high into the sky.
(to be concluded...)
(continued from Part Two)
“A Lovely Light, Part Three” (1440 Words)
by Scribus Caballus
“My candle burns at both ends / It will not last the night”
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
Applejack and Rarity trotted along the barren mountain path, in search of their friend Twilight with renewed resolve. They traveled in silence, the only sound the beats of their hooves returning off of the granite walls beside them. As the summer sun rose higher, so did the heat, reflected off of the rocks.
The thin mountain air, while cooler than it could have been in Ponyville, was still uncomfortably warm early in the morning and promising to grow worse at midday. It also made breathing a difficult task; every breath seemed to do half as much to keep the ponies going.
Rarity stopped, leaning against the mountain’s face, breathing deeply.
Applejack turned back to check on Rarity. “You all right there, sugarcube?”
“Oh, yes, I’m fine.” Her mane was dusty and limp; dark circles were forming beneath her eyes. “I just need a moment to rest, and I should signal Fluttershy again soon.”
“Why don’t you let me carry them packs for you?”
Rarity laughed halfheartedly. “Oh, that won’t be necessary at all.”
“Please?” Applejack walked back to her friend. “You’re doing enough with all that magic, and no offense, but you ain’t exactly used to hard labor.” She bowed her head, hiding her eyes behind her hat. “Besides, it’s all I’m any good at.”
Rarity smiled and nuzzled Applejack. “If you insist, darling.”
As Applejack worked her way into Rarity’s saddlebags, Rarity sent up another flare for Fluttershy. Applejack thought that they were getting a little bit dimmer as the day went on, but it could just have been that the sun was brighter now.
After Rarity helped tighten the buckles and they’d had a few minutes to rest and see if Fluttershy came to them, they set off along the mountain road again. The path became rough and gravelly, forcing them to slow down when it got too steep. At least we ain’t gotta worry about the dust any more, Applejack thought. Rarity seemed less pleased, stepping carefully to avoid damaging her hooves.
Shortly before noon, Rarity stopped. “I simply must rest.”
“Well, all right,” Applejack said, “but if we can make it over this ridge and around that bend, I reckon we can rest in the shade.”
“That sounds lovely, but I really don’t know that I could make it.”
Applejack nodded. “That’s no problem, sugarcube.” She removed the saddlebags and set them beside Rarity. “You rest up and have some lunch, I’ll go ahead and see what’s over that way.”
“And what about you?”
“I’ll be fine. I spend long days on the farm without a break, I can handle it.” She didn’t mention that she was surrounded by apples on the farm, and she left before her stomach could rumble.
As she climbed, she noticed a faint smell in the air. It seemed familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. It was a sort of salty smell, but she couldn’t think of any reason for it to smell like that, unless they were near a salt mine.
When she crossed over the ridge, she found her answer.
Stretching as far as she could see in any direction was nothing but water.
It danced and rolled gently, growing darker blue as it neared the horizon. Pure white clouds filled the sky, seeming to stretch it higher and wider than Applejack had ever seen before. A low roar grew below her, and she looked down to see the water dive and crash against the rocks far below, white foam spraying high into the air.
“Land’s sake...” she murmured, wide-eyed.
Applejack continued staring blankly into the distance.
The great mass of water just tumbled and rolled, folding into itself, stretching endlessly.
“Applejack!” Twilight Sparkle nudged her, breaking the water’s spell. Applejack blinked, staring at her friend.
“Twilight? Is that really you?”
“I can’t think of who else I would be, AJ. What are you doing out here?”
“What am I doing here!? What are you doing here? We’ve been looking all over these here mountains for days trying to find you!”
“We? Who else came with you?”
“Why, everypony did! Rarity’s right back down the path, Fluttershy’s off looking for Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. We’ve all been worried sick since you disappeared!”
“Didn’t Spike tell you where I was?”
“Spike was the one who came and got us. He was worried as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs!”
“But I left a note! ...Wait...” Twilight’s horn glowed and a book hovered out of her saddlebags and opened, upside-down. She shook it up and down, and a sheet of parchment fell out from between the pages. Twilight blushed. “I guess I packed the note by accident.”
Applejack shook her head. “As long as you’re all right, sugarcube.”
“Well, of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Twilight, darling! You’re safe!” Rarity trotted over the crest of the mountain, then down to the other two ponies. “How have you been? What are you doing here? We’ve all been worried sick about you! And Applejack, how could you-” Rarity stopped mid-sentence as her eyes gazed into the distance. “Where are we?”
“This is the Diluvian Ocean,” Twilight explained. “It’s a massive body of salt water that surrounds Equestria. Nopony knows what lies beyond it, or if anything even does. I’ve read about it in some of my older books.”
“Why doesn’t anypony know about this now?” Applejack asked.
“Well, how many ponies spend this much time crossing the mountains?”
Rarity blinked, shaking her head clear. “You still haven’t told us what you’re doing here, Twilight. This is beautiful scenery, I admit, but it seems a little extreme to travel so far just for this ‘ocean.’”
Twilight smiled. “You got here just in time! Well, a bit early, but you didn’t miss anything. One of my old books said that every hundred years, when the sun sets, it does so just right for a beautiful, all-natural light show! According to the calendar, it’s supposed to happen tonight. I just got here last night; I was afraid I would miss it so I guess I left in a bit of a hurry.”
“Well, we’re all mighty glad that you’re okay, sugarcube.” Applejack’s stomach rumbled, and she smiled meekly.
“You must be tired after everything!” Twilight said. “Follow me; I found a nice, cool cave and some bushes with some sort of tangy berries.”
Rarity, Applejack, and Twilight spent most of the afternoon resting and chatting with one another. Rarity and Twilight took turns signalling for Fluttershy and the others, and they found their way before dusk.
When the sun started to set, they all trotted along to a ledge that Twilight had found earlier. It gave a great view out over the ocean, all the way to an island way out in the distance. Twilight explained that ancient ponies had called it the Deep Dragon, because it looked like a giant dragon’s head reaching up from below the water.
The sky was perfectly clear as the sun began to set. The ocean began to stir, waves growing higher and more frequent, the roar coming louder and louder. Waves crashed against the Deep Dragon, sending tall fountains of spray out of its mouth, colored yellow from the setting sun. As the sun set further, changing from yellow to orange, it looked as if the Deep Dragon was breathing fire into the sky.
In its last moments, the sun turned the sky a deep red, disappearing behind the Deep Dragon’s face. A bright green flash erupted, then streaked into the sky in a straight line. It lasted only a few seconds, but the ponies oohed and aahed at the sight.
With the sun set fully and Luna’s moon still hidden by the mountains behind them, the sky was almost pure black, every one of a hundred thousand stars a brilliant pinprick of light. The ocean, too, was glittering, lighting up at the crest of waves just before they broke apart. Slowly, starting at the Deep Dragon and spreading outward, it began to glow a pale blue color.
The ponies stayed awake late, snacking on the berries and gazing at the stars in the sky and the ocean’s magical glow. They all slept well in the cave that night, dreaming peacefully. When they awoke early the next morning, the air was still cool and damp and the ocean was back to its deep, majestic blue. The Deep Dragon was hidden behind a layer of mist which curled up into the clouds overhead.
Nopony spoke as they looked one final time before they left for home.