No Tame Forest
The wind whipped fiercely through the trees of the Everfree forest. Animals and monsters alike hunkered down under cover, instinctively knowing what was heading their way. The sky turned dark as black clouds swept over the forest, driven onward by the strong winds. Zecora looked up at the sky as the first few drops of rain began to patter down on the leaves above.
“Thunder booms and animals run.
A storm of power this way comes...”
Gathering up her herb pouches, she headed towards her hut. The air was humid with the tang of lighting coloring it. The wind picked up in intensity, leaves flying in the gusts. The rain started falling heavier and her ears picked up the rumble of thunder not too far off. Depositing her harvest safe and dry inside her tree, Zecora headed back out into the elements. A crack of lightning made her look up, as it was quickly followed by another, and then a third. A squad of weather team pegasi flew at the edge of the storm, battling with the storm clouds. One group focused on kicking the clouds into vapor, releasing the thunder and lightning she heard. Another group tried in vain to blow the clouds back with their wings. Apparently, this natural storm wasn’t on their schedule today. However, they fought a losing battle, as the powerful storm continued to advance and the gale force winds tossed around the pegasi like scraps of paper. She could barely hear them shouting to each other, trying to rally.
“More cumulonimbus are breaking through on the right flank!”
“Roger that! Group 2! Help Group 4 hold those boomers in place!”
“We’re trying, but the winds are too strong! We keep getting blown out of position!”
“I don’t think we can hold this back for much longer! Should we retreat to Cloudsdale for reinforcements?”
Looking more closely, Zecora spotted Rainbow Dash fly to the front of the weather team.
“And let Ponyville get blown to pieces? Not on my watch! C’mon girls, drill tornado formation! We’ll cut this storm in two!”
The entire weather team flew up high in the sky, and dove at the storm clouds in a conical wedge formation with Rainbow Dash on point. The pegasi plowed into the cloudbank, releasing a deafening crash of thunder as black clouds evaporated under the concentrated assault. But as they made progress, the high winds peeled one pony after another from the formation and sent them flying. The formation wobbled as they dodged lightning that flashed from cloud to cloud, the destroyed clouds adding their payload to the mix. The wedge slowed down and started to disintegrate as it lost its momentum. Zecora looked concerned as the force of the storm whittled away at the group until only Rainbow Dash was left, struggling against the wind and rain. The others had fallen back and regrouped near the edge of the forest, and called for Dash to come back. But whether she simply refused to give up, or if she simply couldn’t hear over the thunder, Dash kept flying against the storm. Her eyes were shut against the rain, and strained her wings to fight against the gale, but a nearby bolt of lightning combined with a sudden crosswind threw her out of control. The storm swept her up and tossed her around like a rag doll, before she fell below the treeline with a resounding crash.
Zecora gasped in alarm, and galloped off through the rain towards the crash site. She found Rainbow Dash wrapped around the trunk of a tree and knocked out cold. She gave a groan and opened her eyes as Zecora approached.
“Ugh.... what... what happened?”
Zecora shook her head and helped Rainbow Dash to her hooves.
“Oh foolish pony of rainbow hue,
What did you think would happen to you?
Did you think you were not wrong
To face alone a storm this strong?
Against its power, and in that test
You clearly came out second best.”
Rainbow Dash shook the cobwebs out of her mind as the memories of her crash came back to her.
“Oh no! The storm! I need to get back and help out the weather - YEOW!”
Rainbow started to run off, but stumbled and fell as a lance of pain shot up her left front leg when she put her weight on it. She grimaced in pain, as Zecora walked over and gave it a few experimental prods with her hoof, noticing where Rainbow hurt.
“Though you wish to battle against the rain
It would not be wise, your leg is sprained.”
Rainbow Dash glared at her and flapped her wings.
“Oh yeah? I can still fly, and that’s what matters!”
Zecora shook her head as Rainbow crouched down to launch herself into the sky, only to collapse again as pain shot through her body.
“If flying away will be your plan
Give thought to how you launch and land
Even if you make it above the trees
You’ll be blown away like dried up leaves.
Your Ponyville friends will have to make do,
As you rest and prepare for round two.”
Rainbow looked up at her through clenched eyes, trying to stand up without putting any weight on that leg. She had to rejoin the weather team! She didn’t know where this storm had come from, but she couldn’t abandon Ponyville when it needed her now! She flapped her wings as hard as she could to try and lift off without jumping, but couldn’t get enough lift. Attempting a hop-skip run on three legs proved just as successful, as the wet ground and wind made her fall over into a tangled heap yet again. Zecora watched this display with growing frustration. Rolling her eyes and muttering some comments in her native tongue, she helped Rainbow Dash off the ground and slung her bad leg across her shoulder.
“Rainbow Dash, I must implore,
Before you’re injured even more,
For both of us, it’ll be the best,
If you come with me and get some rest!
Though they need you, I am quite sure
That later they’ll need you even more!”
Rainbow relented and let herself be led off through the storm, leaning on Zecora for support. She grudgingly admitted she wasn’t in any condition to battle against this storm if she couldn’t even get herself airborne.
“Okay, okay, fine. But what do you mean when they’ll need me more later?”
Zecora just looked over at her and winked.
“Once we’re home I will explain,
About the nature of this rain.”
Back at Zecora’s home, Rainbow Dash lay on Zecora’s bed while the zebra wrapped a cold mud poultice around her leg. She sighed as the coolness soothed the pain. Zecora excused herself to fetch some more supplies from one of her caches outside, leaving Rainbow alone with her thoughts. Looking out the window at the raging storm, she grumbled at the dark clouds above. They almost had it back there! That formation had been enough to clear an entire sky of thick clouds last Winter Wrap Up. Of course, they didn’t have to deal with lightning and such strong winds back then, but even so! Now she couldn’t even get into the sky unless she threw herself off a cliff, or something even crazier. Heaving a large sigh and idly setting a hanging bottle swinging with a hoof, Rainbow hoped that the other pegasi were able to keep the worst of it off of Ponyville. Winds this high could do some serious damage, not to mention the flooding danger. A crash of thunder made her glare out the window. The storm was still raging, bending the trees backwards with the high winds. Stupid storm. Where did it even come from? Did those incompetents from Hoofington schedule a storm that got out of their hooves? Or was this something from the Everfree Forest? Things were strange here.
Speaking of strange things, Rainbow spotted Zecora outside the window in a small clearing. She stood with her face upturned to the sky, her Mohawk blowing in the wind. A smile was on her face as the rain danced on her head, and a flash of thunder made her break out in laughter. Rainbow rubbed her head with a hoof. It was strange things like this that got Zecora that ‘Evil Enchantress’ reputation in the first place. Who stood outside in a thunderstorm? Of course, Rainbow reminded herself, there was probably a good reason . Rainbow remembered how the Poison Joke incident turned out. Boy, that was embarrassing. Zecora returned not much later, shaking the excess water off of her coat once she was indoors. She sat down some pouches on a table nearby. Rainbow glanced over at her from her position on the bed.
“Zecora, what were you doing out there in the rain so long? I mean, just standing around in the wind and the rain is kinda weird, don’tcha think?. I’d have thought you’d prefer to be inside where it’s safe and dry.”
Zecora looked confused for a moment, and then laughed.
“Oh Rainbow one, it makes more sense,
When you know I love the elements.
The wind and rain, I am a fan,
As memories of my homeland.”
Rainbow rolled over and looked out the window at the storm.
“Sheesh, you had to deal with stuff like this on a regular basis? Must have had a lousy weather team wherever you were from.”
Zecora trotted over to the bed and gazed out at the storm with a fond smile.
“We never could control the sky
Since we had no pegasi.
In Quagga, yes, fierce storms we had.
But to live with them was not so bad.
I did not mind, I did not cower
For I love their awesome power.
And in its strength, I always see
A feral, raw, and wild beauty.
Nature’s strength is not my bane.
For I respect what isn’t tame.
After lightning flashed and thunder boomed
The savanna would come into bloom.
And after every fearsome rain,
New life would come to that dry plain.
So even though you think it lame
I do enjoy a powerful rain.”
Rainbow Dash looked out the window again, trying to understand what Zecora was talking about. Another crash of thunder rumbled as she thought.
“... I guess I see what you mean. But a storm that big could wreck Ponyville! I... I still can’t believe it beat me.”
Zecora walked over to her cauldron and started mixing some herbs together.
“While you fight a storm this strong
You must not attack it just head on.
When strength versus strength you are outclassed
You find another route, and fast!”
Rainbow Dash sighed and grumbled to herself while she settled into the bed. It was true, the storm had overpowered her, which annoyed her to no end. When you’re faced with a problem, you attack it head on! But she just wasn’t... wasn’t good enough to stop it. No! There has to be a way! She pounded a hoof against the bed, and started plotting ways to dissipate a thunderstorm this big. Even if she didn’t heal in time for this one...
“Hey Zecora, what did you mean when you said Ponyville would need me later?”
Zecora dumped the contents of one of her herb pounces into the cauldron and fetched a large stirring rod. She smiled at Rainbow over the steam emanating from the pot.
“I should have made my meaning plain,
When I said that that you’d be needed again.
If this is like storms from my homeland,
There will be soon a second band.
So drink this stew to ease your pain
And you’ll be ready to fight more rain.”
Rainbow Dash sat up and flared her wings in surprise.
“There’s going to be another storm?! Why didn’t you tell me? I need to get ready! I need to get home! I need to stretch! I need to - OW!”
Zecora firmly put a hoof on Rainbow’s back, forcing her down on the bed and looking her square in the eyes.
“Believe me when I say it’s best
That you should stay and get some rest.
You’ll have time, you can prepare.
But for now, just stay right there!”
Keeping a watchful eye on Rainbow to make sure she didn’t try anything... ill advised, Zecora dipped a bowl into her cauldron and brought it over to Rainbow.
“The next storm will not come
Until this one is over and done.
So for now just drink this stew
To have your strength return to you.”
Zecora and Rainbow Dash locked eyes for a moment before Rainbow sighed and backed down. She sipped some of the stew, perking up upon discovering that it tasted pretty good. She settled down on the bed and continued to sip at the stew.
“Hey, this isn’t bad! But are you sure it’ll help me be ready in time for the next storm?”
“I guarantee you’ll be able to move.
Your aches and pains this will surely soothe.”
Zecora watched as Rainbow finished the stew and relaxed in the bed as she listened to the soothing patter of the rain against the window. Humming a soft tune to herself, she busied herself cleaning up her tree house while watching Rainbow Dash yawn.
“Ugh, why am I so tired? I have to prepare. But I guess it’s okay if I have a few hours before the next storm. And this bed is almost as soft as a cloud. Warm too. You’ll wake me when it’s time, right? ‘Cause I need to... plan... and... to... to...”
Zecora chuckled to herself as Rainbow’s eyes fluttered and finally closed in some much needed sleep. After seeing that pegasus exhaust herself flying against gale force winds, crash and injure herself, and still be ready for more, she was starting to doubt if Rainbow would ever fall asleep. A rumble of thunder made her smile as she tied up her pouch of Valerian root and hid it somewhere Rainbow wouldn’t find it. She hoped that Rainbow would have eventually listened to her and gotten some rest, but ‘encouraging’ the natural process never hurt. Walking over to a bookshelf, Zecora pulled down an old worn and dog-eared copy of Spear Shaker’s sonnets, and settled down on a stool to read, listening to the music of the thunderstorm in the background.
A few hours later found Rainbow Dash trotting around in circles outside the tree house under Zecora’s watchful eye. The rain had stopped for the moment, but the skies still threatened even more severe weather.
“Well, it doesn’t hurt as much anymore; I think I can take off without falling over in pain. At least enough to get high enough off the ground. My wings can take care of things from there. I’m gonna give it a try.”
Zecora nodded. Rainbow didn’t limp nearly as much as she had earlier.
“If you decide to make that test,
Just make sure the leg’s not stressed.
Please don’t do something dumb,
The pain’s not gone, it’s only numbed.”
Crouching down gingerly, Rainbow flared her wings and gave a short hop before pumping her wings for all her worth. A wince of anticipation of the pain she expected from her injured leg turned into a broad smile as she found herself aloft. She started zipping through the trees, reveling in her regained abilities.
“I’m... flying. I’m flying! YES! Oh sweet open skies, how I missed you! Rainbow Dash, you are back in business! Aw yeah!”
Zecora chased the blue blur around, trying to stop her from these reckless stunts. Finally, Rainbow Dash flew back down to the ground, landing on three legs before carefully setting down her injured leg.
“I can fly again! No storm clouds are going to beat THIS pegasus twice! Bring ‘em on! Gonna give ‘em the ol’ one-two! Bam! Pow! Unh!”
Rainbow stopped boxing imaginary clouds, and looked sheepishly at Zecora.
Oh, and thanks, Zecora! Whatever that stew you gave me was made of, it really did the trick. I feel great!”
Zecora gave a hearty laugh at Rainbow Dash’s high spirits.
“Just remember, when you’re on your way
To take the potion three times a day
Until you’re healed, you’ll soon learn
That without its power, your pain will return.”
Rainbow Dash nodded happily.
“Yeah, just whip me up a few bottles of that stew and I’ll be fine!”
Zecora grinned happily, and headed back inside with Rainbow close on her heels. She started gathering up her ingredients from various earthenware containers around the room.
“Making my brew is an easy chore,
It won’t take long if you - oh, what the cuss!”
Rainbow Dash whipped her head around, startled as much by the oath as the fact that the zebra had broken her rhyme scheme.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
Zecora stood fuming at an empty pouch before flinging it down on the ground.
“To make the brew, one herb I need,
But in this pouch, there is no numbweed!
I thought I had some more in store,
But now I need to get some more!”
Rainbow walked over and peered in the empty bag Zecora had thrown away.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get some more!”
Zecora shook her head to clear her thoughts, sighed, and loaded some pouches into a saddlebag, and slung it over her back before heading back outside.
“Very well, but we cannot be late.
The storm is coming, and will not wait!”
The zebra and the pegasus trotted along the forest paths, the dark clouds making the already dim trails even darker. Rainbow Dash glanced nervously at the shadowy trees around her. Things were too quiet for her. She spent the majority of each day outdoors in the wide open skies, and not hearing any birdsong at all just creeped her out.
“Jeeze, it sure is quiet. Something just isn’t right...”
Zecora nodded her head.
“The forest is quiet, no noise is heard.
The animals are hiding, no sound from the bird.
The clouds are threatening more stormy skies,
So they all have gone home. Yes, that is why.”
Rainbow dash looked up at the sky. It was getting darker, and the winds were starting to pick up again. Not looking where she was going, she stepped on a rotten branch causing it to crack loudly, making her jump.
“Okay, maybe so, but this place still gives me the creeps. Why do you still live here in a place like this? I’m surprised you haven’t moved to Ponyville with the rest of us.”
Zecora sighed and shook her head, looking around at the forest with a smile
“One day I will have time to show,
That home to me is where wild things grow.
The life of the town is just not for me
Too noisy, too crowded, and just too busy.
The calm of the wild, the peace that’s at hand
Brings back memories of my homeland.
So even though this land I roam,
It still feels like my old home.”
Rainbow Dash stared at Zecora for a while, trying to understand the strange Zebra.
“You really do like it here, don’t you? With all the self-moving clouds, crazy weather, and everything?”
Zecora merely nodded and laughed.
“Although it is not your cup of tea,
The forest is the place for me.”
Rainbow just shrugged as they trotted along. She hoped they found the plant they were looking for soon. The pain was starting to come back a bit, and she found herself limping a bit as they walked.
“Okay, but this isn’t any ordinary woods either. I mean, it’s crawling with - MONSTER!”
Rainbow Dash jumped as they came around a bend in the path and was greeted by the sight of a large black panther lying down on the side of the path. It opened an eye and snarled at them. As it stood up, Rainbow heard Zecora gasp as the panther revealed a pair of spiked tentacles waving dangerously in the air. It crouched down on six legs, it’s tail swishing dangerously. Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes and pawed at the ground, staring it down. Dash launched herself into the air with a hiss of pain. Zecora started looking around for something as she realised Dash’s intentions.
“Be careful, Dash! you must at least
Know that is a-”
“Don’t worry, Zecora. I got this!”
Shaking off the pain, she flew at the panther. Snarling again, it whipped its tentacles at Rainbow, but her aerial acrobatics neatly avoided the lashes.
“Ha! That the best you got kitty? That wasn’t even close! What do you think you’re aiming at? Can’t hit somepony fast as me!”
Another snap of the cat’s tentacles missed Rainbow by several feet, but she distinctly felt the whistle of something fly by her face. Pushing the mystery out of her mind, she swooped through a barrage of attempted whippings. Pulling up in front of the panther’s face, she spun on a dime and solidly slammed her hooves through.... nothing at all. Not finding the solid resistance of flesh and fur for her hooves to hit that she was expecting, Rainbow found the force of her kick sending her out of control, falling through the panther, and crashing into the ground. Rolling over, she yelped as a puff of dirt showed something unseen hit the ground where she lay just a second ago. She heard Zecora shouting something, and she scrambled out of the way, trying to figure out what was going on. Rainbow watched as Zecora charged not at the panther, but at a mud puddle left from the heavy rains earlier. Jumping high in the air, Zecora landed in the puddle hard with all four hooves, splashing a muddy wave all over everything in the vicinity. Wiping the mud out of her eyes, Rainbow rubbed them clear a second time to make sure she wasn’t imagining things. Next to a shocked looking black panther stood a muddy silhouette of the same panther. Each mimicked the other’s moves perfectly as it looked from one pony to the other.
“A cunning illusion the beast will make!
The muddy one’s real, the other a fake!”
The panther attempted to shake off the mud, but Rainbow Dash was already in its face, giving it a vicious kick in the jaw. Zecora closed in from the other flank, a wild and fierce determination written all over her face. Outnumbered and with its advantage nullified, the tentacled panther backed up and soon fled back into the woods. Rainbow Dash let out a sigh of relief, before breaking out into smiles.
“Did you see that?! That was awesome! Did you see me dodge those tentacles? I bet that mangy fuzzball didn’t want to mess with moves like that once you messed up that trick it did! And then we chased its sorry hide outta here! We sure showed that... that... um... whatever that thing was!”
Zecora chuckled at Rainbow’s enthusiasm.
“Next time you charge, know at least
when you face a Displacer Beast.
This midnight monster, so vicious and cruel
Will try to trick you and make you a fool.
For where it is, is not where it’s seen
If you want to attack it, you must always be keen.”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened and looked over at Zecora as they started down the trail again. Rainbow noticed her limp becoming more pronounced as they went on.
“You’ve seen one of those things before?”
Zecora nodded with a smirk.
“To live in the forest is no mean feat,
Your knowledge of monsters must be complete.
To stand against them, you must be strong.
Or else you will not last too long.
Have knowledge and strength if you can.
And make sure no flaws are in your plan.”
Rainbow grunted, and then narrowed her eyes at Zecora.
“Hey, my plans work! Well, usually. Most of the time, at least! I can still stop that storm!”
Zecora’s face softened as Rainbow’s facade of confidence cracked just a little bit, and she playfully nudged Rainbow a bit.
“As all do know, you’re very loyal,
but in order to save much pain and toil,
So that you can beat this storm so large,
Work on a plan that’s more than ‘charge!’”
Rainbow merely grumbled a tad, and then fell silent in thought as she limped alongside Zecora. She found herself starting at the striped pony, slowly putting the pieces together in her head.
“So... you’ve lived here a long time?”
Zecora nodded and shrugged.
“Living here is no big trial,
I’ve been here for quite a while.”
“And you’re fine with living next to all these dangerous beasts?”
Zecora nodded again, giving a knowing grin to Rainbow.
“With monsters great, and creatures small,
I can hold my own in against them all.
When anger aroused, I can strike fear.
I’m more dangerous than I appear!”
Rainbow Dash stopped short, trying to wrap her head around this new idea.
“Wait, wait, wait, so you’re telling me you can take on any monster in these woods?”
Zecora shrugged nonchalantly.
“Perhaps I could, it’s no mean feat,
But sometimes it’s wiser to retreat.
But if I’m forced, I guess I could.
For I know all about this wood.”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened in disbelief, and she planted herself in front of Zecora.
“Seriously? A cockatrice? Manticore? Hydra? Even a full grown dragon?!”
Zecora just walked past Rainbow nonchalantly.
“Even those I can’t defeat,
I make sure to know where they are weak,
But if my welcome I overstay,
I know how to escape and get away.”
Rainbow narrowed her eyes and stared after Zecora, trying to squeeze her into her perception of a pro fighter.
“Are you sure? You don’t look that strong, and those monsters are tough.”
Zecora stopped, sighed, and slumped her shoulders in frustration.Turning around, she leaned forward, staring Rainbow Dash straight in the eye, a hint of steel and thunder in her voice.
“Believe me or not, if you think best,
But if you put me to the test,
You’ll soon find out it is not wise,
To cause my anger to arise!”
Rainbow Dash quickly backed up at Zecora’s display. Locking eyes with her, Rainbow gritted her teeth, sorely tempted to see if she was bluffing. A small gust of wind made Rainbow look up through the waving branches at the darkening sky. Judging by the speed the clouds were moving at, Dash estimated they didn’t have much time left. Sighing, she looked away from Zecora.
“Okay, fine. Our time’s running out anyway. But you’re going to have to show me some of your moves sometime! If you really can take on anything here, I want to know how you do it!”
“A mirror? No way!”
It wasn’t much longer until Rainbow Dash and Zecora found themselves deeper in the forest. Rainbow’s limp was becoming more pronounced, and Zecora had to stop and help her out a few times over some of the rockier uphill patches. This had done nothing for Rainbow’s mood, as she kept switching between throwing angry glances at her injured legs and therefore useless wings, and worried looks at the blackening sky. Time was running out, and she needed that potion pronto! She was the leader of the weather team, and judging by increasing winds, this storm looked even worse than the first, if that was even possible. To keep her mind off of it, she had been pestering Zecora over how she dealt with the local beasts.
“Fluttershy said that a Cockatrice tried to turn her to stone! What are you going to do with a mirror? Hit it over the head with it?”
Zecora just gave Rainbow Dash a knowing smile as she helped her over a small boulder in the path. Scrambling over the rock, Rainbow glared at it and gave it an ineffectual kick, wincing as she put pressure on her bad leg to do so.
“It’s its gaze that petrifies, my little mare
A mirror will reflect the effects of its own stare.”
Rainbow paused and thought it over before shrugging and continuing on, leaning on Zecora’s shoulder a bit more as they walked.
“Huh. I guess that makes sense... Ow! How much longer is it until we find that plant? This is really starting to hurt!”
Zecora rolled her eyes as they turned around another bend in the path.
“The patch of herb of which we need,
Is not far off, so let’s make speed.
Keep a lookout in this dark gloom,
For thick red leaves and a violet bloom.”
The two walked along in silence, until the trees thinned out some more and opened up into a grassy clearing. What sun that filtered its way through the dark clouds overhead was a welcome relief to Rainbow Dash after too much time spent under the forest’s canopy. The sight of open sky lifted her spirits so much that she almost missed the fact that this clearing was covered in wildflowers, and even the trees were covered in vines with tiny colorful blossoms. A trio of fox kits played near the edge until their mother called them away back into the trees. Rainbow Dash slowly stepped into the clearing, marveling at the unexpected display of beauty.
“Whoa... I wasn’t expecting this! Man, Fluttershy would love this place!”
Zecora grinned from ear to ear as she watched Rainbow explore the clearing. Finally the impulsive pegasus understood! She started searching around in the clearing for their goal, when a shout of excitement from Rainbow caught her attention.
“Hey Zecora, I think I found them!”
She turned to see Rainbow Dash limp as fast as she could towards a cluster of numbweed flowers. Zecora started to shout a warning, but then Rainbow skidded to a halt in front of them. Rainbow threw Zecora a questioning and suspicious glance.
“Wait, wait. What’s the deal with this plant Zecora? You said you could grind it up into that potion, but is it going to do strange stuff to me for touching it like that Poison Joke did? Nothing in this place is completely harmless, is it?”
Zecora chuckled and walked over, delicately moving some of the plant’s broad leaves aside with a hoof. The edge of one leaf brushed against some grass, which fell to the ground neatly cut.
“You’re learning what you once had lacked,
To stop and think before you act!
You could have been hurt when you realised
These leaves are sharp as knives!”
Rainbow stared at the plant, puzzled. She reached forward one hoof and touched the tip of a leaf with care, snatching it back as it pricked her.
“Ow! You weren’t kidding! So... how do we gather it?.”
“You don’t dare, lest you be a fool
To gather this with the wrong tool.”
Leaning forward with practiced care, Zecora gently took hold of a leaf on the edge of the plant with her teeth, and plucked it off. Carefully repositioning the razor sharp leaf in her mouth, Zecora reared back and with a quick jerk of the head, flung it at the plant’s stem. Rainbow Dash jumped out of the way as the floral projectile whizzed by and neatly sliced through the numbweed plant’s stem. Rainbow Dash stared in astonishment while Zecora used another leaf to prepare the plant for transport.
“Whoa... that was pretty cool! You cut that plant with its own leaf! So... how much of this plant do you need to make the potion?”
Zecora finished stuffing the cleaned plant into her satchel and opened her mouth to answer when a fat raindrop splashed on her muzzle. Looking up into the sky, that one drop quickly turned into several more, and then into a light shower. Rainbow frantically looked into the sky, and saw the storm clouds were almost right overhead. The trees started to dance in the strengthening wind and thunder rumbled faintly from a distance. Zecora stomped a hoof and spat out an angry phrase at the sky in her native tongue.
“Rainbow Dash, you must go now
You must fly out, some way, somehow!”
Rainbow Dash looked around panicked. Limping around on three hooves, she tried to launch herself into the air, but ended up face-planting into the dirt again. Picking herself up, she looked up at the sky as the shower quickly intensified into full blown rain. Rainbow flapped her wings as hard as she could, knowing that it was in vain. Fear gripped her heart as she struggled for a way to get aloft.
“But I can’t take off! How in Equestria am I supposed to fly when I can’t even get into the air?! And if I can’t fly, then I can’t fight these clouds! And they need me! I just need to get airborne and then I’ll be fine! But I CAN’T!”
Limping around in circles, Rainbow wracked her brains trying to think of a solution. She gritted her teeth in frustration and held her head in her hooves before letting out a scream of anguish and flopping down on the soggy ground in despair, the rain masking any tears that she may have in her eyes.
“They need me. And I can’t help! Ponyville’s gonna get blown to pieces and it’s all gonna be my fault! I need to help them, but I can’t! I promised that I’d never leave Ponyville hangin’, but there’s nothing I can’t do if I can’t FLY! All because I got cocky and got myself wrapped around a tree! It’s all my fault!”
Zecora looked a bit stunned at Rainbow Dash sitting in the growing mud, now sniffling to herself quietly in the rain. This side of the cocky blue pegasus was new to her, and touched her sympathy. But now was not the time for comfort.
“Oh, little pony of rainbow hue,
Snap out of it, there’s a job to do!”
Rainbow Dash didn’t respond, but remained catatonic. Zecora shook her head and sighed. She didn’t like doing this, but the situation called for it. Reaching down, she picked Rainbow Dash up off the ground and shouldered her bad leg over her back.
“Rainbow Dash! Don’t just lay there! I didn’t think one of the greatest fliers in Equestria gave up this easily! You can still fly if we can get you into the air!”
Rainbow Dash blinked and stared at Zecora in surprise as the zebra led her back into the woods.
“Zecora, you stopped...”
“Well, I had to do something to snap you out of that funk you were in. Now hurry up, they need you in Ponyville!”
Rainbow Dash shook her head and cleared her head.
“Right! But I can’t fly. Wait, no. I can fly, I just can’t take off. If there was someplace high enough...”
Rainbow Dash’s eyes popped open as a stupid idea occurred to her.
“Say, Zecora, are there any cliffs around here?”
Standing on a cliff overlooking Ponyville and the surrounding countryside, Zecora and Rainbow Dash stood and watched as the Ponyville Weather Team gathered on the outskirts. Rainbow Dash swallowed nervously as she watched the clouds advance on the town.
“Zecora... I... I’m not sure if I can do this. That last storm tossed me aside like a leaf, and this one looks even worse! There’s no way I can beat it!”
Zecora just smirked and laid a hoof on Rainbow’s shoulder.
“If it’s too strong, and strength you lack,
You must find another tack.
Surely there is another way.
Just think of what you’ve seen today.”
Rainbow Dash furrowed her brow in determination, looking at the clouds.
“Right. A plan. I need a new plan I guess. What would an egghead like Twilight say...”
“Cumulonimbus is a towering vertical cloud (family D2) that is very tall, dense, and involved in thunderstorms and other inclement weather. Cumulonimbus originates from Latin: Cumulus "accumulated" and nimbus "rain". It is a result of atmospheric instability. These clouds can form alone, in clusters, or along a cold front in a squall line. They create lightning through the heart of the cloud. Cumulonimbus clouds form from cumulus clouds (namely from cumulus congestus) and can further develop into a supercell, a severe thunderstorm with blah blah blah...”
“Yeah... that’s not going to help me. Think, I need to think! How can we take out this storm? It’s a gigantic boomer! It’s just going to keep raining and blowing until it...”
Rainbow Dash’s ears perked up as an idea hit her. A wicked grin grew over her face as she the idea appealed to her more and more. Turning to Zecora, she flashed a smile and a quick wave.
“I got it! Thanks a lot for helping me out there. And showing me all that neat stuff! It really helped. I mean, REALLY helped. I’ll catch ‘ya later, I have a thunderstorm to kick!”
With a small jump, Rainbow Dash dived off the edge of the cliff. Plummeting towards the ground she quickly assumed a dive position. Flaring her wings and pulling up, she rocketed over the treetops towards the weather team, who were flying out towards the storm front. They were looking haggard and beat up from the last storm, but it looked like they were still flying. One of the lead pegasi gasped at Rainbow’s approach, and soon she was surrounded by the rest of the team.
“Rainbow Dash! Girls, look! Rainbow’s back! You’re okay! We were sure you were out of commission after that crash!”
Rainbow flashed a smile to her teammates and looked around at the crowd.
“Yeah, a little crash like that can’t keep me grounded for too long! But look, we don’t have much time, and this storm is even bigger than the last one! Listen close, because I have a plan!”
“You? You have a plan?”
Rainbow put her hooves on her hips and glared.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. But I had to think of something after getting tossed around like a tin can last time. So everybody listen up!”
The Weather Team quickly gathered around, waiting to hear what Rainbow had to say.
“Okay, first off, Flora! I need you to fly back to Ponyville and give a message to Twilight. Tell her to gather up as many unicorns as she can and watch the river and be ready. If this works, she’s going to have to deal with a lot of water. She’ll know what to do. The rest of you, follow me!”
Rainbow Dash sped off high into the sky with the rest of the team.
“Rainbow Dash, where are we going? The storm is over there!”
“I know! We’re taking the long way around. That boomer is too strong to take on head-on, believe me, I tried! And I’m not getting hurt a second time trying the same thing! We’re going around this thing! Make sure you don’t fly directly against the wind when we get close. Zig-zag against it if you have to. It’ll be longer, but you’ll need all the energy.”
It took a while, but the group finally made it toward the rear of the storm where Rainbow called a halt. Flying up with the group, they punched a hole up through the clouds into clear sky. Trying to maintain position in the high winds, she made sure everypony was present.
“Okay gals, here’s the plan! We’ve tried to fight against this thing, and that didn’t work. By the looks of it, you wore yourself to the bone trying to break it up. But you know what they say about boomers: ‘the fiercer they are, the shorter they last’! So we’re gonna make this thing rain itself out before it gets to Ponyville!”
Rainbow dove down and landed on the black storm clouds and started hopping up and down on it. Thunder crashed as she did so, but the color of that portion of cloud slowly began to lighten. The other ponies grinned as they got the idea, and they were soon bouncing on the clouds in every direction. Rainbow Dash spotted a few pegasi fighting to maintain their position in the fierce winds and she flapped over to them.
“Don’t fight the wind! Work with it instead! Keep working towards the front, and if you run out of cloud, go around and start again at the back!”
To illustrate, Rainbow spread her wings and started taking giant bounces across the thunderclouds, each bounce punctuated by a boom of thunder from below. The gale carried her along at exhilarating speeds, and she found herself laughing as she surfed the storm towards the front, stomping more rain out of the clouds with each step. It took a few minutes, but she soon reached the front and she ejected out of the storm front with a whoop. Catching her breath, she looked at the other pegasi that had followed her.
“Oh wow, that was awesome!”
“I know, I’ve never gone that fast before!”
“Let’s do it again!”
The small group of pegasi flew off around the storm to start the process over again. Looking down, Rainbow thought she saw Zecora far below at the forest edge. Rainbow waved at her, and Zecora waved back with a big proud smile on her face before putting her hood back up and walking back into the forest. But there was a lot more work, and fun, to do before she could rest, so Rainbow Dash hurried to catch up with the rest.
The next morning found a very sore, but satisfied, Rainbow Dash lying at home on her cloud bed. A quiet knock on the door made her open an eye and call for whoever it was to come in. She soon saw it was Fluttershy, who carried a parcel over to the bed.
“Are you feeling any better today, Rainbow Dash?”
Rainbow Dash just smiled and rolled over.
“Yeah, yeah, the ankle’s still sore, and my wings ache from all that flying, but it’s nothing that some rest can’t fix, right?”
Fluttershy smiled sweetly and nodded.
“Yes. You’ll be as right as rain if you just rest up some.”
Rainbow sat up and looked out a window at Ponyville down below.
“So, everyone down in town okay? I never got the chance to see. After all that storm surfing, it was all I could do to make it back home without collapsing.”
“Oh... um, yes. Everything is fine as far as I could tell. A little damage here and there to the buildings, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily. Twilight and the others did a great job keeping the river in its banks once all that rainwater rushed downstream from the forest. Oh! That reminds me, Zecora stopped by my place and asked me to give you this.”
Rainbow Dash looked over and grabbed the package. Opening it up, there was an earthen jug of some liquid and a note. Setting the jug aside, Rainbow unfolded the note.
“Dear Miss Rainbow Dash,
Well done battling the storm
You learned well this day
Here is the potion
The one that I promised you
May it ease your pain.
I hope you recall
These lessons in the future.
They will serve you well.
If you do need more
Potion or teaching from me
Feel free to come by.
Though I live alone
I always like company.
Beats rhymes and Haiku.”
Rainbow Dash gave Fluttershy a confused look.
“Oh, she writes poetry. How lovely!”
Rainbow Dash just shook her head and smiled.
“She talks in rhymes and writes in Haiku. I’ll never understand that zebra. Still, I may take her up on her offer once I rest up. Hanging out with her may be fun. She’s always full of surprises.”