My Little Pony: Secrets of Harmony
Prologue: Clouded Dreams
The clouded streets of Cloudsdale were an ethereal place at most times. As the pegasi made their way through it they could not know that within one structure nearby a very real, and long-brewing, argument was progressing.
“No, no, and one thousand times no young lady! How can you even think about it? Absolute nonsense!” yelled the cyan mare, her silver mane and tail frazzling as the conversation declined into a shouting match. Before her stood a white pony with the same silver hair, although a little bit shorter. Both were pegasi, and judging by their irritated looks, it could be assumed they had been arguing for quite a while.
“Weren't you the one who told me I was supposed to follow my dreams? And now that I finally realize what I wanna be, you don't even support me!” yelled the younger pony. The bigger one turned around to face her.
“Following your dreams and just being stubborn are two very different things! How can you even think in joining Canterlot's ranks...joining the military? I don’t want that!” yelled the mare.
The younger pony stepped back a little, a ferocity growing in her expression.
“Look, you have many good traits and you’ll have countless chances to use them. I'm sure a job as a mailpony or at the weather factory suits you better, and would make me feel much more at ease,” said the older pony with a sigh, receiving an irritated stare from the younger one in reply.
“I'm...I'm not living somepony elses dream! I wanna work for Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. I...I wanna be somepony special!” the smaller pegasus yelled again, grief already starting to do its work within her.
“But you're already somepony dear, somepony that will not put herself at risk, not if I have...”
The older pegasus was immediately interrupted by the younger one. “Stop thinking about yourself for once, Mom! You’ve always kept me from flying free, and now that I finally can choose my own path to follow, you...you keep me tied up! You...you’re not the one to decide what I want!” yelled the white pony. Having reached her limits, tears freely flowing from her eyes, she found herself wheeling around...running towards the door.
She managed to get out the door, barely hearing her mother's calls from behind. She quickly hid on the balcony above the entrance. A few moments later her mother emerged, yelling her name, taking off to look for her. As she listened to her mother’s cries she turned to look upon her own cutie mark. It was a perfectly symmetrical blue rose with four long tips, resembling a compass rose.
“If my name is Windy Rose...then why, with a compass mark...why am I forbidden to guide myself through my life...?” she said with a sob, nuzzling it.
She spent a few minutes there, making up her mind. She could easily go all the way to Canterlot by herself but the thought of leaving her mother behind, as difficult as their life together had become, was unbearable for her. But wasn't that dependency exactly what she hated so much? If she did, if she winged away, there would be no coming back. She spent some minutes thinking about it, letting her emotions settle.
“Wasn't I the one who said nopony could choose my destiny?” she asked herself, standing up on the balcony. “If there's no future for me here, not the one I desire, I will go look for it...and become what I wish. I shall be somepony...somepony Mom will be proud of,” she spoke to no pony but herself, determination filling her.
She hurriedly entered her house, running towards her room to grab her backpack. Although the journey to Canterlot wouldn't take a lot of time, it was better to be prepared. She quickly packed anything she thought she may need; a lantern, enough food for at least a few days, and of course she couldn't forget her compass. She hung it around her neck and once done she wrote a letter to her mother, leaving it on a table near the door before going out again, closing it behind her.
She looked up to the sky, bathing in the sun's radiance. That unmistakable feeling of nervousness before doing something for the first time was growing within her, and she knew to jump into it before doubt crept in.
“Wait for me Mom, wait here until my return. I give you my word, that I will become the pony I've always longed to be, and when you see me returning...you'll not regret letting me go in the least,” she thought, facing back towards her home.
A journey to pursue her dream, a truly worthwhile goal. Shedding one last tear, she set flight towards Canterlot, the capital of Equestria, her hopes fueled by her determination and the desire for a feeling of freedom.
Chapter 1: Happily Flying to the Crash Site
As much of an adventure as her idea sounded, Windy knew the way to Canterlot wasn't exactly the most perilous. There was a clear route for pegasi to follow if they intended to do so, meaning she was having a fairly easy time flying there. What excited her was to traverse it all on her own for the first time in her life.
The route was filled by pegasi of all imaginable colors, turning the clear white road into a constantly moving rainbow. Around her ponies were either talking to their partners or just minding their own business as they went. Others, mostly mailponies, were flying by in a rush, probably late with some delivery. The vivid scene calmed Windy, the nervousness of just moments ago dissipating from her as she went.
“Hah, nothing like a relaxing flight through the sky without somepony keeping you tied to her for a change,” thought Windy. Her peaceful flight, however, was abruptly interrupted.
“Look out!” shouted somepony above her. She looked up in alarm but couldn't get a glimpse of whoever was up there before they crashed into her. Both fell for quite a distance before Windy finally managed to regain control. She landed on a cloud, and her assailant landed nearby, though much less gracefully. As she looked to who had caused the accident, Windy noticed it was a gray colored pegasus with a cream mane. As this other pony stood up Windy had been about to complain, but couldn't even say a word after the other opened her eyes. Neither of them seemed focused on her, both apparently looking in random directions.
“Oh, I'm so sorry! I tried to turn around to avoid crashing into you, but...it didn't work as expected,” apologized the gray pony. Windy remained silent, incapable of staring away from the other's warped eyes. The other pegasus, noticing this, shook her head and closed her eyes. After a moment she opened them again, both eyes now staring at Windy. “Better?” asked the gray pegasus, giggling.
This shook Windy from her silence.
“Ah, I'm sorry for my rudeness, it's just that I've never seen...seen, something like that before. Oh, and...and don't worry about it, accidents happen,” shyly replied the white pony. They looked at one another, smiles growing on their faces. Both quickly shook hooves, turned, and prepared to take flight again. Windy, however, was stopped in mid-leap as the other pony let out a cry.
“Oh no! The letters!” shouted the pegasus. Looking down, Windy saw how several small white objects were slowly falling down, carried by the wind, the shape of the gray pony soon joining them. She turned around to face Canterlot, which was still at quite a distance away, and looked back to check the other pony.
She was having a hard time catching the falling letters, the wind was moving them in random directions, flipping and twirling them through the sky. She could hear the little worried noises, even at this distance, that the gray pony was making. The pathetic little sounds of concern, mixed with the indifference of the travellers around her made something move inside Windy. Sighing, she decided to help the poor mailpony.
It took a while, but they finally managed to recover all the letters. As they both stood upon another cloud the gray pegasus organized her bags. “Thank you so much. I would be as good as fired if I had lost any of these letters. Most of them are from important families at Canterlot,” said the gray pony, gasping for air after the effort of collecting all the letters. Windy held them while she put them back in place inside her mail bag. As she saw the names on the letters that rested on her hooves, she noticed a peculiar one. It looked more like a scroll. As she read the sender and receiver's names, she gasped.
From: Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia's pupil.
To: Celestia, Princess of Equestria.
Twilight Sparkle, the Royal Designate. The Princess. Wow.
“I think you forgot to deliver one, one for Canterlot,” said Windy, gingerly handing over the letter. As the other pony checked it, she also gasped. “Oh hayseed, this isn't my best day for certain...” complained the gray pony, putting the letter in the front of her bag.
“I thought I heard Twilight Sparkle had a dragon assistant that sent all her letters to the princess,” said Windy, her curiosity growing. The other pony nodded, confirming this, and prepared to fly once more. However, as she had nodded her eyes had moved back to the same warped expression as before. Thankfully, Windy had an idea growing in her mind, and so ignored that detail.
“Wait! Wait...do, do you plan to go back to Canterlot?” asked the white pony. “Well, of course, I can't make the princess wait for her mail. Were, were you heading that way?” answered the wall-eyed pony.
Windy nodded, feeling there was no need to explain her situation.
“Wanna come with me? I would feel at more ease with a companion at my side, especially after what just happened,” offered the gray pegasus with a happy expression.
Windy couldn’t help but smile back. “I’m...I’m Windy Rose,” she offered. Yet even as she spoke the words the eyes of the pegasus before her slowly rotated farther out of whack.
“Nice to meet you, Windy Rose! I am Ditzy Doo, but everyone calls me Derpy Hooves, I guess you can imagine why,” replied the gray pony with a small blush. Her eyes were making the situation quite awkward for Windy and yet, as much as she wanted to ask the reason for their waywardness, it certainly wouldn't have been very polite to ask.
Apart from Ditzy Doo crashing against another passersby, the journey to Canterlot was pretty quiet. Windy's boredom vanished once she finally got a glimpse of the capital. She had never been there before, but heard stories about how amazing it was. Upon seeing it unveiled before her eyes none of the stories, she thought, did justice to its majesty. The large buildings, the waterfalls cascading, the large squares with several ponies enjoying the day. It truly deserved to be called the capital of Equestria.
“Heh, you sure look a lot like me right now,” said Ditzy, giggling at Windy's astonished expression.
“And I thought Cloudsdale was a big place. It makes me feel so small just to stand here!” exclaimed Windy excitedly. She wanted to explore, to see everything the city had to offer to any newcomer. However, she quickly remembered the reason of why she had traveled there, and awakened of her daydreaming. “Say Ditzy, you said you had to deliver a letter for the princess, right? Mind guiding me to the palace then, please? I also have some business there,” requested Windy.
Ditzy gave her a concerned look in reply, and when the gray pegasus spoke it was with hesitation. “I...don't mind at all, but I doubt any of us will even get past the entrance at this time of day.” Ditzy pointed to the mountains beyond as she said this, and Windy instantly understood what she meant. The sky was already colored orange by the setting sun, and the streets were already emptying, all the shopkeepers were starting to close up and call it a day.
“We’d better get going before the post office leaves us outside too,” proposed Ditzy. She didn't wait for Windy's answer and started running, the white pony resigned to follow her. One more day wouldn't hurt, and besides, she could explore the city tomorrow, so it wouldn’t be that bad to delay her affairs for a little bit.
Time was pretty much all she had now.
They ended up outside the post office, a massive building, larger than what Windy had expected. Though it wasn’t that busy, she imagined, due to the time of the day. Only a few pegasus ponies were coming and going from the upper shafts, the impression more like a beehive than an Equestrian building. Inside it was almost the same, with only a few pegasus ponies putting their mailbags away and leaving, already rejoicing in the end of another day of work. Windy remained close to Ditzy as they walked, the second pony greeting her comrades as they passed by. They arrived at the counter, or more accurately, the door to it.
“Hey Derpy, already done with your last run? I was sure you had quite a bunch of letters to deliver before nightfall,” greeted an emerald green pegasi behind the counter. She was putting some letters inside the mailbags that hung all around, preparing them for tomorrow's deliveries.
“I did! There's still a letter I have to deliver to the castle, so I had to come back,” replied the gray pony. The other one raised an eyebrow. “You don't mean that one Miss Twilight Sparkle sent yesterday, right?” asked the green pony. Ditzy nodded. “We received the message here, since her assistant is busy with some official business in the city. Just leave it here and I'll take care of it, there's one last carriage going to the castle before we finish for the night, so don't worry about it.” Ditzy sighed in relief after hearing this, giving the letter to her workmate, placing her mailbag among the others.
“Say Derpy, who's your companion? I haven't seen her around here before,” asked the green pegasus. “Oh, silly me. I met her on my way to Ponyvile, she pointed out that I was missing that letter to deliver,” replied the pegasus, giving some space for Windy to be seen. The other pony gave her a quick glance, and stared back to Ditzy. “Let me guess, you bumped on her while flying, didn't you? Derpy Hooves, as far as I know, crashing onto random passersby isn't the best way to introduce yourself,” said the green pony, bluntly.
Seeing how this comment affected Ditzy, Windy came to her aid. “It wasn't her fault, I was so distracted that I didn't notice her.” The green pony stared at her with an examining look. Windy wasn't exactly good at lying, and she could tell the other pony didn't believe any of it. The other mare sighed after a moment, putting away the letter for the princess.
“Whatever floats on your cloud young one. The sun is almost set, and something tells me neither of you have a place to stay, especially since you're hanging it up for today, Derpy. Feel free to use the dorms at the back,” concluded the pegasus, returning to her business. Sighing in relief, both ponies crossed the counter to reach an open door behind the receiving rooms. A sign above it read 'Dorms', and they tiredly made their way within.
The room was filled with beds, furniture, and a table with several dishes, all filled with greens and sweets. They weren't the only ones there; a few more ponies, not only pegasi, but also unicorns and earth ponies as well also occupied the room, chit-chatting among themselves. For mere dorms, the place sure had luxuries that Windy didn't even have in her own house.
“Pretty tidy for a post office, right? Anypony that doesn't have a place to pass the night is free to stay here. Make yourself at home,” cheerfully said Ditzy. She didn't need to say it twice, and even if she did, it wouldn't have been necessary. Windy was already by the side of the table, feasting on apples. “Sho dashty!” exclaimed the white mare, her mouth full of food. With all the events of the day, she had only just realized how hungry she was. Meeting with Ditzy Doo was, definitely, the best thing that could’ve happened to her. Her food supply would empty in no time if this is how hungry she got from one day on the road, a belief further confirmed by her rumbling belly. Of course, she was way too busy eating to care, although she was already attracting the stares of everypony around.
“Ah, so good. Those were the best apples I've ever eaten!” said a satisfied Windy, sitting on the floor while rubbing her tummy. “You sure took to heart my tip of making yourself at home. It's the first time I’ve seen somepony serving herself like that,” giggled Ditzy. Windy innocently smiled to this, blushing. “Say, I've been wondering since we arrived here, why do you want to go to the castle so badly? You don't look like the type that has business there, no offense,” asked Ditzy as she munched on a muffin she had picked from a group on the table.
Der...Ditzy had already helped her so much...she was owed something. Windy had to answer that kindness somehow. “All right, guess there's nothing wrong in sharing my story with you. Let's have a seat...this might take a little while,” said Windy reluctantly. Word of her disappearance would be spreading by now, and the last thing she wanted was to shock her new compatriot by having her mother jumping out of nowhere to bring her back home.
“So, you left your home to pursue your dream of being part of Canterlot's Royal Guard?”, asked Ditzy, her voice just above a whisper and unsure, looking around to the surrounding ponies.
Windy nodded at the question.
“At least...do you know in what you're getting into?” asked Ditzy. The white pegasus gulped, unable to answer. The truth was that she didn't have any idea of what kind of work it was...just that it seemed, respectable. “Umm...protecting the ponies of Equestria...and the princess?” answered Windy, doubt in her voice. Ditzy sighed in return, unintentionally making the other pegasus feel even worse. “You won't be getting anywhere if you keep thinking that. The Royal Guard are almost all stallions, Windy, and they’re all big ponies...and you...you’re...”
Hearing that was like having a munch of dry grass for the white mare, reducing her already low moral even more. Ditzy coughed a little, calling for her attention. “However, it would be perfectly possible if you intend to join the regular army. Especially the pegasus units. They overlook the city and are in charge of surveying and scouting the surroundings of it. The most skillful ones guide large groups through thick fog and such,” said Ditzy. Windy perked up upon hearing this. “Do you know what kind of pegasi they look for for that last job?” she asked, jumping forward with a grin. Ditzy had to back up a little at her sudden reaction.
“Well...those with a great sense of direction and flying control are the preferred ones. I don't fit in that description for sure,” replied Ditzy, laughing at her own joke, but Windy was way too immersed in her own thoughts to listen. She was quite confident of her flying skills, and even though she wasn't the fastest pegasus around, following a route through a clouded sky was more than feasible for her.
“Somepony here seems to have a plan in mind,” said Ditzy. The white pony smiled in return, confirming the gray one's thoughts. They spent the rest of the night talking about Ditzy. Her stories were, definitely, much merrier than what she had to say. Her strange way of delivering letters, how she ended up going north to get the southern birds during one of Ponyville's Winter Wrap-Ups, when she accidentally dropped an entire carriage during a delivery, and the uproar it caused when the post office discovered everything fell on the designate pony...Twilight Sparkle. Thankfully for her, the princess never got to know about that last incident, or she would've ended up being fired. They continued until a worker came to turn off the lights, telling everypony to go to bed.
“How lucky that we met up back there on your way to Canterlot. It's always nice to make new friends,” said Ditzy, yawning. Wishing her a good night, the gray pegasus went to sleep, leaving Windy with her thoughts again. The white pony replied, “Sweet dreams, Ditzy” and listened as the pegasus slipped off to sleep. She had enjoyed Ditzy Doo's company. Even though she desired freedom so much, she knew freedom and solitude were very different things. After everything that had happened, making a new friend in her journey was, truly, a heartwarming surprise, one to be appreciated.
Chapter 2: The Fleeing Dreamer
Sunlight was entering through the windows of the post office, some beams falling right on Ditzy Doo's face. She yawned, greeting with an unusual happiness the new day. She watched the bed at her right, where Windy Rose was still sleeping, chuckling at the sight. It was like watching a filly take a nap. Noticing that almost everypony from the previous night wasn't there anymore, she also got up. With a stretch she too left her bed, prepared for another day of work. She left a note with directions to the castle, as well as encouragement, at Windy’s side before leaving.
“Oh, look who finally decided to join us,” was the first thing Ditzy heard after leaving the dorms. It was the same pony from yesterday, a mailbag already on the counter at her side. Ditzy's name was written on it. “I convinced the supervisor to avoid adding today’s lot to it, but you better be done with this one today. I don't want her biting off my tail over your issues,” she teased with a smile. The gray pegasus giggled, her blush revealing her embarrassment.
Saying goodbye, she went to the entrance to begin with her day. Her chipper mood was burst apart when this opened suddenly, hitting her square in the muzzle. A cyan pegasus came through it, and upon getting a glimpse of Ditzy, who was lying on the floor and caressing the tip of her muzzle, immediately began to apologize. “Oh! Ah, I...I'm sorry, I didn't intend to hit you,” apologized the mare over and over, helping Ditzy to stand. Ditzy waved her hoof, telling her not to worry, but she still looked quite worried...something else bothered her.
Also, thought Ditzy, she looked vaguely familiar...
“Oh my...your eyes! A-are you all right?” said the pegasus, shock growing in her expression. She could guess what was worrying the mare. “Oh, don't worry about the eyes, it's natural. What's with the hurry anyway? Do you have a letter to send by express or some such thing? I work here, so I can handle it if that's it.”
Ditzy's words brought back the mare to reality. “Oh, no, it's not that, but I could use a little bit of help,” said the cyan pony, pulling out a small picture from her saddlebag. “Have you seen this pony by any chance? She's lost, and I've been looking for her since yesterday,” asked the worried pony. After having a small glimpse of the picture she understood why the mare looked so familiar. The image depicted the same cyan pegasus, and at her side stood a slightly smaller one.
The mane, the color, and the cutie mark, all of them were the same as the ones that adorned her new friend. At once Ditzy remembered the conversation she had last night with the pony who now slept not two doors away.
The words of that conversation flew through Ditzy’s mind as she looked into the worried eyes of the pony before her.
“I have to say your tale sounds like some kind of epic quest,” said Ditzy as she kept munching the muffins on her plate. “Even so, you shouldn't push yourself too much, I'm sure your mom is really worried for you.” The words painfully struck Windy. She didn't want to worry her mother more than needed, but she couldn't allow her to meddle with her affairs, and she was sure she was looking for her by now.
Windy flipped her compass over and over, thinking. She placed it in her backpack and turned back to the grey mare.
“Ditzy...about that, I would like to ask you to keep my whereabouts secret. She'll probably start looking for me here in Canterlot, so I can't allow her to catch me before I finish this,” begged the pony.
Ditzy smiled, lifting her head.
“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” Windy's reply to these rush of words was a confused stare.
“It means that I promise to keep your secret safe. I heard it back in Ponyville, but I finally got to use it! So, no need to worry my friend,” explained the gray pegasus. Friend, such a heartwarming word. It made each of them very happy to name the other as a friend.
Ditzy snapped back to the moment, felt some small panic. What to do? She grasped for some half-truth to latch onto, not wanting to lie...yet not wanting to betray her new friend.
“Have...have you tried asking around the main square, or maybe looking at the castle? It's...it’s, likely you’d get some useful information there,” explained Ditzy to the mare. She felt butterflies in her stomach as she watched the effect her words caused on the cyan pegasus. The disappointment of a mother...the pain was very real.
“I...I see. Sorry for wasting your time, and thanks...” said the mare before turning around.
“Ma’am!” called Ditzy. At once the pegasus turned back, and Ditzy tried to speak as those eyes looked to hers again. “If...if you have another picture...I’d, I’d be happy to keep one of my eyes out for her.”
As Ditzy smiled the pegasus, understanding the joke, returned the gesture. Fishing out a poster which showed an unmistakable Windy Rose and giving it to Ditzy the worried mother stepped away and left the post office.
After seeing for certain that the pegasus had left, and abandoning all discretion, Ditzy ran for the dorms. Her rather unique appearance was well known all around Canterlot, and she was sure it was only a matter of time until the mare found out her daughter was with her. Just as soon as she saw Windy, who was still slumbering in the sunlight, she jumped upon and over her.
“Wakey, wakey, wakey! This is your alarm call! Not the time for sleeping!” said the desperate Ditzy, violently shaking her friend. The poor white pony couldn't answer, in fact could barely breathe, from the mix of the motion and the surprise of her friend awaking her so suddenly. Ditzy's eyes derping disconcertedly didn't help either. “Gah! For Celestia's sake Ditzy, what's going on!?” said a pissed Windy once she had managed to set herself free from Ditzy's grasp. “It's...it's her! She has come all the way from Cloudsdale looking for you, and she's already here in the city!” called the gray pony, pressing the poster to Windy’s face.
Windy felt like she’d eaten a rotten apple. Her friend didn't state who was looking for her, but she didn't need to. If her mother found her, she would be forced to return home, and guessing how worried she was she probably wouldn't have an easy time of it.
“Where...where is she right now...?” asked the pegasus with a trembling voice. “I sent her to the main square. That should give you enough time to flee.” The gray mare noticed those last words were painful to hear for her friend, and she understood why. “Look, I know you still have unfinished business here, but if you really want to accomplish your dream, you'll have to step back for now. Your best bet is to go to Ponyville...just for the moment,” said Ditzy, trying to comfort her.
Seeing her friend was still doubtful, she put her saddlebag on her, awakening her from her thoughts. Both pegasus exchanged stares of sadness. They had just met, and now they had to part ways. “Ditzy...thank you for you help. I...couldn't ask for a better friend,” said Windy before quickly taking off through the window. She could see Ditzy's smiling, waving her hoof as she leapt outside.
The window led her directly to the roof of the post office. Since the main square was just a few meters from there, she decided to get away by hoof first. Soon she saw her decision was for the best; a cyan pegasus was galloping towards the post office. She immediately recognized that silver mane. Luckily, the bushes at the side of the building were big enough to hide her, although this didn't prevent her from hearing her mother yelling as she burst inside the building.
“Where is she!? I know she’s here! Everypony in this city saw you with her!”
Filled with remorse, she quickly fled from the place towards the square. At least now she had her way free, and the square connected directly to the different routes to the other cities. The looks she received from all the ponies that came and went were enough for her to realize her mother had been asking around, but that wouldn't be a problem. Unless she had spoken to a guard, everything would be all right.
Thinking things will go as planned, however, is the last thing a pony should do
“Citizen! Young lady! Stop right there!” called a large stallion. The gray guardspony stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of her, and as she skidded to a stop he occupied the entirety of the path, instantly blocking her route to the road that lead down into Ponyville. The golden armor that sat on the gray stallion reflected light into her eyes, and she struggled to look at him. “Miss, are you aware that you fit the description of a missing foal...”
Windy fought to retain her self-control, to drive down her nervousness. As she felt his eyes moving over her she fought for words. “Do, do I look like a foal to you, sir?”
“Well, miss, I’ve got to say...you don’t look like a foal, mostly...” said the guardspony, looking her up and down, trying, she could tell, to compare her to his memory of the photo or poster her mother had undoubtedly presented to him. She felt his eyes coasting over her body once again, new it was only a matter of seconds before he detained her...then came mother, then came Cloudsdale.
As Windy felt his breath as he looked at her mark a thought jumped into her mind. His honor. Attack his honor. “Mister,” she said, painting worry and fear into her voice, “If you examine me much more thoroughly I’m gonna to scream for help at the top of my lungs!”
The guardspony stopped so suddenly that his armor half spun around his head, leaving it lopsided. His eyes were as wide as serving dishes, and in an unguardspony like tone of worry he spoke to her in supplicant tones. “Miss! Miss I..I’m just...I...I didn’t mean to...”
He immediately stepped aside, bowing slightly. Recovering himself he said, “Please, be on your way, Citizen.”
Holding her head high Windy pranced by. “I’ve got a green light now...nothing can stop me...I just have to be down this road and I’m free...” she thought, smirking to herself.
“Oh miss, there you are! There was this white pegasus that was desperately looking for you!” said a random passerby. She turned around just as an awful shiver crossed her spine.
She caught sight of the guardspony again, and it was obvious that had heard the words so easily spoken by the passerby. The Royal Guards, Windy knew, practiced very hard to control their emotions. Therefore, she concluded, the look that crossed his face (which was not unlike somepony trying to pass a hot oven mitt through his excretory system) probably was the closest that they allowed themselves to something approaching unconcealed rage.
It was a blessing he was a unicorn and not a pegasus, as he was galloping at full speed towards her. In a few steps she was in the air, safely out of his reach, though not for his lack of trying.
“Okay, that didn't go as planned...” thought Windy as she finally got out of the city, ignoring the yelling behind her. At least now she was safe from her mother's reach, even if just for a moment. However, this reminded her how she managed to escape in time, and she gulped at the thought of Ditzy being yelled by the cyan pony. She prayed that her friend wouldn't get in trouble. And there was also her own current issues to deal with.
“This is bad, really, really bad. How am I supposed to get into the castle now?” she asked herself after flying for a while, watching the now small city over the mountains. Going back at the moment wasn't even an option, and ponies were probably also looking for her back at Cloudsdale. It seemed that, for the meantime, Ponyville was the only place left to hide. Giving one last look to Canterlot, she set off towards the small town.
The sky was now no longer her friend. It was undoubtedly full of pegasi who were becoming aware of her disappearance, and it was far too open to the eyes of both Cloudsdale and Canterlot. No, the long road along the surface was now her only chance to reach Ponyville, and as her hooves touched down on it she suddenly felt very heavy.
The road was relatively deserted compared to the sky routes leading to and from Cloudsdale. Thankfully, the scenery of the lush green prairies around, and the sight of the Whitetail Wood to the south was charming enough to keep Windy entertained. Half flying and half walking she made her way along the road in the early morning light.
The journey took her quite some time, as the sun was already well up in the sky by the time she saw some buildings at the horizon. She saw the city of Ponyville rising behind some small hills. Having risked some flight she landed once the sight appeared, but stopped right there. Just how safe was it to venture into a new place after what had happened? She had been responsible for a small ruckus back at Canterlot, and that guard saw her enroute to Ponyville. It would be only a matter of time until somepony arrived to come looking for her. If she could just wait two or three days somewhere else...
She turned around, seeing the deep Whitewail Wood raising behind her. The place was well-known among ponies and rich in resources, in fact it was abundant to the point many made a living out of collecting what the trees had to offer. It wasn’t, however, a warm shower or a bunk with bowls of apples laid out nearby. Still...better than nothing. Feeling somewhat down that she wouldn't be sleeping in a comfortable bed that night she entered the forest.
Windy gasped as the forest greeted her with its trees covered by a lush green coat of leaves. The road was perfectly clean, some flowers blooming by the side. The chirping of the birds added to the charming sight, perfectly stating why the woods were so well known around Equestria. With her spirit revitalized by the wondrous sight, she started to look for a good place to build her camp.
The pegasus had to go deep into the forest to find a suitable place to build a shelter. She found the perfect spot below a bent tree, offering a natural roof. A few leaf-covered branches did the trick to properly prepare it, and some soft mosses worked as a natural bed. She had enough food supply for four days, and there was a small stream flowing close by, so she was pretty much set to stay. It looked rather comfortable in fact. Much like the ones she’d built with him...
It was already dusk by the time she was done preparing her camp, and was now munching a sap-covered apple. She had taken just a little bit of sap, collected s it was in the in a bucket, making sure to leave a coin at the side. The sun bathed the place with an orange light, giving space for the moon to raise. Seeing both celestial bodies working in unison reminded her of the reason of why she wanted to join the ranks of Canterlot. Thanks to Ditzy, now she knew her goal was perfectly feasible. Just a few more days, and she would finally be able to accomplish her dreams.
“I hope my future is as bright as this starry sky. Your nights never cease to amaze me Princess Luna,” said Windy, watching the stars and the moon, covering the place with a beautiful silver light. Even if the day was nice because it was full of emotions and adventure, the night had been always her favorite time of the day. The light of the moon reflected on her mane, making it sparkle like the sky. Tired and yawning, she laid on the bushes, preparing for sleep.
“Mom, don't worry about me, I promised you I will be fine. Dad, please, watch me from the heavens, watch how your daughter will become just as brave and righteous as you,” she softly spoke, caressing the compass hanging on her neck. A tear fell on the crystal, just as she was enveloped in a peaceful slumber.
Chapter 3: Dark Clouds
“I guess I’m set,” spoke Windy, looking over the small clearing that had been her home for the last two days. As a new day broke through the Whitetail Woods she had finished gathering up her gear, had safely stored away the last of her food reserves, and hidden the evidence of her presence.
The ponies walking the nearby road had not mentioned her, there was no mention of a missing pony on their lips as she had spied on them. With that, Windy guessed, she was free to head down into nearby Ponyville. Checking to make sure her compass was safely around her neck she headed out onto the road.
As the forest came quite close to the village flying there was hardly a task. As she coasted over the last hill the first impression Windy had of the city was quite different from what she had expected. The city center was filled with all kinds of ponies happily making their way through its cobbled streets. She could hardly canter about as it was, and as the square filled with all kinds of ponies trotting around it only seemed to become more amazing to her.
In one way, at least, it was just like Canterlot...everypony was going about their business. One thing was certainly different, however...the mixing of the different Equestrian races among the ponies that came and went was evident. This was not a “unicorn town” or a “pegasus town”, it was just, well, a town.
The second thing to unnerve Windy was the constant outpouring of kindness. As they smiled and nodded the white pegasus felt somewhat awkward with the greetings. She was constantly receiving “Hello’s” and “Hey’s”. It was as if all of them knew everypony living there. Not accustomed to all that attention, and knowing that it didn’t quite fit with keeping a low profile, she decided to set flight.
“This just won't do. I don't even know what am I supposed to do now!” she thought aloud as she coasted over the thatched roofs and tents of the small city. Windy was right to an extent; even if she did manage to avoid being caught by her mother, there was no way she could return to Canterlot anytime soon, and being all alone in an unknown place wasn't a very promising situation.
Her mind raced back to the last time she had received help, and a familiar, and very distinct, face entered her memory.
“I know, Ditzy Doo!” she cried aloud to no pony, remembering that the gray pegasus was supposed to have delivered mail to Ponyville. Although that was supposed to have been days ago she hoped against hope that her friend would still be in town, that her route had brought her back.
She scanned the cityscape beneath her, the organic layout of Ponyville’s streets becoming evident. With a loop she selected a building, guessing at it’s purpose, and entered the post office.
The place wasn't as big as the one in Canterlot, and for good reason: there were very few ponies there, counting the ones attending to each patron. She got close to one, a gray stallion with a black mane, one that didn't seem to be so busy.
“Umm...excuse me sir, I'm looking for somepony by the name of Ditzy Doo. Is she by any chance here?” asked the mare, nervously. The big stallion returned a serious stare, intimidating her horribly, but he spoke with a fairly calm voice. “You mean our Derpy Hooves, right? She left not so long ago. She had to deliver a package to the dressmaking shop, so she still should be around the south of town.” Thanking him for the information, Windy left the place. She wanted to make sure to catch her friend in time. The pegasus, she realized, was the only ray of hope she had.
In moments Windy was in the air again, looking for anything that could be a dress shop. Flying above the town in circling loops and at full speed she found the most likely candidate for being the place in question. A tall, white building adorned with all kinds of glittering objects rose eloquently from the street, and right in the entrance a gray figure was preparing to jump into flight.
Windy’s heart soared as though it were as carried on the same winds that lifted her into the endless sky.
“Ditzy, wait up!” shouted Windy, turning over into a dive. The gray pony looked up, wondering who had called to her.
“Oh, Ditzy!” spoke Windy, landing awkwardly and trotting directly up to the gray pegasus, placing her forelock to that of her newest friend. “I was afraid I might miss you...I got, got here just in time.”
The white pegasus felt something tug at her, knew she was becoming emotional. Fighting it down she looked up to Ditzy, the joy at being with her friend again perhaps more than she had anticipated. As she looked at Ditzy, though, it all at once disappeared. Ditzy's smile was quite dim and there was something odd in her expression.
At once Windy was able to guess.
“Oh please, tell me nothing bad happened to you back in Canterlot,” she said, worried that her acts had ended up affecting somepony else, had gotten her new friend in trouble. Ditzy, however, simply waved her hoof, telling her not to worry.
“Just a little bit of scolding, and... nothing too serious. However, your mom almost left me deaf with all of her yelling,” said the gray mare jokingly. Windy sighed in relief, seeing that most likely nothing serious had happened if she had been able to make a joke of it.
Ditzy’s eyes focused on Windy in a moment of clarity. “You know that she’s worried sick about you, right? Windy, your mother?”
Windy looked down, pawed at the ground, turned her head. “I...I left her a note, saying not to worry...”
Colorful ponies, some donkeys, and even a peryton passed by. As Windy fought for words the city of Ponyville flowed past them, and soon she lifted her head to face Ditzy again.
“So, how are things going in Canterlot right now? Do you think it's safe to return and try again?” asked Windy, completely subverting the situation. Ditzy's smile disappeared upon hearing this. “I'm...not going to lie to you dear, but you'd be flying towards the dragon's mouth if you go right now. There's already a notice of your disappearance in the bulletin board at the post office...one of the posters. Luckily for you they think you returned to Cloudsdale...at least according to what a guard said.” The white pony sighed in response; the last thing she needed was another hassle on her hooves.
“I'm sorry that I’m only bringing you bad news, I just wish that I could have been more of a help to you,” apologized Ditzy. “No, no, it's not your fault. I should have known better, should have thought harder about what I was getting into. I really appreciate your support so far,” replied Windy. What was worrying her right now wasn't her current situation, but the reason why there was such an odd feeling around her friend.
“Ditzy, is something wrong? You don't look so good, or not as well as before at least.”
The gray pony stepped back a little, forcing a grin onto her face. “No, not at all, I was just worried that you might have been caught or something. I'm so relieved that you're fine,” she replied.
Windy, however, wasn't convinced at all.
Ditzy didn't look like the type of pony who would lie, but then again she had “stretched the truth” to Windy’s own mother. She sensed she was hiding something. Her eyes had remained focused on her all the time that they had been speaking, something she hadn't done before. It was this pony alone in whom such an expression was unusual, and Windy knew it.
“If you’ll excuse me, Windy, I still have a lot of mail to deliver today. I'm already quite delayed, and I can't make all the good ponies here wait! Hey, good luck, look for me at the post office if you need something...anything else,” said Ditzy, a flash of sadness crossing her face as she looked at the younger white pegasus.
Slowly Ditzy leaned in, rested her forelock to Windy’s, and with a painted smile lifted off into the sky, leaving her friend alone in front of the boutique. Windy waved her hoof, saying goodbye as Ditzy sped out of earshot. She decided to leave the matter for now. Whatever was bothering Ditzy nothing could be done anyhow. Her priority was to find a place to stay for the time being. And she had to do it fast, as clouds were starting to fill the sky.
This in itself was no real problem, rain happens after all. If it was scheduled to happen, it happens. It was only when Windy overheard some passing ponies that something moved in her gut.
“Wait, when did those clouds started to appear? It was sunny just now.”
The native pegasus part of her, the part that knew about weather, twitched. This was unexpected? She felt a chill go up her back, and it wasn’t just contemplative in nature.
The sunlight evaporated entirely, and cold seemed to flow down around her. Above her clouds, deep and black, rolled in a sky that moments before had been azure and endless. She wasn't the only one wondering about it: the other ponies around were also staring to them, confused. “Wait...wasn’t it supposed to be sunny today?” asked a mare. “How weird, it just rained a few days ago, it shouldn't be necessary for another downpour.” Everypony around was asking about this occurrence, especially the pegasi.
In Windy’s eyes it was an aberration...the weather was moving by itself, her people, the pegasi, having nothing to do with it. It confirmed that this wasn't normal. Something was wrong. Fear grew in Windy and she quickly looked around her. She was still standing before the charming building. A cold wind whispered up the street and at once she was filled with unease. Windy quickly entered the shop, pulling the door open quickly and shutting it tight behind.
The place was quite tidy and clean, beautifully decorated like a top-notch boutique. Sadly, perhaps, the place was empty. She approached a window to check what was happening outside. Some ponies were running, looking for shelter from the rain, but most didn't have any hurry at all, and Windy understood why. The weather was awfully cloudy, but no rain was pouring down. Even the usual warmth of the day seemed to have returned.
“Talking about unfortunate events, it seems somepony at the weather factory screwed up badly today,” thought the pegasus.
“And what’s so interesting out there, darling?”
Windy turned around, surprised by the sudden voice. She saw it belonged to a white unicorn. Her deep purple mane was so beautifully groomed that the pegasus guessed it was a matter of scheduling and determination to achieve the effect.
“I was seeking some shelter from the rain. Sorry for my intrusion,” apologized Windy. The unicorn approached the window to check outside. “Well, it certainly looks awfully gloomy out there, but the dirt you’re wearing is perfectly dry.”
It took Windy a second to understand was being implied, but as the unicorn examined Windy and her disheveled appearance she suddenly understood. Camping for those three days had worked, but it hadn’t been a spa vacation. “Actually,” continued the unicorn, “it is just as dry as your fashion sense. No offense dear, but you look just like a...filthy work mule.”
Windy felt her eyes falling. She turned to leave, but the unicorn had not stopped speaking, and her words lifted Windy’s eyes once more.
“Just look at that glittering silver mane, gorgeous...countless possibilities, all gone to waste! Now I understand why you really came here. Not to worry, I will correct that in an instant,” said the unicorn, picking several tools to work with Windy’s hair from a nearby desk.
Before she could correct the unicorn Windy was subjected to the amazing sensation of a stranger running a brush through her mane. As the soft sounds of the brush filled the shop Windy began to look for words.
“Excuse me but...how much is this going to cost me?” asked the pegasus, shuddering a bit when the sudden spray of water from the spray bottle washed over her.
“My life is spent trying to bring beauty into the world, dear. Fashion mostly, but this as well, and perhaps a favor done now will become a sale later, perhaps? In short, the first one is always free...”
Windy heard the words, and as she listened she watched the unicorn make her progress in the mirror. As she did she felt a reminiscence come over her. Suddenly she was a foal again, and her mother was brushing her mane...her mother...
“Dear?” spoke the unicorn. Windy awoke from her memory to her own reflection in the mirror.
“Oh my...” said Windy as she checked her image. Her hair, usually straight, now had similar waves than those of the unicorn at her side. She usually just brushed her hair to keep it straight, but never thought that this style would look so good on her. “It's...it's...” She couldn't finish the phrase before the unicorn spoke for her. “Splendid! Of course that it is...Rarity only creates splendor. You even have quite fine hair to work with...there was no way I could let all its grace go to waste.”
Windy looked back to the pony in the mirror. It was beautiful. Dirty, perhaps, certainly tired...but beautiful. Windy turned and stared at the unicorn, not knowing what to say.
At once the unicorn put her hoof to her cheek, and her mouth dropped open, and she gasped.
“Oh my, where are my manners? I'm Rarity, owner of this boutique, the best one in Ponyville, modesty aside. Not that there are any others around...”
Windy smiled, receiving the same from Rarity. “Thank you, thank you for letting me shelter here...and for this...” she said, bouncing her mane.
“Could hardly of allowed it to get wet, dear,” spoke Rarity.
The two looked to the window, and to their surprise there was no rain pelting it. One thing was for sure though: the weather outside was behaving in a very strange way. There where so many clouds that there was no sunlight at all anymore, darkening the entire horizon. It was as if the night had already arrived.
“How often does this happen around here?” asked the pegasus as both left the building to check outside. By now, the entire area was enveloped by a deep darkness, to the point lights had to be lit for everypony to walk around. Aside of this though, everything seemed normal. Ponies were still busy with their affairs, either selling their merchandise or just strolling around, only the faces lifted to the skies and whispered comments from the crowd betraying the presence of the darkened skies.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Rarity, who had followed Windy in her confusion. “Well, except for Nightmare Moon’s eternal night...”
The city looked quite different now in comparison to what the pegasus had seen when she arrived. Windy saw the expression on Rarity’s face, knew that there was a confused concern hiding there. Rarity saw Windy staring at her, blushed a bit, and spoke.
“Well, not much call for my services at night...or whatever this is...”
At once, Windy knew how to repay the kindness she had been do easily given. “Let me check it out...see if the local pegasi know what’s going on.” With that she leapt into the dark sky, Rarity beginning to speak, but her face settling into a thankful smile as Windy disappeared out of view.
If it was dark on the street it was nothing compared to what was up on the clouds. It didn’t matter how much she tried, there was no way Windy could see anything beyond her own nose; it was like flying with her eyes shut. She tried disrupting the clouds, but it was hopeless: there was only more darkness around to replace them. Seeing it was useless to clean up the place, she tried flying above the sea of clouds to see what was going on.
She rose for quite some time, perhaps higher than she’d ever flown, only to notice the chill of the upper sky and the thin air threatening to suffocate her. Not even there was she able to catch a glimpse of either the sun or the moon. She drifted back down, the clouds enveloping her, their blackness so thorough that they seemed concrete and immovable.
Suddenly, she heard a voice close to her. “Geez, what the hay is going on here!? These clouds just don’t budge!”
It was a group of pegasi...a local weather team, perhaps? She listened in, as their forms flit through the palpable clouds that surrounded her, almost invisible and as ghosts.
“There’s nothing we can do here team, let’s get to ground before we all get lost. Somepony has to know what’s going on!” She heard the voices fade as several pegasi descended, so she decided to follow them. If an entire team was unable to clear the sky a lone mare had no chance.
Within moments she was flitting through the clouds again, vertigo reaching out to grab her as gravity slid around her and the clouds presented odd angles. Suddenly, she felt...alone. Alone and trapped, encircled by these...these... She shook her head, sighing. “They’re just clouds”.
An amazing sensation filled Windy, and an innate understanding reached her. Certainty, as brilliant and clarion as shafts of light, filled her mind. The vertigo dropped away an she new north from south, east from west, ascent from descent. She smirked, feeling confident...feeling like she was unflappable.
At once she slammed into somepony who emerged like a specter from the clinging blackness.
“Who’s there!? Who is it!?” called a different voice. It sounded to Windy as though it’s owner was just as confused and disoriented as she, almost fearful. It was also familiar... and this time Windy had recognized it immediately.
“Ditzy, it’s me, Windy,” she called back. Near her the black clouds swirled and up came the form of the pegasus. “Oh, Windy! I’m glad to see...see you!” spoke Ditzy, her mouth moving at once from a desperate look to a smile.
The two looked at each other for a minute, and as they did Ditzy’s face fell down again noticeably.
“Ditzy?” asked Windy, tilting her head to examine the face of the blonde pegasus.
Ditzy looked back to her, forcing a smile. “I like your mane like that.”
A moment passed as they hovered there, silently, as the clouds moved noiselessly about them.
“Any luck with all those clouds up there?” asked the gray pegasus. Windy lowered her head, her friend understanding the meaning. “We tried blowing them away, but it was useless. Not even with the entire weather team working on it were we able to make a dent. It’s like if they were directly coming from above.”
Windy thought for a moment, looking to Ditzy.
“Ditzy, are you lost?”
Ditzy smiled the same self-conscious smile she had worn when they two had first met.
The little joy the white mare had was slowly vanishing. Just what was causing all of this? She contemplated this as the two, sticking close together, sped down towards Ponyville.
“Let’s not worry about it too early. The mayor called for a meeting at the town hall, and everypony is attending. Perhaps we’ll find out more about this there, especially with Twilight Sparkle with her hooves on the matter.”
Windy startled so quickly that she almost botched her landing.
“Wait, Twilight Sparkle? Are you saying Celestia’s designate is there?” asked Windy. Ditzy’s derpying eyes only added to her confused look.
The gray pony chuckled a bit after seeing her friend’s surprised look. “Why, of course she is! This is where she’s...umm, designated to be! She has been living here for a year already, something about studying on the princess' behalf. Seriously Windy, you should go out more often, she even attended the Best Young Flier Competition last year to cheer her friend up.”
At once Windy remembered the scroll that she had helped Ditzy recover nearly a week ago.
Suddenly the pony wasn’t paying attention to Ditzy whom had started to talk about her performance at the competition. A possibility had revealed itself. If Twilight Sparkle was here in Ponyville, and was sending letters, that meant she probably maintained contact directly with Princess Celestia. If she could convince her for an audition at Canterlot...
They approached the edge of a crowd, one seemingly gathered to discuss the situation. As they assembled around the Ponyville City Hall Windy could just make out the podium and the officious looking pony who stood there, consulting with others who came and went.
The street lights were on. It was not even dinner time yet.
“It’s nice of you to worry,” said Ditzy, “This isn’t your town, but still, you were trying...”
“I...I met someone...nice,” said Windy, bouncing her mane, “I was just trying to repay...”
She looked back to Ditzy just in time to see the same crestfallen look cross the pony’s face that she had seen earlier that day, and again once they had met in the clouds. Even the wandering eyes of the pony, as ridiculous as they were, could not hide the expression of dejection.
“Ditzy, I do appreciate that compliment, but I can tell you're still hiding something,” Windy's inquisitive stare made both Ditzy's eyes focus on her, “Ever since I met with you again, you seem to find my presence...bothersome.”
Both remained there, silent and oblivious of their surroundings. Finally, the gray pony let out a deep sigh. “I'm sorry Windy, but I can't help you anymore,” somberly said the mare, “I refused to cooperate with them, and I was warned that if I dared to help you again...”
Windy’s mouth hung open.
“I’m...I’m on probation. I could be fired.”
“Oh no...no, Ditzy...I...”
Windy stared aghast, her little plans all seemed a million miles away as Ditzy's expression further dropped away. She wanted to say something, to apologize, but she couldn't finish her thought before a pony on the podium, probably the mayor, requested everypony's attention.
The words were hard to hear at first, but became clearer. Soon she pointed, and as Windy looked on a pony emerged from within the circular structure. Windy recognized her immediately, just like all the ponies present there. She was Princess Celestia’s student, Twilight Sparkle.
Windy’s eyes, and those of the multitude there gathered, followed her. Whatever was happening in the skies above would unfold now and be revealed by the words of the designate...or so everypony hoped.
Chapter 4: The Helpless Genius
It had been almost two years since Twilight Sparkle had arrived to Ponyville. When not around her friends, she usually could be found perusing the books at the library that was her home there.
She knew them all, by this point. This familiarity however was being tested.
Books of all sizes and colors were flying around as the purple unicorn threw them away with her magic. Magic for Fillies, Basic Flight Techniques, 1-2 Guide to Animal Care, there was nothing even remotely related to what was happening at the moment. At most, there were books about Equestrian lore, but not even those could give her some useful information about the matter.
“Ugh, nothing! I never thought I could find a library to be so useless!” grunted the mare. The place was a total mess with texts scattered on the floor and any flat surface. Even some less flat ones. If only Spike was there...he had a natural talent of always finding the right book at the right moment.
But he wasn't, thanks to royal duties. Typical, she thought, that he would be called away when she needed him. She then winced, knowing that she was always in need of him.
A knock on the door distracted her. “Twilight, are you there? I need to talk to you.” Knowing that voice belonged to Rarity, she opened the door with her magic. Not that her friend’s presence would be much help to her in her research, but she needed some company at least. The white pony entered the library as soon as the door opened. “Oh thank goodness,” said the white unicorn, noticing the entire mess. “You have been quite busy, haven’t you? And by that look on your face, I can tell you have no idea what's happening here...”
Pointing the issue out didn't help Twilight's morale, and she shook her head.
“I've never seen something like this before, and it's quite worrisome that it's happening at noon. It's like...if something doesn't want the sun to shine over Ponyville,” replied Twilight. Things only turned worse when, suddenly, something crashed into the room through an open window. The unmistakable presence of Rainbow Dash thus added to the calamity.
“For Celestia's sake Rainbow Dash, doors exist for a reason!” complained Rarity, dusting off her coat.
“Well excuuuuuuuuse me princess, but I don't think this is the best moment to complain about...,” the pegasus began, stopping as she checked the state of the room. “I can't make this place any worse than what it was before I arrived!” Both started discussing, loudly, the issue, quickly making Twilight lose her patience.
“Silence, both of you!” yelled the purple mare. Both ponies stepped back a little, surprised by her sudden change of mood. Seeing their reaction Twilight wiped her hoof across her face.
“Look, I'm busy right now trying to find a solution for this, so if you're only going to argue, you may as well do it outside!” Twilight's complaint, while harsh, elicited the much desired silence she needed.
After a moment, a humbled Dash spoke. “Yeah, I was about to tell you about that...I just came back from up there, and those clouds just aren't natural. I mean, not even my entire team could blow them away. I don't think those things are clouds at all you know.”
“Oh please, tell me you're joking Rainbow Dash...” Everypony turned around to see Mayor Mare standing at the entrance. “I'm sorry to interrupt your research Twilight Sparkle. I was hoping you would've come with a solution, but it seems things are beyond reach now,” said the mayor, her face weary with worry.
“I'm sorry Ms. Mayor, I was hoping I could be of more help, but this...it's so unnatural. Nothing like this has happened since...” Twilight stopped talking, incapable of finishing that last sentence, but everypony knew what she meant. None of them wanted to consider the possibility that, somehow, the incident with Nightmare Moon could be related.
“Let's not jump into conclusions yet. If we can't fix this from here, we must try directly from the possible source.” Twilight stood in the middle of the room, calling everypony's attention. “Rainbow Dash, I need you to fly to Cloudsdale and see if they may have something to do with all these clouds.”
“I’m on it!” called the blue pegasus, and at once she rushed through the open window, loose papers swirling around in her wake.
“Rarity,” asked Twilight, turning towards her fellow unicorn, “If you have the time, could you go and see if Applejack and Fluttershy are doing alright? I know they have concerns of their own, what with the crops and all of the animals being disturbed...”
Rarity nodded, and wordlessly she picked her way out of the library, avoiding the fallen books as best as possible. Time ticked on as Twilight looked over the books and the mess they amounted to.
“Where’s that dragon of yours?”
Twilight startled, turning to face Mayor Mare, only just realizing she was still there.
“He’s...he’s in Canterlot. Expect him...I expect him back at any moment.”
Mayor Mare shook her head. After a moment’s pause, she spoke.
“We need to start thinking about rationing. I should see what the local farmers have available.”
Twilight shook her head. Though it seemed drastic there were truth to the words...an eternity of darkness would not be conductive to crop production.
Mayor Mare looked at Twilight over her glasses. “What can we do right now?”
Twilight looked up and around. “Well, I don’t have much, but we can at least let people know we’re looking into it...”
Mayor Mare nodded, “Right, good. Try to stop the rumor mill from starting up...let them know we’re trying. I’ll put the notice out that we’ll have a town meeting.”
With that the mayor turned to leave, though at once she stopped. “Miss Sparkle, I’m glad you’re here...you’re the best designate the princess has ever established in Ponyville. From the moment you saved Winter Wrap-Up I knew that there was very little you couldn’t do. I trust that you’ll find us some way out of this...”
Twilight looked int the eyes of the older mare and breathed, “Thank you”. With that the mayor left.
It should have felt good, the compliment, but as she looked at her bare shelves and the mess that surrounded her it dawned on Twilight that she was about to make a speech without anything to offer except the promise that she was “working on it”.
If Spike had walked in that door that very second she would have been very happy, but she remained, as time went on...helpless.
Time flew fast.
Twilight could hear the voices of all the inhabitants of Ponyville out there, beyond the door of city hall, and even though it wasn't the first time she had delivered bad news, explaining it to all of them all once was no small thing.
The mayor spoke first, thanking all of them for coming, saying nothing of value while sounding calm and certain. A practiced politician. It was oddly comforting. Twilight heard the mayor speak her name, and she pushed out into gaze of all the ponies there assembled, and the vast dome of black that covered them.
As expected, the spaces beyond the podium was filled by every kind of pony. The noise of their chattering diminished as Twilight coughed to call for their attention. “Thank you for attending this meeting everypony, I appreciate your response. Getting into the matter, I'm going to keep this as simple as I can, and do what I can to inform you about our current situation.”
Twilight cleared her throat.
“As all of you know by now, this afternoon clouds appeared on the sky, and as of now there they remain, blocking the sky. We know things like this aren't natural, but we have faced worse things before, as you may recall during the previous summer sun celebration.”
The purple mare sighed, preparing her words.
“I can assure you that my research tells me that this is in not in any away associated with the incident of Nightmare Moon. Nothing in my research of our history and lore suggest another episode of such magnitude...”
Twilight paused, expecting an adverse comment, but thankfully everypony remained wrapped in silence.
“However,” she continued, “we must take our precautions and prepare for whatever may be coming. Mayor Mare will shortly outline a plan for this eventuality. I'm already working on the matter and promise you I’ll find a solution to this as soon as possible, so I ask for your cooperation on this. If there's any information you may have about this issue, tell me right away. Every little bit is useful.”
Concluding with her speech, she let the mayor stand at the podium. She has essentially told them nothing...and they seemed okay with that. Maybe she could be a politician.
“Everypony,” spoke the mayor, Twilight sighing with relief as the attention shifted to the older mare, “in the meantime, due to our current situation, I declare that Ponyville to be in a state of emergency. All farmers should harvest their orchards and store them as soon as possible. If things turn for the worse, we’ll begin rationing. I'll also contact the other towns to provide any help needed if needed. Habeas corpus has not, I repeat not, been suspended. The area near the Everfree Forest will be strictly off-limits, as we need the teams to guide travellers so we can’t be having rescue details combing the woods in the dark, and we ask that any event that was scheduled take place outdoors be performed indoors if possible. As a final note, all pegasus ponies must stay away from the sky as much as can be avoided. We have reports from our weather team that vision is completely null up there, so we ask for your understanding to avoid any undesired accidents. Any questions?”
Mayor Mare instantly regretted asking that last, as one pony raised her hoof.
“Miss Mayor, is our princess aware of our situation?” Twilight quickly answered on her behalf. “I will contact her once my assistant returns. Don't worry about that,” replied Twilight.
“And when will that be?” added the pony.
“I expect him back at any moment,” she quickly answered.
Much to her surprise, the pony sighed in what seemed to be relief.
“There's nothing to worry about. I know you are all working as hard as you can, and we'll help as much as we can too!” These words were supported by the sounds of hooves striking the ground. Twilight, speechless, turned around after thanking them for their support. At least she didn't need to worry that the inhabitants of Ponyville would make things harder for her.
“A very touching speech I must say Twilight. You really live up to your name,” observed the mayor, entering the building. She chuckled at the pun she had picked. A sparkle in twilight, a fitting description for such a smart pony.
Twilight had barely smiled to herself when the doors of city hall came open and she and the mayor were presented with the figure of a youngish white pegasus. She looked thin, tired...a bit dirty.
Nice hair though.
“Miss Sparkle, Miss Sparkle! Oh, thank goodness you're still here. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Windy Rose, a pegasus from Cloudsdale. It is a pleasure to meet you in person,” introduced herself, slightly bowing to her.
“Oh, and a pleasure to meet you too, Miss Mayor,” added after the other pony coughed, marking her presence.
“Miss Sparkle, I know this will sound selfish considering the current situation, but...may I ask you for a small favor?” asked the pegasus. However, the mayor stood between them.
“Dear, this is not the time for us to be taking requests. Sorry, but if you don't have anything that may be useful for us to solve this, I'll have to ask you to be on your way now.” The older pony gestured, and her words made the white mare to step back a little, but Twilight prevented it from going any farther by stepping forward.
“It's okay Miss Mayor, it's not like I can do much right now about the clouds right now,” said Twilight. Mayor Mare, while not approving it, had to agree with Twilight's request. Not wanting to lose time that she could use addressing worse troubles, she left them alone.
“Excuse her, she tends to act like that when things start to turn as awful as this. Allow me to properly introduce myself. I'm Twilight Sparkle, a magic researcher and Celestia's pupil. I hope you don't mind me addressing you as Windy.”
Twilight offered Windy her hoof, something, it seemed, that that the pegasus hadn’t been expecting. She was trembling, and the seeing this in the pegasus made something move inside Twilight.
“Before listening to your request, I want to know something Windy. You said you come from Cloudsdale, right?” she asked.
A nervous nod.
“Yes, I’m from Cloudsdale...by way of Canterlot, by way of the Whitetail Woods...”
Twilight saw the expression change with each utterance.
“You haven’t been her long, have you?”
Once again, another nod.
“So, tell me...do you have any idea if the Weather Factory at Cloudsdale has something to do with these clouds?” Twilight felt disappointed after seeing her head shaking this time. “I'm sorry Miss Sparkle, but I'm sure Cloudsdale has nothing to do with this. My family works at the Weather Factory, and things were going okay before I...left,” replied Windy.
Twilight winced, that meant she was completely out of causes now.
“Have you ever seen clouds like these?” asked Twilight.
“No...not before today. I...went up to try to clear them, for a...friend...”
“Wait,” added Twilight, “You went up there yourself?”
“Yes...well, at first, but I met another friend, and helped her down.”
“I see. Don't worry about it, and there's no need to address me like that. As for your request, tell me what this 'favor' is that you want me to do for you.”
The purple mare saw how Windy’s expression changed. “Oh yes. You see Mi-- Twilight, it has always been my dream to be a part of Canterlot's Royal Guard but...a friend told me I would be best suited for their scout or courier units. May I ask, if it's not much of a hassle, that you could help me get an audience in Canterlot to show my skills?” concluded Windy.
Twilight raised an eyebrow at her request. It certainly took some bravado to ask a stranger for such a thing.
“You know, it’s not an easy job...there’s lots of old veterans in those units, and they only take the best.”
“Yes, yes of course, but...but I can.”
Twilight scowled, then sighed. Well, she had handled herself in the clouds. Far be it from her to be the one to dash the poor thing’s hopes.
“I have to send a letter to the princess anyway, once my assistant returns, so I'll make sure to include your request there,” replied Twilight.
She giggled as the mare burst into a display of joy, as she started flying around the entire room. She saw why she wanted to be part of Canterlot's pegasus units; she was skillfully avoiding all the obstacles around without any effort at all. She was as controlled and tactical in her flight as Dash was swift and daring, and Twilight noted this.
“Thank you so much Twilight! I...I just don't know what to say. If there's something, anything that I can help you with, feel free to ask me,” said the white pegasus joyfully. Twilight smiled with satisfaction as the pegasus departed. She wondered if her teacher had to deal very often with similar scenes. A mare in appearance, a filly at heart.
A thought crossed Twilight’s mind. She ran to the door, and began to call after Windy. She was still nearby, among the dispersing crowd, talking to somepony who flew off when she saw Windy was being called. Twilight motioned for Windy to return.
“Say Windy, being new and all, do you have a place to stay?”
“Here we are, home sweet home.” spoke Twilight in a happy tone as both ponies arrived at the library.
“Well, I really can't call it my house, being the public library and all, but it's quite handy to live at such immediate proximity to a useful information resource.” Twilight opened the door and, to her surprise, found both Spike and Rarity already inside.
“You sure have a bad habit of leaving this place as a total mess every time you look for something, Twilight,” said the purple dragon, organizing all the books that were still scattered around.
Rarity, probably out of boredom, was cleaning all the dust around. “A fine observation, you should clean this place more often dear. Study is not an excuse to live among dust,” complained the unicorn, waving a duster around with her magic. She turned to smile at Twilight, but stopped immediately after noticing Windy.
“Oh my, it seems you two have already made your acquaintances. I hope you made some useful discoveries up there Windy.” The pegasus shook her head, negating her statement. “Well, that leaves us still in our predicament, but I guess we can deal with it for now,” said Rarity in a tone of dejection.
“I didn't know you two already knew each other,” observed Twilight, questioning the pegasus with a glance.
“I ran into Rarity’s shop to find shelter from the rains that...well, didn’t happen. It was a little awkward,” said Windy, looking to the floor.
Rarity lifted her chin with her hoof, “It matters little, it gave me a chance to work on that beautiful mane, and you did try to repay me by clearing the sky...as much as you could...”
“Oh, so Rarity was the friend you were trying to help...so who was the other, the one you...” began Twilight, thinking it could have been Dash of Fluttershy.
“No one! No one...in particular...” replied Windy in a startled manner.
Twilight and Rarity looked to one another, then Twilight turned away as Rarity began demanding to put Windy’s mane back in order.
“I’m glad you’re back Spike...why did it take so long?” asked the unicorn, placing her head besides his.
“We got lost! You should see it from up there, Twi!” answered the little dragon throwing his arms wide. At once he scrambled for some paper, and soon a rudimentary picture of Equestria had been formed.
“The clouds, they’re like a big bowl.” He continued excitedly, drawing big black rolling clouds that covered everything from Canterlot to Ponyville, even Cloudsdale.
Twilight gulped at the sight. It certainly wasn't all of Equestria, but that meant Ponyville was completely isolated from the light. If things turned for the worse, the closest city that could help them was Fillydelphia, and it would take at least a day to reach it.
“Does the princess know anything about this?” whispered Twilight. Anticipating Twilight's request, Spike rushed to get a new scroll.
The mare looked back to see her friend and new acquaintance. Windy had been complying with Rarity's request to fix her mane again. It would be better to not tell anypony about this yet, considering how delicate the situation was. Her assistant arrived shortly after, prepared to write. He smiled in satisfaction as Twilight thanked him softly, and put the quill to the parchment:
Dearest Princess Celestia,
I wish this letter could have a more merrier subject, and it's a shame it doesn't.
As you may already be aware, Ponyville is experiencing a major issue: dark clouds surround the entire town, blocking sunlight completely. My friend, Rainbow Dash, traveled to the pegasus city of Cloudsdale to see if they had something to do with it, but I found out recently that this cloud extends beyond the pegasus city, isolating Ponyville in a deep darkness. The pegasus around here have been working hard to keep the clouds away, but things haven't changed in the least.
What worries me is that I am unable to compare this to anything but the situation we faced with Nightmare Moon, before we were able to retrieve your beloved younger sister, my sovereign, the Princess Luna.
I can't help but to notice the similarities between these incidents. It has been mentioned in passing among your subjects, scared down here as they are. I do not want to believe she's related to this, and I have no reason to believe she is, but deep in me I can’t get beyond it. That's why I asking, my dearest princess and mentor, for your help and wisdom in this matter.
I await your quick response.
Your Faithful Student,
P.S. I met a pegasus by the name of Windy Rose not long ago that desires to join the ranks of the pegasi in Canterlot’s military units as a scout. She has already shown herself to be an adept flier and, amazingly, was able to navigate in these clouds. With your permission she’d like an audience to attempt being recruited for that purpose.
“All right, you can send it now Spike,” said Twilight as she finished her recitation. Within a single breath the dragon had sent the letter to the princess. Hopefully it would only be a matter of time until they got some answers about this issue.
“Do you think she knows what might be happening?” he asked, still worried.
“I hope so Spike, I really can't think of anything else right now. I admit this is the first time I’ve feel so...helpless...”
The unicorn sighed, lowering her head.
Every single pony trusted that she would find a solution to this problem soon, and the last thing she wanted was to let them down. She looked back to her friends again; now Windy was delightfully checking her new hairstyle on the mirror.
As she did Twilight slid up beside Rarity.
“That’s the second time you’ve done that for her, isn’t it?”
Rarity smiled back at her. “The poor thing...she’s not telling me much. You? No. Well, she’s been through a lot...that’s most obvious. She seems awfully burdened by her situation. It’s the least I can do.”
“You have a beautiful heart, Rarity,” said Twilight, putting her head to that of her fellow unicorn.
“You should know that better than anyone, Principal of the Elements,” whispered Rarity, not wanting to interrupt Windy’s self-examination.
At once there was a burst of green light.
“Oh my, how rude of you Twilight, acting without informing us about it,” joked Rarity.
Everypony got around Spike, who unrolled the scroll. He stopped mid-roll and gasped at the sight.
“It's...it's a letter from Princess Luna!” he yelled in surprise.
There was no doubt of it, the crescent moon and star was, indeed, Luna's royal emblem. What also caught her attention was a small crest that dropped from the letter, along with a second smaller scroll. The crest depicted a small shield with two wings at its sides and a small crown above. Spike, clearing his throat, started reading:
Dear Twilight Sparkle,
First and foremost, I thank you for addressing me by my true name. I can only remember my days inhabited by Nightmare Moon with regret and shame, and I'm grateful you don't see me as such. You may be wondering why am I answering your call instead of my dear sister...I'll explain as much as I can.
Yes, Celestia does know about what's happening right now. We have made some important, and unfortunate, discoveries. However, due to the nature of this information, I'm afraid I can't disclose any of it through this means. All I can say is that, true to your belief, I am somehow related to this.
My apologies for not living up to your standards, it seems that my past has been keeping tabs on me.
My sister has been very busy dealing with this, which is the reason of why I'm replying to your letter. Her will is bent on it, and her strength begins to come into play. I, on her behalf, have a request for you and your friends. We need you to come to Canterlot. We'll further explain you once you arrive.
As for your friend, I included an authorization letter and a crest for her. This will allow her to audition for such position. For now, you should sleep. May my moon grant you a peaceful rest.
Your Friend and Devoted Sovereign,
Luna, Princess of Equestria.
Silence reigned in the library, appropriately enough. Spike picked the authorization from the floor and soon he started reading it simply to break the silence. Just like the previous, it had her royal seal.
To Whom it May Concern,
I, Princess Luna of Equestria, hereby decree that the pegasus Windy Rose shall be granted the right to apply for recruitment for the position of 'Pegasus Scout' of Canterlot’s Royal Guard. By my command, an officer of the watch will conduct such tests as convey her worth, and report to me immediately the results upon conclusion.
Her Royal Highness,
Luna, Princess of Equestria.
The silence in the library faded instantly, and Twilight remembered what exhilaration looked like when a shadow was cat over her. Her fears became true when something landed on her, screaming in joy as if there were no tomorrow. Rarity's praises and Spike's astonishment didn't help calm the situation in the least.
“This will be one long night...” thought the purple unicorn, somewhat annoyed.
But, happily she now knew that she knew she wasn't the only one dealing with the cloud issue, not to mention Windy's joy was rather infectious, spreading to all of them. Everything would be all right now that the princesses knew about it...right?
There was nothing Celestia couldn't solve. After all, she was the Goddess of the Sun...right?
“You silly pony, stop worrying about it, everything will be all right,” she convinced herself, finally surrendering to the atmosphere enveloping joy of the pony who flapped and giggled about the room.