The First Winter Wrap Up
by Chopper’s Top Hat
googledoced by cortezopossum
“Gather ‘round young ‘uns. No need ta shove. Ah know you were all lookin’ forward ta playin’ outside today, but the Pegasus Ponies had a storm scheduled and that’s just how it’s goin’ta have ta be. But don’t you fret none, Auntie Applejack is here to keep y’all entertained.”
The dozen or so yearlings obediently sat down in front of Applejack. She knew she had messed up by not checking the weather schedule on the day of the big Apple family reunion (not that there wouldn’t be another one next month) but part of her was okay with this. She loved telling stories to Apple Bloom and her friends. This was the same thing, just with a larger crowd.
“Now since we’re all here, ah think ah’ll tell yah about the time I roped me a-”
“EXCUSE ME!” came an insistent, high pitched voice of a young indigo unicorn sitting next to Candied Apple, “I HAVE A QUESTION!”
“What in- you’re not part of the Apple clan!” Applejack said, “Apple Bloom, did you sneak one a’ your little friends into the reunion again?”
Apple Bloom did not respond, but simply flashed Applejack her most innocent grin. It was not terribly convincing.
“Well, ah reckon that’s alright,” said Applejack with a smile. “Even if ya ain’t kin, any friend a’ Apple Bloom’s is welcome here at Sweet Apple Orchards. What’s yer name, sweetheart?”
“MY NAME? I’M CALLED-”
“Indoor voice, sweetpea.”
“I’M CALL-er, I’m called Shimmer.” As soon as she quieted down, Applejack recognized her as the little unicorn who Apple Bloom had invited over to the farm to play a number of times. She remembered observing that the two had a tendancy to get into fights over who was in charge of their games, but they always made up by the time Shimmer went home.
“Well, pleased to meetcha Shimmer. Ah reckon ya know everyone here, so I won’t waste time with fancy introductions. Ya said ya had a question?”
Shimmer nodded, keeping her eyes fixed on Applejack’s with an almost forced determination. “Well, Apple Bloom and I were watching the grown-up ponies do the Winter Wrap-Up last week, and you were all working so hard, and then this unicorn came by and she used some magic and you told her not to.”
“Ah, that was Twilight. Yeah, I guess I was a litttle sore with her at the time. That was just the stress talkin’, though. She’s actually one of mah best friends!”
“Well, I think you were being unfair to her! You should have let her clear out the snow with her magic! I mean, I’m too little to use magic, but I can’t wait to learn! And when I do, I’m going to use it to fix everything that’s wrong in Ponyville!” Shimmer said this as if it were some sort of official proclamation. “So why can’t we use magic in the Winter Wrap Up? I mean, Pegasus Ponies get to fly, and you get to use your strength. Why don’t we get to use our talent? It’s not fair!”
“Well, darlin’, it ain’t as simple as all that. Y’see...”
Shimmer continued talking over Applejack. “But it’s so SILLY! I bet us unicorns could get the whole thing done in no time, without the other ponies needing to do a thing!”
Applejack smiled. She’d heard this before, almost always from younger ponies. “That’s exactly why Ponyville has that tradition, darlin’. Because we DON’T want to finish it in no time. Because we WANT every pony in town to have to do their share. Look, each type a’ pony has their own special talents, right? Unicorns have magic. Pegasus ponies fly. Us Earth Ponies are stronger and our bodies can take more strain. So we all have jobs each of us can do best. But sometimes we forget that things work out best when we all use our talents together. That’s why we change the seasons the way we do.”
“But...” Shimmer looked like she was mentally grasping for a counterargument but could not find one. Instead, she asked a question. “So the tradition started to help ponies learn to work together?”
“Well... not exactly. It’s a bit more complicated than that. An’ it’s kinda... awkward to talk about, really. Ya’ll should probably just ask yer parents...” As soon as she said this, Applejack regretted it. Now the kids would be BEGGING to know.
Sure enough, her response was met with a cacophony of “please”s and “awww come on”s. There is nothing quite so noisy as a kid who’s just been told she’s not supposed to know something. Applejack was now confronted with twelve of them, pleading and whining and hopping up and down in defiance. To her credit, she held out for a good thirty seconds before finally yelling out, “Alright! Ah’ll tell ya, just simmer down!”
The young ponies immediately sat down, pleased at their shared victory.
“Tarnation! Ah never thought ah’d see the day when a bunch a’ kids were this eager to learn some history! Alright, then...” Applejack began, “It all started around a thousand years ago...”
“Isn’t that about when Nightmare Moon was imprisoned?” asked Apple Bloom.
“Who’s tellin’ this story?” said Applejack. “But yeah, yer right. In fact, ya could say that Nightmare Moon is the reason why Ponyville was founded!”
The little ponies’ eyes widened, their attention locked on this tantalizing new bit of information. Applejack smiled. She knew that would hook them.
“As the legends say, the day Celestia sealed her sister up in the moon was the saddest day a’ her life. Not that you could tell from the sky. In fact, it was the most beautiful, sunny day Equestria had ever seen, probably will ever see. The princess did that on purpose. She didn’t want anyone to know how devastated she was.
“Seein’ her own flesh n’ blood turn on her like that... well, even for someon as powerful and wise as Celestia, it hurt. A lot. They said she stopped eatin’ fer a while. Even after she ate again she wouldn’t talk ta anyone. Luna wasn’t just her sister, after all. She was her best friend, her twin, half a’ the same coin. Fer the Princess, it was like having half of her heart cut out. We all figure that’s why she did what she did. She wasn’t thinkin’ straight. That’s got to be why... why she abandoned us.”
“She what?” said Apple Bloom.
“Yeah. One day. The Princess shut the doors ta her palace. No one allowed in. She would come out and change the day ta night and the night ta day, but that was all. Other than that, the ponies of Equestria were on their own. The only message she left was a single proclamation.
“It read, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t anymore.’ That was all.”
Applejack paused to study the faces of her listeners. At least two were holding back tears. It was likely that none of them had ever considered the idea of a world without Celestia. The concept frightened even Applejack.
“So after that, things got pretty bad for a while. Celestia, y’know, had always tried her darndest to keep balance between the three types of ponies. All of them had talents that could be used to help the others or misused to help only themselves. Everyone used to get along because they were united by their love for the two sisters. But when that changed, well, ah reckon everypony felt pretty abandoned. An’ they took it out on each other.
“Arguments between different ponies got worse n worse, n’ it all came to a head one day in the city a Trotterdam. No one’s quite sure who started it, but ah guess there was a fight over who should run th’ place. The Earth Ponies said they should run things because they grew the food that kept everyone fed. The Pegasus ponies said they should run things because they ran the weather and made sure th’ climate was safe for everypony. An’ the unicorns said they should run things because their magic kept everypony safe from the monsters n’ wild creatures that roamed the land. So yea, there was a mighty big fuss. An’ in the end, well... the unicorns threw the other two groups outta town.
“They had nowhere to go, but even then, the Earth Ponies and the Pegasi still didn’t get along! So they ended up foundin’ separate towns. That’s how it went: the unicorns had Trotterdam, the Pegasus Ponies started Wing City, and our kind founded a place called... Earth Ponyville.”
“Wait!” said shimmer, “was that... here?”
“That’s right, darlin’,” said Applejack. “That’s why ah said that Ponyville got started on account a’ Nightmare Moon. She was the first domino, ya see? But that ain’t the end a’ the story.”
“The unicorns in Trotterdam had it made, or so they thought. With their magic they could keep anyone out a’ town that they didn’t want around. Magic can’t control the weather, but it can block the clouds. So they used spells to make every day sunny n’ beautiful. They couldn’t grow their own food, so they sent ponies out into the forest nearby n’ had them magically pick the fruit off the trees.
“Things were okay in Earth Ponyville for a while, too. Huge fields got planted with all sorts a’ good food, n’ with everypony workin’ in the fields, they shoudla had more food in less time than ever before. But there was a problem: no rain. Without the Pegasus ponies, there were never any clouds. So the earth ponies sent tome folks over ta Wing City to ask the Pegasus Ponies for help... but they never made it.”
“Why not?” asked Apple Twist, who was normally not one to interrupt but clearly very interested in her older cousin’s tale.
“Well, because when they were halfway there, they ran into a Pegasus who’d been sent from Wing City to Earth Ponyville! Turns out they needed help, too. Their food stores were runnin’ low and they coudln’t grow any more on their own. Didn’t have the muscle fer farmwork, ya see. So they worked out a deal: the Pegasus ponies would make it rain, and the Earth ponies would share their crops with them. It worked, n’ little by little they started trustin’ each other again.
“By harvest time, they had the biggest crop ya ever saw. They were gonna share it all fair n’ square between the two towns. But things didn’t quite work out that way.”
“What happened?” asked Apple Bloom.
“An Ursa Major happened,” said Applejack. “It showed up in the middle of the night n’ raided the food stores. Took half the food back with it, probably to hide away in its den somewhere. Ah reckon it must’ve been a heartbreaker fer everyone in town. But they knew that the Ursa Major would come back soon, lookin’ for the rest a’ the food. They couldn’t let that happen, so they swallowed their pride and went back to Trotterdam. Figured if they begged the unicorns fer help, maybe they’d take care a’ the Ursa Major fer ‘em. Turned out, they didn’t have ta beg.
“Trotterdam was... well, it was just GONE. The unicorns had kept the clouds away too long, so it got too hot, an’t he grass n’ plants had died. Plus they’d pretty much used up all the food there was ta have in the forest. Something’ had ta give. After a while, a fight broke up over the last a’ the food. The town didn’t quite survive, ya see. Everypony was alive, but the town was a total loss. Their magical battle had turned the place into a crater.”
Shimmer let out a little gasp. Recognizing her chance, Applejack turned to her and addressed her directly.
“Ya see, darlin’, unicorns got more power than us Earth Ponies or the Pegasi, but power ain’t a toy; it’s a burden. ‘Cause the more you got, the more damage you can do if you ain’t careful with it. Ya gotta keep it all in balance, only use it when you gotta, or else you end up with somethin’ like what happened in Trotterdam.”
Shimmer nodded silently.
“Now then, where was I? Ah, yea -- so it turned otu, it was the unicorns who ended up needin’ help -- and a place ta live. Wing City was too small fer the Unicorns ta live in, so the Earth Ponies agreed to let ‘em stay in their town; if they promised to keep the Ursa Major away. It was a fair deal, ‘specially since there were lots of other magical critters itchin’ to get their paws on the food store. The unicorns were kept mighty busy that year.
“But they didn’t get back in time to stop a dragon from settin’ up shot in Wing City. The unicorns budged ‘im, but the place was covered in smoke by then, which wouldn’t lift for decades. So the Pegasi had to abandon their town, too, and move inta Earth Ponyville. Suddenly we had us a town with all three kinds a ponies again. They were gonna have to work together, cause winter was comin’.
“An’ it was the worst winter ever, too. They never got back the half a’ the food that got stolen, ya see. Combine that with three times as many mouths ta feed as planned, and things were pretty dire that year. Everypony in town had to work together just ta survive.
“You know how when it’s cold, you huddle tagether ta stay warm? That’s what they did that awful winter. They all stuck together. All of ‘em. Not as Earth Ponies, or Unicorns, or Pegasi, but just as ponies. And as a town -- one town -- Ponyville.”
The young ponies smiled.
“An’ that,” said Applejack, “Is the story of how Ponyville got started!”
“Um,” Shimmer said, “but you were supposed to be answering my question about the Winter Wrap-Up.”
“Oh, right, right! Sorry, sugah!” said Applejack, slightly embarrased. “Well, like ah said, that winter wasn’t a fun one. So when it was time fer spring, ah reckon everypony was happy to see it go. The unicorns had used magic ta bring the winter in, and’ I guess everypony figgered they’d use it ta bring in spring, too. But they said no.
“An’ a lotta folks were angry about that, but the Unicorns explained: what had saved them that winter was workin’ together as a single town, without takin’ shortcuts. Usin’ magic ta bring in spring, when everypony in town could do it together, without magic: that was a shortcut. An’ like ah said, the unicorns had learned that they had the greatest power, n’ the greatest burden, of any race of ponies, so they had to learn to NOT use their magic whenever they could, or else they might end up too dependent on it, like what happened in Trotterdam.”
“Oh!” said shimmer. “So it was the Unicorns who started the tradition of not using magic to change the seasons?”
“That’s right, darlin’. They did it as a reminder ta themselves, and also, as a way to remind the whole town, that the only way ya make it from winter ta spring, is by workin’ together. Teamwork n’ community: that’s what Ponyville’s all about!”
A chorus of understanding chatter erupted from the young ponies. Applejack was pleased.
“A year later, at the end of the second Winter Wrap-Up, a huge beam of light appeared in the sky, and hit the ground right in the center of town. It was like a tiny sun. An’ when the brightness dimmed, there she was. Princess Celestia, finally back. She said she was sorry, and she was gonna work harder thane ver to make up for leaving everypony alone. But she also said how proud she was of what we’d been able ta do without her.
“Ponyville was the first place she visited when she came back. She sees all us ponies as her childeren, you know. And I think... I think she flet like we grew up a little when she was gone. She was proud of us. Still is.”
Just then, the dinner bell began ringing loudly in the next room.
“Well, ah reckon soup’s on, young’ins! said Applejack. “Let’s head on down ta the dinin’ room. Ah don’t know ‘bout you, but ahm’ powerful hungry!”
“But what about Princess Celestia?” asked Apple Twist. “What happened to make her come back?”
“Ah think ah’ll save that story fer another time, darlin’,” said Applejack, “Come on now, ‘fore the food gets cold.”
After shooting the kids out the door, Applejack headed for the dining room herself. But before she could get there, a small unicorn dashed in front of her.
“Miss Applejack,” said Shimmer, in a highly polite tone. “Thank you. I never knew how much trouble magic could cause! I promise I’ll be careful with it when I get my magic.”
“Attagirl,” said Applejack. “Ah never doubted yah’d be careful. This here town’s been lucky to have a long line a’ ponies like you lookin’ after it. Now move yer hooves, ah’m starvin!”
That night, the little unicorn sat with the family of Earth Ponies, eating, talking, and laughing together. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t part of the Apple clan. She was from Ponyville. She was family.
-- Hope you Enjoyed! --