Were anypony to ask, they'd be shocked to the core. Their world-view would be shattered, their beliefs upturned. Everything they knew would be proven a lie.
But it was true.
Twilight had not read every book in her library.
She was, however, a fair bit into it. She was up to ‘M’, halfway through the alphabet, though merely a third through the library. She realized that, eventually, she’d run out. But that was one of the perks of being a librarian: she could always request more books to expand the collection. Sighing as she closed the book in front of her, Twilight tilted her head until she felt a satisfying crick. She really needed to find a better posture to read in.
As she got up from her spot on the floor, her magic surrounded the reading material she had just finished. Mollusks and You, while brief, had been a fascinating read into some of Equestria’s more unusual fauna. The unicorn made a mental note to do a little research the next time she crossed paths with one. Quickly finding the right place in the shelf, she slid the book neatly against its companions and removed the next one.
Twilight levitated the book towards herself, eagerly eyeing the blue cover. The drawing on the front was relatively simple; a pair of pegasus wings, one folded, the other extended to its full length. The title, on the other hoof, offered more clues as to the contents of the book: Mood Wings: Observations on Pegasus Body Language, by Keen Eye.
Cracking her neck once more, Twilight decided to settle down on her couch, easing into a mildly more comfortable position as she started flipping through the pages, reaching the first block of text: the author’s notes.
Body language, anypony can tell you, is fairly important. However, few truly realise how important it is in every situation imaginable. In a conversation, it can either reinforce or undermine the spoken word. In a more physical activity, it can reveal thoughts or emotions that initially seem hidden.
What most ponies don’t know is that body language makes up for 60% to 70% of all communication. Eye movement, facial expressions, gestures and body posture create a whole new layer in a conversation that is often picked up subconsciously.
True to my name, I have spent my life observing the common and uncommon pony, documenting all that I discovered in my research. What you are reading now is the result of a decade of scrutiny into one of the three pony races: the pegasus.
While unicorn and earth pony body language is quite similar, the differences being more a matter of ‘accent’ than a barrier to communication, the pegasi’s wings give them an entire extra channel for body language, which often goes right over the heads of ponies of the other two races. Indeed, this was traditionally one of the sources of friction between the three pony tribes before the founding of Equestria; earth pony and unicorn representatives, seeing pegasi for the first time, often described them as ‘alien’, while the pegasi, in turn, considered the others ‘wooden’ and ‘unreadable’.
While regular contact between the subspecies has largely eliminated such feelings of alienation, there remains a wealth of information most non-pegasi never even realize they are missing—as I found out myself the hard way! With this book, I hope to begin to close that gap, and help my readers take the first steps into the wonderful world of the ‘mood wings’.
Chapter 1: The Wings Tell the Story
For millennia, unicorns have manipulated objects with their magic, allowing them a degree of control and finesse unmatched by any other race. The noble earth ponies have, over time, become dextrous in the use of their tails to grab things, as well as mastering writing, amongst other things, with the their mouths. All races have mastered the delicate act of balancing objects on their hooves. These are limber enough to grip certain objects, but tend to lack precision and control. It also occupies one of the limbs used to walk, which makes movement quite difficult.
The pegasi, however, are blessed with an entire additional set of appendages, allowing them a wide range of control and use, depending on their skill with their wings. While lacking in the fine control of unicorn magic, wings have allowed pegasi to grasp not only control of the skies, but manipulate many an object.
These have also become a form of communication used both consciously and unconsciously by their bearers, providing a range of expressiveness more visible than the other races.
In the next chapters, I will be describing various examples of common and uncommon expressions and meanings attached to the pegasus's display of their plumage.
Twilight glanced up from the page as she heard the front door open, raising an eyebrow as Spike walked into the library, carrying a large box of scrolls. “What are those, Spike?”
The young dragon jumped at the sound of her voice, almost tipping the box over before catching himself. He let out a sigh of relief at averting the minor disaster. “Just some documents from the Mayor’s office. She said they’re old enough to be put in the library archive.”
Twilight nodded as the young dragon set down the box near the couch, then walked back to the door. “Where are you going?” she asked. Her assistant didn’t usually shirk his duties by just plopping down boxes randomly. “These still need archiving.”
Spike stopped at the door, turning back to Twilight with a guilty grin. “Actually… Rarity asked me to help her go gem hunting again. She’s waiting so Igottagonowbye!”
Twilight blinked as the door swung shut. Well. So much for not shirking duties. Pulling herself off the couch, she opened the box and grabbed the closest scroll, carefully unrolling it as she noticed the time-worn look it bore. She skimmed the document, discovering it was an old spending bill from the time of Ponyville’s settlement. While fascinating in its own right, Mood Wings had grabbed her interest and wasn’t letting go. She put the document back into the box, then levitated both it and the book as she made her way to the basement, her muzzle buried in the pages.
Chapter 2: Home Base - The Wings at Rest
A pegasus's wings, contrary to what I may be leading you to believe, are not always moving. In fact, when they are not flying, pegasi generally keep their wings relaxed against their sides. They are not particularly large or bulky, even in the case of a male pegasus or our glorious Princess Celestia. While her majestic wings are much larger than the average pony’s, this is but a necessity of her larger frame. As with any pegasus, her wings fit snugly against her sides.
At rest, wings add very little to a pegasus's girth, remaining, in a sense, streamlined even when not flying. Even on the ground, pegasi are creatures of speed, and can cut through the air with as much grace and ease as any earth pony or unicorn.
Pegasus wings are relatively short, covering only a portion of their sides, up to the flank. Most importantly, the wings tend to cover part of the pony's cutie mark, partially obscuring it from view when not in use. A pegasus's cutie mark, most often relating in some way to flight, is thus on display when they are in their element: flying. When not flying, the cutie mark is almost considered unimportant, and is hence hidden unless the wing is moved deliberately. Even cutie marks that do not display clouds, wings, or something easily understandable as belonging to sky or speed will usually still remain related in some fashion to flight. Examples of this are flying animals, or displays of rain or other weather related cutie marks. They are as varied as the ponies themselves, yet always return to the pegasus's natural element: the sky.
Having finished the introduction, Twilight turned the page to the meat of the chapter. Focused on her reading, she failed to notice she had arrived at the bottom of the stairs, and crashed headfirst into an obstacle in the middle of the room. She rubbed her nose in irritation, thankful that the impact had been relatively minor, and glared at the offending object. It turned out to be the machine she had once attached to Pinkie in an attempt to figure out those twitches and combos. As Twilight picked up the fallen scrolls and started sorting them, her eyes kept moving back to the machine, then to her current reading. It reminded her of what she’d done after the machine had failed.
As she sorted the last scroll, Twilight made up her mind. This time, she’d leave her pith helmet at home and try to observe more carefully and less obviously. That had been her major error of method last time; one of the elementary rules of science was that subjects of an observational study mustn’t know they're being observed or they won't act naturally. And now it was time to study.
In fact, it was time for some field research.
It was, thankfully, a bright and sunny day. She spotted a unicorn couple wandering down the street, chatting away merrily. A few earth ponies balancing a bag on their back, filled to the brim with what looked like Sugarcube Corner’s finest goods. And of course, more ponies meant more pegasi to observe!
Twilight decided to make her way towards the park. A day such as this one was bound to have ponies there in droves, which would allow her to watch in relative peace and quiet. With any luck, she’d find an unoccupied bench so she could continue reading.
Her eyes flicked left and right, seeking out every pony that crossed her path. Every pegasus she saw bore the full brunt of her glance, as Twilight furtively studied the contour and shape of their wings. In the back of her mind, a niggling thought told Twilight that it might be rude, and that she should tone it down… but the voice was ruthlessly pushed aside by the high of imminent scientific research. This was just far, far too interesting.
Finally arriving at the park, she went over what she had observed so far. Many a wing, most of them relaxed and at rest, showing her…
Twilight blinked and froze, a hoof still in the air, as she realized that she’d only really read one chapter. It had been quite informative, and after reading that fascinating introduction she had devoured the rest of it in short order, but it still had only covered the basics of a wing at rest and its relation to the pegasus body. She needed to continue reading before being able to make heads or tails of the data she was gathering.
Spotting a free bench, the unicorn practically galloped towards it, eager to claim it in the name of reading. As she slid into a comfortable position, she levitated the book out of her saddlebags and began reading once more.
Chapter 3: Poetry in Motion - The Wings in Flight
We now come to arguably the most important part of a pegasus's life: flight. Specifically, the movement of a pegasus's wings during flight. As any scientific observer might see, the size of a pony’s wings does not quite compare, proportionally, with many other creatures in the animal kingdom, begging the question as to how, in fact, a pony can fly.
I will not go into much detail, as this has been the subject of many a scientific paper and is documented in numerous tomes. Suffice it to say, a pegasus does not use their wings to move the air around them, but instead they interact directly with the ambient magic that suffuses the entire world. Similarly to the way that they can stand on ephemeral clouds, their wings touch the magic and propel them forward, achieving greater speeds than a natural flying creature can hope to attain.
To the outside observer, this may look identical to moving by pushing through the air, and for the purposes of this chapter, we will consider it the same. It does, however, allow the pegasi great aerial feats, as the Wonderbolts and their precursors have demonstrated over the years.
Twilight’s fascination with the subject increased with every word as she tore through the rest of Chapter 2, taking in the details about pegasine wing movement during flight. With the amount of detail covered in the book, she was bound to discern something from her casual observation.
She glanced around, suddenly noticing that the light around her had gotten slightly darker. Not seeing anything in the immediate vicinity, she glanced upwards and finally discovered the culprit: a lone cloud wandering through the sky. But no sooner had she found the cloud that a voice rang out from above.
“Sorry Twilight! Let me get that for ya!”
Twilight grinned as she watched Rainbow fly up to the cloud, spinning around to place a well placed buck into the fluffy mass. Twilight thanked whatever good fortune had timed Rainbow’s arrival. Not only did she get to see and chat with one of her best friends, that particular friend was exactly what she wanted to see right now: a pegasus in action.
It seemed like Rainbow had noticed the attention and decided to give the unicorn a bit of a show. She sped through the skies, twisting and turning, blazing a rainbow trail that drew every eye in the park. She finished her display with a series of tight corkscrews, then sped upwards until she seemed merely a speck in the sky. Once there, she started her dive, speeding towards Twilight with ever-increasing speed, vaguely worrying the librarian until Rainbow pulled to a stop just above her. Giving a mock bow to the small crowd that had gathered, she finally touched ground and trotted over to her friend. “Heya Twilight, how’s it going?”
Twilight smiled as she inconspicuously set the book to the side. It wouldn’t do to attract attention to it while she was gathering data. “Just great! This weather is fantastic.”
Rainbow preened at the compliment. “Yep! You’re welcome.” She extended her wings, swelling with pride, until she noticed how Twilight’s attention seemed to be focused not on her face, but her wings. Rainbow raised an eyebrow as she returned her wings to her side, then mentally shrugged. Twilight was probably just impressed. “So, whatcha reading?”
“Oh, uh…” Twilight wracked her brain for a suitable name, anything to draw attention away from her research. “It’s a book about… birds! Horsebi-flies! Horseflies! Flies!” She mentally smacked herself. Is that really the best you could come up with?! Thankfully, Twilight was spared further embarrassment, as Rainbow’s face had acquired that familiar look of disinterest that she often had when Twilight started talking about interesting subjects. Where it would normally grate at her, right now she heaved a sigh of relief. She was still safe. But just to be sure, she slid the book back into her saddlebag.
“Yeah, that’s great. Hey, do you know where Applejack is?” Rainbow asked as she looked around the park.
Twilight shook her head, a sly smile on her lips at the swift change of topic. Since the two had started dating a few weeks prior, the farmer’s name was always on the tip of Rainbow’s tongue. “I haven’t seen her today,” she replied, sneaking some more looks at Rainbow’s wings. Unnoticed by Twilight, Rainbow’s expression took on an air of confusion as the pegasus glanced at her own wings, then back at the unicorn.
“What, is there something on my wings?”
“Ack! Um, no, it’s—there’s—nothing! I mean…”
Rainbow blinked, and shook her head slightly. Well, if Twilight didn’t want to talk about whatever-it-was, no skin off her snout. “Ah, nevermind. … Dangit, where is that mare, anyway? She said she’d meet me here… I’m gonna go look for her, seeya Twilight!” Glancing one last time at her friend, Rainbow lept into the air, heading in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres.
Now alone, Twilight sighed with relief. That had been too close! She would have to be more subtle in the future. She wasn’t a very good liar, she knew that—one determined pegasus asking questions could blow the whole study. So she’d have to make sure they never even noticed her looking. Still, she’d made some observations before the near-disaster, and she grabbed her notepad out of her saddlebag, quickly jotted down a few things, then fished the book back out, and started on the next chapter.
Unbeknownst to Twilight, Rainbow Dash was mulling over her friend’s actions, still confused. I wonder what that was about… She’d told herself it was nothing, but it kept sticking in her mind. Heh, it almost looked like she was… nah. Couldn’t be.
Chapter 4: Grasping Concepts - The Prehensile Wing
One of the most interesting, and perhaps most bizarre, abilities of the pegasus wing is its ability to be used to grasp objects. Unlike many other winged animals, the appendages can be twisted and turned with a fairly large degree of malleability, in effect resembling the claws or hands of other species such as dragons or diamond dogs. While not an exceedingly widespread or common skill, it allows the pegasus practiced in its use to handle items to a finer degree than an earth pony, entirely skipping the need to use the mouth—except, of course, when the pegasus is in flight. Hence, since most pegasi spend much of their day in the air, many never develop this relatively complicated skill, preferring to use their mouths to handle objects in both environments.
Such a display of wing malleability also enhances their durability. Since wings, in effect, handle magic to gain the ability to fly, they and their bearers are constantly exposed to magical manipulation. As a result, pegasus wings demonstrate a remarkable tolerance against torques and stress. Only the greatest of strains, such as physical or magical combat or severe impacts, are known to damage a wing.
On the subject of combat, this durability is one of the reasons why a large portion of the royal guards and military forces are comprised of pegasi. Their ability to fly is naturally key for mobility, but the ability to manipulate their wings to a great degree has made the pegasus an extremely versatile combat force. They can wield a weapon in hoof, mouth, and wing. With discipline and training, a soldier can employ their wings as weapons. While they cannot inflict such deep wounds as a blade or other weapon might, wings are still a force to be reckoned with, and in the right circumstances can even be deadly. This is why the pegasus combat force is considered just as capable as the unicorn division. This is all covered in far greater detail in Sun Flew’s The Art of Wing Combat.
Wings might not equal the delicate manipulative abilities of a unicorn horn, but they are more versatile than one might imagine.
Twilight lifted a hoof to her chin as she levitated the book back to her saddlebags. After her close encounter with Rainbow, she couldn’t afford to be so obvious again. She needed to be stealthy. Hidden. By… bushes. Yes. She’d hide in the bushes like she had done with Pinkie. For all the good that had done…
But more importantly, she needed to find a subject who wouldn’t notice her observation like her pink friend had. Twilight attributed that to Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense and her general weirdness, but she still needed a subject that was unsuspecting. Innocent. Quiet.
She jumped off her bench, eager to start her research with a new subject. As she left the park, her eyes kept wandering back to the various pegasi walking and flying about, studying their wings as she went by. She grinned happily. This was all so fascinating!
A short trip later, Twilight found herself hiding behind a tree. With a skill born from years of experience sneaking (unnecessarily) into the Royal Library, she inched closer to Fluttershy’s cottage, leaping from one hiding place to another until she reached a spot that gave her a perfect vantage point into the pegasus's home, while hiding Twilight from view.
She readied her notepad and pencil as she peered past the leaves, hoping to catch a glance of Fluttershy as she busied herself in her home. Her patience was soon rewarded as she caught a glimpse of her friend through the window, displaying exactly what Twilight had come for. In her mouth, Fluttershy was carrying a bag of birdseed while balancing a tray on each wing with no discernible bounce or jostle. One held a teapot and a teacup, while the other tray held a bowl of salad. It seemed like Twilight had caught her at lunchtime.
Twilight’s mouth started watering at the sight. Between her desire to finish Mollusks and You, and ending up being so engrossed in Mood Wings, she had completely forgotten to eat that morning. She shoved the thought out of her mind, intent on continuing to watch the other pony’s wings. Thankfully, Fluttershy was proving to be an absolute motherlode of information. She was handling her now filled cup with a hoof and a wing, with one of her thicker feathers slipped through the handle. The hoof held the cup upright, allowing the pony to sip at it at her leisure.
Grinning widely, Twilight’s horn shone as she started taking notes. Subject ‘Fluttershy’ displays a very high level of skill, from her ability to control individual primaries and secondaries independently, to the strength and dexterity of the wing itself. Subject has shown excellent wing stability, capable of—oh, that salad looks tasty… no! Focus!—of holding objects aloft without them tipping over or falling off. She continued scribbling furiously, hardly noticing the bluebird fly off from a nearby tree.
Meanwhile, Fluttershy sighed contentedly, enjoying the taste of the tea. It was a blend she usually reserved for when Rarity came by after their weekly spa session, but she had felt inexplicably daring today, and decided to dip into her stash. If daring tasted this good, she might have to do it again.
She felt a slight weight land on her head, and glanced upwards. A bluebird had landed on her head, and started chattering quickly. Fluttershy’s eyes widened as she listened, then glanced out her window. There, in plain sight, a purple horn stuck out from one of the bushes, shining with magic. She quickly turned away, not wanting to let Twilight know that she had been discovered.
Fluttershy didn’t know why Twilight was watching her from the bushes. But this was Twilight. The smartest pony in town. She had to have a good reason. She was Fluttershy’s friend, and would explain in due time.
Relaxing as she sipped her tea, Fluttershy thanked the bluebird, then dug into her salad. No sense in wasting a perfectly good meal by worrying. Even if it was somewhat odd.
Twilight herself glanced up as her stomach gave a low grumble. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to have disturbed any of the nearby wildlife, and was still hidden. She sighed in relief, glaring at her stomach. I really should eat, she mused, her gaze settling once more on Fluttershy. Well… maybe after a few more minutes of observation…
Chapters 5-8: Ocean of Emotion - Happiness, Sadness, Fear, and Anger
Finally, we begin the most important part of this book: the language of wings. In other words, how they display the ranges of emotion a pony can feel, revealing or enhancing what is already visible by facial expression or non-wing body language.
These displays are actually not iron-cast rules for pegasus expression. It is just as common for a pegasus to keep their wings at rest while expressing an emotion as it is for them to use their wings. It can be considered an accent, or perhaps even a dialect that a young foal learns while growing up, and it varies slightly depending on the pegasus's origin. While all the basic expressions remain the same, or at least mutually comprehensible, the angle of the wing or a slight variance in a feather’s direction can show the difference between a Cloudsdale pony and one from Las Pegasus.
In these chapters, I will cover a number of emotions that can be discerned from observation. Happiness, sadness, fear, anger—
Twilight frowned as she approached the center of town, her confusion growing by the minute. She’d finished reading the most informative chapters yet by the time she reached the town’s outskirts, thankful for her ability to walk and read with little trouble. But now that she was in town, taking mental notes as she watched passing pegasi, they seemed to want to confuse her instead.
Normally, when Twilight walked through town, she got little more attention than the occasional passing nod. She was hardly a social butterfly like Pinkie or even Rarity, after all. Yet now, when she specifically wanted to go unnoticed, every pegasus in town seemed to be paying attention to her. Some were giving her funny looks, others seemed to be deliberately avoiding her, and some had even accosted her, talking about the most inane of subjects. The price of vegetables, the latest gossip—nothing she was usually interested in.
What the hay was going on?
Twilight sighed in relief as she turned the corner, spotting her destination: Horte’s Cuisine. Home to the best hay fries in town, a pretty mean daffodil sandwich, and currently occupied by a Wonderbolt.
Twilight paused, her eyes opening wide in shock. You couldn’t be a friend of Rainbow Dash without hearing many tales and stories about the Wonderbolts. She’d heard about them so often that she could identify them in her sleep. But she was wide awake, and staring at none other than Soarin’. Even out of his uniform, the windswept mane and the distinctive cutie mark made the Wonderbolt instantly recognizable.
And a prime pegasus specimen.
Spurred on by the hunger gnawing at her stomach, she cautiously approached the restaurant while keeping an eye on her newest subject of observation’s wings. She was so focused on the wings that she never noticed as their owner glanced in her direction and grinned. She jumped as he cleared his throat, tearing her eyes off of his wings as she looked at his face.
The stallion gave her a winning smile, amusement twinkling in his eyes. “Hey there.”
She blinked, and looked around. No, he was indeed talking to her. “Um. Hello.”
“Care to join me for some drinks?”
Twilight felt the heat spread on her cheeks. Did he just…? “I. Uh. N-no, I was just passing by!” she answered, flinching as her stomach let out another growl. “I-I… sorryIgottago!”
Soarin’ blinked as he watched the unicorn run off, then shrugged. Mares.
Meanwhile, Twilight’s blush had finally faded as she once more found herself on the outskirts of town. She hadn’t quite intended to run as far as she had, but she could still feel the stares of pegasi on her back. And… Soarin’ of all ponies! She felt her flush threaten to return as she thought of the stallion’s obvious pass.
Maybe she’d better hold off on her field research for now.
On the other hoof, she could head to Sweet Apple Acres. Applejack was always willing to part with some apples, and that sounded delicious to Twilight right now. Plus, there were high chances that both the farmer and Rainbow Dash were on the farm, and her pegasus friend would want to know that one of her heroes was in town.
As she trotted towards the farm, Twilight enjoyed the scenery as she tended to do every time she took this path. As much hard work as it was to sustain the Acres, Applejack was lucky to live on such a beautiful piece of land. The green grass and leaves, the brown wood, the red apples, the gray pegasus on the road…
Twilight’s brain paused momentarily as she processed the last piece of information. There, walking down the path, was Derpy Hooves. She grinned and waved at the mailmare. “Hello, Derpy!”
The pegasus smiled back, her wings flaring open, happy to see a friendly face. “Hey, Twilight. How are you?”
“I’m doing fine, thanks!” Twilight replied, her eyes drifting once more towards the other pony’s wings. She just couldn’t help herself. “Oh, is Dinky stopping by tomorrow for tutoring?”
Derpy nodded, her wings fluttering at her sides. Oh, I know what that means! Twilight beamed inwardly. She’s happy. “Yep! Thanks again, Twilight. You have no idea how long it took to find a willing tutor for a young unicorn…”
Twilight shook her head. “No problem. She’s such a dear, it’s my pleas—” The rest of her phrase was drowned out by the loud growl from her momentarily forgotten stomach. Once again, Twilight’s cheeks became bright red.
Derpy giggled at the sound, her smile turning warm. “You know, I was just on the way to Sugarcube Corner for some muffins. Care to join me?”
The unicorn shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, but I’m in a bit of a rush. There’s a Wonderbolt in town, and you know Rainbow’d never forgive me if I didn’t tell her.” She rolled her eyes for emphasis. They both knew just how the speedster was when this subject came up.
Derpy’s wings drooped slightly at the refusal, but quickly lifted upwards once more. Was that… disappointment? Twilight pondered, wondering why it had been such a strong reaction. “Okay then! See ya ‘round!” the pegasus said, waving a cheerful farewell using both a hoof and a wing. Huh. Hadn’t read about that.
Chapter 9: Conundrums of Confusion - Uncertainty
The display of confusion deserves its own small section for one reason: it is difficult to pin down, observe correctly, and deduce the meaning thereof. Slight changes in movement can mean the difference between such statements as:
* I am confused… and this worries/scares me.
* I am confused… and this irritates/angers me.
* I am confused… but I don’t really mind/care.
* I am confused… and I find this amusing.
These are a few examples, and the difference between them is very subtle. Only very close observation, and skill, will allow you to truly see the different shifting of the feathers, combined with the rest of the body language. This makes confusion one of the hardest emotions discern accurately.
Shortly after parting company with Derpy, Twilight glanced upwards from her reading as she heard the sound of beating wings. There was Soarin’, speeding towards the distantly visible Cloudsdale. He had apparently noticed her too, giving his flying a slight flourish for his private audience, before waving as he sped off.
The blush made yet another triumphant return.
Poor Rainbow, she mused as she floated the book back into her saddlebags. She’ll have a fit when she hears she missed Soarin’. Minutes later, she reached the fence surrounding the Apple home and trotted straight to the front door. Before she could knock, she heard a pair of familiar voices coming from the barn. There, she found the pair lounging on piles of hay, relaxing.
“And then, she—oh hey, Twilight!” Rainbow called to the unicorn as she appeared in the doorway.
Applejack smiled at the new arrival. “Hey, Twi’. What brings you ‘round these parts?”
“Oh, I was just in the area.”
“Really?” the farmer asked, raising an eyebrow. “Farm’s not exactly on the beaten path, y’know.”
Oops. “Yes. Um. Just taking a walk and found myself here. What’s up with you girls?” Twilight asked, attempting to divert the conversation.
“Applebuckin’ is done for the day, so Ah’m just taking a breather with Dashie here,” Applejack answered, giving the pegasus a brief nuzzle. Twilight’s eyes widened slightly as she watched. The display wasn’t new, but the book was now giving her insight that she had lacked previously. Rainbow was blushing, a goofy grin plastered on her face. But the wings told another story entirely. The signs were crystal clear to Twilight’s keen eyes. Happiness was obvious—that little shudder, moving from the base of Rainbow’s wings to the tip of her primaries. But she also saw how the wing curved towards the earth pony, almost cradling her. Trust and contentment. It almost took Twilight’s breath away, seeing such a strong display of love. Rainbow was completely head over hooves about Applejack.
She continued watching the pegasus's wings, missing the occasional glance Rainbow threw her way. As her observation continued, she saw increasingly evident signs of… confusion?
Rainbow, for her part, wasn’t sure just how to feel. On one hoof, she was with her marefriend, who was nuzzling her. And that was all sorts of awesome.
On the other hoof, she was being watched. Not in Pinkie’s usual ‘Awww, that’s cute!’ fashion, or Rarity’s contemplative stare, or even Fluttershy’s wide-eyed wonder, which they all thought Rainbow hadn’t noticed. No, this was Twilight, and her usual small happy smile was absent. Right now, she was staring at Dash. The pegasus inched closer to Applejack, closing the remaining distance between the two.
Okay, there’s no mistaking it now, she thought. What the hay is going on? As Rainbow turned towards Twilight, opening her mouth to ask what Twilight was doing, the unicorn interrupted her train of thought.
“Oh! Dash,” Twilight said, abruptly remembering the other reason she’d come here for, “you’ll never guess what I saw in Ponyville today. Or rather, who.”
“Huh?” Rainbow asked, startled to be the one being questioned. “I dunno, who?”
Twilight grinned wide. “Soarin’!”
Rainbow’s full attention focused on Twilight, her wings flaring outwards in surprise. “What? Where! Why?!”
Twilight giggled at her friend’s predictable reaction. “Eating at Horte’s Cuisine. He’s gone now, though; I saw him fly back to Cloudsdale,” she said, missing how Rainbow seemed to sag in disappointment. “Was a bit weird though.”
“Weird?” Rainbow repeated.
“Yeah, he invited me to get some drinks with him–”
“–but I turned him down, of course.”
“You what?!” Rainbow sputtered, staring at Twilight. She abruptly turned to Applejack. “A.J., can I be jealous?” she asked, earning a slight frown from the farmer that was quite marred by the grin she was obviously trying to hold back. “… Fine, can I strangle her instead?”
“Hey!” Twilight cried, stepping back.
“No hurting our friend, Dash.”
“Thanks, Applejack,” Twilight said as Rainbow muttered to herself. She blushed as her stomach made itself heard once more, earning a chuckle from the farmer.
“A bit…” Twilight admitted, poking at the ground with a hoof.
As her friends talked, the pegasus stared daggers at her unicorn friend, jealousy burning through her. Yes, she had Applejack, but… come on! A Wonderbolt! And she refused! Why would she… oh, Rainbow paused. Ooooh. I see. “Hey, uh, Twi. Sorry for yelling at you like that. There’s, uh, pie in the kitchen if you want some?” she offered, earning a glance from Applejack.
“Really? Can I?” Twilight asked, beaming as the orange pony nodded. “Thanks, girls!” she said, rushing off. Once the unicorn was gone, Applejack turned back to Rainbow, an eyebrow raised high.
"So, what was that for? Ah could tell you were tryin' ta get rid of her."
"Oh, you noticed? Well, I think I know why she turned Soarin’ down!"
"Ya mean besides the fact that she's a book-lovin' introvert who ain't ever had a date and wouldn't know what to do with one if she did?"
"Er, yes, besides that."
"Oh? Well then, spill!”
Chapter 10: The Fight of Flight - Displays of Aggression
On the other side of the pegasus subtlety spectrum lies aggression. This is an emotion that requires almost no explanation to detect: wings are raised, spread out to their maximum length and size, in an effort to look more imposing and large.
This is reminiscent of animal behavior, where a creature will attempt to make itself larger than it actually is to frighten off predators. In the case of pegasi, it also allows them quick use of their wings, in either flight or combat.
The latter is a remnant of more ancient times, prior to the founding of Equestria. The pegasus society was a military state, where every able-bodied pony was expected to serve time in the armed forces. Even now, generations later and in times of peace, a pegasus showing aggression is ready for battle.
In short—if a pegasus is angry, it’s very clearly visible.
Applejack had argued against it, mentioning something about a ‘breach of privacy’ and ‘being insensitive’, but she’d eventually given in to her own curiosity and let Rainbow go. Hence the pegasus found herself hiding in a cloud, flying high above Twilight. Rainbow hoped the unicorn wouldn’t notice that she was being followed, but Rainbow felt she had to. She had to find out if her suspicions were correct.
Meanwhile, Twilight sighed contentedly as she trotted back to town, her stomach now full of delicious, savory apple pie. Even though the day had taken a strange turn after meeting Soarin’, she couldn’t feel bad about it. That pie had just been entirely too tasty. It was almost criminally good.
So good, in fact, that it utterly distracted her from where she was going. She’d closed her eyes, trying to remember the taste, utterly oblivious to her surroundings, and nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a loud yell.
Her eyes flew open, settling on a mountain in the shape of a white coated, red-eyed stallion, flexing in the street. And he had absolutely tiny wings. After reading the book, she now understood how he was able to fly with those minuscule, stunted things, but she wondered if the marked difference in size changed anything in regards to language.
She was so focused on his wings that she didn’t notice the change in the stallion’s expression as he noticed where Twilight was looking.
“What? What are you staring at?”
Twilight blinked, her gaze torn away from the wings. “N-nothing!”
The stallion just seemed to become angrier. “Nothing?! You think they’re nothing? You find my wings funny or something?!”
By Celestia, those wings were so small. She could definitely take something off the checklist: size didn’t affect the body language much. His wings showed clear aggression. However, not nearly as much as the pair of gray wings that now filled Twilight’s vision.
“Leave her alone, Roid! She didn’t mean anything by it!”
She stood firm in front of Twilight, her wings tall and imposing, glaring up at the stallion. Roid Rage didn’t know if it was her eyes, or her pose, but something told him not to mess with her. He snorted angrily and left without another word.
Twilight sighed in relief, then jumped as the gray mare spun around. But instead of facing Twilight, she ended up facing the ground, having caught one leg with another and tripped herself. “Derpy! Are you okay?”
Derpy nodded as Twilight helped her up, grinning brightly. “Yep!” She then glared at her traitorous legs. “Stupid things!”
As Twilight brushed the dirt away from Derpy’s mane, she heard a snicker from the sky. Glancing up, she found Rainbow perched on a cloud with a smirk on her face. Twilight glared at her friend, having expected better from her than laughing at the expense of others. Then again, she mused, thinking back to their first meeting, it’s nothing new. At least Dash had the decency to look remorseful once she saw Twilight glaring at her.
She turned back to Derpy, smiling gratefully. “Thank you for that. I don’t know why he was so angry.”
Derpy shook her head. “Well, his last name is Rage… kinda makes sense, don’t it?” she smirked, winking at Twilight. Her smile then softened. “Thanks, Twilight.”
“For what?” the librarian asked, as she finished dusting Derpy off.
“For being so nice!” Derpy stepped closer to Twilight, shaking out her unreliable appendages. As she did, her wing brushed firmly down Twilight’s back, coming to rest against her cutie mark.
Twilight shivered a bit at the touch. Still, given Derpy’s sense of balance, she didn’t mind being leaned on for a minute. “N-no problem!” she said, her cheeks heating up from the complement.
Above, Rainbow jumped off her cloud, cackling to herself. She couldn’t wait to tell Applejack!
Twilight groaned as she flopped onto her couch, face-first. The day had been far more hectic and exhausting than she had expected it to be. Light reading and casual observation had turned into a trip to all parts of the town, gnawing hunger, pegasi acting odd, and being yelled at. Weird didn’t even begin to cover it.
Lifting her head off the cushion, she levitated the book out of her saddlebags, eager to keep reading. She was almost done with the book, and it would likely get her mind off of the day’s events.
Chapter 11: Standing at Attention - Arousal
A note to the reader: The next chapter cover a subject not suitable for a younger audience. Please keep out of the hooves of foals.
Perhaps one of the most interesting quirks of pegasus wings is the display shown when expressing a keen sexual interest in another pony. Their wings subconsciously jut upwards, in a fashion that could almost be confused with aggressiveness. But the reality is quite the opposite. It shows an immense attraction towards another pony. This is not necessarily in a romantic sense, but a physical one. These displays are often completely out of the pegasus's control, although, with mental and physical training, such displays can be suppressed to a certain degree.
This is, however, the reason why a pegasus's wings are flared when in the throes of passion. That is why restricting wings is a rather extreme deviance for a pegasus, combined with the fact it prevents one of the basic aspects of their life: flight. However, this is not a subject that will be covered in this book; for more details, see the Pony Sutra.
The scientific term for this display would be ‘Erogenous Alarum Stiffening’, but this is not a term commonly used by society. The most popular term is ‘wingboner’, but numerous synonyms and euphemisms exist:
Popfeather, wing erection, popping a wingie, rigor eros, popping a pinion, flight firmness, at full sail, saluting the sky, reluctant advertising, bedroom turbulence warning, spontaneous wing-stretches…
These are the type of expressions that you will hear on the street, or in a casual conversation. Admittedly, a very casual conversation, and usually not a public one. This is only a partial list. As you can see, the names are numerous, and often material for many professional comedians. Most of them have drifted in and out of use, as slang tends to evolve at an extremely quick pace. Much faster than my research could keep up with, I’m sad to say.
The point is simple: like many displays of pegasus emotion, if they are interested in you… you’ll know.
Fascinated, Twilight sped past the introduction, devouring the contents of the chapter. She had never thought herself that interested in such a subject, but discovering that such an overt display was so commonplace amongst ponies was eye-opening. As she reached the next chapter, she put the book down, feeling the heat coming off her cheeks. Thankful that Spike still wasn’t back home, she trotted over to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water, which did wonders to cool her off.
She snorted in amusement as she trotted back to the couch. If she had read this book earlier, she’d have seen the thing between Applejack and Rainbow Dash ages ago. Rainbow Dash had made it plenty obvious to anypony who’d known what to look for.
Sitting down once more, she began reading the final chapter.
Epilogue: A Brush of the Eye, a Brush of a Feather - A Personal Account
This section will differ from the rest, as it will have no separate introduction, nor any detailed observation following it.
Instead, it will simply be a little story.
When I first started my observation of this topic, I met with some resistance. Over time, pegasi started to react in an adverse manner. They started to display nervous looks and often attempted to avoid me. Obviously, this was a hindrance to my research, yet I did not know what the problem was nor what I was doing to cause this type of reaction.
A week later, I would finally get my answer. I found myself walking the streets of Manehattan, continuously looking for subjects to watch. I had stumbled upon a pegasus couple, enjoying their day in town. However, they did not react like the other pegasi. Instead, the stallion came up to me, demanding why I was ‘looking at his marefriend’s wings’. In my ignorance and slight fear, as this stallion was quite imposing and threatening, I stammered out that I wasn’t looking at her wings, but at both their wings.
This proved to be the wrong answer. As the stallion’s expression changed to disgust, and he proceeded to attack me, eventually knocking me out.
I awoke what felt like hours later, though I would later learn from my savior this it had only been minutes. She was a pegasus mare with a deep green coat, shining blue eyes, and a rose mane. She had picked me up from the ground and propped the back of my head up against her barrel, giving me a more comfortable position while I was unconscious.
She explained that she’d heard the shouting from her apartment. She’d glanced out of her window and rushed down when the stallion started bucking. The couple had already left by the time she’d arrived, but she’d seen and heard enough to know what had happened.
She briefly ranted about the stallion, having had the misfortune of dating him for a brief period of time. As she dragged me to her apartment to apply a plethora of bandages on me, she asked what possessed me to stare like that.
Normally hesitant to explain, as subjects of observation do not act naturally if they know they are being observed, I decided that this pony deserved to know, as she had and still was helping me out.
It took her a few minutes to stop laughing after I’d finished explaining, by which time I was starting to regret the decision. But what she told me next positively floored me.
What I had believed to be innocent watching, simple observation… To a pegasus, this means something else entirely. Among pegasi, wings are considered a relatively personal body part, thus examining them with more than a passing glance is either very rude, or an expression of unabashed interest, i.e. significant attraction to the pony they are attached to.
Combining this with the fact that said stallion was, as she put it, ‘a homophobic, aggressive bully’, his behavior became much clearer.
Twilight paused in her reading, her eyes wide.
So the entire day, I’ve been… oh, Celestia… She buried her face under her hooves, her cheeks redder than ever. That explains a lot…
Her mind wandered back over the day. The drink offer. The stares. The attempts at conversation. Huh. So that’s what a cheesy pickup line sounds like.
She then gasped as she remembered Rainbow’s reactions. I’ve made a huge mess… I’ve got to apologize.
Her mind still awash with the realization of what she’d been doing, her eyes fell on the remaining pages of the book. There was so little left…
Still chuckling, Sky Diver began to give me some more detail on pegasus body language. Her insight proved absolutely invaluable, filling in many holes that existed in the early stages of my research. She became such an important source of information that she eventually became my research assistant.
With her guidance, she helped clear the mysteries I had set out to explain, and you can see her hoofwork in every chapter. While the introductions are purely my work, the finer details found in the chapters are the result of our joint observations, with much of the credit resting on her shoulders.
I will now mention one final wing expression, one that changed my life forever. Staring at wings is an expression of interest. Wingboners are an expression of physical attraction. But there is one thing missing in this list. A display of emotional attraction. Showing that you care for the pony, in a deeper sense than a simple physical attraction.
Sky Diver brushed her wing on my back, coming to rest on my cutie mark. The tip of her feathers, normally resting over her own cutie mark, had touched mine.
I must admit, I did not understand it at first. As I always did when discovering a new wing-expression, I asked her what it meant.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen her blush quite that much, before or since. But eventually, through more blushing and eventual stammers, she asked me to accompany her. To dinner.
For a date.
I had shared such thoughts myself before, but had lacked the courage, and the non-verbal method of communication she had so aptly just displayed. I thank her pegasus ancestry for their warrior’s courage, which she’d clearly inherited. Of the two of us, she’d taken the first step.
I’m happy to say, the date went quite well, and was the first of many. A few years later, we were married.
While that first display was merely a question, it still makes regular appearances in our shared lives. I see it now as one of the deepest expressions of emotions I’ve ever seen. It is heartfelt, and powerful. My research, once my greatest passion, had opened up the door to the love of my life. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Twilight stared blankly at the last page, her thought process ground to a firm halt. As the seconds ticked by, the gears in her mind slowly started moving again.
… I had no idea Derpy swung that way.
“I told you, Twilight’s totally into mares!” Dash said, grinning. “I thought it was just me, but Derpy was totally putting the moves on her! That’s why she turned Soarin’ down!”
Applejack rubbed her chin, deep in thought. Rainbow had practically bowled her over upon her return, gushing with what sounded like gossip. But she’d wheedled some explanations out of the pegasus and was beginning to understand what Rainbow was talking about. Not only that, she had gained a deeper understanding of the pegasus herself. She’d never doubted the depth of Rainbow’s feelings before, and now had even less reason to.
“Well, Ah’m glad you cleared that up. Ah’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to with those wings of yours sometime,” she said, grinning.
Rainbow blushed. She’d never thought to explain, never thought that her love might not understand her motions. But with the subject broached, she’d opened herself to Applejack even further. And it felt… great. She’d have to thank Twilight for that. She grinned as she leaned closer to the orange pony, brushing Applejack’s cutie mark with a wing.
As the two leaned closer together, their lips nearly meeting in a kiss, a knock on the door startled them, shattering the mood. Grumbling, they trotted to the door, and opened it to reveal a slightly disheveled Twilight.
“Dash!” Twilight gasped, slightly out of breath. “I… uh. I’m sorry.”
The pegasus tilted her head, completely at loss. “Pardon?”
“For what, Twi?” Applejack interjected, just as lost as Rainbow.
“Can we sit down?” Twilight asked, hesitant. “It's a bit of a long story.”
“… and that’s why I was staring like that. Sorry,” Twilight finished, turning a now-empty glass of water in her hooves.
Rainbow, in her ever-understanding manner, was lying on the floor, rolling with laughter. Even Applejack had to fight to keep a grin off her face.
Rainbow wiped a few stray tears from her eyes as the giggles subsided, ignoring the unicorn’s glare. “That’s just like you to go around ‘studying’—staring—before you even finished the book!” she said, attempting to hold back even more giggling. I guess I was wrong about her and mares. Rainbow thought. Should have known better. She waved the apology away. “Don’t worry about it. No harm done!”
Twilight sighed in relief, and put the glass on the table. “I should get going.”
Applejack tilted her head. “Leavin’ so soon, Twi’?”
Twilight nodded, smiling. “Yep. I think I’m gonna go get some muffins with Derpy,” she said, and left.
Rainbow stood staring at the spot the unicorn had just occupied, her mouth hanging open.
Oooor not. Huh. Ya think you know a pony.
Afterword: The Next Frontier!
In closing, I hope you enjoyed this book. It was a great journey of discovery for me, and I hope you find yourselves enriched after reading it. I hope it helps you understand pegasi better. They are a treasure trove of body language and expression. There’s a good reason why some of the best actors are pegasi, after all.
Just don’t stare too hard, okay?
Look out for my next book, targeted at pegasi, where I will focus on an entirely new field—non-wing-based body language. Once again, thanks to my ever faithful Sky Diver.
“… and so, a true friend is one who trusts you to have a good reason for what you do, rather than leaping to conclusions,” Twilight wrote. She smiled at the memory of Fluttershy’s pleasantly rational reaction to Twilight’s confession, before adding “… though forgiving you afterwards with only a minimum of ridicule is a decent second-best.”
She finished that line with a wry grin, which transmuted into a wide smile as she continued. “In related news, I’m pleased to say I have found a whole new fascinating avenue of friendship research, which I expect to be reporting on in my next several letters.” She paused for a moment, sucking on her quill. With a blush, she added an extra line. “As a result, I believe I will pen those letters myself, rather than dictating them to Spike.”
Finishing off the letter with her trademark signature, she carefully rolled it up and sealed it before placing it in her outbox for later flaming. With a sigh, she collapsed into a comfy chair next to her favorite bookshelf. It’s been one heck of a day, she thought, eyeing the empty gap in the ‘M’ section. While she certainly wasn’t complaining about the results, it would still be a relief to move on from that tumultuous tome.
She reached out with her magic. While she couldn’t put Mood Wings back—Applejack had borrowed it—it still felt quite soothing to be starting a new book.
Hmm. Moon, Sun, and Stars: A History of Equestrian Cosmology. Well, sounds like it should be a fascinating—and pleasantly calm—read. I’ve had enough major revelations for the next month.
And so, with a contented smile, she settled in for a good long read.
“… Princess Luna did what?!?”
Celestia stared at the letter, as if willing it to change. Yet the words—the implications—remained steadfast.
Enough. I’ve no time for this. “Luna! I’m heading to Ponyville immediately. You’re in charge until I get back.”
“What hast thou so worried, Sister?"
"I believe my faithful student may have begun studies in a field I have not adequately prepared her for."
"W-which field of study is that, Sister?"
"Oh. Oh dear."