When night fell, Rainbow Dash was actually ready for it. She set up camp beneath a pair of dead trees on the east face of a low mountain. With the aid of flint and steel, she started a humble fire and laid herself besides the flames to dry her body.
Thankfully, her saddlebag was made of stern stuff. The royal fabric had little to no risk of allowing any moisture to leak through. That didn't stop her—however—from habitually opening the pouches and examining the contents within. The bread was ever crumbling, but still edible. She chewed on a few morsels with boring precision before moving on to the rest of the pack. The map was untouched. The hatchet hadn't rusted. The green book...
Rainbow Dash lingered. She slowly blinked and icily moved the tome beyond sight.
Reaching into the saddlebag once again, she produced the red apple. It was as shiny and beautiful as the bright afternoon when she plucked it. Squinting through the flickering firelight, she polished the surface once more and smiled proudly at the fruit's glistening skin. Her stomach—barely aided by the stale bread—gurgled deliciously for the sweet object in her grasp. She did not give into it, and instead placed the fruit back into the deepest recesses of the saddlebag.
Minutes later, Rainbow Dash was lying on her back, her ears enchanted by the percussion of the campfire's crackling embers. She gazed at the stars, not with amazement and wonder but rather with a placid solemnity. It seemed as though no matter how far she flew or how many miles she traveled, the constellations looked the same, so that the lone pegasus wondered if she had crossed any distance at all.
At least the stars had texture to them. Drawing in and out of the streaming band of the Milky Way, she could have sworn she saw color—blues and reds pushing and pulling at her eyes. However, she danced with them like a stone golem would patrol a cemetery. There were too many stars to grow attached to. Rainbow Dash wondered if there was another pony like her a galaxy away, staring back and seeing her as just one more insignificant speck of light amidst the canvas of eternity. In the end—as her squinting eyes took her into the unforgiving realm of sleep—all of the light bled into a heartless gray, and it felt to Rainbow Dash as if she had never taken to the air to begin with.
She tried to shatter these thoughts. She remembered the quarry eels. She remembered countless other dangers that she had recently encountered, each of them wild and spectacular. She had flown fearlessly into the angry faces of anything and everything she had come across, and still the night's sky looked gray as she fell into slumber.
So she embraced blackness instead. Clenching her eyes tightly shut, she rolled herself into her blankets until they enshrouded her like a cocoon. Somewhere in the midst of that lonesome dark, she felt her head filling with her own heartbeat. It was something worth dancing to, and it made herself feel like she had the ability to show off once more.
And as if to grant her most secret wish, she had no dreams that night. When the stars passed over Rainbow Dash, they shone over a smile.