Ditzy Doo's eyes focused as lightning darted down from the clouds above to the outskirts of Ponyville. It was absolutely breathtaking, especially from way up here in the sky. But there was no time to watch it, even for a fleeting moment.
A nasty snowstorm had been brewing all day, on account of the top members of the weather patrol all coming down with a mild illness and being bedridden at the same time. That had been rather strange, but there was no time to think about it, so she instead focused on the task at hand.
Her courier bags were weighed down heavily with letters addressed to Sweet Apple Acres. She briefly mused about what all those letters could mean, but there was no time to guess. The snow would begin falling in only a half-hour.
As she landed by the front door to the house on the farmland, she couldn't help but ponder how to greet the family of four. She hoped it was Apple Bloom—she'd been trying to schedule a play date between her daughter and the little redhead for weeks now. Or maybe Granny Smith or Big Macintosh, so she could get down to business delivering the letters and head home for a nice warm cup of-
"Howdy there, Ditzy!"
The blonde pegasus's eyes refocused on the earth pony staring at her from beyond the open doorway. "Um... Hi, Applejack! I brought you some letters! Lots of letters!" As she pulled open the courier bags, the earth pony grabbed her by the hoof and dragged her into the house.
As the two neared the kitchen, Applejack stopped moving, causing the blonde pegasus to collide with her and collapse in a heap on the floor. She smiled and asked, "How've ya been, sugarcube?"
"F-fine, thanks for asking..." Ditzy mumbled, trying to find her footing as the room seemed to slide and turn about. "Why is your house spinning and how do I stop it?" She asked.
Applejack's hooves pushed up against her and straightened her out, holding her still until the room settled in place. The earth pony smiled and winked. "Feelin' better? We're all ready ta dig into some delicious apple pies fer dinner, an' I'd love it if ya'd stay an' chat with us!"
The blonde pegasus smiled and nodded. "I'd love to!" She couldn't help but feel she was forgetting something, but who was she to pass up such warm hospitality?
Ditzy smiled and patted her belly. "Thanks for the pie, Applejack! Oh, and I'll be sure to send my girl over next week! What else... oh right, good luck with the Apple Family Reunion next year!" With that she opened the front door of the farm house, intent on setting off for the post office tonight. A snowflake landed on the end of her muzzle and melted, and she turned her head skyward to find the source.
A gentle hoof placed itself on her shoulder. "Somethin' the matter, sugarcube?"
Without turning to look at Applejack, the blonde pegasus nodded. "I've gotta go," she shouted, "see you later this week!" Then she flew off along the ground, leaving the poor farm pony behind. Snowflakes nestled themselves all over her body as she raced off towards the post office. The storm was almost in full swing by now. It wouldn't be too long before the winds began to rattle the nearby trees, signifying the real trouble—the scheduling called for a blizzard in order to provide enough snow for any upcoming events. As much as she found it captivating to watch the snowflakes flurry about like the dandruff in a poorly washed mane, there was no way she'd let herself be caught up in a blizzard. She would not, could not let herself be distracted by all those beautiful little snowflakes, blanketing the sky like a sea of shooting stars as the wind whipped them to and fro. She had her daughter to get back home to, and could not-
The sound of a young filly shouting "HEY!" through glass windows alarmed her, and Ditzy Doo found herself spinning about in midair. She'd already arrived at the post office, it seemed. Standing just beyond the door was a small purple unicorn, with blonde hair matching her own. Ditzy cocked her head to the side. "Aren't you supposed to be at home, muffin?"
The little unicorn sighed. "You've been late every single day for the past week, mom. I came down to the post office to walk home with you, and you were late again so they let me stay here until you got back to lock up."
Ditzy nodded with approval. Little fillies shouldn't be out and about during a blizzard. "Well, come on then, muffin!" She beamed an enthusiastic smile, then added, "I've got a nice apple pie in my mail bag for you when we get back home." As she watched the little unicorn unlock the door, she felt a sudden ache in her back and loin, as if something small and hard had hit her. She turned around and looked at an object lying on the ground. It was cold, clearly ice. And it was small, like a little ball bearing. A small and cold icy ball bearing which, given the one that landed with a crash just next to it, seemed to have fallen from the sky. Realization struck her in the form of a third small and cold icy ball bearing. Hail!
She turned back around, addressing the curious little filly by her name. "Dinky, let me in! We're staying at the post office tonight. I am not letting you walk home through a hail storm!"
Twilight sighed as she wiped the nose of her little dragon assistant. "I've brought you a glass of water, Spike." She motioned to the floating glass, then set it down beside the sickly purple dragon and his bed. "If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask, okay?"
The dragon nodded, then sneezed, spewing green flames into the unicorn's face. "Sorry, Twi..."
"It's fine," she said, thankful that it was only flames this time around, " just drink your water and get some rest, okay?" With that she headed off to her her own bed, eager to cover herself under her blankets and catch up on a novel she'd been reading. As she lied down and turned her head to find the book, her gaze came to rest upon a large, plainly but carefully wrapped package. She blinked twice in confusion. "Oh no! I was supposed to send that out today! How could I forget?!"
Over in his bed, Spike sneezed once again. "Sorry," he mumbled.
The purple unicorn sighed. "It's okay, Spike. I should have been keeping better track of my to do list today." She lifted the package up from the table beside her bed with telekinesis, then smiled. "I'll be back in a few minutes, Spike. Don't worry about me."
As Twilight neared the front door, she couldn't help but wonder just what that pervasive rattling outside could be. She sought to prepare for the cold weather by dressing in her boots, scarf, and that nice fur-lined saddle Rarity had given her several days ago. Still the sound gave her pause, and as she sat in front of the front door, she found herself hesitating. The answer to her curiosity came to her in the form of a fierce wind and dozens of hail pellets as she opened the door. "Hail?! Really?!" She shook her head in frustration, then placed the package on her back. With her magic she created a half-sphere barrier above her, acting as an umbrella against the incoming ice. "Alright, I can do this. It's just hail. The post office should still be open at this hour."
Ditzy gritted her teeth. Truly, of any challenge she had faced in the past twelve minutes, this was the one needing her attention the most. She carefully balanced the Ace of Diamonds and the Five of Hearts together, placing them at the very top of the pyramid.
"Mom," Dinky shouted, "there's a crazy purple unicorn carrying a funny purple umbrella running over here!" She motioned towards the glass doors at the front of the post office.
The blonde pegasus walked over to the door, pushing her face up against the glass. It was far colder than she expected, but as her eyes focused she could easily make out the identity of the newcomer. "Oh, that's just Twilight Sparkle," she said, "and she's probably here to have that package sent out." She carefully turned the locking mechanism on the front door, then opened it just as the purple unicorn rushed into the room.
"I need," Twilight gasped, "you to... deliver... package!" As if by magic, a purple glow surrounded the package, setting it on the blonde pegasus's back. The purple unicorn stared at her for a few seconds, then shouted. "Now! Hurry! Go!"
"Umm," Ditzy said, sheepishly rubbing her hind legs together, "the post office is closed for the night. And with the hailstorm, there's no way I could deliver this package all the way to... to..."
"Canterlot," the purple unicorn said, the worry in her voice more than evident. "I was supposed to bring it here this morning, but completely forgot. It's very important that it be delivered tonight."
The blonde mare placed the package on the floor, examining it carefully. She asked, "What's inside? It must be something amazing if you need it out so quickly!"
Twilight sighed. "It's an antique clock. I bought it from a little shop four weeks and three days ago, the day before the Running of the Leaves, and fixed it up so I send it home to my parents. My dad collects antique clocks. Is that all you need to know?"
Ditzy nodded. "Don't worry, Twilight! Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night can stay this messenger about her duty!" She picked up the package and slipped it into her left bag, then saluted and walked out into the hail storm.
The mare promptly turned back and rushed inside, knocking over her card pyramid in the process. She shouted, "Hail can, though!," wincing from the barrage of little icy ball bearings that had beaten against her back and withers. "Sorry Twilight" she apologized, lowering her head in sadness, "but it's going to have to wait until morning."
The purple unicorn shook her head and lifted the package away with her telekinesis. "If you can't take it" she exclaimed, her displeasure more than evident in her tone, "then I'll have to do it myself!"
As she turned to head back out into the storm, the gray pegasus lept on top of her, pinning her to the ground. "You can't go to Canterlot," she cried, "not in this weather! The roads are all closed and there's hail and a blizzard and I can't let you go!" She paused, sensing the unicorn's irritation growing. "Not alone. I'm going with you. And I've got a friend who can help us."
Twilight sighed. "Thank you. Now will you please get off of me?"
"Right, sorry!" Ditzy rolled off the purple unicorn, then flew over to her Dinky. "Muffin, momma's going to be away for the night. Watch the post office for me, don't let any strangers in, and don't go peeking into anyone's letters, okay?"
The little blonde filly yawned and nodded. She wrapped herself up in her little blanket, then sat and watched until the two older ponies disappeared out into the blizzard.
Golden Harvest smiled as she poured the contents of the pot on her stove into a clean wooden bowl. The melted chocolate turned out perfectly, as always. She carried the bowl into her front room, setting it down on the soft carpet a short distance away from the fireplace. Between the heat from the fire, her bowl of melted chocolate, and a fresh bushel of carrots, she was all set for the night. And best of all, the storm meant nopony would come around and interrupt her. Finally, she'd have time to sit down and get something written for a change.
Of course, that was the moment somepony knocked on her front door. She sighed in exasperation, "At this time of day? During a snowstorm?!" The orange-maned earth pony stood up on all four legs, then walked over to the door, ready to chew out whoever was trying to bother her this time.
As she opened the door, a gray flash knocked her over. She cried, "Ack! Get off me!," but the pegasus pinning her down refused to get up.
"Carrot!" Ditzy shouted, shaking her friend silly, "Carrot, I need your help!"
From behind her a purple unicorn walked into the house, shivering from the cold. She asked, "You're Golden Harvest, right?"
The orange-maned mare nodded, finally freeing herself from underneath her overly excited friend. She turned to her second guest, eyeing her with disdain. "Yes, that's my name. To what do I owe this interruption, Miss... you're Twilight Sparkle, aren't you?"
The purple unicorn nodded. "I'm very sorry, but I need help delivering a package to Canterlot, and Ditzy insisted that you'd make an excellent guide. With the storm being so thick and the roads blocked, we'll need somepony who knows her way around to guide us."
"It's just an hour to Canterlot as the crow flies," the gray pegasus added, "but the hail hurts my back when it hits me so I can't fly! And there's so much snow falling and it's hard to see where I'm going!" She looked Carrot in the eye, pleading with her. "Please Carrot, you're the only one who can help!"
The earth pony let out an exasperated sigh. "I hardly doubt that. Fine, though." She turned the the unicorn, eyeing her up and down. "Twilight, I've got a spare sweater you might want to wear. You too, Ditzy. We're in for a long hike."
Twilight huffed as she maintained the barrier protecting the three ponies from the falling hail. Her breath was plainly visible before her as a white fog, though with the nice green sweater Golden Harvest had loaned her she hardly felt cold at all.
The turquoise-clad pegasus cocked her wool cap-covered head to the side as she fluttered next to the earth pony in the lead. "Are you sure we're going the right way, Carrot? This is Whitetail Woods we're going through."
"Yes," she replied, "the route we'll be taking cuts through the woods and follows a seldom traveled pathway through the mountains. There are many ways to Canterlot beyond the main road." She sighed and looked up at the cloudy sky wistfully. "You'd think more ponies would be interested in seeing where all those trails lead. But the last time I visited, it seemed like everypony there was completely uninterested in seeing what lay beyond its furthest walls."
Twilight nodded sheepishly. She knew that feeling all too well—her studies had taken up pretty much the entirety of her time in Canterlot. The only times she ever left the city were when on Celestia's orders, and even then only for further study, of course. Even if the other ponies weren't as diligent as her in their pursuits, she could see why the mountains beyond the city wouldn't appeal to them—they held none of the comforts of home and all of the dangerous creatures they were normally protected from.
The orange-maned earth pony stopped and looked at her unicorn companion. "Is something wrong, Twilight? You've stopped walking."
"No," she denied, "nothing's wrong." The earth pony didn't seem to be buying it, so Twilight quickly tried to change the subject. "How do you know so much about these trails, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I used to travel quite a bit when I was a filly," she said, "not much younger than you are now, actually. The world outside of our towns and cities is a place of wonders and terrors many ponies never lay eyes on. I could tell you about some of my adventures, if you'd like."
"Hey, Carrot!" Ditzy suddenly shouted, startling the two mares.
Golden Harvest shouted back, "What?!" Her patience with the blonde pegasus was already wearin thin tonight, in no small part due to the bitter coldness and the constant crunching of snow and ice beneath her boots.
Ditzy pulled back in surprise. "S-sorry," she started, "I was just going to say, you should tell her about the day you and I met."
The earth pony chuckled nervously. "Oh, she doesn't want to hear that one."
"Actually," Twilight said, her tone completely sincere, "I'd love to hear about how you two met. She wouldn't have suggested it if it weren't an interesting story, would she?"
Golden Harvest sighed and rolled her eyes. "Fine. It all started when our friend here crashed through my roof. She was badly injured, you see..."
Twilight craned her head back, staring up the snow-covered mountainside ahead of them. "That's a steep cliff."
"Well," Golden Harvest said as she shook the snow from her boots, "it is a mountain. It might be difficult to traverse on our own, though." She looked up into the sky. " It seems we're far enough from Ponyville to avoid the hail, so you can drop that shield if you want."
Twilight nodded, dropping the protective barrier. Snowflakes which would previously have fallen to the wayside began landing upon their sweater-adorned furry coats. "Are you sure we should take this route? I don't mind looking for a gentler slope."
The orange-maned earth pony gave her a quick glance, then turned to Ditzy. "When we left, it was about a quarter before midnight. Could you go check the sky for us?"
The wall-eyed mare shouted, "I'm on it," then flew up into the sky, vanishing from sight. Several minutes passed before she returned, covered head to toe in icicles. Adorning her shivering face was a plainly worried expression. "Carrot!" She cried, waving her front hooves wildly.
The orange-maned earth pony looked worriedly at her. She asked, "What's the problem?," her concern clear in her voice.
"The moon!” Ditzy cried, “It's setting! We've been out here for hours and hours now!”
Twilight shook her head in disbelief. Sure, they were only a mountain's climb away from Canterlot, but surely they hadn't been traveling that long to get here, right? She turned her attention to the freezing pegasus, warming her with a prolonged fire spell. “So there's no way we'll make it on time,” she asked, “unless we take this mountain trail?”
Golden Harvest responded, “I'm afraid so. We can make it to the city before sunrise if we hurry. I'll lead the way.” With that the earth pony began the treacherous climb up the snowy cliff side.
Twilight turned to Ditzy to see if she was feeling better, but the pegasus had already begun ascending, leaving her behind. With a nervous gulp she took her first step up the sharp incline, following in the plainly visible footsteps of her companion.
Golden Harvest breathed a sigh of relief, wiping the sweat from her brow as she came to a stop under an overlook. They'd been making good time—by her estimates they'd been in Canterlot within the hour. She turned to signal her two companions, then stopped.
She could feel the shaking in her legs. The earth pony waved frantically to her companions, then darted underneath the overlook just in time to avoid the cascading white wall. She stared on, watching with bated breath as the avalanche relentlessly continued.
Ditzy floated high above the avalanche, trying to keep her eyes on her companions. Carrot had disappeared behind the avalanche, and down below her was the bright purple glow of the unicorn's magic shining through the torrent of white powder. Hesitation gripped the blonde mare. She had to do something, she felt, but what? There was no way she could stop an avalanche, and to get at either friend she'd have to dive right through the rapid flowing snow to get to them.
“Carrot!” she cried, darting off towards the orange-maned earth pony. She stopped and turned, darting back towards Twilight, then Carrot again. “Gah,” she shouted, “why can't I be in two places at once?!” As she swung to and fro, struggling to choose who to go after, she suddenly found the decision made for her.
The avalanche had stopped, and while Carrot was plainly visible and unharmed, the only sign of Twilight was a faint purple glow that had slipped down the mountainside, dragged down within the river of white powder.
Twilight shivered. Her legs were buried up to her joints in snow; it was a miracle they hadn't broken under the strain from the avalanche. As far as she could tell, she had been buried deep underneath the torrent, and though it sounded as if it had finally settled, she had no way of knowing just where she was. Not like it mattered—her barrier, as large as it was, could only hold so much air. And she couldn't exactly drop it unless she wanted to get pancaked underneath the snow above her.
She knew well enough that this was hopeless, and silently cursed herself for insisting that she deliver her package through a night like this. In hindsight, having it sent out a day late wouldn't have been so bad. She would've been able to get a good night's rest, maybe finish reading that novel...
Somewhere above her, she heard the faint sound of snow crunching. Twilight could just barely make out the voices of the two mares accompanying her, but couldn't make out a word they were saying. Soon enough the voices stopped, though it was clear to her that they were doing something. The crunching noises drew closer and closer, until finally a yellow hoof poked itself against her barrier.
“Twilight,” the orange-maned earth pony called out, “are you okay?”
The unicorn nodded, a smile growing upon her now hopeful face.
A voice nearby shouted out, “Don't worry! We'll have you out in a flash!”
Twilight gasped for air as the two mares pulled her out from the settled snow. “Thank you,” she said, pulling her friends into a hug. “I would've been a goner if it weren't for you two!”
Golden Harvest looked at her apologetically. “None of this would have happened if we'd taken a safer road. I'm sorry, Twilight.”
Twilight shook her head. “Don't worry about it. None of us are seriously hurt, and if we hurry...” She turned to Ditzy, realization having struck her. “Of course! Ditzy, can you fly this to my parents' home? The address is on the side.”
Ditzy, pressing the package between her front hooves. She exclaimed confidently, “I'll have it there before sunrise!” With that, the blonde pegasus flew off towards the towering castle of Canterlot, leaving her two friends behind.
“So,” Carrot said, her eyes fixated on the pegasus as she drifted out of sight, “Just why was it so important to make it there before morning, anyways? Wouldn't your parents be asleep right about now?”
Twilight nervously chuckled. “Yeah, I guess I was in such a rush to get it delivered on time that I didn't really think all of this through. Sorry, Golden Harvest.”
The earth pony smiled, patting her new friend on the shoulder. “Please, call me Carrot. And if it's any consolation, I enjoyed the trip up until that avalanche.” She paused, looking back towards the city. “We really should get going. We've been out here all night, and I'm sure you must be exhausted after all this walking.”
Twilight nodded and began walking up the snow-covered path. “You're free to stay for the ni-day, Carrot. I'm sure my parents won't mind.”
Carrot shook her head. “Ditzy and I really should be making our way back to Ponyville soon. Her daughter must be worried sick by now.” As the two made their way towards Canterlot, she turned to the purple unicorn. “You know,” she said, raising her head to the sky, “the entire way here I shared stories of my own adventures with you. I don't think you shared any of your own, though.”
Twilight nervously looked away. “I wouldn't want to brag,” she said.
The earth pony chuckled. “Well why not? We've got plenty of time, and I'm pretty sure you've gone into the Everfree Forest before.”
“Well,” the purple unicorn began, “I guess it couldn't hurt to share. This one starts way back during the summer, when I first came to Ponyville...”