“Mrs. Crescent? Mrs. Crescent! She’s coming around.”
“Stormy! Oh thank Celestia, I was so worried about you! You've been unconscious for three days. The doctors said that you might never... might never... wake...” Stormy heard her mother’s voice choke up.
Stormy was lying on her stomach with a pillow under her head. She saw that she was in a large bed in a white room. Stormy heard the soft gurgling of unknown fluids somewhere nearby. That faint smell that always accompanied cleaning chemicals drifted into her nostrils.
“Mmm... mom? What happened? Where am I?”
“When you didn’t come home, we went looking for you. I found you lying in that field you like to fly around in, oh Celestia, there was so much blood, I thought you’d...”
“Mom, mom, it’s okay. I’m fine now,” Stormy winced as a bolt of pain shot through her shoulder. “Fine-ish. Ow. My wing really hurts.”
“It’s broken, Stormy. Compound fracture of the left pterohumerus.”
Stormy started. “It’s what?”
Vanilla quickly put her hoof on her daughter. “Hold still, Stormy! Don’t try to move! You need to rest.”
Stormy collapsed back onto the bed, although more from sudden dizziness than anything else. “But...” it was her turn to cry, “my wings... my flying...”
“They set the bone the best they could, but you’re the only pegasus the hospital’s ever had. They just don’t have any experience with wings.”
She heard her father mumble something out of view. She only caught the word ‘klutz’.
But her mother apparently heard the whole thing. “How dare you say that about her! While she’s right there! ‘She’ll learn better on her own’ you said. ‘She’ll come home when she gets hungry’ you said! If I’d followed your advice Stormy would be dead!”
Stormy shut her eyes and tried to bury her ears under her hooves. Please, not so loud.
Sterling replied, “If you had followed my advice Stormy wouldn’t have gone out in the first place.”
“We can’t ground her just because we can’t fly after her.”
Sterling motioned towards Stormy. “We should ground her exactly because we can’t fly after her! You let her go out at night and look what happened!”
“It’s not Stormy’s fault she got hurt!”
“It’s exactly Stormy’s fault that she got hurt! Once she’s out of the hospital, we’re finally getting her feathers clipped so I don’t have to go through this again.”
“Stormy is a pegasus! She’s meant to fly!”
At the moment, Stormy would have rather been able to dig.
“Well I can’t levitate my flank after her!” Sterling shouted.
Stormy weakly tried to interject: “Mom... can you please...”
Vanilla didn’t hear her. “I am not cutting the feathers off of my daughter just because she wants to enjoy herself!”
“Then I’ll do it!” Sterling stepped towards Stormy.
Vanilla quickly moved between them. “Don’t you lay a hoof on her! Get out! Get out of my sight, out of my house, and out of my daughter’s life!”
Stormy heard the sound of hoofsteps, followed by a door slam. There was only silence for a few seconds before Stormy slowly opened her eyes. “Mom?”
Tears were running down her mother’s face. “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. You just need to work on getting your rest and concentrate on getting better.”
“Ssh. It’s all right. I’m so, so, sorry, Stormy. For all those years I put you through this. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me some day, for everything I’ve done to you. I’ll find a way to make it up to you, I promise.”
Stormy didn’t understand, but her mother began to leave the room. “There are some letters I need to write; I’ll visit you tomorrow.”
In the bed, alone in the hospital room, lay Stormy Nights, the unmagical pony, the flightless pegasus, destroyer of her parents’ marriage. Her mother only visited for a few minutes that day, giving some excuse about “other things that need taking care of.” She would not even say what was more important than her own daughter.
On the third day, Stormy awoke to find that she had gained a roommate.
“Hey, you’re awake.” The pale pink filly, a little younger than Stormy was, shifted herself to face the pegasus. “I was starting to think that I got paired up with a vegetable.” She looked away for a second. “Uh, no offense.”
“I might as well be, for all the good I am.”
The earth pony tilted her head, letting part of a fluffy rich red pigtail dangle. “What did you do, hit your head and break your happiness?”
“I hit my head all right, because I’m a stupid klutz. Broke my wing right in half, too.”
“Your wing? What?”
Stormy half-heartedly flapped her working wing. “Yeah yeah, I know, I’m the freak.”
“Are you kidding? You have wings! That’s awesome! Hey I know you; you’re Mrs. Crescent’s kid! She works for the reservoir, right? She comes by the farm every few weeks. I know your name, it’s Slinky... Steamy... Stealthy... um... begins with an M...”
“I was about to say that! I’m Strawberry Blossom, pleasure to meet you. Wanna know why I’m in here? I was on the farm, bucking the branches off a dead tree, when this real big one fell on me. Hit me right on the rump. Broke my... my...” Strawberry’s yellow eyes pointed at the floor for a few seconds, before looking back up. “...big leg bone.”
“I don’t even remember what I did. I don’t remember any of the two days beforehand.”
“Hey, look on the bright side, Stormy. Tomorrow’s the first day of summer break!”
Stormy chuckled. “Yeah, that’s a plus. But I’d rather have my wing.”
The sun shone down on two fillies, fresh out of the hospital, walking through the town. One sported a cast over her wing and saddlebags full of water, the other’s rump was supported by a brand new wheelchair.
“How can somepony like you not have any friends?” Strawberry asked as Stormy took a drink.
“How? Because I’m a freak, remember?” Stormy flapped her wing. “When I’m out with my mom, ponies look at me and whisper to each other when they think I’m not looking.”
“You’re not a freak, Stormy. And if you see somepony talking about you behind your back, go over there and tell them to say it to your face!”
“I... I guess...”
“Anyways, we’re here! The Great Blossom Farm! My family’s run this place since Coltumbus was founded. I can’t wait to show you around!” Strawberry led Stormy through the gates, the view opening up onto acres of greenery.
“Actually, I’d like if you did wait until sunset; it is pretty hot out.”
“Hm... you know what? I’ll show you around the the wine tunnels until sundown. Deal?”
The sun set as Vanilla Crescent found her daughter and her friend in the farmhouse. Glasses containing different varieties of juice sat on the table as the two fillies staggered around, acting out their theories of what inebriation was like.
“No no no, you have to lean more.”
“Lean more? If I lean any more my wheelchair will fall over!”
“Maybe some more ‘red wine’ will help.”
Vanilla cleared her throat.
“Aww, is it time to go home already? We were just... uh... ‘sampling’ some of Strawberry’s harvest.” The two fillies giggled. “Oh! Can I sleep over here tonight? Please please please please?” Stormy begged.
“Well...” Her mother pretended to hesitate. “If you absolutely insist.”
An older mare entered the room as the fillies cheered. “Mrs. Crescent, I got your letter. This must be the Stormy I’ve heard so much about. I’m sorry about your wing, dear. Oh my, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Cherry Blossom, owner of the farm.”
“Well now, Mrs. Crescent, you wrote that you wanted to talk to me about the water supply?”
“Since your farm takes up the majority of the reservoir’s water supply, your usage is the primary determinant of our water level. Over the past year or so, your water usage has risen by about fifteen percent, running us low much earlier than we anticipated.”
“Oh dear, is that going to be a problem? We planted a few new rows of peach trees, and they need plenty of water to get going.”
“No, it just means that we’ll have to order some more rain earlier than we thought. We’re still in the early phases of negotiation, so we don’t have an exact date, but it should be in about two months. I’m just letting you know early so you can prepare for the bad weather.”
“I appreciate the warning, Mrs. Crescent. I’ll be sure to pass the information on to the staff. Have a nice day, and it was nice to meet you, Stormy.” Cherry left the room.
“Mom?” Stormy asked. “You said rain? It’s going to rain? In two months? How long will it last?”
“Yes Stormy, we’re sending for some rain clouds to refill the town’s water supply. With our magic helping to gather water, it takes about a week to fill the reservoir.”
Stormy’s eyes slowly went wide. “A whole week... of rain?!”
A younger Stormy awoke early one morning to a noise that she had never heard before. Looking out her window, instead of the black or orange or blue that she had always seen, the sky was dark grey, with vertical streaks blocking the scenery. Stormy slowly made her way downstairs, and carefully opened the back door. A wave of cold humidity blew through the door and past the filly. It felt... nice, soothing.
Stormy inched her way out, until a stray drop fell on her snout. She scrunched up her nose and stared at the odd wet thing. It was just water! It was a bath, falling from the sky! Stormy had stuck her head out into the downpour when a bright flash spooked her back into the house.
Seconds later, a deep rumbling passed her ears. Something inside her resonated with that sound, a special harmony only the little pegasus could hear. She ventured outside again as the rain continued to fall.
Another flash, but... it wasn’t that scary, once Stormy got used to it. The same rumble, what a wonderful sound. The cold rain on her back felt so, so good. The little filly jumped with joy. She didn’t understand why this was happening, but it was wonderful! She closed her eyes and leaped higher and higher, stubby wings flapping in delight. On the last jump, she didn’t come back down. Stormy opened her eyes and gasped in amazement at the ground that refused to return to her hooves.
“MOMMY! DADDY! LOOK! LOOK! I CAN FLY! I CAN FLY!”
“And that,” Strawberry boasted, “is how you start a campfire.” The newborn fire grew steadily as Stormy watched. “If you ever find yourself in the woods and get lost, this might save your life.”
“Well if I ever get lost, I can just fly up until I see where I need to go,” Stormy noted. “When my wing heals, anyways. I’ll just have to make sure I don’t run into any forests out here in the desert until then.”
“Use your wings to find your way out? And miss out on the opportunity to make s’mores?”
“I like the way you think, Strawberry.”
“But first! I brought some markers. Let’s draw on each others’ casts! You do mine first.”
“Hmm... I know, the cast is covering up your cutie mark. I’ll draw it back on. Of course it’s strawberries. So start with a little red... some green on the side... oh... okay I can fix that... maybe... there!”
Strawberry looked at her new “cutie mark” and nearly fell out of her wheelchair laughing. “They look like mutant apples! Or maybe they’re red grapes, no no no, peppers!”
“If you think you can do better, let’s see yours.” Stormy turned her injured side towards Strawberry.
“Let me show you how real art is made!” Strawberry started. “Just... oh, yeah.”
“You don’t have a cutie mark.”
“I never really thought about it. Dad always said I’d get one if I ever found something I was good at. You can draw something else.”
“Hmm... how about you, flying?”
“In the rain!”
“In the rain? Um, okay, in the rain.”
Strawberry Blossom, the expert artist, went to work on her masterpiece. Carefully selecting her colors, every stroke deliberate, yet graceful. A master working by firelight, producing a true work of art, proudly displayed on her friend’s wing.
Stormy observed her cast. “Is that cotton?”
“Those are clouds, duh!”
“Why’s the sea red? And what are those green bits?”
“Those are pomegranate trees.”
“I guess I’m the purple blob in the middle?”
“Yes! The Great Stormy Nights, soaring tri... trium... um... greatly across the sky!”
“Hmm... I think I did a better job with yours.”
“Now now, we can talk about how much better my art is than yours, or we can make some of those s’mores!”
A dozen s’mores, four chocolate-coated pomegranates, and a batch of apricot soup later, two rather full fillies sat by a dimming campfire.
“You know,” Strawberry started, “I forgot to tell you, that when a Blossom gets hurt by a tree limb, it’s traditional to burn it. That fire right there, it’s mine. That branch might have taken my leg, but it’s ashes now, and I’m not. I’m going to heal, and it won’t. That’s a victory, right there.”
Stormy watched the lights flicker amongst the remnants of Strawberry’s assailant. “I wish we could burn whatever it was I hit. It was probably a rock anyways. Can’t burn those.”
“Not a problem! We’ll find that rock and haul it to the nearest volcano to throw it in!”
“Only if you carry it,” Stormy chuckled.
“Hey I’m in a wheelchair; you still have four working legs.”
“And we don’t know where any volcanoes are around here, any ideas?”
“We can go on a quest to Canterlot, to ask Princess Celestia where we might find a volcano mighty enough to defeat Stormy’s Bane!”
“I can see it now! The Great and Wise Princess talking to two fillies dragging a rock!”
The two broke down laughing.
“All right, Miss Nights,” Doctor Spring said, “are you ready to have your cast taken off?”
“I’ve been ready for a MONTH! Besides, look at what Strawberry’s been drawing on it. Are those supposed to be oranges?”
Rejuvenating Spring chuckled. “It won’t matter soon. Markers don’t work too well on feathers, I imagine.” The doctor’s horn illuminated and a split appeared in Stormy’s cast. It bisected something that was nominally a drawing of a unicorn, then reached the other end of the cast. The two halves split off, revealing a dark purple wing.
Stormy spread her left wing for the first time in weeks. It was stiff, but the feeling of cool air flowing over it sure felt good.
“Now Stormy, we wrote a pegasus specialization clinic while you were injured and got plenty of recovery information for you. It’s in these pamphlets, but the general idea of it is that you haven’t used those wing muscles for a month, so you shouldn’t try to fly until you’re sure you can fly safely. I don’t want you back in here tomorrow, okay?”
“You should also try to find a way to exercise those wings while staying on the ground. Push against a wall, or push some object around the house while flapping, for instance.”
“Thanks, Doctor Spring, I’ll be careful.”
Push something? Stormy racked her brain for a few seconds. Well, there’s Strawberry’s wheelchair, but it doesn’t push too well... unless...
Stormy got a brilliant idea.
One wine tunnel. One wagon. One earth pony. One pegasus. Two wings.
The tunnel stretched into the distance as Stormy hopped on the wagon behind Strawberry. She lowered her head and spread her wings.
“This is going to be awesome!” Strawberry shivered with anticipation.
Stormy hesitated, then lowered her wings. “If Dad was here, he’d tell me how stupid of an idea this was and how we were going to hurt ourselves.”
“Your dad isn’t here, is he? Come on, Stormy.”
“Still, maybe we shouldn’t. I’m clumsy enough we’re going to get hurt.”
“Hey, I’m doing the steering, you just push. Please, Stormy? I really want to do this.”
“It’s still pretty dangerous...”
“Hey, just say you hit your head again and you forgot who came up with the idea. Besides, remember how we burned that branch? What happens if we run into a barrel?”
Stormy considered. “You don’t think...?”
Strawberry put on her best ‘adult voice’, “Strawberry, Stormy, you better drink that entire thing. It’s tradition!”
“Oh my gosh, do you think so?”
“I know how to find out!”
Stormy smiled, spread her wings, and mentally aimed down the tunnel. One flap, and the wagon began to roll. Stormy flapped her wings again, and again. The little wagon picked up speed. The cool air rushed past Stormy’s face as she flapped harder and harder, accelerating the wagon to its limit. Barrels blurred past. Stormy had missed this feeling so badly.
Once again, Stormy Nights awoke to find herself in a bed. The ceiling of this room was painted with dark clouds, as pouring rain adorned the walls. Several flashes of lightning completed the effect.
She rolled out of bed and stretched as the smell of fresh waffles wafted past her nose. It must have been some special occasion to warrant her favorite breakfast. She groggily headed towards the door out of her bedroom, when the bookshelf caught her eye.
That’s odd, she thought, I don’t remember those books ever... being... she noticed a title, dusted...
Downstairs, Vanilla Crescent was busy cooking when she heard galloping hooves, followed by her daughter skidding to a halt in the kitchen.
“Good morning, Stormy. Are you planning on going to the farm again today?”
“Mom! Mom! My books! They’re... different!”
“Really? Different how, sweetie?”
“There’s books on flying and weather and stuff!”
“Must have been the Book Flutterpony.”
“Book Flutterpony? Seriously, mom?”
“Oh yes, the Book Flutterpony is a purple pony with butterfly wings who travels all across Equestria giving books to needy foals. How many waffles do you want?”
Stormy wiped away a tear. “Thanks, ‘Book Flutterpony’.”
After the fastest meal of waffles that she ever had, Stormy laid on her floor, nose deep in Basic Weather Control for Young Fillies and Colts, Chapter One.
“So... pegasi do have magic? But I thought... oh it works different so I don’t have to... wait, what? WHAT? WHAT?!”
Downstairs, Vanilla heard her daughter’s voice echo through the house, “I CAN MAKE CLOUDS?!”
The sun approached the horizon as Strawberry Blossom, finally free from her wheelchair, approached Stormy’s house, pulling the wagon behind her.
“Stormy?” she called up, “Are you home?”
Stormy landed on the edge of the roof. “Hey Strawberry!”
“Stormy! You’re flying!”
“Flying? That’s nothing! Come around the back and check this out!” she took off and went out of sight.
On the other side of the house, Strawberry found a large dark raincloud, with Stormy standing proudly on top of it.
“Whoa. Where did it come from?”
“The bathtub! This thing is incredible and it’s mine!” Stormy jumped on the cloud, which responded with an electric crackle. “I have no idea why it does that, but it’s awesome!”
Strawberry took a step backwards as she started to sweat. “I don’t know, it’s scaring me.”
Stormy flew down, landing just in front of Strawberry. “Scared?” The dark pegasus stood, wings spread, before Strawberry, with an ominous cloud looming behind her. “How can this be scary?”
“Here, remember when you showed me how to light a campfire? I’ll show you my way of lighting one!”
Stormy didn’t hear what Strawberry said as she flew under the cloud, which was situated over a small pile of wood. She could sense an irregular column of potential leading from the cloud to the campfire-to-be. She slowly flew around, shaping the column as the power built. Then, strangely, the column started bowing outwards. She concentrated on pushing it back, but it was drawn to the metal wagon that her shivering friend was standing next to. Stormy’s eyes widened as the power reached the tipping point.
Stormy flew down as fast as she could, shoving Strawberry away from the wagon as a bright flash sundered the vehicle.
Stormy looked up into a face filled with terror. Strawberry shrunk away from her, took several steps backwards, then turned and ran.
Moments later, Vanilla Crescent hurried out of the house. “Sweetie, are you okay? I heard this big crack.” She spotted the remains of the wagon. “What happened?”
Stormy was dismantling her cloud with tears in her eyes. “I almost killed Strawberry. I shouldn’t have made my cloud, any cloud!” She punched the black mass. “I should have just... just... I don’t know!” She took a moment to breathe. “I don’t know what I should do. Just... not this.”
Stormy dissipated the last piece of the cloud with a kick, landed, and slowly walked inside the house.
Stormy landed outside the farmhouse, just before dawn. She hesitated, then knocked on the door.
“Strawberry? Are you in there?”
A minute passed, then a voice on the other side answered, “Go away.”
“Strawberry, I’m sorry about what happened. Why don’t you come on out and talk to me?”
“Because I’m scared, okay?”
“Scared? Scared of what?”
“Of you! Of that... thing you did!”
“Please come out, Strawberry. I know it’s my fault, but I’m really sorry.”
“No! I don’t... I don’t want... Just, just go away.”
“All right. If it’ll make you feel better, Strawberry.” She blinked away some moisture. “I’m leaving.” She slowly turned, and with one final look behind her, took off. It was a long flight home.