The chilling winds swept through the reaches of the frozen cave that Fluttershy had deemed to be her shelter for the night. The timid pegasus laid curled up against the walls of the grotto, shivering ever so slightly; she whimpered softly, feeling forlorn. “They’ll come to save me..” she tried to convince herself. “I’m sure of it.. Rarity will save me.. Dashie will save me..”
Making herself fake belief in the situation improving was the only thing that kept her going; lost and alone with no clue of what to do to fix the situation, her morale was effectively destroyed by the harsh reality that she was completely hopeless and could do nothing about it.
There had always been someone there to guard her from the dangers of life, be it Rainbow Dash, who shielded her from any physical threat, or Rarity, who shielded her from her every mental barrier and bane. Though now, being alone, she had forgotten what it was like to have to fend for herself; it made her think of how pathetically weak she considered herself when compared to every other pony she cared about.
She wasn’t strong like Applejack, nor clever and intelligent like Twilight, nor fast or courageous like her friend Rainbow Dash, nor tactful and graceful like Rarity and Pinkie Pie.. well, she was Pinkie Pie. Fluttershy though? Oh, she was just Fluttershy. “Weak and helpless Fluttershy..” she whispered in a hurt tone. She thought of her days as a filly and how she was never good enough; being the foal of two of the most important weather ponies in Equestria had always meant that lots was expected from her, and she couldn’t deliver as expected; the laughter she earned in school for that still haunted her.
Not moving at all, Fluttershy just stayed there for hours. She could vaguely hear the storm raging outside, the howling winds relentlessly savaging any unexposed land. “My friends are out there..” she thought to herself, still shivering as the cold continued chilling her to the very bone. Images started to flash through her mind, images of her friends braving the elements of nature, searching for her. It reminded her of how she felt the day that the dragon threatened to envelop Ponyville in it’s black smoke. She remembered how much she had hindered her friends that day, how they had to look out for her every single moment.
“I am nothing but a burden..” she sighed, resigning to her fate. She closed her eyes, allowing her thoughts to take over once again. She could imagine Rarity lying knocked out cold in the snow, slowly turning into a frozen marshmallow; Fluttershy’s eyes shot open in fear. “What if she needs me?” she gasped as she quickly rose to her feet. “What if she’s waiting for me to come, and I’m here.. hiding?”
Almost immediately, her facial expression turned from fear to determination. She started running to accelerate before flaring out her wings and flapping them, gaining a bit of altitude after each willpower-fueled flap; soon she was flying near the floor of the cave; she could see the mouth more clearly by the minute as the raging storm outside became progressively more audible. As she darted out...
...she was assaulted by an absolutely merciless barrage of snow being blown toward her flank by a sidewind. However, she still battled to stay on course, regardless of her not knowing where she was going. She gradually arrived at the end of a ledge, the endless depths creeping into her sight. Once at the edge she stopped in her tracks, digging her hooves into the icy surface as she looked down into the endless, snowy depths of the ground below. Her vision was blurred by the storm, blowing the snow through the air.
Immediately, her wings snapped shut, sticking to her back as vertigo overcame her. A wave of cold shot through her body, causing her to shiver from head to hoof. She stood frozen in place, looking down at the massive expanse of polar tundra that laid far below her. Suddenly, a powerful gust blew past her head, causing her to lose her balance. Her eyes shot open wide as she tumbled forward, rolling down the mountainside, becoming encased in layer after layer of snow...
Throughout the land, an almost inaudible squeak could be heard.
After what seemed like an eternity of rolling through and in the snow, the ground beneath her suddenly became more level again. Equally as abruptly, her descent took an unexpected turn as an icy ramp launched her into the air at high velocity. Her wings instinctively shot outward in an attempt to use this thrust for flying, this however, proved to be to no avail as she gradually opened her eyes the night and the blowing snow made her visibility close to zero; she was being hurled helplessly like a drunken acrobat through the night. However, what goes up must come down...
Fluttershy was lying in the virgin snow, her face hitting the frozen floor. she slowly lifted her head and opened her eyes to peer through the darkness and try and see something; the snow assaulted her face and made seeing anything close to impossible. After intensely concentrating on trying to see anything she could vaguely make out a white silhouette far in the distance; that piqued her curiosity so she battled her way through the harsh winds towards the thing she saw.
The pegasus’ mane was being lashed into a frenzied dance by the wind, which also forced her wings to remain shut, rendering her quite vulnerable. However, having drawn closer after what seemed an eternity she noticed a small white creature struggling against the wind; apparently Fluttershy wasn’t the only one suffering from the storm, a thing that she took some relief from. “How mean I am...” she thought, horrified by the fact that she had taken solace in somepony’s suffering. Her expression though turned soon from the guilty relief to surprise as her brain fully registered that she really wasn’t alone; a small bunny seemed to be in dire straits too, with his bruised leg impairing his movement; Fluttershy’s concern grew exponentially as her kindness instinct kicked in. Soon enough, the bunny collapsed in the snow. Disregarding her own safety Fluttershy reflexively picked up the bunny from the ground before gently hoisting him onto her back. Now that she had that sorted out, it was time for her to set out again on her arduous travel through the fury of a blizzard.
“Pinkie! Could you for once be quiet?! I’m trying to think here!” Twilight exclaimed, thrusting her hooves into the air in exasperation; sitting in the corner of a wooden shelter that she’d conjured in order to shield the two from the harsh weather raging around them, they could hear the snow barraging the walls of their abode. It being small, there wasn’t much space for one to hide from the other and although it could be fun sometimes to have Pinkie nearby, at least for Twilight too much Pinkie Pie was just too much.
“Did somepony say that there can be too much fun...?” Pinkie asked, furrowing her brows and turning towards our screen, before shaking her head vigorously and giggling. “Well excuse me for trying to lighten the mood Twilight!” Pinkie said and giggled, huffing and puffing intermittently as to try and get her cotton candy mane out of her face. Pinkie then back-flipped, landing somehow on her comfortable stack of hay and blankets that served as her impromptu bed. Now though there was nothing to do and even her Pinkie Pie senses weren’t telling her anything exciting so she just stared at the ceiling for a second, giving Twilight a much-needed respite from her over-the-top antics. However, if there’s one thing that the magenta earth pony can’t handle, it’s boredom and indeed she decided to do something, anything to relieve herself from that. “Hey Twilight?”
“Yes Pinkie?” Twilight sighed, resigning to her fate. she averted her gaze from the walls, sending a blank stare in the direction of Ponyville’s premier party pony. Twilight’s morale was steadily falling, her mood following a similar trend, as the endless travelling from nowhere to nowhere was taking its psychological toll on her; Pinkie definitely didn’t improve her mood, either. Suddenly a fluffy white cushion collided with Twilight’s face, causing her to faceplant onto the wooden floor. Slowly picking her weight up off the floor, a shocked, wide-eyed Twilight looked at Pinkie in dismay; Pinkie was meanwhile literally laughing out loud, clutching her sides as the joy coursed through her every vein and every cell.
“Pinkie, what the hay was that about?!” Twilight inquired, slightly vexed by the surprise pillow assault; Pinkie Pie on the other hand was stuck in a fit of laughter that she was desperately trying to get under control.
As Pinkie started to finally get her laughter under control, she commenced wiping tears of innocent merriment out of her eyes before turning to face the angered unicorn. Pinkie paused her frantic rolling across the stone, white floor, wiping the tears of laughter out of her eyes before turning yo the angered unicorn. “LOL, geez Twilight, I’m just having a bit of fun, that’s all!” she stated, waving her hoof dismissively at Twilight. “Loosen up a bit!”
“This is hardly the time for fun! We have to come up with some sort of plan and I can’t just think with you constantly bothering me!” an incensed Twilight said, her voice raised; she then continued with a much lower volume: “Just go to sleep Pinkie, go bug the ‘writer’ you talk about half of the time, go do something of the sort, but just stop bugging me.”
After hearing this, Pinkie’s ears drooped. “Fine!” Pinkie said, rolling her eyes. “You’re being a boring cranky doodle pony anyways!”
She then turned away from the lavender unicorn before leaping into her makeshift bed, causing the blankets to billow up a bit at the edges before setting back down thanks to gravity. For a few minutes she simply stared at the wooden walls of the place, listening to the tempest that was raging outside. Suddenly her ear started flopping about, followed by her hooves involuntarily pounding the wooden floor of the shelter.
Meanwhile, Twilight was rummaging through her bags, hoping to find anything that would help them free their friends. “We must focus on finding each other first...” she thought to herself. Suddenly her hoof made contact with a small glassy object that was in one of her bags; once she realized what the object was, she gasped.
Moving the orb from her saddlebag, Twilight peered intently at the object for a moment. The globe appeared to be devoid of anything but as soon as her hooves made contact with the glass, a cloud of purple smoke formed inside of it, invoking a satisfied smile from the Princess’s prized protegé; her morale boosted, she turned to inform Pinkie Pie about her plans, however Pinkie made it first. “Twilight, I have to tell you something!” Pinkie said, suddenly running into Twilight. As Twilight was knocked back she accidentally dropped the orb out of her hooves; falling on the wooden floor it instantaneously shattered, the purple smoke escaping and dissipating into the air.
Pinkie giggled ignorantly at the sight. “Oops, sorry Twilight,” she said with a sheepish grin on her face as she watched the purple substance fade into the air; Twilight on the other hand stared at the unfolding debacle, pale-faced and in an absolute state of shock. As the seconds passed, an ominous silence from Twilight’s part unnerved Pinkie, making her laughter cease as worry creeped across her face. “Twilight?” she prodded lightly. “I said I was sorry...”
Twilight’s blank, expression turned into one of sheer wrath as her face reddened and her mane started flaring as if she were a Rapidash; she turned around to face Pinkie, narrowing her eyes. “Sorry?!” she screeched; something inside of her snapped. It might’ve been the stress induced by the journey or Pinkie’s constant attention seeking, but whatever it was, the last fiasco was the final straw; her fuse was ready to blow. “Sorry? You always ruin everything! As if a half-sincere sorry of yours helps? No! It is absolutely and utterly useless to say sorry afterwards if you will just mess it up again and again and again! Sorry just won’t cut it! You always ruin everything by being a clumsy, attention-seeking and hyperactive ball of energy that just can’t settle down, even when you should! If you’d maybe actually take something here seriously for once, you might be useful, but you really can’t, can you?!” she asked in one breath as she drew constantly nearer to Pinkie Pie, unleashing a verbal tirade upon the now quivering party pony; the monologue would’ve, in better conditions, impressed Pinkie as that was, lengthwise, quite alike a Pinkie Pie monologue.
As Twilight was huffing and puffing, still angry and letting her breath catch up with her after that verbal assault, Pinkie Pie raised her gaze from the floor to Twilight, ashamed. “But...”
“No buts, Pinkie...” Twilight said, anger still resonating in her tone. “We’ve been wandering for hours and all you’ve been doing is jokes that have hindered our progress. Just...” she paused to exhale and breathe in deeply. “Leave me alone will you,” she said as she turned her gaze away from Pinkie and closed her eyes.
“But Twilight..” Pinkie tried to reason.
“Go!” Twilight yelled, snapping again; she’d end up regretting that later; Pinkie galloped out of the shelter, literally crying enough tears to cut a stream of tears through the snow; as the noise of Pinkie crying became quieter and quieter, Twilight was left alone in the shelter in utter silence.
“Ah told ya that it would crack!” Applejack taunted Rarity who was shivering in the corner of the cave. In the middle of the cave was a large fire, its orange light illuminating the depths of the cavern. Rarity stayed mute, on her haunches and facing the wall, her expressionless face stared at the near-freezing water dripping from her now wet mane; her soft shivering noises echoed throughout the cavern.
Applejack sighed, annoyed at the perceived cold shoulder that Rarity was giving her; a sly smile grew across her face as she threw her hat off her head and conjured her best Manehattanite snob accent. “Oh Applejack, don’t be so foolish! I am far too thin for such things although somepony with a figure like yours would crack though!” Once again though the only response offered by Rarity was the same shudders as before.
“I told you that it would be a good idea to be a bit more careful, but no! Rarity always knows everything so much better than to take advice from others,” she continued while waving her hooves dramatically in the air; instantly after that taunt, Rarity’s shudders turned into muffled snivelling, making the farm pony’s annoyed demeanor crumble in an instant.
“Hey.. Calm down sugarcube, Ah’m just a bit tired Ah guess so mah behaviour wasn’t so great...” Applejack said, dropping her accent, in a vain attempt to comfort her friend. but it was of no use. as Rarity continued her sobbing. “Your mane will dry, ya know..” she assured her friend softly, causing Rarity to fix her gaze on Applejack; Applejack noticed Rarity’s eyes being bloodshot, tears slowly dripping down her cheeks. “No...” Rarity managed to mutter between her sobs. “That’s not it...” she continued in a resigned manner, making Applejack’s stance soften. She understood Rarity; the journey and her friends disappearing was a heavy stone on both of their shoulders. Rarity gingerly rose from the ground, her wet mane dangling in an absolutely unfabulous manner over her face; she wasn’t in the mood to fix it. She trotted over to the campfire and went to lie down in front of the flames in an attempt to warm up; she gazed blankly into the flames, doing their wild dance, as tears continued to slowly roll from her eyes down her face, staining her otherwise pristine white coat.
“I keep thinking...” she said; silence followed afterwards as Rarity found it difficult to find the right words to say. She was wiping tears from her eyes as Applejack squatted beside her, facing the blaze in front of her. Rarity had at this point found the words to say but couldn’t bring herself to say them; Applejack noticed this from her slight change in demeanor.
“It’s okay sugarcube...” Applejack said gently, smiling softly at Rarity while wiping the tears out of the fashionista’s eyes. “You can tell me anything, honest.”
“I keep thinking...” she said, the tears slowly returning to her eyes. “That... what if... well, we don’t know if they’re still alive, and what if they’re not...” she asked, burying her muzzle into her friend’s shoulder as her tears cascaded down Applejack’s coat.
Applejack’s eyes opened slightly in surprise. “Hey, don’t ya say that!” she demanded, turning Rarity to face her as Applejack’s eyes lit up with determination and also some disappointment. “Ya know, Ah’m gonna be honest here, Ah’m mighty disappointed in ya Rare.”
Rarity looked up into her friend’s emerald eyes from beneath her soaking purple mane, mildly taken aback by Applejack’s words. “You... what?” she asked, unsure of whether she had heard her friend correctly.”
“Yep, ya heard right. Ah’m mighty disappointed in ya, in fact. Ah don’t wanna be mean here but really, yer actin’ like Ah did when Ah was as old as Apple Bloom,” Applejack said; Rarity’s eyes grew as wide as saucers as she registered what her friend just said. “Please... care to explain?” Rarity asked, still a slight bit dumbstruck.
Applejack sighed and took a deep breath. “Well... when Ah was a wee filly, Ah one day sprained mah ankle while helpin’ Big Mac out on the orchard,” she explained; Rarity tilted her head, intrigued. “Ah was then on the ground, cryin’ an’ bawlin’ mah eyes out about the injury; it hurt some so Ah made that known. However then as Ah was on mah haunches playin’ helpless, Big Mac came out and sat right next to me. Ya know what he said?”
“What?” Rarity asked. “So that pony actually can speak more than eeyup and nnope?” she thought, slightly baffled.
“He told me of an injury he attained as a kid. He limped home ignoring the pain, to get the wound treated; had he not went home ta treat it, it coulda got infected or just further damaged. Luckily he only had a small cut, nothin’ more, thanks to him takin’ the initiative when he was required to. The moral of the story is that cryin’ heals no wounds an’ that if y’all don’t git up when ya must, yer gonna be the one sufferin’ from that so it’s yer duty to jus’ deal with the pain, even if it hurts, as the faster ya get a wound treated the faster it can heal. In other words don’t dwell on the bad things, deal with them and move on.”
Rarity looked slightly puzzled; she tilted her head in an indication of that. “And how does this relate to our situation though?” she duly inquired.
“Need Ah explain?” Applejack asked, sighing. “Yer pain now, although emotional, is a wound y’all can deal with; it ain’t anything massive either unless ya let it be massive. Much like mah an’ Big Mac’s injuries were. If ya don’t think positive, of course things will go wrong; ya must not allow yerself to succumb to fear or else y’all will be in real trouble. Mah granny once said that a wise mare fears nothin’ but fear itself; she has a point ya know. So, shall ya make us proud an’ git up an’ try to be strong or shall ya jus’ sit there cryin’? Y’all know which is best fer everypony...” Applejack reasoned.
“But it’s so difficult... you’re strong, I’m not...” Rarity said and sighed, her eyes starting to tear up again; Applejack facehoofed.
“Nope, Rare, Ah am not strong,” Applejack stated matter-of-factly. “Ah’m jus’ as afraid as you, however, Ah soldier on anyway; not like anything else will help either. Mah strength is only because Ah refuse to give up, so it’s more about guts than strength. Sure Ah can buck apples, but that ain’t real strength; real strength is here,” she continued as she put her hoof to her heart. “Fight fer me, yerself, yer friends, Sweetie Belle... fight fer yer love, Rare...”
Rarity closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, letting all of her fears fade away; a relieved, determined smile graced her tired-looking face. “Thanks Jackie,” she cooed in pleasure, making Applejack’s eyes open to the size of saucers.
“Ah told ya not to call me that!” Applejack said with a hearty chuckle as she picked her Stetson and put it back atop her head; now as the morale was acceptable again among everypony, Applejack started to search for a good place to sleep; she found one almost instantly and laid down. “We really should get some shuteye..” she yawned; Rarity simply nodded in response.
Rarity then also lied down on the cold cavern floor, staring at the night sky unfolding beyond the cave’s entrance for what seemed to be an eternity. However, she just couldn’t seem to fall asleep; something, or rather somepony was missing. She closed her eyes and allowed her mind to wander, having nothing better to do; soon she imagined a certain yellow pegasus lying next to her, the pegasus’ wing wrapped around Rarity like a blanket to shield her from the cold. “I love you, Shy...” Rarity whispered like she routinely tended to every night, but for the first time in months silence was the only response...