As all the ponies across Equestria were lying their heads, a cocoon of silent dreaming hugged them tight and cast them all to sleep. All were still except for a young pegasus colt. He was a very mellow colt, but his intense passion for the things he loved the most was extraordinarily palpable. And what he loved the most was his name, Orion.
Orion absolutely loved his name. For one thing, it was also the name of his favorite constellation in the dark velvet blanket of night and to him, it had a certain sound. A certain sound that when someone said it, he felt a rush of pride and elation that he was called something so impressive. Many nights, Orion would spend his many lonely quiet hours sitting on his balcony staring in thoughtful musing at the group of stars that shared his name. But tonight, the dark blue pegasus with his large majestic wings was not sitting on his balcony with his head held high, instead he stood on the edge of his roof gazing at the ground.
Tonight, the cool wind caressed the young colt in an awareness of everything. All was quiet as a thin fog rolled in with the breeze and as all the lights in ponies houses were extinguished, giving all rights to the night. The nearby river whispered its long drain out to the sea and all the little animals on its shores sunk back to their burrows and lairs to quiet away into the night just like everything else. All was silent. It was just the wind and him. He could do it.
Giving the ground a long stare, he spread his large wings and flapped. He flapped and he flapped and he rose into the night like the wind itself. He stumbled, but quickly regained stability as he soared higher and higher. Higher and higher he rose. The houses below looked like miniscule dots and the wind was amazing. The scent of it; the coolness of it; the way it hugged at his wings; the way it chilled his lungs; the way it caressed; the way it danced; he loved it all. He soared higher and felt an unlimited sense of peace. He wanted to touch the stars. He wanted to go as high as they. He wanted to shine just like them. He wanted to dance in their ranks. He was going to go.
All of a sudden, his flank began to burn. The short quick pain of it made him flinch. His wings hit the wind wrong and he began to tumble to the ground. This was bad. He was much too high and he was falling far too fast, he couldn't straighten himself. The formerly distant homes below crept closer. Orion desperately flapped his wings. He desperately needed to find the wind again, but he couldn't and he continued to fall. The ground was too close now and Orion closed his eyes. instead of feeling a bone-crunching collision, he felt himself soaring into the night again. He opened his eyes and found himself being carried on the back of his father.
"D - Dad?" Orion began, "Where did you come from? I thought I was gonna go splat . . . Where did you come from?" The sudden thought about what had almost happened made him shudder.
"Oh my dear boy!" Orion's father laughed, "I was flying right behind you! That I was! I saw you jump, flap them wings of yours, and then take off. So I dashed out of the window, gave your mother a right good fright, and I followed! My dear boy, for your first flight, you did amazingly well! Your mother's gonna be impressed when she hears of how well you did!"
"Wait . . . So you were following me?" Orion dumbly asked, obviously confounded by the news. "And you saw everything?"
"I sure did! That and everything in between! The way you flapped those wings of yours and the way you held yourself up reminded me of my own pops. Oh yeah, you would've liked him from the start if he hadn't gone and been in that accident before you were born. May he rest in peace. But what's happened has happened and time will go on."
Orion listened in thought to his father talk about his father as they flew in and out of the blanket of fog that softly drifted over the lands. The wind smelled of the earth.
They touched down in front of the front door which burst open before a knock could be made. Light flooded out onto the front steps and in the doorway stood a tall unicorn mare. Orion's father seemed to cower at the sight of his angry and worried wife. "Oh my Orion! My young colt!" she cried as she pulled Orion into a rib-cracking hug. "Where did you go? I checked on your room after your father flew out and you weren't there! Do you have any idea how worried I was?"
"Now, now, Stirling," the father said, trying to calm his wife. "Everything's alright. Nothing happened. I was there the whole time. I made sure sure no . . . "
"Xeno Catullus!" Stirling cried as she rounded on him, cutting across him mid-sentence. "Just what in all of Equestria are you smiling for? You just up and suddenly rush out the window like it's nopony's business and snap down the curtains while you were at it! Now I've got to go and fix them. Just what do you have to say for yourself?"
Xeno merely smiled through his wife's rage and worry. "Ah well, it's nothing much to upset yourself about. In fact, you're gonna flip out when you hear . . . Alright? Ready for this? . . . Orion flew and oh my Celestia it was wonderful! He reminded me of my father! That he did! At least he didn't go and run into the side of that mountain like my dad did. May that old man rest in peace."
Stirling's expression changed in a way that made Orion cringe in amazement and repulsion. He really wished he hadn't seen it. His mom's mood swung worse than a broken swing set.
he was quickly pulled into yet another rib-cracking hug by his mother. "Oh my big boy flew!" Stirling cried as she nuzzled her son. "Oh he flew! Xeno! Do you know what this means? We have to enroll him into Flight Camp this summer! Oh but Cloudsdale is so far away . . . But we'll get there none-the-less! Oh my big colt flew!"
"Now Stirling," Xeno said, pulling his wife and son apart before Orion suffocated. "That's all very well and all, but if you really want to have a fit, you just take a little gander at his flank and tell me what you see there." Xeno pointed with his hoof.
Orion spun around and looked at his flank and there, embellished in bright white dots against his dark coat was his favorite constellation; Orion. His spirit rose and took flight into the cool night again. He had never been so happy as he was then. But just when he thought his mother's excitement couldn't get any higher, Stirling bought her son into the third bone-crushing hug of the night.
"Oh my Celestia!" she screamed, uncaring about the neighbors she was awaking. "Oh we need to hold a party! I know! We can get Old Farmer Brownhoof to plan everything out. He's always been good at having fun. Then we could get Mr. and Mrs. Rose from down the street with their bakery to come over and make a cake and prepare the food and drinks. Then we need invitations! Oh my dear boy's gotten his cutie mark!"
"Honey, I'm not too sure Brownhoof would be a good idea," Xeno cautiously said.
"And why not?"
"He hasn't been feeling all together lately. Maybe it's just his old age finally catching up but he's been having trouble thinking thing's through."
"Hmm . . . then we'll just have to get somepony else then." Stirling said, unfazed at all by the news. "He can just come around and hang out as a guest then and have a chance to communicate with everypony. You know how he lives out on that old wheat farm of his."
The next day, Orion awoke early in the afternoon still drowsy and tired from the night before. His mother had had him stay up too late to celebrate his cutie mark. He walked slowly to the bathroom across the hall and looked in the mirror. His ears were flopped back, his dark blue coat was matted and wet with sweat, his white mane and tail were all dishevel and stuck out at all angles from a night of tossing and turning, and his brilliant sky blue eyes were lined and tired. He ran a brush through his mane, coat, and tail before splashing water onto his face and rubbing his eyes until he was fully awake. When he looked again in the mirror, he looked much better, then he saw it. It had all really happened. He had gotten his cutie mark.
He trotted downstairs but stopped halfway down in amazement. The living room and kitchen were stock full of ponies from around town. Mr. and Mrs. Rose from down the street stood by the stove evidently waiting for their cake to bake, Brownhoof stood at the bottom of the stairs leaning on his cane, his parents stood in the middle surrounded by unfamiliar ponies that were offering their congratulations and well-givings. Anypony else stood about the rooms drinking their cider that the Roses had bought from Old Granny Smith in nearby Ponyville. It certainly was good apple cider, but Orion ultimately decided its vivid taste would take some getting used to.
The party continued on for a considerable amount of time and it wasn't until Orion began to show signs of drowsiness that everypony began to say their "good-bye's" and leave out into the falling twilight. The last to leave was Brownhoof who insisted on staying until the middle of the night to drink the last of the cider with Xeno. The sleeping Orion was lifted by his mother's magic and laid to bed. It had been a wonderful day.
He was flying. The wind whispered his name in his ears as he soared. It hugged at him and he flew higher and higher. Everything left and it was just him, the wind, and the stars. He flew to the highest realms and then dived to the lowest before rising again. It felt good. The cool wind got at him and felt it all. The coolness of it in his mane and in between the feathers of his wings and the taste of it on his tongue. He wanted more. He flying and nopony could bring him down. He was truly free.
Orion awoke with a start as his mother bounced into his carrying his luggage case several weeks later. "Orion! Wake up!" she announced boisterously. "Oh . . . You're already awake . . . Good. We need to leave as soon as we can if we're gonna make it to Cloudsdale by nightfall."
Orion sat up on his haunches and scratched his head. He stifled a yawn a promptly rolled out of bed onto the floor. "How are you gonna get to Cloudsdale, mom?" he asked. "Dad told me that only pegasi can fly and walk on clouds."
"This is true," his mother said, placing the case on the now vacant bed. "But I'm a unicorn and I can do magic. There's actually a pretty difficult spell that will let me fly and walk on clouds," she explained as she began to stuff the case full of things Orion would need during the next two months at camp.
The family left their home as the town clock chimed its bell to signal noon. The sun shown bright against the deep blue sky. There were no clouds in the sky as they flew over Ponyville. The wind was light and barely noticeable, but to Orion, he could feel it just as vividly as he had in his dream those weeks ago. Since he had gotten his cutie mark, Orion had spent many cool Spring afternoons practicing his flying with his father above the fields just outside of town. By now, Orion was a pretty strong flyer.
"Hey, dad?" Orion asked as they passed over another row of fields. "When are we gonna be there?"
"Not too much longer, there," Xeno explained. "I know you've been flying for a long time now but just hold on a while longer. See there? . . . That's Cloudsdale there."
Orion squinted and could just barely make out in the distance a large white form that looked like the many thunderclouds he and his dad had seen the weather ponies create. As they got closer to it however, Orion could clearly make out the intricate architecture of pillars and large arenas. He could see the tall buildings and the wide spaces he guessed were used for practicing colts and fillies. Everything was so clean and so white.
Orion and his family landed on the main plaza area where many young colts and fillies were crowded with their parents and relatives who had come to wish them good luck. Orion's mother placed the luggage beside him and gave him a long kiss on his cheek. His father patted him on his back and gave him a hug. "Good-bye, son." Xeno said to his son, "These two months will be some of the best moments in your life. Cherish them and don't be afraid. I know you don't have any friends at home, but try to make some here while you're here. You'd be amazed. I actually met my best friend while I was here when I was your age."
"Okay, dad, I'll try my best."
"That's my boy, and don't forget, everypony needs a friend."
Orion was left alone after his parents flew back away into the distance. He felt a sudden twinge of loneliness and anxiety. He looked around the crowd and saw a light blue pegasus colt with the same expression of loneliness and anxiety that he pictured on his face. This pegasus had a light grey mane and tail. He also had a set of large wings, much like himself. Orion picked up his case and timidly made his way over to the pegasus as he flicked his tail and pawed at the clouds.
"Hi, I'm Orion," Orion said to the pegasus, sticking out his hoof.
"I'm Aurora," the light blue pegasus said. "What's your cutie mark?"
"Oh this?" Orion asked, indicating his flank. "This is the constellation, Orion. It's my favorite constellation. What's yours?"
"Mine is the Northern Lights," Aurora said shyly. "My family and I went out to the northern-most areas of Equestria for a vacation several weeks ago and we got to see them."
"But what do the Northern Lights have to do your talent?" Orion asked, amazed that this pony had something like that as his cutie mark.
"I'm good at science and electricity," Aurora explained, beginning to open up. "What's yours mean?"
"Well I'm good at things like astronomy and I could name you every star and constellation in the night sky."
"Wow, that's pretty cool," Aurora said, his interest peaked. "Could you show me toni . . . "
"Now all young colts and fillies!" boomed a loud mare's voice from the the front of the crowd. The purple judging mare climbed onto the stage. "I am Judge Dusk Light and I will be one of the judges this year that will follow you all over the next two months as you grow and learn to fly and ultimately take the flight test at the end. All those who do well and are given a certificate will graduate. Everypony will be separated into groups and each group will be under the direct care of a trainer and judge. They will show you to your quarters and you will begin training tomorrow afternoon. I wish you all the best luck and I hope you all have fun while you're here." With that, the purple judge mare stepped down from the stage and went off to stand with a larger group of judges and trainers.
The sorting and group-making took quite a while to account for everypony but in the end, Orion and Aurora were placed together in the same group. "So as I trying to say before Judge Dusk Light went onto the stage, could you show me all the stars and constellations tonight?" Aurora asked quietly as they walked to their quarters as the sun began to set. Their quarters consisted of 20 beds and separate rest rooms for the colts and one for the fillies. Everypony placed their bags and cases onto the beds they wanted (Orion and Aurora chose beds that were right beside each other) and began to unpack.
"Sure, I can show you," Orion said as he placed his case under the bed and jumped in. "It'll have to get dark enough first. I'll wake you when it is and then we'll go out on the balcony so I can show you everything you want to see."
The night air was cool to Orion's coat as he woke and checked outside to see if it were dark enough. When he was satisfied with what he saw, he went back in and gently shook Aurora until he woke. "Wuzz-goin-on?" Aurora asked, drunk with tiredness and sleep. "Did I miss somethin'?"
"Come on," Orion said, giving Aurora a quick shake. "Come on, let's go. You do remember wanting me to wake you so I could show you all the stars and constellations, don't you?"
"Oh yeah!" Aurora said excitedly as he bolted up straight and out of bed. "So? What's there to see?"
"Follow me," Orion ordered as he walked past towards the balcony doors. "There's a lot to see. Come on, I'll show you."
The two colts walked out onto the balcony and were instantly met with a very stiff wind. The coldness of it made everypony's breath show. Before too much longer, the two were constantly shivering. "Come on, let's get this over with before we freeze to death out here," Orion proposed through the clatter of his teeth.
Aurora nodded his head and looked up to the sky.
"Well that there is Orion, my favorite constellation and the same that's on my flank. Next to it is the star, Sirius. Sirius is the brightest star in all of the night sky and is also part of the constellation Canis Major. To the right of Orion is Taurus. Then there's Ursa Minor and Ursa Major. At the end of Ursa Minor is the North Star. Then we have Draco and Perseus over there and there. Then going back to Orion, we also have Cancer, Gemini, and Canis Minor, there, there, and there."
When Orion had finished recounting off the top of his head the constellations he knew for sure and the stars that went with them, both he and Aurora were shivering to the point of hardly being able to stand. They went all to eagerly to their warm beds and laid back down in the safety and security of their blankets.
"Wow, Orion," Aurora said breathlessly, "You really know a lot about that kind of stuff."
"Thanks," Orion said, muffled through the warm blankets, "I'm glad you think so. Hardly anyone else where I come from thinks that my talent with astronomy is anything to be proud of."
"Really? That's unbelievable. Where do you come from?"
"Well, I come from this little town that's outside of Ponyville and now that I think about it, I don't think our town even has a name. Anyways, I live there with my mom and dad. My mom is from Canterlot, but when she met my dad when he went up to do some advertising they fell into each other and ended up getting married. My dad is from Ponyville itself. He works as a manager at a store called "Quills and Mattresses" and my mom works with him there on the floor greeting everypony as they come in. I've never had many friends but the best one I ever had moved away to Manehatten last year and we haven't spoken at all since then. Mostly, when my parent's have gone to Ponyville to their work and school's been dismissed I'll run over to Old Farmer Brownhoof's place and run and play out in his wide fields. Old Farmer Brownhoof is just about as old as the dirt on the ground but he's really nice and he's really fun to be around. I remember several months ago after my friend had moved and I was still feeling upset by it, he invited my over one day and put on a puppet show. Needless to say it failed but I can't remember ever laughing that hard. If it hadn't been for Old Farmer Brownhoof, I'd probably have never gotten over my friend moving. He told me that all time will move on and that we just have to move on with it, but he also told me that we should cherish each other and that when a friend leaves, it's alright to feel sadness and loneliness because that shows you how much you really cared for that person. The more it hurts to see them go, the more you cared and loved them." Orion explained with a smile.
Aurora looked amazed and then registered a look that showed that he understood. "That Old Brownhoof sounds really smart. He sounds like he'd know a lot."
"Oh he does," Orion said. "Like I said, he's probably just as old as the dirt. And in those years I bet he's seen more than his fair share of death and passing's and I bet that with each one, he's learned so much more. I bet he'd tell you the secret and purpose to life if you asked him enough."
"Oh I'm not sure about that," Aurora began. "I'm really shy around new people and when I get near them I just sort of freeze up."
"Oh that'll be nothing. I guarantee it," Orion reassured Aurora. "Old Brownhoof is really nice, especially towards young colts and fillies like you and I. If you're afraid and shy, he'll try to do anything to break your shell and make you enjoy yourself."
Aurora stifled a large yawn. "Oh right, we need to go to bed so we can be ready tomorrow, or later today rather," Orion realized and he sunk beneath his covers. "Good night, Aurora.I'm glad you could be my friend."
"Good night, Orion. I'm glad too."
With that, the two young colts wrapped themselves deep in their blankets and drifted off to a very deep sleep.
The next day when they awoke, almost all of the other ponies in their group was already up at brushing their manes and talking with their friends that they had made the day before. in the far corner of the room surrounded by an excited crowd stood a cyan-colored filly with a rainbow mane and tail. As Orion rose and set himself down off the bed, he could over-hear her bragging about how she had performed a Sonic Rainboom last summer. Orion hadn't heard of anything like a Sonic Rainboom. He made his way across the room to where she stood on her bed recounting how she had endured supersonic speeds to break the barrier.
"What's a Sonic Rainboom?" Orion asked, nuzzling his way to the front of the group. "What's a Sonic Rainboom?"
The cyan filly looked at him as if she had been hit across the head. "Are you a dumb colt?" she asked, taken aback that somepony had no idea what a Sonic Rainboom was. "How can you be a pegasus or any kind of pony and not know what a Sonic Rainboom is?"
"I've just never heard of it," Orion said lowering his head, "My father's just a shop manager. He's not much interested in special tricks or whatever."
"Whatever?! Is that what it is?" she stuttered as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing. "You poor colt. The Sonic Rainboom is the only thing, and I mean the only thing that's the most difficult thing to do! It's so hard to do, nopony's ever done it, but I did it last summer and I'll do it again this summer to prove you wrong!"
"I'm not looking for a race," Orion sheepishly muttered, "I'm just wondering what a Sonic Rainboom is. That's all."
"What? You don't wanna race either? You're certainly a strange pony," she said, actually sitting down in amazement at him. "Listen here you: the Sonic Rainboom is the fastest most amazing most dangerous most exciting trick there's ever to do. And I did it last summer in a race. Fluttershy here can tell you so; she was there when I did it," the blue filly continued as she roped her arm around a yellow filly with a pink mane. The filly named Fluttershy squeaked and tried to get down from the spotlight but the blue one had her caught. Fluttershy quieted down and looked up at the crowd through her pink mane that drooped over her eyes as she laid down curled on the bed. "Go on, tell 'em, Fluttershy."
Fluttershy merely whimpered and tried to get away but she was held down and she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. She finally nodded her head. "You see?!" the other yelled as Fluttershy shied away when she was no longer pinned down. "Listen well! My name is Rainbow Dash and I'm gonna be a member of The Wonderbolts one day!"
The first lesson of the groups day began when their judge and trainer came in and introduced himself as "Mr. Longwing." He had them all separate into pairs and line up against the wall. He then had them go down the line one at a time and introduce themselves to their camp-mates. First one in line was Rainbow Dash and her introduction drew on for all it was worth. She boasted about her Sonic Rainboom and delighted announced to everypony there that she was going to be a Wonderbolt when she got older. Next was Fluttershy but all she did was cower, whimper, and try to shy away behind her friend, Rainbow Dash. As the line went on, it was Orion's turn and then Aurora's and then it went on to the end. After the long and sometimes funny introductions, Longwing had everypony go outside to the grounds so he could evaluate everypony's flying ability so he could then determine which ones to pay special attention to.
Rainbow chose herself to go first. She trotted up to the little circle in the middle of the grounds, deeply sighed, shook off any nervousness and wiped sweat away from her forehead, and bolted into the sky. She rose faster and faster than anypony Orion had ever seen before. When she got to as high as she wanted, she did a set of loop-d-loops and darted to the ground. She was going faster. Faster and faster yet. She quickly righted her descent, slowed, and touched back down. She got her scores and made her way back to the line to stand beside Fluttershy.
"Alright," Longwing said after he jotted down the scores, "Who will go next then?"
"I will," Orion said as he stepped forward. He was going to prove that even if he hadn't known what a Sonic Rainboom was, he was still one of the best flyers. He slowly walked to the center and felt a sudden grip of anxiety, but he wiped it away and looked to the sky, to where he knew the stars would be waiting. He spread his large wings and with a majestic push, he rushed into the sky; into the wind again. He was there. He flapped and flapped, gaining height and speed. He dove through the heart of a cloud and emerged on the other side, his coat sprinkled with beads of water. He was in the wind, doing what he wanted to, free from his father's instruction for the first time in weeks, and he wanted more. Orion soared, his large wings beating the air and causing him to rise. He stopped and closed his eyes. In his mane, in between his feathers, on his tongue, in his ears, on his coat, was the wind and all of what it was. He dived. He was enjoying this. He leveled out and with a quick maneuver, he spiraled towards the clouds again. Nothing was going to bring him down. He just wanted to fly and he wanted to enjoy it for as long as it lasted.
He landed and got his own scores. He had scored the same as Rainbow Dash. He walked back to the line but was stopped by a hoof on his shoulder. He turned and saw Rainbow Dash smiling. "Hey, that was some nice flying. I'm sorry about the things I said earlier this morning. Wanna hang out sometimes?" she asked as the next pony took his own spot in the center.
Orion observed her for a while before nodding. "Sure, that'll be awesome. You can teach my friend and I things about flying we don't know."
"Cool then!" she said excitedly. "By the way, this is Fluttershy," she continued as she pulled over her yellow-coated friend. "She wants to be friends too. She's real shy and she's bullied a lot because of it but hey, you're a pretty cool guy. So what do you say?"
Orion turned to Aurora, unsure of what to do exactly. When Aurora responded with a nod, Orion said, "Sure, that's cool. I'm Orion and this is Aurora."
"Hi . . . I'm . . .," Fluttershy quietly said, her name inaudible.
"What was that?" Aurora asked, standing beside Orion.
"Um . . . I'm . . . um . . . um . . . my name is Fluttershy," she finally said.
"Nice to meet you, Fluttershy," Orion said as he shook her hoof and from therefore, they went as friends.
They watched the rest of the line take their turns. There were a few good ones, a few decent one (Aurora ultimately fell into this group), and then a handful of ones that could barely lift themselves off the ground (Fluttershy fell in this group).
"Alright everypony," Longwing announced once everypony had settled back on the ground. "That's it for your first lesson. I figure that we start out slow the first couple of days and then we'll move on to the harder stuff once everypony's comfortable. As for the more advanced ponies," he said, indicating Rainbow Dash and Orion, "I'll start you two off immediately with the hard stuff. So that's all for today. You can all go and explore around Cloudsdale as you wish, but I don't wanna hear about any of you flying. Not until you've gotten your certificates. No matter how good you are at it. There are plenty of walkways and bridges here in Cloudsdale so there's really no point to fly anyways. Flying just takes less time."
Longwing stretched out his own wings and flew off in the direction of an arena in the distance. Orion, Aurora, and their new friends Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy walked back to the living quarters talking and laughing about how they had flown and how everypony else had flown.
Orion was happy that he had made friends.