"Dash." I whispered. No response. "Dash!" I said, a little more forcefully. Still no response.
I admit, it was a bit early, even for me, but today was the first day of Summer, which meant the lantern festival was tonight. I was far too excited to sleep. Of course, it wasn't just the festival, well, for me at least. A tradition in Cloudhoof Village is for young pegasi to leave at a young age and only return once they had their cutie mark. Today is my last day in the village before I decided to leave.
Several minutes of silence passed. She hadn't even budged. "Fine, you get to sleep." I told the unconscious filly across the room. A quick look out the window told me it must've been before seven at least. The sun was half over the horizon, which is pretty early when you live high in the mountains. Looking down, there weren't any ponies out on the cobblestone streets yet, at least from what I could hear or see. Closing the window, I hastily left the room. There would be at least one pony in the house that was awake at this hour.
I could hear dishes being moved before I even got into the kitchen. My mother was already awake. Inside the kitchen was a dangerous place to be when she was like this. It was too early in the morning to follow the blue-grey blur that was my mother rushing around the kitchen. Sleep hadn't freed me completely when a loud yawn escaped me.
She stopped and turned to the door. "Star Hunter! I thought you would sleep late today."
I shot her a smile. "Not a chance. I'm gonna make the most of today."
She chuckled "Of course, though it wouldn't hurt to get some more sleep."
"Psh! Sleep is for the weak," pausing for a glance back up the stairs, "and Dash."
"You two may be siblings, but you are absolutely nothing alike." She let herself laugh. "There's cinnamon buns on the table, fresh out of the oven. Help yourself." With that, she was back to rushing around the kitchen.
Mother was right. You would've never known Rainbow Dash and I were related if somebody didn't tell you. Rainbow Dash inherited our father's energetic and mischievous personality along with his multicolored mane. I, on the other hand, got our mother's level head, calm personality, and simple blue mane. The thoughts occupied my mind for several seconds before something else intruded. The delicious smell of warm cinnamon. I love cinnamon.
I was at the table for the better part of an hour before I heard somepony knocking at the front door. Upon opening the it, I found a pink filly with a ginger colored mane staring at me. Just the pony I was hoping for.
"Good morning!" she said, flaring her wings.
"Good morning Airheart. You're sure up early this morning."
"No earlier than you. What was it today? Before Sunrise maybe?"
"I'll have you know I only got up about an hour ago." I gave her a triumphant look.
"You know that's actually earlier than your usual, right?"
She knows me too well. "Alright, you win. So, why are you here?"
She became noticeably brighter at the question. "Can I come in first?"
"No." She raised an eyebrow. "Fine, come on."
I lead her back to the kitchen table where I was sitting minutes before. My mother gave her a brief greeting before rushing back to work.
She didn't hesitate to help herself to a cinnamon roll before talking to me. "You want to know why I'm here?"
"YOU want to know why I'M here?" she repeated.
I narrowed my eyes at her.
"I thought it would be obvious."
"No, not really." I replied.
"You're the only one that's not busy today! My father is on cloud duty, my mother is busy making food, and I'm BORED." She finished by planting her face on the table.
I smiled at her over-enthusiastic explanation, then finally said "So you want to hang out with me today?"
I feigned contemplating it for a moment. In reality, I was going to have her along anyway. Leaving was a big thing since some ponies never came back, so it was encouraged to say your last goodbyes.
"Fine. If you must." Pouring in a reasonable amount of exasperation.
"Don't kid yourself. There's no way you could say no to this adorable face." She flutter her eyes at me.
I didn't even want to dignify that with a response, so instead I turned towards my mother as we moved in the direction of the hall way and out the front door. "We're going to the square, we'll be back before dark."
"I'll hold you to that," she called back "and stay out of trouble." She added. “Oh!” She said as she peeked her head out of the kitchen. "Stop by Krispy's. He'll want to know you're leaving."
"No problem." I stared at her for a few moments. "Anything else?"
"I don't think so. Have fun." She smiled and went back into he kitchen.
"Shall we depart?" Airheart asked.
"I believe we shall."
The door shut behind us and we were on the path to the village square.
It turned out that it was still a bit early because there were still hardly any other ponies out. The only sounds were our hooves on the uneven cobblestone streets.
The monotonous sound was starting to weigh on me when Airheart broke the silence. "So, do you know where you're going?"
I was puzzled for a moment "To the square. I thought we established that."
"When you leave, feather brain."
"Oh that. I uh- I haven't thought about it much." That was a flat out lie. I had thought about almost non-stop for the past week, but without actually knowing what these places were like, I hadn't the faintest idea of which to pick.
"So you're just going to fly off and hope for the best?" She seemed distressed by the idea.
"Yeah, that's the plan I guess."
She let out a sigh. "You're way too laid back for your own good."
"Not laid back, just calm and collected." We got to the square which, unlike the rest of the village, was a bit more active.
Several of the shops had already opened their doors and a particularly colorful shop easily caught our attention. "Now where to first?" I asked.
It was a rhetorical question, but she answered anyway. We trotted through the open door and found the old stallion carrying a stained glass window to a display case. It was a relatively new one he had been working on for weeks.
"Hi Mr. Krispy!" We said in unison.
"Hey kids, what are you doing here so early?" He said in a gruff voice.
"Thought we would get an early start on the day." I told him.
"You know he's leaving tomorrow." Airheart said.
"Is that so? You know, I never had to leave the village. When I was a foal...." He began to tell the story of how he got his cutie mark. "-and that's how I saved Hearth's Warming Eve. Anyway, I gotta get back to work," he said, beginning to head to the back of the shop, then called to me, as if remembering something. "Hey Star Hunter."
"Stop by here tonight, I've got a little going away gift for ya."
"You got it!" I said.
Both Airheart and I departed the store in much higher spirits than when we came in.
It was before just sunset when I had finally seen all the ponies I wanted to. Turns out I have friends all over the village. The last stop before home was Airheart's house where it was something like a mini going away party from my second family.
I was finally back at my front door when I heard somepony land behind me.
"You finish everything up?" He said before I turned around.
It was exactly who I thought it was. "Yeah dad. Pretty sad though. I won't see a lot of them for a while."
"That is, if you come back at all." He said with a chuckle.
"Don't let mom here you joke like that."
We walked through the front door together and were confronted with the sight of Rainbow Dash with our lanterns and mother with a plate of delicious looking food.
"You two get cleaned up, Dash and I are going to go on ahead and help set up." My mother said, not even giving us time to respond before they were out the door.
"Best do as she says." My father said.
It didn't take long to get prepared. I combed my mane to lie flatter on my head and washed the dirt of my coat. Simple enough. We both met at the front door and were off to the square.
The sun was touching the horizon when we finally arrived and found our spots at one of the long tables, waiting anxiously for the feast to begin.
"Star Hunter!" I heard as two legs wrapped around my neck.
"Hi Dash." I said.
"You didn't wake me up this morning." She said, feigning disappointment. "Thank you."
"It wasn't for lack of trying. You sleep like a brick."
She ignored that last part. "But you know, it would've been nice to spend my last day with you, WITH YOU."
"Ah, that's where this is going."
"I can't believe you skipped out on me to hang out with your Airheart."
"Not my fault you sleep like a brick." I told her.
"You already said that."
"And I'll keep saying it unless that changes." I teased.
"Yeah well I-" She was interrupted when a silence fell over the crowd. Storm Hoof, head of the village, took center stage.
"Mares and gentlecolts. We gather here tonight to celebrate the coming of another wonderful summer season as well as new wings in the sky and hooves on the ground. Of course, it's not just the coming of Summer. I would also like to say farewell to one if our own. My grandson is setting out on his own tomorrow and I couldn't be more proud."
I realized that the moment he said that, the eyes of ever pony in the village turned to me. If my coat wasn't as dark blue as it was, I would've been red as a ruby.
"Star hunter, good luck and may Celestia be your guide." His tone made a quick change, becoming less formal. "Now let's eat!" Thus, the feast began.
It became a mission to slip away from the crowds of ponies wishing me luck on my journeys. As soon as I got away from the table, I made a beeline for Krispy's Bakery. I wasn't in the habit of forgetting things I deemed important and I certainly wasn't going to put it off to the last minute. It didn't help that his store was at the opposite end of the square though, so I had to pass virtually every pony in the village, who, again, kept stopping to talk to me. Finally, I was able to break away from them and make it through his open door.
I found Mr. Krispy at a table with his wife, who upon seeing me said "Well, if it isn't our favorite colt. I can't believe you're leaving tomorrow. It seems like just yesterday that we were babysitting you two."
"You would follow me, wouldn't you?" I said without turning around.
"What? I didn't get the day with you, so I'll stick with you tonight." She said with a magnificent grin. Anyway, I thought you already visited Mr. Krispy."
"He did," Mr. Krispy interrupted. "but I asked him to come back tonight er now er earlier...." He furrowed his brow, mumbling to himself about past, present and future tense. "Bah! I can never get that right! Anyway, I have something for you. Come with me to the back."
He moved to the back room, me following close behind.
I turned when I felt Dash behind me. "Not one for waiting, as usual?"
The first thing I noticed was that the room was emptier than usual. Not just empty, clean too. The floors were shiny and free glass pieces, the shelves were neatly organized with various materials, and the only thing on the main work table was a wooden box. Krispy trotted over to the box and, with an expert flick of his wing, opened it.
"What's in it?" I asked.
"Why don't you come over and see for yourself." It sounded more like an order than a suggestion.
Rainbow Dash moved ahead of me to the table and without hesitation peeked inside the box. I saw a sparkle in her eyes as she looked inside. "Come over here Star Hunter, it's beautiful."
Dash using a word like beautiful? It must be something. I made my way towards the table and looked in the box. What I saw was a pendant. No, it's wasn't just a pendant. What I was looking at was something special. It was a small, golden disc that was hung on an intricate silver chord. The oddest thing was that it seemed to radiate power.
"It's amazing." Was all I could say.
"And I'm giving it to you." he told me. "It's a necklace that has been passed down through my family for generations. It's said that whoever wears it will be granted the power to protect those they love the most. It's a bit corny, but you're the closest thing I'll ever have to a son, so I want you to take it with you on your journeys Star Hunter."
The words took a moment to sink in, but when they did I couldn't believe it. "I can't take something like this. I have no right to-"
"Star Hunter!" Rainbow Dash's interrupted. She was so quiet, I forgot she was there too. "Mom always said that it's rude to refuse the kindness of others. The kindest pony you and I know is offering you something precious and you're turning it down?"
She gave me an intense stare that all but crushed any defense I could've mounted. My decision had been made by for me and I was okay with it. "Mr. Krispy, I'll gladly accept the charm. Thank you."
He just chuckled. "Now if that isn't the sweetest thing I've ever seen, I don't know what is." He slowly pulled the charm out of the box and slid it over my neck. It was heavy. Far heavier than anything that size should have been. "Now you two get outta here and have some fun. I think I'd like to have a little more time with my wife." He guided us back to the door and before he closed it behind us, he looked us both over. "You," He said, looking down at Rainbow Dash, "Stay loyal to your family and friends. It's a good trait to have. You," He looked back at me, "Gold and silver are nice colors on you. Trust them." He gave us one last smile and closed the door.
"Thanks for the fashion advice I guess."
"Come on Star Hunter, it's almost time for the lanterns!"
"I almost forgot!"
We rushed to the outside of town where ponies were already gathering with their lanterns. It didn't take long to find Mom and Dad, who had ours with them.
"There you two are. We thought you were going to miss it." My father said.
He handed us our lanterns, which were already lit and just needed to be let go, and we bolted to the cliffs where all the the other fillies and colts were waiting.
Grandfather began his speech like he did every year. "Everybody, another year and another Lantern Festival. With each of you is a lantern holding your hopes and dreams. When you let them go, they will fly high into the clouds and carried to those great pegasi before you. Stay true to your friends, your family, and most important of all, yourself, and those dreams will become a reality." He smiled at everybody who was at the cliffs edge then said in a loud, booming voice
"Release the lanterns!"
On his command, hundreds of lanterns filled the sky, creating the look of many tiny stars dancing in the sky.
Rainbow Dash turned to me and asked "You'll come back, right?"
"Definitely not." She shot me a piercing glare. "Geez. You and Airheart. Of course I'm coming back. I wouldn't dare leave forever."
"Good." She said, resting her head on me.
We spent the rest of the night laying in the grass talking about the places I was sure to go. Part of me wished that tonight could last forever, but the other part of me knew that could never happen.
Rainbow Dash, Father, Mother, even Airheart joined my walk to the edge of the village. We reached the edge and I turned to look at my family. This was it. Yesterday had come and gone. I had said goodbye to the ponies of Cloudhoof Village, and now it was time to say goodbye to Cloudhoof Village itself. One last look surprised me. Many others had joined them. Ponies form all over the village were here to see me off. That made me feel a bit better about everything I had accomplished. I turned my back to all of them, the rising sun to the east and the rest of Equestria ahead of me. Getting a running start, I threw myself into the air. I was on my first adventure.