“You can’t ride a cable car in a storm, kid.”
The operator hadn’t really been expecting anypony to bother him. He’d been taking the time in the midst of the pounding rain and rolling thunder to catch up on some light reading. Now, a teenage unicorn looks at him forlornly from the other side of the glass.
The awning above her does little to protect from the torrent. For a moment the stallion feels a little bad, there in his cozy vestibule with some tea and a magazine, but there’s hardly room for a dripping young mare in there too.
She’s clutching what looks to be a mason jar full of dust.
“But the storm is the whole point,” the unicorn says beseechingly. “Can’t you just, like, turn it on and look the other way?”
“That’s insane,” says the operator, whose name is Vista Sky. He idly turns another page of his magazine. “I don’t know why anypony would want to go to the top of Mount Moony during the worst storm of the year. I wouldn’t let you even if it were allowed.” He turns another page. “Which, obviously, it’s not.”
“Hm.” The unicorn regards the distant mountaintop as lightning flashes across the clouds once more.
“My name’s Wandering Star,” she says. “What’s yours?”
He looks up at her. “Vista.”
“Like the operating sys—”
“Like, as in, a landscape. A view.”
He sighs. “Look. You can come back tomorrow when there’s no weather scheduled. I’ll let you ride for free.” He looks at her dripping form again. “Just… please get out of the storm. You’re not getting to the peak tonight.”
Wanda, as she’s known, looks down at her jar with a thoughtful frown. “I thought this might finally be the place…”
“The place to what?” asks Vista-as-in-a-landscape despite himself.
She looks up at him with a small smile. “To scatter my best friend’s ashes.”
How far has the wandering star wandered on her quest?
A long way, to be sure. Across land and sea and sky, to the most majestic places yet discovered by ponykind.
None, yet, have met the mark.
Wanda hadn’t really expected the mountain to be the place. But with the storm, and the lightning, and the gale… perhaps it could have been. Perhaps, finally, the ashes would fly from their prison of glass and be carried on howling winds into the heart of the storm, where the thunder is born.
As it was, Wanda took her free cable car ride the next day, and stood atop the peak, crossed the safety ropes to the very precipice above the Lunar Valley, and looked out over the vista laid out before her. She thought of her friend.
And then, like all the times before, she turned around and went back the way she’d come.
Not yet, she thought, as always. Not here.
And onward she went.
Now she walks the clouds, the wandering city of Draft, as it meanders over the sparkling seas at the edge of the reaches of Equestria. The winds of the pegasi have pushed it eastward, further eastward, until it looks out over Mount Aris and the lands of the hippogriffs, the long-abandoned towns imbuing the scattered forest with a sense of wist and loss. The mountain itself, though: what a shining beacon of life and community! The singing drifts up toward Draft and wakes young Wanda in her cloud hotel room.
She takes her jar, and moves for the city’s great landmark, the enormous domed cathedral to the old pegasus gods. Wanda has no wings, but she makes it to the top of the great marble dome all the same, by way of stairs and walkways.
There at the top she’s met with a group of tourists, looking out over the sparkling cloud city to one side and the beautiful Mount Aris, outlined against the sparkling blue ocean, to the other.
A breeze rustles past as the tour guide turns to Wanda and says, “Are you part of the group, honey? Or are you lost?”
Wanda shakes her head. “Just here to see.”
An old earth pony couple chuckles at her words. “Plenty to see, young mare, plenty to see indeed,” says the stallion.
“Whatca holdin’ on to, there?” Says the old mare with a bemused smile in her direction.
“Ashes,” says Wanda simply. “I think maybe this is the place to scatter them.”
“Hmm. No better place than this, no indeed, if you’re asking me,” says a nearby pegasus. “The great city of Draft is the resting place of many great pegasi.” He gives Wanda a searching look. “Pegasus, were they?”
Wanda shakes her head. The pegasus snorts and looks away. “Still a damn fine place. Greatest city on Eqqus.”
“Mount Aris is pretty, too,” pipes up an earth pony filly.
The pegasus regards it with a critical eye. A moment passes.
“Could be bigger,” he decides finally.
“Oh, hush," a pegasus mare standing close to him says. “Draft has never been this close to the hippogriff roost and probably never will be again. This is once-in-a-lifetime.” She smiles at Wanda. “A perfect final resting place. Very well-planned, young mare.”
“Can I take a look at the view?” asks Wanda. “I haven’t decided yet.”
The tour group parts to let her through. The viewing platform is small, railed-in. Holding the precious jar in her magic, Wanda stands with her hooves up on the railing and looks out over the mountain, the city, the sea and the forest.
She thinks of her friend.
Then she shakes her head and retreats.
There are small sighs from the ponies around her as Wanda makes her way back to the door into the walkway within the dome. Some of them think they hear her mutter, “still not good enough”.
“So why,” asks Princess Twilight Sparkle, “are you here, Miss Star?”
“Wanda,” says Wanda, “and I’m here because I think this is the place I’ve been waiting to find. The place where I can give Autumn Flash a worthy end.”
Together, young unicorn and alicorn princess look out over Equestria—all of Equestria. Here at the top of the world is Twilight Sparkle’s personal tower of magic, thousands of feet high, though from the inside it seems only to be a storey or two.
From here, the princess can look out over her kingdom and sigh, in contentment or in weariness. She’s very accustomed to both. Rumor has it that the princess can reach any pony from there at the top of the world, reach out with her magic and touch them, no matter the distance between.
It probably isn’t true.
Twilight scratches her leg absentmindedly. “And you aren’t going to tell me how you got in here?”
“It’s not important,” Wanda says.
Twilight nods. It’s the truth, of course.
“I just want to finally scatter these ashes. It’s been so long, now, that I can’t even remember what I was looking for, exactly. All I know is that nowhere has been right.”
“And how far have you travelled, my little pony?”
“Far,” Wanda says simply. “From Canterlot to Griffonstone. From the Peaks of Peril to the Cliffs of Courage. Old Unicornia, New Yakyakistan. Draft. Mount Aris. Mount Moony. The Cave of—”
“I see,” Twilight interjects hastily. “And why, may I ask, did none of those places feel right?”
“I don’t know,” says Wanda, looking down at her hooves. “I just never stood there and… felt that it was time to let him go.”
“Hmm.” Twilight looks out over the world below, in the light of the setting sun. And sighs.
“So can I do it here?”
“Well, my dear Wandering Star, come here beside me and take a look.” Twilight gestures with a hoof, beckoning the young mare over to the tower’s edge. There is no barrier between them and the open air, the boundless landscape.
Wandering Star steps up to the edge. She looks out over the land. She takes in the mountains, the plains, the valleys, the forests, the snow and the sand, and she thinks of her friend Autumn Flash.
Tears spring up in her eyes.
“Shh, shh…” Twilight wraps Wanda up in an embrace, there at the top of the sky. “It’s okay. You’re not ready. It’s okay.”
“I just want it to be…” but the little unicorn can’t complete the thought.
“I know,” says the princess. “But with a friend like you, I think he’s had the greatest adventure a pony could hope for, there in that little jar. Don’t you?”
Wanda looks down at the humble mason jar and, despite her tears, manages a small laugh at Princess Twilight’s words.
“I guess so,” Wanda says.
Twilight looks out again over Equestria and hums a soothing melody as they watch the shadows creep longer across the land.
“A worthy end indeed,” she murmurs, as if only to herself.