The Crystal War Book I: A Spark to Light the Dark

by NatureSpark

Ch.22 Welcome to the North

~Chapter 22: Welcome to the North~

Downpour opened his eyes and saw the unfamiliar surroundings he was in. As memories of the blizzard washed over him, the pegasus panicked. He shot up out of the bed and looked around the strange room. Draft was nowhere in sight, so he needed to figure out how he’d gotten to where he was. Downpour remembered looking for shelter from the devastating storm and then… nothing. His mind was completely blank after that. As he tried to stand up, the stallion’s legs gave out beneath him and he fell to the floor gracelessly, while his wings flapped uselessly on his back.
“Draft, where are you? What happened after the storm?” Downpour asked in a wheezing voice. He couldn’t hear any response to his pleas for an explanation. The pegasus began to wonder if his brother had made it out of the mountains alive.
Downpour wasn’t sure how long he laid there on the floor of the room, but it was long enough to give him ample time to sort through his thoughts. He could remember trudging through the snow with Draft as the ice slowly spread up his legs. Then he remembered getting very tired and he could swear he had heard his brother calling his name before he fell asleep, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t remember anything after that point. Downpour was terrified that his brother had died saving him and that he had one more death on his hooves. The Windigos should have killed him instead; after all, he was the one that had drawn them in.
The small, cheerfully decorated room around him began to blur as the tears clouded Downpour’s sight. He wasn’t even sure where he was at that moment, but the heartbroken pony laid there on the floor and cried silently for everything he had done wrong. Suddenly he heard the sound of a door opening behind his head and the hoofsteps of somepony walking into the room.
“What the hay are you doing on the floor?” his brother asked him and Downpour’s heart skipped a beat when he heard the question. Draft was alive. A grin spread across his bluish face as he forced his arms up to wipe the tears away.
“Ha ha, yo-you’re alive?” Downpour asked with a teary smile. His younger brother leaned over his face, appearing upside-down from Downpour’s perspective, and gave him a confused look.
“Uh, yeah… Why wouldn’t I be?” the younger stallion questioned.
“I thought we were dead meat when I started freezing in that blizzard. How did you manage to save us?” Downpour asked him as he tried to force himself to his hooves. All of his straining did nothing to change his position however, so Draft had to help him back up to the bed. Every part of his body felt rubbery and useless.
“Well, after you passed out I thought we were pretty bucked too,” Draft acknowledged as he took a seat on the edge of the small bed. “I cut up your saddlebags into straps and dragged you into a cave. Then I burned everything we could live without for warmth, but the fire didn’t last long. I wound up blacking out soon after that.”
“So how did we get here and for that matter, where exactly are we anyway?” Downpour asked. It wasn’t a house that he could remember ever having been in before.
“I finally regained consciousness after the storm had subsided. I’m not sure why the Windigos left, but all the commotion they caused had drawn a pony out to see what was happening,” Draft explained. Downpour saw a shiver run down the length of his brother’s spine at the memory of the magical creatures. “That’s when he found us, huddled together and half dead. That stallion helped the two of us make it back to his home, just over the mountains, in the Crystal Kingdom.” Well, Downpour thought, at least they had made it across the border.
“So, when do I get to meet our mysterious savior?” he asked his younger brother after he had heard the story.
“Umm, he needed to buy some stuff, so he went to town. I think he’ll be back in just a couple hours,” Draft said as he hopped off of the bed and stretched out before turning back to face his brother. “For now, I think you should rest. I can’t imagine that you’re feeling that good after our ordeal, but I can wake you when he gets back if you want.”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Downpour said as his brother turned to leave. “Wait, what’s his name. I’d at least like to know that.”
“Oh, he told me to call him Ursa,” Draft replied.
“Ursa? That’s a strange name for a pony,” Downpour commented. Draft shot him a smile and shook his head as he stepped out of the room.
“I think it’ll make more sense when you meet him,” the younger stallion replied. That seemed a little foreboding to Downpour, but he decided to shrug it off, at least until he could get some more rest. Then he could meet their oddly named rescuer. The exhausted pegasus closed his eyes once more and fell into a nightmarish sleep.

A sigh of relief escaped Draft’s lips as he shut the bedroom door behind him. They had come very close to dying back in the mountains and he was still shaken up from the event. His brother had been in terrible shape when they had first made it back to Ursa’s house and most of the night it seemed as if he would never wake up. Draft wasn’t sure what he would have done if his brother hadn’t made it. As much as his older sibling annoyed him, Downpour was still the one pony that he knew would always have his back, in any situation. Or he used to be; the way his brother had been acting yesterday showed that even the bullheaded pegasus was beginning to wear down from their constant struggles.
There was a comfy looking couch lining one wall of the small living room and Draft decided it was as good of a time as any to get off of his hooves for awhile. As he dropped his flank onto the striped cushions, he noticed a portrait of Ursa, standing next to another stallion that Draft assumed was his brother, although the two looked nothing alike. In fact, the only similarity he could see was the fact that the two of them were both earth ponies of fairly tall stature.
Ursa was a very large earth pony, tall and muscular, with a shaggy blue mane and tail. His emerald green hide was also fairly thick with fur, most likely a result of his family living near the freezing mountains for many generations. He sported eyes that were also a very charming shade of green. His cutie mark was a leaf of some sort; Draft hadn’t gotten a very good look at it yet, because it always seemed rude to him, staring at somepony’s flank without their permission. The pegasus had talked to Ursa for a couple hours throughout the night and had learned a little of the green pony’s family history.
The other stallion in the painting was slightly shorter and of a much slimmer build. He was a dark green shade with a lighter green mane that he wore short, accentuating his long neck. His eyes appeared to be a light blue, bordering on grey. They were both facing forward, so Draft had no clue as to what the stallion’s cutie mark may have been, but he wasn’t a bad looking stallion by any means. They appeared to be quite happy in the portrait, unlike the only picture that he and Downpour had ever had done with their mother. They had been unhappy with the situation and it had shown through in the picture.
Draft was all set to relax, until his stomach started rumbling from hunger, then he realized he hadn’t eaten that morning.
“I wonder what I have for food in my bag,” he said aloud, before realizing that he was indulging in Spark’s habit of talking to himself. That was something that Draft didn’t want to start doing, it made other ponies think you were a little crazy and that was fine for the unicorn, because he was a little strange, but Draft liked to think he was saner than his flightless friend. With a small groan, the pegasus forced his body off of the striped couch and made his way over to his belongings, which he had left near the door to the room his brother was sleeping in.
As he sifted through the over packed bag, Draft came across a small cloth sack that he hadn’t bothered opening before. It wasn’t his, so it must have been his brother’s. Curious as to what was inside, he opened it up and found it contained extra Crystal Empire bits. For some reason, Downpour had seen fit to throw a few into the bag. Draft dropped it back down with a shrug. It was the only money they had now, but there wasn’t much, so it wouldn’t last them very long. Maybe they could buy some food before they left for the capitol though.
Eventually the starving pegasus found what he was searching for, in the form of a slightly bruised apple. It seemed as if most of their provisions had either gone bad or were close to it, but there were a few pieces of fruit still intact and some oats that hadn’t quite molded yet. Not the best tasting of meals, but it was sustenance and they couldn’t afford any better at the moment. Draft stood back up to his full height as he took a bite from the softened fruit. At least it tasted okay, he thought, as he wandered back over to his spot on the living room couch.
The apple wasn’t great, but it satisfied Draft’s hunger and as he ate, he took time to admire the quaint home in which he was a guest. It was built in a similar style to Equestrian homes and had the same sort of charm that he was used to seeing. The walls were a light beige color, nothing fancy, and the hardwood floors were covered with brown rugs in the most walked upon areas. The only real difference between this home and an equestrian one was the location, but it could have been the fact that it was built on the very edge of the Crystal Empire. There was a chance that the architectural style would change the closer they got to the capitol.
After finishing with his breakfast, Draft began walking around the house, looking for a recycling bin. He found it in the kitchen near a counter that was occupied by a hoof operated grain mill, just the sort of device he expected in a country home. After disposing of the apple core, the grey pegasus decided to go outside and take in the view of the property. The previous night he had been far to distracted to take a good look around. Draft headed out the front door, pausing briefly to throw on his cloak and boots in case there happened to be a cold breeze, and was greeted with the sight of lush green fields sprawling out in every direction.
A log fence ran the border of the property line, all forty acres of it. Draft rotated in place, taking in the sight of the open country before him and was amazed by the vast territory, part of which was running up to the mountains behind the house. There seemed to be a number of acres that contained timber and the pegasus reasoned that it was the timber that Ursa made his living from. He imagined it was a very peaceful place to live, as the only sound that he could hear was the wind blowing through the grass. In the warmer months he imagined that birdsong would have broken the silence, but now that it was the beginning of winter, all the birds had left the area.
Although there was a layer of clouds across the sky, it wasn’t as cold as Draft had assumed it would be, probably because they had passed over the mountains. He decided to lie down on the grass while he waited for Ursa to return from town. There was a calming tranquility as he felt the breeze run along his body, gently caressing his face as he let out a contented sigh and closed his eyes. It may not have held the excitement of Los Pegasus, but the stallion had half a mind to move somewhere resembling Ursa’s place instead, after him and his brother finished their job of course.

The bed was soaked in sweat when Downpour finally woke from his twisted nightmares. He remembered vague scenes of death and ice, intermingled with screams and failure. It was probably the worst sleep he had gotten in his life, but it would have to do for awhile, because there was no way he was going back to bed after that. His blue eyes focused on the ceiling above him as he took deep breaths and steadied his racing heart. He felt hot and sticky, so when the stallion eventually calmed down, his mind had set on bathing. Somewhere nearby there had to be source of running water and preferably a nice meal. He ran a hoof along his forehead, wiping away the sweat that had accumulated as he slept and then he got to unsteady hooves and made his way out the bedroom door.
“Draft?” Downpour called out as he shuffled his way into the main area of the house, but there was no reply from his younger brother. The house appeared to be empty except for him. “Draft, where the hay are you?” There was still no answer, so the shaky pegasus forced his legs to carry him to a couch where he could sit and rest. The fact that his legs and wings felt like lead was a little unsettling for the stocky pony and he hoped that there wasn’t any permanent damage from the prolonged exposure to ice. Although it would probably be considered some sort of divine justice for what he had done, he concluded, before banishing the depressing idea to the back of his mind once again. It was those kinds of self depreciating thoughts that had gotten him in his current position in the first place.
During the course of his thinking, Downpour caught sight of his brother’s saddlebags and a rumbling in his stomach forced him to walk over to them and find something to eat. His shaky legs gave out halfway to his goal and he wound up crawling the rest of the distance, using his wings as oars to move himself along, happy that nopony was there to see his pathetic display. Throwing open the bag, he rummaged around until he grasped an apple. It didn’t look very appetizing, but there wasn’t much else for him to pick from, so he took a hesitant bite. Although it was badly bruised, the fruit was still juicy and quelled his hunger a bit. The pegasus wound up finishing the entire thing, core and all, before dragging himself back to the couch.
Crawling around was not only embarrassing, but also very exhausting for the bluish-grey pegasus and by the time Downpour had hauled himself back onto the couch, he was panting from the effort. The bath would have to wait until he had more energy, he decided as he sprawled out on the soft cushions. A few minutes after laying down, his brother walked through the front door with a smile on his face.
“Hey, you got out of bed,” Draft said, taking a seat in the only chair in the room. “Does that mean you’re feeling better?”
“Actually, I feel like shit, but I wasn’t sleeping very well anyway,” Downpour sighed.
“Oh, well did you want something to eat?” his brother asked.
“No, I already got myself some food,” Downpour replied, although the single apple hadn’t really rid him of his hunger. “I could use a bath though. Is there a stream or anything around here?”
“No stream, but Ursa has a well and a bathtub, so I can run you a bath if you want,” his brother told him, with a pitying smile that Downpour didn’t care for. It wasn’t as if he could manage the task by himself in his current state though.
“Yeah, I’d appreciate it,” Downpour answered reluctantly, before forcing his body into an upright position on the couch.
“Alright, just give me a couple minutes and it’ll be ready,” his younger brother replied.
“Thanks,” Downpour called out after his sibling, who was already heading into the bathroom to run the water. His head hit the striped couch cushion with a sigh as he waited for his brother’s return. Downpour’s legs seemed to be regaining some of their feeling, but he was still a long way away from being able to make the journey to the capitol. He hoped that his legs would be working again by the next day; otherwise he might have to send his brother alone, because they couldn’t afford to delay their meeting.

The sound of his constant hoofsteps against the wooden floor filled the house as Draft paced back and forth in boredom. His brother was in the middle of bathing and there wasn’t much for him to do as he waited. The pegasus had admired every room in the house, except for Ursa’s bedroom of course, and had also sorted through their belongings a few times searching for herbs to smoke. Coming up empty hoofed for the third time, he had decided to pace away his nervous energy, lest he be tempted to break into one of the harder drugs that were resting at the bottom of his saddlebag. Draft had ingested his share of magical concoctions Spark had mixed up and knew from experience that they would certainly remove any boredom he had, but being in that state wouldn’t make the best impression with their host, should he return.
“Bah, can this day get any duller?”
“Are you talking to yourself?” Downpour asked as he closed the bathroom door behind him. Draft facehoofed as he ceased his pacing and faced his brother.
“Not really, so are you feeling any better now?” he asked, changing the subject away from his own actions. Downpour was bracing himself against a wall, but seemed to be in a better mood as he answered.
“Yeah, actually my legs still feel like rubber,” Downpour replied, “but I think they’ll be back in working order by tomorrow and my wings seem to be doing well.” That was the best news that Draft had heard all day, in fact, it was basically the only news he had heard all day. “Is, uh, Ursa back yet?”
“I’m afraid not. I don’t know what’s keeping him, but I’m sure he’ll be back anytime,” Draft told his brother.
“Good, I want to thank him for saving our flanks and letting us stay here,” Downpour replied. “It’s nice to see that this country has nice ponies like Equestria.” Draft was saving that judgment for after he had met more than one pony in the country, but his brother was right; Ursa did seem genuinely nice. “What have you been up to all day?”
“Ugh, nothing at all. There isn’t a damn thing for me to do around here,” Draft explained as he helped his brother over to the couch. Downpour was pretty heavy, but with a little effort, Draft managed to help the shorter pegasus to his seat. “I walked around the property for awhile, looked for herb to smoke.”
“Did you find a-”
“No,” Draft replied, cutting off his brother’s question.
“Oh, well that’s too bad,” Downpour huffed. “I guess we could look over Chestnut’s notes or something.” Draft locked eyes with his brother and shook his head slowly.
“I, uh, had to burn it to keep warm in the cave,” Draft reluctantly explained. Downpour opened his mouth to say something, but Draft cut him off before he got a single word out. “I had no choice, it was that or we freeze to death.”
“Hmm, I guess I can’t really argue with that logic, but that certainly hinders us a bit,” Downpour commented. “Do you think that Ursa can help us out?”
“Probably, he told me that he’s lived here in the country his entire life, so I’m sure he knows a thing or two about traveling through this area. Speak of Discord,” Draft said as he saw Ursa through the front window, walking up the dirt path with saddlebags packed full of whatever it was he had gone into town for. His older brother craned his neck around so that he could see out the window as well.
“Holy hay! He’s a big bucker isn’t he?” Downpour asked, his mouth hanging open in awe. Draft knew the feeling already. That ganger, Stone, was the only stallion that Draft had ever seen who was larger than Ursa and only in thickness, not height, but Downpour hadn’t been with him for that unfortunate encounter, so Ursa was a startling sight to behold. “What? Was his dad a bear or something?”
“I highly doubt it… although that might explain the name Ursa. Maybe you should ask him when he comes in,” Draft suggested with a smirk.
“Oh yeah, and wind up getting pummeled,” Downpour replied. “No thanks.” The door opened as soon as the bluish colored pegasus finished speaking and Ursa walked in, shrugging off his fully burdened saddlebags with a groan.
“Those things were beginning to get a bit heavy,” the large earth pony said. His voice was deep and he had a slight accent when he pronounced his vowels, but it wasn’t very noticeable. “I picked up a bunch of different kinds of food because I didn’t know what you two liked. There’s a little of everything.”
“Sweet, we’ll eat anything.” Draft’s mouth began watering as he spoke. It had been a few hours since he had eaten that apple and days since he’d had a hearty, home cooked meal. There were vegetables, some fruits and even a couple of pastries that he could see poking out of the bags. It all looked fresh and delicious, although Draft would have been perfectly content with one of the two after the food he’d been eating lately.
“Hello, sir, my name’s Downpour. I just wanted to thank you for saving my brother and I. We would have been dead if it wasn’t for you.” Draft’s brother extended a hoof, but Ursa wrapper him up in a hug instead, lifting him off of the couch as he did, much to the surprise of the bluish pegasus.
“Nice to formally meet you, Downpour, but what’s with all of this ‘sir’ talk? I’m not much older than you two,” Ursa laughed as he dropped Downpour back onto the couch with a dull thud.
“Really, how old are you? Because I’m twenty and Draft is only nineteen,” Downpour replied as he looked up at the large, green stallion with a confused expression.
“I’m twenty five,” Ursa told him. That was an unexpected answer. The bigger stallion looked like he was at least in his early thirties, due to his large stature and grizzled mane. The revelation was as surprising to Draft as it was to his brother.
“Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed that,” Downpour replied. Ursa stood silent for a moment before breaking into a hardy laugh, a deep sound that came from deep in the stallion’s gut. Draft couldn’t help but join in with his own chuckles and soon the three of them were all having a good laugh.
“Well, that’s a surprise. Thanks again for saving us though,” Draft said after he had caught his breath. Ursa shrugged his broad shoulders before responding with a smile.
“Don’t mention it, so are you two ready to eat?” the crystal pony asked. “There’s plenty to choose from.” Ursa walked over to his bags and hefted them across his back before heading into the kitchen, while Draft helped his brother follow behind. The grey pegasus couldn’t help but admire their host’s generosity to ponies he had only just met.

“Alright, let’s dig in,” Ursa told the brothers as he set the last plate onto the dining table. Downpour couldn’t believe how much food was sitting in front of him. There were a variety of fruits and vegetable dishes, along with steaming pies and even a large chocolate cake. It was a literal buffet of foods before his blue eyes and he had to shut his mouth to keep from drooling on the table cloth. The smells alone had been enough to make his mouth water in anticipation.
“Oh wow, this looks and smells so good,” Downpour fawned over their hosts cooking as he began piling heaps of hot food onto his plate. A glance to his brother revealed Draft to be doing the same thing and soon they both had a little bit of every dish piled high in front of them.
“Mmm, sweet Celestia, you are a damn good cook, Ursa,” Draft acknowledged over a mouthful of cornbread. “I don’t think I’ve eaten this good since we met Axel.” One of the ponies his brother had met while he had been heading to or from the White Tail Woods, who had made the sky chariot if Downpour wasn’t mistaken. Draft and the others certainly seemed to have had a much better week than he had during that time.
“It’s nice to have somepony to cook for again. Living by myself out here for so many years, well, you don’t get the chance to cook many big meals,” Ursa shrugged as he grinned over his plate. “The food would all go to waste, ha ha ha.” It seemed to Downpour though, that the amount Ursa could eat should have been enough to warrant a good sized meal, but to his surprise the large stallion didn’t seem to eat much more than he did. That may have been because the pegasus were both pretty famished though.
“So, my brother and I were wondering if you might be willing to help us out,” Downpour told him, trying his best not to let his mouthful of carrots fall out. It was probably rude to be talking with his mouth stuffed with food, but everything tasted far too good to stop eating and they had some important topics to talk about.
“Uh, I’ll certainly help if I can,” Ursa replied.
“Great!” Downpour exclaimed. “You see, we used to have a rough guide about surviving in this country and it had some basic maps and such, but my brother had to burn it to keep us alive.” Downpour briefly paused to consider if burning a survival guide to stay alive was ironic or just aggravating. “Anyway, if you wouldn’t mind helping us, we could really use another one.” Draft nodded his head in agreement, far too absorbed in the act of shoving food into his mouth to verbally respond.
“Hmm,” Ursa mumbled. The stallion grew quite for a few minutes while he pondered their request and Downpour thought that he may have asked too much of their new friend, until he saw a smile stretch across their host’s green face. “I have a better idea,” Ursa told them. “How about I just travel with you both? That way I can give you first hoof advice and it’ll get me off of this property for a week or two.” It was certainly a noble gesture, but Downpour didn’t want to put another pony at risk for their mission, especially when that pony wasn’t even a part of Equestria.
“Oh no, I couldn’t ask you to do that. We have a, uh, tendency to get into rough situations and the last thing I would want is for you to get injured on our account,” Downpour stated sincerely.
“I’ve already made up my mind to help you two out and besides, I can take care of myself pretty well,” Ursa replied. His size alone made the pegasus inclined to believe him, but it still didn’t sit right with Downpour. He grudgingly nodded his head in acceptance though.
“Okay, if you insist,” Downpour relented. “I suppose we could use all of the help we can get, but if it gets to be dangerous then I have no problem ditching you and flying the rest of the way with my brother.” Not that he was in any condition to fly at the moment.
“Of course, it’s your quest after all,” Ursa agreed.
“Cool, so Ursa’s coming with us?” Draft’s question was followed by a long burp which he cut off by slamming a hoof over his mouth. “Excuse me,” he said in a muffled voice. Ursa just laughed and let out his own powerful belch, one so deep it almost sounded like a bear growling.
“Yeah, I guess he is,” Downpour replied with a smirk as he began eating once again. The rest of the meal was spent with each of the stallions too busy filling their faces to talk and by the end of it, almost every last scrap had been eaten. The three ponies groaned with full stomachs as they pushed themselves away from the messy table.

A pinecone with two pine branches around it; of course that was Ursa’s cutie mark, Draft thought as he stared with a craned neck. His special talent was probably that he could kick a tree straight out of the ground. Raising his eyes away from the stallion’s flank, he noticed Ursa looking at him. Draft quickly turned away and cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Ahem, so now that we have the mess cleaned up, what should we do next?” Draft asked. The three stallions each took a seat in the cozy living room. Draft hadn’t even needed to help support his brother this time, so it was safe to assume that Downpour was gaining back his strength and they might be able to head out in the morning after all.
“Good question. I guess we’ll need to stock up on supplies, but I don’t think I can make a trip into town just yet. Do you two want to take care of all that while I wait here?” Downpour asked over a yawn. It seemed that just moving around the house had begun to wear the pegasus out. “Or should we just stop by on our way through in the morning?”
“No, the town is a ways west of here and we’ll be heading north tomorrow. I have all of the food we should need, but I’m sure that you’ll want some warm clothes and medical supplies,” Ursa told them as he shifted around on the couch next to Draft.
“Mhmm, plus I’d kind of like to buy a new weapon. I had to drop mine so that I could drag Downpour to that cave yesterday,” Draft explained. It was something that he was really unhappy about, but sometimes you had to make sacrifices for your family.
“There’s not a local blacksmith in Equonton, but we might be able to find something. It’s worth a shot anyway,” the green stallion replied with a shrug. Draft sighed. He should have known it wouldn’t be easy to replace. If it weren’t for the Windigos, the pegasus would have gone back into the mountains and retrieved his own wing blades, but even if he wasn’t feeling any hate at the moment, the risk was still too great.
“I guess we’ll just have to see,” Draft replied and then looked over to his brother and asked, “Are you sure that you’ll be okay by yourself while we’re gone?”
“Yeah, I’m not a helpless foal. I’m pretty sure I can manage,” Downpour answered haughtily. He was starting to return to his old, disagreeable self.
“I didn’t mean it like that. We just might be gone until after dark, so I wanted to make sure that you weren’t in pain or anything,” Draft explained.
“No, I’ll be fine. You two should get going before it gets too late though,” Downpour replied in a more level tone. “I wouldn’t want all the shops to be closed before you get there.” He made a good point, Draft thought, getting to his hooves with a grunt. Ursa stood up next to him and stretched out his long legs, preparing himself to make another trip into town. Draft hoped that he didn’t mind doing all of this for them; Ursa seemed to be perfectly fine with it, but you could never really tell how ponies were feeling on the inside.
“Yup, Downpour’s right. We should get a move on before it gets dark and the timberwolves start coming out, looking for a snack.” Ursa spoke about it nonchalantly, but it made Draft a bit disconcerted to hear.
“Timberwolves?” Draft questioned. “Maybe it’s best if you stay indoors while we’re gone, brother.”
“I’m sure I’d be fine, but I wouldn’t want to worry you, Draft,” his older sibling replied, with a less than convincing smile, “so I suppose I’ll keep to the house.” It was a good idea, considering Downpour still couldn’t fly very well. As Draft turned to leave with Ursa, he shot a glance back at his brother, who was already closing his eyes.

At the sound of the front door closing, Downpour opened his deep blue eyes. There were more important things for him to do than sleep, such as getting back into a state where he could travel without being a burden. For the past two days the pegasus had been forced to rely on his younger brother and it was beginning to grate on his nerves. With his mind set on changing that fact, Downpour forced his hooves under him and pushed his body off of the couch. He stumbled once, but managed to make it into the center of the living room, his breath already becoming ragged and shallow.
With a distinct lack of grace, Downpour dropped onto his stomach and spread his wings out to full length. Normally he could easily push himself off of the ground with his wingtips, but as he strained and grunted, the exhausted stallion realized that today it was going to be a difficult task. Finally, as sweat beaded all along his body, Downpour managed to complete one full repetition of lifting off of the ground and lowering back down.
“One down,” he told himself between gasping breaths. After a few minutes rest, Downpour attempted a second rep. After a long struggle against his own weakened muscles, the stallion forced his body up off of the floor again; only to slam back down as his wings gave out from the weight.
“This is going to take awhile.” There was no choice in Downpour’s mind however. He wouldn’t let himself be dead weight for his brother to carry. It was his responsibility to keep Draft safe, not the other way around, so once again he pressed his wings against the hardwood and tried to lift his body. His wings shook, but he clenched his teeth and pushed up from the ground with a grunt.

“Welcome to Equonton!” Ursa exclaimed as he gestured around with one hoof. The town wasn’t very big, probably seven smaller than Dodge, but it did have a sort of rustic charm to it, Draft observed. The two stallions walked down the main road of the town, Ursa waving to a few ponies that he knew as they went, and soon arrived at the first store they needed to visit. It was a general store that advertised medical supplies on a sign out front and the green stallion had told Draft that the owner was a friend of his.
The walk to town had been uneventful, but it had given the two plenty of time to talk. Ursa told him a little bit about the town history; founded a number of years ago as a trading point between the larger cities in the Crystal Empire and Equestria. Having lived his whole life in the area, Ursa knew almost everything there was to know about Equonton. Most of his information was useless facts, but listening to him talk had helped pass the time during their trip, so Draft didn’t mind.
“Good evening, Azure,” Ursa greeted the sky-blue mare that was standing behind the counter as they entered the store.
“Back again so soon, Ursa? And who is your friend? I don’t believe I’ve seen him around here,” the mare asked with a subtle wink that he barely registered. Draft extended a hoof to her as he introduced himself.
“I’m Backdraft. I came up here from Dodge, in Equestria.” Azure’s pink eyes widened in surprise. Draft guessed that she didn’t get many out of country ponies coming into her store anymore, most likely because of the unpleasantness that had developed between the two nations.
“Oh my, then that’s quite the trip you’ve made,” she commented as she shook his hoof over the counter. “Well, despite what Ursa may have told you, my prices are fair and my products are great.” The mare had an infectious smile that showed off bright white teeth as she spoke. Ursa chuckled a few times before defending himself.
“I would never talk bad about you or your store,” Ursa assured her. “After all, where else would I be able to buy everything I need, ha ha ha.” Azure rolled her eyes in response before Ursa turned and led Draft over to a set of shelves. “Here are the medical supplies. While you grab what we’ll need, I’m going to ask Azure if she can keep an eye on my place while we’re gone.”
“Uh, yeah, I can do that, but Downpour and I don’t really have any money to spend.” Somewhere in the mountains was a nice pile of bits sitting next to his wing blades though. “So we might not be able to afford everything we need,” Draft mentioned sheepishly as he stared down at his hooves.
“I’ll buy it, don’t worry about a thing. Just grab whatever you think we’ll need,” Ursa assured him. Before the pegasus had the chance to voice his objections, the emerald stallion had already walked off to speak with his earth pony friend at the front counter. Draft hung his head slightly as he walked along the hardwood floors, examining shelves that held everything from medical bandages to magic poultices. Eventually Draft had grabbed what essentials he thought they may need to use on the trip and brought them to the front of the store, where Ursa was gesturing wildly as he told Azure a story.
“Ahem, sorry to interrupt, but I got everything,” Draft said as he set his items on the counter and turned to face his large friend. “Are you sure you want to pay for this Ursa? We’ve made it all this way without a bunch of supplies, so I’m sure we can do without.”
“Mhmm, and we both know how that worked out,” Ursa replied. Draft cringed as he thought about crossing the Crystal Mountains. “Besides, I have plenty of money since I live by myself, so it’s no trouble at all really,” the green stallion told him as Azure began tallying up the cost of the supplies.
“Okay, thanks again,” Draft replied. “For everything you’ve done.”
“I thought I said not to mention it,” Ursa said with a smile that Draft tried to match. It was strange for Draft to have somepony that didn’t know him at all treating him and his brother so nicely. It may have been because of all the unfortunate events of the last couple weeks, but it didn’t sit right with the pegasus. Still, he wasn’t about to argue with somepony that was helping them out, so he stepped back and let Ursa take care of the payment. After that was taken care of, the two stallions headed out to see about buying Draft a new set of wing blades.

“Ten!” Downpour’s voice rang out through the house as he dropped from the air onto his hooves and then promptly feel to his side. Every muscle in the stocky pegasus’s body was extremely sore, as well as a couple muscles he hadn’t realized he possessed, but he managed to hover for ten straight minutes. Normally that would have been something that even a foal could accomplish, but after the stallion’s grueling work out, it felt as if he had run a marathon. It proved that he had the fortitude to make the trip ahead of him, even in the condition his body was currently in.
As Downpour walked into the kitchen he caught a glimpse of the sky through one of the windows. Somehow the rest of the day had passed during his self rehabilitation, without him even noticing. As he greedily poured water down his parched throat, Downpour heard the call of a timberwolf off in the distance. It was a lonely sound; a sound filled with longing and hunger. It reminded him of the Windigos call, in the emptiness that it brought to his mind. He shook his head to clear those sad thoughts out of his mind before they could take root again.
After Downpour had finished rehydrating, but before leaving the kitchen, he heard the sound of the front door swinging open with a loud bang! His heart raced as his mind jumped to the frightening conclusion that one of the wolves had broken through and was coming after him. The ridiculous notion was squashed when he heard his little brother’s voice calling his name however.
“Where are you at, Downpour?” the younger pegasus asked. “We made it back from town and I want your help packing our junk, you lazy ass.”
“I’m coming, so quite whining like a filly,” Downpour chided back as he stumbled through the kitchen doorway. “What took you so long?”
“Ugh, we tried three different places, but nopony had any good weapons. We had to give up and leave before it got dark,” Draft explained as he began dumping the supplies to the floor.
“Whoa, how did you pay for all of this?” Downpour questioned. “I thought that you tossed our bits.”
“I took care of it,” Ursa told him, “and before you start. No, I don’t mind and I’m not crazy. I just felt like helping you two out.” The large pony had come through for them once again and he hardly even knew them, it astounded Downpour to even consider.
“I, uh, don’t know wha-, just thanks,” Downpour stuttered in surprise, “again.” The bluish pegasus wasn’t sure what else he could do to show his appreciation for everything.
“You sound like your brother,” Ursa chuckled.
“I already told him we wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting this,” Draft replied, “but he’s very insistent and hard to argue with, kind of like someone else I know.” Draft’s tone had turned sarcastic by the time he was finished speaking, but Downpour feigned ignorance.
“Really? Who?” Downpour asked with his best surprised face and then both of them broke into laughter. “Well, I guess we should get this stuff packed up then. I don’t have a saddlebag anymore though.”
“I’ll carry your share and mine for now. I can’t imagine you’d make it very far with a full load anyway,” the green stallion stated matter-of-factly, as they sorted through the recently purchased items. Downpour was about to argue, but stopped when he realized, not only would it be pointless, but Ursa could probably carry everything by himself if he had a mind to. Instead he shook his head in disbelief and started to help the other two ponies with the repacking.

“That’s the last of it,” Draft yawned as he stood up and tossed his bag beside the front door with the flick of a wing. They had divided up the food, medical supplies and everything else evenly between his bags and Ursa’s bags. It had taken plenty of pushing and readjusting to fit enough supplies for all three of them, but eventually they had accomplished the important task. “Whew, I wasn’t sure that it would all fit for a second there.”
“Yeah, that was a bit of a pain in the flank,” his brother agreed as he sprawled out on the floor. Downpour hadn’t even done that much to help, but Draft couldn’t hold it against him. It was a surprise the shorter pony could even walk around so soon after freezing half to death.
“I don’t know about you two, but I’m beat. If I don’t get to bed soon, then I’m going to be useless tomorrow,” Ursa informed the brothers as he rose to his hooves.
“Yeah, I think I’m going to get to bed too,” Draft agreed. Downpour yawned his agreement as well. All three of the stallions looked beat and they stall had a long day ahead of them come morning.
“One of you will have to take the couch, unless you plan on sharing a bed,” Ursa explained.
“Downpour can have the couch,” Draft mumbled. He was far too tired to even think about arguing over who would sleep where. At this point he would be more than happy to sleep on the floor.
“Thanks, well, goodnight,” Downpour called to them as he walked to the bedroom, wings flapping slowly just to keep him from falling over.
“Night,” Draft mumbled. He turned to their generous host and was about to wish the generous stallion a goodnight when he felt rough lips pressing against his. “What the hay!?” he exclaimed as he jumped back from Ursa with a look somewhere between surprise and terror. His heart hammered erratically a few times before getting back into a quick rhythm.
“I am so sorry about that,” Ursa hurriedly replied. “I should have let you make the first move.” The pegasus’s mouth hung agape with shock as his brain attempted to piece together what had just transpired. “You’re just really cute and I thought, well I don’t know. I saw you checking out my flank earlier,” Ursa said with a perfectly calm voice.
“I was looking at your cutie mark,” Draft whispered as loudly as he dared, “I wasn’t checking you out. I’m not into stallions like that.” It was ridiculous for Ursa to even assume.
“Re-really?” Ursa asked in astonishment. Draft didn’t like how surprised the crystal pony sounded. “I could have sworn that you were, well, uh, this is a little embarrassing. I’ll just be going to bed now.” Ursa sped toward his bedroom and shut the door behind him, leaving Draft to stand around as he tried to process everything that had just occurred.
“Do I really seem like that kind of stallion?” Draft asked himself as he laid down on the couch. Sure, he had never had a steady marefriend for long, but that was only because he hadn’t found the right mare yet. A part of him wondered why anypony would think his barn door swung that way and a part of him wondered why he didn’t realize that Ursa’s did. There was also a very confusing part of his mind that was worried, because the pegasus had actually enjoyed their kiss. “Ugh, I don’t need this right now.” Draft turned onto his side and did his best to shut out all of his thoughts, but it didn’t work well and the conflicted pony had nearly gone crazy over thinking things, before he finally fell into a restless sleep.