Candid Mountain. First discovered after the fierce winter caused by the Windigos. It would appear some of that hatred and malice transitioned over to the far slopes of the mountain, making them a treacherous venture to climb. Well, if it’s worth your time it’s worth your effort. ”You’ll probably be wanting some gear,” the vendor explains, about to retrieve some equipment for you.
“That won’t be necessary sir.”
He pauses with concern, “Uhh… Look I’m sure you’ve got something to prove to some picky mare, but- Do you know what you’re getting into?” Oh you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.
“Not some mare sir, just myself.”
”This mountain’s no picnic kid. I’ve lost a good pony or two on my way up, each of them more prepped and geared than you.” There’s no denying the risk, you’ll give him that. ”I mean look at you. You look like you just came from some big conference, and you haven’t seen a good meal in at least a day.” Well you are quite hungry.
“Sir, I thank you for your kindness and words, but I bet you can also see that there’s nothing you can say that’d turn me away.”
The old stallion grumbles and hands you a small sack, “Here, if you’re going up there at least get a little food in ya.” You nod to him and open the door out to the fierce cold when he calls you back, “Hey! If you do make it up there by some outlandish luck, what name can I put on your tombstone for the craziest pony I’ve met?”
You chuckle at the thought and put the sack in your pocket. “Anon sir, and don’t go buying any tombstone without my say-so.”
You pop up your collar to fight off the cold and don’t waste time setting up the mountain. Whispers mingle amongst a group preparing to head up, each donned with enough gear to breakdown a cart. But what fun is there in doing things the conventional way? As you’re about to leave the camp a group of four ponies comes into view down the mountain.
“Weather’s as good as it looks?” you ask with sarcasm as the winds rage from whence they came.
”Feels like a summer morning,” the mare snoots back, “You heading up the mountain?”
“Yeah I thought I’d spread my legs… I said that wrong didn’t I?”
”A little bit!” she shouts over the wind, “Look I wouldn’t head that way if I were you. We had to turn back about half way up and, don’t get me wrong, but you look like a gryphon’s rear end.”
“How bad is it exactly?”
”Your piss’d freeze before it hit the ground,” she says, clearly a tomboy or whatever the Equestrian version is.
“Thanks for the warning! Get inside while it’s warm and tell that old geezer I was serious. No tombstones.”
”You aren’t seriously going up there.”
You turn back and continue walking up the mountain. “It’s a beautiful day to start again!” you shout, arms raised. Yeah, you think to yourself and pick up the pace, beautiful day to die more like it…
The thickened storm fogs your vision though you can still make out a fair bit ahead of you. You can do this Anon. No regrets here. When you set your mind to something you do it, no ‘ifs’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ about it. Okay maybe this wasn’t your brightest idea but you can do it. ’A Look West’ proved that, and if a pony could do it so can you.
So you march, each step digging deeper into the snow swept incline as you ascend. Your fingers find the sack in your pocket, trembling to unwrap it and bite into the veggie sandwich inside. The frost probably wasn’t one of the ingredients, but alas it makes its way in there anyways. A preference is to sit down and eat, but it’s not like you have all the time in the world now is there. With the little fuel you consume it still stokes the fire inside and you feel just that much warmer. It was a very small sandwich, half eaten, a bite out of the second half.
Meh, it was a sincere thought from an old man to an aspiring youth in comparison. You rub your eyes to warm them over and cover your ears, because if that isn’t frostbite than you don’t want to know what it is. The cold’s everywhere, every nook and cranny of existence and there it is. This time it isn’t just a nightmare, it’s real. So cold… So very cold… And you have to get your mind off of it.
Just think Anon, think of anything… ‘Petal Peach. We never really met properly.’ Oh Peach. How could you ever forget about her? How those green eyes could tear your mind away… ‘What’re you going on about? I don’t need you to repay me. The best gift you could give is to keep coming by and keeping me company.’
The things you would’ve told her… She will always hold a special place in your heart, even if she’s given it to another stallion. You wonder if she’ll be happy? Will they have kids? Will they be as big of nerds as you and her were? Just the thought of her surrounded by a mob of children is enough to bring a smile on your face.
Chain Mail is good for her. He’s got all the perks without any of the baggage on the side. Maybe if you’d gotten some courage a little sooner, things would’ve turned out differently. You shake your head, the present state of things rapidly coming into view. There’s no sense in looking to what could’ve been. All you can do is look to the future. They have a future together. You have… well you might still be friends, but that’ll be it. Like she need, the best gift is coming by and keeping her company. So that’s what you’ll do, for both of you.
Another wave of frost nearly sends you tumbling over to the side. This weather really is working against you, but you won’t yield to it. Human beings are resilient by nature, hell we change nature. “I won’t give up, you hear me!” Dammit, now your mouth probably has frostbite too. Your teeth chatter along until you hit a wall of solid ice, the wind forcing you up against it. Despite the odds you keep sliding up, every step taking you closer to the top.
‘ What you looking at ya poof?!’ Ahh, Gilda. Your first source of loathing that you can remember in Equestria. She tossed you out of that bar in record time. That’s why you shouldn’t drink kids. Beneath the harsh exterior she placed up lied someone more pony than most. She hid behind a lie to protect herself from others while ultimately closing herself off from those she cared about. You wrote her off as a bitch to avoid at all costs, but she turned out to be one of your most trusted friends.
The two of you were more alike than you initially thought, which amounted to some metaphor about the ends of the universe but you digress… When she told you about her mother it reminded you almost solely about your own father. They loved us with all their heart and the first chance we got, we tore ourselves away. The difference was she made up with hers, while yours is dimensions of existence away. You’ll probably never see him again, and that might haunt you for the rest of your life.
However, no matter no how much you deny it, you will miss that old geezer and all he’s worth. ‘Sorry Anon but I don’t do the whole interspecies thing, regardless of what they say.’
Damn you miss her insults already…
The chill begins to spread up your legs and into your thighs at an alarming rate. Come on, someone else. The less you think the better you feel. ’You are smart, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but knowledge is not synonymous with experience.’
Celestia, the teacher and mother you never had. With her guidance and methods you went from a fearful turtle to a courageous rabbit with a Viking attitude. She saw that potential for you and took you under her wing much like she did with her previous students. Of course you weren’t a normal student, but that’s nitpicking. Celestia always struck you as a flawless gem until you got to know her, where she was soon shown to be just any other gem.
She’d joke with you and threaten to banish you to the moon merely because she knew it would get a reaction. You always felt calm around her. She had that motherly aura that wanted you to nestle close and take a nap. Of course if you ever did she’d likely cause you to drop enough spaghetti to feed all of Italy. Do they even like spaghetti in Italy? Anyways, you never shied away from her company.
Despite her casual speak and tendency to make humorous threats you would never betray her...
A chill causes you to recoil back to reality.
…Except for when you did.
‘I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months, thankfully I had enough saved up for one last trip.’ Ms. Peachbottom, a real, well, peach. She’s the candle in the dark really. She’s been all over Equestria and seen things you’ve yet to hear about. When you met her on the train to the Crystal Empire she had almost pulled you out with a grin. The two of you connected so easily it was almost supernatural.
You can still remember when she found you in that spa being drug by the towel. There was no way in Tartarus you were getting a hooficure. She was more than happy to that that deal off your hands for you. That entire trip had you flustered something terrible, but when she shows up it all seems to disappear. She had an earthy way to speaking that made you just want to nod and listen.
In fact if it wasn’t for her you wouldn’t have learned a valuable lesson about all your books. They can’t teach you everything and sometimes you just need to learn yourself. It’s sort of like people, you can look at their covers and read their synopsis, but unless you spend the time with them and look between the lines you’ll never really know. She said that was her last trip around Equestria, but what if it wasn’t? What if you had enough money to give her one last whirl around the world?
No sign saying it was you, but just an act of anonymous kindness. You’d live up to your name in that case…
’Oh but what fun is that? I want to see the goodies in that noggin of yours.’ Then there was Discord, the constant influence who really only did anything once. Were it not for him you would’ve never met Celestia or Gilda or Peachbottom or anyone else for that matter. The god of chaos or whatever he is, was the one who gave you what you wanted. He looked into your future and saw the outcome of your actions. He also saw his role and played his part as any good actor on a stage.
The whole time he could’ve stepped in to change the scene, but he knew it was for the best. After he’d aided in your capture with that little snap wall, he really saw it coming true. Maybe there was a tinge of doubt in his chaotic brain that it would happen, but the closer it came to reality the more guilt he felt. That’s why when you sought out that canteen which was your sin he took this as his chance to make things right.
He showed you the future if things didn’t change, the present and how it effects your life now, and the past to where you had placed the blame. ’The magic of friendship, blegh. Just the phrase makes me want to gag.’
You chuckle painfully at this phrase. Despite everything he represents you can’t help but feel that you were his little attempt at gaining a friend. In some sort of twisted fucked up measure he acted to help save you from yourself.
He left you on that piece of dirt outside Canterlot just as you did the years before when you first arrived. Rebirth, to start anew… If only the cold were as neighborly.
The blood in your veins nearly freeze as you keep up the mountain, this little exercise numbing your body to the elements that strike you. ’I think someone needs a drink. We’ve got ice inside.’
You could always use Iron Will’s helping hand. Whether it be in an alley or out of prison he was there. When you needed a guard to Aviaris he stepped up for you. You’re not sure anyone you’d met thus far had given so much for someone they knew nothing about. His advice had gotten you through plenty a pinch and he always kept the backdoor open for you… Why does everything you say sound nasty and warped? This isn’t a good sign for the future.
Back when you saw Gilda and him talking, you heard his faith in you. He knew that you weren’t going to make it, it wasn’t up for chance at that point. You’d stumbled home drunk on his doorstep for weeks and every time he picked you up and put you in bed. Despite knowing the truth he always thought you could be better than you were, and he’s right. Your story isn’t over until you take that last breath and you’re still going on kind of strong right now.
The cold is sort of making it nearly impossible, but if you were to fall right now and lose strength? Iron Will would be there with that furry hand outstretched towards you. ‘I can toast to that.’
One more time maybe…
‘Ahh welcome. My name is Rinn and I serve as the Senate Overseer of Gryphonnia, it is with great privilege that I greet you here today.’
This time your blood actually does freeze at the very thought of that gryphon. Gilda putting up a false exterior you get that, but that was protect herself from those who would ridicule her. Rinn was a backstabbing sociopath from the get go who only played at being the ‘For the good of the nation’ kind of politician. The worst part was you bought into it, despite everyone’s instincts telling them the truth. He took advantage of your weakness and ever since he’s been playing you for the fool with his game of shadows.
You were so close to fulfilling your mission for Celestia when his note stole you away, and his goons stole your spirit. He threatened to ruin everything you held dear and what did he do in the end? The exact thing you only delayed by keeping your mouth shut. To him, you were just a pawn on the playing field. One to be manipulated and tossed aside when it has outlived its usefulness.
He was you effectively, but on the opposite side of the spectrum and that’s where he’ll fail. He’ll slip up somewhere and doubt himself one time. Once he does it’s all over. Rinn will look to extreme measures to assert his dominance and by giving in he’ll have lost his strength. All it takes is the one pawn that he overlooked and his world will come crumbling down.
’He’s no longer a threat.’ His overconfidence is his weakness.
‘That must be the brew I hear. Would you care for dinner though it may be dull for you I fear?’
Zecora, the fearless inhabitant of the most dangerous place in Equestria. She hasn’t a fear in the world, not even of you when you became heated towards her. Among the few that knew what was to come of you, she was the most direct.
She told you the path you were following would only lead to your demise. Well, not exactly like that she’d rhyme a lot more than that, and even if she did technically drug your food to make you pass out it was for the better. She allowed you to skip the pain your actions had wrought and in turn let you focus on the task you had set out to achieve.
There were plenty of reasons not to help you but she did. She trusted you with the cure given to her by her mother with a smile. Nothing was asked for in return. All she wanted was for you to listen to what she said, and that you would do again in a heart beat. She was even kind enough to offer you some of her stew. It was certainly the most exotic meal you’d had in your time here.
Maybe the next time you’re in town you’ll take a trip through the Everfree Forest and give her a visit. She might actually enjoy the company, and you might enjoy some more of her free stew. ‘Perhaps it would be best, if you let this go until you rest.’
You might want to take her advice and let this planning go until after you’ve climbed this damn mountain…
You can’t feel your skin anymore, not just your legs or arms but your entire body seems to be numb. In facts its getting a little warm and… sleepy- No! Stay awake! You put your hands beneath your armpits, the entirety of your body shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. You don’t want to die. Then don’t. Just let your mind go… ‘You gave me quite the scare as well you know. Not many ponies come out this way during the Gala.’
Twilight, that purple nerd will help your mind. She’s Celestia’s star pupil after all. Who’d have thought that she was jealous of you? Certainly not you of course. Her entire future hangs in the balance and that of Equestria as well. She looked up to you as a model of behavior as much as you looked up to her for being able to achieve what you couldn’t. She’s- Brr… One of a kind, a real princess in the making.
If you fall, she falls. If you make a stand, she’ll be that one pawn that Rinn can’t stop. Twilight will once again be able to achieve what you could not. She could be by Celestia’s side and keep her home safe from those who’d wish it ill. No matter the… No matter- Warm… Why’s it so warm?
You struggle to keep your eyes open as you fall to your hands and knees, a sliver of light cutting through the storm. Closer… It’s so close now. You can feel it… That warm glow on your cheeks, it’s not the end that’s getting to you. It’s the beginning.
You force yourself to stand one last time and spy the peak just up ahead, the sun shimmering through. Petal Peach, Gilda, Celestia, Peachbottom, Discord, Iron Will, Zecora, Twilight… They all placed their faith in you, now it’s time to prove them right. The ice on your knees shatter as you press forward through the snow and sprint to the finish. Nothing is going to stop you anymore. No political bullshit, no Rinn and his games, no goons in some alleyway. You won’t fail your friends. “I… will… NOT!”
You breach the storm’s limit finding only warmth at the top along with one hell of a view. The sun hits the horizon just right so that it splays all shades of red to purple across the evening sky. You walk to the mountain’s edge, Canterlot sitting below you. This land… you’ve never quite seen it this way before, so open and new. You may never see it the same way again.
A glimmer catches your eye to the side, two items hidden amongst the snow. One, a bottle of brandy, the alcohol still quite potent at a sniff. Two, a small silver box, the object within quite familiar to you.
‘Anon, you know that I’ll always be proud of you. You know that right?’
Looking down at these two items in your hand you look out West over Equestria, your home. “Yeah Dad, I know…”