How to Train Your Pegasus

by L3gion

Chapter 4

The next day, Snow Bolt woke mid-morning to find the boulder at the mouth of the cave had been rolled away. Suddenly remembering the previous day's adventure, she scrambled to her hooves and ran as fast as she could towards the mouth of the cave and the shelf beyond. As she approached the ledge, she spread her wings and leapt off.
"Woo-hoo!" she shouted triumphantly. She had expected the rising wind to catch her wings and hold her aloft. Instead, she found herself falling like a stone towards the rocks below.
She flailed in mid-air for a moment before crashing on the steep, scree-covered slope below the ledge. She bounced a few times and slid a short distance before coming to a stop on her face.
"Ow," Snow Bolt groaned. As she awkwardly twisted herself around and got to her feet, she heard boisterous laughter coming from above her. Turning, she saw a great, scaly face smirking down at her from the ledge.
"Were you trying to zest yourself for me, Pot Pie? How thoughtful."
Snow Bolt muttered under her breath and examined her injuries. She was scraped and bruised in places, but no worse for the wear. She painfully began making her way back up the slope.
"As you may have noticed, there is no wind today," Scarlet said.
"You don't say?" said Snow Bolt sarcastically, grunting as she hoisted herself back up onto the ledge.
"...and no wind means no lift, and no lift means no soaring practice for little Pot Pies." Scarlet patted Snow Bolt on the head derisively, then went back to her sweeping. Scarlet was using a full-grown willow tree to sweep the night's snowfall away from the cave's entrance.
"The winds may pick up in the afternoon. You'll just have to find some other way to entertain yourself until then." she called over her shoulder. "There's plenty of stew left over for breakfast, help yourself."
Snow Bolt didn't feel like having breakfast. Instead, she turned her back to Scarlet and began hobbling around to the back side of the mountain's peak to sulk.
It took her the better part of an hour to trudge through the snow to the opposite face of the mountain. There was only one tree hardy enough to survive on the mountain peak that was Scarlet's home, a lonely old oak tree that sat on the slope opposite the cave, sheltered from the worst of the wind and snow. The ground beneath the tree was free of snow at the moment, so Snow Bolt sat down beneath its branches and leaned her back against its trunk.
She closed her eyes and sighed. Now that she had had a taste of flying, it was all she wanted to do. Being grounded by the lack of wind was so frustrating.
She growled and roughly rapped the back of her head against the tree. A second later a pile of snow fell from the tree's branches above, completely covering her from head to tail.
Snow Bolt groaned. She did not move from her bed of snow, content to wallow in her bad luck for a moment. Then an acorn fell from above and bounced off Snow Bolt's head, then another. At first she did not react, but then she heard a strange, high-pitched noise coming from somewhere above her. She looked up just as a terrified, squealing brown squirrel landed on her face, amid a shower of a half-dozen more acorns. Startled, Snow Bolt shrieked and stumbled backwards, out of her bed of snow. The squirrel similarly squeaked in terror, leaped off Snow Bolt's face, and scurried around to the other side of the tree, out of sight.

All was silent for a moment as Snow Bolt recovered from the shock, catching her breath. After a long moment, a small brown face peeked out from around the tree and stared at Snow Bolt curiously.
Snow Bolt felt bad for dislodging the poor little squirrel from its perch in the tree. "Hi there, little friend. Are you okay? I'm so sorry!"
Nervously, the squirrel rounded the tree, coming into full view.
"Well hi there little fella," said Snow Bolt.
The squirrel put its claws on its hips, furrowed its tiny brow, and proceeded to sass Snow Bolt in a rapid, high-pitched chitter. Snow Bolt could not decipher its speech, but its body language was easy enough to understand. "Oh! You're a girl. I'm sorry," she said apologetically. The squirrel nodded and crossed her tiny arms, apparently not entirely forgiving Snow Bolt for the insult.
"I'm Snow Bolt," she offered. "What's your name?"
The squirrel chittered incomprehensibly for a moment. Snow Bolt shook her head. "I'm sorry, I don't speak squirrel," she apologized again.
The squirrel looked annoyed for a moment, then looked around. She grabbed a few of the acorns strewn around the base of the tree. These she shoved a few in her cheeks, until they stretched and bulged from their cargo. The squirrel turned back to Snow Bolt and spread her arms wide, as if this gesture was supposed to answer Snow Bolt's question.
Snow Bolt cocked her head to the side, confused. "Your name is Acorn?" she asked.
The squirrel shot Snow Bolt a look. Then the squirrel patted her engorged cheeks with her tiny claws. "Your name is uh... Hungry? Greedy?" The squirrel shook her head and pointed to each of her cheeks individually. "Uh...cheek?" The squirrel made a circular motion. "Cheeks? Cheeky?” Ecstatic, the squirrel jumped up and down, one paw touching her nose and the other pointed at Snow Bolt. "Cheeky, that's it!" Snow Bolt giggled. It was such a fitting name for a squirrel. With the need for visual aids over, Cheeky unceremoniously spat all the acorns back onto the ground.
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Cheeky."
Cheeky smiled, then gasped as a thought suddenly occurred to her. She looked from Snow Bolt to the branches above, then back again. She knocked her claws together as she considered something, then hopped up onto the lowest branch and beckoned for Snow Bolt to follow.
"You want me to come with you?" Snow Bolt asked. "I'm really not much good at climbing trees." Cheeky looked down at Snow Bolt and put her claws together, a pleading look on her face. "Oh...alright. I can try, anyways." Snow Bolt said.
The oak tree's first branch was not very high off the ground, and by walking up the mountain's slope a short ways, Snow Bolt was able to jump atop it. Her hooves felt unsure on the branch's slick bark, but she carefully made her way back to the trunk. Cheeky had hopped up to the next highest branch, and beckoned her again. Snow Bolt eyed the jump for a moment uncertainly, but eventually she decided she could make it. She stood on her hind legs, hooked her front hooves over the branch, then put one hoof in a knot in the trunk and pulled herself up. Cheeky applauded, then scurried up to the next highest branch and beckoned Snow Bolt again.
"Higher? Gosh, I dunno..." Snow Bolt looked down at the ground. The branch she was on now was on now faced the downard slope of the mountain, and was actually quite high off the ground. A fall from this height would almost certainly result in a nasty sprain, if not a broken leg. Plus, the distance between the second and third branches was higher than the first and second branches had been, and would require a jump.
Cheeky made another pleading gesture, then held her claws a small distance apart, to show that it was only a little further. Snow Bolt eyed the branch, bit her lip, and decided to go for it. She squatted low, checked her footing, and leaped up with all her strength. She managed to hook her forelegs over the branch, and for a terrifying minute she dangled there. Then her hind hoof found purchase against the trunk, and she managed to heft herself onto the branch. Breathing hard, she straddled the branch and gave a sigh of relief.
"Alright." Snow Bolt addressed the squirrel, who was perched just in front of her on the branch. "Now what exactly did you bring me up here for?"
Cheeky scurried around Snow Bolt to the main trunk of the tree. Just above the branch where Snow Bolt was sitting, the trunk split into several large branches. It was into the crotch of the branches that the little squirrel was now pointing. Snow Bolt stood on her hind legs and peered down at what Cheeky was indicating. In a little pocket formed by the tree's splitting branches, a pool of water had accumulated and apparently frozen over. And beneath the ice, Snow Bolt could just make out a large cache of acorns.
"Oh! Your acorns!" Snow Bolt said. The little squirrel jumped up and down on the ice a few times to demonstrate the problem, then looked up at Snow Bolt, a pleading look on her furry little face. "Well, I can't make any promises, but I'l see what I can do." Snowbolt said. She tapped experimentally at the ice with her hoof, then pounded harder and harder at it. Finally, the ice gave way, and Snow Bolt brushed the shards of ice away.
Cheeky squealed in delight, and greedily started stuffing her cheeks from the cache of acorns. When her cheeks could hold no more, the little squirrel scurried off to the edge of the branch, only to return a second later to give Snow Bolt's ankle a lingering embrace.
"Aww, no problem little friend!" Snow Bolt said with a smile.
Cheeky scurried out onto the branch again, gave one last acorn-filled smile, and then leapt off the branch and into the open air. Snow Bolt was concerned for a moment, until she saw the little squirrel spread her arms and legs, revealing hidden folds of skin that allowed the little squirrel to glide gracefully down the slope.
Snow Bolt stared, slack-jawed, as she watched the flying squirrel glide out of sight. "Show-off," she muttered to herself, then set about climbing back down the tree.

*        *        *


Despite Snow Bolt's most earnest wishes, the winds did not pick up that afternoon. The little filly spent the remainder of the day on the westward side of the mountain, resting her head in her hooves. At every faint gust of wind she would perk up hopefully, only to be disappointed again as it died again. As the sun set, Scarlet returned from gathering firewood to find the little filly still sitting in the spot where she left her.
"Come inside, Pot Pie. I'll be closing the door soon." Scarlet said. Snow Bolt only sighed in response. "Well, stay out here, then. You'll probably keep better frozen, anyways." Snow Bolt rolled her eyes, then begrudgingly followed the dragon inside.
There was stew for dinner again that night. After their meal, Snow Bolt entertained herself by sprinting back and forth across the floor of the cave and making short, jumping glides. Scarlet, meanwhile, was reading from a novel, delicately gripping the tiny thing with her claws while she munched on handfuls of gems.
After a while, Scarlet stopped reading and rubbed her eyes. "You there, Pot Pie. Can you read?"
Snow Bolt came to a stop. "Of course I can read," she said, offended that Scarlet would even ask.
"Good," Scarlet said. "Come and make yourself useful." She held out the book for Snow Bolt to take. "Be careful not to lose my page."
Snow Bolt carefully took the book from Scarlet's grasp. The title read: Dusty Cornshucker and the Quest for the Fairy’s Gold. The cover depicted a young earth pony colt in medieval peasant garb, holding a wooden sword and a shield made of woven hay.
Snow Bolt opened the book again, and began to read, dubiously.
“’Thank you for finding my lost lamb, Dusty,’ the filly said to him. ‘No thanks are necessary, m’lady, for as a knight I am sworn to…’”
"Speak up, Pot Pie!" Scarlet plucked Snow Bolt off the ground in a pincer grip and placed the little pony on top of the pile of gold and gems, near the dragon's head.
Snow Bolt was still not accustomed to being pony-handled by an enormous dragon, and was a little unsettled by the trip. She tentatively found her place again and resumed.
“Uhh… ‘No thanks necessary, m’lady, for as a knight I am sworn to help all those in need.’ ‘Nevertheless,’ the filly continued, ‘your bravery should be rewarded. Is there anything I might do to repay you?’ ‘M’lady,’ Dusty replied, ‘I say again that my duty is its own reward. However, I am now at this time on a noble quest to recover a sacred artifact which is said to be hidden around these parts.’”
Scarlet laid with her back reclined against the pile of gold and gems, folded her claws over her stomach, and closed her eyes while she listened to Snow Bolt read. Snow Bolt read for several hours, until she was interrupted in mid-sentence by a yawn from Scarlet.
"Alright, Pot Pie. That's enough for tonight. Bookmark that page so I can find it tomorrow, then put the book on the bookshelf over there."
Snow Bolt carefully placed a gold coin from the pile in between the book's pages, then slid down the pile and put the book away on the bookshelf. She turned to Scarlet, who had already rolled over and seemed to be trying to settle for sleep.
"Tomorrow can we practice soaring some more?" Snow Bolt asked.
"If the winds pick up," Scarlet said through a yawn, "and I don't decide to eat you for breakfast. Now go to sleep, Pot Pie."
Snow Bolt found her spot next to the enormous fire and lay down herself. Before long, she was fast asleep.