Slopes of Life
The Ups and Downs
"You were amazing Mr. Diamond! I wish I could have a cutie mark so I knew what my life was meant to be."
The words still haunted him. Even after nearly two years, those two sentences still encouraged him to question everything.
It was at the closing ceremonies of the Equestria Games in Salt Lick City. He had competed on Seaddle's ski team, and had taken the bronze medal; an impressive feat for a first-time competitor. As he was greeting fans and spectators on the way to the chariot back home, a young griffon had come up to him and told him how he wished he could have a cutie mark. He didn't think much of it at first, but it began to really sink in on the trip home. Before too long, he was packing his things, telling his team he was gonna look for some fresh powder to practice. Inside, the griffon's words gave him an urge to find himself... Some reassurance of his place in life, and he felt the most at home out on the slopes.
Just what was the magic behind the Cutie Mark? He remembered the presentation his teacher gave in school, but she only explained the obvious; that it was a symbol of a pony's personality, proclivity, or natural talent. It was a sign that you had come of age. He had always thought it very peculiar that since all foals were born markless, that quite frequently, their mark would somehow relate back to their name.
'So just what did mom and dad think I would be doing?' He wondered as he reflected on the name that was given to him, which seemingly had no reflection on the cutie mark he had received; a trio of snowflakes.
His mind flashed back to the young griffon again.
Why was it only ponies that got Cutie Marks?
This was the heart of the matter. He had come to feel uncomfortable when he compared his fortunes to other races. What made equestrians any better than donkeys, or cows, or griffons? Why was it only them that seemingly got the easy street to destiny? He had stopped in a library or two along the way, but there were no answers. Ponies had been receiving cutie marks for as long as history was being written down, and it was such a natural process that nopony really ever pondered the how and why of the matter. For reasons unknown, the magic of the Cutie Marks coursed through ponies, and very few others. He had heard rumors of a few zebras with their own marks, but still, what about the rest?
Your cutie mark was supposed to set you apart from others. But even so, it wasn't 100% uniqueness. Every skier that had competed in the Games had similarly themed Cutie Marks. So what was it that made the two ahead of him better? Had fate smiled a little wider on them? What of the handful of other competitors who had failed to medal? What about them? No doubt they practiced just as hard.
Hobbies and careers and life goals sometimes changed. But a Cutie Mark was final. Unchanged, from the moment it first appeared. Sometimes they were open to interpretation, like his. A trio of snowflakes adorned his flank. He just assumed that it was attributed to skiing, because it had appeared when he had landed his very first successful trick jump. He had been practicing for weeks. But what if it was all coincidence?
When he caught some air off the next slope, the absolute last thing he was expecting to see was another pony nearly in his path
"Whoa!" He yelled, seeing that his trajectory was going to narrowly miss her.
"Oh!" The mare let out a short scream when the skier had come out of nowhere. She found herself dusted with snow as he sloppily landed and skidded to a stop on the snow.
"I'm very sorry, miss. I wasn't expecting anypony else to be up here." He said, taking his helmet off, and making sure he was okay.
"It's alright. I don't think I'm hurt." She said, shaking the snow off from her coat.
"What's an impressive young stallion doing up here all alone?"
"I'm... Trying to find myself, I guess." Double Diamond told her. No reason to be dishonest with this mare.
"And here you've found me. I'm on a similar journey. What if instead of finding ourselves, we were meant to find each other, instead?"
"Well, what could you do to help... Say, that's an interesting Cutie Mark." The skier remarked, seeing the equals sign. "I'm guessing you're a mathematician or something?"
"Not at all. My talent isn't a talent at all. It's the mark of equality."
"Yes. Ever since I was a filly, I've always wondered why the Cutie Marks separated us. All they've done is show us how we're different, and how we're better. Why flaunt what's different? Why gloat about how you're better? Isn't it enough just to revel in how you're the same? Isn't that at the heart of friendship? What you have in common? What if you could have everything in common? Conformity set me free. I accepted my limitations, and happiness followed. What's your name?"
"Well, Double Diamond, my name is Starlight Glimmer, and I came up here to start a community of ponies who are looking for something more from life, those who are looking for harmony in its purest form. Would you like to help me create this utopia?"
The stallion couldn't answer at first.
"A utopia? Where everypony is equal?"
"Where nopony is better than anypony else. Come, let me show you the centerpiece of my quest."
Diamond was compelled to follow this mare. He removed his skis, and stuck them in the snow, dropping his helmet right next to them. It was a ten minute trot down the mountain towards the rocky valley, where they came to a cave. A short walk inside revealed a source of light around the next bend. Turning the corner, Double Diamond couldn't believe his eyes.
It was a glowing grid built into the back wall of the cave. On a pedestal in front of it, was a simple wooden staff, intertwined until it became double-pronged at one end.
"The Cutie Mark Vault. Here, you can cast aside your differences, and embrace what makes you the same as everypony else who accepts our vision."
"Yes, Double Diamond. I can feel it. You are the first. The first of many to come."
Double Diamond stared at the staff. Did this mare have the answers he was looking for? Could she really put equines on equal ground with the rest of this world? Was that their ultimate destiny?
Starlight extended the double pronged end towards him.
"Come. Free yourself from your cutie mark, and join me in harmony."