Standard disclaimer: This is a not for profit fan work. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is copyright Hasbro, Inc. I make no claim to any copyrighted material mentioned herein.
Chapter 10: Spring Renewal
Princess Bluebell stepped into the foyer of Twilight Sparkle’s abode, stamping her hooves on the rug placed there. Flecks of snow stubbornly clung to her fetlocks. “I hate winter,” she muttered.
“Well, don’t you worry. Spring will be here soon,” Twilight Sparkle said as she went to meet Bluebell. “Oh! Have you decided what you want to do for Winter Wrap-Up?”
“Do?” she asked, wrinkling her muzzle in confusion.
“Right. You’ve only lived in Canterlot. Here in Ponyville, we wrap up winter in the traditional earth pony way.”
“You mean, no magic?”
“No unicorn magic, yes.”
“Isn’t that inefficient?”
“It is, but it’s tradition, and it brings everypony together,” Twilight Sparkle explained. “It’s truly a magical experience.”
Bluebell rolled her eyes. “So, what can I do?”
“That’s a very good question, one I had to ask myself my first winter in Ponyville. You could join the animal team, and help wake up the animals, or build nests for the returning birds.”
“Animals and I don’t get along, and I’m not sure how I could make a nest using only my hooves.”
“On the weather team, ponies wear skates and score the ice on the lakes and ponds, helping the ice melt.”
Bluebell winced. “I tried skating once. I spent most of the time sprawled on my barrel.”
“The plant team has the most important role, clearing the snow and planting seeds for the first crops of spring. Toward the end of the day, everypony helps the plant team.” Twilight Sparkle smiled. “I know! You could help the Goldens!”
“Do I look like somepony who could use a plow?” Bluebell said.
“Your father did, the spring he spent in Ponyville,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Look, Bluebell. You are still a filly, so nopony’s going to expect you to do as much as a full-grown mare. Why don’t you talk to your classmates, and see what they do for Winter Wrap-Up?”
“Okay,” she replied unenthusiastically.
“Now, let’s get to your next magic lesson.”
At lunch the next day, Princess Bluebell sat down with Juniper and Junebug. “So what’s this Winter Wrap-Up I’ve been hearing about?” she asked them.
“It’s where everypony comes together and changes Ponyville from winter to spring,” Junebug said.
“Why? Don’t they do that in Canterlot?” Juniper asked.
“No. In Canterlot, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna step out on the balcony, look to the heavens, and change the season with their magic.” Bluebell was glad for the confirmation from the twins; upon hearing about Winter Wrap-Up from Twilight Sparkle, she wasn’t 100% certain that it wasn’t a prank by the young alicorn. “It just makes a lot more sense that way.”
“But then ponies don’t come together in harmony,” Juniper said.
“In Canterlot, that’s probably for the best,” Bluebell snarked. “Anyway, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, especially without my magic. What do you do?”
“I’m on the plant team, planting most of the time, and some snow removal at the start of the day. I mostly work on our farm,” Juniper said.
“I’m on the animal team,” Junebug said. “The others like me because I’ll wake up any animal, and I don’t mind getting dirty to do it!”
“Red Streak and Cirrus both did snow removal from the roofs,” Juniper noted. “Of course, you have to be a pegasus, and have a certain wingpower first.”
“Yeah, most of the weather team roles are only for pegasi,” Junebug said. “Except the ice clearing. Hey, maybe you could skate!”
Bluebell sighed. “Why does everypony think I’d be good at skating?”
Juniper shrugged. “Sounds like something you might learn as a princess in Canterlot.”
Bluebell shook her head.
“Why? What kind of things did you learn?” Junebug asked.
“Oratory, rhetoric, history, calligraphy, etiquette, dance,” Bluebell said.
“Wow, that doesn’t fit at all,” Juniper said.
“Unless you took over for Mayor Mare,” Junebug said.
“Or Twilight Sparkle! She organizes it every year!” Juniper said.
“You know, that’s a good idea,” Bluebell said. “But... could I talk to Blue Seas about it?”
“Of course,” Juniper said.
“You’re welcome to visit any time,” Junebug added.
“Blue Seas, you have a guest,” Golden Harvest called from downstairs.
Blue Seas put down the book he was reading and headed downstairs. To his surprise, the guest was his half-sister.
“Hi, Bluebell,” he said. “What brings you to the farm?”
“I wanted to talk to you about Winter Wrap-Up.”
“Okay,” he said. “But why not talk to somepony else about it?”
“Well, it’s....” She looked around, seeing Golden Harvest in the kitchen, and Red Streak doing his homework in the living room. “Could we talk somewhere quiet?”
Blue Seas led Bluebell upstairs to his bedroom. He sat down at his desk, while Bluebell rested on the bed. “So what’s bothering you?” he asked.
“Blue Seas, I am a princess. And that means I will have duties. I can expect to travel to distant cities as a guest of the local baron or mayor, and participate in some celebration or tradition. That will not always be enjoyable. But duties often aren’t.
“My father told me about one time when he was invited to some small town, where they were celebrating some artichoke festival. He served as a judge of their cooking competition, sampling all sorts of artichoke dishes, foods that had no business being made with artichokes. Artichoke cookies. Artichoke fudge. Artichoke soda. He came home, and was sick for two days. He couldn’t eat anything.
“So, I’m no stranger to the idea of strange celebrations. But this is the first time I’ve heard of a celebration where the goal is to not use unicorn magic. How do you handle it?”
Blue Seas leaned back in his chair and thought. It was a subject he had never previously considered. “I don’t know what to say,” he finally said.
“Do you remember the first time you did Winter Wrap-Up?”
“I vaguely remember being happy, that I could be a farmer, just like Mom and Dad. That was well before I could use magic, and of course I really didn’t do much that day, just helped with some seeds.” He paused. “I guess I don’t know what it’s like being asked to set aside my magic, because by the time I could use magic, it was a fun tradition.” Then he stared at a picture on the wall.
“What is it?” Bluebell followed Blue Seas’s gaze. The picture showed Blue Seas swimming, in the middle of a race. The photograph captured him as he emerged from the water, in the middle of some stroke her father could probably name. His mane was tucked into a blue cap, and material of the same color covered his horn. “Are you wearing a horn blocker?” she asked.
Blue Seas nodded. “It’s standard practice for competitive athletics. No magic, and no flying in the events that aren’t, you know, flying events. The pegasus athletes can be disqualified for using their wings, but since it’s harder to see the use of magic, we have to wear horn blockers. So, I guess I do know what it’s like to not use my magic. But it’s worth it to me, to be able to swim.”
“What’s it like?” Bluebell wondered.
Blue Seas reached out with his magic, concentrating on the drapes on his bedroom window. He drew the sheer beige fabric curtain underneath the heavier orange and brown drapes. “Try looking out the window,” he said.
Bluebell got up and looked. With the thin curtains over the window, she could see shapes and the hint of color, but not much else.
“I hate the feeling. It’s like looking through a thick fog, or through that curtain,” Blue Seas explained. “At least when I’m not using my unicorn magic during Winter Wrap-Up, I can still feel the magic normally.”
“I guess there’s no equivalent for earth ponies or pegasi?”
Blue Seas shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I remember the pictures in my schoolbooks, but I have no way of knowing what it feels like when my brothers and sisters sense magic.”
“I guess only an alicorn would know that,” Bluebell said.
“So ask her!” Blue Seas said. “And I bet Twilight Sparkle participated in Winter Wrap-Up when she was still a unicorn. She probably had the same worries as you. So, are you feeling better about this?”
“Yes, thanks. I guess even the Princess of the Unicorns can go without using magic for a day.”
“You’re home late,” Twilight Sparkle said as Princess Bluebell entered her home.
“Sorry. I just wanted to talk to somepony about Winter Wrap-Up.”
“That’s good. Did you decide what you wanted to do?”
“Well, I concluded I’m unsuitable to most of the tasks,” Bluebell replied. “Can I help you with organizing? It’s the only thing that might be relevant to my future.”
“Like father, like daughter.” Twilight Sparkle chuckled. “I let your father be my assistant the year he spent in Ponyville. The only difference is, I could actually use the help now. Ponyville keeps growing, and Winter Wrap-Up grows with it.”
“Great!” She shuffled her hooves. “There was something I was wondering,” Bluebell said.
“What did you think about not using magic to change the seasons?”
“Well, I remember thinking it unusual, but I was most worried about finding a role for myself. Like you, Bluebell, I didn’t feel ready to do anything to change the seasons. I mean, I had read about things like ice skating and birds building nests, but I had never tried any of them.”
“You weren’t bothered by being asked not to use your magic?”
“Not at first. But when things didn’t go well, I... well, I cheated. It took several mistakes with magic before I learned that I, whose entire life until that point focused on magic, needed to use a talent that wasn’t magic to help out Ponyville.” She looked at Bluebell. “Is it bothering you?”
Bluebell nodded. “I feel like I’m finally getting better at magic, and now I’m being asked not to use it.”
“That just proves you’ll be great as Princess of the Unicorns,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Unicorn foals fear never being able to learn magic. Older unicorns fear losing their magic. They are by far the most common fears unicorns feel. But there’s a lesson only I can teach you.” She concentrated, and a book flew off one of the shelves.
Bluebell reached out with her own magic and inspected the book. It was a book for foals, with illustrations and small amounts of text on each page. The cover showed Twilight Sparkle facing off against Tirek.
“I’ve heard this story before. This was only a few years before I was born, right?”
“Right. So you know how I guarded the magic of Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Cadance. What I have rarely talked about is how that felt. I held within me more magic than any creature, ever, in the entire history of Equestria. It was incredible. With just a thought, I could do anything. Anything, that is, except defeat Tirek.
“The story goes on to say how I surrendered my magic to save my friends. And in doing so, it released a magic even more powerful than the magic of four alicorns, the magic of friendship. That is what defeated Tirek.
“I hope never to be called upon again to fight a creature such as Tirek. I fear that I will someday. But I will never fear losing my unicorn magic, as long as I never lose the magic of friendship.” Twilight Sparkle rubbed her head. “Sorry. I got into speech mode there.”
“That’s fine. That’s... wow.” Bluebell stood speechless for a moment. “You need to tell that story again.”
“There are some details I can’t tell. But I’ll consider it. Meanwhile, I need to speak to Mrs. Cheerilee.”
“Why? What for?”
“Oh, there’s just some planning meetings for Winter Wrap-Up coming up, during school hours, and I’ll need your teacher to approve your absence from school.”
Princess Bluebell raised her hoof. “Mrs. Cheerilee, may I be excused?”
“Yes, you may,” Cheerilee said, nodding.
Bluebell donned her scarf and headed to the door. Turning, she noticed the dirty looks from her classmates. The school and students might be different from her circles in Canterlot, but some things remained the same. Every foal enjoyed getting out of class.
Bluebell trotted toward Town Hall, sticking to the roads, where the snow lay packed by the passage of countless hooves. She made good time, and was more than happy to get out of the cold.
Ponyville’s town hall was a building that had seen better days. Not sturdy stone like the Canterlot government offices she was familiar with, the plaster walls were cracked, and splotches of paint covered makeshift repairs. The front office was also a lot smaller than she was used to, only housing three desks. A middle-aged stallion was the only pony present. “May I help you?” he asked.
“Yes. Where is Princess Twilight Sparkle’s meeting being held?”
“Ah. Princess Bluebell, right? Go through that door. The conference room is the second door on the left.”
“Thank you.” She followed the directions, finding the conference room. Several ponies sat in chairs around a large, rectangular wooden table. She recognized the mayor, but none of the others. Twilight Sparkle rested on a cushion at one end of the table, her larger form making the chairs an uncomfortable option for her.
Twilight Sparkle nodded to her, and then turned to the others. “Mayor Mare, friends, I’d like to introduce my assistant for this year’s Winter Wrap-Up, Princess Bluebell of House Platinum. She’s visiting us from Canterlot, and will be here until the Summer Sun Celebration.”
The other ponies at the table, starting with the stallion to Twilight Sparkle’s left, introduced themselves.
“I’m Thunderlane, head of the Ponyville weather team, and in charge of the weather team for Winter Wrap-Up as well,” the dark gray pegasus stallion said.
“Potato Chip. I run the potato farm in the northwest part of town, and will be coordinating the plant team this year,” a golden brown earth pony stallion said.
“Twinkleshine. Teacher, and still in charge of the animal team,” said the off-white unicorn mare.
“A pleasure to meet you all,” Bluebell said.
“I’m afraid we need to get down to business,” Thunderlane said. “We can’t handle Winter Wrap-Up the way we’ve normally done it. Ponyville needs to supply the water for Cloudsdale this year, and we’re desperately low. We have to capture more of the melting snow in the lakes this year.”
“Yes, you’ve talked about this since last year,” Mayor Mare said.
“So what do you mean? How will this affect Winter Wrap-Up?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
“We have to capture most of the snow in the lakes as it melts. We can’t stack it by the streams and let it run into the river.”
“And you’re going to suggest leaving it on the ground,” Potato Chip said.
“That would be the best way, yes. The snow will naturally melt into the lakes.”
“We can’t do that,” Potato Chip argued. “The snow will melt into our fields first. We won’t be able to plant for at least a week. We farmers depend on that first crop for our livelihood, and we can’t go another week without having food to sell!”
“What about moving the snow to the lakes?” Twilight Sparkle suggested.
“We can’t put it on the lake, or we won’t be able to break the ice on the lake. Put it near the lake, and the melting snow will still create a problem for roughly one-third of farms,” Potato Chip said. “Besides, we still have to plant the grasses by the lake.”
“Can we clear the skies faster?” Mayor Mare asked.
“No!” Twinkleshine protested. “We’re already having trouble waking all the animals before the snow starts to melt. We can’t risk the melting snow flooding the dens of our animal friends.”
“The solution was to order more rain from Cloudsdale, like I’ve been urging for the last three years,” Thunderlane said, looking at Mayor Mare. “Our weather orders have not kept pace with Ponyville’s growth.”
“I know,” Mayor Mare said, a hint of exasperation in her voice. “But nopony wants to see their taxes raised, again.”
“You know, Ponyville’s practically a royal city now,” Bluebell suggested. “Maybe it’s time to change the seasons like....”
“No!” Mayor Mare and the three team heads chorused.
“I’m sorry, Bluebell, but tradition means a lot to the ponies of Ponyville,” Twilight Sparkle said. “I raised the issue several times before, but the opinions of everypony involved in Winter Wrap-Up haven’t changed. But we still need to find a solution.”
The room fell silent. Bluebell watched the other ponies’ expressions. Twilight Sparkle looked to be deep in thought, with a cute wrinkle on her forehead as she chewed on the issues. The others looked perplexed and lost.
“I don’t think we’re going to come up with an answer today,” Twinkleshine said.
“I agree,” Mayor Mare said.
“Then let’s table the issue until next time. I want to hear ideas, no matter how crazy, at our next meeting,” Twilight Sparkle said. “For now, let’s go on. Team leads, do you have all your supplies arranged?”
And so the meeting continued. Bluebell fought to stay awake through all the talk of math and logistics. She suddenly regretted missing school for this meeting.
“I’m back,” Princess Bluebell announced as she returned to Twilight’s residence. It was Tuesday, and she had magic lessons.
Princess Twilight Sparkle was in the living room, like normal, her chalkboard already covered with detailed formulas. But when Bluebell looked at them, she recognized none of them. Upon further inspection, they weren’t magical formulas at all, but mathematical ones.
“What is all this?” Bluebell asked.
“Oh. Just trying to figure out the Winter Wrap-Up problem,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Managing a large production is all about allocating resources and tracking dependencies. For example, we need to both score the ice and clear the skies in order to accomplish the goal of freeing the lakes from ice. So then both of those have to be done before moving the snow to the lakes. There’s an entire field of mathematics devoted to the topic, and I was hoping to find an answer in one of these books.”
“Did you find one?”
Twilight Sparkle sighed. “Sadly, it appears Winter Wrap-Up is too complex to model. There’s the issue of restrictions on input, in particular how some jobs can only be done by pegasi, but the biggest issue is there.” She levitated a pointer to the chalkboard.
“Clearing the sky?”
Twilight Sparkle nodded. “The problem is that this step is not only a prerequisite for some steps, but it also places restrictions on others. And I don’t know how to model that.”
Bluebell focused on the box labeled “Melting the Ice” as Twilight Sparkle erased the chalkboard. “But enough about that,” the alicorn said. “Let’s talk about the fundamentals of transmutation magic.”
The school bell rang, signaling the end of another day of classes. “Don’t forget, your reports on the rise of King Sombra are due Monday,” Cheerilee announced.
Like most of the class, Princess Bluebell wasn’t paying her teacher much attention. She donned her scarf and saddlebags, and ran outside. She was happy to be done with class. But her happiness didn’t last once she placed a hoof on a patch of ice. She stumbled, landing face first in a snow bank.
Grumbling, Bluebell rose to her hooves. She looked down at the patch of ice, frowned, and stamped her hoof. Cracks spiderwebbed from the impact. She raised her hoof to stamp again, but then stopped as inspiration struck.
Bluebell ran after two ponies. “Junebug! Juniper!” she called.
They turned. “Yeah?” Juniper said.
“I want to talk to Blue Seas about something. Is he home?”
“He should be,” Junebug said.
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you,” Juniper added.
Bluebell was welcomed to the Goldens’ farmhouse with a slice of carrot cake. She took a seat at the kitchen table. “I’ll get Blue Seas,” Golden Harvest said. “Don’t even think of touching the stew.”
She returned with Blue Seas a few minutes later. The young stallion’s coat was dirty and matted with sweat. “Whatever were you doing?” Bluebell asked.
“Repairs to the barn. We have a lot to do before the spring planting.”
“Oh.” Bluebell suddenly realized how little she knew about how a farm runs.
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
“Actually, can you introduce me to Scootaloo?” she asked.
“Sure, but why? Do you want to take up a sport?”
“No, but.... Well, I’m helping with the organization of Winter Wrap-Up, and there’s a problem it’s causing with tornado duty, and I think ice archery is the answer.”
“I have no idea what you’re planning, but whatever it is, it sounds right up Scootaloo’s alley.” Blue Seas turned to his mother. “Mom? I’m taking Bluebell to see Scootaloo.”
“Okay, dear, but I make no promises there will be any stew left if you don’t get back on time.”
“Let’s go,” Blue Seas said to Bluebell.
“Aren’t you going to wash up or something?” Bluebell asked.
“We’re going to see Scootaloo,” he replied, as if that explained matters.
They left, trotting along the outskirts of town to an area of cloud houses. Blue Seas stopped by one of these houses, which hovered over a curious arrangement of clouds. He listened and focused on the clouds.
“Sounds like she’s outside,” he said. Blue Seas levitated a chunk of snow, and shaped it into a snowball with his magic. His horn glowed, and he flung the snowball into one of the clouds.
“Hey!” a voice called from that cloud. An orange pegasus with a purple mane poked her head out. “Oh, hey.” Scootaloo flew down and slapped her wing across Blue Seas’s withers.
“Working on a new stunt?”
“You know it!” She ran her hoof through her short mane, which Bluebell noticed was even dirtier than Blue Seas’s. Her coat and wings appeared singed in places. Scootaloo looked at her, and then back at Blue Seas. “Oh, hey, who is this?”
“This is my, um.... This is Bluebell.”
“We met at Sports Day,” Bluebell interjected.
“Oh, yeah, right. Looking for some sports advice?”
“Sort of,” Bluebell said. “You see, I’m helping Princess Twilight Sparkle with the organization for Winter Wrap-Up. The town also needs to fill up the lakes to provide water for Cloudsdale, and that means capturing more of the melting snow. But that can’t be done until the lakes are free of ice.”
“But the snow melts at the same time as the ice,” Scootaloo said.
“That’s the problem. But I just realized, what if the ice is cleared in a different way? And then I remembered that ice archery demonstration.”
Scootaloo leaned in. “I’m listening.”
“What if, instead of clearing the clouds, some of them were moved over the lakes? And then we shoot them with the ice arrows, they turn to ice, they fall, and then they break the ice on the lake?”
Scootaloo’s wings fluttered, and she grinned. “Cool!”
“So, um, does that actually work? And can you get enough ice bows?”
“Yeah, that would totally work! And you wouldn’t need many ice bows, so sure!”
“And capturing the clouds that way would add extra water to the lakes, right?” Blue Seas said.
“I guess so,” Scootaloo said.
“How would I know?”
“Don’t you teach the pegasus magic class at the high school?” Blue Seas asked Scootaloo.
“Yeah, but....” She flew up, grabbed one of the clouds floating under her house, and bucked it, releasing a swift torrent of wind and snow. “My class is all practical stuff.”
Blue Seas rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, there’s a meeting Tuesday, at 10:00,” Bluebell said. “I need to see if I can get Twilight Sparkle’s approval, but if I do, can you come?”
“I’d love to!”
“Great!” Bluebell said.
“Thanks for talking to us,” Blue Seas said.
“Yeah, great. See ya!” Scootaloo waved a wing, and flew back into the mess of clouds.
As the two younger ponies departed, Bluebell turned to Blue Seas. “Did she mean it? She’d love to see the mayor?”
“I think she would love to see the mayor being forced to approve a plan like that.”
Late at night, Princess Bluebell sat at the table, writing on a paper scroll. Several thick books surrounded her. She heard hoofsteps, and turned.
Princess Twilight Sparkle entered the room, a tea set carried in her magical aura. “Doing homework?”
“No. I’m working on a proposal to fix the water problem with Winter Wrap-Up. But I can’t just say my idea. Father taught me that I need to demonstrate I’ve thought it through.”
Twilight Sparkle looked over the books, seeing diverse topics, including weather, pegasus magic, and physics. The books were advanced, beyond what a pony Bluebell’s age would have learned. “Why don’t you tell me about your idea? I can help you with your proposal.”
“Well, the problem we face is wanting to clear the ice from the lakes, to collect the runoff from the melting snow, without melting the snow first. My thought is to use ice bows to turn chunks of clouds into ice, and let the falling ice cloud break the ice on the surface of the lake.”
Bluebell gauged Twilight Sparkle’s reaction. Her mouth hung open, and one of her eyes twitched. “Sorry. That was a dumb idea,” Bluebell said.
Twilight Sparkle shook her head. “No, no. I think it’s a good idea. I thought about physically breaking the ice, but I couldn’t come up with a way that didn’t place ponies at risk of falling in the freezing water. It’s just that your plan is a little dangerous. Did you ever hear about what happened at the Equestria Games held in the Crystal Empire?”
“No. What happened?”
“An errant arrow from an ice bow struck a large cloud, turning it into a chunk of ice that threatened to fall on the stadium. Spike—you’ve heard of him, right?—saved the day with his fire breath.”
“I don’t want that to happen!” Bluebell said. “I’m thinking something smaller, like the demonstration I saw. I’m just trying to figure out how big it needs to be.”
Twilight Sparkle smiled. “Let me figure out the math. What I want you to do is think of everything you need.”
Princess Bluebell trotted happily to Town Hall. Her official plan, reviewed by Twilight Sparkle, was safely stowed in her saddlebags, and she was looking forward to presenting it. In addition to the princess’s support, she had the expertise of somepony who knew how to use an ice bow.
She heard the flapping of pegasus wings, and the distinctive sound of them closing, as a mare landed on the snow next to her. Once Scootaloo heard that Twilight Sparkle had given the plan her seal of approval, she had said she definitely wanted to be there when the plan was presented to the mayor. “Hey, Bluebell!” Scootaloo called. “You ready?”
“Can’t wait to see the awesome plan!”
Bluebell chuckled. “Well, Twilight Sparkle made it a lot less awesome. But I have to agree that making the plan safe as well as effective was crucial.”
The stallion working in the mayor’s office recognized Bluebell, and motioned for her to go to the same conference room. Bluebell overhead the discussion as she approached; Twilight Sparkle was mentioning her plan.
Bluebell opened the door with her magic, and she entered the room. She was greeted by smiling faces, but Mayor Mare frowned when she spotted Scootaloo following her.
“No. Whatever it is, the answer is no,” Mayor Mare stated.
“What? But I haven’t even said anything!” Bluebell protested.
“If Scootaloo is involved, it’s too dangerous.”
“Hey! What have I ever done?” Scootaloo asked.
“The waterslide? The tunnel? The cloud ramp?” the mayor said. “Dear Celestia, the cloud ramp!”
“Okay, fine, once or twice....”
Twilight Sparkle interrupted the dispute. “Mayor, while I am certainly familiar with what certain mares are capable of doing, I’ve reviewed the plan, and I think you all should listen to Princess Bluebell.”
“Thank you, Princess,” Bluebell said. She pulled a scroll from her saddlebags, unrolling it and pinning it to a bulletin board. “The challenge faced by Ponyville this year is a need to capture melting snow in the lakes that feed the reservoir, which will be used to supply the water for Cloudsdale this year. However, traditionally, the lakes are freed from ice primarily with sun and the warmer temperatures brought by the pegasi, which also melt the snow into the river.
“To deal with the issue, we need to break the ice before the warm weather arrives.” She levitated an illustration onto a nearby easel. “My proposal is to use ice bows to create masses of ice in the sky, and let gravity do the work.
“The ice bow manifests pegasus magic, creating ice faster than is possible by pegasi, at least without the specialized equipment in Cloudsdale. A bank of clouds, between six and eight cells in size, at storm level, will fall with enough force to break through the thick ice that formed on Ponyville’s lakes during the winter.”
“I have the calculations, if you’d like to see them,” Twilight Sparkle said, waving a sheaf of papers densely covered in mathematical formulas.
“Drop it off with my assistant,” Mayor Mare said wearily.
“We will want ice to be dropped in three locations on each of these four lakes,” Bluebell continued. “Our first step will to collect some of the snow, and form a thick snow bank, roughly as tall as a pony. The pegasi will clear the skies around each lake to a suitable radius, and then position the cloud bank above the landing point. The archers will take a position behind the snow bank, and fire upon the cloud. They will duck to avoid any errant shards of ice. The whole process could be completed within the first three hours of Winter Wrap-Up.”
“Piece of cake!” Scootaloo chimed in.
“I intend to be present, ready to deal with any dangers,” Twilight Sparkle said.
“I still don’t like it,” Mayor Mare said.
“What is important is that it allows Ponyville to fill its reservoirs. The water from the winter clouds is minor, perhaps 500 bits’ worth if purchased from Cloudsdale in spring. The important factor is being able to capture the melting snow. How much currently goes into the river?”
“Around eighty percent,” Thunderlane said.
“We calculated that Ponyville needs about a third of that. Do you think you could capture it?”
Potato Chip looked to Thunderlane, who nodded. “We’ll need to shuffle both of our groups, but I think we can work it out,” Potato Chip said.
“I don’t think I will need to change anything for the animal team,” Twinkleshine added.
“Okay. But does it have to be ice bows?” Mayor Mare asked.
“Ice magic is difficult for most pegasi,” Twilight Sparkle said. “I agree with Bluebell’s idea to use the bows as a reusable and controllable source of this magic. Of course, I think we are all willing to entertain other ideas to deal with Ponyville’s future water needs.” She paused. “Anypony?”
The room fell silent.
“Okay,” Mayor Mare said. “I’ll ask again for you to think of alternate proposals, but for now, I’d like the team leaders to plan their resources around Princess Bluebell’s strategy.”
“Sweet!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “I need to get more arrows!”
Mayor Mare pressed a hoof to her forehead. “I don’t get paid enough for this.”
The day of Winter Wrap-Up arrived, and a grand song filled Princess Bluebell’s heart. Using only her hooves, she donned her special vest, and alongside Princess Twilight Sparkle, stepped out onto the streets of Ponyville. They were caught up in the crowd, ponies of all kinds in matching vests singing about everything they would do to wrap up winter. She trotted around the snowy streets at the heart of Ponyville, seeing its most prominent buildings.
And then, just outside Town Hall, it stopped.
“That felt weird,” Bluebell said.
“Surely you’ve felt a heart song before?” Twilight Sparkle asked.
“Yes, but never one that inspires the whole town,” she replied. “I don’t think anything could bring the ponies of Canterlot together.”
“The last one I know of was at the conclusion of the wedding of Princess Cadance. The real wedding. It was both inspirational and somber, recalling all those hurt by the changeling invasion and celebrating the power of love,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Before your time, of course.”
Bluebell nodded. “So what’s our first task?”
“Well, I’m going to meet with each of the three team leads. You will need to go to the lake west of the reservoir. Scootaloo wants you to be part of the ice clearing, and she wants all of the archers to practice first.”
“Okay. I’ll meet up with you when we’re finished,” Bluebell said. To be honest, firing a bow sounded more fun than reviewing checklists.
Work was well underway by the time Bluebell arrived at the lake. Pegasi were clearing the clouds from the area surrounding the lake, saving and carefully setting aside small stacks of clouds as they worked. Ponies, mostly earth ponies, were hauling carts laden with snow, dumping their loads to create the protective snow barrier.
Scootaloo was marching up and down the field, between a series of targets and the ponies she recruited for the task. All were wearing the vest of the weather team. Blue Seas was there, along with a few ponies she recognized from Sports Day. “All right, Bluebell. Grab a quiver and take your station,” Scootaloo said.
Bluebell picked up a quiver of arrows, normal arrows with blunted tips, and stood behind one of the bows. Scootaloo turned and addressed the group. “Your job today is not just to fire arrows. You need to fire the arrows at the same time, so that the clouds form a single mass of ice, rather than splintering into smaller chunks. And so, we’re going to practice while we wait for everything to be ready.”
Scootaloo took her position behind the archers. “On three. One, two, three!”
The first volley didn’t go well, but with some practice, the archers managed to hit their targets at the same time.
“Take a break. We’ll be doing this for real in ten minutes, once Princess Twilight Sparkle gets here.”
Bluebell trotted up to Blue Seas. “I’m glad to see you here,” he told her.
“Well, it is my idea, after all.”
“Still, you need to be a good archer.”
“Am I a good archer?” Bluebell asked.
“Pretty good. I think Scootaloo approves.”
“What are you doing after we finish here?” she asked.
“I’m moving over to snow plowing, and then planting,” Blue Seas replied.
“Oh. I guess Twilight Sparkle will have some task for me. For all her planning, she really didn’t talk about what she wanted me to do.”
“You’ll probably end the day with planting, like everypony,” Blue Seas said. “There’s a lot of grasses and flowers to plant throughout town. You should ask Twilight Sparkle to send you to the north planting team.”
“Is that your farm?”
“Yes. Well, the outskirts of the farm. But you’re welcome to join us on the farm. There’s a party afterward.”
“Party?” Bluebell asked. She suspected it was nothing like the celebrations of the end of winter in Canterlot.
“Nothing much. Just family and friends in the old barn.”
Bluebell smiled. “Sounds good. I’ll have to see, though.”
The crowd murmured as Princess Twilight Sparkle approached, wearing her multicolor all teams vest. She walked over and conferred with Scootaloo.
“Okay, Princess Twilight Sparkle is ready, and the snow bank is prepared,” she announced. Scootaloo looked to the sky. “Cloud team?”
The pegasi in the sky moved a chunk of cloud over the lake. Scootaloo passed out the quivers of ice arrows. “All right. For this first cloud, I want you all to use the colored arrow.”
Bluebell looked, finding one blue arrow amidst the ones that looked like normal ice arrows. She pulled it out and nocked it in the bow.
“On three. One, two, three!”
Bluebell fired, her arrow striking the cloud bank. Ice, colored blue, spread from the point of impact. Elsewhere, ice in all colors of the rainbow spread across the cloud, with an audible cracking. As the magical ice added weight to the cloud, it began to fall, slowly at first, and then faster. It was a rainbow-colored streak, calling to mind Scootaloo’s favorite Wonderbolt, by the time it collided with the lake below. The ice on the lake shattered at the point of impact, with cracks spreading out like spiderwebs.
“Awesome!” Scootaloo shouted.
“I think she’s always wanted to do that,” Blue Seas told Bluebell.
Finishing the work to clear the lakes didn’t take long. The organizational work by the three teams ensured that everything was set up by the time Scootaloo took them to the next site. All that remained was setting up the bows and firing.
At that point, Princess Bluebell followed Princess Twilight Sparkle as she checked on each of the teams. She learned that part of being an organizer was lending a hoof to a group that found itself behind schedule. With building nests, cleaning animal dens, shoveling snow, and organizing seeds, Bluebell discovered many tasks she was no good at performing. But for a job like Winter Wrap-Up, quantity substituted for quality.
In the afternoon, Bluebell joined the plant team. Dozens of ponies pushed snowplows while ponies, including a number of foals, walked behind them, spreading grass seeds on the now-cleared ground. She saw her half-brother on one of the plows, keeping up with the older and larger ponies plowing with him.
By late afternoon, the snow had been cleared, and Bluebell’s large team split off, heading to the individual farms. “Come with us,” Blue Seas said to her.
At the Goldens’ farm, four of the plows were being altered. The blade for moving snow was removed from the front, and a plow blade attached to the back.
“Shouldn’t you have more plows?” Bluebell asked.
“Mom and Dad prefer to plant by hoof. Most farmers do. Well, the earth pony ones,” Blue Seas said.
“Plant by hoof?”
Blue Seas motioned to the field. Golden Harvest was planting flower bulbs by digging one hoof into the earth, dropping the bulb, and using another hoof to push loose dirt over it. She was surprisingly fast at using this method. Bluebell noted that it was because she apparently didn’t care about getting filthy.
“Go ahead and follow me, scattering seeds in the furrows,” Blue Seas said.
Along with the rest of Blue Seas’s siblings and a few other local foals, Bluebell helped plant a variety of crops on the Goldens’ land. She noted that didn’t include their signature crops; they were being planted exclusively by his parents. With so many hooves at work, the planting was done before the sun set.
“Now what?” Bluebell asked.
“I’m going to help Mom with the party,” Blue Seas said. “As a noble, you probably want to join the princess and mayor and do what nobles do best.”
“Take credit for the work.”
“But I came up with the solution to the water problem!” Bluebell protested.
“And the mayor should thank you for that,” Blue Seas said. “And you also worked hard, so you’re definitely welcome at our hoedown tonight. Both you and the princess.”
“I’m sure Princess Twilight Sparkle has a lot of obligations, but I’d be happy to come to your... ugh, hoedown,” she replied. “I take it formal attire is not required?”
“Heck, you’ll be lucky if ponies wash the mud off their hooves!”
It was just after sunset when Mayor Mare took the stage, with Princess Twilight Sparkle standing at her side. “I declare winter officially wrapped up!” the mayor announced, as ponies cheered and stamped their hooves. “Thank you, everypony, for working so hard to bring in spring.”
Twilight Sparkle leaned over and whispered in the mayor’s ear. She sighed and continued. “I would also like to thank the ponies who led the effort to prepare the Ponyville reservoir for this year’s tornado. Princess Twilight Sparkle, Princess Bluebell....” The mayor looked like she just bit into an especially sour lemon. “And Scootaloo.”
The announcement complete, ponies started dispersing. Bluebell joined up with Twilight Sparkle. “Blue Seas wanted you to know that you’re invited to his family’s party,” she said.
“I know. I won’t be able to stay long, as I have a lot of parties to visit, but I’d be happy to visit their hoedown first.”
Bluebell winced at hearing Twilight Sparkle use that word.
“Let’s go,” Twilight Sparkle said.
“Can you wait a second?” Now that Winter Wrap-Up was officially over, Bluebell felt free to use magic. But her normal cleaning cantrip was having trouble dealing with the sheer amount of mud caked to her hooves and fetlocks.
“You could try cleaning up the Ponyville way,” Twilight Sparkle suggested. She pointed to a group of ponies cleaning their hooves in one of the many puddles created by the melting snow.
Bluebell would have preferred a spa treatment, or even a normal bath, but the puddle method was fast and effective.
Bluebell had many worries when she saw the Goldens’ party being held in one of their barns, but her fears proved unfounded. The ponies were a little dirty, but the barn was clean, with only a faint musty smell. She had smelled worse in the disused formal ballrooms of Canterlot’s minor nobility. A phonograph provided music, and the aroma of bread and stew made her realize how hungry she was.
Twilight Sparkle attracted a lot of attention as she entered, as well as bows from ponies who probably weren’t locals. Meanwhile, Bluebell grabbed a plate of food and mingled. Once Twilight Sparkle had made her rounds, the party returned to its normal conversations. Over to the side, Blue Seas was talking to a group of ponies, including a stallion who resembled Golden Harvest and shared a carrot cutie mark. Listening in, she found he was telling them about the time he spent in the seapony kingdom.
Bluebell was standing to the side, nibbling on a pickled carrot, when Blue Seas joined her. “Something bothering you?” he asked.
“No. It’s just that... well, here I am, a princess, and your life is so much more interesting than mine. How many ponies can say they’ve lived with the seaponies?”
“It’s not what you think. I’m leaving April 1st to practice swimming full time. And in the off-season, I’m going to live again in the seapony kingdom. And work there. I may not return home for more than a few days at a time for the next several years.”
“Yes. Training with the best swim coach in Equestria, plus room and board, is expensive. Mom and Dad said they’d support me, but....” Blue Seas sighed. “They have the farm, and four more foals. I need to help out however I can.”
“Have you considered working in Ponyville instead? That way, you wouldn’t miss your family as much.”
“I don’t know if I could find anything in town for only the winter. There are a lot of ponies looking for seasonal work then,” Blue Seas said. “Besides, there’s something I hope to do in Atlantis.”
“What’s that?” Bluebell asked.
“I want to find my mother. My natural mother.”
Bluebell gasped. “No! Don’t do that.”
Bluebell looked around, and lowered her voice. “There was something that happened with me. It was about four years ago. Now, everypony knows about the many bastard foals Canterlot noble stallions have. Nopony talks about it officially, but in the schoolyard, foals taunt each other about their parentage. It gets to the point where it doesn’t mean anything. Even after learning the dictionary definition, I heard ‘bastard’ as just an insult, like calling somepony a moron.
“But then, on that day.... Well, I was with Mother and Father, enjoying a stroll through the park. A crying mare came up to my father, with a filly several years older than me. ‘This is your daughter!’ she screamed. I knew what Mother and Father had taught me about how to handle situations. Ignore the scene, disengage, keep an eye out for the guard in case trouble starts. But all I saw was a filly, who looked a lot like me. And suddenly the schoolyard taunts took on meaning.
“We left the park quickly, taking our carriage home. And then I heard Mother and Father fight. They argued for days. The house seneschal tutored me on the archaic rules that surrounded noble lineages. I suppose that was my father’s attempt to calm any fears I had, but it was hard to concentrate when I could hear the screams of my parents echoing through the halls of our estate.
“I do hope things will be different for you, Blue Seas. I hope your natural mother is praying to be reunited with the foal she never knew. And think of it this way. There probably aren’t many half-seaponies of your age in Atlantis at one time, right? If she’s looking for you, she’ll find you.”
Blue Seas was silent for several moments. “Wow. I never thought of it that way,” he said quietly. “I just had this vision of another perfect family. I guess I thought we’d want the same thing.”
Bluebell hugged her half-brother. “I just wanted you to know that I’m glad to have met you.”
“Thanks, Bluebell. That means a lot.” He broke the embrace. “I like your idea a lot. Word will get around about me, and maybe, hopefully, I’ll meet the last part of my heritage.” But deep down, Blue Seas feared his half-sister was right.
“Glad I could help.”
“You know, you have a lot of good ideas, Bluebell,” Blue Seas said. “I don’t know many ponies who could deal with the town’s water problem, my heritage, and my annoying kid sister. Even if you end up with a boring life, like you said, the royal bureaucracy could use somepony like you. Mom and Dad always complain about the ponies who say ‘We can’t do that’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”
“Yeah! I bet I could find a lot of things to fix! They probably wouldn’t be as cool as falling ice clouds, though.” Bluebell smiled, feeling a pleasant warmth. It was like a blush, but focused on her flanks. She turned and saw her cutie mark appear: a bow and an ice arrow piercing a cloud.
“Now I’ll always have a reminder of what I need to top!” Bluebell said excitedly.
“Think you might also be good at ice archery? Good enough to make the Equestria Games?”
“I’m sure Father would think so. It’s worth a try, right?”
Blue Seas nodded. “I’m sure you could get Scootaloo to give you some lessons. She owes you for finally getting Mayor Mare to do something crazy.” He looked around the barn. “I see family members who want to spend time with me before I move away. Congratulations on earning your cutie mark, Bluebell. Few Canterlot nobles can claim they’ve had a Pinkie Pie cuteceañera!”
“But what if I want to celebrate in my family’s traditional manner?”
“You can do that, too, but you have no chance of escaping a Pinkie Pie party,” Blue Seas said solemnly. He embraced her. “I hope to see you again, Bluebell.”
Blue Seas wandered off, joining his parents and siblings. They were an unusual family for sure, but Bluebell was happy to be a part of it.