“What's taking so blasted long, Stonehoof?” A tall stallion in brown gear stood behind his squatting companion. “The moon's almost out! We won't survive the night if you don't get that fire started!”
“Don't blame me!” Stonehoof hissed, his face grimacing and sweating as he fought endlessly to make sparks between two sticks. “Blame Turnip Red for dropping these sticks into the stream!”
“Blame me, eh?” A red-maned stallion charged up, snarling, only to be held back by two companions. “You're the one who knocked me off the wagon, Stonehoof!”
“The least either of you could have done,” grumbled another pony, “Was fetched some new materials along the way here. This mountain is too bouldery to offer anything.”
“Why are we in such a blasted hurry?!” Stonehoof muttered and fought with the stubborn task in front of him. “It's not like Windthrow will be gone by the time we get there!”
“You know that every day counts in this delivery!” The tall stallion uttered. He lowered his hood so that several threads of gray mane hair streamed from his thin neck. “The more we delay here trying to rest our worthless legs, the more those villagers have to contend with the unthinkable!”
“I swear to the Sun Goddess!” Stonehoof growled, his eyes twitching. “I've never had so much trouble in my life! If only we had some decent—”
Four blue hooves slammed into the ground before him.
Stonehoof fell back on his spine, his legs curled like a dead cockroach's. Several more ponies gasped and pulled glinting blades out from forelimb sheathes. The tall, gray stallion merely squinted at the sight.
Rainbow Dash stood among them. She had something in her mouth. With a smirk, she spat it out so that it rested at Stonehoof's tail.
Stonehoof sat up, blinking down at some dry flint and steel. He glanced up at Rainbow Dash in mixed relief and awe.
All around the camp, ponies murmured.
“Where did she come from?”
“I've always heard about them, but never before have I seen one...”
“Are those wings real...?”
Rainbow Dash merely smiled. Her eyes scanned the crowd. Finally, she saw the small stallion towards the rear of the group. The pony with a blonde mane caught her eyesight, then looked away. Rainbow Dash's attention was gathered by the gray figure of the tall, elder stallion marching towards her.
“It seems as if you have something that can help us in our time of need. Remarkable timing, stranger,” he said. “What's your name?”
“I'm crazy awesome,” Rainbow Dash spoke out loud. “Who are you?”
Chuckles broke through the crowd. Several wandering ponies shared smirks and watched as their leader stepped before the blue traveler.
“I am Fulltrot, leader of this caravan,” the gray stallion said. “We're on a trip to the village of Windthrow, east of here, to deliver some very important supplies. We're already behind by a day's journey, on account of some inclement weather we encountered.”
“Rain falls where it wants to,” Rainbow Dash said, then gave a wink. “At least when there are no pegasi around.”
More chuckles. The elder, however, was more curious than amused.
“How young are you, traveler?” He paced in front of her, his eyes narrow. “You sound no more than twenty winters.”
“I'm old enough to know a party that's screwed when I see it.” Rainbow Dash pointed a hoof at the unlit campfire. “If you don't get that blazing, you might as well kiss getting to Windthunk on time goodbye.”
“And, no doubt, you would like some payment for lending your resources,” Fulltrot exclaimed, gesturing at the flint and steel.
“Hmmmm...” Rainbow Dash licked her lips and gazed across the camp towards the wagons. “I sure wouldn't mind a change of menu from the crumbs of bread I've been eating for a solid week.” She glanced back at the elder and smirked. “If I can afford it.”
His eyes were briefly resting on her goldent pendant with the ruby lightning bolt. Slowly, he nodded. “Yes. Yes, I do believe you can.” The stallion turned towards the group, whistled shrilly, and waved a hoof as he spoke, “Alright, stallions! We finally have the means for starting a fire! So no more lazing or slacking about! Let's get a meal prepared so we can rest sooner for tomorrow morning's journey!”
As Ironhoof sparked a fire to life easily with Rainbow Dash's ingredients, the many ponies wandered every which way to gather whatever dry leaves and twigs they could find. A dull, crimson light swam across the clearing, and Rainbow once again saw the golden mane of the lithe stallion to the rear. He was trotting briskly towards a cluster of dry bushes when two other figures roughly bumped into him.
“Where do you think you're going, Sun Plate?”
“Yeah, Sun Plate, what gives?”
The short-haired pony doubled back from their brutish contact, cleared his throat, and rasped forth, “What does it look like I'm doing? We need to start a fire—”
“Don't you mean WE need to start a fire?”
“Yeah!” The other large stallion chuckled. “You're on cooking duty, remember?”
Sun Plate groaned. “Again?” His voice cracked as he gestured towards the wagons. “I was stuck doing that the last three nights in a row!”
“And if you don't fly right, your face will be stuck in the side of the mountain!”
“Now get a move on, you stupid colt!”
Sun Plate sighed, rolled his eyes, and marched in a lurching fashion towards the wagon. He glanced over his shoulder briefly to see Rainbow Dash's gaze catching him, and immediately he pretended to ignore her.
As the toasty aura of the campfire grew warmer and warmer, Rainbow Dash looked away from the wagons and smiled at Fulltrot. “So, Mister Tall Dark and Pale...” Her teeth showed in an excited grin. “What vittles ya got?”