• Published 17th May 2013
  • 1,951 Views, 111 Comments

The Thirty Minute Dash - Esle Ynopemos

Nopony's faster than the Dash!

  • ...

15: Fly or Fall [Dark-ish]

((Prompt: Coming of age.))

It was a stupid tradition. There was no reason for it anymore. Just an old, useless, stupid ritual that they sprung on you on the last day of flight school. The older ponies said you weren't a real pegasus until you did it. They were stupid, too.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the flock couldn't afford to be held back by weak fliers. There had been predators that hunted the skies, and the pegasus tribe always had to be on the move. Hanging back to wait for slow fliers then meant giving monsters a free meal. Maybe back then something like this would have made sense.

But it was way out of place and wrong today. This was Celestia's Equestria. Harpies were just old legends anymore, the sort pegasus mothers told their foals to scare them into behaving. Manticores kept to the Everfree, and dragons hadn't attacked ponies in more than a thousand years. Pegasi didn't migrate anymore. Cloudsdale was in the same place in the sky that it had been when it was founded centuries ago. There was no cloud-bucking reason that they should still be doing this.

Rainbow Dash sank a few inches into the cloud as one of the instructor's assistants tied weights to her neck. She already had the metal disks fixed to each of her hooves and the base of each wing. The weights clinked together as she shuffled in place.

She wasn't worried for herself, of course. She knew she could fly with ten times the weight they were hanging on her. Rainbow Dash was, after all, the fastest filly in her class. Nopony expected her to fail this.

But her friend... Rainbow glanced to the side. Fluttershy was nearly in tears as the older ponies fitted the metal disks to her. The yellow filly could hardly fly even when unencumbered. What did they expect her to do, suddenly triple her wingpower in midair?

It caught Rainbow off guard when the cloud was pulled out from under her. That was part of the ritual, of course. You had to be surprised, you had to fall. They had probably had somepony watching her and waiting for a moment when Dash was distracted so that they could buck the cloud she had been standing on.

The unfamiliar weight made her movements awkward, and it took Rainbow more time to level out her fall than she had expected. She beat her wings hard against the stiff air, and only grudgingly did it yield to her. The horizon stopped spinning and held still.

Rainbow Dash hovered and took a look around herself. A couple others among her classmates twisted in the air, fighting against freefall. Most of the class was still up above on the cloud platform, getting their weights prepared.

In olden times, the pegasi would do this test just before it was time to move on to another place. If a young pegasus didn't catch back up with the flock, they would be left behind. Nowadays, with pegasi living in permanent housing and cities, the tradition had changed just a bit. You get pushed off the cloud, and from there you fly home.

Rainbow glanced over to Cloudsdale. The house where she lived with her parents was a few levels below the iconic weather factory. It wasn't too far at all. She would be winded from flying there with all these weights, but she had no doubt she could make it.

A high-pitched squeal ripped her attention from Cloudsdale. Yellow dropped from the sky, trailing pink hair behind. Most pegasi had a natural instinct to twist and flap when they found themselves in a freefall, but Fluttershy curled into a ball, her wings glued to her sides. She wasn't just going to fail to make it back to Cloudsdale, she was going to die!

Rainbow flipped around and dove. She put her forehooves in front of herself to become more aerodynamic as she shot forward to intercept her falling friend.

Something whipped past Rainbow Dash like a brown bullet, causing her to reel back in surprise. A falcon passed her, screeching as it flew. The bird streaked towards Fluttershy. With a precise strike, the falcon's talons ripped through the straps that secured the weights to the yellow pony's neck. The metal disks tumbled away.

“Huh?” Rainbow paused and watched as the bird turned and made another pass, tearing the weights away from Fluttershy's hooves. Fluttershy looked up as the bird screeched at her. Finally, she seemed able to open her wings. Relief flooded through Rainbow as her friend pulled out of her fall and leveled into an unsteady glide.

But then, Fluttershy didn't turn back towards Cloudsdale. She beat her wings against the air as she followed the falcon, which emitted a happy screech. They slowly descended groundwards, towards a clearing at the edge of a forest.

Rainbow Dash hovered in hesitation. She looked to the north, to Cloudsdale. Where her parents were, and her bed, and all of her stuff. And then she looked to the south, to her yellow friend who was, despite her exertion, smiling as she followed the falcon. She was supposed to fly home. That was the whole point of the stupid tradition; you can't take your weights off until you're where you belong.

Rainbow Dash wheeled in the air and began flying south.