• Published 23rd Apr 2014
  • 1,293 Views, 90 Comments

How to Train Your Pegasus - L3gion

A troubled young pegasus struggles with her self esteem, until she gets a little help from the most unlikely of tutors.

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Chapter 1

“Alright then, here we are.” The conductor opened the door to the train car, and Snow Bolt followed him aboard. “Won’t be too many passengers on this trip, so I think you’ll mostly have the car to yourself. There’s a bathroom at the rear of the car, and the snack bar is two cars ahead of you. Any questions?” The little white filly shook her head and offered the conductor a sad little smile. “Alright then. Find a seat, and I’ll be around to check on you once we get going.” With that, the conductor stepped back off the train and trotted out of sight.

With a sigh, Snow Bolt surveyed the cabin. There were only a few other ponies in the car with her, a group of teenagers near the front who were all chatting excitedly to each other. She found a seat near the rear of the car, as far from the others as possible. The ten-year-old filly was in no mood for any sort of cheerfulness.

Snow Bolt brushed a lock of her blonde mane aside and looked out the window. It was still early in the morning in Vanhoover. The snow had just started to fall, but a good number of ponies were braving the weather, waiting to wave at their loved ones from the platform as the train departed. Her father, Coal Bolt, was not among them. Why would he be? she thought to herself. The other ponies, they were going to miss their loved ones. They would count the days until they returned, and when their train rolled back into the station, those same ponies would be there to see it arrive. There would be hugs and tearful reunions as soon as the doors opened. It would not be so for Snow Bolt. She knew her father would not miss her. In fact, she was sure he was glad to be rid of her.

As the train lurched forward, she thought back to that night, only a week ago, when her father told her she was going be leaving Vanhoover to go live with her uncle on his rock farm in Dodge Junction. She had been sent home from school again, this time for mouthing off to her teacher. She had sat on the couch, staring at nothing, while her father paced in front of her, yelling and screaming like he always did.

Again, Snow Bolt? Again?! This is the second time this week. Are you trying to get expelled? Is that what you want?”

Snow Bolt crossed her arms and looked the other direction.

“Well? What you have to say for yourself?” he asked.

Snow Bolt muttered under her breath.

“Excuse me, what did you say?” he said.

She turned and glared at him. “I said I wish it was you who died instead of mom!”

Coal Bolt stopped in his tracks, looking as if he had just been slapped in the face. He opened his mouth and closed it again. Snow Bolt merely stared at him with the same, icy glare. There was not even a hint of regret on her face.

“Go to your room,” Coal Bolt said softly. She obeyed, trotting off to her room with her head high, making a point of slamming the door when she got there. She knew she had hurt his feelings, but she wasn’t sorry. She had meant what she said.

Coal Bolt had called her down a few hours later and informed her of his decision to send her to Dodge Junction. She had listened impassively as he delivered the news, then returned to her room to resume her brooding. She may have felt the tiniest twinge of regret, then. She wondered for an instant if she had perhaps taken it a step too far this time, but the feeling quickly passed. Good, she thought to herself. If he doesn’t want me here, then I don’t want to be here either.

Truth be told, she liked the idea of living with her relatives on a rock farm even less than she liked the idea of living with her father. She had met them only once or twice at family reunions, and she had never gotten along particularly well with her cousins. She and her mother were the only pegasi in the family of earth ponies, and though though her aunt and uncle had always been nice enough to her during her visits, she couldn't help but feel like an outsider.

Now, as she sat on the train, she took one last look out the window at the town where she had grown up, the only home she had ever known. The snow began falling harder as the train wound its way up the mountainside, and she got one last look down on it before the train entered a tunnel and the cabin was plunged into darkness.

Snow Bolt was alone with her thoughts as the train clattered along. She had brought some books for the trip, but she didn’t feel like reading. The conductor came by several times to check on her, but Snow Bolt politely refused his offer of food and drink each time.

Two hours into the trip, her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of boisterous laughter coming from the car ahead of her. She looked up, and saw three earth pony colts jostling and pushing their way through the doors that separated the two train cars, each of them holding a caramel apple.

Snow Bolt’s heart sank as she recognized the three voices. Oh no. No no no…

The only bright side about Snow Bolt’s forced relocation was that she was also moving away from three particularly troublesome bullies from her school. They were always picking on her, making fun of her legs, or her inability to fly, or her lack of a cutie mark, or anything else they thought would get under her skin. What are they doing here? she thought to herself. Snow Bolt shrank in her seat, hoping that she might go unnoticed.

“Oh, hey!” one of them called. It was the leader of the pack, a big ruddy colt named Rusty Spur. Snow Bolt closed her eye for a moment, hoping to make the three disappear by sheer power of will. Instead, she felt her seat shake as the three of them took the seats across and beside her.

“Heya, Slow Dolt,” Rusty Spur said, a wicked grin spreading across his face.

Snow Bolt glared at him. “What are you three doing here?”

Rusty blinked innocently. “Who, us? Why, me and my friends here are going to be staying on my family’s plantation in Dodge Junction over winter break.”

Snow Bolt squinted her eyes closed. Oh no, please no. Not them. Anypony but them.

Rusty continued. “But what are you doing here, Slow Dolt? Oh, that’s right…” In the seats across from her, the other two snickered. “Your daddy sent you away because he doesn’t want you anymore, right?”

The other two burst into laughter, but Rusty maintained his charade, pouting in mock sympathy. “Oh yeah, we heard all about that. Everypony at school was talking about it. Tough break, Slow Dolt.”

“Yeah, tough break!” Rocks echoed. The most idiotic of the bunch, Rocks rarely did anything but parrot whatever the other two said.

“That’s not what happened,” Snow Bolt said, failing to convince even herself.

“Well, can you really blame him?” said Smokey Ore, Rusty’s right-hoof lackey. “After all, who would want a little cripple like you?”

Without thinking, Snow Bolt drew her forelegs underneath her body. Deformed from birth, they both turned too far inward. Walking for long distances was difficult for her, and the sound of her hoofsteps had always been conspicuously irregular. At school, these three never let her go too long without reminding her of her deformity.

“Plus, a pegasus your age who can’t fly?” Rusty shook his head sadly. “Positively shameful.”

“You can’t fly either, numbskull,” she retorted.

“But I’m not supposed to fly,” Rusty said. His voice was patronizing, like a parent explaining something to a foal. “I’m already doing what I’m supposed to be doing. The question is, what are you doing?”

“Not flying, that’s for sure!” Rocks chimed in. “She’s just a try-fly!” The rhyme elicited a burst of laughter from the others.

“Don’t forget blank flank!” Smokey said.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot!” Rusty said. Slow Dolt, cripple, blank-flank, try-fly!”

The others erupted in laughter, and began to chant. “Slow Dolt, cripple, blank flank, try-fly! Slow Dolt, cripple, blank-flank, try-fly!”

For Snow Bolt, it was too much. She burst into tears, pushed her way past the three and galloped towards the rear of the train as fast as her twisted legs would allow. “Hey Slow Dolt, where you going?” Rusty called after her.

“Bye-bye, try-fly!” called Rocks.

At the rear of the train car, she threw open the doors and ran into the next car, drawing quizzical looks from the other passengers. She kept running until she reached the rear of the train. Throwing open the last door, she was greeted by frigid air and swirling snow. She stepped out onto the platform and draped herself over the guard rail, sobbing uncontrollably. It was just too much. Knowing that they would be there at Dodge Junction too, to ridicule her and mock her misfortune every step of the way; it was just one thing too many.

It was snowing even harder now, and the sound of Snow Bolt’s sobs were lost in howling wind and the clattering the train’s wheels. She could not bear the thought of going back to her seat on the train with those bullies, let alone spending winter break with them in Dodge Junction.

Snow Bolt looked up, at the landscape racing past her on all sides. In that instant, she made a decision. Without hesitating, she lifted the safety chain on one side of the platform and stepped off. For a few dreamy seconds, she seemed to float. Then her hooves met roughly with snow-covered earth, and she tumbled head over heels down a steep embankment. Though the snow mostly cushioned her fall, her body and limbs met with at least a few rocks and branches before she came to a stop in deep snow. Head spinning, she stared up into the gray winter sky for a moment, watching the snowflakes fall around her. It was only then that she stopped to ponder the consequences what she had just done.

Though her head was still spinning, she forced herself to sit up. “Hey!” she shouted, waving frantically in the direction the train had gone. Though she could still hear its clattering on the tracks, the train itself was long since out of sight, lost in the swirling snow. It was hopeless, of course. Even without the snow, there wouldn't have been anyone outside the train to hear her.

Snow Bolt painfully got to her hooves and looked around. The train tracks stretched ahead and behind her until they vanished into the falling snow. To one side there was a dense forest, on the other only flat emptiness as far as she could see. She considered her options. She knew that only two trains ran between Vanhoover and Dodge Junction per week, so there was no chance of another train coming along anytime soon. Walking on the tracks after the train was one option, but by her estimate she was still much closer to Vanhoover than to the first stop along the way. But she had been riding on the train for close to two hours before the bullies started harassing her, how long would it take her to walk that distance? Days?

Snow Bolt looked to her right, across the empty plain. She squinted hard, and for just a split second she thought she could see the familiar outline of the hills that bordered Vanhoover to the east.

She stood there for several moments, looking again and again in all directions, unsure of what to do. None of the options before her looked very promising. Eventually, the biting cold of the wind prompted her to move, and she found herself trudging through ankle-deep snow eastward across the plain, towards the hills that lay beyond.

Snow Bolt walked at the best pace her twisted legs could manage, still in shock and not entirely grasping the gravity of her situation. Her sadness was gone, replaced for the moment by the single-minded necessity to keep moving, her only defense against the wind’s chill. She had scarcely gotten half a mile before she started shivering. She redoubled her pace, hoping the extra exertion would help to stave off the coldness, but it was no use. She could not gallop or even trot through the deep snow, and trying to push through the snow at a faster pace only served to tire her faster.

On and on she walked. The snow was now nearly up to her flank and piling up fast, and keeping a good pace was becoming more difficult. Now that the snow was in direct contact with her body instead of just her hooves and legs, she was shivering uncontrollably. Her legs were so numb that she couldn’t feel them at all. But with no other options available, she pressed on through the wind and snow, not knowing when she would reach her goal, or if there was even a goal within reach at all.

Several hours passed this way, though Snow Bolt could not say how many. She knew she was approaching the limit of her endurance, but she also thought she had a reason to hope. The ground was slowly starting to slope upwards, and every once in a while the falling snow would clear just enough for her to make out the outline of a row of foothills rising up ahead of her. If she was right, and these were the foothills that bordered Vanhoover to the east, then she was nearly home. The blizzard had not abated, and the pain in her limbs was extraordinary, but Snow Bolt forced herself onwards and upwards, climbing the slope with renewed vigor.

The snow was deeper on the slope, up to her neck in some places. Every place her coat came in contact with the snow burned like a hot iron, and the pain was enough to make her cry out with every step. Up and up and up she went, willing herself onward with fierce determination. She told herself that once she reached the top, the walk down would be much easier.

Halfway up, Snow Bolt began to weep. The full weight of her predicament had finally settled on her, and she wallowed in self pity. Though she had largely come to grips with her mother’s death in the past year, she was now overcome with longing for her. She remembered how her mother used to make hot chocolate for her on cold days like this when she came home from school. She would wrap a blanket around her and sit her by the fire and ask her about her day.

Snow Bolt did her best to push these thoughts to the back of her mind and focus on the task at hoof. She had lost track of time, but thought she ought to be reaching the top of the foothill soon. Every step became a battle as she willed herself to put one hoof in front of the other. Just a little further, almost there, she told herself, repeating it over and over again like a mantra. At long last, she felt the slope start to level off, and when she looked up, she could see the top of the hill. She did not rejoice, however. She was so tired and so cold that it was all she could do to focus on getting up the last few steps to the top of the hill.

At long last, Snow Bolt made it to the top. Panting and shivering, she struggled up the last few feet, until she saw the ground start to slope downward sharply. She stood there for a few long moments, squinting through the falling snow, but at first she could see nothing. Then, all at once, the winds shifted and her view became clear. She looked down from the foothills, but instead of seeing the earth pony town of Vanhoover below her, she saw only an empty valley, and another foothill rising up on the other side, one of hundreds more just like it, stretching off into the distance as far as the eye could see.

Her stomach sank. “No. No no no…” she said aloud. She looked around in every other direction, but there were no signs of civilization anywhere, only snow-covered hills and plains. She collapsed down into the snow and screamed. She doubted she could take another step, let alone traverse however many more miles separated her from any sort of civilization. And how would she even know she was going in the right direction at all?

She spent several long minutes crying and screaming, the sound of her sobs carried away by the wind, scarcely audible to even herself. After that, a strange calm came over her. She lay down in the snow and curled into a ball. Her shivering had stopped, and a sudden tiredness overcame her.

I'm dying, she thought to herself sleepily. It’s just as well. Nobody will miss me. Snow Bolt closed her eyes, and was only dimly aware that the falling snow was covering her tiny body like a blanket. She no longer felt cold, and to her surprise she found that the snow was starting to feel warm and comfortable. She remembered the way her mother used to tuck her in at night when she was a little filly, just before she drifted off to sleep. Yes, Snow Bolt thought. Sleep. Time to sleep. Maybe mama will be there when I wake up.

With that one last, sleepy thought Snow Bolt closed her eyes, and all was dark.

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