• Published 23rd Apr 2014
  • 1,294 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 8

The dragon word for the maneuver Snow Bolt had discovered was almost unpronounceable by a pony tongue. She dubbed the technique wump-crumping, so named for the sounds made as she crossed between the air masses. From what Scarlet had told her, dragons only used the maneuver during long migrations: diving in and out of the lee of mountains in order to soar without flapping. For all Snow Bolt knew, she was the first pegasus ever to use such a technique.

After that first day, Snow Bolt practiced the technique exclusively whenever she was able. She only reverted to the other, less exhausting maneuvers when her aching wings could bear no more. Gliding at such high speeds while maintaining turning authority proved to be the most strenuous activity Snow Bolt had yet experienced, even more strenuous than flying under her own power.

This went on for several weeks more, and each day Snow Bolt felt herself growing stronger and stronger. Each day she was able to complete more and more loops in succession, achieving higher and higher speeds each time. Her flight muscles ached constantly, but she didn’t care. After seeing how hard Snow Bolt was pushing herself, Scarlet had warned her. “Don’t fly too hard, Pot Pie," the dragon said. "You’ll hurt yourself, and bruising makes meat all chewy.” Snow Bolt had rejected Scarlet’s advice completely, of course. Speed was Snow Bolt’s addiction, and nothing else mattered.

After Scarlet went to bed each night Snow Bolt would also spend an hour or so every night practicing powered flight. As her wings grew stronger, Snow Bolt found that she was able to maintain a hover under her own power for longer and longer periods, and at higher and higher altitudes each day. After a few more weeks, Snow Bolt was able to fly around the cave as if she had been doing it all her life. She was now a fully-flighted pegasus pony.

Just a few months ago, Snow Bolt would have regarded this as an unbelievable, incomprehensible achievement, but now that she had done it she did not celebrate it at all, for two reasons. One, she wanted to hide the fact that she could now fly under her own power from Scarlet, lest the dragoness suddenly decide that her meat was now fit for eating. Two, Snow Bolt now had her eye on a different prize.

Ever since she had first discovered wump-crumping, Snow Bolt could sense an invisible…something, as she flew, always just out of reach. She would not have been able to describe it to anypony if she tried. Whatever it was, it was always driving her to fly faster, always faster. She felt closest to it when she was flying her fastest, in the lower arc of a wump-crumping loop, but no matter how close she got it was always just out of reach. It both beckoned her and taunted her, but no matter what Snow Bolt tried, she could not grasp it. Just as she could sense her prize, just out of hoof's reach, she could also feel a barrier keeping her from it. Her flight muscles always seemed to give out just when she was just about to fight her way through, refusing to hold her wings outstretched for even a single second longer.

Snow Bolt was still resigned to the fact that she would eventually be eaten by Scarlet, but more than anything she wanted to achieve her goal, whatever it was, before she died.

* * *

Three weeks had passed since Snow Bolt had first discovered wump-crumping, but Snow Bolt and Cheeky were taking a respite from their breakneck maneuvers and enjoying a friendly game of tag. They were unperturbed by the dark clouds that slowly moved in from the west, eventually darkening the entire sky, nor by the thunder and lightning that flashed from them. By mid-afternoon, however, large hailstones began to fall, and the two were forced to take shelter in the cave.

“You’re not bringing that flying rat in here,” Scarlet said darkly, eyeing Cheeky with scorn.

“Oh, but it’s awful out, Scarlet!” Snow Bolt pleaded. “We can’t send her out in this weather! She’ll be no trouble at all, I promise. You won’t even know she’s here.”

Scarlet eyed pony and squirrel for a long moment, then groaned. “Oh, alright. But if I find any acorn shells or any other sort of mess on my floor, I’ll roast you on a spit and use your friend there as a garnish.”

“Thanks, Scarlet.” Snow Bolt said, resuming her trot into the cave. Cheeky simply stood staring up at the dragon, looking absolutely aghast at what she had said. Turning back, Snow Bolt scooped the squirrel up in one hoof. “Oh, don’t mind her, Cheeky. She’s always saying stuff like that.”

Scarlet and Snow Bolt had an early dinner that night, and the little pegasus fed Cheeky a few nibbles from her own meal. After dinner was cleaned up, Snow Bolt read to Scarlet from her perch atop the dragon’s horde of gems and gold, as was their evening custom. Cheeky made herself a little nest in Snow Bolt’s mane, and listened contentedly as Snow Bolt read more of the adventures of Dusty Cornshucker.

Snow Bolt stopped reading when she heard a low, guttural snoring coming from Scarlet, and a gentle, high-pitched one coming from Cheeky. Being careful not to disturb the little squirrel, Snow Bolt slid down the pile of gems, put the book in its place on the bookshelf, and lay down next to the fire. Cheeky woke up just long enough to sleepily crawl down from Snow Bolt’s head and onto her back, where she curled up and immediately went back to sleep. Snow Bolt smiled at her sleepy little friend before letting out a yawn herself. She lay her head down in her hooves and almost immediately fell asleep to the sound of thunder and wind howling outside the cave.

* * *

Scarlet was already bustling around the cave by the time Snow Bolt awoke the next morning, humming to herself as she fussed about her kitchen. From gap left by the cave wall where the boulder did not fit flush, Snow Bolt could hear the storm still raging outside. Snow Bolt lifted her head from her hooves and stared at the gap. Something was different today, but she did not know yet what it was.

Still curled up on Snow Bolt’s back, Cheeky was awakened by Snow Bolt’s stirring. The little squirrel yawned and stretched lazily, giving Snow Bolt a sleepy wave as she rubbed her eyes.

“Hey, little friend,” Snow Bolt offered a small smile, then turned back to look at the gap in the cave’s door. Cheeky followed Snow Bolt’s gaze, then turned back to Snow Bolt with a quizzical look. “I…I’m not sure,” said Snow Bolt, answering Cheeky’s unspoken question. She gently placed the little squirrel down on the cave floor, then stood up and walked over to the gap.

Peering outside, Snow Bolt could see snow was still falling heavily outside, and her view was intermittently obscured by clouds that raced up the mountain's slope. The wind was positively howling, and another crash of thunder shook the very walls of the cave around her. Thundersnow. The word came unbidden to her mind. She had read about it at school, but had never experienced such a thing herself. She knew it was a rare phenomenon, especially around pony cities, where weather was carefully monitored and controlled by pegasi.

In a sudden epiphany, Snow Bolt saw what it was she had to do. “Scarlet?” she turned and called to the dragon. “Will you open the door for me, please?”

Scarlet turned from her kitchen, and looked over at the little pony as if she were crazy. “In this weather? What in the world for, Pot Pie?”

“I’d like to practice my soaring,” Snow Bolt said matter-of-factly.

“Soaring? In the middle of a snow storm? Pot Pie, you can’t be serious.” Scarlet chuckled and returned to her fussing, but when she looked back Snow Bolt was still staring at her. “You’re serious?” Snow Bolt nodded. Scarlet shook her head and walked over to the mouth of the cave. “Well, I suppose if you smash yourself to bits on the rocks you’ll save me the trouble of having to mince you.” Scarlet rolled the boulder aside, and immediately a gale of wind whipped through the gap, nearly blowing Snow Bolt off her feet. “After you, Pot Pie,” Scarlet said, bowing sarcastically. “This I have to see.” Snow Bolt ignored her sarcasm and pushed her way through the wind and out onto the ledge. Cheeky looked at her friend curiously, but followed her outside.

Though it must have been around mid-morning, the sky around the mountain was almost as dark as night. The wind that blew from the west was positively frigid, much stronger than anything Snow Bolt had flown in before. It whipped up snow from the lower reaches of the mountain and carried it across the shelf. The dark thunderclouds overhead were shedding wet, mushy snow at a frightening rate. Lightning flashed somewhere in the clouds overhead, and the crack of thunder that followed was only a split second behind.

“Are you sure about this, Pot Pie?” Scarlet asked. Her sarcasm seemed to have been replaced by genuine concern, something Snow Bolt had never seen from her. Snow Bolt looked at her briefly, then looked back up at the sky. She was sure. She didn’t know how or why, but she knew absolutely that this was something she had to do, and she was not afraid. She looked back at the dragoness and nodded.

Snow Bolt felt a tug on her ankle, and looked down to see Cheeky with a grave look on her face. She regarded Snow Bolt for a long moment, then scurried up Snow Bolt’s leg and took her place on her head.

Snow Bolt shook her head and put the little squirrel back on the ground. “No, not this time, little friend.” Snow Bolt looked again at the sky. “I…I think this is something I have to do alone.” Even as she said the words, Snow Bolt did not know how or why she knew. “Stay here. I’ll be back in a little while.”

Cheeky still looked concerned, but did not protest. She offered Snow Bolt a brave little smile, then made two signs with her paws. Good luck.

Snow Bolt returned her smile, then turned and began walking towards the ledge, struggling to push her way through the wind and snow. When she reached the brink, she took a long look around, surveying the mountain, the storm, and the dark clouds above. I sure hope I know what I’m doing, she thought to herself. She spread her wings experimentally, and was immediately carried backwards by the strong wind, tumbling head over heels.

With a grunt, she landed roughly in the snow, slowly coming to a stop on her back. She righted herself, and looked back to see that Scarlet was laughing at her, though she could not actually hear the sound over the howling wind. Beside the dragon, Cheeky was looking more concerned than ever.

Snow Bolt stood, shook the snow from her coat, and approached the ledge again. She took just a moment to compose herself, then galloped towards the ledge as fast as her crippled legs would allow. She leapt off the ledge and let herself sink for just a moment before she unfolded her wings. The gale-force winds caught her like a sail, and she found herself rocketed upwards and backwards. In just a few seconds, the ledge, Scarlet, and Cheeky were just distant specks far below her, then they were lost completely in the swirling snow. A few seconds more, and Snow Bolt found she had crested the top of the mountain. She came to a hover about three hundred feet above the mountain’s peak, where the lift generated by the wind striking the slope began to fall off.

To maintain a hover in the face of the wind’s extreme speed, Snow Bolt found that she actually had to assume a downwards posture that would have meant a steep dive in stiller air. Even then, she was only just able to penetrate the wind, and she knew that if the wind picked up any more, she would find herself tossed behind the mountain. At best, that would mean a few hour’s walk back to the cave.

Lightning flashed from above her, and Snow Bolt knew she could not dawdle any more. She banked to the south, glided just a short distance, then turned low and left behind ridgeline.

Her wings shuddered as she passed into the lee of the slope. Snow Bolt dropped and accelerated downwards, past the tree where she and Cheeky had first met, then back up again. As she flew back up towards the ridgeline, she could see the snow being blown off the mountain’s crest like a long mane blowing in a breeze. As she splashed through a spray of snow, her wings shuddered again, and she accelerated upwards with a speed she would not have dreamed possible.

“Wow!” Snow Bolt said. The wind’s power was like nothing she had experienced before. She made a few quick adjustments in her head: she shifted her loop slightly lower down the back of the mountain, so that she could come back up into the wind at a shallower angle. She continued her turn down behind the mountain a second time, and began her third loop.

As she passed over the ridgeline the fourth time, Snow Bolt could feel it. The intangible, invisible thing that taunted her, that tormented her, beckoned her ever farther, ever faster: it was there. Snow Bolt was closer to it than she had ever been before. It was just ahead of her now, and this time she knew she was going to get it.

Two loops more. Snow Bolt tried to estimate how fast she was going Two hundred miles per hour now? Three? Four? Snow Bolt knew she should be freezing from the cold and high wind, but for some reason she did not feel the ice’s sting. Her wings hissed and sizzled as they sliced through the frigid air like a knife through rice paper. The snow was falling harder now, reducing her visibility to almost nothing. Snow Bolt panicked for a second, until she realized that she did not need her sight. She knew this mountain and its air currents like the back of her hoof, and in her mind’s eye she could see its every detail in perfect clarity. She could have performed the maneuver with her eyes closed with perfect safety, and for several revolutions she did just that.

Each wump and crump grew lounder and louder the faster she went. No longer a soft mushy sound, each pass through the boundary layer now sounded like a drum, resonating in her chest cavity in time with her heart. The thing was getting closer, but the barrier that kept her from it was pushing back with all its strength. Snow Bolt pursued it with all the fearsome determination and patience of a hunter stalking her prey. She knew it would not escape her, not this time. The wind was too powerful, and the shear layer was too thin, and her wings were too strong. Though Snow Bolt had not known it before, she realized now that her entire life had been leading up to this moment, and she knew she would not fail.

She chanced a brief glance behind her. Her wings were screaming through the air like a banshee. They drew sharp contrails through the air, and in her wake was left a conspicuous vacuum of snow. The thing was just ahead of her now, seemingly just in hoof’s reach, and she could feel the barrier begin to give way. A strange crackle of electricity or magic began to build around her hooves and wings. Then, just like that, she was through.

She felt the invisible barrier explode, and Snow Bolt knew she had done it. There was a sound like thunder, louder than anything Snow Bolt had ever heard before, followed by a crystalline ringing sound, like a spoon striking a goblet. Then Snow Bolt heard nothing. She felt herself accelerate upwards at an unfathomable speed. A few seconds later she was blinded by an impossibly bright light coming from directly in front of her. It took Snow Bolt’s eyes a few long seconds to adjust, and when they did she realized that the light ahead of her was none other than the bright mid-morning sun, shining down on her from an infinite blue sky.

What happened to the clouds? she thought to herself. She looked around to orient herself, and she saw the dark thunderclouds slowly rolling away from her in all directions, and the snow had stopped completely. Looking down, she realized that she was also incredibly high above the mountain. In fact she was still climbing, gliding upwards at a speed that should have been impossible. She barely felt any drag on her wings at all; it was as if the normal laws of lift and drag had been temporarily suspended.

Snow Bolt had never imagined that she could feel so happy. What she was feeling was pure unadulterated joy. In that moment Snow Bolt realized what it was she had been pursuing all these weeks. It was purpose, her purpose. She knew now: she had been born to fly. She had been meant to fly, and always had been.

“Woo-hoo!” Snow Bolt whooped loud and long, pumping her hoof in the air. She looped over and over again, her eyes watering from the wind, and still her wings felt no drag. Her mind idly marveled at this new state of flight, and she laughingly wondered if she could even slow herself if she wanted to. After brief consideration, she decided it would be perfectly alright if she never slowed down, and lived the rest of her life at this speed.

Eventually, she did slow, and when her speed dropped below a certain threshold, the normal laws of flight she was familiar withresumed She was still flying incredibly fast, so she began to descend back down to her mountain home below, where Scarlet and Cheeky would be waiting. The mountain, which dominated over the surrounding valley, seemed like only a tiny pinpoint from this altitude. She began her descent, slaloming like a skier to scrub off speed as she did so.

It took her a full fifteen minutes to descend back down to the mountain. Scarlet and Cheeky were right where Snow Bolt had left them, standing near the mouth of the cave. But instead of standing in the middle of a blizzard, the two were now standing in the bright, mid-morning sun. The thunderclouds that had previously covered the landscape in every direction were now nothing more than dark spots far off on the horizon. Big, hoof-sized snowflakes were still falling from the cloudless sky.

Scarlet and Cheeky did not move as she landed, they just stared at her with their jaws agape. Snow Bolt casually folded her wings and brushed a bit of snow from her shoulder, but could not hide her grin. “So, Scarlet,” she said casually. “I suppose a maneuver like that would be child’s play for a dragon.”

“Pot Pie,” Scarlet’s voice was soft, and contained not a hint of derision or sarcasm. “I don’t think anyone, pony or dragon, has ever flown like that before.

Snow Bolt beamed with pride. Suddenly, Cheeky gasped and began gesturing frantically at something behind Snow Bolt. “What is it, Cheeky?” Snow Bolt asked.

“Oh,” Scarlet said solemnly, apparently having spotted the same thing. “Uh, Pot Pie, you have a uh… oh, what do you ponies call it? A rump-stamp.”

Snow Bolt cocked her head in confusion. “What?”

“It’s a, um…” Scarlet snapped her fingers a few times, searching for the right term. “A pretty-spot.”

Snow Bolt turned to look over the valley, trying to see what the dragon was talking about. “A what-what?”

“Oh for heaven’s sake, Pot Pie! Look at your backside!”

Snow Bolt turned her head, and finally saw what the two were talking about. Adorned on her flank was an emblem. It was an indigo snowflake, truncated and styled into the shape of a lightning bolt.

It was a cutie mark. It was her cutie mark.

Snow Bolt slowly gasped, her eyes growing wide. She looked at the dragon and squirrel, then back to her flank, then back again. “It’s a cutie mark! It’s my cutie mark! IT’S MY CUTIE MARK! WOO-HOO!” Snow Bolt pranced around in the snow, whooping and dancing around, then took to the sky, looping over and over again. “Cu-tie mark! Cut-ie mark! Cu-tie mark!” she chanted, zooming all around the ledge, a literal whirlwind of celebration.

Cheeky looked happy for her friend, but seemed confused by this over-the-top show of jubilation. Scarlet simply remained still, watching incredulously. After a few moments, Scarlet leaned over to Cheeky and said in a low voice, “These ponies get excited over the most peculiar things, don’t you think?” Cheeky nodded,without taking her eyes off the prancing pegasus.

“Best! Day! Ever!” Snow Bolt shouted.

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