• Published 13th May 2012
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Austraeoh - Imploding Colon

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The first thing that surprised Rainbow Dash about the desert east of the ravine was its flatness. The landscape was devoid of mountains, jagged peaks, rising crests, or any of the other topographical deformities that had marked so many of her previous journeys. There was nary a hill to be had in the broad, brown, and altogether lifeless environment. There were moments where the only indication she felt that she was making any progress was the location of the sun as the sweltering day wore on. Otherwise, she might accidentally have been heading north, south, or any direction but east along the identical horizons.

For a moment, she felt that the earth pony's dragging plight—albeit horrific—was suddenly a lot more comprehendable. The dry, smooth terrain would have made for a navigable crawl along that unimpeded latitude line. She still had to praise the ill-fated pony for his endurance. For hours on end, she flew without the flimsiest sign of oases. No bodies of water, no trees, no vegetation whatsoever crossed her eyes.

Rainbow Dash felt something tugging at her heart. It tasted ever so marginally of fear. She grinned, for it was delicious.

Tightening the goggles to her face, she dove down and skimmed the landscape, delighted to not have a single hill or tree trunk to slam into her daring flight. She blurred within a breath's length from the ground. Nowhere in Equestria was the landscape flat enough to afford her this sort of a trick. She dragged a hoof down and lightly dug the edge of it into the arid soil. Dust and sand kicked up as she carved a solid line in the earth. The layer of sediment was thin, and a solid cluster of bedrock lingered within a sneeze of the desert surface. It was the very definition of inhospitable, and Rainbow Dash toyed with it like it was a lake bed.

Night of the first day came, and still the landscape didn't open up any changes. If somepony had told Rainbow Dash that she was flying in circles within four miles of the ravine, she might have been prone to believe them. She thanked her lucky stars for the horizon settling to her rear, reminding her that she had been faithful to her journey the entire day. If she had to imagine the distance crossed to strengthen herself, then that was what she had to do.

Then the coldness fell like a gigantic anvil. Rainbow Dash shivered and fought to start a fire. She had waited until the last second, of course, and she grumbled at herself, using the light from her pendant to illuminate her hooves as she struggled to work the flint and tender with a batch of twigs foraged from the west end of the ravine.

She managed to get a tiny fire started. It was of little consolation to her. Rainbow Dash was starting to discover that she hated extreme cold a great deal more than extreme heat. Using two large sticks stuck in the earth, she pitched a tiny “tent” out of her remaining blanket and squatted under it, warming her front hooves before the fire.

She took a swig from her flask, and was amazed at how much water was still left in the canteen. It occurred to her that she hadn't taken a single sip during the first day's journey. Either it was because she was a great deal more prepared to deal with the heat, or her body was too pumped about being in flight agin to notice her own thirst. Nevertheless, she decided to take a few more liberal sips the following day, or else risk dehydration. She had been in warm places before like Froggy Bottom Bog, but such locations were sweltering because of the humidity. Here, in a desert, dealing with dry heat, Rainbow Dash realized she could become a withered husk if she didn't take more precautions.

Thankful to have water in the first place, she slid the flask away and looked up. The sky was ablaze with light. To her undeniable pleasure, they were showed up with more clarity now than ever before. She had looked at the nightly canopy on previous occasions, but the proximity of civilization and the mists from local bodies of water had made the viewing experience foggy at best.

Now, it was like flying upside down and gazing into a series of living lights beneath a thin sheet of glass. She saw colors in the constellations for the first time, making the universe look and feel like a canvas of prismatic beauty. She reached a hoof up, tiredly, wondering if perhaps she could touch the surface of everything and send a ripple back home to Princess Luna.

She smiled, for suddenly she wasn't thinking of Luna. She brushed a hoof over the bulging contents of her saddlebag, relishing the feel of the sound stone. Maybe she could ask Cold Canter in the morning about the stars. It was a happy enough thought to lull her to sleep. She curled under the stars and shut her eyes until she felt like she was drifting amongst them.

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