• Published 9th Jul 2019
  • 3,220 Views, 570 Comments

Scarlet - Skijarama

Forced to leave her peaceful hometown and flee for her life alongside a mysterious orphan filly named Primrose, New Equestrian war-veteran Scarlet Frost will have to use every resource at her disposal just to stay alive.

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The body in her trembling hooves felt far heavier than it should have. She was barely able to find her breath as the terrible sight stared back up at her. Blood stained her hooves in copious amounts, and more was joining it with every passing second as she tried in vain to staunch the crimson flow.

“Please, no! No, no, no! Say something! Stay with me! Look at me! PLEASE!”

But there was no response. The world around her began to fade away, leaving nothing but the sound of her despairing wails and the blood on her hooves to keep her company. Somewhere, far off in the distance, a crack of thunder rolled across the world.

“Uh, Miss Scarlet?”

Scarlet Frost opened her amethyst-colored eyes with a sharp intake of breath, reality coming back to her the moment the voice reached her ears. Taking a deep breath, she swept her eyes over her environment to ground herself back in the here and now.

She was laying down in the grass in an open courtyard, surrounded by the white stone walls of the academy. The distant sound of ponies going about their days in the city could just be heard over the high walls, and a few students could be seen trotting by with their friends, enjoying their lunch break. Sunlight streamed in from overhead, the angle, and colors suggesting a mid to late afternoon hour.

Taking one more deep breath, Scarlet finally turned to look at the pony who had addressed her. It was a young unicorn stallion, no more than a first-year student at the academy. He had a beige-colored coat with a dark brown mane and tail, each one bound neatly in a ponytail. His orange eyes were wide open, glued onto hers. “Miss Scarlet, are you feeling well?”

She nodded, wiping an ice-colored hoof over her face. “Yes, I’m fine. My apologies. Did you need something, student?” she asked, affixing him with a stern look.

The student did not seem convinced by her statement but nevertheless chose not to question it. It wasn’t his place to do so, after all. Recognizing this, he drew himself up and cleared his throat. “Y-yes, I did. I’m doing a research report on The Fall, and I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me on the matter,” he explained, his voice hitching for just a moment as he began. “Seeing as you have been studying it rather intently yourself, as I’ve heard.”

“The Fall?” Scarlet echoed, raising an eyebrow in curiosity. “I suppose I can answer a few questions… Come with me.”

Confused, the student fell into step beside her as she strode past him for an ornate and well-polished wooden door.

The door took them into her place of work, the Swanrun Academy Library. The walls were, much like the rest of the academy, made up of smooth white stone, inlaid with various abstract patterns, most notably of a six-pointed starburst. Tall, translucent green windows lined the walls, letting in rays of pale light to illuminate everything.

Bookcases lined the walls, each one packed with thick tomes of all shapes, sizes, ages, and topics, while a large area in the center was devoted to various seating arrangements, where a few students could be seen with their muzzles buried in books. Far to the right side of the room, curving staircases made of a fine, dark-colored wood ascended to a second floor that stood suspended over the first, where yet more bookcases could be seen.

“What do you know of The Fall?” Scarlet suddenly inquired, moving for the stairs.

The student jumped at the sound of her voice and scrambled to keep up with her brisk pace. “I know that it is the period of history that marked the end of Old Equestria and that it happened many centuries ago,” he told her, his brow furrowing in thought. “But specific details are hard to come by.”

“Unsurprising. Archeologists and historians are still finding scraps and remnants from the Fall, much of which is mangled and destroyed beyond being helpful,” Scarlet recalled, humming quietly. They ascended the steps and came onto the second level. Her eyes became affixed to a specific section farther back, a few books already in mind. “What we do know was largely passed down by word of mouth, and the unreliable scribblings of scattered survivors.”

“I see… but, what exactly happened back then? Do we have any ideas whatsoever?”

“A few,” Scarlet nodded before turning down into one of the rows of shelves. “But again, most of what we know as fact is largely speculative. Only a few things are known for certain.”

“Such as?”

“I’m not here to pass your tests for you,” Scarlet shot back with a small smirk on her face. The student winced and shied back under her eyes, prompting her to give a good-natured chuckle. “But, I can tell you one thing…”

The student looked back up at her, still looking sheepish. “Y-yes? I’m listening…”

Scarlet’s smile faded as she pulled the knowledge up from the depths of her memory, and she was barely able to keep a bitter scowl from appearing on her face. “The collapse of Old Equestria, The Fall, was not an incident that happened just out of nowhere. No, Old Equestria fell into ruin because of a race known as the Changelings. They spread across our old home in a swarm of fire, blood, and death, and everything in their wake was rent and torn asunder.”

“Changelings… Where have I…” he mumbled, a hoof flying up to rub at his chin in thought. Suddenly, his eyes widened, and he peered into Scarlet’s eyes. “Oh… oh, by The Five, I am so sorry-”

“Stop,” Scarlet cut him off immediately, her eyes narrowing and her nostrils flaring. “Don’t say another word. I do not need to hear one more damned utterance of sympathy, and especially not from a student. Do I make myself clear?”

The student bowed his head and took a step back. “Y-yes, Miss Scarlet! Crystal,” he stammered.

She glared at him a moment longer before turning away with a huff of annoyance. Her agitation did not last long, however, as it was soon replaced with guilt. Scarlet heaved a sigh and shook her head before flashing him an apologetic glance. “...Forgive me. It was unkind of me to speak to you like that,” she said quietly before her horn sparked to life with purple magic. Three books lit up with an identical glow before floating through the air towards the student. “These books, when read in order from shortest to longest, are the most useful for gaining an understanding of The Fall.”

The student looked up at the books. Reluctantly, he took them in his own magical grasp, holding them close to his sides. “Very well. Er, thank you for your time, Miss Scarlet. I’ll take my leave,” he muttered before turning and trotting away, his hoofsteps echoing on the hardwood floor.

Scarlet watched him go, then turned to smack her forehead into the bookcase in front of her. “Stupid!” she chastised herself internally.

Oh, this was going to be a long day, she just knew it.

The sun was starting to get lower on the horizon, slowly turning a shade of yellow over the previous pristine white. Clouds were beginning to roll in, and Scarlet was able to recognize that a storm was on the way. She grimaced at the thought of walking home through rain and high winds and adjusted herself in her seat.

She was currently seated at a table next to one of the windows on the first floor of the library, a few books scattered before her. There were no other students currently in the library, the only other pony being the head librarian, who Scarlet could just hear faintly shuffling about somewhere among the shelves behind the counter.

She was about to return to reading the book in front of her when one of the library’s doors swung open with a heavy thunk and loud creak. A dark-colored pegasus stallion with a graying mane stepped inside. He adjusted his glasses and scanned the room before his eyes found her. “Scarlet Frost?”

She sat upright and nodded his way. “Yes? What do you need?”

The pony closed the door behind him and strode across the room until he was by her table. “Forgive me for interrupting your work, but Headmare Shine wishes to speak with you in her office.”

Scarlet raised an eyebrow, confused. “Did she say what for?” she asked, idly closing the book in front of her with her magic.

“Not to me, she didn’t,” the stallion replied, his brow furrowing. “But she asked that you not delay. I assume it must be somewhat serious.”

Scarlet sighed quietly and rose from her seat. “Very well, I’ll go see her,” she relented.

The stallion nodded. “Very well. Please follow me.”

He led her from the library and out into the halls of the Academy proper. The floor in the corridors was made up of dark blue carpets with that same starburst pattern repeating down the middle. Unlit torches sat in evenly-spaced wall sconces. Ornate busts of an alicorn with a straight mane were placed at intersections, and Scarlet couldn’t help but pause briefly to examine one of them.

The alicorn was a mare, her eyes closed and a serene smile on her face. The base of the bust resembled her wings, curving around her neck to shelter it before smoothly transitioning into the pedestal it rested on. A plaque rested just below that, in which the name of the alicorn had been inscribed.

“Twilight Sparkle, The Princess of Friendship, Goddess of Knowledge, Patron of Students, Teachers, and Mages.”

Scarlet didn’t linger long on the bust, and soon she was being ushered into the office of Headmare Star Shine.

Much like the library, the walls were white stone, while the floor was dark hardwood. Paintings and framed certificates sat on the walls in large quantities, each one either displaying a fond memory or one of the many qualifications that Star Shine head. Directly across from the opening, a large, circular stained glass window was set into the wall. It depicted the very same alicorn whose bust Scarlet had just been examining.

Her lavender wings were spread wide open as if in an invitation for all to take shelter, while a grand library stretched out behind her. Coiled protectively around her was a large dragon with purple scales and a green underbelly, emerald flames licking at the edges of his maw.

“Scarlet, there you are,” Star Shine’s voice drew Scarlet’s attention away from the window and to the center of the room. Shine was an elderly mare with a cream-colored coat and a mane and tail that had long since lost their color. She was seated behind her desk, her aging hooves pressed together on the surface her sky-blue eyes showing nothing but kindness. “Please, come in.”

Scarlet closed the door behind her and stepped forward, giving her superior a respectful nod. “Headmare Shine, you asked to see me?”

“I did, I did,” Shine nodded along, her smile never wavering. “How has your first day back to work been?”

“It’s been as well as I could expect,” Scarlet replied, her eyes wandering the room again. “I had a student come to me with questions about The Fall earlier, which I was not expecting. But, in all, I’m feeling better now that I have something to occupy my time with.”

Shine nodded again, her smile starting to become strained. “Yes, I heard about the student… word got back to me that you snapped at him when he went to give you his sympathies.”

Scarlet’s head snapped back to Shine, her eyes wide. “How did-?!” she went to demand before catching herself. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before continuing in a more respectful and level voice. “Ma’am, I assure you, I’m well enough to work.”

“Scarlet…” Shine spoke with nothing but doubt in her voice, her smile fading away. “I’m sure you think so, but I’m not so sure of that myself.”

“With all due respect, I do not need more time off, if that is what you are about to suggest,” Scarlet stated, barely able to hide her impatience. “I’ve had more than enough of that.”

“I understand,” Shine replied soothingly. She rose from her seat and slowly trotted around towards Scarlet with a warm smile. “But I also understand that after what you went through, three months may not be enough time.”

“I’m fine.

Shine studied her for a good long while. Scarlet was not able to maintain her stern expression under the kind old mare’s gaze and looked away with her ears drooping. That response seemed to be what Shine was looking for, as her smile grew. She placed a hoof on Scarlet’s shoulder to get her attention. “Well, maybe you are, Scarlet. But maybe you should go home early all the same.”

Scarlet blinked. “Ma’am?”

“You’ve been away for a few months, Scarlet, with little and less to fill your time with,”
Shine elaborated before gently pushing the mare for the door. “Coming back to a full day of work may not be the best thing for you right now. Go home early and relax, and we’ll see how you’re feeling when you come in tomorrow.”

Scarlet let herself be ushered out before turning back to Shine, about ready to object and request that she work as long as normal. However, the first look she suddenly received from the older mare cowed her into submission. Repressing a sigh, Scarlet gave a slow nod. “Very well, Shine. I will speak with you tomorrow.”

Star Shine beamed upon hearing that. “I look forward to it. Farewell!”

And with that, the door closed in Scarlet’s face, leaving her to her own devices.

Swanrun. Scarlet’s home.

Resting at the top of a sheer cliff along the western coastline of New Equestria, its buildings were made of smoothly-cut white stones harvested from the cliff-side. Meanwhile, down on the beach, the harbor was alive with activity. Sailors of all races meandered along the various waterside inns and taverns, talking loudly amongst themselves as they wrapped up their work for the evening.

In the core of the city stood the Pearl Keep, a towering castle that served as the city’s central bastion in the event of a siege. The landmark presided high over the rest of Swanrun, filling the inhabitants with comfort and a sense of security. Aiding this were the regular patrols of the city watch, keeping the peace.

It was all very familiar to Scarlet, which was why she chose to ignore most of it. She was currently standing on an overlook along the edge of the cliffs, gazing off to the west at the approaching storm clouds. She could faintly see a few flickers of lightning and electricity amid that looming darkness, and the rumble of thunder could just be heard from this distance.

A few foals went scampering by, happily yelling at one another and waving around toy swords in their ill-practiced magic auras. Scarlet couldn’t help but turn to look and watch them play their game of soldier.

“Haha, I got you now, evil griffin!” one of the foals, a colt, declared as he lightly smacked his playmate, a pegasus filly, over the head with his sword. “You’re dead, now!”

The filly played along, dramatically flopping over onto her back and thrusting her hooves towards the sky. “Noooo! Curse you, pony!” she cried out before both of them burst into fits of giggles.

Scarlet grimaced at the sight and looked away. She had half a mind to spin around and scold them for daring to misrepresent the war like that, to dare depict the griffins as villains when most of them were just like the ponies they were fighting. She held her tongue, though, and heaved a heavy sigh. “They weren’t there like I was,” she told herself in the privacy of her own mind. “Let them have their fun.”

The foals played for a few moments longer before the voice of their mother called out to them. Their game came to an end, and they went galloping away, leaving Scarlet alone on the overlook. She remained there for a short while longer before turning away and starting to trot down one of the many cobblestone roads for her home.

The light gradually grew dim as she meandered through the familiar streets, the sun ready to retire for the evening until it was time for the morning. Just as it was becoming difficult to see, however, the streets were suddenly bathed in purple light. Scarlet paused and glanced over at one of the sources, finding a metal lamp post that curved over the street with a bundle of blue crystals glowing on the end.

Scarlet tore her eyes away from the invention of Arcane Engineering and continued on her way. The clouds were starting to roll over the city when, at long last, she came to her home. It was a modest two-story building that shared the same architectural style as the rest of the city. Smooth, straight white stone walls, domed dark stone roof, simple glass windows fit into the sides.

Silently and begrudgingly thankful to be back home, Scarlet pushed open the door and slid inside just as the first drops of rain began to fall on the world. She lingered by the door for a moment before looking into the entrance of her home.

The front room was small and modest. Directly across from her was a flight of stairs that would lead to the bedrooms. To her left was a wooden door that would lead to her personal study, while to her right was an archway that led to her kitchen, pantry, and dining room. The floor was, in sharp contrast to the walls, made of wooden planks that creaked softly under her weight.

Scarlet stood there for some time, unsure of what to do. Normally, she’d still be at the academy, shelving books and answering the questions of curious students of history. But she had been told to come home early, all because her co-workers saw fit to extend excessive sympathy and concern towards her.

Stifling a groan, Scarlet turned and departed for her study. She could fill the time with a book or something, she imagined.

Hours passed, and the world outside faded into darkness. The rain had gotten heavier, now pummeling the windows with reckless abandon. The only light in the home of Scarlet Frost was, at present, a single candle on the desk of her study, allowing the seated unicorn to comfortably read the pages of her chosen book.

Time passed her by, the hours bleeding together. She briefly pondered descending into her cellar to get some wine to ease the time when a flash of light came in through the window. Curious, she glanced outside and began to count in her head.

“One… two… ”

The deafening boom of thunder interrupted her thoughts, briefly making her jump in her skin. She laughed at her own foolishness before returning her eyes to her book.

She didn’t get to keep reading, though, as something else suddenly drew her attention. A muffled squeak reached her ears from below the floor, followed by a loud crash. Immediately, Scarlet was on her hooves, her horn lighting up with magic. “What in the world…?” she asked herself, her eyes scanning the darkness beyond the light of her candle.

Silence was her answer, and an uneasy feeling began to crawl up her spine. Swallowing heavily, Scarlet pushed more power into her horn, creating a pale light on its tip. She made her way out of her study, ears perked up and listening carefully. The white noise of the rain only seemed to get louder, the only other sounds being Scarlet’s steadied breathing and her hooves gently scraping across the wooden floor.

The noise had come from below, she recalled, meaning it must have come from her cellar. With the uneasy feeling in her chest growing, and a healthy dose of curiosity rising to join it, she passed through her kitchen and dining room to slip into her pantry.

Once she was inside, she cast her light about for any signs of a disturbance. Nothing stood out to her right away. The shelves of non-perishable foodstuffs were utterly untouched from how she had left them, meaning that whatever had caused the crash had not come through here at any point.

Her eyes fell to the corner by the entrance, where an old trap door waited for her. She pried it open with her magic, grimacing internally at the deep creak given off by the aging wood and the metal hinges. A wave of stale air drifted up to meet her, swimming up into her nostrils and flooding them with the smell of wood, and perhaps, a little bit of mold.

She’d need to tidy up down there at some point, she decided.

Putting aside any thoughts of cleaning for the moment, and channeling a little more power into her light, Scarlet carefully descended the steps. The sound of the rain assaulting her home became almost inaudible, becoming little more than a low and ominous rumble in the depths of her ears. The steps creaked loudly in protest under her weight, accompanied by the quiet hum of her magic.

The cellar was less than pleasant to look at. But then again, she figured, it didn’t need to be. It was a small and cramped space with a low ceiling and an old wooden floor that creaked even worse than the boards upstairs. Along the walls, a few shelves with odds and ends that had no other place in the home could be seen. Below them, racks loaded with bottles of wine were neatly arranged. Kegs of ale hugged the corners where the racks were absent. A few rats scattered away from the glow of her magic, squeaking in panic and making her cringe. She’d need to deal with them when she cleaned up later.

But all of that was of little importance at the moment. Scarlet swept her eyes across the room, intensifying the light from her horn to illuminate everything.“Hello? Is anypony here?” She called out before scanning the room again, this time spotting the disturbance she had been looking for.

“Oh, for the love of... damn it…” she grumbled under her breath, dragging herself towards the wall, where one of the racks of wine had been dislodged to crash to the floor. Glass bottles had shattered on impact, their shards scattered far and wide, while the rich red liquid they had once contained spread out like a pool of discolored blood.

As she drew closer to the scene of carnage, though, something about it struck her as odd. With her muzzle scrunching up in confusion, she crouched down to get a better look. The oddity stood out like a sore thumb. Hoofprints made of wine were leading away from the massive wine stain, leading to the corner on the far end of the room before vanishing behind a collection of ale kegs.

Somepony else was down here. Scarlet scowled and rose to her full height, the light on her horn intensifying as she prepared a small assortment of combat spells. She stalked towards the kegs, her stance low.

“I know you’re there,” she announced in a loud, warning voice. She came to a stop a short distance away, glaring intently at where she knew the intruder was hiding. “Show yourself, right now.”

There was a long moment of silence, nothing answering her demand. Scarlet was about to impatiently tear the kegs aside with her magic when, finally, the intruder moved. They took it slow, clearly trying not to alarm her, limping out from behind the kegs with their head held low.

Scarlet could not maintain her glare. Her eyes flew wide open, and her jaw dropped at the sight of an earth pony filly, no more than nine or ten years old. Her unkempt teal coat was messy and smothered in a thick layer of dirt. She was doused in wine, to the point it was dripping off the right side of her coat and pattering softly against the floor. There were no cutie marks adorning her flanks.

Her purple mane and tail were both long and wild, hiding one side of her face from view with a curtain of knots and matted hair. Only one of her darker teal eyes peered back at Scarlet, shimmering with fear and dread. Her right forehoof was held up to her chest, and Scarlet’s heart fell into the pits of her stomach when she saw shards of glass stuck into the flesh there, drawing small rivers of blood out to join the wine.

She was speechless and mouthed uselessly like a fish for several moments. Finally, when at last she found her voice, all she could utter was a baffled and mortified “...What?”

“I was just trying to get out of the rain, miss,” the filly told her in a timid whisper, shrinking away from Scarlet’s shocked face. “The thunder scared me…”

Scarlet stared at this filly for a few more seconds before finally clamping her jaw shut. She stepped forwards, reasserting a firm look on her face. “What’s your name?” she asked cautiously.

The filly looked down and to the side, her mane hiding the entirety of her face from view. When she spoke again, there was barely any strength to her voice. “...Primrose.”

Author's Note:

7/23/2020: Scarlet now has a theme.