• Published 9th Jul 2019
  • 3,223 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.

  • ...


“Do you see them?” Primrose asked anxiously from somewhere behind Scarlet, her voice a low and nervous whisper. Scarlet didn’t answer immediately. She swept her eyes across the area ahead of them, ready to duck down at a moment’s notice.

The mare and filly were presently situated in a small cluster of trees and bushes that was nestled comfortably between a couple of rises in the terrain. Grassy hills rolled out before them for miles and miles, the city of Swanrun visible some distance to the north. A few pegasi could be seen in the sky, most moving in straight lines to and from the city, while a steady stream of foot traffic followed the main highway.

Eventually, Scarlet came to the conclusion that they were probably safe. Nightblades didn’t fly in such obvious patterns and all of the ponies she was seeing looked to be focused on travel rather than scouting. So she shook her head and turned back to Primrose. “I think we’re safe for now. Come on, let’s go. Keep your eyes peeled and be ready to run if I tell you to, got it?” she instructed before turning and hopping out of her cover.

Primrose followed after her, adjusting her saddlebags with a shaky nod. “Okay, Scarlet… where are we gonna go?” she asked timidly, cantering up to the mare’s side and falling into step next to her.

Scarlet hummed as they began walking, her eyes wandering to the east. “Well, our end goal is the city of Shimmervale. A friend of mine from the war, Sharp Lens, lives there, somewhere. He can tell us more about your lamp, I hope. Have you ever been there?”

Primrose shook her head. “Nuh-uh. I’ve heard about it, though. Isn’t it really beautiful?”

“Yes, it is. Or, so I’ve heard. I’ve never been there either. Not for lack of wanting to go, mind you,” Scarlet replied before turning away from the east and settling her gaze on the southern horizon. “But before we can go there, we’re going to need a few things for the road. Swanrun’s guards will be looking out for us, so we can’t go back to the city. The nearest settlement we can go to instead is Twinwood Canopy to the south. We’ll go there, get some supplies, and then be on our way.”

“What kinda supplies?”

“Camping gear is most important,” Scarlet stated without hesitation. “We don’t want to be caught asleep in the middle of a storm. Next up will be a dagger for you so you can defend yourself properly. Then we’ll need something to hide our faces from view so that we’re not so easy to spot. A simple travel cloak with a hood will suffice for you. Lastly, we’ll need waterskins so we can keep ourselves hydrated.”

Primrose nodded along before tilting her head. “But… what about food?”

Scarlet answered that question by immediately leaning down and taking a healthy chomp out of the grass at her hooves. It was stiff and fibrous and carried a very poor taste, relatively speaking, but her stomach offered no complaints when she swallowed. She then turned to Primrose with an expectant look. “We graze.”

The filly blanched, her eyes going wide and staring down at the grass in disgust. “We… eat grass? But… but it’s so yucky.”

“Trust me, military rations taste far worse,” Scarlet assured her before continuing on her way. “Grass is bland and boring, but it will stave off starvation and keep our strength up. Buying food for the road will cost bits, which we may need for more demanding situations.”

Primrose didn’t seem entirely convinced, but in the end, conceded the point. “Okay…”

The two fell into silence, the sound of their hooves brushing through the grass mingling with the wind as it swept across the plains. The distant calls of seagulls prowling the beach for any scraps they could snatch up echoed from afar. Scarlet kept her eyes focused ahead of them, periodically looking up at the sky and scanning the less-traveled path they were trotting parallel to. They would probably get situated on that later, once they were farther from the city and Silent’s Nightblades, but for now, they had to keep moving.

Suddenly, a loud noise pierced the air from the distance, originating from Swanrun. It was the high pitched blaring of a train horn, clearly audible even from this far away. Scarlet didn’t pay it any mind, but Primrose jumped and spun around to face the noise, her ears going flat. “Wh-what was that?!”

Scarlet rolled her eyes and used her magic to grab Primrose’s tail and pull her along. “It’s just the train horn. It’s nothing to worry about,” she assured.

The filly didn’t seem totally appeased by the explanation, though, taking up a position much closer to Scarlet as if for shelter. “What’s a ‘train’? Is it some kind of monster?” she asked, glancing fearfully over her shoulder.

Scarlet paused and glanced down at Primrose in abject bewilderment. “Hang on one second… are you serious? You don’t know what a train is?”

Primrose shook her head. “No… what is it?”

Scarlet’s brain took a moment to process this before she let out a quiet sigh and shook her head in exasperation. “Oh, dear… okay,” she stood upright and continued walking while launching into her explanation. “You know about Arcane Engineering at least, right?”

“Kinda,” Primrose nodded along, her muzzle scrunching up. “It’s this thing that some ponies do so they can make machines run, right?”

“You’re close,” Scarlet nodded along, going over what she knew of the practice in her head. “Arcane Engineering is a trade taken up by many of the brightest minds in the world, where machines and contraptions are designed to fulfill various functions and are powered by magic crystals - the same sort your lamp is made out of.”

Primrose nodded along, her muzzle scrunching as she took the information in. “Okay… what does that have to do with the train?”

“That train is one of the most impressive feats of Arcane Engineering to date,” Scarlet explained, gesturing over her shoulder. “The project was first started a little over two hundred years ago as an attempt to recreate a luxury that our ancestors enjoyed in Old Equestria before The Fall, over four hundred years ago. A means of getting from one side of Equestria to the other in a mere fraction of the time it would take to get there on hoof.”

Primrose’s eyes slowly widened in awe at the idea. “Wooaah… that’s amazing! Why aren’t we using the train to get to Shimmervale?”

Scarlet grimaced, her attention drifting to her saddlebags. “...Well, first of all, there’s our lack of money. The trains of New Equestria are very different from the ones they were modeled after. Maintaining the tracks and the trains, and ensuring that there are enough crystals to power them has made it borderline impossible for a common civilian to afford a trip on one. So, most of the time, they are reserved for important ponies or those living in the lap of luxury who can afford the price of admission. Secondly, they are all very heavily guarded due to how precious they are, and we’d be seen long before we could get on board.”

“Oh…” Primrose lowered her head, her ears drooping. Then, her eyes once again lit up with a question. “But… if they’re so expensive, how come ponies build them the way they do? Why not build them like the ones from Old Equestria?”

Scarlet sighed and shook her head. “If only it were so simple, Primrose. The vast majority of the tracks in Old Equestria were said to have been destroyed in the early days of the Fall when the changelings were tearing across the land. When the dust settled, and ponies were trying to re-assemble, there was very little left. Blueprints and schematics were burned in their libraries, construction sites were leveled, and most of the ponies who knew how to make such things were slaughtered in the fighting.

“Maybe something could have been salvaged by the survivors, but they were so busy squabbling amongst themselves just to survive that they trampled a lot themselves. And then the remains of Griffinstone swept in and formed Talonreach. They swept across the land, claiming territory and driving ponies out of their home. King Garius I, was an amazing conquerer, but he was an intellectual dullard. Anything and everything that they couldn’t use to build their new empire was scrapped and tossed aside, meaning much of the remaining wreckage we could have used as a foundation was broken down beyond use.“

Scarlet sighed to herself and shook her head in disappointment. “What little survived comes in the form of scribblings in the journals and notes of a few scattered groups of survivors. What little has been found in those texts was never enough to recreate what was lost, and the few pieces of scrap ponies have been able to scrounge up never tell us enough.”

Primrose was quiet for several seconds, her eyes wide. Eventually, she looked directly ahead. “I think I get it,” she said quietly.

Scarlet glanced down at her for a moment, her brow furrowing. In the end, she elected not to press the subject and instead focused her attention directly ahead. They fell into silence after that, neither one speaking as they made their way to the south. Scarlet busied herself with doing some basic math in her head, determining that getting to Twinwood Canopy would take about two or three days of travel, assuming nothing interrupted them on the way.

She was in the middle of figuring out the best route to Shimmervale from there when Primrose spoke up again. “You know a lot of things, don’t you?” she asked, her voice regaining some of its earlier energy.

Scarlet nodded. “I suppose you could say that, yes. I’ve been studying history ever since I came home from the war.”

“You fought in the war?”

Scarlet faltered for a second, then nodded. “I… yes, I did. I was an artillery battlemage. I’ve mentioned it a few times, have I not?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

Primrose withered under the unicorn’s tone and shifted away a few paces. “Y-yes, you have, but I was too scared to ask at the time…” she mumbled, her ears drooping.

Scarlet sighed and shook her head. “Understandable. Yes, I fought in the war against Talonreach. Unlike so many who were conscripted, I joined up of my own free will,” she explained, a distant look coming over her. “I was such a fool, back then. I had this romanticized vision about war and battle, and I looked up to some of the most renowned war heroes in history. I wanted to be one, myself. I thought that it was somehow honorable, that it was something to be proud of…”

Primrose said nothing, her eyes unable to look at Scarlet as she went on.

The unicorn shook her head and sighed. “Well… on the day of my first battle, I saw ponies I had trained with, mares and stallions I thought of as my friends being gutted and burned alive. I saw an entire squad of ponies plucked from the fields and dropped from the sky, liquifying when they hit the ground at terminal velocity. I…” her ears flattened, her lips drawing into a thin line. “...I killed my first Griffin, that day. I saw him bleeding out in front of me, his throat slit, his eyes wide and so full of fear… he couldn’t have been older than sixteen. No older than me…”

The image appeared before her eyes, and her pace slowed for a moment. “...I may have survived that day, but… my dream did not.”

“Scarlet… please, stop…” Primrose muttered from the side, her head low, and her entire body sagging. “Stop talking about it.”

Scarlet started, only then realizing that she was letting herself get absorbed in her memories. She blinked a few times and then realized that tears were forming in her eyes. Moving fast, she wiped the back of her hoof across her face and took a deep breath. “...I’m sorry. The memories are just… vivid.”

“I can tell...”

The two of them fell silent after that, continuing on their way. In the distance behind them, the city of Swanrun became smaller and smaller, until at last, it vanished from view amidst the trees and hills of the western New Equestria coastline.