• Published 11th Apr 2022
  • 1,051 Views, 128 Comments

Frostpony - The Original Gaston

  • ...

Chapter 1 - Rainbow Dash

Chug. Chug. Chug.

Progress over the arctic ice was slow.

Chug. Chug. Chug.

The Steam Lorry was an impressive piece of machinery, powered by the arcane technology of the Steam Core, and fueled by a boiling heart of coal-heated steam.

Chug. Chug. Chug.

But with all of its might, it could only move at a lumbering 4 miles an hour.

Chug. Chug. Chug.

Unlike the trains Rainbow used to take back before the Frost descended, the Steam Lorry had to displace its weight across lengthy, wide treads as to not just carve furrows into the ice and snow and become stranded.

Chug. Chug. Chug.

And said treads were so wide and long, that the massive wheels required to turn them required an amount of horsepower that was unreasonable to demand of even the most massive boiler.

Chug. Chug. Chug.

And thus, the Steam Lorry lumbered along at its low, low speed.

Rainbow sighed, tiredly giving a flap of her wings as another gust came in from the easterly front she could sense in the distance, turning away from the massive steam lorry as it carved its way through the snowdrifts. She supposed the lumbering machine did grant some advantages. At the very least, she wasn't also focusing on keeping up with the locomotive as well as struggling against the prevailing winds.

Even with her proud pegasus heritage, made to withstand the freezing temperatures of the stratosphere, Rainbow nudged her woolen collar a bit further up her neck towards her muzzle. The wind blew again, disturbing the thick hood that obscured her rainbow mane and draped slightly over the wide goggles that protected her eyes from the freezing air. She flew forward a bit, leading the procession of the ten or so other pegasi that flew in an arrow formation in front of the Lorry. As she flew ahead, she dragged a long, thin wooden pole through the snow.

Behind her and the other pegasi, long furrows made by the poles were made in the snow in front of the Steam Lorry's steel hull. They probed for unstable ground, specifically for crevasses, the icy openings that, if not detected beneath a thin blanket of frozen snow, could bring the Steam Lorry to a sudden, catastrophic stop with its front end crashed into a gap in the ice.

It had happened before. Lorry 5, the one that used to lead the convoy, fell prey to a gap in the polar ice. No matter how hard the earth ponies tugged, there was no recovering the giant wreck. The passengers... no, the survivors aboard had to be painstakingly rescued over an entire week of a complete standstill, and now crowded the already cramped quarters aboard the lorries they had left.

Yes, the ones they had left. Out of the 8 they started with, only 4 now remained in the lumbering line of survivors that carved its way across the endless Frostlands.

Lorry 3, capsized when it accidentally drove up the steep side of a hill, and its weight brought it rolling down a slope where it crashed, killing almost all of its passengers.

Lorry 8, destroyed when its engineers overloaded its boiler while trying to keep up with the convoy during a storm. We could see its remains in the distance, with its boiler blown completely open and only its heating rods left, splayed out like tentacles forever reaching out for its next trolley full of souls to claim. We moved on, knowing the superheated steam within scalded all of its passengers and crew to death.

Finally, Lorry 1, simply stalled during a mountainside climb. Even with all of its engineer's coaxing and begging, it could not be restarted. While its survivors crowded the remaining lorries, the supplies it was towing did not.

Rainbow was brought from her musings by a shout from one of the scouts to her right. His probe had plunged right through the snow. Already, many of the other scouts went to check it out as one of them flew a red flag, signaling to the pilot of the lorry to put on the brakes.

As expected, the Lorry 4, the new leader of the convoy, came to a slow, screeching stop as its rhythmic chugging came to an end. Following the leader's example, the three other vehicles also chugged to a halt right behind it, steam hissing out of their releases and quickly being carried away by the wind.

Sighing, Rainbow already knew what to do. She began to fly forward, sweeping her pole left and right in front of her, searching to see if the crevasse the others had detected extended all the way to her. Despite her temptation to land and walk, giving her wings a rest after an entire day of hovering, she knew that she could easily walk forward and accidentally disturb a snow shelf, casting her down into a dark pit that she might not be able to just fly out of.

The sun was beginning to fall in the distance, the incredibly long arctic night beginning soon. On Rainbow's chest, a bright lamp shone with arcane fury, lighting her way as she continued to probe her way outwards away from the steam lorry convoy, which in the last light of day she could still see was parked idly in front of the crevasse they had detected earlier.

Now that the scouting party had discovered what they assumed to be a large canyon between two major ice sheets, they now had to sweep outwards to find the nearest place where the crevasse ended or, at the very least, the nearest solid bridge over the ice that wouldn't just give way underneath the tremendous weight of the Lorries. Then, once they found that, the Lorries would begin the painful process of lumbering their way over to that area, cross the canyon, and then steam back towards their original course.

Rainbow's pole followed the crack in the ice, which at this point was so wide that the snow did not fully cover its cavernous maw. At this point, the cold had bit down so far into her fur that all four of her legs were numb. She feared the one that curled around the handle of her stick might be literally frozen solid around its knotted top.

She stopped for a moment, switching the pole around in her hooves, and experimentally flexed the one that had been dragging through the snow up to now. She honestly couldn't tell if the leg was frostbitten, or if it was so sore from the exertion of ploughing snow all day that it was immobile. She did her best to move the limp leg deep inside her coat, keeping it close to her warm chest so that it could try and warm up, and continued probing the snow with her other foreleg.

Night truly fell soon after. There were no stars out that night, most likely all blotted out by clouds as the wind picked up, and snowflakes blustered in front of the light of her lamp. How long had Rainbow been probing the ever-widening canyon? 3 hours? 4? 5? 8? Rainbow honestly couldn't remember. Many times she wanted to simply sit down and rest, but every time she thought back to the families packed into the Steam Lorries, and kept going.

It was up to her and the other Scouts to get the convoy to its destination before it was too late, and she wasn't going to let them down any time soon. Besides, for as much as she was suffering, the other Scouts were too. She was a star flyer before the Frost, the very best in the world. If she was tired, how tired must the other pegasi be, with their inglorious careers of weather control and sky mail delivery.

Her ear twitched.

Was that a sound in the distance, peaking over the sound of the howling wind?

Rainbow blinked, before raising up the foreleg carrying the pole and wiping her goggles clean of snowflakes, before putting it straight back down into the snow to continue searching for the cavern's end. It was most likely nothing. It wasn't the first time she thought she heard an oddity in the endless grim ambience of the Frostlands.

Between gusts of wind, she continued hearing the noise. She continued to think nothing of it, her thoughts blank to keep the exhaustion out, with only the furrow in the snow beside the canyon in her mind.

Thoughts came flooding back in, however, as a strong hoof gripped her shoulder and shook her about midair.

"Miss Dash! Are you okay? Can you hear me?"

Dash's pole came out from the snow with a "pop" as she gasped and turned around. Before her was Summer Winds, a scout she recognized from the second shift.

He looked her over, before tapping her cheek a little bit with a forehoof. A wooden stick, much alike the one Dash was currently gripping, was strapped to his back as well, "Can you talk to me? I thought for sure you had gotten yourself killed!"

"I-" Words came slowly to Dash as she brought out her right foreleg, which had been tucked in her coat for hours now, and wiped her goggles clean again, "Yeah.. I'm okay."

"...Well thank Celestia. The other scouts have already been dismissed for the night, and we found you much farther down the line than them. So far ahead in fact I almost stopped looking for you before I found your furrow still dug into the snow," He pointed to the long line in the snow left behind Dash.

Rainbow only swallowed, lost for words, before looking behind the pegasus stallion. Without her even noticing, the Convoy had dissappeared in the darkness behind her.

Behind his own set of goggles, Summer Winds just blinked, before shaking his head, "Come on, Dash. Get on your way back to the convoy. They're probably worrying about you. And get warmed up. I could swear by touching you, you're already as cold as a corpse!" He pushed Dash back down the trail towards the convoy to accentuate his point.

Rainbow looked behind her, a weak "thank you" halfway up her throat. However, she couldn't find the energy to say it as Summer Wind stuck his own stick into the trail she left behind, and continued her work. Wordlessly, Rainbow made her way back home to the convoy.

The hulking steel hulls of the Steam Lorries towered over Rainbow as she finally landed, her cramped wings simply hanging to her sides, splayed out. She tossed her pole on a pile of others laid down by the scouts on her shift several hours before, before heading towards the large hatch that laid open, providing a ramp up into the interior of the steam lorry.

She squeaked open the bulkhead that separated the loading ramp from the interior of the Lorry, letting in a blast of wind that caused the ponies on the immediate other side to grunt in anger and annoyance.

Rainbow muttered a short apology as she closed the bulkhead behind her. Ponies of all ages, tribe, and color crowded the corridors of the lorry. Many of them were still wrapped up in heavy cloaks, even though the interior of the lorry was heated it was not enough to keep most of the ponies here comfortable.

After the accidents with the other lorries, the quarters that were already tight with passengers became completely full. Many survivors needed to crowd into the hallways, huddled in corners, and sleeping on either side of the walkways, on top of the cold steel grates that floored the entirety of the Steam Lorry. Dim lanterns were hung from the ceiling, giving Rainbow barely enough illumination to step over the stray legs, tails, and even entire bodies of ponies sleeping on the floors of the hallway as she made her way to her quarters.

She passed by the diminutive Mess Hall of the steam lorry, which was long closed, the food rations packed away. Rainbow's stomach rumbled as she glanced into the hall, but she simply swallowed the regret of staying out too late and missing dinnertime and carried on. She just had to hope that the cook would be kind enough to give her a ration come the morning, even though said rations would be specifically for the night crew coming in to rest.

After mumbling her fifteenth "Sorry" as she accidentally brushed the muzzle of some sleeping elderly pony, Rainbow ducked down under the doorframe of her bunk room. Either out of special privilege, or to simply allow the scouts to rest more so they could work more out in the Frostland, Rainbow was part of the few given an actual bunk rather than being on the floor.

She sighed, however, as she saw that somepony was already in her bunk. Most likely some random pony who had been opportunistic enough to snatch up the empty bunk when its rightful owner didn't show up in time. She approached it, eyes studying the pony under the sheet.

Wait... was that...?

"SURPRISE!!!" Shouted a pink blur as it erupted from the sheets.

The entire room erupted into moans and groans at the sudden noise, but Pinkie Pie cared not as she latched onto Rainbow Dash's frame, giving a long "Squeeeeeeeee" as she snuggled the tired, cyan scout pegasus.

Rainbow sighed, before returning the embrace properly, "Hey Pinkie, how you doing..."

Pinkie finally quieted down slightly, bringing her voice to a whisper, "I'm okay. Just waited up to give you this," Pinkie reached around, digging in her coat pocket for a small satchel. She handed it to Rainbow, before finally releasing her embrace and falling down to the floor with a clang, causing another painful groan from a nearby sleeping body.

Rainbow took it, opening it to find a set of biscuits and a slice of bread. She looked up, tears welling in her eyes, and gave Pinkie another hug.

"My Pinkie senses told me you were going hungry, so once I was done cooking on Lorry 4 I grabbed some rations and came over here. Except Rarity said that you weren't here yet, and it was about to be bedtime so I decided to keep your bunk warm for you!" Pinkie patted Rainbow on the shoulder, before once again disengaging from the hug.

Quietly, Rainbow stepped over another sleeping form to shuffle onto her bunk, taking out a biscuit from the satchel and stuffing it in her salivating mouth.

"...I... I just don't know how to thank you, Pinkie," Rainbow said between crunches.

"Don't!" Pinkie answered simply, "Just be happy! You, Rarity, Applejack... you've all been so sad recently," Pinkie sighed, "And... I know we've all lost a whole lot, but whatever we do, we can't lose our smiles."

"You're right as usual," Rainbow pulled out the slice of bread from the ration bag. It was stale, and only tasted worse and worse the more she chewed it, but it was food.

Pinkie sat down on the floor, tail brushing a snoozing muzzle, causing its owner to sneeze shortly after. Shushing passed through the room, and Pinkie glanced nervously around until the cabin was at rest once again.

"...Sooooooo..." Pinkie continued to whisper to Rainbow, "How's the scouting stuff going?"

Dash sighed, "Another gap in the ice sheet. We're looking for a place to cross still."

"Well, we'll find it eventually. Then we'll get safely to the Generator, and we'll finally be able to walk around without these, big, goofy coats!" Pinkie adjusted the oversized sleeves around her forelegs with frustration.

"...You remember when I called Twilight crazy for going all the way up north to build those things?" Rainbow finished scarfing down the last contents of her ration, before tossing the bag towards Pinkie and lying down on her bunk.

Pinkie fell silent, her bright blue eyes staring at Rainbow, "...No."

Rainbow winced, before quickly apologizing, "Sorry- sorry, Pinkie I... I shouldn't have-"

"It's okay," Pinkie cringed away from Rainbow, "I'm sure... I'm sure she's alright."

Rainbow nodded slowly, "Yeah. Yeah she is. She's smart. She's out there somewhere. And when this is all over, we'll see her again."

Pinkie managed a faint smile, before nodding.

"You should probably get back to your lorry. I'm sure the night scouts will miss your biscuits if you're not over there by the morning," Rainbow smiled.

Pinkie slowly got up, "Yeah. Goodnight Dashie, sweet dreams!"

Rainbow nodded in response, "Same to you."

Drawing the covers as far up as she could, Rainbow huddled down underneath her bunks in relative warmth and comfort, drifting to sleep in a matter of seconds.

Rainbow was awoken by a loud whistle, and the sudden rumbling of the compartment as her center of gravity shifted in bed. Her muscles ached, her legs hardly wanted to move to prop herself up out of bed. Voices echoed from the hall, and the lanterns hung on the ceiling swayed heavily from side to side.

Rainbow could only assume the lorry had begun moving, which she supposed was great, considering that meant the night scouts had finally found a way around the canyon that had blocked their progress for an entire day now.

Getting up, Rainbow checked herself over. None of her limbs had fallen off during the night, even her right forehoof was full of life once again. She had slept in her full winter coat, and the fur boots covering her legs had nearly slipped off during her tossing and turning, but they were still hanging on.

The ponies littering the floor had finally gotten up. Some were still in the bunkroom, crowding the corners and muttering among each other. She ignored them as she finally rolled over onto her hooves, walking away from her bunk out into the rumbling corridor.

Resecuring her hood, Rainbow reached out for the bulkhead to the outside, undoing the seal before dragging it open on its stiff hinges. Rainbow was braced for a blast of wind from the outside, but the absolute gale that washed in from the outer deck actually flung Rainbow into the air.

Dash's skull painfully thunked along the steel ceiling of the airlock, causing her to shout in pain before she fell to the ground with a smack. Grunting and groaning, Rainbow slowly got back up despite the wind blasting through the bulkhead, before walking through.

Her hood was blown open, and her mane blew free in the wind. An absolute whiteout surrounded the lorry on both sides, with the only shelter being this deck where wind blew in snowflakes from the open sides to her left and right. Rainbow hurriedly closed the bulkhead behind her, preserving the heat within the lorry. A few ponies made their way hurriedly across the outside deck, making their way to the ladders leading up to other sections, most likely to tie down loose supplies and maintain the steam machinery.

Rainbow's eyes searched for a specific pony among the crowd, and soon her form was visible through the flakes. A pony with a coat as white as snow, wearing a distinguished, high class fur coat that had been mended and repaired countless times after being dragged across the Frostlands since the journey's start.

"Rarity!!" Rainbow shouted over the howling wind, stumbling over to Rarity as she struggled to keep her hood over her head.

Rarity looked away from another pony she was talking to, before raising up her clipboard in her telekinesis to try and shield her face and mane from the wind, "Rainbow Dash! You're awake! That eastern front you were talking about yesterday took a sharp turn and overtook us. The night shift barely managed to find an ice bridge across the canyon during the whiteout! We're underway now but we need you and the rest of the day scouts to relieve them so we can move forward!"

"Right! I'm on it!" Rainbow shouted, fixing her goggles over her eyes.

"Most of your comrades are up by Lorry Four! Get going! Good luck!" Rarity waved her clipboard in the general direction of the front of the lorry, before turning away to deal with the rest of her no doubt numerous problems.

Rainbow Dash checked her gear again, before grabbing a pole from the wood stack sitting on the deck. She knew not where the original one she had before was taken since she left it outside the lorry, but she cared not.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a group of pegasus ponies carrying somepony. They lowered him onto the deck, before screaming out for help. She watched as a group of ponies pried the goggles from his face, showing the familiar visage of a sunny orange night scout, with a cold dead stare, and eyeballs frozen over by a thin layer of ice.

Swallowing her fear, Rainbow Dash took off into the snow, and didn't look back.

It was too windy to risk hovering in front of the convoy, lest the scouts simply tire themselves out struggling against the storm. Rainbow, like the other scouts, opted to trudge through the snow on the ground, probing the snow ahead of them with their pikes. To their left, red flags marked out the edge of the canyon for the steam lorries. Through the whiteout of the storm, Rainbow could barely see shifting, grey shapes of the convoy behind her.

Knee-high in snow, Rainbow kept pushing on through the storm the best she could. The already weak arctic sun was even dimmer through the clouds and the snowflakes, making it an almost eternal dusk. Her Lamp still guided her way forward, its orange light illuminating the flakes in front of her as they hurtled towards the ground.

Suddenly, a bright, red light flashed behind them. She immediately came to a stop with a sigh half consisting of relief, half consisting of concern. She turned towards the Convoy as it flashed its red light. In its pattern, it meant that the Convoy had stopped, and the scouts should stop as well.

She saw one of the other scouts break formation and fly over to her, landing again once she was close enough to walk to not risk getting blown away.

"Dash!" Blossomforth shouted at her over the wind.

"Why's the convoy stopped?" Rainbow shouted back, pulling up the cloth that covered her face to fit better.

"I dunno! Somepony should go back and ask! You're the strongest flier here, so..." Blossomforth came close enough so that she didn't need to shout herself hoarse to be heard.

Rainbow looked back at the convoy as it stopped flashing its light. The grey shapes in the distance did not grow any closer, feeding her growing fear, "It better damn not be another breakdown! We can't afford to stop. Not now..."

Rainbow handed her stick to Blossomforth, who held it by her side and nodded, "Yeah. Celestia-damned better!"

Dash took to the air. The wind was blasting towards the convoy, so she turned against it and slowed her flight with flaps of her wings in the opposite direction, keeping her flight path steady until she came to the upper deck of Lorry Four.

Walking across the wooden decking of the lorry, she peered up to the smokestack that crowned the vehicle. A clear plume of black smog bellowed from the top of the stack, showing that the boiler was still working. Why wasn't the lorry moving, then...?

Concerned, she walked over to a hatch in the ground, knocking on the window with a hoof.


Impatiently, she knocked again, only to step back a little in shock as the locking wheel began to turn, and the hatch was pushed open by a haggard-looking unicorn in a light coat.

"What's going on in there? Why've we stopped?" Rainbow yelled at the engineer.

The engineer looked down as somepony shouted at him from below, before looking back up towards Rainbow, "We think the sodding steam core has seized up! The engine isn't producing enough horsepower to turn the drive shaft!"

"Have you told the Captain!?" Rainbow asked.

"Yeah! Now buck off, we gotta sort this out!" The engineer yelled at Rainbow, before motioning her away from the hatch as he pulled it closed.

Rainbow turned around, before idly walking towards the railing of the deck. She looked down at the treads far below her, resting idle in the snow. She could see small puddles forming around them, signs of the heat of the boiler radiating off of the hull of the lorry. Wiping the frost off of her goggles, Rainbow steeled herself once again, before flying back to the scout group.

The storm only seemed to pick up more and more, and as Rainbow finally struggled towards a landing, she saw a small campfire lit in a pit in the snow, where the rest of the scouts were gathered around, trying to keep the frostbite away. Rainbow trudged over to them, feeling half frostbitten herself.

Blossomforth waved her over from the fire side as the fire flickered fearfully under the assault of the polar winds.

Finally, coming to rest beside the pitiful fire made out of tinder packed in each scout's napsack, Rainbow breathed a sigh of relief, shaking off her snow covered hooves to warm them by the fire.

"What's the situation?" Thunderlane asked with an almost jolly tone, pulling his hood farther down over his head as he looked to his old acquaintance.

Rainbow sighed, "Seems like Lorry Four broke down."

"Again!?" "Seriously?" "Celestia damnit!" were the responses muttered between the gathered pegasi.

"Let's hope they can fix it this time," Blossomforth sighed, stretching out a wing to hopefully shield the fire from some of the storm's onslaught.

"Doesn't sound like it," Rainbow said gloomily, "It's the steam core that's seizing up. I'm no egghead, but I know enough to know that that's like... a really, really important part of the lorry.

"If the convoy isn't gonna move for now, why do we have to sit in this Celestia-damned freezing cold?" Cloud Chaser hissed, rubbing his forelegs together in a vain attempt to bring warmth back into them.

"We gotta stay out until they signal us back," Rainbow mumbled, looking towards the place where she could've barely seen the convoy before, if the storm had not picked up and completely blotted it out by now.

"Buck this," Cloud Chaser grumbled, deciding to curl his forelegs beneath his coat for now.

Naught but an hour later, a light pierced the darkness of the setting sun. Five yellow flashes, causing the scout team to look up.

So far, they had been exercising by walking in circles around their dying fire, lest they become too idle and succumb to the hypothermia. Now, though, even though they hoped to see the light signal for them to come back to the warmth of the convoy, they only saw the yellow flashes signalling that the convoy would begin moving again soon.

Fortunately for them, though, the absolute whiteout of the storm had begun to fade, and now only the wind and bitter cold remained. They could now barely see the lights of the convoy stretching out besides the red flags marking the edge of the canyon.

Shortly after the yellow flashing stopped, a single, prolonged green flash illuminated the gathered scouts.

Rainbow sighed, picking up her pole and turning away from the convoy, "Well. I guess I'll see you all later. Try not to freeze out there."

The rest of the scouts gave her and each other a short wave, before endeavoring out into the cold to return to their formations.

Rainbow plunged her pole into the ground once again, searching once again for hazards. However, the ground began to shake. Rainbow could hear ice crackling and snapping beneath her, and she instinctively took flight as the ground shifted. The ground beneath her began to cave in, snapping and fracturing, sending snow flying up towards her.

Panicked, Rainbow lost control of her flight, but managed to steer herself towards a snowdrift on stable ground before crashing. Pulling herself from the powder, Rainbow's heart thundered as she watched an entire shelf of ice give way in front of her, plummeting down into an endless abyss below.

Instinctively, Rainbow reached for her Lamp, turning it to a bright red color and holding it above her head as she looked towards the convoy to signal the pilots to bring the lorries to an emergency stop.

To her horror, though, she saw the caved in ice shelf was not just isolated to her and the scout team. It stretched all the way back to the convoy, where she saw Lorry Four tip to its side, before it plummeted down the cave in, as the rest of the convoy teetered on the edge...