Six years ago, an unimaginable horror known as Tirek came to Equestria. His power was nigh impossible, requiring the Elements, the Lovers and the Alicorns all to pour their very souls into holding him. In their absence, Prince Blueblood took the crown. But, Blueblood's reign is simply a mask for the Guard's dictatorship, while rebels cling to the idea of a free republic and strange cults tout the value of freedom from any governance. With all this, why would anypony spare a thought for the comet that filled the night sky for weeks before falling?
Weather: Cloudy Season: Spring Who's in power right now? Traditionalists Meteor Collected: 0%
As the night waned on, another light filled the skies above Appleoosa and Dodge Junction, flying across the heavens and crashing into a remote part of the San Palomino Desert. This one went mostly unnoticed by the population of the two cities, and as such it was going to be a long, hard trek for anyone to find the stone, should they want to. However, in a stroke of luck, this one had remained safely out of notice, meaning that everyone had equal opportunity to try and take posession of it.
Canterlot was positively crawling with guards. Things had become entirely, disasterously dangerous for anyone to so much as imagine stepping a hoof out of line. It was enough to make POlitical Swagger swoon. He had an excellent reputation in the court, a great charmer, but none could deny that he and other new blood nobles like him were under alarming scrutiny since that thing had nearly demolished the castle eight hours previous.
So it was that Swagger was on the first train out to Dodge county.
Besides, while most of Canterlot has been busy sleeping, then panicking, he had been all too awake, staring out at the sky when it occurred, from his south facing window where he could almost imagine seeing Dodge from time to time, when the light was kindest.
In this particular case, the light was kind indeed, for he had seen what no other Canterlotian seemed to have noticed. And if the rumours of the unicorns were true, it was an impossibly golden opportunity.
But if he was going to go on a hard-headed quest into the scorching Palomino desert, then he would been help. A very particular kind of help. Pegasus help. Somepony that could carry great masses of water without feeling any weight at all.
Fortunately, Swagger knew just the colt for the job.
His hoof pounded on Solar Chaser's front door once more, in the early dusk of what had been a long day of train travel, saddlebags settled across his broad back, containing primarily dried alfalfa cubes and hoof socks for when the sand got particularly unbearable.
"Solar! I need to speak with you, my dear colt, I have the grandest of business opportunities to propose!"
Having just finished cleaning up the farm house, Solar smiled as he saw the sun had just recently set. He had been too busy earlier to focus on the stone that had fallen through the sky. However, he was just thinking about going to investigate the direction where the meteor had fallen- luckily somepony was knocking on his door. Before he could ask who was knocking, a familiar voice called, perking up the pegasus's ears. "Hey, Swagger!" he called with a smile, opening the door, only to get smacked on the head by his hoof by mistake.
Solar rubbed his head as he chuckled, shrugging off the accidental strike as he looked at his friend. "What is it? Some more fancy-talk?" he joked at Swagger trying to handle this like a careful debate. A business opportunity didn't sound like much, but what he could ascertain was that the noble-colt needed help- and as a friend he'd do what he could to assist. "Sounds like you are needing some help?" he asked, hoping his guess was correct before smiling. "No worries, if you need an extra pair of hooves, I'm your colt." he chuckled.
The clonk of skull beneath hoof made Swagger recoil slightly, flinching rather noticeably. But he recovered quickly, wide eyed grin in place. Agreement had come so wonderfully quickly. Truly Solar Chaser would prove a luxury at this rate, willing to help and assist in all manner of things without getting wound up over titles and etiquette. It was equal parts reassuring and revitalizing.
"Excellent, excellent!" Swagger returned jovially. "I had hoped I could count on you! So tell me," He leaned in close, conspiratorilly, though it was of course entirely unnecessary. There was nopony physically present for some miles, and if somepony was scrying, well whispering would hardly impede them. All the same, though. "Did you see the comet? Not over the last month or so, no, but last night. Did you see it fall?"
Maintaining the smile on his face, Solar listened as Swagger confirmed that his guess was correct and was glad he was able to help. Swagger then asked, in an odd conspirator's whisper, if he had seen the comet that fell last night. "You mean the shooting star?" he asked, although he was referring to the same exact thing.
"I saw just as I woke up from a nap, with awesome timing too." he started, soon rubbing the back of his head. "I had an idea for a wish fresh in my head- so I took the chance to make a wish on it just before it fell." he added, sounding more like a child than a farm-pony. It was true though, he did make a wish on the 'shooting star', he knew what was going on for the most part and didn't like it- he had made a wish for things to return like they were before Celestia, Luna, and the elements left.
"The very one!" Swagger interjected, before Solar explained the context of his viewing. A wish. It was utterly precious, and it cut through Swagger's excitement like a hot knife. This could be a terrible idea. Solar was so very young. Perhaps he hadn't thought this through properly. But with his main residences being Canterlot and Dodge, and no truly trustworthy associates in either, Solar was the only Pegasus Swagger could think of to actually embroil in this whole event without it backfiring powerfully. None of his guilt showed on his face, of course, as he nodded along with the little tale.
"Well then, I am most certain it will come true soon enough!" He declared with the sort of superior tone that he usually used for ordering around a clumsy assistant. He could order around fate if he liked, after all, and it would make no difference whatsoever.
"I don't suppose you've got any idea where it might have landed beyond a general direction? I've packed food for a fortnight, but the length of our explorations must be determined primarily by how much water you can keep aloft at a time."
As Swagger had decided to humor him, the pegasus couldn't help but flap his wings in his enthusiasm. This stopped, however, once Swagger had explained about the amount of food he packed. They were going to travel? Solar hesitated as he thought about this- he had never thought about leaving the farm like this. Sure, going to sell excess crops for some bits was one thing, but just going on a whim like this? He wasn't sure if he wanted to do such a thing but, NO!
He had to help Swagger out, he had to help his only friend, otherwise the pegasus wouldn't be able to be a good friend to the noble-colt. "I heard the crash, if that's what you mean. At my fastest I'd say about half a day, a day and a half tops." he replied, although that itself was a vague answer. He himself was a fast pegasus when he really got into it, and that wasn't taking into account possible obstacles- it was a bee-line estimate. "But I am going to guess it might take a week's worth of traveling since we'd be heading up there onto the plateaus." he added with a more specific answer, pointing towards the direction of the crash-site, where the cliffs and plateaus were providing either a bed for the meteorite or a barrier.
"As for water...depends on how I carry it, really. I got a bunch of the stuff locked in the cellar 'ncase anything happened." he replied, gesturing the gentlecolt to follow him as he went over to the cellar door just around the house before opening it, turning on the light as he went down to show the water his family had kept in store since the farm started. It was like a water-bank in their eyes, they'd use water for crops and drinking water, whatever wasn't used would be saved.
"I've been meaning to ask, what's got you interested in this shooting star? Did you make a wish too?" he asked, just now realizing that Swagger must have had a reason for searching for it.
"Only a week, eh?" Swagger returned, obviously pleased by that development if the bounce in his step was any measure. "That's much better than I was expecting."
Swagger was not an astronomer, he had no idea how to calculate angles and fall rates and whatever else was involved. But if it has been near enough to have been heard, then that was a good sign indeed.
"I imagine you would want to carry it in a cloud, of course." He replied rather flippantly. "Weightless water really is the way to go with these things. Though I suppose making the cloud itself might be a bit of an involvement."
Swagger followed the younger stallion to the water cellar, already coming up with the basics of a plan. It would probably take a day or so to vaporize enough water to create a cloud that would suffice for a week, and Swagger himself could probably carry a few more gallons in his bags. What was earth pony strength for, if not carrying things over long distances.
As for why he wanted the comet... Well, honesty would suffice as a policy in this case, albeit selectively. "There's a great rush in Canterlot to find all the pieces. Apparently, the unicorns can sense an enchantment on the ore, and the magic can only have come from an alicorn. Somehow, it seems that one of our princesses has managed to send a message."
The sunny pegasus blinked when the earth pony suggested they carry a weightless cloud, but couldn't help but smirk once Swagger had mentioned it'd be tougher to create the cloud. He didn't know that they could carry clouds, but vaporizing water would be much easier than the gentlecolt was giving credit for. "Making a cloud....all we have to do is heat up water, right?" he asked, waiting for a response before chuckling. "I think I can make it easier for that to work." he added with the same smile.
However, this optimistic smile turned into an expression of genuine shock about the story of the shooting star. There was more than one....and....they were sent by one of the Royal Sisters? He tried in vain to keep from tearing up, using his hoof to wipe them off his face as he gave a sincere, grateful smile. "Then it's already coming true.." he said, more to himself before looking at Swagger. "This is amazing! Things will be returning to normal!" he cheered.
That was a peculiar expression to be on such a guileless face. With anypony else, Swagger might have been worried that help was a euphemism for stab directly in the liver, but it seemed quite unlikely that Solar was the sort to go around gutting ponies in his basement.
Still, it was unnerving. "Yes. I haven't got any kettles, but I'm under the impression that once you have a smallish cloud, you can.... use it to sock up over puddles or something to that effect. Weather work isn't exactly my specialty?" He shrugged, feeling uncharacteristically unnerve by that grin. It was somehow deeply disturbing that Solar could be capable of having and hiding a secret. "But we could almost certainly make a seeder cloud in your kitchen and then use the sunlight tomorrow to make proper, large clouds."
Finally, thankfully, the expression faltered, replaced by joyful tearing up, and Swagger immediately relaxed. That was the pegasus he knew. Easily over excited by the littlest things. "Well, I doubt it will be quite that simple. You must have been very young when Tirek came, but I find it hard to believe that his prison term could be up so quickly. All the same, though, if they can send messages, it is possible that we can return them, and stable governance can be established from afar. So you can understand why it is absolutely imperative that we reach those stones forthwith."
The golden pegasus tried to keep his emotions in check, inadvertently blocking out the more realistic view that Swagger was providing in favor of preparing himself to make the cloud. "I'm no weather pony, but I have just the thing." he replied, flapping his wings a bit to prepare himself for a flying-stint. "I'll show you what I mean in a few minutes, gotta warm up." he added, throwing in a pun before he launched himself out of the cellar and began flying down his usual route, this time picking up the pace as he would need to be ready as soon as he could be.
Even so, the pegasus couldn't help but relish in the fact that he was flying, the air rushing past him as he began spinning. This had no real purpose other than to add some more movement to this. If anypony were watching, they'd see this as some sort of impromptu work-out. However, this was Solar's ace in the hole, something that would help immensely. In about four minutes, the pegasus began to slow down and re-entered the cellar- where a change was more significant. The otherwise cold cellar was beginning to even out in terms of warmth, as if a fire had been lit. Before Swagger could ask, Solar couldn't help but chuckled as he grabbed one of the smaller containers of water and dumped it on himself. Some ponies would see this as a waste, but for Solar's case, it was quite the opposite. As a very slight hissing sound was heard, the water he had poured had quickly begun to steam up, evaporating as it formed a small cloud right at the ceiling. Sure, it wasn't finished building up, but the size would be expected from about a quart of water.
Steam still rising off of his body, Solar looked at Swagger with a somewhat triumphant smile. "Resident hot-shot, at your service." he joked, not regarding and possible shocked or bewildered expression.
Solar was abruptly disappearing, darting away with that inpony speed pegasi sometimes seemed to acquire, when they had a particular goal in mind. For a minute or so, Swagger simply blinked, shrugged, and waited around for the colt to return.
"All right then, I shall trust your weather instincts." he said to no pony at all, unless he counted himself in the equation, which reeked of insanity.
But he did not. Thus, the lord was left with two options, neither particularly unpleasant. He could go up the stairs and respectfully await his host's return to discuss the business at hoof in better detail and create a plan based on whatever Solar had in mind, or he could lock his knees and take a moment to himself in the cellar before examining the clever plumbing work of the irrigation system.
Though why a pegasus's farm would need irrigation was beyond Swagger's ability to understand.
And sure enough, just as Swagger unhitched the bony spurs that locked his knees, a noise came from upstairs, followed by a veritable whirlwind of pegasus flesh. He had just begun to muster up a question when the room was abruptly and inexplicably filled with a rolling steam.
He blinked, replayed the last moments over in his head, and then, "Sweet spectrum of Celestia's tail, how did you manage that?" He shook his head, gathering back his wits as the steam rose to condense into a perfectly formed, albeit miniature, cloud. "We must find you a few farmhooves. You could be wealthy as me in a week if you ran a sauna in Canterlot. There's a lot of stress locked up in that city." Swagger forgot to sound like he was joking. "But first, I believe we must make more cloud!" He was grinning wildly now, the manic edge of the unstoppable adventure pony he had once, very long ago, dreamed of growing into returning. "Should we perhaps go outside, or will you be able to maneuver it out of the basement if we build it in here?"
The smile still on his face as the pony asked him how he pulled this off, Solar chuckled. "Pretty sweet, huh? That's my talent...well, more like my body's talent anyway." He admitted before shrugging. "I don't know how it works myself, my body just heats up whenever I am moving. The faster and longer I move, the hotter I get." he added before flying up to think of what to do with the cloud. When Swagger had asked him if they should move it outside, Solar blinked. "I never tried moving a cloud before..." he replied, carefully prodding the mini-cloud with his hoof, slowly sliding it towards the cellar door and, after meticulous maneuvering, brought it up near the farm house.
"Alright." he muttered before heading back down, grabbing some more water-jugs to repeat the process, only outside so he could increase the size of the cloud. It was a somewhat unorthodox method, but it got the job done as the cloud was just about his size when he his body fully cooled off. Taking a gulp of what was left in the third jug, as this stuff was making him thirsty, Solar repeated the process of heating himself up, this time taking 8 minutes at his fastest to allow for the pony's trick to last longer. It was tiring, and he was beginning to feel lightheaded as he began to slow down once again. As he was catching his breath, he repeated the water-cooling process, adding more to the cloud until it was about three times his size. “You think this is good enough?” he asked, leftover steam still coming off of his body as he took the opportunity to recover.
Mental note- grab a bite to eat before we leave.. he thought, feeling a slight pang in his stomach. It wasn’t a surprise to him, he was bound to burn a lot of energy to maintain both his speed and the heat-radius- which after the steam stopped, was still prominent via a very slight, but noticeable mirage around the pegasi’s body.
In the end, by Swagger's estimation, the dense and rather amateurish cloud held some fifteen gallons of water. Two a piece for the duration of their little journey.
He studied the mass of vapors critically, his face slipping into the neutral and vaguely disapproving look he always used for analysis of things. It was small and heavy, not inclined to float off, and it was tightly packed enough, if lumpily, that evaporation would be of little concern. At least so far as his unpracticed eye could tell.
"It should be perfect!" He replied, face shifting back to an easy smile. The changes of his expression could be alarmingly abrupt for the unpracticed, but so far Solar had shown an admirable ability to keep up. "That was exceptionally fast. I would have thought we'd be working all of tomorrow and heading out as sunset to make such a cloud. Perhaps talents like yours are how they made them before the cloud presses became so well known!"
He took a chance, and patted the colt's shoulder with a hoof, careful to keep the sensitive flesh of his frog well away from contact. Two hundred degrees was more than enough to burn it and leave him limping for days. The heat still swarm uncomfortably warm, but no injury seemed forthcoming.
"At this rate, we can probably leave tonight! If, of course, you haven't got any other plans?"
Smiling with relief, Solar chuckled happily as he rubbed the back of his head, being patted on the shoulder as Swagger was glad the cloud was ready for travel. Leaving by tonight sounded like a decent plan, that way Solar could prepare a nice meal before they left. "Sounds like a plan. I can whip us up a nice meal too." he replied cheerfully.
He was glad to be of use to his friend, it was just something that made him happy. He was thinking what he could prepare. He knew that he'd need to eat more than he usually did, considering this was one of the first times he made a more creative use up for his talent.