twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
After Summer left us and we finally reached Yakyakistan, all that is left to tell is an anti-climatic denouement: we go home. Heh! Well, that's life, right?

Day 16. I woke up late to blinding sunlight coming in through the window. It took me a moment to remember where I was. I decided against eating the Yakyakistan hay mattress I'd been sleeping on, but I was very sorely tempted. I did the civilized thing and held off until I joined my friends and the five rescued explorer/academic ponies in our common room. We asked our guests about food.

We had an early lunch, or a really late breakfast. I ate it so fast I'm not sure which it was. I was really hungry. We packed up our gear again, took our leave of Prince Rutherford and his gracious hospitality and we headed for the Crystal Empire, arriving on Princess Cadence's doorstep in the early evening. Again we were too tired to be talkative. Tomorrow.

Day 17. After breakfast and a long soak at the spa, I have started to revive. The Crystal Empire is abuzz with the return of so many ancient explorers. Ancient, even to the crystal ponies! Princess Cadence has met with most of them and they've been keeping her busy, regaling her with tales and she setting them up with stipends and a place to write about their exploits or their research.

We had lunch with Shining Armor, Princess Cadence and a few of the academics we'd rescued. Rainbow Dash was probably pretty bored until the conversation shifted to Daring Do's discoveries. We did help Daring a bit with those Rings of Scorchero.

For supper we treated ourselves to a trip to one of the Crystal Empire's finer restaurants. Not too fancy and especially, with enough to eat. We've all lost a lot of weight. We sat on straw cushions at a table for eight, remembering the trek and the wonders we'd seen, Lemon Hearts recounting the wonders Winter had whispered in her ear while Moondancer focused on feeding the Hearth's Warming spell. The restaurant patrons were probably agog to see us there. I didn't really notice, my eyes were on the fresh bread, hot and sour silage, crystal corn soup, hot oat muffins, grated apple and carrot salad (with pine nuts!) and big heaping plates of Ponyville second cut hay. My heart was with my friends. A little crystal filly did come to our table and ask us to sign her story book. It was "When Winter Came to Equestria"! We all signed it. I wrote in it: "This is a true story" and read what I wrote to the filly as I levitated the book back to her. She said, in a serious tone, "I know", then she scampered back to her table at the restaurant. Then the eight of us got in a debate as to whether it was Summer, Epona or both together that was the mind and spirit of the constellation that drove Winter away from us.

Another night's rest in the Crystal Empire and tomorrow, home at last. Ponyville for us, Canterlot for Moondancer and Lemon Hearts. Princess Cadence has graciously offered to house our five companions while they recover and get their bearings. I suspect most will try to find some trace of their past lives, maybe through genealogy, maybe by looking for what became of their old homes during the centuries they've been gone. Some will just pick up and carry on doing what they do best, research and exploration. They just need a little time to stable down and raise funds for their next project.

When we get home tomorrow it will have been seventeen days that we've been gone.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Day 14. We have exhausted our supply of alfalfa-oat-nut-honey power cubes. Fortunately, several of our new expedition party members are equipped for long treks and we have been pooling our resources. Some of it is really old, yellow, dry and brittle after being encased in Winter's ice for so many years. We eat it anyway and talk about all the things we miss. Above all else we miss the smells.

The air is warmer now and we've shed some of our deep-cold garb. It makes talking easier as we walk, but we have to conserve our strength and walk single file, taking turns breaking trail in the snow.

Over lunch we remembered things we miss. Apples, grass, fresh hay, growing things, birds singing... living things. Pinkie: "and cupcakes!". Applejack: "Especially apples." Me: "I'm so tired of beet pulp soup and hay crackers, I'd be happy to eat anything else." Rainbow Dash: "Even cheese quesadillas?" Me: "Maybe even that." (shudder)

Then Leaf Hairrakesson spoke up. Our caribou companion has a knack for finding edible forage under the snow! It wasn't grass, but the woody twigs and buds I ate helped settle my stomach. How do these plants manage, in the cold, the weak sunlight and with nopony to tend them? Applejack is even more dumbfounded than I am.

Over supper Moondancer wanted to know more about the quesadilla story so we told her about Pinkie's Party Planning Cave. Everypony was impressed.

Leaf's tender twigs and buds and grey-white balls of lichen made our yellowed pot-luck stew tastier but it's still lacking in nutrition. I just want to sleep.

Day 15. Early this morning our caribou companion left us, a little later than originally planned, but he can feel the pull of the herds, somewhere to the west. At lunch break we boiled something old, grey and brittle until it was soft enough to chew, washing it down with fur-leaf tea, a parting gift from the caribou. Time to get back up and marching. So tired of marching. We are in Yakyakistan and we should see civilization by this evening. Our guide seems to grow more cheerful with each step. A successful rescue expedition is a perfect rescue expedition. Chalk one up for good yak/pony cross-cultural relations.

We bid farewell to our yak guide. We had a kind of parade through the streets of Yakyakistan. I'd forgotten that the other yak explorers got home days before we arrived. They've made quite the sensation, being back from the dead and having stories to tell. Prince Rutherford has insisted we stay the night in his guest rooms. We're so tired I don't think we made great conversationalists. Fortunately, we weren't really expected to make speeches. Yak hay beds really are soft and comfortable.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Applejack and Big MacIntosh rolled up with a wagon load of second cut timothy grass hay for me, as fresh and green as the day it was baled. Well, Big MacIntosh pulled the wagon and Applejack came to help with the loading and unloading. Once the straps were off I lifted the 15 bales, moved them into single file and sent them up and through the balcony door to their "pantry". There's still plenty of room in there for the third cut, due in a few weeks.

Speaking of food, Pinkie teamed up with Fluttershy two days ago and we had a Hello to Fall supper in Fluttershy's cottage. After having been on such a long trek through a frozen, dark and lifeless land, all of Fluttershy's resident critters popping in and out of their hiding holes to snatch morsels off the table was a welcome distraction. And the food! Fall is the height of the harvest season and Pinkie and Fluttershy spread for us a huge feast. Did I mention that we were hungry a lot on the expedition? Part of our dinner conversation went something like this:

Me: Oh, the smells of home! Never has it felt so good to be back!
Applejack: In winter in Ponyville it don't smell near so full sterile as it were in the dark North. Even buried in snow here you can still smell the trees. Dig a mite and there's dirt and grass waitin' fer Spring. And everywhere, ponies.
Rarity: And perfume!
Pinkie Pie: And mouthwatering bakery aromas!
Fluttershy: Hot cocoa! Cedar chests!
Me: Spice tea!
Rainbow Dash: And... I got nothing.

Back to my field notes!

Day 12. We woke up early and came tumbling out of our tents in our hurry to see if Summer was still watching over us. She was! She was standing right over our camp, a brilliant field of stars in the darkness, held up by four sparkling pillars. She took a step south, looked back and nickered to urge us to follow. We packed up our belongings, hastily ate a few bites of breakfast and trotted after her. It then occurred to me that I felt refreshed and that the rest of our party looked perky as well. Like young foals on their first stroll, we kept as close as we could to Summer, without getting stepped on. I fought the urge to frolic and gallop about.

As I expected, the sun peeked above the southern horizon for a brief moment around noon. It was a bittersweet moment. Summer had left us a few hours earlier as the twilight strengthened. She climbed an invisible (to us) incline into the night sky and from there she galloped westward until she vanished beyond the horizon. We whinnied a sad farewell to her retreating form. After she was gone, we picked up our feet and carried on south, toward home.

We've stopped for lunch. It was beet pulp soup and hay crackers again. We ate mostly in silence. Without her standing over us we feel like lost foals in the wilderness. It's a hard feeling to shake off. Her warmth has gone and I can feel the chill of this cold region again.

Now that it's dark again and we've made camp, I keep looking up to see if I can find her in with the strange northern constellations. Tomorrow we push on.

Day 13. Once again Celestia's sun rides the horizon and our spirits are on the rise. We are all wearing our snow goggles against the glare and gleaming snow. We have left the foothills of Winter's country but everything is white, barren and frozen. It's cold and the snow squeaks.

We've reached the windswept area where the ice expands and contracts into five-sided slabs. Tomorrow we will be into the region of deeper snow.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
If you've kept track of the days, you probably noted that it took a while for us to get home. On to my field notes! Oh, and I expect my 15 bales of hay to be delivered tomorrow.

Day 10. Rainbow's ridge through the ice sheet weaves a bit left and right but it is heading south and we're making good time. Lemon Hearts said this is what they trotted on when they were going north and that it extends all the way to the southern end of the ice sheet, with a few gaps here and there. When the ridge rises over a submerged hill we catch glimpses of a glimmer of twilight at the southern horizon. Our yak guide is feeling especially chatty, trading "A pony walks into a donut shop" jokes with Pinkie, and during the evening meal, asking strings of questions of the defrosted explorers in our party and not waiting for answers. The caribou explorer (Leaf Hairrakesson) is especially intriguing, coming from the wandering herds of the far north. He'll be leaving us as soon as we reach the point where the sun rises above the horizon.

They tell me that a large part of Winter's binding spell is him describing winter in great detail, where only the wind and the stars move over an ancient frozen landscape. Winter likes an audience, which is why everypony, griffin and caribou are still alive. Since he's a windigo, I think he feeds off their cold, rapt attention in some way.

Our fast pace has worn out our explorers and we are very tired too. It has been ten grueling days of walking in freezing cold with no hay to speak of in our bellies. We're still walking Rainbow's ridge through the ice field and even though we could have reached the snowy plains to the south by evening, we're stopping early. There are fifteen of us, too many to fit around one soup pot, so we made three groups at each stop. To get to know each other better, we switch around who sits in which group.

Our tents are like a little village in the snow. But Leaf Hairrakesson's shelter isn't a tent. With a long wooden, blade-like tool he's cut compacted snow into large bricks and he's built a small stable, with a roof! It's warmer than our tents. Moondancer and I took notes and made drawings.

The cold has found its bite again so we're sleeping two by two for warmth. When I get home, I'm going to the spa where I will sit in the sauna until I'm so hot I catch fire.

Day 11. Midday halt. The twilight is much stronger now and lasts for about four hours. By this time tomorrow I expect to catch a glimpse of Princess Celestia's sun. We're all quite tired of the near perpetual dark. Up above, weird constellations gaze down upon us with their many eyes and wiggle their tentacles.

Early evening, a sudden wind blew down upon us from the north. As we looked back we could see a wall of clouds and flying snow racing after us, like a giant breaking wave. Riding that wave was Winter, grown gigantic, even at this distance, bearing down on us at terrifying speed. We bolted, galloping hard for the south with no hope of outrunning this storm. Winter was gaining fast. Our yak guide was in high spirits again, cracking jokes between pants and gasps for breath. I made a change of plan.

I called for an immediate halt and to make camp right there. Pinkie caught on right away. "This calls for a party! A hello goodbye party for Winter!"

As the wall of clouds rose ever higher and the wind gained strength, we pitched our tents in a tight circle, built a snow brick wall all around and lit an oil lamp flame in the center. Pinkie produced marshmallows and crackers. It's Pinkie, I didn't ask. "We'll make smores!" Soon we were an oasis of cheer in a world gone white, roasting marshmallows and laughing at how silly it all was. I started to build the Hearth's Warming spell.

But the wind was whistling, the snow swirling closer and closing in over our heads. Winter's standing wave became a hurricane, rising from all sides, spinning and blotting out the twilight heavens. Ice began to grow, up our snow brick walls and arching up and over our camp. We were a small oasis of smores and cheer, lit by one oil lamp flame and a slowly growing Hearth's Warming heart, in the black eye of a giant storm. The ice dome did not stop or even slow down. Winter was prepared to win this time.

Then we heard a whinny, like a rumble of thunder, rise above the howl of the wind. Standing up and looking south, I saw a glimmer, something shimmering in the blackness, then a gigantic head crashed through the crest of the spinning wall of clouds. Emerging whole through the whirling clouds of Winter's hurricane, a constellation, a being of stars, galloped down the wall of snow and wind straight for us and was shining brighter with each step. It was a pegasus constellation, with a brilliant star on her forehead lighting her path.

As she charged, she not only stopped the blizzard that was building up, but changed it into a gentle rain. With a few more strides she reached our camp, stood over it and spread her wings. Then she looked down to us and made a mother's call. It was a gentle rumble so deep it made the ground tremble. We could feel it to our very bones. I could suddenly remember the taste of mare's milk, my mother's warm flank protecting me, her warm breath on my neck. It was so real, so there, so vivid. A warm glow, safety, one with a world fresh, exciting and new.

Indescribable.

The storm vanished. Winter fled back to his fortress of ice and we were standing, as weak and wobbly as foals, reborn under clear skies on a plain of mist. Summer is here to lead us home.

We've collapsed into our tents and snuggled under our bedrolls. I feel so safe and warm. I can barely keep my eyes open, my friends are sleeping like foals and in a moment, I will too.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
At this point in the expedition, things got exciting.

Day 9 entry in my wax canvas field notebook: Yesterday we reached the blue glacier Rainbow had seen and what turned out to be not so much a cave as a large ornate entrance carved in the ice. Either by design or by trick of the darkness, the glacier looked like a tremendous waterfall had been flash-frozen. When we reached the opening, Pinkie unpacked her paper lanterns. Rarity put in fresh candles, and when each of us had a lantern, I delicately warmed the wax and lit the wicks.

Inside we entered a corridor of giant columns and ice walls that glowed a royal blue and rose to meet high above us in a pointed arch. Everywhere there were delicate ice crystals, frost that made every surface sparkle and shimmer until we couldn't guess distances any more. Two sets of hoofprints led down the hall. Stepping quietly in our insulated boots, we followed them, just the sound of our breaths, the creaking of our saddlebags and the soft crush of the frost on the floor disturbing the silence. The hallway opened up into a huge ice grotto, glittering in our lantern light and glowing deep blue in the shadows. It was filled with columns, arches, spirals and ramps, like a pegasus winter playground. The walls that were close enough to see were dotted with entrances, maybe passageways to other caverns or chambers beyond.

Straight a head of us on the flat, central part of this frozen blue underworld were dozens upon dozens of pony-sized blocks of semi-transparent ice, most of them thick with frost. We could just make out the shape of the frozen beings trapped inside. Pony, yak and griffin explorers. Almost all the ponies we could see looked like crystal ponies. They've been frozen for a very long time. And in the middle of them all we found Moondancer and Lemon Hearts! They too were frozen in ice, together, their horns touching and a small spark, like a flaming heart, floating above them. They were alive! They looked like they were sleeping standing up.

That spark -- Moondancer had studied the Hearth's Warming spell! Well, of course she had. I'd learned it too. I also had five of my best friends with me, pegasi, unicorn and earth ponies. I was prepared for this.

As we drew near the ice encasing Moondancer and Lemon Hearts we heard a deep soothing voice, talking to us, like he was midway through a bedtime story that never ends. The voice was like a soft breeze over snow and the tinkling of icecrystals rolling in swirling gusts of white. Distracting and hypnotic. It was Winter talking, alive and well, a gigantic figure that floated out from the shadows to perch on an arch directly above us. Staring down his long muzzle at us with knowing blue eyes, he was only too happy to see us. With every misty breath he was weaving a binding spell. I could feel anger and suspicion clouding my thoughts and ice was growing up from the floor. I drew my friends close to cast the counterspell, the Hearth's Warming spell.. Sing!

We began with the Heart Carol and remembered how all together we put on the best play Ponyville had seen in years. Winter's murmuring monologue faltered and I forgot what it was that I was angry about. We remembered our friendship and the good times we had together. I concentrated to embrace that joy. We sang 'Just Live For Today' and we relived Pinkie's surprise picnic. As we sang and talked the cold blue cave faded from sight. Winter's words were just the wind in the tall grass. We sang 'Find the Music in You' and we giggled over Fluttershy's trickery. I recited Friendship Letters from memory and we just hugged as we relived all the lessons we'd learned. As we hugged, a pulsing flame shot straight up from our circle, divided in two and curved in on itself, two ponies high. It hovered above us, red, brilliant and hot. The Heart Carol flame.

All around us the ice was melting. MoodDancer and Lemon Hearts revived and joined us. Beyond them other ponies were thawing out too, as were the yaks. It was a bit slower for the griffins. Winter was still talking, but he was also shrinking and the frozen mist of his breath was clearing. Pinkie pulled out a party cannon, balloons and hats. I don't know where. There was now confetti everywhere, singing yaks and Rarity and Pinkie decorating the place with ribbons and balloons. Winter retreated deeper into the cave. By now most of the griffins had thawed out.

I called for attention! I told the surprise (and surprised) crowd to grab a balloon, put on a party hat, find a stranger and make a friend! Each and every one is to tell the other their most happy memory, the best day or event in their life! They must do this now to feed the magic flaming heart that was warming us all. (I doubt there was a song we could all sing, there were even ponies with long floppy ears and a caribou in the crowd of revived explorers!)

That worked pretty well. Winter had shrunk to about goat size and had vanished into one of the passageways at the far end of the cavern. So we set up camp in the cavern with the flaming Hearth's Warming heart floating halfway to the ceiling above us. We were safe for the time being.

Every explorer was well stocked with food and supplies, and now that every pony, griffin and yak was revived, we built fires, swapped food and stories and had the best nerd party ever! Every pony, griffin, and yak had stories and adventures to share, it was like a living library, like the Haycartes spell, spread over an entire library. Nopony wanted to leave. But eventually, the party has to end. We did keep the party going for several hours more, allowing my herd and the explorers to take naps by turn and to repack their belongings for the trek back south. I think Winter was beginning to revive because several of us caught glimpses of him peeking out of various entrances on the far walls. So we couldn't tarry much longer in his cave.

Some explorers were keen to explore Winter's home some more and we had to practically push them out the cave entrance. We had arrived by late afternoon and now it was the wee hours of this morning, day 9. We had to get some distance between us and Winter's stronghold!

It's early evening and we've made camp in a sheltered spot nestled up to Rainbow's ridge, well past the southern end of the valley of fluffy snow. Traveling is faster when you know your destination and you can make better decisions in choosing the shortest path. My friends and I have our homes to return to, but most everypony else that had fallen to Winter's grasp will have to start over.

We divided up the return expedition at the entrance to Winter's icy abode. The air was still crisp, but it seemed to have lost its bite. The yaks, Crystal ponies and what must be Cirrostratans were all set to make good time so we bid them farewell and they left first, their ancient cities unchanged with the passing millenia of their absence. Next, the pegasi and griffons took to the air. The sky was clear and the stars were helpfully pointing the way south. We soon lost sight of them in the night sky, only the winking of distant stars betraying their passage. Then all that were left were my friends and I, our guide and those for whom the landmarks and their destinations had moved or changed too much for them to find a familiar destination point. But by following us they could make better time than they would by just heading south.

For these ancient explorers, being living relics from a vanished time won't be too hard a situation to adjust to. These adventurers are used to being on the go and not really tethered to one spot, and hopefully the academics will quickly be too engrossed in catching up on research and writing papers about their findings to dwell on all the ponies they left behind. They'll make new friends quickly enough.

I'm exhausted. I didn't get any sleep last night. My friends and our guide will take turns keeping watch. For the others, this will be their first true, full night's sleep in a very long while.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
I decided to store my second cut hay in a different room from the first cut, or at least for the time being. I chose another guest room with a balcony, near the kitchen, and I moved all the furniture into a corner, out of the way. I don't get many guests. That's just as well or I'd have to hire staff. The first cut hay in my other larder still smells good, although it is not smelling as sweet and fresh as it had a month ago. Ponyville grows good hay.

Back to my notes from the dark, starlit north!

Day 7. Tethered single-file, we've been picking our way through the boulders and pitfall crevasses of this ice sheet all day. It's slow and tiring. We're taking more breaks and a longer lunch.

During lunch and short stops I have to use a pencil to take notes. Even though I thaw the ink in my inkwell before dipping my nib, the ink freezes solid again before I can press the nib to paper. At camp, in the evening, the oil lamp heats the air in my tent enough to make the ink workable, but just barely. For extra warmth we've taken to sleeping two to a bedroll and combining our horse blankets. I've noticed that Rainbow Dash snores, but most of the time I'm so exhausted I just sleep through it.

Suddenly, mountains! Rarity helped Rainbow reposition her winter blankets to free up her wings and she went scouting ahead after lunch. When she got back she told us that we were nearly out of the icy debris and we could have avoided most, if not all of it if we had walked on a long ridge a bit to our left. But the best news was that up ahead she had found a serene valley of snow framed by two identical mountain peaks!

She was half frozen from the flight. Rarity rebundled her until all we could see of her was the tip of her muzzle deep in a tunnel of wool cloth, like she had been rolled in a carpet. After two cups of hot cocoa she stopped shaking and we were good to go.

We headed first to Rainbow's ridge and continued north from there. By evening we'd made camp at the south end of the valley. The snow in this valley is so light and fluffy, it drifts willy nilly with the slightest breeze. I've never seen anything like it, these snowflakes are so different from our hoof-made snowflakes. They're mostly dendrites with plates, but the plates look like duck's feet and the dendrites like a cross between club moss fronds and moth antennae.

If anypony entered here recently, all signs of their passage has been obliterated. In some places the soft snow was up to our necks but we still could easily push forward. Tomorrow we'll have to move carefully to avoid falling into pits hidden by this snow.

Day 8. It has been slow going in this unusually light and fluffy snow. Again we are tethered together, our guide in the lead, advancing single file, blind to what is at our feet. The constant fear of falling into a crevasse and feeling our way around rocks or chunks of ice is very tiring. We've stopped for lunch. It takes a whole lot of this snow to make a tea cup of water. We're melting clean chunks of ice instead. The constellations above us are so weird they're nearly abstract. They seem crystalline, or maybe geometric.

Rainbow went scouting again and says she's spotted a cavern ahead, carved into a brilliant blue glacier, a bit to the left! Could it be the same cave Moondancer described the last time I saw her in Haycarts' book? Lunch is over, Rainbow Dash is just about warmed up and we're all feeling our oats. I think we're almost there!
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
That hay was more expensive than I bargained for. Yak buyers have driven the price up. Still, it's cheaper now than it will be come midwinter. Applejack will be delivering my 15 bales in a few days. Right now she's very busy catching up on bucking and processing the late summer apple crop. Apparently there's only so long the apples can wait before going bad. Big MacIntosh has been working hard, but we hadn't expected to be away quite this long.

Back to my field notes.

Day 5. Celestia's sun rides the southern horizon, barely peeking above the field of snow behind us. Ahead the land is rising. Now I know what was meant by "... beyond the Twilight Plain, high in the Mountains of Eternal Night, Winter slumbers in his cradle of ice". This darkness is really neat! No all my friends share my fascination, especially since it is getting still colder. Now we are buckled head to toe in thick wool blankets and our every breath is a geyser of steam. My eyes water at every gust of wind and Rarity's nose is running. She is _not_ amused.

My hearing is muffled by the scarf I'm wearing over my ears to avoid frostbite. The squeaking of the snow under our hooves seems distant and the landscape just too quiet and dead. It feels like all I can hear is the rustling of the wool as it slips back and forth over my ears. I think we're all feeling a bit jumpy. Everypony keeps looking back to make sure that something isn't sneaking up on us. We trudge north, stop for lunch and breaks and trudge north. Our yak guide is less bothered by the cold but even he is wearing warmer garments.

I caught Fluttershy muttering there is no such Thing over and over again. I finally figured out what she was chewing over. That camp fire story. Really now, no Fluttershy, the Thing is not real. We are not heading to the "Mountains of Madness". Telling that story was a bad idea. Rainbow Dash thought that was hilarious, earning her five sets of glaring eyes. But Pinkie produced paper lanterns for each of us, "packed for paper lantern emergencies!" and Fluttershy forgot all about campfire horror stories.

Day 6. Mid-morning and Princess Celestia's sun has vanished for good below the horizon. We are in the land of eternal night. We walk the frozen sea of snow, above us in the cloudless sky is the playground of the stars. Strange constellations gallop and play in the heavens here. There are creatures up there that appear terrifying, all tentacles, eyes and fangs. I hope they stay up there. Our guide is steadfast, but when he thinks nopony is watching, he looks back wistfully, to the south and home. We are close, I can feel it! We have started to ration our alfalfa-oat-nut-honey power cubes. This is taking longer than I expected. Summer ends in just over two weeks. We've set up camp out of the wind in the shelter of a jumble of giant blocks of ice. Our guide says we are walking now on an ice field at the southern end of a very large and slow moving ice sheet. A big glacier, scouring the bedrock. The terrain continues to climb.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Sure enough, the Ponyville Express is printing a story about our expedition. I see they're drawing it out over three parts and they've interviewed several of my friends as well. Moondancer is probably hard at work finishing her research paper on the Winter legend...

The second cut hay harvest is long over and I haven't bought any for my pantry yet! I was so busy preparing for the expedition north that I didn't have time. I better buy my hay tomorrow, the longer I wait, the higher the prices may go. Right now the farmers are inclined to sell for a little less to make more room for the third cut. I think I'll get 15 bales.

On to my field notes!

Day 3. Getting colder. Yakyakistan is snowy, but this is insane. Everything is white. Celestia's sun stays very close to the horizon here, it's very strange. We're all wearing snow goggles, the ones with a slit to see out of, otherwise we'd all go blind. We're wearing our winter gear, boots, ear muffs, scarves and blankets. Rarity just glows with satisfaction when she looks at us, like we're a high north fashion show on a very long runway.

At least the sun is at our backs. We are following our shadows into deeper snow. We followed our guide's instructions and compacted the snow at our camp site before pitching our tents. The wind has picked up and is blowing snow over us.


Day 4. It's amazing how well an oil lamp can heat a snow-covered tent. Last night something big left huge clawed prints in the snow in our campsite. It's a bit unsettling. OK, we were scared. But we're up and heading north. To adventure!

By morning the wind had died down, thankfully. It's cold and snowy enough without a white-out to slow us down. Lunch was beet pulp soup again. For a short while we feel full, but it's mostly water. The alfalfa-oat-nut-honey power cubes give us boosts of energy, but the small meals make my stomach rumble and churn.

We set up camp this evening in a field tiled with pentagon shaped blocks of ice formed by alternating cold and colder temperature cycles. There has been little precipitation here and what ice there is expands and shrinks over and over again. After an evening meal of hay crackers and rehydrated beet pulp soup, I told the Thing from the Mountains of Madness story! Adapted to Equestria, to make it a bit more believable, but not too believable.

I remade the Thing as a hair-eating changeling that leaves its victims cold, bald and hairless. And when it ate enough hair, it would divide and there would be two of them! They would take up snatching ponies away to be farmed for their hair, and replacing them with changelings. Starting with the spa and quietly foalnapping ponies in their sleep. No pony is the wiser. In fact, every pony here, except you, is a changeling. At this point I've snuffed out the oil-lamp flame and while our yak guide was trying to relight it I sneaked up behind Rarity and tugged gently on her mane. She shrieked. Scary camp fire story, check.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
I'm feeling a lot more rested now. Spike managed to take good care of the pets and Fluttershy's bevy of beasts. They were all very happy to see us anyway. I have a large pile of mail I've been going through and Owlowiscious has been bringing it to me wherever I stop when I change rooms. I can't so much as glance in the direction of a book and he drops it into my lap.

Ponies have been knocking on my door all day, asking how the rescue went. Among them was a pony who writes for the Ponyville Express, so it should be a story in tomorrow's paper and I won't have to tell the tale quite so often.

Well, I took notes in my nifty canvas field notebook. It was great to put it to good use! Here we go, Day 1 (which is the same day I made my last entry here before we left).

Packed up with gear like gypsy vanners, we got off the train at the Crystal Empire and headed for the castle. (Naps had been taken on the train as some ponies had been up until the wee hours partying.) The streets are bustling with activity, happy crystal ponies everywhere, the city is so much more alive now than any other time than I've been here, even during the Equestria Games or during the Wildlife convention.

We met with Shining Armor and Princess Cadence and she gave us directions to Yakyakistan, even though Pinkie has already been there and back. I filled them in on the details of our expedition, we made our goodbye's and we went to the Crystal Empire's fabulous old library to get copies of old maps, to find out what Moondancer consulted, and because it's a really, really big library. The librarian was very helpful. She remembered the pair of out-of-town ponies and the rare books they consulted. That made reading what Moondancer read that much faster!

Dash got bored and she went with Pinkie, Applejack, Fluttershy and Rarity to buy avalanche survival saddlepacks and to check out the local merchants.

A few hours later they returned to the library and we set off to Yakyakistan.

We've pitched our tents, lit a fire and made our first camp at the border. Tomorrow, to Yakyakistan, find a guide and head to points north!

Day 2. We got up early, and carefully entered Yakyakistan, avoiding the abominable snow monkey cat thing thanks to Pinkie and Dash. It was a long climb uphill through the snow, a taste of what will be our life until we find Moondancer and Lemon Hearts.

We wandered about in Yakyakistan for a while. All eyes were on us and a chattering and giggling crowd of calves followed us everywhere. We were the only ponies there and we were feeling very aware of that fact. Finally, after a bit of a runaround, we found a yak guide who was ready and eager to go into the frozen north. Our bag of bits helped.

He bought yak gear and supplies to supplement our pony gear. The gear and supplies were perfect. If it hadn't been the case before, we now have everything we need.

It was afternoon by the time we left and we trekked north, our guide breaking trail in the lead. Our guide really likes our alfalfa-oat-nut-honey power cubes. I hope we have enough. I like them too.

Evening came and we pitched our tents again, second camp! So far so good. This is going to be fun! Tomorrow, north! To adventure!
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
We're back! We found them! And so much more! I'm exhausted despite stopping to loaf around in the Crystal Empire for a day on the way back. I think I'll sleep for a week and only get up to stuff myself silly on hay.

We're Off!

Sep. 1st, 2015 06:45 am
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Well, it's been five weeks, still nothing from Moondancer. No letter, no news, no Haycartian hello, no knock on my door. We're going. First to the Crystal Empire, then to Yakyakistan, then north to the Saddle Peak and never-ending winter.

We'd better go. If I called it off now, I think Rainbow Dash would drop a very black, rain soaked cloud on my head. She, and all my friends, have been antsy for days.

Farewell Earth-Journal friends! We're off to catch the morning train to the Crystal Empire. I will probably be gone a good two weeks. No journal entries until I get back. I can't take this Treecastle with me. I wonder if a break off a chunk of rock and carry that with me... Some other time. I'll let you know how it went when I get back!
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Cheese Sandwich popped up out of the blue and threw an Adventurous Rescue Expedition Party for us this afternoon in the middle of town, with a winter theme. I don't know where he got all that ice. He must have borrowed several ice makers for Cloudsdale to pull off what amounted to an instant winter in the middle of Ponyville. Pinkie probably helped. There were ice slides, ice cream, ice sculptures, apple, carrot, peppermint and other flavors of sweet slush drinks, snow forts, snow ball fights, an ice castle... A winter festival in August. It has been hot weather this week, and what with the summer molt slowly bringing in the winter coats on ponies, everypony has been having a great time. The party is still going strong. I hear fireworks.

With Cheese here, everything is ready. Check, check!

I have my canvas field notebook, my notes from my investigation in Canterlot, Moondancer's discarded sketch and my five best friends. We will be unstoppable! (Princess) Spike will hold down the fort while I'm gone. He'll have the care of all the pets and Fluttershy's wards to keep him busy. Fortunately, he's a tough, honorable dragon. And he's done it before.

We leave tomorrow morning.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Going through my updated checklist. Rarity's winter clothes. Check. Applejack and Pinkie, power food. Check. Fluttershy, field research gear including camping equipment. Check. Rainbow Dash, maps. Check. Spike, instructions, lots of instructions. Check. Letter to Princess Cadence and Shining Armor that we'll be passing through the Crystal Empire. Check. From me: a game plan. Check.

We just need Cheese.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
I flew to Canterlot to save time and I spent the day in Canterlot library. There I got help from the librarian looking for books related to old legends from the north and to the Hearth's Warming tale. I was especially interested in those that Moondancer may have consulted. The librarian brought me a lot of books to go through. The books that she had only consulted and reshelved while at the library had no record, of course, but those from the rare book archives require signing in, help from the librarian, and signing for each book, even though they never leave the archive. They're very strict with their old books there. Moondancer is interested in everything and even shortly before she left she was reading a variety of texts.

I spoke to her bookseller friend too, to inquire as to what she had been looking for that might be related to her research trip. I took down the names of a few field and travel guides.

So I am still vague as to what her plan was. I guess it was to go north, look for deep snow, an ice field and a cave by a frozen waterfall, and something about beyond the Twilight Plain. The more beautiful the frozen scenery, the closer you are. That's a bit vague. But if it was easy, Winter would have been found years ago?
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Well, I told my friends to gear up for winter and to get ready for something ancient and deadly cold. Rainbow Dash said she was born ready. Pinkie said she's readier than ready. Applejack thought we were already ready. Rarity and Fluttershy nodded in agreement. My friends are nuts.

I asked Pinkie and Applejack if they might make alfalfa-oat-nut-honey power cubes for all of us, a week's supply. I lent them the book that has recipes for a few variations on power cubes, tailored for different energy requirements. That wrapper really smelled good. Rarity is looking into light weight full-body horse blankets for really cold weather. And boots for all of us.

I'm going back to Canterlot to go through the books that Moondancer checked out at the library to try and learn what she learned.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
I still have much material to read through. I quickly skimmed the story Algernon97 recommended, At the Mountains of Madness. I don't think it will help me prepare for what our expedition, Moondancer didn't describe city ruins and as for Old Ones, we've already met our Old One. It's the Tree of Harmony. The are scarey beasts in Equestria, but I don't think there are any powerful entities older than the Tree.

Back to the books!

Research

Aug. 26th, 2015 11:25 pm
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
I'm reading up on mountaineering, avalanches, inflatable saddlepacks (for avalanche survival), snow shelter building, orienteering, Yak culture and history, snow blindness, frostbite, sledges, food caching, local guides and how to hire them, water purifier spells, high calorie long burning food that won't give a pony colic, wild plants and creatures of the far north... Fortunately Princess Cadence has sent me quite a few books from the Crystal Empire and they tend to cover these kind of subjects.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
It has now been four weeks since Moondancer and Lemon Hearts embarked on their journey. Searching through what they left behind with the help of Minuette and Lyra, we didn't find much in the way of clues. Moondancer had a rough sketch of a saddle-shaped mountain range in with her waste paper and Lemon Hearts had a list of mountaineering equipment and arctic gear. She also apparently bought a lot of alfalfa-oat-nut-honey power cubes. The wrapper of the one she ate smelled delicious. I caught afternoon train back from Canterlot and tried to remember every detail, every word Moondancer had said about this expedition. I need more information.
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
I'm off to catch the morning train to Canterlot! My plan is to knock on Minuette's door, pick up Twinkleshine and Lyra Heartstrings and together we'll see if we can find clues at Moondancer and Lemon Hearts' houses as to where exactly they were headed. I'll be staying overnight. Wish me luck!

Loose Ends

Aug. 23rd, 2015 11:17 pm
twilightpony: Big tree with windows and door, fall foliage (Default)
Fluttershy's cottage is now guest-free although most of the critters didn't disperse far. They're hanging about in nearby bushes and nooks. Spike will be filling the various feeders with critter and bird food while we're gone. Fluttershy spent the day coaching him. Spike has mixed feelings about this responsibility. The critters are a bit demanding.

Got a letter back already from Twinkleshine. She's had no news from either Moondancer or Lemon Hearts since they left. She's going to ask Minuette and Lyra if they've heard from Moondancer or Lemon Hearts yet, and if they have, she'll send another letter.

Dash is looking more rested today. She brought word from her pegasus connections: Cheese was in Vanhoover and he is headed for Ponyville. I guess Pinkie won't have to write to him.

Tomorrow morning I head to Canterlot for research. I want to see if Moondancer and Lemon Hearts left any clues that could help us to find them.
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