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[WIP] Frost Fringed Letters

By HeavyHorse
Created: 2021-09-06 13:20:04
Updated: 2023-01-11 01:50:45
Expiry: Never

  1. >Third of October, 22nd day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  2. >Dear Paper Chase,
  3. >I don't know why I continue to compose these letters, it's not as if there's any kind of postal service out here.
  4. >Maybe it just gives me something to do, other than sit and watch Anon grouse about how much of the hardtack we brought is already gone.
  5. >There still isn't much to tell, beyond a few interesting flowers the botanists in your department might be interested in hearing about. I've catalogued a few sketches of them and have included descriptions of where we found them.
  6. >I'm starting to worry about Anon, though. I think he's taken too much upon himself for all of this and while he doesn't show it, he's begun to spend more time in his tent, making notes in the log I'm sure.
  7. >He's a fine leader, to be sure, and there isn't a one among us that doubts his abilities.
  8. >He'll get us out to where we're going and back safely, even if it means calling an end to the expedition prematurely. I'm not worried about that.
  9. >I'm worried what'll happen when we get back.
  10. >-N.B.: strike this section, recompose.
  11. >On a more personal note, please have the fine culinary minds responsible for designing this hardtack reconsider their recipe.
  12. >I've seen at least one of our number seriously suggest eating a spare pair of boots instead.
  13. >Your friend in the snow,
  14. >Anonymous
  15.  
  16. >Fifth of October, 24th day of Anon Northern Expedition
  17. >Dear Paper Chase,
  18. >Whatever I may have said about Anon's mental state, I wholeheartedly retract.
  19. >It seems that his agitation and rumination has been caused by... something stalking us.
  20. >The others have been looking to him for guidance and to his credit, he's done his best to reassure everyone that we're well prepared to deal with any potential threats in this unknown region.
  21. >Still, I think we'd all breathe a little easier if we had some rifles, rather than some flares, socks, and oil from the lamps we could combine into some makeshift torches.
  22. >Anon, our cartographer and orienteer, sends certain regards—I'm sure you'd rather not read—to the archivists at the Royal Canterlot Records Office for passing such old maps along with us.
  23. >I realise the purpose of our expedition is to update them and discover whatever flora and fauna, etc. the records are no doubt missing but that we could get such little direction from any written records has only made the journey more perilous.
  24. >The area we're traveling through is remote, yes, but nothing I've seen indicates Equestrians are insular to this degree.
  25. >Do you really care so little for what exists beyond the mild climes of your homes?
  26. >By this point in human history, we'd seen almost the entirety of our planet.
  27. >I suppose it's only appropriate that we should be roped into doing the work for you, though.
  28. >-N.B.: consider re-wording that section more diplomatically.
  29. >Your friend, lost in the snow,
  30. >Anonymous
  31.  
  32. >Sixth of October, 25th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  33. >Paper Chase,
  34. >By now I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes at my continued attempts to document time according to our months from home.
  35. >Well stop rolling them and read what I have to say, damnit.
  36. >Anon isn’t the only one who’s going to have more-than-firm words with your archivists over this because, unless I’m utterly mistaken, we’ve happened upon a hitherto unknown group of ponies.
  37. >Please excuse the roughness of the sketches I’ve included, I’m afraid this is all simply too exciting after almost a month of mosses, lichens, and the odd flowering winter plant to add some colour.
  38. >As I sit here, looking at my compatriots and the ponies milling about them, I still find it all so hard to believe.
  39. >As we crested the hill, the small band of these ponies were all turned towards us, as if awaiting our arrival. We’d realised we were being watched the day before and it seems a scouting party was dispatched to observe the travellers passing near them.
  40. >One approached and said something, which Anon—the linguist who’d insisted on accompanying us and whom I now feel far better for it—has translated to mean something close to, ‘<blessings/good fortune> of the <stars/sky deities/heavens> upon <you/your tribe/your clan>’.
  41. >Please excuse my writing, Anon was most insistent that I record his difficulties translating as exactly as I could. From what he’s said, these ponies appear to be speaking something like a root language of modern Ponish. He could make a more accurate assessment if he had the correct books, alas we had to limit what we could bring and thought manuals on linguistics of little use.
  42. >I must say, however, that in spite of the language barrier, they’ve done their best to make us feel welcome within their group. At the least, they haven’t seen fit to chase us away and most don’t shy away when we stand or approach them.
  43. >It has taken much time, gesturing, and resisting the urge to shout but we’ve slowly been making headway in some basic communication with these ponies. Though I call them ponies, really they’re far closer, at least in form and colour, to the horses of my homeworld.
  44. >They lack the wild and fanciful coats and manes of your countrymares and their cutie marks—at least they appear to be such—are equally more uniform in colour, though perhaps much less literal than anything you might see in Equestria.
  45. >Whether they’re an aberration or the norm, it’s far too early to say with any certainty.
  46. >Anon, our leader, has said he’s spoken to the one that leads their group and she’s told him she’ll take us to a larger group still.
  47. >Apparently our movements were known of for some time but they wished to observe us to discern our intentions.
  48. >-N.B.: Anon is still insisting I give him my pen to allow him to properly explain that our translations are still quite rough and shouldn’t be taken as so accurate to be relied on. Consider re-wording that passage, at least until the oaf relents.
  49. >They’ve made no hostile overtures towards us so far and none of them sport anything that could be used as a weapon but none also sport horns or wings. I’m sure you know well just how dangerous an earth pony can be even only with their hooves and teeth.
  50. >As I’m afraid Anon—our doctor—learned firsthand after one of the ponies decided to, what I can only describe as ‘attack’ one of his boots. I’ve included a sketch of the incident as best I could recall it.
  51. >We’re still trying to get an explanation over it from the ponies but I’m sure you can imagine the difficulty in that in all the commotion that erupted. Thankfully the mare in question did not bite into his foot, nor did she attempt to once she’d removed his boot.
  52. >What, exactly, she’s done with it I’m still not sure of. She hasn’t been seen since the incident and the ponies we’ve asked have been tight-lipped.
  53. >I’d worry we’ve inadvertently caused some crippling diplomatic incident but a few of the ponies seem quite amused over the matter.
  54. >In any case, it would seem that our reliance on the hardtack of dubious edibility is now a solved problem. The ponies were quite keen to share their stock of hardy roots they’d brought with them.
  55. >They’re quite tough, too, though I’m sure if boiled they’d prove much more pleasant.
  56. >Better yet, however, is that apparently the larger group these ponies hail from is some form of fishing expedition.
  57. >Please pick your glasses back up from your desk, Paper, you’ll need them to read this.
  58. >Aren’t there at least some written accounts of ponies turning to eating meat or fish in times of desperation? Or, as I believe, is it something that’s considered too taboo in your society to record in that way?
  59. >Whatever the case, I’m not the only one among us relieved to have some more variety reintroduced to our diets. Fish has been an old favourite, lost to many of us and I count myself among them.
  60. >The ponies here seem by turns confused and amused with some of the equipment we carry, though one was utterly mesmerised when Anon—our cook—took out his old lighter and demonstrated it. Seems whatever oil you use for your lamps is suitable for it. That or he’s found a chemist who was able to synthesise an equivalent of lighter fluid with it.
  61. >Which is to say that if it comes to it, we may have some things to barter with them for their fish. Or to gift to them in thanks. Perhaps it’s simply my aching stomach speaking.
  62. >In any case, I shall compose another letter once I have more to report and send on through the still non-existent postal ponies here.
  63. >Your friend, hopefully among new ones,
  64. >Anonymous
  65.  
  66. >Seventh of October, 26th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  67. >Paper Chase,
  68. >I apologise for the poor handwriting of this letter but I feel compelled to note some goings on in our impromptu camp since yesterday and don’t have much time before we must be off.
  69. >The first is that the leader of the group, at least as we understand her to be, came to Anon appearing quite distressed.
  70. >Strange to say, as yesterday she was polite albeit it rather curt and while the thick bangs of her mane gave little away of her eyes, I can only surmise that her dour demeanour may be out of some remaining uncertainty as to our intentions.
  71. >Anon, our linguist, grows more comfortable translating but the mare still needed to repeat her words, each time looking between Anon and our tents, before we could grasp her meaning.
  72. >My only hope is that following Anon’s sudden outburst of laughter, we haven’t appeared to mock their custom.
  73. >You see, we were rather confused last night as none of the ponies we encountered had set up tents or other structures of their own. Rather, they gathered together and huddled around one another, pressing their bodies close as they lay in the snow.
  74. >We would’ve invited them into our tents but they’re barely large enough for ourselves and, I admit, seeing them lying there peacefully, I grew to envy their exceptionally thick coats.
  75. >That is why their leader, Warm Embrace we have translated her name as, was awaiting our rousing from sleep and immediately approached to check on our wellbeing.
  76. >From what she’s told us, among her ponies it is extremely unusual to sleep alone. Even in their homes, itself a fascinating revelation, family groups sleep communally. That each of us retired to a tent alone was something their watchmares were too shocked by to wake the others and investigate.
  77. >I must press upon you what I’m about to say - at the earliest juncture, Warm Embrace spoke slowly and carefully, making sure to give Anon time to grasp the meaning.
  78. >She offered us a place in their huddle, that if we don’t know the ways of forming our own, they would be glad to teach us.
  79. >Now keep in mind, it’s been less than a day since we’ve met these ponies. Yes, they’ve kept a watch on us but without understanding our language, that could only give them so much to go on.
  80. >In spite of that, however, they have lept immediately to offer us hospitality unequalled by anything we have encountered in Equestria.
  81. >Though Anon, our doctor, was grumbling about it being a ploy to secure more of our boots, I think he’s just upset that we haven’t a spare that properly fits his foot.
  82. >To further exemplify their character, I must relate the second happening in the camp.
  83. >We’ve a few sleds with us to carry some of the heavier equipment and provisions - the oil for the lamps, cooking equipment, extra clothing, etc.. We’ve taken it in turns to pull them but, especially over the more difficult terrain, it can make for slow going.
  84. >Our new friends are eager to return to their compatriots and, seeing us gathering the sleds, made an offer I still can’t quite grasp.
  85. >They use sleds of their own and what sound like travoises and, as such, offered to pull ours in our stead.
  86. >Now, I admit, so far they’ve lacked the horns of unicorns and wings of pegasi so we’ve assumed they’re related, at least, to earth ponies. Giving one of them the ropes of the sled, she pulled it with such ease and grace that it’s difficult to dismiss the similarity.
  87. >More than that, however, is how she pulled it.
  88. >Paper, her hooves never once dug into the snow as our own feet do. As if she was stepping on solid earth, she placed a hoof forward each time and pulled at the sled.
  89. >Anon has translated her name as Snow Glide and I believe it is perhaps the most appropriate of them.
  90. >The last event is, I believe, of the greatest significance.
  91. >Anon, our linguist, was keen to find out what we should call these ponies. After all, the name they give themselves could reveal much about them.
  92. >Alas, we still lack a firm enough grasp on their language to discern the true meaning of it.
  93. >The best he could make of what Warm Embrace told him is, ‘<group/tribe/family> of the <indeterminable expression>’.
  94. >He believes the term may be a complex expression that encapsulates the nature of these ponies, their place within the world, and how it has shaped them.
  95. >The closest we could get is that it’s something to do with the snow that blankets this land. Indeed, when Anon presented the idea to her, taking care to make his meaning clear, Warm Embrace seemed quite pleased.
  96. >She has asked us to call them, in our language, ‘snowponies’.
  97. >I shall write more on this at my earliest convenience, we’re to move out soon.
  98. >Your friend, finding warmth in the snow,
  99. >Anonymous
  100.  
  101. >Seventh of October, 26th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  102. >Dear Paper Chase,
  103. >I’m sure that if we didn’t have these snowponies pulling our sleds, we would never have made it to their encampment so quickly.
  104. >Still, I get the feeling that Warm Embrace would prefer we weren’t so easily bogged down in the snow. Our doctor has taken the brunt of her glares—without seeing her eyes it’s impossible to confirm if she’s doing so but it makes sense—most likely from walking so awkwardly.
  105. >Otherwise, we arrived at the larger group without incident.
  106. >I must direct you, first, to the sketch I’ve included showing most of the group that greeted us at the encampment surrounding an open section of the ice-covered lake we arrived at.
  107. >Do you notice anything? Perhaps that young and old alike have joined this group?
  108. >Without further explanation from them, I’m left to draw my own conclusions and while I hesitate to leap too much towards offering definitive statements, I think some things can safely be gleaned.
  109. >Most likely, the younger snow ponies are of an age where they can safely be brought along to observe the older mares fishing and hauling. Whether this is a communal effort, with any pony from their group working, or they have dedicated fishers, it makes sense for the younger ones to learn from them.
  110. >The older mares I’m less sure of. Age takes its toll on earth ponies as much as any of the other tribes but then, these may very well not be earth ponies at all. Perhaps they’ve been brought to offer more instruction to the foals? I’ll have to consult with Warm Embrace when the opportunity arises.
  111. >Like the older members, the foals appear more curious than afraid of us. However, as you can see from the sketch, it seems likely our doctor is to suffer another ‘incident’. I didn’t see the filly take his remaining original boot, not yet, but there’s still light in the day.
  112. >I must mention the saddles and baskets as they’re related. Both speak to a more sophisticated society than might otherwise be concluded from our observations from the previous day. These snowponies both possess leather—or what looks like it—and the means to fabricate it.
  113. >As to their purpose? Those that we’ve seen lack any real decoration and seem to serve more as protection from the large ‘saddlebaskets’ they carry that are filled with fish. I can only imagine that the woven baskets, so laden, must chafe against them. If they have some other use, we’ve yet to see it.
  114. >Warm Embrace was good enough to allow Anon—the member of our team in charge of the equipment—to examine one of the saddles. They’re well crafted and cared for, no signs of the material drying or cracked. The covering under them, strangely, almost resembles some of the fur of the other members of the encampment. A coincidence, most likely.
  115. >The snowponies of the camp have offered us some of their fish and while our immediate inclination was to turn down their generous offer, we have no way of telling how that gesture may be received. We may be expected to partake.
  116. >Still, we decided to test the waters and in turn offered them some of our hardtack. I can only attribute their lack of disgust to a lack of familiarity with Equestrian cuisine and how the hardtack compares. Or perhaps they’re simply being polite.
  117. >The foals, at least, made no attempt to hide their distaste for the foul biscuits. Perhaps that’s the reason our doctor’s other boot now lies in danger?
  118. >As you can see, he also took it upon himself to catch some fish of our own. It still feels wrong to deprive these snowponies of what they have, without knowing of their own needs and stocks.
  119. >We’re still puzzling out the mare who arrived with the basket - whether she mistook our doctor’s intention and brought some more of their own fish to assure us we can count upon their generosity, or believes that he’s looking to contribute to their work.
  120. >Once more I find myself marvelling at the kindness of these ponies. We’ve done nothing to win their trust and generosity and yet they extend it willingly.
  121. >Something I feel our cartographer has yet to fully appreciate.
  122. >As you can see, he has been engaged in some serious discussion, shall we say, with one of the group an older mare brought to examine our maps.
  123. >He insists that they cannot be so wrong as to be useless but, from what we can translate, that is precisely the case. Attempts to explain where we took the maps from and who crafted them have been met only with confusion. It appears the snowponies, or at least these ones, have absolutely no knowledge of Equestria and the ponies who dwell within it.
  124. >Which raises its own set of questions, of course, and ones I’m not equipped to answer at this juncture.
  125. >Finally, for now, I must draw your attention to the elderly mare at the centre of the sketch. The one with the braided mane and the beaded collar around her neck. Probably the most important thing I must tell you in this letter.
  126. >Warm Embrace told us that she is called ‘Baba Hooves’ and whether that is her real name or a term of endearment and/or respect, we’ve yet to puzzle out.
  127. >When asked about the matter—after first clearing it with Warm Embrace who had bowed upon approaching the mare, indicating some degree of importance to her position—she asked us, through Anon and Warm Embrace, what we had been told of her.
  128. >We, in turn, simply replied with what they had asked us to call her. Baba Hooves merely smiled at this and nodded, saying something to Warm Embrace who in turn smiled at us.
  129. >She hasn’t deigned to translate what was said and I admit, my curiosity is fighting hard against my respect, but I’ll do my best to let the matter lie for now, at least.
  130. >I fear I must cut this letter short for now, my friend, as we‘ve been asked to join the snowponies in a communal meal.
  131. >Make no mistake, though, that these are exciting times.
  132. >Your friend, elated to eat once more,
  133. >Anonymous
  134. >-N.B.: make note of Anon intervening in the map dispute to defuse situation. Offer thoughts on position of seals within snowpony group/society. Important - note conversation between Anon and Baba Hooves.
  135.  
  136. >Eighth of October, 27th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  137. >Dear Paper Chase,
  138. >I apologise in advance for the length of this letter but I’m afraid there’s simply too much for me to document and relate.
  139. >Our meal with the snowponies yesterday was a simple enough affair.
  140. >The folding tables we use for the cooking equipment aren’t large enough to accommodate all of us so we joined them in being seated together.
  141. >I’m sure you remember our earlier days at the University where myself and my comrades would sit together, apart from ponies, until we ‘warmed up to you’, as you put it. I must confess that the feeling returned yesterday when the prospect of being seated among strange equines reared its head again.
  142. >But we had neither the luxury of a spacious cafeteria, nor the leeway to believe we wouldn’t cause undue offence to our hosts.
  143. >Instead, we made do with sitting together, assuming that the snowponies would seat themselves opposite us. Why wouldn’t we? Our relations haven’t been strained or otherwise fragile but they had no reason to stay so close to us.
  144. >I’m sure you can imagine the surprise that spread amongst us when many sat right against ourselves and a few even pushed their way between us.
  145. >Our linguist was astounded—and more than a little amused—to discover that Warm Embrace had related the previous night’s lack of huddling on our part to the rest of the group. Apparently, in spite of repeated assurances that our coats and other clothing were sufficient to keep us warm, they still worried both for our safety and for... something we’re still trying to translate.
  146. >I’ve tried to capture the scene as I recall it in the sketch. You see Baba Hooves sitting almost next to Anon? I’m glad Warm Embrace is between them and I’m sure he felt the same. It still unnerves me to recall how she chewed at the hardtack with a smile on her face.
  147. >Our cartographer and the mare he was arguing with shared a darne of the fish—Anon, our cook, says it’s something like grayling—which I hope indicates they’ve made amends over the earlier argument. With the language barrier it’s impossible to tell but she seemed settled enough.
  148. >Please excuse the odd perspective, I’ve tried to mentally place myself opposite of where I sat. Our doctor is firmly wedged between myself and our cook, no doubt to avoid getting close to any of the snowponies for fear of what might happen. He hasn’t said if that’s the reason but I think it’s a safe assumption, at this point.
  149. >At the least, he didn’t recoil too severely when one of the older mares—who through Warm Embrace, graciously shared that her name is ‘True North’—brought him what looked like a particularly fat darne of the fish. An attempt to assure him they mean him no further harm and possibly some measure of restitution?
  150. >Note also the seals gathered alongside the snowponies. We haven’t received much of an explanation beyond them being ‘friends’ and what our linguist has translated as, ‘<partners/compatriots> in our endeavour’.
  151. >The foals in particular were quite fond of petting the seals as they offered some of the smaller fish that could be spared.
  152. >As for myself, you can see the cream and grey mare who previously brought the basket to our doctor, sat herself by my side. I believe, owing to her cutie mark as well, that she’s one of the fishers who brought in this generous haul.
  153. >So, I tried to make clear to her that the fish was most appreciated and tasteful. It certainly helps that our cook was able to put the small gas-burning stoves and pans to use in cooking them first.
  154. >I’ve included a sketch of that, also, as I believe you’ll enjoy seeing the reactions of the snowponies to seeing us use that modern equipment.
  155. >You can see the bay mare in particular was keenly investigating the gas stoves. First she started launching a tirade of questions to our cook before realising she was wasting her time and fetched Warm Embrace.
  156. >I’m sure you can imagine the difficulty of translating under those circumstances but she was intensely interested in the heat output of the stoves, their adjustability, and the fuel.
  157. >Why? And why her? I’m afraid we haven’t been able to adequately translate that, at least yet. All we have is her name: Bright Earth.
  158. >Whatever the case, the meal proceeded without any unfortunate incidents. We may not have been able to talk with our hosts but their company, never mind their food, was more than welcome.
  159. >From speaking with Anon afterwards, he was engaged in some discussion with Warm Embrace and Baba Hooves during it.
  160. >And I confess I still feel a certain rush of excitement just thinking about it but we were to be brought to their village, to properly rest and more patiently discuss who we are and why we’re here.
  161. >I’m sure you must be mentally composing your letter to me, chiding me about the importance of ‘maintaining a proper sense of professional detachment and objectivity in your observations’. But Paper, if you’d seen what we have, been treated as we have, you’d be struggling just as much as I am.
  162. >I’m going to split this correspondence as I still have much to relate and must break momentarily.
  163. >Your friend, soundly subjective,
  164. >Anonymous
  165.  
  166. >Eighth of October, 27th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  167. >Dear Paper Chase,
  168. >I think you’re going to like this one in particular.
  169. >While I wasn’t privy to the exact details of the discussion between Anon and Baba Hooves, I have learned of one important detail from our linguist-turned-interpreter: we’re now under their care.
  170. >Or rather, we’re honour-bound to each other.
  171. >I’m afraid I don’t recall reading such instances in my studies of Equestrian hippology but certainly back on Earth, such beliefs aren’t or weren’t uncommon among certain types of societies.
  172. >You see, having shared food with one another, the snowponies are bound by tradition to allow no harm to come to us just as we in turn are not to harm them.
  173. >While Anon was still understandably a bit reluctant to place his full trust in them, he agreed to their request for us to accompany them to their village. Personally, I didn’t see what further risk we’d be taking by doing so. If they wanted to capture or otherwise harm us, they’ve had more than ample opportunity to do so. And with the village so close that we could reach it within the day, even at our comparatively slower pace, then there’s no way we’d be able to outrun any search parties from it.
  174. >But he’s our leader and ultimately the safety of our group is his responsibility. Which is why he turned down a most generous offer by our hosts that I’ll get to in due course.
  175. >Recall from my earlier sketch the treeline close by to where the fishing party had set up. It’s within that forest that we found the village and make no mistake, it is a large enough settlement to be called so.
  176. >I think, having seen where we were to be led, I understood Anon’s concern.
  177. >Again, our gracious hosts offered to pull our laden sleds but this time along with their own and their travoises, now themselves laden with their haul from the fishing expedition.
  178. >The foals of the group circled about our sleds, chattering to each other excitedly before taking off into the forest.
  179. >Strange to say but while most of them showed the same lack of difficulty with the snow as Snow Glide, at least one of them periodically sank into the drifts. To their credit, the rest of the foals would slow down and help dislodge her. It warms the heart to see such camaraderie among children of even this far-flung place.
  180. >As for the older mares, they easily kept pace with the rest of the group. One even bore a pair of the ‘saddlebaskets’ upon her back. From what little I’ve seen of their relations so far, I’ve little reason to believe she would’ve been burdened unduly so my assumption is that she requested the opportunity.
  181. >True North stayed near our doctor, who thankfully showed no signs of trying to avoid her in turn. I think her generosity at the meal and her general demeanour have done much to ease the tension there. It also spared him observing Warm Embrace’s continued glances back at him. He was a little more sure-footed but still lagged.
  182. >Still, Anon, our… He asked us to call him our ‘quartermaster’ and I neglected to use that term in a previous letter, owing to its ridiculousness. We’re not a military endeavour and while he may hold that background, it’s not a title that fits with our mission.
  183. >I mention this here only because I know if he, somehow, gets his mitts on these letters I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t at least mention it.
  184. >To get back to my point, he’s been enjoying examining the travoises and sleds of the snowponies.
  185. >Not to talk down the quality of craftsponyship of our own sleds but considering we’re now among the natives of this land, it’d be a hard task to beat their own knowledge of constructing sleds.
  186. >How much of that is down to better weight distribution and how much to more sophisticated ergonomics, I leave to whatever report our ‘quartermaster’ may feel the need to draw up.
  187. >In any case, I’ll direct your attention to the first sketch I’ve included.
  188. >I hope you’ll forgive the roughness, that’s not down to any difficulty remembering on my part. Goodness no, I doubt I could forget stepping through the last of those trees and being greeted by that sight.
  189. >What was I expecting?
  190. >Not such sophisticated looking lodges, given what little we’ve seen of the snowponies before that but then I should’ve remembered what I said about their production of leather.
  191. >I think it’s still the shock of encountering these ponies. I know I’m not alone in standing somewhat awestruck at these sights.
  192. >From the small statuettes that adorn the pathways through the village, to the ornate carvings upon many of the doors and the logs of the structures themselves, the small decorations tied with colourful strips of cloth that hang from the eaves of their lodges, many of them look like trees or leaves though some almost look like conifer cones.
  193. >It’s a hippologist’s dream come true and I’m only sorry you’re not here to see these things for yourself.
  194. >The second sketch, I hope, provides a better view of our arrival in the village.
  195. >I have to believe it’s thanks to the foals who ran ahead that a party was waiting for us but I’m still glad that the worst I can say about the greeting is the curiosity expressed by the villagers.
  196. >An older mare stepped forward from the group to meet Baba Hooves and Warm Embrace, who continued on as Anon brought us to a halt.
  197. >The discussion was, apparently, over bringing strange creatures with ‘magic fire’ into the village and any danger they might pose. Knowing what I know now, it’s obvious the adults didn’t place too much stock in whatever the foals had told them. Children are the same wherever you go, eh?
  198. >Once the matter was cleared up—my guess, after it came to light we’d shared our meal—we were taken through the village proper.
  199. >The other mares from the fishing expedition were met by others and stallions—the first we’ve seen so far, would you believe, which I’m sure I could write entire letters about on the subject thereof—who began to unload their sleds and travoises. A handful of others remained hitched to our own and pulled them along with us.
  200. >I hope my third sketch gives some more detail to the drying racks they hang their fish upon. I’ve also included sketches of a few of the smaller buildings with copious smoke rising from them which I’d guess at being smokers. Especially if the aroma from those areas of the village is anything to go by.
  201. >-N.B.: collect your thoughts and recompose.
  202. >I’ll leave the last and probably most important matter to the third letter in this collection.
  203. >Your friend, assuredly among friends,
  204. >Anonymous
  205.  
  206. >Eighth of October, 27th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  207. >Dear Paper Chase,
  208. >I’ll try to be brief both as I’m sure you’ve already had a lot to take in and because our doctor’s itching for me to accompany him on urgent business.
  209. >We were led through the village, past more homes than I might otherwise have imagined from the group we initially met, interspersed with small places of industry - tanners, carpenters, etc..
  210. >The lodge we stopped at was significantly larger than the others, its carvings more ornate and the lintel above the door was the only one I’ve seen that bore engravings in the shape of stylised stars.
  211. >Though I must stress that I haven’t had the chance to more properly explore the village yet and so can’t state definitively if this lodge, that I’ve included a sketch of, is the only one to bear those marks.
  212. >Baba Hooves and the older mare who spoke with her and Warm Embrace accompanied us there and inside. I’ve tried to give some sense of its scale with the sketch of its interior but in case it’s not clear, it’s too large to be a simple dwelling. More likely it’s some kind of gathering place but for what, I can’t yet say.
  213. >Notice the extensive horseshoe motif? I haven’t noticed any of the snowponies wearing horseshoes but then I haven’t been examining them closely enough to tell, I think. That and their significant feathering leaves it quite difficult.
  214. >If I had to guess—and my position necessitates that—it could be an indicator of a connection to the earth. These snowponies live in a forest, and rather than having made a clearing they’ve built around the trees. A respect for nature? Certainly that’s the case among earth ponies but I’d still rather not start making assumptions based on that when these ponies name themselves for something else entirely.
  215. >The alcove at the corner was the only one and held a small idol. Whether it’s simply decorative or holds some religious/spiritual significance is something I don’t wish to guess at. Not until I’ve had the chance to make at least some inquiries though, with only the one linguist having so many asking for his time I’m sure you can imagine that I may yet be waiting.
  216. >The fire in the pit at the centre of the hall was already lit upon our entering and the temperature difference from outside was immediately apparent. These snowponies are clearly competent builders.
  217. >This was where the three snowponies who accompanied us inside—Warm Embrace, Baba Hooves, and the elderly mare who’d been introduced as Larch Bough—took to addressing Anon.
  218. >Larch formally welcomed us to her village, revealing that she is indeed its chief.
  219. >’You have shared in our <food/meal/bounty>, now you share in our <embrace/safety/care>’ was the exact translation our linguist gave. She sat back on her haunches with her forelegs extended as if beckoning him into a hug. To his credit, he declined that and whatever faux pas we may have committed in doing so is, I’m sure, less than mistakenly engaging in such physical contact unwanted.
  220. >I’d chalk Larch Bough’s reserved bearing up to that but she appeared so even before leading us to the lodge. Understand that when I say ‘reserved’, I don’t mean that she’s made us feel unwelcome here. I think, as a leader, she shares Anon’s outlook in shouldering the safety of her ponies so seriously. We’re an unknown to them as much as they are to us.
  221. >And, of course, I have to remember that as cordial as the snowponies we’ve met have been so far, that’s no reason to think none of them differ in personality or temperament.
  222. >I’ll be sure to have our linguist draw up a full and proper transcript of the discussion as I believe that only he can provide the correct insight. However there is the important matter I’ve yet to mention and I only regret now I’ve left myself so little time to address it.
  223. >When Larch Bough had departed to tend to the needs of the village and we were left with Baba Hooves and Warm Embrace, we were given an offer. Though calling it a mere offer feels like I’m not doing justice to it.
  224. >We were invited to sleep within the walls of their gathering lodge. A warm fire well fueled for the night, enough space for us to lay out our sleeping bags, and the hopeful suggestion that we might sleep close together.
  225. >Sad to say that the moment was spoiled somewhat by Anon, one of our mountaineers, remarking that if these snowmares care so deeply for our apparent loneliness, maybe they should share their company with us.
  226. >I relate this only to speak to the character of the rest of my compatriots: the looks of disgust and dismay on their faces were matched only by the swift clip behind the ear Anon received.
  227. >Our leader declined the offer as graciously as he could, however, not wishing to impose further upon their already overwhelming generosity. I’m sure there’s more to it than that but I haven’t been able to spare the time to ask and he’s not related any other reasoning to the others.
  228. >And now I must end this letter, my friend, as I look up from the drying ink and see our doctor giving me a look that could sour even the freshest milk.
  229. >I’ll have more at the earliest possibility.
  230. >Your friend, pulled about like a sled,
  231. >Anonymous
  232.  
  233. >Warm Embrace sat by the fire of Baba Hooves’ lodge and dutifully drank from the cup of bitter tea she held between her hooves.
  234. >The years since her fillyhood had not, in fact, done anything to improve its taste but when Baba asked somepony to sit and drink, it was a rare and regretful mare who declined.
  235. >”So none of the tales speak of them?” she said, glad for the opportunity to lower the cup from her muzzle and be free from the smell.
  236. >She was sure Baba made a point to take longer with her own draught and found herself pressing at the cup in her hooves idly.
  237. >”You think that if I knew I wouldn’t tell you?” asked Baba, when she’d finished drinking.
  238. >Warm clicked her tongue and caught herself before she took another mouthful from the cup.
  239. >She thought Baba knew more than she was letting on, as usual, but it wouldn’t do to approach it with that mindset.
  240. >”It just doesn’t make any sense,” Warm said quietly. Baba still watched her, waiting, and so Warm continued, “where did they come from? Why haven’t any of the other tribes ever said anything about them?”
  241. >”They come from the south, isn’t that what you told me?”
  242. >It was and it wasn’t. Hiemal was the one who’d argued with the strange creatures when they’d presented their map. Trying to translate their odd language through that argument had been a true test, especially with Hiemal insistent that nothing could possibly have come from that far to the south.
  243. >Which was true. It still didn’t answer any of the questions that brought Warm to where she sat, though.
  244. >Baba, however, still wore her small knowing smile and waited for Warm Embrace to speak.
  245. >”I don’t get the sense that they’re lying to us about that, though.”
  246. >”Nor I, Warm.” The elder mare took another long sip from her cup before speaking again. “And perhaps there’s more truth to it than they realise. Or choose to say.”
  247. >”Baba…” Warm groused.
  248. >The mare chuckled and pointed a hoof at Warm’s cup. “Drink your tea and I’ll tell you.”
  249. >Stars above but of course that’s what it’d come to. Baba insisted it was good for keeping one’s stomach settled but the effect the taste had on her own left Warm wanting to insist otherwise.
  250. >She knew better than to try and find some way around it, though. The shaman would get the tea into her, one way or another.
  251. >Steeling herself, Warm brought the cup to her lip and took the smallest sip she was sure Baba would allow her without insisting she take more.
  252. >”You’ll thank me tomorrow, Warm.” Baba took another sip from her cup and nodded. “And I’ll thank Forest Ken for getting me the herbs.”
  253. >That old mare probably loved the taste just as much as Baba did, Warm was sure. Maybe there was something about that age which brought with it a penchant for awful teas and inscrutability.
  254. >”Just as you’ll thank the stars for sending our guests to us.”
  255. >If it were any other mare, Warm knew they wouldn’t see her cocking an eyebrow beneath the heavy bangs of her mane.
  256. >”Tell me, Warm, have you been keeping an eye to the southern reaches of the night sky?”
  257. >Warm nodded. “When I have to, same as everypony else.”
  258. >The shaman took another sip from her cup before setting it down by the fire.
  259. >”Then you should know of the sight there that hasn’t been seen in so long.” Raising her forelegs into the air, Baba traced out a shape that Warm followed but didn’t recognise. With a sigh, Baba took her cup back in her hooves and pointed it at Warm. “No, I can’t blame you. Even the few tales I know say little.”
  260. >”So there are tales!” Warm set her own cup down and shuffled closer to the mare. “Baba, you have to tell me.”
  261. >The mare shook her head and turned her gaze to her cup. “All I can tell you is that they’re an omen."
  262. >Warm frowned again. “You called them friends, Baba.”
  263. >”And I still believe them to be. But friends often bring tidings, hmm?” Warm made to inquire but Baba spoke over her, “when are we next to leave for Snowpitt?”
  264. >The question caught Warm off guard enough that she replied, “not until the next moon,” before realising how abrupt the shift had been.
  265. >”Then have Snow Glide and the others start making preparations as soon as they can.”
  266.  
  267. >Eighth of October, 27th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  268. >Dear Paper Chase,
  269. >Allow me to apologise in advance for the sketch I’ve included with this letter. I’ve done my best to ensure it’s as tasteful as possible but Anon, our doctor, insisted I capture the likeness of the mare as accurately as possible.
  270. >Before you start composing a letter to his department, please know that I also don’t believe his intentions were anything other than professional. Though I fear he may sometimes allow them to cloud his judgement as regards tact.
  271. >Also, please do not let your assistants catch sight of the sketch, the last thing I need is another fortnight of them pestering me for photographs and more detailed drawings.
  272. >N.B.: recompose with explanation first.
  273. >Now, with that out of the way I believe I should explain: the mare in that sketch is one our good doctor asked me to record after it was revealed he was to be taken to examine her. As soon as the snowponies understood he’s the equivalent of a healer, they were most interested in his summation.
  274. >I’ll leave the medical details to his own report and focus on the subject matter I’m both more familiar with and more qualified to comment on.
  275. >This mare’s home lies on one side of the village, adorned similarly to those I’ve recorded in previous sketches. Of note are a number of conifer cones hung from the eaves over the doors. I’ve speculated on that previously but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to observe them closely.
  276. >The craftsponyship is easily the equal of the product of Equestria’s finest carpenters, with each cone scale clearly carved. I spoke in an earlier letter of the quality of their sleds and travoises and it seems that skill and care is equally directed towards their artistry.
  277. >Inside her home was a firepit at its centre, over which sat a kettle with steam rising from it. The smell was both familiar and strange, bearing some similarity to a dish from my home of which Equestrian’s have no equivalent. Though it was mixed with what smelled like spices.
  278. >To the rear of the abode were a number of cushions arranged in close proximity. I’m reminded of Warm Embrace’s concern after the first night we slept with our hosts and what I’ve heard since, about snowponies huddling even in their homes. It makes sense they’d prefer cushions over beds, no?
  279. >The rest is almost astounding in its banality - wooden cups, plates, bowls, some simple cutlery, and an assortment of metal pots. If I had more time to examine the furniture and decorations, I assure you I would’ve done so but Anon insisted I keep my mind—and eyes—on the matter that brought us there.
  280. >Which was the light tan mare lying on a collection of stacked cushions near the others at the rear of her home.
  281. >Her position as we entered was as it appears in the sketch - lying on her back against the cushions, though without her two foals who were eating, at the time.
  282. >If she felt any degree of discomfort or shyness at our arrival, given her position, she didn’t show it. Rather, she wore the same placid smile as we approached, with one hoof on her abdomen saying something quietly enough that we couldn’t hear.
  283. >I wish I could say the same for our translator, Warm Embrace, who, ever since I met with her and our doctor, seemed somewhat agitated. A part of me fears Anon was as excitedly insistent about this meeting with her as he was with me. I can only hope his manner hasn’t too badly indisposed our hosts, nor dampened their perception of us.
  284. >The two mares exchanged pleasantries in their own tongue before the pregnant mare nodded to us and asked something of Warm Embrace. That being to ask if I was the healer who wished to see her.
  285. >Now, I know Anon faced some degree of… resistance when we arrived here and he lacked qualifications from any of Equestria’s fine medical colleges. Trust me, I know too well..
  286. >While I’m glad that, in time, he was able to demonstrate his knowledge and skill, and our word certainly helped with that, I sometimes get the impression that the period still weighs on him. I don’t know his full story but he takes his vocation quite seriously and equally tends to hold rather strong feelings about those who call his abilities into question, in that way.
  287. >Which is to say he seemed quite displeased about the question being put to me, given he had his usual bag of equipment and even his stethoscope around his neck. At least until I reminded him that our hosts aren’t Equestrians and so most likely have no familiarity with his equipment or would know what the red cross on his bag means. Though perhaps he takes that article so seriously because of who gifted it to him.
  288. >N.B.: try to keep the personal remarks to a minimum
  289. >However, once that minor misunderstanding was cleared up, Anon was quite keen to speak to the mare himself.
  290. >We learned through Warm Embrace that her name was Glacial Vale and was often found foraging through the woods and valleys that surround this place. Which does go some way to answering some questions; most notably the lack of any agricultural infrastructure, at least that we’ve seen so far.
  291. >I can’t imagine this climate is conducive to the kind of intensive farming that goes on in Equestria but the snowponies here have a readily available source of fish and with foraging, must be able to suitably supplement their diets to remain healthy.
  292. >If I may speculate, it seems likely they trade with other villages. I know I’ve not explicitly made mention of that previously but it stands to reason that there’s others; any sufficiently large enough society to have a language this divergent from Equestrian isn’t a small one. And while the climate here is too harsh—at least presently—to allow for farming, there must be places where it’s possible.
  293. >Something I’ll have to discuss with Warm Embrace when the opportunity presents itself. Which seems unlikely if I’m to continue being dragged around such as I was in this instance.
  294. >To return to the matter at hand, Anon wished to pose a battery of questions to Vale which, while not out of place in an Equestrian hospital or doctor’s surgery, would probably have less meaning to a mare raised outside that society. I can only hope he doesn’t treat his report on it with the same exasperation he did me.
  295. >If it’s not already clear from the sketch, Vale was indeed quite comfortable and reported no aches or pains beyond those that might be expected. Personally, given she has two foals already, I think she’s grown used to the experience. Or maybe she’s simply the sort of mare who takes these things in her stride.
  296. >After all, she had no objections to Anon asking to perform a more hands-on examination of her.
  297. >Again, her heart rate, blood pressure, etc. were what should be expected from a pregnant mare though again I’ll leave the true details to Anon’s own report. Still, it’s relieving to see her in good health; pregnancy and childbirth among more ‘primitive’—for lack of a better word—cultures can often be fraught with difficulty, especially given it carries risks even with our own modern medical understanding.
  298. >Still, I mentioned to Anon that it might be best to leave any questions about mortality during pregnancy for another, more appropriate, time.
  299. >Which perhaps was a bit presumptuous on my part; I admit that our work keeps us from seeing much of each other and so I’ve little experience with his bedside manner but in spite of whatever impression you might garner from how I write of him, his dealing with Glacial Vale was nothing short of exemplary.
  300. >While it did take some back and forth between he and Warm Embrace to simplify and explain some of his technical terminology, they did manage to convey his meaning to Vale. Though she did still ask to try his stethoscope and listen to her own heart and abdomen, seeming equally amused and amazed by it.
  301. >It was with only a little reticence that Warm Embrace also requested such an opportunity, keeping a hoof to Vale’s abdomen perhaps to test just how true Anon’s claim was. Not out of mistrust, I’m sure, if the look of wonder in her eyes was anything to go by.
  302. >Now, with no way of knowing how long we might be enjoying the hospitality of our guests, we discussed the possibility of prenatal care and what might reasonably be done. Anon was… insistent he be allowed monitor Vale at least as long as we remained here and myself and Warm Embrace agreed.
  303. >Still, Warm Embrace assured him that their own healer was capable of caring for Vale but I was careful to explain this is a rare opportunity for us to document more of their society and customs.
  304. >Warm Embrace, for herself, appeared amused - why would we want to record something as mundane as pregnancy? Do our people not experience it, along with foregoing huddling?
  305. >I think that may have been what attracted Vale’s foals to her; the three exchanged words as the foals climbed onto the cushions by their mother’s sides and from the way they kept looking back to myself and Anon, I can guess as to what they were about.
  306. >It was as good a time as any to end the examination and I’m pleased that Anon had enough notes made that he found no objections in that.
  307. >However, Glacial Vale herself asked, through Warm Embrace, that I stay as our doctor departed. Since I wasn’t a healer as he was, she was curious as to why I’d accompanied him.
  308. >In our meeting with Larch Bough, Anon, our leader, explained who each of us are. I’ll spare you the story of how we also had to explain our names to them for now, I’m sure you recall your own confusion. Still, that did mean that most of the snowponies in this village still didn’t know who most of us were beyond being visitors from far away.
  309. >The real difficulty lay in trying to find some equivalent or simplified manner of explaining hippology to Warm Embrace, who could then translate and relay that to Vale. She already had some idea of my profession but it’s still something too abstract to readily explain. So, I sufficed by telling Vale that I make a record of the things we see and do on our journeys, so that others might know of them.
  310. >A few questions passed between the mares with Warm Embrace shaking her head and apparently trying to further explain what I do. To hear her talk of it afterwards, Vale somehow got the idea that I’m something close to the equivalent of a shaman to our group. While I’ve not spoken to you of my beliefs in such matters, I’m afraid I don’t count myself as spiritual enough a man to claim such a title.
  311. >Eventually we managed to work something out - among snowpony society, they maintain a strong oral tradition of story and song. Many are recounted by their shamans but others still by musicians and the like. Which while unsurprising, as societies at this level of development typically do maintain oral histories, I’m still left feeling regret that the circumstances of our meeting didn’t afford me the opportunity to make further inquiries.
  312. >You see, once I explained to Vale that I was recording her likeness in a drawing, she expressed some interest in seeing it. Consider it vain, Paper, but I do take some measure of pride in her astonishment in capturing her so accurately. Though, I still felt the need to tell her the drawings were more technical and intended to instruct rather than artistic renditions.
  313. >Rather, Warm Embrace explained that after some discussion between her and myself.
  314. >Still, an opportunity presented itself: I presented to Vale the fact that I try to record what I see as true to its appearance as possible. That if I might impose further upon her time and hospitality, I’d like to draw her as she is, with her foals by her sides. I’ve not had the chance to see much of their homes and family lives yet and surely my own people would appreciate seeing the more mundane but nonetheless vital aspects of their society.
  315. >And so that is the sketch I hope you’ll focus on, Paper, as I’ve done my best to render Vale more true to who she is; a mare, happy and healthy, surrounded by those she loves in a home she’s well cared for within.
  316. >Would that all of us were so lucky, eh?
  317. >So, you see, I thought it best not to ask yet more of her by asking after those stories and songs. At least not yet. I was quite content to allow Warm Embrace to speak with her in their own tongue, after some assurances that I wasn’t bothered. Being able to better focus on my work would produce a better result, after all.
  318. >Looking back over that sketch now, I find myself wondering at just what we’ve stumbled upon here. Could any of us have imagined such things? What other wonders am I yet to document?
  319. >Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to say. For now, as I watch the ink dry on the previous lines of this letter under the waning light of the day, I am once more called upon to go somewhere. Though this time less insistently and not that my expertise might be used.
  320. >The village gathers in the hall in which we met Larch Bough and spoke with her, Warm Embrace, and Baba Hooves. All I’ve been told of the matter is that it’s not because of our arrival, as such, but something regular. A time when the village gathers together to hear of tales and songs of times long past and snowponies both great and humble.
  321. >It seems my patience is rewarded once more, Paper.
  322. >Your friend, called by song,
  323. >Anonymous
  324.  
  325. >Ninth of October, 28th day of the Anon Northern Expedition
  326. >Dear Paper Chase,
  327. >The most peculiar thing happened while I was sketching out some of the more interesting memories I recall from last night.
  328. >I find it helps jog my memory that I might better recount specifics but in my time here among the snowponies so far, most have only shown a passing interest in what I’m doing. Perhaps most are still aware that we speak a different language and think it better to attend to their own tasks than ask.
  329. >Not so might be the case for foals, as I’m sure you know.
  330. >Anon, our leader, thought it best for us to be as open with our tents as we may be, given the climate. The snowponies have welcomed us into their home, openly and warmly, the least we may do is show them, in turn, that we harbour no secrets that may harm them.
  331. >However Anon, yes our ‘quartermaster’, has complained about this. Quietly, to our leader, that given how much of his time is spent pouring over our inventory, it’s too chilly. Rather, he worries for the state of our supplies but I think I know him well enough to divine his true meaning.
  332. >Still, while I would say the clear air and brisk temperature is bracing, my own position affords me more excitement.
  333. >Well, usually it does. His complaining has certainly ceased after the bay mare, Bright Earth, showed up at his tent with Warm Embrace in tow. To hear Anon tell it, she’d heard of his complaining about the cold and had begun to worry about… excuse me, Paper, I’m still having a little trouble composing myself over this.
  334. >Anon, our linguist, translated the term as ‘kindred spirit’. Apparently, Bright Earth is a metallurgist and saw in Anon’s application of heat using the stoves, someone who must just as easily be able to apply such knowledge to the forge, as the kitchen.
  335. >I should point out, however, that this was after she’d earlier caught him brewing some tea—as much as he enjoys his coffee, he knows not to use more than his ration—and mistakenly took him to be similar in nature to Anon, our cook. Needless to say, after seeing him hunched over the gas heater with the kettle, she returned with a blanket with the most exquisite patterning adorning it.
  336. >While I believe she was disappointed that Anon lacked more knowledge of the gas heaters, Bright Earth did manage to convince Warm Embrace to stay with her and translate while she listened to what Anon knew. I’m sure the prospect of sharing the tea—it’s quite a different flavour to anything they have here—did much to ease any objections the latter mare might have possessed.
  337.  
  338. >Please excuse the digression, I relate it only to illustrate that our hosts continue to show a great deal of warmth and concern for our wellbeing. They are, in short, unafraid of us, if perhaps at times rather bemused though hold no compunction about approaching us, even in our tents.
  339. >Which is why I wasn’t more surprised or confused when a filly made her way into mine.
  340. >I’d noticed her while at my desk, sketching, watching me from outside, Though I should note that she was standing on top of a small pile of wood, elevated enough I’m sure that she could see I was drawing. The filly was a light grey, with a white mane, strangely jet-black at the tips, separated by thick ties.
  341. >It wasn’t until I set down the charcoal that she approached the tent, slowly, curiously, pausing just outside to speak something I’ve yet to mention to Warm Embrace. Though I’m sure I can guess, from her tone, that it was a request to enter the tent. The fact that she did so readily when I beckoned her in, lends further credence to that.
  342. >Or perhaps she was asking what I was doing. In either case the result was the same and I found myself with a small and curious snowpony struggling to peer up onto my folding table.
  343. >What could I do? It wasn’t as if my notes and sketches were particularly secret, nor would she be able to make sense of the former if they were. And I still recalled the humble pleasure Glacial Vale expressed at the notion that I’d thought to make a record of her for my people.
  344. >My position means that often I have one of our party seated with me to recount their own experiences and I find it useful to consult them for their perspectives. Visually, I mean, in addition to their opinions. I am but one man and may miss certain details that are important to record.
  345. >So, I have a chair folded in my tent for when one should visit or is invited to do so. Luckily so, for when it came to this foal’s visit.
  346. >Paper, please calm down, you know what Doctor Heartstrings told you about your blood pressure. I’ll assure you now that absolutely nothing untoward occurred.
  347. >I assure you that I am very familiar with the proper hippological protocol that must be adhered to in such situations but having read all you have to now, I ask you: what about this expedition has been standard?
  348. >I admit, it took a little pantomiming and physical help but I managed to get the filly—if by her voice I am to judge—into the chair and there she sat, at a much better vantage to observe my sketching.
  349.  
  350. >You’ll see what I mean soon when I say that it was the interior of the hall last night, with the snowponies of the village in attendance. Quite the sight it was, too, the filly I mean, as she seemed quite taken with the drawing and quickly began pointing to various elements and, again at a guess, asked questions about them.
  351. >I felt no little chagrin, I admit, wishing Warm Embrace was with me rather than sharing tea with Anon. My young guest was quite the conversationalist, even beyond the point it became clear I couldn’t understand her. Perhaps she was speaking more to herself but every now and then she’d point to one of the ponies in the drawing, look up at me, and recite what was most likely a name, quite slowly and carefully.
  352. >Granted, my own attempts to emulate her speech did result more in her laughter than her praise but, well, it was a welcome diversion from my work. I believe that for us, it can be easy to sit in our cosy offices and forget that our subjects of study share some of the most vital similarities. What filly would not delight in telling a friendly face of her family and friends, once put to paper like this?
  353. >Before I continue, I’ll ask that you fetch File Format. You’ll know why I do so, shortly.
  354. >Unfortunately, the filly did grow a tad frustrated in time, from my inability to understand her beyond the names of those in the drawing but to her credit, she tried to conceal it.
  355. >So I concocted a plan, something that would see her leaving not in consternation but in delight.
  356. >I took a new sheet of paper, my charcoal, and turned to the filly, examining her.
  357. >Quickly, of course, the very last thing I wished to do was make her uncomfortable, especially after she’d taken such time to try and assist me with my studies.
  358. >However, I did make sure to keep what I was doing clearly in view. My guest had been kind enough to lend me her time, I wished to do the same for her in allowing her to observe how I drew.
  359. >Have you ever seen a young pony when they watch another engage in something they have a keen interest in? Especially something related to their cutie mark? Their attention is absolute and unwavering and such was the case for this filly.
  360. >There was none of the fidgeting one might expect, rather, she kept both her forelegs on the table and her eyes fixed on the paper and my charcoal moving across it.
  361. >Even on the brief occasions I would glance at her to refamiliarise myself, though upon eyes far wider and shining with youthful joy and curiosity.
  362.  
  363. >It was difficult to keep from smiling, myself, having seen the delight Equestrian children show when being drawn and wondering, once again, at the artistic practices of these snowponies.
  364. >The last were the blackened tips of her mane and tail, and a few dark smudges in her mane. I’m still unsure as to the cause, whether they’ve been dyed or perhaps she is related to Bright Earth or perhaps a young apprentice who’s become dirtied in her work. Until I can ask Warm Embrace, I have nothing but my own speculation.
  365. >My work then done, I moved the sketch closer to the filly, sat back and allowed her to better examine her own likeness.
  366. >Her blue eyes scanned across the sheet, her mouth hanging open - ah, I’m only sorry I wasn’t able to capture her likeness in that moment! The perfect picture of childlike wonder!
  367. >I did not, however, require Warm Embrace’s services to understand what the filly turning to me, pointing a hoof at her chest and uttering a few words, meant.
  368. >Nods, at least, seem a universal gesture of affirmation but I had not made this sketch for myself. I took it and handed it to her, passing it into her hooves.
  369. >My young guest held the drawing with what I can only describe as ‘reverence’. Once more, I was posed a question and, once more, I nodded, sure I understood the meaning if not the words.
  370. >To you and I it may be a mere sheet of paper. To you, Paper, it may even be a violation of protocol but I ask you, why do we have such regulations in place? We strive not to unduly influence the cultures we study and the species we interact with but is it not the case that our being here has already influenced them? Would a simple drawing truly shatter their worldview and shift the entire course of their development?
  371. >I realise you are no doubt attempting to engage this letter in our eternal debate, and File has done her utmost to calm you, so I humbly ask that you please save such considerations for my return. Or, if I have found the means to send this and you the means to reply, that you consider the following: I made sure my guest departed with a few more sheets of unused paper and a piece of charcoal.
  372. >What child does not love to draw? What might she say to her friends of what transpired in the tent and of where she received her gifts and what they are?
  373. >I have been, time and again, humbled by the kindness and compassion with which our hosts have treated us. Friendship, as my Equestrian friends are keen to remind me, is as natural and fundamental as breathing.
  374. >The hoof of friendship has been extended to us once more, in this strange, snowy place; ask yourself, Paper, would you withdraw from it were you in my position?
  375.  
  376. >As I leave you with that question, I return to composing my letter about last night’s occurrences. Something I’m sure that will be far easier on your constitution.
  377. >Your friend, content in contemplation,
  378. >Anonymous
  379.  
  380. Meanwhile, a little later…
  381. >Jet-black hooves dashed along the snowy ground as Arctic Ink ran through the village.
  382. >“Nivy! Niiivyyy!”
  383. >She stopped by the village hall, peering in but quickly muttering in consternation at not finding her friend.
  384. >”Nivy, c’mon, where are you?”
  385. >She had to show her friend this amazing gift!
  386. >One of the strange creatures in the village had given her something wonderful! It didn’t speak much and she couldn’t understand it anyway but that didn’t matter.
  387. >It had drawn for her! She didn't know how - there wasn't a squid anywhere around and it didn't have a bowl of ink, just this black thing that looked almost like a rock.
  388. >And what a drawing it was - so, so much better than anything she'd ever created, it looked just like her!
  389. >"Niv-"
  390. >Aha, there!
  391. >Sitting near a hut was the little white filly wearing her trademark scarf, talking to Frostbite and Snowfall.
  392. >This was a real stroke of luck, saving her having to look for her friends to tell them all about this.
  393. >Frosty looked over to her first with a look of concern, after hearing her calling Niveous so loudly, but that quickly melted away to curiosity as she saw Ink's wide grin.
  394. >"Inky? What happened?" The little filly asked as Ink approached the group.
  395. >Stopping in front of them, Ink looked between the three, still grinning and allowed the tension to build.
  396. >The collection of items she had in her pouches were sure to impress and all the more given where they came from.
  397. >”It was amazing! I met one of the visitors from the south and it was drawing and it drew everypony from last night and then it drew me and-”
  398. >In a flash, Niveous was on her hooves, turning about to fully face Ink.
  399. >"You met one of them‽"
  400. >A flurry of questions followed.
  401. >"What happened? Did you ask it about what Baba said?"
  402. >"It drew you? How? Where did it get the squid ink?"
  403. >"Did you se the magic fire?"
  404. >"Girls, please!"
  405. >Frosty cut across the questioning and interposed herself between Ink and the others, giving the former a concerned look.
  406. >"Why didn't you tell us you were going to meet one of them?"
  407. >The excitement that had been building in Ink began to simmer down as she shook her head.
  408. >Of course Frosty would've wanted to be there to make sure she was okay.
  409. >"I didn't mean to. I was just watching it for a bit because I was going through that part of the village and it had its yurt open and I could see in."
  410. >The older filly sat down, now looking marginally less worried but still awaiting an explanation.
  411.  
  412. >"And Larch Bough said they were friendly, right? I didn't know what it was doing but it called me in and... well, I went in!"
  413. >"Inky..." Frostbite mumbled, shaking her head.
  414. >"I wasn't bothering it! Promise!"
  415. >Frosty smiled a little smile and put a hoof on Ink's shoulder.
  416. >"I know, I know. But if they do have magic and, like Baba said, they're an omen from the stars, we should probably ask her or Cirrus before talking to one of them, again. They're our guests here and we don't want to cause them any problems."
  417. >In spite of her calming tone, Ink couldn't refrain from rolling her eyes a little.
  418. >"But I wasn't! Look, it even gave me..."
  419. >She reached into her left pouch and, with great care, pulled out one of the items she'd been gifted.
  420. >It was long and wide and white as snow, thin as a leaf and light as a puffin's feather.
  421. >And on it? On it was the drawing it had made of her.
  422. >All three leaned in to examine it and even Frosty's eyes widened.
  423. >"What... this is you!"
  424. >Snowfall's eyes flicked between the drawing and Ink.
  425. >"But it looks just like you. It's like you're sitting there in the drawing!"
  426. >Niveous, ever the more adventurous filly, raised a hoof and pressed it to the drawing.
  427. >Ink was about to explain that it wasn't really her in the picture but Niveous spoke up.
  428. >"It's not squid ink."
  429. >Her voice was laced with confusion and that thrum of excitement from earlier began to rise in Arctic Ink again.
  430. >Carefully—very carefully—she gave the drawing to Frosty. She was best trusted with such a gift.
  431. >Then she reached into her right pouch and took out the other item she'd been given.
  432. >It was a piece of that not-rock, that smudged against her fetlock like ink but not nearly as much.
  433. >"It used this!"
  434. >Snowfall leaned closer, looking over the item.
  435. >"Do you know how to use it?"
  436. >"I think so."
  437. >Reaching back into her left pouch, Ink retrieved one of the unused white... things the traveller had given her.
  438. >"It gave me some of these, too, and it used this black thing on them."
  439. >Her nose scrunched up as some of the long-dried ink on her fetlock smudged a little on it.
  440. >But it also gave her an idea.
  441. >”Hey, girls, wanna try showing what we can do?”

The Way Life Could Be - Pt. 1

by HeavyHorse

Floor's Wet 'n' Wild Adventure

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[WIP] Snowpone Tales

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[WIP] Lost & Found

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[WIP] Frost Fringed Letters

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