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The Ice Breaker (Closed: tacobob, PretzelParty, szalhi)

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The morning sun glistened in the newly awoken sky, shining it's gorgeous light down beneath to the ground. Though, the sky was cloudy, and the air was chilly. The sun seemed to be the only sign of warmth to the late winter air. Spring hadn't blossomed yet for the ponies, but it was a short distance away. The cold still nipped down on anypony who was outside. Soon, a cloud floated over towards the sun, blocking the sunlight's path onto the small piles of snow. The piles were speckled throughout the roads, half melted. There were more piles of water than snow. Golden Daze always noticed this when spring was coming up soon. 

 

Daze always noticed the little things in life, or more so nature. She likes to look down when she flies and observe the ground below. This morning though, she was a little more frantic to get her thoughts together. As so, the golden Pegasus zoomed all over her cloud-made room, making sure she had every little thing she needed before taking the train to the Crystal Empire. Daze was well prepared, certainly. She always packed her bags the night before, to have time that morning to get ready. She was just nervous. Her brain was still processing every second of her trip. Daze was still never fond of new places. She's never gone to the empire before, and she's never raced there. And this race was important. Extremely important. If she lost this race, her career could be over. Well, that's what she thought at least.

 

In between panic attacks and hyperventilating, because she was extremely overdramatic for no reason, she double checked and rechecked the double checks to make sure she had all of her air sprinting items and extra blankets. The only thing she knew was that it was cold there, and she hates being cold, which is why she spent a whole ten minutes getting all of her winter gear and throwing it on herself. Her fuzzy hat, her fuzzy shoes, a fuzzy scarf, and her fuzzy sprinting team jacket. Lots of fuzzy things. And she packed a lot of other things, like snacks and her favorite pillow. She even brought some extra scarves and hats just in case somepony forgot anything. She was generous like that. Of course she brought a whole box of band aids too. Why? Because she's the most reckless flier ever, well, to get where she wanted. She'd try anything to make her dad happy. That comes with a cost. Lots and lots of scars. 

 

"Okay, Daze. You got everything?" she asked herself one more time, finally nodding her head in reassurance and grabbing her bags. The Pegasus flew out of her cloud house and towards the train station, trying to find a clock to look at the time. When she found one, she was relieved. "Girl, you got tons of time to chill out. Relax." Daze's raspy but feminine voice forced the word 'relax' out meaningfully, to actually make the word go through her head. "Just keep yourself warm, your muscles can't tighten for your really important, one in a life time race."

 

Daze smoothly landed on the platform to the train, reading all the times to make sure she had the time right. In bold letters displayed 'The Crystal Empire', which happened to be the next train coming through. After a few minutes, the train was early. The conductor trotted out of the doors of the train, and loudly said, "Train to The Crystal Empire!" Daze flew up into the air with impatience from waiting, or just from the cold, with her bags, and glided into the train. The golden Pegasus then landed gently onto a chair, sitting right next to the window. Then she was lost in her thoughts. Every scenario played in her head at the big race. Winning, losing, making it to the big leagues. Daze's anxiety started itching all over her body. Her hooves started to tap the booth she was on frantically. Her wings opened slightly, to get some fresh air in them. She probably looked crazy, but this was a normal thing for her. Daze just needed to calm down. 

 

 

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The griffon known as Zelda, opened up her eyes as the large beast of an train slowed down for its next stop.  Where was she? Did it matter? This was not the Crystal Empire, so she was staying put for the moment.
 
As she glanced around the cabin that had been her private domain, at least since the last stop, the black bird turned her attention back to her trusty notepad. There were an assortment of sketches she had created to pass the time during the rather lengthy journey.  There were quick scribbles of a few passengers, including one of an obnoxiously beautiful dragon who had no issues posing for the artist. All of her perfectly shined scales gave the griffon ideas for a personal project. In the very old days, blacksmiths wouldn’t think twice about using real dragonscales in the armor, but not anymore. She could see using stainless steel chain mail with layers of metal scallops. Red and black to match the impressive creature's scales. Zelda also made sure to snatch a bit of personal information from the girl so they could meet up in the future. Her name was Simmer.
 
Along with working the forge, the Canterlot resident also enjoyed a second career as an sculptor. She would see about creating something special with Simmer's help. This all could not help but make the cat smile. She had left Canterlot to travel to the Crystal Empire  to be refreshed and inspired. The empire was filled with beautiful crystal homes and towers. The Crystal Ponies had shiny, gradient manes and tails, and those wonderful eyes! There were also an assortment of statues she really wanted to look at.  These were statues of griffons, which was very unusual for a pony city. These were probably of the white griffons that lived not that far from the empire. A friend of hers has a brother who encountered a drift of the white griffons or as they called themselves, the 'Stormfast' during an adventure he had with a group of explorers. These white griffons all lived in an rather large tower, which had been built by their ancestors for one special purpose.  They were to wait until the return of the empire that vanished. One could guess what empire they were waiting for. Pocket Change went into detail about the tower, and probably a little too into detail with his encounter with an female Stormfast Griffon that caught his fancy...Mental images the blacksmith had not wished to receive.
 
As she ran her claws through her pictures, a sound caught her attention. She was going to have an cabin-buddy!
 
Zelda turned her attention to the newcomer. Thankfully, it was just one pony. Not one adult with a dozen of bratty foals. Or even worse, a couple that would blather on for miles and miles. Or even try to convince the bird to leave her cabin so they could experience the 'Mile Long Club'. This was an rather attractive mare that even a few randomly placed bandages could not scar her beauty. The blacksmith always liked ponies with brown or yellowish coats. Be it your handsome Dunders or even sweet Prestezas...Those colors just seemed to work on the adorable equines.
 
The griffon smiled politely at the new passenger, but did not say a word, as it would be rude to start jabbering as the girl was trying to get comfortable. If she wanted to talk, she would once she was ready. No need to push it. So for now, she continued to review her old sketches.
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Why the Crystal Empire? she thought to herself often over the past week. Besides it not really being an Empire, it was a city of crystals and gems, or at least they appeared to be, maybe they weren't really, she couldn't really tell. And as such begged the question as to why would she want to go to a place where she can't see the main attraction? Well, she had to remind herself that there was more to the destination than just its main attraction. The city was an ancient one, having been in stasis for essentially a thousand years, and that meant that a lot of its history occurred back then. Its culture could be considered a mix of ye olde times and modern Equestria. The most astonishing fact was that its mere existence is based on the power of all its citizens combined to protect the forces of the Frozen North, a force that as it seems, the ponies had not been able to fully tame for whatever reason that she doesn't know about. Maybe it's chaos magic, or maybe it's whatever magic is in the Everfree, is that chaos magic, or is it distinct? Thinking about magic hurt her mind. She was not supposed to think of such things.

 

When Loose was planning her next potential journey for when she would be on leave, she had considered many different destinations, but one that she had overheard quite a lot was the Crystal Empire. She knew that she was going to get around to it eventually so she decided, why not now? Perhaps the most interesting part of the experience would be the train ride. The train went right through the desolate environment of the Frozen North so as far as she knew, the train was effectively the only way to get there and back safely. Except that didn't sound right at all, because who built that track? It was supposedly built before the stasis, but that just begs the bigger question of how is it still functioning? Ever since she started journeying big questions started to form into her mind, and they were too weird to think about. 

 

When she awoke that morning, her bags had already been packed from the night before. If her alarm was set correctly, then her internal clock which had developed over years of not really using physical clocks would be correct, she would make it over to the station and hopefully, would make it on board. No complications, she had done this a couple of times before and if she missed it, she could just give the booth manager a hard time. Nah she couldn't think that negative.

 

She made it over to the station just in time to hear the conductor announce the train as hers. "Just made it," She whispered to herself. "Or maybe I'm early. Hmm." She smiled as she made it over to one of the cabins and trotted inside. Her ticket had been purchased the day before. If anything she totally could have left the day before, but she had missed the train, by a couple of hours. She bought the ticket early so she wouldn't have to deal with it now.

 

When she was inside, she pulsed and noticed two individuals. A Pegasus mare and a Griffon. The Griffon appeared to be drawing... stuff, and the mare seemed a bit eccentric almost like she was extremely excited for something. Didn't Haste say there was something on, this week? Something about a race in the Crystal Empire? Maybe that mare had something to do with it. She didn't want to deal with any big reaction so she decided to ignore the mare for now. She made her way over to one of the seats and plopped herself down. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out her book: 'Daring Do and the Eternal Flower.' It was unfortunate that braille books were naturally larger than regular books so she could really only bother to bring one. Maybe the others in the cabin would strike up a conversation? With as long as this journey was supposed to be, she was expecting it to happen at some point

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It was awfully nice for someone to invite Fiver to the racing event in the Crystal Empire. At first they floated the possibility she could be a judge, but by this time Fiver decided that her discernment had been somewhat impaired as of late. Thankfully, the organizer on the other end of the mail service understood and simply gave her some fairly nice stand to watch from. If she was being completely honest with herself, she really wasn't terribly interested in going: Especially if someone was only calling her in because of her wonderbolt status. She'd hoped the calls would have stopped by now. With how little she'd been going to the demonstrations lately, being forgotten about would have been preferable. 

 

In the end, she accepted the offer so already she was on her way. Making it to the station just in time to hear the conductor calling out for the late arriving passengers. With a short rush of wind she was already past the doors, ticket in hoof. "Thanks, Mister." She said almost reflexively as she started down the Hallway, "See you when you collect the tickets."  

 

Toting her luggage behind, her eyes bounced between each cabin numbers and the ticket in her hoof. The bag was fairly heavy, even for her. So many larger than average clothes for a larger than average flier. Her Saddle Arabian ancestry made her shopping in general pretty difficult thanks to her taller build. Finding winter clothes for the crystal empire was almost an ordeal by itself. Still, she found some and now they were packed up in the bag behind her. Maybe she should have taken up Mother's offer to make use of the tailor's back home but Fiver's pride hadn't fallen so far ... yet.

 

Finally finding a matching number on her ticket, Fiver knocked a few times for courtesy and then opened up the door.

 

She looked over the occupants already present and smiled. This was a varied group she'd stumbled in upon. A griffin, an Earth Pony, a pegasus. If she waited a little longer maybe a dragon could pop by. That green maned pegasus looked like she might just be about ready to explode with how much she was shaking... Must be nervous. The black griffin sketching away at her pad made her curious, but she managed to resist the urge to peek: She heard some artists were very touchy about being watched in the middle of a work in progress. 

 

Seeing a seat by the corner of the cabin, Fiver took it and carefully put her luggage in the proper compartment. "Okay..." Once that was done she slacked down into her seat with a sigh, "Um... This everyone's first trip to the empire?"

 

 

 

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Daze's hooves were jumping with nerves. Every little detail caught her attention now as she stared blankly at the floor. The floor was newly swept, kind of shiny. So, she admired the hard work it probably took to clean it. It distracted the Pegasus, so it worked in calming her down. Along with the cool airs coming from the open cabin. The gentle breeze from the wind cooled her down, clearing her fragile mind. 

 

It wasn't long until another pony.. or creature came walking through the door. Daze didn't even get the chance to think about who was going to share a cabin with her. Obviously there would be others along with her. It was a long ride to the empire. Getting to think now, the green maned mare was kind of excited now to meet new individuals. The first one she saw was a black griffon, and she definitely caught her eye. Something seemed elegant about the griffon, and Daze was really fascinated. She saw the griffon give her a smile, and Daze smiled back politely. It would be rude otherwise to not smile back. Daze was a nice pony, sometimes. A moody, stubborn, nice pony. 

 

It was kind of awkward in the cabin, Daze and the griffon in their respective places in their seats. The Pegasus looked over at the griffon again, noticing her looking at a drawing pad. Daze shrugged, minding her own business, thinking about the race again. She honestly didn't think she was ready for the big stage yet. Tons and tons of ponies and other creatures were supposed to be there. She wondered the who was other competition, because it was no easy feat getting an invitation. Daze had to work her tail off to get to the arena. Her hard work did pay off though. 

 

Soon another came into the cabin, an earth pony who just seemed to mind her own business. Daze noticed her sit down and take out a book. The Pegasus just looked out the window again, lost in her thoughts. Then, another pony came through, a Pegasus who looked kind of familiar to Daze. Daze was no wonderbolt fanatic, she wasn't really interested in them. The other Pegasus just seemed to ring a bell to her. Probably something she learned in flight school. She remembers the teachers would go on and on about how many students graduated and became wonderbolts on their own times. It really just sounded like bragging more than teaching the amazing achievements the school had. Her old school was all about sports anyway, which was fine because Daze was really good at anything related to athleticism. 

 

After a long break of silence before the other Pegasus came in, Daze finally heard somepony say something. Her head turned around to look at the others, clearing her throat. "Yeah," she started in her raspy undertone, "It's definitely my first time goin’." She paused, with a small smirk, but her eyes were full of anxiousness. "I'm not nervous at all. Not at all," she said with sarcasm. 

 

Quickly the train door shut after the conductor called for one more chance, but nopony else came into the cabin. The train was going to be soon on it's way to the empire. 

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The griffon looked up from her pad as she heard the arrival of another new passenger. This one was just as cute as the previous pony. But something about her....The eyes...They were rather milky looking, which probably meant the mare was blind. The sudden desire to feel bad for this poor little pony...Blind and alone...Who would take care of her? This was not a feeling she needed to have right now. The little pony was obviously far stronger than her handicap and even the loss of her eyesight could not keep her from doing things like anyone else. And being alone? She probably had the same reason the griffon had. Noisy friends! She loved her little pony pals ever so, but goodness gracious they loved to gab! Getting away from those silly fillies was a good idea!
 
The blind mare spoke, but those words were meant only to reassure herself. She was here early. The train probably would not continue its trip for at least an half-hour. The griffon's eyes lingered on the new mare just long enough so she could see the book the pony pulled out. It had those odd little bumps ponies could learn to read by rubbing their hooves against. She had read somewhere that this had been originally developed to use during wartime when messages needed to be read without any light that would give away one's position.
 
She was just about to return to her drawings when another passenger arrived. Could this be new passenger number one's sister? Both had similar coats and were very athletic looking. The newcomer was rather tall for a pony. She did not openly greet the mare or even intact as one would do with a sibling. Nope. They were strangers. This mare dared to spy upon the griffon's sketches! Soon she would feel her wraith for violating the black bird's personal space...Nah. Fiver would get a good look at a page of sassy dragon drawings. 
 
"Yep. First time visiting the old empire..." Thankfully things had been quiet as of lately. The poor residents had to endure for so long. That beast Sombra held the empire in his cruel hooves  until he had to banish the entire lands along with its ponies to a void for over a thousand years! And even with its return, also brought the shadow pony back as well. He was defeated, but they still had more problems to deal with, including nearly losing the kingdom once more...To a grumpy foal? Ho-Boy. The griffon nearly bounced out of her chair the moment the door closed. That was quick! She could only assume there wasn't a good deal of passengers waiting for this train.
 
While she was curious why the bandaged mare was so...anxious...Was it her business to ask?
 
Maybe not, but she still had one question. "You gals don't mind if I sketch you during this trip?" All three were idea models....And if she couldn't sketch, the poor bird would probably doze off. And she hated to sleep while sitting up.
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Whenever she read a book, she always wondered to herself if her image of the descriptions in the book were close enough to the actual depictions that were supposedly on the cover of the book. Of course, colour was a weird concept to her, but there were still attributes that seemed to surround them. Of course, she was sure that the cover art was not actually entirely done by the author herself and as such the description in the book was sure to be more authentic to the author's mental image. Some thoughts that occurred in her when she started reading her novel was whether or not that Griffon over there was truly staring at her or not. It happened often when she read, ponies and such not being accustomed to the method of braille. Or maybe they figured out that she was blind? That was something that was sometimes a hit or miss. 

 

A pegasus mare came in shortly after her and she did not recognise her any more than the rest. The fact that they left her mostly alone instead of trying to greet her immediately was a sign that she was not supposed to know them and it was not a so-called 'brainfart'. She had to suppose that the pegasus was here for the same reason that the other one was, except they did not seem as well, nervous. Her reading was a bit distracted as she paid attention to the pegasus put away her stuff, a sharp sound echoing around the cabin that could be heard by the others if they did not instinctively flush it out. 

 

The calm pegasus was the first one to break the relative silence by starting the conversation. So it would seem that it was everyone's first time going to the Crystal Empire, if she understood the calm pegasus correctly. From the reply of the eccentric pegasus, it was clear to her now that they were actually nervous. Nervous probably about that supposed race? What was that word she had heard before, 'Nervouscited?" Quite the portmanteau. 

 

"Sure is my first time," She replied taking her attention away from her book. She probably wouldn't need it right now anymore so she put it to the side. "If you asked me a month ago, I would have said it would be crazy for me to go, but I decided that I'd probably go eventually and that time might as well be now. I'm mostly interested in the culture, not the crystals. Although at this point is it right to call it an empire?" She was nearly startled by the sound of the door closing, but her quick internal response stopped her from showing much of one externally. Maybe she wasn't as early as she thought? Or maybe there wasn't anypony waiting so they just decided to leave. Wouldn't be good for any latecomers so she decided on the first option. 

 

Ah right, so that Griffon was drawing. And now she was asking if she could sketch them. She personally didn't mind, but it had no real benefit towards herself. "Uh yeah sure I guess, I mean, you know, if you really want to. I mean it wasn't like I could really catch you out for doing it," She replied. She knew the Griffon was just asking out of courtesy. "How long do you think this trip is going to take? I'm not trying to sound bored already, but I've only got one book with me and it's kind of supposed to last me both ways." 

 

 

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"Not much to be nervous about, Stranger. It's a nice place according to the brochure." She said as she held up the aforementioned item, "That fancy festival they have seems to have passed, but there's gonna be a big race when we arrive." She pulled her eyes up from the paper and looked over Daze's cold weather gear and smiled, "Are you gonna be racing in it? You've definitely got the build of an athlete." Seeing her fellow Pegasus passenger like this really took her back, when she was a recruit in the Wonderbolts she had that same nervous look meddled with excitement.

 

The griffin turned out to be quite the skilled artist. When Zelda spoke up about the rest of the cabin being her sketch subject Fiver cracked a smile, "If I can get a look at the result I'm fine with it. Are you a professional sketch artist? Or do you do other types of work alongside it?"

 

The earth pony with the salmon colored coat was especially talkative. Her interest in the culture of the crystal empire was something that caught Fiver's attention, That bit about not interested in the crystals was a tad eyebrow raising. Not so much that Fiver was terribly interested in their architecture or artifacts either, but she couldn't help but think it was odd to mention that specifically.  That last question about it also drew the pegasus' attention too, "That's a good question actually... The empire doesn't really seem to fit the definition of an empire. Seems more like a king-- er princessdom maybe?"

 

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The golden mare looked into the eyes of the other Pegasus as she talked, making Daze open up her mouth again to speak. "Ye-ah, I'm gonna be in it. It's a big one for me," she exclaimed, her voice cracking, "My actual uniform is in my bag, I just need to keep the 'ol bones and muscles warm. I'm trying not to die from the cold beforehoof, I can't mess this chance up." Daze sat up straighter, feeling more comfortable around this strangers. "And thanks, you look pretty athletic yourself," she added to Fiver, giving her a slight smirk. She was always one to give a compliment back. The way she grew up, she always felt the right to give somepony something in return so she didn't feel bad. "Are you racing too?"

 

Daze looked over at the other two, as the earth pony talked. She seemed to talk a lot, but so did Daze. When she felt like talking, she always had a lot to say. Especially about nothing. The griffon asked a simple question, to which Daze tilted her head. "I mean, sure. Whatever floats your boat." She was kind of weirded out, just thinking about some creature drawing her for a reason she didn't know. But, the mare's eyes sparkled as she said, "Make sure you get my good side though, I don't want anypony missing out on this." Daze then struck a pose, trying to seem ridiculous and crack a smile of the others. 

 

She sat back down, thinking she was hilarious. It was good for her to get her mind off the race, otherwise she would freak out again. "I heard this trip is going to take a while." As she said that, the train huffed out some smoke and the train was heading through the train tracks, blasting out a toot. "Guess we're off then." Her yellow eyes looked out the window to see the world ahead of her fly past her face and behind her. The train was rickety and bumpy, but soothing at the same time. Daze focused on the sound of the wheels running over the tracks, keeping her mind steady and in control. The golden Pegasus began to play with her bandages on her arms as she looked outside, her heart racing from newly found excitement. Her ears flicked as she looked farther up at the cabins ahead of theirs's, seeing it shake ahead as the train huffed again.

 

The mare turned back around to face the group. "Oh, my name is Golden Daze by the way," she suddenly said, smiling warmly at the others. All this talk and they hadn't introduced their names yet. So, Daze had to be the first to break the ice. 

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"When you're on a train, it's not just the destination you get to enjoy, but the actual ride itself."  The griffon was on high alert during the conversation and was able to quickly remove something that had popped up In her noggin. She was about to say 'And you get to enjoy the ever changing scenery outside your cabin', but that would not be suitable at all!  "Meet new people, and it's nice to simply sit and relax...And not worry yourself to death on what you've left behind."
 
There wasn't really much she was leaving behind. All of her jobs were finished. She did rely on ol' Docket to receive her packages and water her plants. There would still be time later to find a gift for a wedding she would later attend. Maybe she would find something in the 'Empire', or even an idea on what to make the couple. Loose Cannon's cutie mark reminded her of the bride to be's marking. Flaming horse shoe....Flaming meteorite. The bird wondered if she gained her branding the same way her friend did. And that was by overcoming rather extreme difficulties.
 
Zelda turned her attention to the fuzzy brown pegasus pony, "I'm actually a blacksmith, and I sculpt as a hobby, but it's usually wise to sketch out your projects before diving headfirst into them and waste materials." While she did not work on this particular skill as much as she should, the griffon had managed to gain a decent amount of skill with her sketches. Maybe she should move to Coltifornia and get an job as an caricature artist at 'Whinny World'.
 
"I don't believe you have what I can call a 'bad side'.", the griffon chuckled as she finished her first sketch. This starred a rather sassy looking Loose Cannon..."I'm Zelda...Formally of Rockwington...Now Canterlot...Just taking an rather random little vacation to help refresh myself.."
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"As far as I know, It's just a single city, doesn't feel like much of a kingdom either. Maybe a Principality?" she mused towards the calm pegasus. "That's the word right? I don't know much of the independence of the Crystal Empire after its return." Her education from her mother was both a blessing and a curse. She knew more than she wanted to and it meant that the stuff she didn't know kind of hurt sometimes. She could totally become a scholar, but that wouldn't be very fun now would it?

 

"The frozen North can be cold, but the Crystal Empire itself is shielded from its effects. Unless you're flying outside of the boundaries, then you won't have to worry about freezing yourself," she explained to the totally overprepared pegasus. "Unless you mean on the way there, in which I trust the heating of this train to stop us from freezing."

 

"Yeah sure, it kind of is good to meet new people, but If I got back home and my house was on fire, I'd be very worried." There was only so much relaxing one could do before stuff would start to go wrong. "I hear that some get their kicks from just riding trains, like the destination is just a bonus to their trip, it's all about the special trains that they put out sometimes. Never ridden one of those before, just the regular ol' trains." When the train started moving, she thought for a moment. What if a train ride didn't feel like one, would that be a good thing or a bad thing. Impressive in the fact that they made it feel like a house, but then it didn't feel like a train so... "I heard some engineers are trying to make a really smooth train. You could basically live inside it all the time and just travel around. It sounds like it would be very expensive to produce and maintain though."

 

"My bad side is my every side, so, really there is no bad side. So make sure you get my good side, which is also my bad side." Hah, let them try and process that. She tried to look serious about her request, but she really didn't care. She just talked a lot to fill the void in the silence.  "My name is Loose Cannon, formally of Appleloosa, now Ponyville," She mused at the thought of titles. It was weird, especially hearing one from a Griffon. Was it a title, or was it just context? "That might be what it says on my birth certificate." Knowing her, someone might actually miss the joke and actually believe her. She didn't want to explain anything.

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With the training finally getting its start, Fiver relaxed a bit. She looked back to the Daze and smiled, "Well thanks. I try to keep myself in shape but for me I've done all I can so... I'll be sitting this one out and watching from the sidelines. " Fiver always liked seeing new athletes enter the scene, not just fliers but runners or even swimmers. Some might say she was too old be feeling so nostalgic, and maybe they were right. Still, she was content for the most part and willing to cheer on anyone with a dream to improve themselves. When Golden Daze spoke up her name, Fiver quickly answered with her own. "Khamsa Alriah. My friends call me 'Fiver'."

 

The musings of Zelda brought another smile to Fiver's muzzle. A chance to relax and not worry about what was left behind was exactly what she'd been hoping for. Shame it was only to last as long as this ride. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Zelda. I'm a ... stunt flier more or less. Been a part of a good team for a while, but I'm thinking about exploring other options in time. I'm on my own little vacation for the same reasons as you are."

 

Loose cannon sounded much more knowledgeable about the nature of governments than Fiver did. Just hearing words like principality took the Pegasus back to the days of schooling with her mother back in Saddle arabia. Scholars could be such a boar, strange neither her nor her brother took to knowledge in the same way her parent had. "Frankly I stopped thinking about how Equestria's government is run a long time ago. It seems as though things will be as they will be regardless of what I or others do."

 

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Daze listened at Fiver spoke, nodding her head to confirm her listening. "I'm like, non stop flying twenty-four seven, so I'm always in shape." The bandaged Pegasus smiled boldly, looking at the others as they introduced themselves and who they are. It was nice to get to know every creature, since they were going to have to stay on a train forever together. It would be odd for them to just sit there and say nothing, being strangers until the train ride was done. Daze opened her mouth to speak, "Well, it's very nice meeting you all," she started, as she shifted more comfortably to talk again. "I'm nothing special like a blacksmith or from some place like Appleloosa, I literally just grew up in Cloudsdale to become a fast flier. I'm going to be in the race in the Crystal Empire, if you didn't know that already." 

 

The Pegasus cocked her head to the side when Loose went on about a good or bad side. "Uh, so then every side is your bad side, which means your good side is your bad side, which also means you have no good side?" She shook her head, confusing herself. "Anyway," she turned to the griffon, "Just make me look good." Daze then gave her famous smirk to Zelda. 

 

Loose said something about the cold surrounding them, and how the Crystal Empire was protected from the freezing temperatures. "Yeah, I know. You just never know what can happen. Maybe we get there and the empire is just cold from all the.. crystals and stuff. Or maybe it's under attack and the princess can't hold up the force field. Or maybe the hotel I'm stayin' at is freezing and their heating system broke." Daze was really overthinking everything, like always. "But, I see your point."

 

The mare listened as the others talked about trains, which kind of bored Daze. This wasn't the type of stuff she normally liked to listen to. It wasn't very interesting to her, because this wasn't her type of stuff to think about. Daze grew up in a small community of fliers like herself, who generally weren't all keen on how to make trains less bumpy. The other Pegasus seemed interested in it though, which made Daze listen a little more. She just found Fiver kind of cool. 

 

Talking about the bumpy-ness of the train caught Daze's attention more, because of how bumpy this train was. Every so often there would be a thump big enough to bump the gold pony up. One was so big, it made her launch up into the air. She caught herself as she almost hit the top of the cabin. "Okay, I really hope they figure out how to make train rides more smoother. 'Cause for Celestia's stake, it would be nice to not be thrown into the air." Her ears then twitched at the sound of two metal objects clinking together, but she was focused on trying to calm down from the sudden lift. 

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“I could never understand why anyone would move up to the coldest part of anywhere and then depend on magic to keep them warm.”, the griffon mused as she continued her doodles. “You either adjust like the Yaks of Yakyakistan or you find another, warmer place." She huffed at the idea of depending on magic... "Spells can go bad after years of constant use, and there's always something silly that could also interfere and cause even more problems than what the magic was actually trying to help."
 
The black bird uttered an slight curse when the train bounced a little. "Sh....er..sassafras..." Thankfully she was using an pencil to do her sketching, and any mistakes were quickly erased away.", she chuckled to herself as the sweet little mare spoke of her 'bad' side.  "Huh, Ponyville. I actually have a few friends there...." That was a silly thing to say as everypony had a friend in the 'village of friendship', even if they had not met them yet.

Knowing that Loose Cannon could not actually see her picture, Zelda pulled out an special, thicker marker and sketched over the sketch itself. This was almost like an acrylic paint...The mare would be able to feel the image with her hoof.  Once it properly dried that is...
 
Daze was an fast flyer? Did that mean she was a racer? Now all those bandages made sense. The same magic that allowed flying creatures to walk on clouds also gave a slight shield 'o' protection against crashes. She had seen more than a few Pegasus ponies survive an nasty crash without only a few scrapes and maybe a broken bone or two...As opposed to making a rather nasty mess on someone's field. Being an griffon, she was a decent flyer, but her feline body did not offer the superior aerodynamics of an Pegasus ponies. They were light and sleek and made for fast, agile flying..The idea of watching cuties like Fiver and Daze racing about and doing stunts finally made up her mind! She would be attending the event!
 
"Ppppft.", the griffon groaned, "You're going to be part of a very important race in the Crystal Empire....So that makes you rather special.....and skilled...I couldn't see my fat behind doing such a thing as I'd be left behind in the cloud..dust.." There was another bump, Thankfully she had stopped sketching for the moment. "Erm. Probably going over some old tracks." It had all been smoothing riding until just about now...Hopefully it would end soon. But what was with the clicking?
 
Curious, the bird slid over to the end of her seat and took a look outside....
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"Maybe it wasn't always the coldest part? I don't know much about Crystal Empire history, I bet very few do outside the city itself. Maybe they were travelling by and something there made them stop and settle? I don't know why they would travel there in the first place but there are a lot of unknown variables," She mused mostly to herself. Everyone had different motivations for doing stuff that could be considered idiotic to others.  "I live in Ponyville so I've had my fair share of crazy stuff happen around me. A little cold exposure in the city won't harm me too much. Of course, this is all assuming that the Heart is taken down while we're there. It seems pretty reliable so far."

 

"Fiver huh? Where did they get that from?" A peculiar name it was. Five of what? Must be some sort of translation. "Is that a kind of translation?" she asked Fiver. She turned towards Golden Daze. "I don't know how special being from Appleloosa is supposed to be compared to Cloudsdale. I only spent like, a year or two there, I don't really remember before moving away. Outside of agriculture, there isn't really much else you can do there," She explained. "Oh it was really not that hard to tell. Maybe if I didn't know about the race, but luckily I've got my sources so I've got it all figured out."

 

She just stared towards Golden Daze for a moment, it was clear the pegasus was actually affected by her weird statement. "They're just sides really." There was no indication of whether or not she was being serious or not in this instance. "Although maybe the right side might be better."

 

"Hah, I would have thought you flying folk would enjoy being thrown up into the air the most. In the event that you don't, then maybe you can submit a very angry complaint?" She suggested. The train was kind of bumpy but it didn't phase her that much at that moment, if she really needed to she could focus on the ground and use her inner magic to keep her somewhat locked. "Yeah, most likely the old tracks. I don't think these tracks get as much maintenance as the other tracks. They probably just get enough to be up to standards. Let's just hope they are. I'm not particularly in the mood for anything going wrong."

 

Oh speak of the devil. She heard the sounds of metal and it didn't sound particularly good to her. "Hey, um, I'm not sure if you guys hear it, but I think there's some sort of disturbance inside the train or something."

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"I love the enthusiasm, Daze." Spoke fiver, "But you should be careful with training and flying twenty four seven... over-training can be a real worry even to the best of athletes. Can hurt your muscles long-term... even hurt your motivation." Fiver knew all too well the dangers of over-training, having been through many of those herself in her youth. Some times she had to wonder if all the work she'd done might have contributed to her own peak she'd been feeling recently. Brushing such dour topics out of her mind she picked up on Daze' mention of Cloudsdale, "I'd say Cloudsdale is a pretty special place, not everypony or even every-creature can even walk there... I had a lot of trouble learning to walk on cloud when I first visited the place..."

 

Loose Cannon got her attention not long after, "Actually yes! A nod to my name and a flight trick that got me enough attention to join the team I was on. My name 'Khamsa' means five in Saddle arabian." That aerial trick she mentioned earlier was part of what inspired the nickname too, but in Fiver's mind it wasn't nearly as important now. ... especially after that weird clicking sound. 

 

At first she was going to get up from her seat but then noticed something odd bout the window: The scenery. There were some mountains that they were in the process of passing by, including some rocks and other arctic imagery... but after that clicking sound things seemed to be getting slower. "Something... seems off." She said as she stood herself up, "Anyone up for some investigation?"

 

 

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"Yeah, yeah. I just want to make sure I'm good to go," Daze said to Fiver, rolling her eyes. "Flying a lot is better than not flying at all. I'm good at what I do." There was security in her voice, backed up with confidence and a hint of sass. Daze knew what she needed and didn't need, though she could be stubborn at times. Or all the time. "Cloudsdale is a pretty special place. I wasn't born up in the clouds, but I grew up at that flight school up there. I never really walked on 'em unless I had to. I was always floatin' up in the sky." The Pegasus nodded at her words, turning around to look up at the clouds. 

 

Daze always had this thought in her head, like she wasn't made to be down to earth. It seemed her head was always up in the clouds, so to speak. The mare was always on about something, could be small or large. Her mind was generally on something else, even in a serious conversation. Sometimes she just needed time to think by herself. 

 

Some time went by when every pony was talking, to a point where they were in the middle of a snow storm. Fields and fields of snow were stretched miles upon miles across the ground. Daze couldn't spot a single tree, just hills of snow. She knew it had to be freezing outside, if so much snow was sticking to the ground. More snow was coming down hard. The snowflakes seemed as big as her snout, leaching onto whatever surface they touched first. Daze got a little chill down her back, just thinking about being outside and freezing to death. There definitely couldn't be any life living out there. No food could be seen from where the golden Pegasus was at. 

 

All that could explain the bumpy tracks. Probably because these tracks barely got rolled over. That's when Daze got flung into the air and caught herself. "Haha, very funny. I'll have you know, I don't like surprise leaps into the air without my control," she said to the earth pony, crossing her forearms as she floated in the air. She then looked at the griffon. "There's a lot of competitors goin' there. I'm not too special. Probably not gonna place too well anyway." 

 

The clinking sound was getting worse by the minute, growing Daze's curiosity. "I'm glad I'm not the only one hearing that. It's kinda buggin' me." She flew to a window, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. It was definitely outside. "I'm totally up for some investigation, but I'm scared to go outside." Her head pointed towards the window on the outside, as the noise was coming from ahead. "Maybe a latch is messed up or something. I seriously don't know much about trains." The mare scratched the back of her head, shrugging. 

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The black griffon took a quick gander outside. Let's see. There was snow. Snow. Snow and also snow. Snow on hills. Snow on mountains. Even snow on more snow. This was more than enough snow to see, so she returned to her seat and drawing pad.
 
"Well, I guess we'll find out.", the griffon kept her eyes on her pad as she spoke, "I hope to check out the impressive, ancient griffon statues they have through the 'empire' and then maybe learn why they are there.", she added, "Did the Crystal Empire start out as an griffon territory, or if they were integrated into pony society? Also, if they have anything to do with a small griffon settlement nearby....Heard they all lived in this rather tall watchtower and were tasked to watch for the return of the Crystal Kingdom. So I'm guessing probably, but it will be fun to do a little bit of art appreciation combined with solving a mystery and then later taking a flight of Crystal beverages....Crystal Wine....Crystal Cider...Crystal Brandy....and so forth.." She would still need to make time for the race.
 
Zelda was ready for the cold weather! Not only did she pack for such weather, she wore a heavy jacket with matching pants, boots and gloves. Since it interfered with her sketching, the black bird had taken off the gloves and had put them aside. She also kept an hat and beak-warmer in her carry-on bag. Hopefully it wouldn't get -that- cold, but a gal needed to be prepared.
 
She looked up at Daze, "You just need to think more positive...I see you starting off slow...Like any wise racer....You build up your strength and them woosh!", she raised her hands up, "You zoom past your tired competitors and win the trophy...Or medal....And even end up on Cap’n Sucrose Cereal Boxes. Like my dad said, to be a winner, you gotta think like an....wagh!", she let out a squawk as their cabin started to violently shake. A few items from the overhead compartments started to spill onto the floor.
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"Ah gotcha. My random knowledge came helpful for once," she replied to Khamsa, (or Fiver, she honestly preferred Khamsa in this situation). Her mother was the type to often learn about and remember arbitrary facts that got passed down. "Well, more than once, this isn't the first time, but whatever." She shrugged.

 

"I want to say it's Griffon's integrated into pony society, but that's just judging from my own knowledge. There's still much more for me to learn about Crystal Empire lore," she said to Zelda. "I didn't hear much about the griffon settlement you talked about, but maybe I did and I just forgot about it."

 

She could feel a chill go through herself. The air from the outside seemed to be seeping through inside now. She wanted to trust the authority of the train service. There's no way they would travel in these conditions. However, it felt like the conditions were very borderline. She went through her bag again. A bunch of winter gear including a blindfold for the potential weather. Her eyes were not completely dead, they still had feeling, a bit too much feeling if you would ask her and that would not pair well with her habit of keeping her eyes open. No problem with sunlight, but in cold weather, the wind and frost can suck. 

 

"Right, well, it seems you better get used to it because I don't think they're gonna end anytime soon," she replied to the flying pegasus. She thought for a moment.  "I think there may be a pattern to the turbulence. Haven't quite figured it out yet..." 

 

"I think the clicking is coming from outside. I'll go check it out. I don't see what could be so scary about going outside for a moment, not like you're going to fall off, and as if that would be much of a problem for you." She pulled on her blindfold and got up from her seat moving into the aisle. A moment not too later, the train started shaking and she went down flat onto the floor. It was not the shaking, but the sudden barrage of items on top of her. "It... would seem... that the inside is more deadly... yeah." 

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"I don't know much about them either to be honest. But, may as well look into it. Not gonna learn anything sitting around on my bu-UGGH!" Soon the violent shaking of the cabin began. Fiver was caught off guard by a mile and fell on her side from the intensity. Taking a moment to get back up, Fiver rubbed her head as she surveyed the results of their cabin's surprising quake. "That... doesn't seem at all good." she said rather flatly, "Anypo-- er anyone hurt?"

 

Fiver didn't waste anytime to start helping with the luggage. She figured she'd start helping out with getting any heavier cases off of Loose cannon and Zelda. Seems some might have over packed with how heavy some of these were. Before this trip started, Fiver made sure to pack what she could, but not so much that she'd get a work out just lugging her things to and from the station... though maybe what was average for her might have been heavy for someone not athletically inclined. Fiver hoisted her own bag off Loose with an awkward smile one could hear in her voice, "You okay there?"

 

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The train was shaking violently, as the clinking started getting more loud and kinda annoying, to Daze at least. Everyone was suffering the attacks of the shaking, like they were all in the middle of an earthquake or something. Daze wasn't feeling it, like actually. She was kind of getting sick from the sudden jolts the train made. Good thing she had wings, or she'd be left on the ground like the others, who seemed to be suffering more. Especially when luggage piled on top of them like a Jenga game. "Okay, now I think the outside is much safer."

 

She flew over to the pile of creatures and helped get the heavy suitcases off the ground. "Everyone alright? No one's dead? Bleeding?" Daze was going a little excessive with the questions, but she felt it was necessary to add a little humor to the commotion inside the train. Everything seemed tense to the gold mare, especially from the shaking, which was still going on. It was really hard to keep her balance. 

 

As everyone struggled with the shaking, Daze finally went to the door which led to the outside. "We gotta check this stuff out, because I honestly don't think any of this drama is normal." She then blinked. "Well, I know none of this is normal- You know what I'm saying." She then slowly opened the cabin door, wind rushing into the room immediately. The wind was so strong, it sent Daze back a little. The one thing the bandaged mare noticed though, was that the clinking got even louder. "You all here that?" Daze's ears twitched as she looked down at the two hooks that connected the two cabins together. The hook that was connected to their cabin, was barely hanging on. "Um, guys?" 

 

The mare turned around, with a confused but scared look on her face. Daze's anxiety was off the roof. "Is this type of thing normal? Like the hook things. Ours is barely hangin' on." She looked back outside, then two the other three. She then looked at Loose, pointing her head towards the open door. "You know a lot about trains, you go see if that thing is normal." 

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"Since there were no griffons in the 'Empire' after it was returned to the erm. Present time, I can probably assume those who lived there might have left before it was conquered.." There was another bump. This put an quick end to her sketching. Still, she would have plenty of time for her art. For now, she would enjoy the new company.. "I hope we all manage to learn a few things while here...The art...history...And even your racing event..", she returned her pat and sketch pencil back into her pack.  "As for the settlement, he said it was just some random tower, so it was probably really hard to find..."
 
Brrr. It was starting to feel a little colder. Did their cabin's heater break? Zelda scooped up her jacket and slid it on. Much better. With her gloves on, she was fully dressed to be outside. Combined with her natural fur coat, she should be able to handle the outside, even away from the kingdom itself. But this was something she had no desire to try out.
 
She let out a painful squawk as a rather heavy bag fell upon her. "Yow!" Was someone attending a bowling competition? Was someone studying to become a blacksmith and brought their anvil along? She could almost see stars. Oh, there was Songbird Serenade....Sapphire Shores....Baby Snooks...And now a word from our sponsor...Terrible Headache.
 
"Thank you...", She smiled weakly as the heavy bags were removed. Nothing worse than starting a vacation with an bruised beak and an damaged head. She slowly got up from her seat and followed the others. "I may have some brain damage, but I'm pretty sure our train consisted of more than two cabins."
 
While the next cabin was still barely connected, the griffon pointed out that there was no cabin connected to that one! And they were slowly starting to go backwards......
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Right after she spoke her words felt like she might have gone out for a moment there because she felt a skip in her hearing. As strong as one could be there are still ways to get a concussion. Luckily this one wasn't so bad. "Hey... is that the light?" She joked to herself, that was the expression right? She was aided by the forces of the two pegasi as they pulled the rubble off of her.  "Yeah, yeah... yeah... yeah... everything's fine. Not dead at all. Thanks. Yeah... yeah." She probably didn't sound alright, but she definitely was. Honest! "Is this stuff all yours? I didn't put anything up there. Just my luck to be standing under there."

 

She wasn't really in the condition to investigate but she said she would. She got up off the ground and stumbled her way over to the door for a moment. Yeah, it was cold, in comparison to the indoor temperature, no big deal, for the moment. She could definitely hear the sounds louder. Sounded a lot like the connection. But she couldn't really tell in her current state, the wind was messing up her accuracy. She almost reached down to touch when she heard Daze's observation. She jerked her hoof back. No, she wasn't messing with it anymore. She went back inside. "So my random arbitrary knowledge has made me the expert in this situation? Man, you must totally be relying on my excellent observation skills. My conclusion? We might be hanging on barely. But maybe we'll be ok-" 

 

Wait, that didn't feel right. Were they slowing down? That might be a good thing actually if they're stopping to fix the connection. Although how would they know. Unless... wait, what two cabins? "Wait, what did you say?" She asked the Griffon.

 

 

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Once the luggage issue was well and sorted out, Fiver let out a sigh of relief. It was still a shaky sigh, however given this very unusual situation. Fiver smiled at atLoose as she got back up, "Somehow I think we've all got a bit of bad luck tonight. Let's hope it doesn't last." She stretched her wings a moment, "... and Sorry about the luggage I think the shaking knocked mine loose. I don't think it's all mine." Now that she had her bag, Fiver may as well tote it with her on the way to the front of car.

 

FIver's jaw dropped as she say the outside. "Um... Yeah... it uh did." The flyer took a deep breath and took note of the speed of the train. They were definitely slowing down. Cold winds were howling around the cabin. Visibility was low, so it was nearly impossible for her to tell just how far away their train had gotten from them. "Uhh... Well... if we've been detached from the train then... hangon. We're... goin backwards..." Wheels started clicking in her head and the Color drained from her face a moment. They must be on a incline, "Does anyone know if we were going up a hill... and how far we got? If we go backwards and keep gaining speed we might need to jump off this car."

 

 

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The wind was getting stronger in the cabin, forcing Daze to really flap her wings to stay in the air without getting murdered by the strength of the wind. The mare's wings were pretty strong from flying all the time anyway, but this wind was a whole other level. Another thing on a whole other level, Daze's brain was pounding with thoughts. The mare was overthinking everything, trying not to freak out over this big fat problem. This was a big big fat problem. The bandaged mare was having trouble breathing. "Ok-ay guys- we'll be okay- we'll be- okay-" 

 

Hopefully they were going to be okay.

 

Everyone seemed to be panicking, and it made Daze's mind break down more. Then a sudden shift of weight changed Daze's perception on this whole situation. Their cabin jerked harshly, causing the four to fall with it. The Pegasus fixed her landing and looked out the window, seeing their cabin flying backwards down a really steep hill. "Guys- guys!" the mare yelled, flying around the cabin in a panic. The wheels of the cabin were rolling so fast down the tracks, any dents in the track sent the cabin flying into the air. Daze felt herself getting dizzy.

 

As the cabin was falling back, Daze looked out the front door, seeing the front of the train disappearing drastically. With a sudden burst of energy, the gold pony flew out the train and held her own for a few seconds, looking at where they were about to crash. She then flew back in with a panic look in her yellow eyes. "We don't have much time. We gotta jump, like Fiver said." 

 

Daze quickly grabbed her suitcases, flying into the air and opening the side door. All she could see was the rushing snow wisp past her eyes. A thick blanket of white was on the ground. That's all the Pegasus could see. Finally, she took the guts to jump out the cabin, her wings opening so she could land safely on the snow. As she landed, snow covered her entire body, making her kick up at it to get free. She looked around, hoping every creature got out of the cabin safely.. 

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