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Hearts of Ice (Closed: Dusty)

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The day dawned pristine in the the lands of the Far North. Snow sparkled on every pine needle and the world was stillness. The sky tinged pink and soft blue as the sun touched the land, waking it from frost laden slumber. No breeze disturbed the quiet, no trickle of water, no bird song. Everything lay locked in icy serenity. 

 

CRUNCH! Crunch crunch, crunch crunch, crunch crunch...

 

A set of pony hooves cracked through the frost layer upon the glittering snow. Her hooves delved holes into the top layer snow as she made her way along what she knew was a path deep under the drifts.

 

"Whew! It's a cold one!" Glitter Drops shivered involuntary under her layers of scarves and coats. "Glad I wasn't out here last night!" She glanced around. "Still, at least there's no wind today." The unicorn spoke to nopony in particular as she made her way through a particularly deep drift. "Ah!"

 

Aqua colored magic streamed from her horn towards a bush not far away that had red berries growing from it. Once some of the fruits had been stowed in her saddle bag the mare turned to make for home. 

 

Home was also an office, the headquarters of the Imperial Arctic Patrol to be exact. A ranger station in truth it doubled as the accommodations for the solitary unicorn. Well, for Glitter and her 'pets'. She was met with much trilling, squeaking, meowing, and barking as she stripped her outer layers and made for the kitchen in the back of the station.

 

"Yes yes everyone, I'm back." She soothed her myriad animals as she set a kettle on the stove. Soon it was whistling and she poured out the water along with a tea bag and a hoof full of the berries. "Nothing better than holly berry tea on a cold morning!" She sat back in a chair and mused while petting two or three cats that joined her.

 

How long had it been now? Well, a long long long time since Princess Cadence had appointed her to her role as head to the Arctic Patrol. The Princess had seen something in Glitter. Something she hardly knew was there but it was true. She was strong, she was brave, and yes she was good at illusion magic. She also needed space, time to heal, time to find out what she was meant for. The Princess of course had seen all this being that she was the Princess of Love. Cadence knew the mare that had come to her after leaving Celestia's School was heart broken. She'd failed herself and a friend she dearly loved. 

 

The ranger station in the Far North was the perfect respite for Glitter. Time on her own to test her mettle and to think over what had happened and where she was headed next. She'd fought ursas and wolves, well not really fought per say but at least kept them from bothering the residents of this frozen country. She solved problems and helped to better the lives of many ponies. In fact most saw her as a hero up here!

 

Her heart was empty though. Too much had happened. She knew deep down it was all her fault. She'd heard too many stories to not make the connections. Yet here she stayed, unwilling to re-enter the world she'd left behind. At least she'd been able to help lots of ponies and other creatures. That was good, but it had not yet mended her broken heart. Was that in Candence's plan? Should it be taking this long? 

 

And now there was a new threat in the Far North. The neighbors had been telling her tales of howling in the night. Of paw prints from what could only been timber wolves. But they were large. Too large to be regular old timber wolves. It didn't sit right. So far nothing had actually happened, but it was only a matter of time. The paw prints lead up to the doors of cabins and barns. What were these beasts after?

 

MEOW!

 

"Oh sweet Celestia you scared me!" A particularly hungry cat had jumped up on the table in front of her and let loose his plea. 

 

Glitter Drops sighed, wondering what was going on with the large paw prints, her assignment to these arid lands, her heart, her life...

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Tempest gently tucked away the caribou amulet underneath her warm jumpsuit. Tailor made for the cold north, it was thick and very good at keeping the heat on her body. She offered up a quick prayer to the faith she had taken to as she strapped down plates of black steel on her body. Peace by peace, part by part. It was relaxing to her to do so. In a way she found some mental safety and outlet in the act. Well some saw it as weird she saw it no different than others that walk about in fancy dresses or outfits. It's there outlet, a way to show what they are with fashion. For her the plates of steel were just that. Self identity. Something she deeply needed.

 

Done preparing herself for the elements she killed the fire and wiggled out from underneath the old tree she was camping in. Stretching she yawns and watched the steam drift away from her muzzle in the cold air… A few minutes later she was doing her morning warm up. Trotting in place, than a run. She was back in the far north on a job. From heart flank no less! She can’t name one mare she was MORE shocked to get a letter from. But the job was all to fitting. Some monster was out in the woods and she got tasked with dealing with it. She was to work with the IAP on the job and give them a helping hoof. So whatever it was, it must be a nasty thing and she was going to smash its face in. 

 

Several hours later she was at the front door of the IAP headquarters… it was small. Given a look over it was more like a home than a headquarters. No wonder they needed help. Walking up to the door she moved a hoof up to nock, but stopped. Spiked horseshoes are not nice on wood doors. So she took care to tap her hoof on the door and not destroy its paint job. “It’s Tempest! Was hired to help with some monster hunting!” She shouted. It was COLD and she wanted to get inside and warm up some. But the storm of barking and other assorted namel noises left her confused. Was this the headquarters or did she misread the map and end up at some animal shelter? “Uh, is this the Imperial Arctic Patrol!?” She added. By the gods if it was… “Crystal ponies…” She groaned.

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"Ok, ok, you got me. Come on, let's get all of you fed!" The unicorn stood up and with some mustered resolve set herself to the task of the morning feeding of her pet zoo. Cats swarmed and birds fluttered. Dogs wagged and one very fat raccoon burped. 

 

It was in the middle of all of this that a knock came to the door. "Hmm?" She looked up from a particularly pushy cat's feeding dish as the sound came to her ears. "Oh!" The thought of the letter from the Empire that she'd not bothered to open. She'd tossed it on the stack with the others. They always said the same thing, she hadn't opened one in months. Keep the peace. Track the mysterious beasts. Ask the aging ponies around the area if they were in need to help to get their houses ready for the coldest months. Yada yada yada...

 

And now came this knock, and behind it a voice. She hadn't heard what the voice had said but there was definitely somepony out there. Somepony that was probably pretty cold and would probably want to come inside for a few minutes at least! Must to the dismay of various pets Glitter turned and trotted to the door. A bird followed her, intent on having his morning seeds. 

 

"Hi there!" She spoke not unkindly as the door was opened at least part way. "Come on in." The bird behind her let loose a squawk that turned her head. "I'll uh...I'll be right with you. There's tea in the kitchen if you'd like?" Glitter hadn't even glanced at who was at the door. She wasn't intending to be rude, there was just a lot going on!

 

She turned and made her way back to the animals. The visitor could follow if they wished. She really just needed to get the pets fed and then she'd be all ears for whoever this was and whatever they wanted. 

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Tempest expected nothing and yet was still let down. A year ago she’d call her disappointment immeasurable but she can now. And sadly this was was pretty normal amounts of disappointment. This can’t be it can it? THIS… pet shop was the Imperial Arctic Patrol? May the gods help her. No wonder pink flank mailed her to help… This mare. Well she dashed off in a rush to look after her zoo somethin about her… Tempest can’t put her hoof on it. Something was screaming at that she knew this mare but she had no clue why. She’s never seen the mare before, she's not going to forget a flank that cute. Can she? 

 

She was so lost in trying too piece together why she knew this mare she forget to even speak up about the tea. Or walk inside. Fixing this she walked in and shut the door to keep the heat in. “I don’t drink tea.” She says looking for some place to sit that was not taken by some pet. Looking about the room she can’t piece together why she had such a strong feeling of déjà vu. It was overpowering and made her feel uneasy about herself. One strong feeling kept coming back. She knew her… somehow she knew this mare. She needed to work out why. “Are you the mare I am to help?” She asked after giving up on sitting somewhere. She just can’t shake the feeling she knew this mare. “Names Tempest.” She added, hoping to learn the mares name. Maybe that will help her work out what was going on.

 

She she just had to look again. So she made her way to the kitchen and peaked around the door frame… She was a really cute looking mare. But why did Tempest feel like she knew her? She… Could not be what she thinks the mare is. There was no way they could cross paths like this. Can they? She felt like a deer in front of a train. Stuck in place, staring in shock as more and more pieces fall together in her brain. 

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Glitter rummaged around in the far room. She filled bowls with food, water, and assorted treats. She watched carefully that the animals got their fair shares and that no one fought with each other. A parrot perched on her poll and squawked loudly effectively drowning almost all of what the unicorn in the other room said. 

 

"I'll be right there!" She called to the visitor, wishing she could get the animals taken care of faster. She hardy ever had visitors much less visitors like this one! The unicorn was tall, dauntingly so. She seemed rough around  the edges and she was well...she was attractive. Glitter felt herself blush at the thought! She hadn't felt anything like that in a long time. A very long time. Too long a time! She sucked in a breath and fixed her thoughts on finishing the feeding as fast as possible.

 

"You guys keep it down in here ok?" She raised an eyebrow at a particularly fussy dog. "No complaining," She glared at a cat that was about to bat the tail of an unsuspecting puppy. "And no fighting!" She sighed and walked back into the other room to see to her guest. 

 

She caught the last part, the part about being the mare she was supposed to help. Glitter trotted into the kitchen and offered a chair to the plum colored unicorn. "Uh," She levitated her tea from earlier over to her and took a sip. "Yes?" She did a double take when she looked Tempest in the face for the first time. "Yes! I could totally use some help!"

 

Glitter looked to her tea and then back quickly to Tempest. "Sorry. What did you say our name was?" She blew a few strands of stray forelocks away from her eyes, not noticing the macaw still perched between her ears. 

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Tempest felt… Scared. Lost. confused. Her mind was racing as she takes one step back, eyes wide as she looked down at the unicorn in front of her. Looking at her face to face… looking into her eyes. She did not even need to ask for a name. All the years and time can do nothing to change what was standing in front of her. Glitter. So many years later and here she was. The one to toss the ball. The one she went in the cave for… the one she wanted too impress. She played this day out countless times with shouting, rage and anger. She’d come like a hammer of judgement. Yet… Now it was time and her legs felt far too weak and her mind all but lost in the fog of time. 

 

After far too long she found her voice. “I. I’m Tempest.” She was shocked at her own words. All her commanding power drained as she struggled peace together just what to do. She tried to focus on something other than Glitter. The bird on her head. The pets… The uh… smells. But she kept looking back at her eyes. So many years of prepapering for this day and she felt so utterly unprepared. “Hello… Glitter.” She added glancing back at the macaw. The sheer amount of pets spoke a story with no words. “It’s… It is…” She shut her eyes and turns to face away, slamming a rare leg down with crack that sent some pets running. “I was hired to help you deal with an unknown monster. Soon as you are done with this zoo we best start the hunt.” she says in a cold, almost heartless tone. A safe place, away from all the feelings playing in her mind. She never was good at talking. At feelings.

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"T-Tempest." The unicorn whispered the name. It dropped from her muzzle full of emotion as if it had been locked away for half her life...which it had.

 

She didn't speak any more. She couldn't. The rush of feelings was way too much. The whole reason for being here in this forsaken cabin, in the middle of the ice and snow, locked in with small animals on which to place her welling heart, was dashed in an instant. The one thing, the one pony she'd tried so desperately to divide her life from had somehow ended up walking straight through her door. Without her even noticing! 

 

The unicorn's eyes wells and she vanished from the room, back into the safe confines of her make shift zoo. She was brave, and strong, and resilient. But against this? She didn't think she could bare it! Her fault. It was her fault and she knew it. She'd ruined the unicorn's life. She hadn't meant to. The time frame for the whole incident was seconds. Seconds that translated to two lives locked out of their true potential. A shattered horn and a shattered heart...or possibly two. She didn't know. She'd long ago come to grips with her own feelings for an instant. She'd pushed those thoughts and feelings away though. Under snow and ice. Under the fluff and fur of animals who needed her. Through week long treks that could have easily claimed her life. 

 

And now here it all stood. On towering legs in her kitchen. All of her locked away secrets, longings and regrets. All of the pieces of her heart. All of what could have been. Was standing just out there...asking her if assistance was needed? How in all of Equestria had this happened? Where had she come from? She hadn't had any transactions with the Empire...had she? Glitter glanced to the table in the kitchen, poking her head around the corner for a brief moment. 

 

"Oh!" She squeaked, remembering the pink envelope that had come last week.

 

Cadence had sent a letter. She'd tossed it on the pile, ignoring it like so much else in her life. This was the outcome of her flippant nature. Of the scattered way she'd started to live her life. But Tempest? Why? This was the same mare that had nearly been the downfall of all of Equestria! Sure she'd reconciled herself through Twilight, even ponies that lived under rocks had heard that news. But still...the Princess of Love she must know! She must know about their past. Glitter was going to be the subject of the Princess trying to reconcile old relationships. She felt anger at this, deep in her gut. Cadence was using her knowing meddle in what she should not.

 

She had to go back out there right? Maybe if she just stayed here Fizzy would leave? No, she wouldn't. Glitter sighed and reached up to removed the bird from her poll. Time to face the music. Fizzy coming here was an invasion of her fortress...but she had opened the door. Her heart wavered. She wanted this, and she didn't. It felt well, it felt awful.

 

She took one step and then another back into the kitchen, as she went she steeled herself. She hardened the same way she did before fighting an ursa. Clearing her mind, focusing, deepening into her center. 

 

"Yes, a monster." The words came out flat. Cold. Deadened. "Prints like a timber wolf's but bigger...much bigger. I've never seen anything like them in my time here." As she spoke she began to pack for their venture. Saddle bags with general supplies, first aid, food. Rope. Ice ax, crampons. Woolen scarf to cover the face during snow flurries. Each was placed as it always was, securely on her back. "The nearby residents have started to complain of missing live stock. Taken from sheltered pens near dwellings."

 

After a quick time of supplying her pets for a time without her, she stepped to the door and opened it. "Ready?" Her mind was on fire. She wanted to cry. She wanted to tell Fizzy how sorry she was. She wanted to hug her old friend and remember the good times before the...accident. But the words didn't come. 

 

"Koda!" As she stepped out she called for her elk hound. He was an excellent tracker and often accompanied her on treks. Glitter affixed travel bags to the big dog. A few extra supplies never hurt during this time of year when the weather was anything but stable. The dog bounded up, standing by her side and looking directly at Tempest. 

 

"It's ok Koda, this is uh," She placed a front paw on the dog's head as she stood in the snow outside. "This is Tempest, she's a..." Her breath came in puffs in the northern air. "friend."

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Tempest let out a cold breath as she heard Glitter rush away to a back room. She wanted to run away as well. To just escape this moment, this meeting. Glitter recognized her, that was easy to see. And how she reacted? Tempest did not know how to feel about that. She did not know how to feel about any of this! She was never good at this! She never had a way to get good at this. She’s a broken pony. Well they can easily see the broken horn it was hardly all that was. She was missing so many pieces and somehow she knew Glitter was one of them. That mare was the keystone that destroyed her life. All do to a filly hood crush that exploded in her face. Why did it happen? Why did glitter.. Why did every pony abandon her? Friends. Famly. She wanted to scream at Glitter. Demand why. Why did Glitter abandon her?

 

And… How. How did this happen? Was it Cadence? There was no way she’d have found out. Unless she tracked down the few that knew her so far back. But why? If this was Cadence playing her games why did she think this was ok? It was not! THIS WAS NOT OK! But as much as she wanted to run away and cry alone in a pit of alcohol induced depression she can’t. The cat was out of the bag. Even if Cadence did not know about… this she will if they ran away. All she can do is just finish the job.

 

Hearing hoof steps Tempest rubbed a foreleg on her muzzle to dry up the tears of her failure. No weakness. No fear. She was Tempest. That… Filly. Was dead so long ago. Braced and ready she turns to face Glitter with an unbreaking face of utter disinterest. “I may have seen tracks like that… I have spent many years out in the wilderness, I know many well.” She remarked. “But the fact it is killing livestock helps slim down the list… At least it's a living monster and not one of magic. Hopefully.” There was some overlap with such things. A few monsters of magic did need to eat. She just hoped it was not… one of them. 

 

“I have been ready, it is why I am here after all.” She added with a snort before heading to the door and tossing it open. Yet for all her acting she still can’t shake her feelings. Every moment she looked at Glitter she wanted to scream and yell. Why. Why. She can not shake the word even as she stomped down the steps to the road. Looking over her back she watched Glitter call up a dog. She didn't feel the need too comment about it… She wanted a dog of her own same day to travel with. Maybe it will help make her feel less… alone. Even with the magic book to talk to her friends she was utterly alone for weeks or months at a time. 

 

Looking down at the dog her ears flick as she heard Glitter say the f-word. It hurt. Worse than the broken ribs as it hurt something far deeper. “Were we ever?” She whispered before walking down the road to just get away from the moment. Her tallness was handy this far north, it let her plow on ahead like a caribou in the snow. She never knew why she was so tall, when she was a filly you’d have never known! She was so small back then. A small ball of bravery that acted far bigger than she was… But now she was as big as she acted back then. But fell so far short of her dreams. She stopped walking and looked back at Glitter. She did not have anything to say to her. She just… knew this was going to be a very long walk. And she didn't even know where she was going. She was just walking too get away. “Lead the way.” She says, not asking.

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Well, this hadn't started out well at all. The feelings welling up inside the mare were almost too much to bear. She could sense emotions brewing in Tempest as well, though they did not show on her face. She was cold, hard, unfeeling, as far as Glitter could tell. Not surprising. You'd have to be to just abandon your friends. Especially after what had happened. 

 

Glitter didn't understand. Why would Fizzy choose to disappear after she'd risked her life and lost her horn to protect Glitter and Spring? They had been so close. They had shared the love of friendship... she might have even felt more than that for Fizzy. Not that she would have said too much. They were so young. She hadn't really even known how she'd felt. But they had been close, that much she knew. 

 

Now here they were, walking through icy drifts, further apart than they'd ever been even though their proximity was closer than it had been in ever so long. Glitter sighed, watching Koda bound out ahead of them. The dog was a great trail breaker and she'd always appreciated that. Though the path ahead might be clear, the path to mending things with Fizzy were far from it. She didn't know if she even wanted to. Maybe they could just complete the job and go along their ways? Something inside her halted that way of thinking. No. She wanted to talk. She wanted to get the burden off of her. The guilt and frustration she'd carried for so long that it had become a part of her. 

 

A fence line was beginning to appear out of the fog ahead of them. She knew where they were of course so that came as no surprise. They would scout around the small farms and cottages that were dotted throughout the leagues of land until they found prints, or clues of what they might be after. As the fence neared Glitter began to scan the snow top for hints. So far nothing. She glanced at Tempest, holding back all her heart wanted to spill. 

 

"This is the Cold Hope farm. Sheep herders mostly, and a hot house for growing crops. Crisp Fritter and Lemon Dew own it. Had a report from them a couple weeks back. Large prints, and two sheep gone missing from the barn." She nodded in the direction of building. "Better check to see if there's anything new."

 

She whistled to Koda and the dog began the task of sniffing out the area. He'd bark if anything interesting turned up. Then Glitter walked towards the barn, speaking over her shoulder to make it less difficult. "I never thought I'd see you again." Her heart raced as she tried to take back the words. It was too late though, the dam had ruptured.

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Tempest was utterly lost in her own world and it was not one worth visiting. countless imaginary situations clashed from one extreme to another. Some of them were so vile and evil it made her own mind step back in bewilderment at it. Others were far more palatable yet full of anger. She just felt mad at Glitter and had no outlet for years as her mind made up more and more crimes on the mare. Glitter was the scapegoat of her life but now it was walking alongside her. And being face to face with this age old scapegoat was something she was just not ready for. The fact of the matter. What DID Glitter do? She just… moved on. They were young and silly, yet the pain was so real. How much of the pain was Glitters doing? Tempests life just… Sucked. Her friends were all she really had as her family never did much with her. She knew the maid more than her own mom! And her dad… she can hardly even put a face to the word. 

 

With a flick of her ears she focused as Glitter talks. “Fine.” She says looking at the farm, only half aware of what Glitter was even talking about with it. She just wanted to be done with this and go find some hole to lay in. What she was not ready for was the follow up. ‘I never thought I'd see you again.’ as if this was somehow her fault. She did not run away. Glitter did. It made her stop in her tracks, looking at Glitter with a dead, almost hateful glare. “Why? So you’d never have to see the broken friend you abandoned again? Like everypony else? You and everypony never did care.” She says back without even a hint of anger. Just cold, dead uncaring spite. “Soon as we are done with this job you can go back to whatever life you had and forget I’m alive. Bet you have some happy family and husband. Just all happy and smiles until I show up and you have to face past sins. Hope it sucks.” She added pushing on ahead to get away from glitter. She wanted to scream and cry. She wanted her old friends back. She has wanted them back for so very long. But she can’t. Fizzy was dead.

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Abandoned? Abandoned?! What in Equestria did she mean by that? Glitter felt her emotions rise in a huge swell as the words left Tempest's muzzle. Emotions and questions all rolled together into one giant snowball she felt was just about to crush her. Body and soul. She'd never abandoned anypony, much less her best friend! She could never do that! She had loved Fizzy deeply. As deeply as a young filly could love another at any rate. The tragedy had ripped them apart but that was not her doing!

 

A scowl formed on Glitter's face as the larger mare shouldered her way past in the snow.The words she was speaking now. About happy lives, and husbands, and past sins? It was awful. She couldn't help the enraged gasp that left her. Those words, they bit deep. Really deep coming from a pony who had suffered a terrible injury and then fled from those who could have helped her. 

 

Glitter summoned her strength then. She summoned her courage and quieted her anger as best she could. 

 

"Wait a second!" The words came out crystal clear and bold. The mare trotted through the growing drift to stand directly in front of the unicorn. "You're not walking away after saying that." Ice. Snow. Cold. "I never abandoned anypony!" She glanced a way for only a moment, keeping the tears from coming. Then she looked back into Tempest's eyes. Hard as ice. "Much less you!" What Tempest had said about her life. Happy, smiles, and a family. None of it was true but she was yet to bridge that gap. 

 

A flurry of snowflakes and icy wind blew by them, pulling Glitter's light blue mane out to the side like streamers. She stared at the much larger mare, holding her ground in the gale. The gust of wind passed and she continued to hold. He heart was pounding in her chest to the point where she thought maybe it was visible. She didn't care. 

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Tempest stopped as Glitter rushed in front of her, she honestly did not think the mare was going too have the guts to do that. But it may have been better if Glitter did not. “Never abandoned? Is that what you call leaving me? You stopped inviting me over, stopped coming over and tried to keep away from me. Every time I reached out you found some way to run off and leave me. You were my best friend, my most trusted. And you along with every pony abandoned me. You. him. My own FAMILY!” She shouted the last part, the cold tone bleeding away in to rage. “No pony loved me! No pony wanted me! Did they even look for me when I ran away? Did they even care? I never saw one hint of it. Not one poster, not one story told of a lost filly. Nothing. I was broken and tossed to the side like some toy! That is what I lived with! My life is WORTHLESS! Do you even understand what it is like living with that? I am no different than a broken toy tossed to the side and forgotten. I am used and discarded. Every time I believed I found my calling, my use, it's ripped out from underneath me!” She slaps her hoof over the snow, tossing up a flurry of it in rage as she screams at Glitter. 

 

Looking away from Glitter she shut her eyes. This was miserable. Why was this happening? She can’t deal with this! “You were more than a BFF glitter.  When you were gone I understood it.” She says with all  the anger giveing away underneath the raw emotional stress crushing down on her into sadness. She can’t deal with this. She can’t. So she did all she could do… And just ran and a random direction. Did not matter where it was going, she just needed to get away from this and track the monster down. She had a job to do.

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Glitter stood there in the snow, her mouth slightly agape as Tempest let go of her rage. She could hardly contain all of the emotions that Tempest's rampage brought forth. She was being wrongly accused, and so felt intense anger towards the unfairness. Nopony loved Fizzy? That was so untrue! Glitter had loved her deeply and truly! Fizzy had never been tossed away! Her stomach dropped at the thought of the injured little filly thinking nopony cared. She felt guilt, intense guilt for not reading her friend correctly. Worthless? Discarded! No! She wanted to break into the tirade and speak her own mind but the words continued to punctuate from Tempest's muzzle. She felt so sad, so misunderstood, so deeply hurt. There was just so much. Too much.

 

Then the words finally subsided. The silence hung there for a brief moment, like their breath misting the air in the frozen stillness. Everything that had been said covered Glitter like a heavy blanket. There was too much for her to even begin to know what to say or do. 

 

She sucked in a small breath as those next words were uttered. 

 

“You were more than a BFF glitter.  When you were gone I understood it.” 

 

Those words dashed everything else away. They shattered through her grief and frustration. Her hurt and anger. Glitter's rage and need to retort were rent apart by those few quite words. The raw emotion of the moment brought tears to her eyes that she could not hide. She didn't want to hide them anymore. They didn't matter. Tears streamed down her cheeks as her heart dealt with the unrelenting torrent. She'd locked herself away from emotion for so long and the intensity at which they returned was painfully overwhelming.

 

Then Tempest turned and ran. Snow kicking up as she left in haste. Glitter couldn't move. She stood and watched the unicorn go until she disappeared into the mists.

 

"I-i," Her hoof left the snow and reached in the direction Tempest had fled. "I loved you Fizzy." She whispered the words, tears falling like ice to the drifts beneath her. 

 

It seemed an eternity before she could move. When she did her hooves moved in the direction of the barn. She would look for evidence and try to get a grip on herself. 

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Tempest did not make it all too far. Soon as she felt alone all drive to push on dropped out underneath her like her own legs. She did not even stop her own fall as she landed in the snow. Cold. Upset. Crying. She had every moment too try and FIX something. but she broke it more. That’s all she ever did. Break things. There is no glory or greatness found here just another testament to her failures. But such an outcome was bound to happen. Such is the fate of one like her. She is nothing but a failed pony, tainted to the core with no hope of salvation. She tries and tries only to fall all the more hard. Her one use was being utterly expendable and walked over as that’s all she’s done. No matter her power, no matter her pride what has it gotten her? Nothing. Time after time life has made it clear she was utterly worthless. 

 

And it was a miserable fact. Why did she even try? Why did keep going on as that giant boulder of misery drags behind her? Why did she still believe there was something worth trying for? That tiny voice that just never shuts up. Even over the howling roars of darkness it keeps going. Hope was a silly thing. Hope for what she can’t say. Happyness? Love? To feel like she was worth something? Whatever it was that fillies hopeful voice never let her give up. 

 

Pulling herself up from the show she shakes clumps of it off and looked back the way she ran from. Can she go back? After that? She can do this alone… Can’t she? Looking away from that path her eyes fell on some large tracks… she did not make that. They were not filled in by snow and given that it snowed all day… they must be fresh. Looking down the path deeper in to the woods she felt… uneasy. The size of them were… alarming. And it did lead from the barn… … she can’t go back yet. Not after what she did. Turning down the trail she follows it to see where it may lead.

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Glitter stamped through the ice and snow to the barn. Her mind was absent from where she was, lost in some far off time and place. The fun of play that lead to the ball rolling off down the forest path. The intrepid friends that trotted down that path together into the darkness of the woods. The sudden drop in her stomach as their ball rolled into an ominous cave. She had felt so unsettled even before Fizzy had cantered forward and become lost to sight within the gloom. And then the very worst had happened. Well, the worst short of death. A certain pony had died that day, inside it seemed.

 

She hadn't known what was really going on with Fizzy. She and Spring had given her space. Time to heal. They both had thought that she knew they were there. They waited for Fizzy to come back. To take the offer of a shoulder to cry on, withers to lean on. But she never did. In fact she'd slipped away. Disappeared to who knew where and neither of them knew how to find her. Glitter's heart became cold over time. Then hardened when she realized she'd been left behind by her friend. Her heart had longed for Fizzy for so long she had to let her go. If she hadn't the depths of darkness she would have gone to would not have been reversible. 

 

As it was she disappeared too. Off to the Frozen North and as far away from her heart ache as she could get. She figured staying in a reclusive state was best. Why open her heart to further injury? Sh'e put what was left of the pieces onto the animals she found. Animals couldn't hurt the heart. They were good naturally and would not leave her or wound her. She found and cared for any she could find and found she had a skill for it. Some might even say she was a branch not far from the famed Fluttershy's ability with bird and beast. But still her heart was empty, cracked and broken deep down in the past. Wounds that would need healing should she ever wish to be whole again.

 

She did wish it healed but she'd never want to confront what had happened. Then the Princess of Hearts swooped in and did it for her. Made her confront her worst nightmare and deepest love. Fizzlepop Berrytwist was more than a friend. She was the key to Glitter's iced over heart. But the key and the lock could not just come together. Too much ice, rust, time, injury, was yet in the way. It would have to cleared. A way through would have to be burned. She just didn't think she had the strength.

 

"Ah!" She growled in frustration, pounding a hoof onto the timbers of the old barn. Snow fell from the roofing and pattered into the snow around her. Tears streamed down her face as she struggled with past and present in one anguished filled moment. She looked down and wept. 

 

And then... she blinked and sucked in a breath. Tracks in front of her, following the side of the barn. Huge. Clawed. Horrible. Tracks. Fresh and hardly filled. She reached out and touched the rough wood of the barn where a small hank of fur had clung in the beast's passing. "Oh no." She breathed the words and tossed her head from left to right in sudden panic, looking for the beast. It was not in sight. But was that? Her nostrils flared at the sight of blood droplets amongst the prints. 

 

BARK! 

 

Glitter nearly jumped out of her skin as Koda bounded from the mists and snow. Something was wrong. She could tell by his movements and frantic barking. 

 

"Where is she boy?"

 

Koda turned, looking off in the direction Tempest had taken. 

 

RAWF!

 

"Come on!" She galloped off, snow kicking up in all directions. Her wounded heart forgotten in fear.

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Under most situations running in the untouched woods of the north hot on the trails of some beast is an extremely good time. At least for Tempest. This was her bread and butter in a way. Yet she found her focus on it hazy, lost in the fog of times past. Vices, places and memories ran alongside her. Try as she did to out pace them her past held on to her tail, unrelenting to in its grab to not be forgotten again. Yet push on she did. It was all she could do. 

 

 

Run, run and run. Run from her past. Run from her feelings. It was distracting and all consuming as the world around her passed away. It was just her, show and tracks. Tracks that were making some deep part of her past scream out in alarm. She has seen them before. Locked away in some deep forgotten pit of her own making. But she can’t hear it. One more voice lost in the strain of her own need to shut them all up. She did not need help. She did not need Glitter. No room for argument. 

 

 

Yet that creeping feeling did not go away. Dread… She was feeling dread. More and more the pieces were falling together as repressed memories come free from places long forgotten. Something that can’t be. Yet it was. The realization came far too slow as her brain worked out what she just did. What she just ran after full speed. She saw it as soon as… It did. The silence was killed by the roaring call of the ursa, enraged at the intruder that was charged headlong at it. 

 

Tempest just felt the world dropping out from underneath her hooves as she falls head over hooves. Legs failing her in panic as her eyes look up at the ursa in fear. Raw, unbroken fear. She didn't even scream as her legs desperalty flailed in the snow to drag herself away from the enraged ursa. She felt it move in her very bones. The thumping of giant paws as she dug and pulled herself in the deep snow like some helpless fly in a web. All rational thoughts are lost in one unrelenting panic. All her training, magic and power was made useless in one moment as panic over takes all other forms of thinking.

 

All she has done was leading up to this. From that moment in the cave she swore to be strong. To be powerful. No matter the cost to herself or others. Kingdoms crushed. Families shattered. How many felt like she did now? How many watched their home destroyed beneath her airships, helpless to stop it? All the suffering she’s unleashed on this world and here she was. Crawling away with tears in her eyes and a heart ready to explode out of her chest. She did unspeakable things for power. But for what? She fell like a house of cards. Helpless. Worthless. Rolling on to her back she stared at the ursa as it towered over her. The night sky given horrible life to torment all it found. An unrelenting juggernaut of death. Fizzy was meant to die in that cave and death finly caught up with her.

 

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Glitter ran, snow kicking up in flurries behind her. Koda stretched long into his run up ahead of her and she felt her lungs begin to burn in her pursuit. It was fear. Fear caused the burn, caused the ache in her legs and her chest. It tightened around her body like tentacles, gripping into her flesh. She grit her teeth and caused her stride to lengthen even as the deeper drifts held her back.

 

She tried to match the stride of the mare in front of her, but it was out of her reach. Fizzy was taller than her, longer in the leg. She was braver too. Well, she had been that day. It should have been Glitter going in after the ball. It was her kick that had rolled it into the woods. Her hooves that had caused the irreparable damage on her best friend's life. She gasped, it hurt to think of that moment. Those few seconds that had forever shattered the lives of two mares. 

 

BARK!

 

"What is it boy?" She called to the dog but she did not need his reply, even if her could make one.

 

The roar. The unmistakable roar of an ursa.  Her gut dropped and she charged headlong towards the grove up ahead. The sound had come from among the trees. Black, skeletal trees, all leaves dropped in the dead of winter. She came among them in a rush, in a flurry of snow and mane. Her eyes took it all in. The beast. The unicorn. The terror. Her breath came in puffs as she calculated what she must do.

 

Koda let off a racket of barking but did not move in. He would wait for his master's move as he always did. She did not call for him though.

 

Glitter charged in as the ursa towered over her friend. Over her beckon of hope and shadow of deepest fears. Over the one her heart longed for and loathed all at once. The one she had loved that had resurfaced in her life like a tidal wave. The one that her heart had longed for and broken for countless times. So countless that she had tossed it to freeze in the wastes of the north. Now here she was, heart on fire racing towards the creature.

 

"Gotta move!" She yelled as she took a leap from the snow and flung herself between Fizzy and the ursa. A huge paw came around, narrowly missing raking her side wide open. The talons found the back edge of her jaw, ripping three cuts into her cheek and up towards her eye. Then came the burst of light. Bright, white, brilliant, it burst forth. From pain, from regret, from longing, from love. It shown so brightly the beast roared and took to all fours. She hit the ground beside the unicorn. Her momentum rolling them both through the snow and away from the ursa by a few yards. By enough to get up and away. 

 

Blood obscured her vision as she took to her hooves and fled. There was no fighting a beast of that size. Koda ran next to them barking. She hardly noticed his presence. She was focused on the unicorn. When they were far enough away she glanced to the side.

 

"Fizzy?"

 

Her words dropped away as blood dripped to turn the snow crimson. 

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The world felt hazy, lost in a fog. Confused as to what happend or how. She was supposed to die, fate playing its cards on the table singing ‘checkmate’ with the roar of a monster. Yet she was not dead as her eyes watered from a burst of light that left her almost blind. But even half blind and frozen with fear a voice was yelling in her mind. She had to move. Gotta move! Over and over it shouted in the voice of a filly she once knew, pushing her legs to move. She had to move. 

 

But unlike the first time she was not alone. A splash of green was just ahead of her, leading her away from death. And so she followed it as best she can. Tripping, falling and getting up to run again as she felt the shadow of death behind her. Too scared to look back she only looked ahead at the green pony. It was only then what the pony was clicked together in her mind. It was not just some green shape or pony. It was Glitter. And that tiny realization was world shattering. For so long this moment has haunted her. The day her friends left her to just die. But there she was with a streak of red trailing down her body.

 

That red was as vast as the sea for Tempest. She looked at it utterly transfixed before following the trail up to the cheek where ripped flesh starts. Every inch of that bleeding wound… Made Tempest feel sick. But she followed it up to the eye. It was shut, from blood or was the eye all but lost? How much did Glitter pay in blood and pain to save her? It was like a shot of coffee as all the fog clouding her mind blasted away into a sharp and focused thought. Glitter was never supposed to suffer that price. That pain. That blood. That wasn't for Glitter to pay. Yet Glitter did for a mare so worthless she can’t even bother to value her own life. 

 

‘Fizzy’. She HATED that name and all it stands for. But no swelling anger came. No hated. She can’t. All she can do is run and stare at Glitter with tears in her eyes at the utter madness that happened. What can she say? Can she stop running? She was too scared. Deep down she really was Fizzy. A lost, scared filly that wanted nothing more in life than to feel valued. And just like that Glitter was bleeding. Hurt. Suffering for ‘Fizzy’ and she hated it. This wasn't what she wanted. This is never what she wanted for Glitter. “I’m sorry.” The words felt so worthless coming from her muzzle. Glitter should have just left her to die. But Glitter was the 3rd pony to do the opposite. Three times her world view was challenged and this time the very pony that started it all did it. It felt like a hammer meeting glass.

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The roar of the ursa was gone. Echoes away into endless drifts of snow. Hopefully it would go its own way now and not follow the crimson trail she was leaving. It might. That though turned her stomach to knots. Though in the moment she's been strong as steel, the moment was gone. She could feel herself starting to give from the inside. Weakening. Crumbling. Coming undone.

 

The pain began in a rush. Hot as fire, lancing through her face. it caused a tight grimace as she fought for breath. It would come, she just needed to relax. She had lots of first aide training. You had to, to have a job like her's. Celestia only knew what kind of trouble one could get into on their own in the frozen north. Broken limbs, fractured skulls, pulls, cramps, tears...lacerations...well more likely an avulsion she was pretty sure. She hadn't touched it yet and didn't intend to until they were somewhere warmer, and safer.

 

The blood continued to drip, hardening the coat in it's path. They had to move. Had to get somewhere that wasn't here. 

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

The words tingled in her ears long after they were uttered. The weakness behind them was deafening. It was not the Fizzy she had once known. The one from before the breaking. But the jump in her heart from those words made her know, it was still the Fizzy she felt so deeply for. Loved. Yes loved. She couldn't deal with that right now. Her face. She had to get that taken care of. But oh! Was Fizzy ok? It seemed like it. She had run with her, in front of her for most of their retreat. 

 

"Th-there's a..." She swallowed. "...cave. A sheltered cave not far from here. Koda and I have used it before for overnights. W-we should go there. Get warm." She shivered involuntarily.

 

She'd hold it together but the wound was causing her to go into shock. 

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Tempest felt awful, like some giant hole was being ripped open in her chest. This was never meant to happen. Never supposed to be. And somehow it was all her fault. She knew it was. And as they ran she knew Glitter was getting worse. The blood loss was bad. Going in to shock. And with force a single crushing thought slammed in to her. ‘This is what you wanted.’ How long has she dreamed of her revenge? How long did she want to bring suffering to the betrayers. To make them open their eyes. And now here it was. One of them was dieing. And that single thought made her want to vomit. She was so wrong, so utterly wrong in what she wanted. She wanted her Glitter back, that’s all she’s ever wanted and now it was slipping from her hooves. 

 

So long ago she wanted to be glitter's coltfriend. It was silly of course. She was a mare after all. but when she was young she saw the older fillys with their colts and she wanted IN on that. And most of all she wanted to be the colt with glitter. She did not know why at the time, it's just what she wanted to be. But looking back it's easy to understand what it was. Puppy love. But puppy love or not she cared deeply for her friend. And she let all of this anger and self loathing bring this on to the poor mare. Glitter deserved better, far better than she’d ever been. But in this moment she had to fix this. Fix so much. She had to save glitter.

 

“You're too slow, hold on to me. Don't let go!” She shouted, moving next to Glitter she swung her head down and underneath the mare, yanking her up with her head as the mare slides down on her back. She didn't even stop running as she did it. With glitter hanging on to her neck and back Tempest pushed herself harder. Plowing through the snow like some caribou warrior. Muscle aching be damned she moved herself with all the haste and power she can force out of her own body. She has failed so many times in life. This was not going to be one of them. Even if it kills her, she was going too save glitter.

 

 

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The Timberwolf did not even have time to turn around and look at the mare before a storm of magic grabbed the beast and yanked it from the cave with such force it was sent flying into the sky like a bird. The rest of the pack did not do much better, tossed or blasted in to ash as Tempest stormed in to the cave. With the danger gone she got to work starting a fire, not letting Glitter off her back. She was after all, much more warm than the cave floor. When the fire was going strong she set the mare down, searching for medical supplies that she found in Glitters saddle bags. “I’m sorry this is going to suck.” She whispers, then holds out a leg in front of a Glitters muzzle. “Bite it. Hard.” she whispers before getting to work cleaning it out. She knew it was going to hurt but it had to be cleaned soon as possible. “Looks like we are going to share a bad eye… I can’t see very well with my bad one.” She talked to give Glitters something to focus on, it helps deal with shock. “Fuzzy, unfocused. Was almost blind in it for a few years.” It was pointless small talk she needed. Maybe more than Glitter did. She just wanted to hug the mare and cry.

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Glitter faded in and out of consciousness through their journey. She heard hooves pound through snow, Koda pacing at her side, the blast and howl of timber wolves. She couldn't see. That sense was total blackness. And then the sound stopped too. All except Fizzy's voice.

 

The voice echoed somewhere deep inside her. Telling her to bite. She did as she was bidden, though she could not bite hard. As the cleaning started she mercifully dropped out of consciousness again. 

 

There was no telling how long she was out. When she awoke she felt warm. She gingerly reached for her face, her hoof coming into contact with a thick layer of gauze. She grimaced and let out a breath. Her eye. Would she be blind in the eye? There was no telling. She gritted her teeth and opened the uncovered eye. Flickering firelight met her gaze. That and blackness beyond. The cave smelled of drit, and slightly of timberwolf musk. Not a bad smell. The smell of the earth. Koda rested by her side and turned to lick her when he saw she was awake. He whined and pushed at her with his muzzle. 

 

"I-i'm ok boy," She whispered and reached out to pat him on the head before letting her hoof slip back to the ground. She felt like she had no strength at all. 

 

Her other side was warm too. That was Fizzy, laying next to her. Glitter felt good then. Having the mare so close. She felt safe. She took a breath and realized how thirsty she was. 

 

"Fizzy?"

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In some ways it was a blessing glitter did pass out. Well it did worry Tempest deeply her friend was… alive. She’d place her ears to the mares chest over and over. Never leaving her side as the day faded away in to darkness. It did not matter. She laid next to glitter as a silent guardian and took the solitude to do something she needed. Cry. Soundless weeping of the soul as she watched glitters chest rise and fall. With so much time to think her mind raced from extreme to extreme. Anger. Rage. Sorrow. depression. And as she laid there thinking and crying she never felt more alone and scared. What did she do to have this fate? Why did every part of this world hate her? She was nothing. Worthless. Broken. Aimless. She can’t even tell herself why she pushed on. She did not care about her ‘work’ or herself. She hated this world. This life. So many times she just wanted to step off into the sky and close her eyes.

 

She sighed and looked down at glitter. What made her… do what she did. Power? Fame? No. She knew why. She just wanted to feel… worth. Wanted. like she belonged somewhere. How far she was willing too go for such things was disgusting. And she can blame only herself. All the blood she has spilled and suffering unleashed just so she felt like she was worth something for a few faint moments. All because she… Ran away from her problems. Her real problems. She rushed head first into the jaws of death just to shut up the truth. And here it was. Laying next to her so peaceful at the doors of life and death. It was otherworldly and terrifying. This pony… Glitter. Glitter was everything and she was so close to being gone. Gone forever. 

 

“I’m so sorry.” Tempest whispers laying head down on the mares chest, feeling it rise and fall with every life giving breath. “You never deserved this. Never deserved me… I never deserved you.” She spoke to herself, knowing Glitter will not hear a word. “I never hated you. I wanted to hate you and screamed myself blue saying as such. But you had no power in what happend. You were just a filly. You didn't know how I felt. I never told you… Did my mother ever tell you? Did she keep you away? Was it dad? When I think back on good days… I see you glitter.” She whimpers and hugs the mare close, using the mare's fur to wipe away tears. “I’d give up so much go back time and fix this. Fix us. My magic. My soul. Whatever it may cost. I’d go back and tell myself to just say it. Just say it and speak up. Tell you the truth. And maybe then you’d have known… You needed to save me from myself.” 

 

--------

 

 

Fizzy. It still hurt to hear that. Tempest was still laying next to Glitter, letting the mare face the fire so she layed on the side facing out into the cold. Like a protective wolf with a pup, Glitters warmth mattered more. “I’m here.” She whispers, leaning down to look the mare over. “Don’t move unless you must… How are you feeling?” She asked, her tone so soft as to sound almost alien coming from her own muzzle. “Are you ok?” She added with more push behind it with worry and guilt. Hearing glitters weakness was soul wrenching. For all the years that passed… so many winters gone. When she looked at Glitter she felt that same thump from so long ago. That same foolish puppy love that made her watch her friend and day dream. And now she was holding glitter well praying too whatever cared to spare the mare's life. Fate was nothing short cruel in its sense of humor. 

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Glitter was walking down a path trough the woods. She could hear little fillies behind her. She turned, seeing herself playing with her friends. Spring Rain and Fizzlepop. She smiled, watching them tossing a ball back and forth to each. Her heart warmed as she saw their smiles. Their happy, carefree bounce. They were so young, so untouched. Life hadn't hurt them, not yet. And then her head turned. Ahead the road turned dark and faintly in the distance she heard a roar...

 

"No...n-no..." She muttered.

 

She'd passed out again after her first attempt to speak. But Koda had nuzzled her again and now she could hear the mare speaking to her. Don't move. She kept her head in place, face towards the warmth of the fire. 

 

"I-I'm ok..." She let out a little breath. "J-just so thirsty." She couldn't manage any more then that for the moment. She could hear Fizzy though, feel her body close to her side. That was enough. she would be ok. 

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Seeing Glitter passing out again was not the best thing to see. But with the help of Koda Tempest got Glitter wake again. Well the mare can use the rest Tempest was worried about letting her pass out like that. Sometimes a pony never wakes up from it. And that was… Something Tempest was not willing to think about. “I got some water… I’m going to move you ok? If something hurts stop me.” She says, allowing Glitter to answer her first. When she felt safe to move Glitter she sits up on her haunches, gently and slowly pulling Glitter up as well, letting the mare just lean up against her as she keeps her steady with her front legs. It felt so weird holding her close like this. She can’t place the feeling at all. Just… She hoped glitter was ok. 

 

With the mare sitting up Tempest focuses on her magic. It was never easy to use even in the best of days for a small task. Destroying came so easy. But a softer touch? That was work. She had to give all her foxes in her horn as it sparked with power. It was slow and stressful but she opened a saddle bag laying next to them. That alone made her have to take a short break to relax. “I’m glad your horn is fine…” She says looking down at it at the mares horn… She really was the big spoon in this. “A broken horn is… Hard. Even picking up something is hard. I don’t like doing it.” She added but got back at it. Another flair of her horn as she struggles to keep the magic behaving. But with some Focus she soon got a bottle of water free and rolled it over to them. With it in reach she just leans down and picks it up in her muzzle. With some muzzle and hoof work she soon has the cap off and offers it to Glitter to sip on. “Don’t drink fast can do more harm than good. Slow small sips.” She says. Glitter may have known this but it's best to say it again than risk her doing more harm. 

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Of course being field trained in medicine Glitter knew all the advice that Tempest was giving her, but she didn't mind. In fact she really liked it. She liked having the other mare curled around her, tending to her, muttering softly in her ear. She sipped the water and relaxed visibly as it wet her parched lips and slid coolly down her throat. She sighed, the water doing a world of good. She reached up slowly and touched her face as Tempest spoke of her horn. She felt the bandages over her damaged eye and behind them felt the dull throb of the injuries the ursa had inflicted. Her heart caused the throb in the wound, her heart had caused the wound in full. She would have let the ursa rip her wide open for the chance to save Tempest. Something she hadn't done the last time they were in that position.

 

"Yes, I know." She spoke softly and not unkindly.

 

Glitter turned herself so she was facing Tempest. They were close, almost muzzle to muzzle for a moment. The mare reached up and tenderly traced the scar on Tempest's face. "We're gonna match though," She managed a weak smile. "I always thought that scar looked good on you. Makes you look brave...makes you look..." She turned back towards the fire, settling into the provided warmth. "sexy."

 

Her breath came easy now. It wasn't like the pain wasn't there it was just that...what was going on in her heart dulled everything else. She knew how she felt. She'd always known how she felt. Since they were young and she'd known Fizzy was her best friend.

 

She'd known as they grew a little older together. Those sleep over parties with the three of them. She'd always made sure her sleeping bag was right next to Fizzy's when they had stopped giggling together and turned in for the night.

 

She'd known that fateful day when her heart at reached out to the berry colored filly as she trotted into the woods after their ball. When her heart fell to darkness when their friendship was broken like the bits of horn left on the dirt path in the forest.

 

She'd known when she'd opened the door and saw the face of one she thought she'd never see again.

 

Glitter felt herself drift off once more... 

 

She didn't know how long she'd been out but the next time she woke she could feel strength returning to her limbs. She was still injured but the water and sleep was doing the trick. Glitter glanced around at the walls of the cave dancing with the light of the freshly tended fire. Her stomach rumbled audibly. 

 

"Time for breakfast?" She muttered sleepily. 

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