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Running of the Leaves: Stage Three- The Bubbling Brook (Closed: Seee OOC Topic)


SteelEagle
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Stage 3- Bubbling Brook

This idylic stream is usually peaceful, gently moving about the Whitetail woods lazily. However, the weather pegasi of Baltimare didn't do their job correctly and pushed a storm north and now torrential rains slam the area. The bubbling brook is beyond capacity and reports of flooding in the lower regions of the whitetail woods are filtering in. Everywhere however the storm is intense and raging and you have the sensation that as you leave the civilized town of Ponyville, this is not just a race and a cause for Equestrians to rally behind, but a battle of wits and skills in a poor environment. Pegasi race coordinators have scrambled and set up a steady rope swing for the racers on a sturdy tree away from the traditional bridge route. Of course, you can try the bridge instead- maybe you'll get past it and get a good lead on everypony else, as the path is more straightforward.

Or maybe it will flood with you on it, dragging you away until rescue workers can throw you back. Choices, choices...

OOC Note- Please put in bold at the start of your post whether you are going for the bridge or not. If you choose to go for the bridge, your time is limited and it takes more than one post. You may post your character going over the bridge when you think you've posted enough to do so. The bonus is big, but there is danger involved.

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((OOC: Taking the bridge. :smug: ))

Gilda's determination had won her back some ground, but it still didn't feel like she was entirely there. She was surrounded on all sides by galloping pony lame-os. She had been in enough races to know that this was what the middle of the pack felt like. She still had so much work to do if she wanted to rejoin the front. Until then, she couldn't coast through this. She had to keep her body moving and keep her focus set ahead. Not to mention, she couldn't let all these ponies, especially the ones presently ahead of her, wear her down. She wasn't about to give up just yet.

The race was entering its third stretch, passing the aptly named Bubbling Brook. She could vividly recall this section of the race from the previous year. Things were a little different than before however. Gilda's eyes darted upward as she felt rain suddenly start to pour down around her as she approached the stream. A storm? What in all Tartarus were those lousy ponies thinking? Didn't they have their shiftless weather ponies to control this kind of thing? Why in the world would they schedule a storm for the same time as their stupid little pony race? Was it just carelessness, or were they just stupid? Considering this was ponies she was talking about, either seemed plausible to the griffon, but regardless of the reason she had to persevere.

The wind and rain of the storm was not the only thing that was different between this year and last. This became abundantly clear as the stream came into view. The Bubbling Brook was especially bubbling--not to mention full. Not long and the thing was bound to flood. Gilda nodded. She needed to clear the brook and she needed to do it quickly or it could really slow her down. How would she proceed though? As her body raced toward the stream, her mind raced with considerations about how to cross.

The previous year, this was the point where Gilda had decided to start disregarding the rules. She had rather blatantly flown cleanly over the brook to the other side and not looked back. Now, this had initially shaved some seconds off of the time she was making, but it had also caused some of the pony dweebs to turn on her pretty bad. Dealing with their incessant nagging had perhaps cost her more in the end than she had saved. She had came in seventh last year, which to her was pretty far off from first. This made for lots of second guessing... and while the variable of the storm maybe changed the situation entirely, she was still pretty eager to bring different cards to the table this time and not bank on the same exact hand as before.

Apparently there was an alternate safe route set up by the coordinators for the losers to take. Gilda wasn't about to take that route though. She eyed the bridge down and nodded. Yeah, she was gonna cross this bridge and cross it before she had the dangers of the brook to deal with. There was a crowd and a line in front of it; ponies seemed anxious to cross the narrow bridge which would only hold so many at once. As the rain came down violently Gilda rushed toward them all.

[colour=#996699]"Out of the way losers! I'm pushing through. Step aside or you'll regret it!"[/colour] Gilda shouted as she started to shove into the crowd. She didn't care who she knocked into the brook. It wasn't her problem if they got swept up in the rushing waters. As long as she played by the rules, these ponies couldn't complain either.

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(OOC: SUGAR APPLE IS GOING FOR THE BRIDGE)

Well, this here was a fall-weather bummer. A short time after Sugar Apple passed by Sweet Apple Acres, the once mildly-annoying drizzle transformed into a torrent of rainfall. Every few minutes, a bolt of lightning lit up the grey-colored heavens and summoned the sharp crack of thunder. For all of Sugar Apple’s earlier bluster about facing a thunderstorm, the pegasus found herself slowing down her canter as the path in front of her became increasingly mired in puddles and mud. That friendly Earth Writer gentlecolt the mare met earlier would have been a fool to stay off the path, now that even-worse mud covered the ground surrounding the forest road.

Making the tempestuous scene even drearier, Sugar Apple couldn’t see anypony in front of her thanks to poor visibility. As it seemed the main pack of racers lingered back at the apple orchard to get their share of apple juice, it allowed the pegasus to take a commanding position in the Running of the Leaves. The pegasus was sure though that Applejack remained in the lead; who else would be? Sugar Apple didn’t care about her current ranking though; if everypony else had to trudge through the puddles at her current speed, they simply won’t be able to run fast enough to blow the leaves off the trees. Whole sections of forest would retain their foliage, and Sugar Apple wouldn’t get time off of work to participate in a do-over run on a better day. She’d have to wait an entire year to take part in an actual Running.

Moping in silence over what could have been a spectacular race, Sugar Apple almost didn’t notice the pegasi race coordinators braving the severe storm above the blubbing brook. It was only when the mare discerned the sound of water getting louder that she stopped within hooves of a low-lying wood bridge. Taking a brief pause to evaluate her surroundings, Sugar Apple saw that the overflowing stream was just about to flood over the bridge and possibly wash it out. The pegasus next saw various signs placed by the coordinators pointed towards an alternate crossing to the right of the bridge. The temporary rope crossing looked too roundabout to Sugar Apple’s liking however, so the mare stood for a few moments contemplating her plan of attack.

“Excuse me, miss?” a race coordinator loudly interrupted Sugar Apple’s deliberation, trying to be heard over the deafening clash of the downpouring shower and cascading stream water; “This bridge is unsafe; we’ve set up a studier rope course downstream! We don’t recommend trying to cross at this location!” The pegasus didn't have much time to think though; accompanied by a coincidently-timed lightning blast, an irate griffon racer came up from behind and began a mad dash towards the bridge, not caring whom she shoved aside.

[colour=#800080]“Stand aside, y’all!”[/colour] a rain-soaked Sugar Apple panickedly hollered as she made a dash of her own towards the bridge, obstinately to avoid being cast into the bubbling brook by the griffon; [colour=#800080]“AH’M ALSO COMIN’ THROUGH!”[/colour] This may not have been the beautiful celebration of autumn that Sugar Apple planned for, but any bit of excitement sure as heck beat sulking over what could have been.....

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((OOC: Ember Heart is taking the bridge))

The rows of apples trees started to disappear as Ember Heart left the Sweet Apple Acres section of the track. The wooden fence along the right also came to a sudden halt as well marking the transition into Whitetail. He had managed to pull his way back into the fray and it might have been due to the sudden worsening of the weather. What had once been a slight, cool drizzle was now a heavy downpour that rivaled that of the storms from the Manebrush River delta down by Fillydelphia. The temperature had also dropped slightly which caused a slight, periodic chill to race down his back. It wasn't anything that he wasn't use to and thanks to the apples and cider from earlier, he now had the energy to maintain his spot in the race.

Ember Heart slowed down to a trot as a familiar roaring sound came from further down the trail. It sounded a lot like the seasonal rushing water he had to deal with back home. [colour=#4B0082]‘That’s can’t be good; not good at all.’[/colour] As he continued down the trail, the sound grew louder and louder. He could hear the roaring water battering the banks of whatever stream, brook, or river the trail led to.

[colour=#996699]"Out of the way losers! I'm pushing through. Step aside or you'll regret it!" [/colour]

Ember Heart’s ears twitched at the sound of the commotion. [colour=#4B0082]‘Pushing through what exactly?’ [/colour]he wondered. He returned to a gallop and raced down the path. He started to make out a bridge with a line of ponies bunching up eager to cross. The fleeting shape of a griffon was charging through the crowd towards the bridge. The flood waters were racing below it and even battered it on occasion. Who would dare to cross such a thing? A race coordinator stood near a fork in the trail, shouting out information. He was able to make out something about there being a safer path further down the bank.

[colour=#800080]“Stand aside, y’all!”[/colour] hollered a light-purple mare. [colour=purple]“AH’M ALSO COMIN’ THROUGH!”[/colour]

Ember Heart’s jaw dropped as he saw the mare follow the griffon in suit. [colour=#4B0082]“What in Equestria are they doing?”[/colour] he asked himself. He trotted over to the race coordinator who was just as dumbfounded as he was. [colour=#4B0082]“Excuse me ma’am, what is going on here? Is that bridge even safe to cross?” [/colour]

The mare chuckled half in disbelief over what she had witnessed. [colour=#000000]“I sure wouldn’t recommend it to you. These ponies sure seem determined to cross and thanks to that griffon, I can’t really do much to keep anypony from crossing it!”[/colour] The stressed coordinator said.[colour=#000000] “Look, you seem like a sensible one. I am going to tell you this right now; there is a safer method of crossing further down the bank. Please take it.”[/colour]

Ember Heart stood for a moment, unsure of what to do. [colour=#4B0082]"I... I don't know."[/colour] He took another look at the bridge only to see a crest of water smash against the bottom of it. The mud sloshed beneath his hooves as he took a few tentative steps back. Everything he was every taught about these situations called for him to take the safer route. [colour=#000000]"Better safe than sorry."[/colour] is what his father always told him. But, this was something different altogether. [colour=#4B0082]'One solid run and I could be on the other side of that bridge in no time, far ahead of the others.[/colour]' He sat back and touched his left right hoof to his chin. [colour=#4B0082]'If the bridge floods, I could be swept a good distance away. Could I afford such a setback?'[/colour] His eyes looked back and forth frantically down at the ground as he tried to decide.

Ember Heart closed his eyes and exhaled deeply before standing back up. It was a chance to get far ahead in the lead along with the other two. He just hoped that it was worth the risk. His eyes zeroed in on the small gap the light-purple mare had made. [colour=#4B0082]"Here goes nothing!"[/colour] He jumped into a full gallop sending bits of mud all over as he made his way towards the bridge. Without so much as a word, he managed to slip through the ponies waiting on the bridge. He cringed as another crest splashed up against the bridges sending a cold mist over him and the crowd. With another deep breath, he braced himself for whatever lay ahead.

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OOC: Clockwise is going for the bridge! Er.... kind of!

---

As the roiling stormclouds began to spread across the sky above him (just on time, Clockwise noted absently) the purple pony began to pay much more attention to what he was doing with his hooves, something that was admittedly unusual for him. The price of an occasional trip or stumble was a fine one to pay in exchange for several extra hours of thoughtful contemplation, but this was different. A moment of distraction--indeed, another startled jump--could have results most unpleasant if he lost his footing now.

"Looks like we'll be getting a little wet," indeed!

Mud began to splotch the distraught professor's fetlocks and dusky coat as he went splashing over the path, his ears pinned back for some small respite from the lashing rain and the violent gales. His yellow hooves were now almost entirely caked in brown, and in the rain he looked as grey as his eyes. It was very difficult to see in this atrocious weather, and the unicorn's dependency on his glasses--now as wet and useless as a windshield under water--made it even harder. One, two, three, one, two, three. Each hoof-fall descended in a splattering of mud and rain. The pony's heart began to sink as he realized that he wasn't certain of where he was. All that guided him was what he thought was the path, framed by lines of trees. He slowly realized that they were wilder, fiercer trees, and bare of apples: forest trees. Sweet Apple Acres was somewhere behind them, now.

Despite his commitment to trying to stay focused, Clockwise's mind nevertheless resorted to pondering over its great wealth of spells, and his horn began to shine gold. A gentle spark bounced up into the rain and arced to settle on his glasses. The short enchantment began working immediately; the water ran off as though repelled, and the new, fat droplets went splashing away from the lenses, deterred by the magical waterproofing. It certainly wasn't perfect, but it did wonders for visibility. Alas, he hadn't the energy or the focus to waterproof his poor, dear hat, which was now all but soaked. The occasional jingle of the little bell on its end sounded forlorn and distant amid the thunder of the rain and the rumbling of the sky.

Now that he could actually see, Clockwise was able to attribute at least some of the sounds of roaring water to what looked like a fierce river up ahead. The Bubbling Brook, no doubt, though now it was neither bubbling nor much of a brook. How could the weatherponies have committed such a terrible miscalculation?!

Coming to a slow, the stallion seriously considered turning around and going back. Of course, that would be dangerous. There would be no other ponies on the path in that direction. Some blurs by the branches suggested the presence of weather control pegasi, and--there! A bridge!

Perhaps he would be able to make it through, after all!

Clockwise trotted over to the collection of ponies there, craning his neck to try to see what he could of the conditions of the water nearby.

It was then that a certain griffon came thundering towards them like a fierce bolt of lightning, herself; he could only tell that she was a griffon at all because of her size. The ponies around him scattered in response to her fierce yell--what had she said? He hadn't heard! And, oh, dear, she certainly wasn't slowing down! Jumpy Clockwise's legs all seemed to want to go in different directions in his great haste to move out of her way. The end result, of course, was that he didn't move at all!

As though he were a leaf, in the face of Gilda's speed and strength, the much scrawnier unicorn was robbed of his balance and shunted with extraordinary ease off to the side, with the obvious pitfall being that there wasn't an awful lot of ground to catch him in that vicinity. Abruptly, perhaps even comically if the situation weren't so grim, he tipped right over the bank of the brook towards the rushing torrent. His shrill, shocked whinny ended with the splash.

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(OOC: Hoss Skybright is going for the bridge)

Before he could get properly started for the next leg, he heard a very clear ringing voice!

The famous Applejack herself saying they were stealing.

Hoss blushed and did an about face and ran right up to her. The strange black unicorn from earlier was ahead of him also paying Applejack.

he dipped into the pouch under his other wing for the amount of coins she typically charges for Four apples.

[colour=#0000cd]"I am so sorry Miss Applejack, I thought what the others were doing was expected. That's 8 bits, right?"[/colour]

He hoofed her the coins and lifted a wing to show her how many apples he had. [colour=#0000cd]"I will of course be back after the race to buy more, Miss Applejack. No other apples taste sweeter than from this farm..."[/colour]

After a quick bow to the orange mare, he spoke some more [colour=#0000cd]"Again I apologize, and thanks for straightening me out." [/colour]

With that, he turns and breaks into a sprint to catch up with the others. [colour=#0000cd]"Ohhh Luna Above! Run!Run!Run! Fast!Fast!fast!"[/colour]

He was a brown and black blur as he caught up to where he was in the race before, the growing rain steaming on his hide even as he transitioned into the Whitetail Wood stretch.

[colour=#0000cd]"*pant* What the hay, this worse than I imagined! That's it, I'll talk to dad and volenteer tomorrow to go help get Baltimare unscrewed up this week! First I gotta make it through this race!"[/colour]

The storm was doing more for shaking leaves down than the race was, but he still had the satisfaction of seeing extra leaves falling down in his wake as he dashed along to catch up.

As he rounded the corner, he got his first look at the crossing that was so tame last year that his sister got to pass through.

Gilda was already there fighting her way past ponies onto the bridge. Oh well, it's an improvement.

Sugar Apple, Ember heart, and Clockwise, names he had picked up keeping his ears open.[colour=#0000cd] "Hello Everpony! Whats the holdup?"[/colour]

A race official was now raising her voice as the ponies began to pile up at the bridge. "The bridge is unsafe! We have set up a rope swing further down. Please cross there!

Hoss shook his soggy mane [colour=#0000cd]"I'll take my chances! I got wings!"[/colour]

Before he could line up for the bridge, Gilda's jostling knocked Clockwise off to bounce and skid down the bank to splash in the water.

His father's stern training taking hold, Hoss popped his wings open to let his apples fall in a safe spot and yelled out [colour=#0000cd]"WEATHER PATROL! PONY IN THE WATER!" [/colour]

Hoss quickly grabbed one of the safety ropes in his teeth. One of many being rigged to hold the bridge.

Surely he would be forgiven using his wings in a rescue mission only!

With that, he skidded down the bank for speed and flared his wings just above the water to soar out after the unicorn. He hoped the stake would hold as he dangled the rope in the unicorn's face.[colour=#0000ff] "Grb Ohn! Hrry!"[/colour]

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(OOC: Earth Writer will be bucking the trend by not taking the bridge.)

Oh, how things could change in a few minutes! The gentle drizzle that had dampened the racers as they pounded hooves through Sweet Apple Acres had failed to to do the same to their spirits, and now the heavens seemed spurred on by everypony's defiance to new efforts.

It galled Earth Writer to admit it, but they seemed to be succeeding.

First, there was the embarrassing incident of the apples. [colour=#8b4513]*Or Apples. Make note for the printers, capital letter is warranted.* [/colour]Of course, the stallion should have known the fruits weren't free. He really had been away from his foalhood home too long if he'd forgotten that Applejack and her family grew those apples to sell. He didn't blame Sugar Apple, she was family to Applejack, and free apples were probably her birthright, provided she didn't take them by the bushel.

The unicorn groaned at the memories that triggered. The humiliation of having inadvertently stolen apples was compounded by the fact that the last time Earth Writer had met Applejack, he had been kissing her (long story). When she'd confronted him about it, he could barely bring himself to meet her eyes when he'd handed over the bits, stuttering out an apology. He probably looked like an idiot, talking to her, which put the cap on it.

Sugar Apple had to have seen it, of course. She may have been near the front of the pack, but Earth Writer hadn't been too shabby in keeping up. After that whole incident, though, he really didn't feel up to talking with her. Public humiliation does put a damper on sociability.

[colour=#8b4513]*And speaking of damper...* [/colour]Earth Writer had given up on shaking the water from his drenched mane. That was the second thing bringing him down; being soaked wasn't too bad for a pony, if they weren't wearing anything. But having that cloth number strapped to his back was now about as uncomfortable as a set of wet clothes, and he couldn't take it off until the end of the race. And it itched.

All in all, it was not a happy unicorn that came into the third leg of the race. It was only the sound of running water that brought him out of the blue funk he'd been caught in. Now, it didn't take a geographer to figure out that this double storm system far exceeded the normal amount of precipitation the Bubbling Brook usually carried. It was already overlapping the banks, and the usual bridge was not going to be safe.

[colour=#8b4513]"Oh, thank Celestia."[/colour] Earth Writer gasped in relief as he caught site of the rescue pegasi. They'd apparently just finished a safer route over the flooding brook. That was fine by him; he was not going to risk drowning for the sake of athletic glory. He was about to call his plan ahead to Sugar Apple when-

“[colour=#4b0082]Stand aside, y’all! [/colour][colour=#4b0082]AH’M ALSO COMIN’ THROUGH![/colour]Oh, there she was, charging over the bridge in pursuit of one of the griffon runners.

[colour=#8b4513]"Are you crazy!?"[/colour] Earth Writer yelled out over the storm, worry and water plastered over his face. [colour=#8b4513]"That sucker's gonna flood, and fast!"[/colour]

He had to think quickly, faster than he ran, at any rate. He couldn't catch up with her, and it probably wouldn't do much good if he did, given that she was on the bridge already. He hadn't got any wings, so it wasn't as if he could become an impromptu rescue pony, like the one just ahead of him.

[colour=#8b4513]*Only one thing to do.*[/colour] The stallion set a determined expression as he veered towards the secured path, calling out. [colour=#8b4513]"I'll catch any you miss downstream!"[/colour]

And now Earth Writer was running flat-out, scrambling to get to the rope swing before the inevitable flood rushed over the bridge. As for what he'd do when he got there-

[colour=#8b4513]*I'll figure something out.*[/colour] And with that thought, he bent his head forward and put on an extra burst of speed.

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Galloping as if being chased by the mythical Judge of Tartarus himself, Sugar Apple narrowly kept ahead of the pursuing griffon as she dashed over to the bridge. The pegasus had no idea why the griffon had to literally push everypony around. Wasn’t this supposed to be a friendly competition meant to foster community spirit and an appreciation for the outdoors? Sugar Apple had absolutely little time to dwell on the matter; the ground behind her trembled with the steps of the sprinting griffon while the waters of the bubbling brook raged right in front of the mare. Figuratively speaking, the pegasus was trapped between a rock and a hard place.

Sugar Apple took no time to look behind her as she finally stepped onto the bridge, disregarding the pleas of Earth Writer to not cross over it. She did not stop her gallop even when she heard the sounds of a poor pony being shoved into the water; pausing just a second would very well have caused Sugar Apple to be thrown into the flooding stream too by the griffon. Sugar Apple would do that pony no good if she was dragged into the powerful current of the stream too. Maybe if the mare crossed the bridge first, she could then let the griffon safely pass her before returning to rescue the pony.

At least, that’s what Sugar Apple hoped to accomplish. With the griffon in hot pursuit, the pegasus now noticed the sounds of the bridge starting to give way from the flood. As it started to wobble, Sugar Apple swiftly calculated that she only had mere seconds before the stormy waters overtook the bridge. With a terror that she never knew in her life up until this point, Sugar Apple dared not to slow down one bit, least the Judge (exceptionally played by the griffon racer) cast her into the fiery err… watery pit.

Just in the nick of time, Sugar Apple made it to the other side and avoided being another victim of a race that had morphed into a day of wrath… only to slip and lose her footing due to the fast speed that she was running. Falling into a deep pile of mud, the pegasus tried to get up and catch her breath, momentarily forgetting about the sprinting griffon right behind her.....

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[colour=#800080]“Stand aside, y’all! [/colour][colour=#800080]AH’M ALSO COMIN’ THROUGH!”[/colour]

Ha! Gilda smirked. At least one of these ponies had the right spirit for this it seemed. She was a purple pegasus mare, and like Gilda she seemed intent to charge full steam ahead toward the crowd right after the griffoness. Heh. Gilda would have to keep an eye on that one. She didn't look like too much, but she seemed to have the right kind of drive for this, and somehow, perhaps due to her smaller size, the mare fought her way through the crowd and across the bridge before Gilda despite getting there second. This pony just might turn out to be some of her more serious competition!

That thought buzzing in her head, she struggled to keep a step behind the pegasus, pushing and shoving her way through as she did. At least one unlucky purple stallion seemed to get knocked off the bridge and into the brook by her. His problem to deal with for getting in the way, not hers. At that moment, she was an immovable force. None of these lame little ponies could stop her. With compete disregard to anything, the griffon powered across the bridge. Toward the end she almost lost her footing on the bridge, but she stabilized herself with a few flaps of her wings and ultimately left the bridge at full speed on the other side.

Which, as it turns out, wasn't entirely a good thing. Almost immediately, that immovable force that was GIlda, with all her momentum, collided forcefully with a purple something that just suddenly stalled out right in front of her. It was that mare. Gida's eyes had been following her as they passed the bridge. She had been so focused in on her, allowing her bright colour to guide her through the thick rainfall, that she somehow hadn't realized she had stopped moving. The two collided powerfully, and were both thrown ahead, tumbling together for a length before slamming into a tree and plopping back down in the mud.

Gilda coughed as she straightened herself up and shook herself off. [colour=#996699]"What's the big idea here, Pony, stopping there right in front of me?! You tryin' to trip me up?"[/colour] Gilda shouted her accusations, her voice becoming harsh.

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The scene at the bridge was chaotic. Ember Heart did his best to follow the griffon and the mare as they made their way over the bridge. The crossing griffon knocked one of the other runners off to the side as she recklessly made her way across the bridge. The mare managed to pull ahead of the griffon and they continued to make their way. Ember Heart slid to a stop just as he took his first steps on the bridge and raced over to the wooden supports along the side. He looked over the side, searching for the fallen unicorn only to see the scrawny purple stallion struggling in the waters below. At first, it appeared as if no one was going to help the stallion. Bystanders stood by. Was it really going to fall to him to aid the pony?

[colour=mediumblue]"WEATHER PATROL! PONY IN THE WATER!"[/colour]

Ember Heart turned just in time to see another stallion that didn’t seem much younger than him rise to call. The bay colored pegasus raced over and grabbed one of the support ropes attached to the bridge and flew out over the water with the rope held firmly in his mouth. Ember Heart fidgeted anxiously as he watched the entire situation unfold.

[colour=blue]"Grb Ohn! Hrry!" [/colour]commanded the stallion as he brought the rope over to the struggling stallion in the water.

Ember Heart noticed a slight movement off to the side and looked over at the wooden stake holding the rope in place. His eyes widened horror as he saw the stake slowly slipping out of the mud from all the tension the pegasus was putting on it. It was a situation he had seen time and time again and unless he kept the support in place, the task of saving the pony would become far more difficult. One pony might not be enough to counter the strength of the powerful rushing water. [colour=#4B0082]“I have your back! Get the rope around him!”[/colour] He hoped that the stallion had heard him.

Ember Heart leaped over into the mud on the side of the bridge just in time to catch the stake as it slid out of the ground. His horn glowed ever so slightly as he pulled a large rock from the bank and slammed it down onto the rope. Mud splattered all over as the rock drove the rope and the stake back into the ground. He quickly stood back up and took a reinforcing hold on the rope with his magic, hoping to keep it steady enough so that the pegasus could deliver it to the pony in need. He braced himself and prepared to heave. [colour=#4B0082]"You are going to run out of rope real soon here! Bring him in!"[/colour]

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[colour=#800080]“WOAAAAAAH!!!!!!”[/colour] screamed Sugar Apple as something slammed into her with great speed and sent the two of them stumbling into a tree. Landing into yet another mud pile face-first, the pegasus quickly found herself squished by the griffon who managed to fall on top of her. For what seemed like an eternity, Sugar Apple struggled to hold her breath to prevent any more muck from entering her mouth; fortunately, the griffon pulled herself up in a matter of seconds. Freed from her impromptu prison, the mare immediately brought her face out of the puddle and ejected the muddy contents of her mouth... right in the griffon’s face.

Coughing for a moment to get rid of any last bit of mud, the aching Sugar Apple got up and angrily responded to the griffon’s accusations; [colour=#800080]“HEY! Ah slipped an’ fell back thar, it was an accident! At least ah ain’t th’ one who shoved ponies into that stream!”[/colour] The disgruntled mare pointed with her foreleg back towards the other bank of the bubbling brook, where a couple of ponies (including Earth Writer, bless his heart) attempted a rescue of the poor stallion that fell into the raging stream. Sugar Apple would have tried flying over to help them out by now, but this incident with the griffon left her without the strength to use her wings.

As the feeble Sugar Apple stood there to catch her breath, she was not finished berating the griffon.[colour=#800080] “An’ just... t’ let ya know... ‘sugarcube’, mah name’s... Sugar Apple!”[/colour] the livid pegasus chastised, spreading out her wings to shake any grime off of them. Harshly staring at the brown-and-white griffon, Sugar Apple trotted right up to her and growled; [colour=#800080]“An’ don’t ya’ forget it.”[/colour] Whoever this griffon was, Sugar Apple couldn’t let her just run off after all that calamity she caused a moment ago.....

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(( Not going for bridge ))

[colour=#008000]Greenshot Apple[/colour] was noticing that there had been no more apple trees in sight as he went ahead of Sugar Apple and the tan unicorm. The weather was beginning to look really unsettling. Maybe if he turned around and stayed in the Apple Acres area, the weather would be better, but that would have been a bad idea. This was a race your suppose to go ahead, not backwards. Greentshot could begin to feel the rain pour down on him and nodding his head with his horn was again giving a short flash of light, or was that lightning, made a poncho with a hood appear around his body and head. His number 27 damp, but still stuck to his flank as he could feel it's itching again his body. While doing so, Greenshot veered the wrong way and not towards the bridge which was where he had wanted to go. Looking back, he could see Sugar Apple and some other racers head to the bridge with a loud commotion and Greenshot only saw a few go in his direction.

"[colour=#008000]Great, bad weather And I went the way I didn't want to go. What could possibly happen next.[/colour]" Greenshot's trot slowed when he came up to th[colour=#282828]e rope swing that had been swaying about over a hopefully sturdy looking tree. Stopping in his track's, Greenshot made a slow approach to the rope swing, waiting for the right moment to jump and with a burst of power from his hind legs, leaped at the rope and almost just missed it, but with a bad grip. He gripped onto the rope with some help of his mouth and swung to the other side with a bad landing. He stepped on a rock that had rolled by from the water and began to jump and limp in pain. His front right hoof was hurting when it pressed against the ground and Greenshot angrily flared his nostrils and bucked the rock with his hind legs with enough force to sending it flying into the sky. Greenshot then planted his flank and began to look at his hoof then back at the trail. "[/colour][colour=#008000]It got worse..why does that always happen to me always..always. It just had to be a rock that I stepped onto. Couldn't be an apple fritter or an apple, but a stone cold rock.[/colour][colour=#282828]" Standing back up, Greenshot Apple began to limp trot, which was just a bit faster then a limp, began to continue his race with his injured front right hoof.[/colour]

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Water! So much water! And, by Celestia, it was cold!

Clockwise sputtered as he struggled to find the surface of the rushing river, never mind the fact that it was so difficult to tell which way was up and which was down; the torrential rain was almost as thick as the swollen brook, itself, and nearly as brutal. His horn began to glow gold, no doubt with the intention of saving himself with a spell, but an especially vicious wave crested over him, and the shine died almost as swiftly as it had sparked. Clockwise didn't have the energy to keep this up for long. He was not built for stamina in the first place, and he had already used so much of it getting this far.

The unicorn had begun to despair, for the mighty water was so much stronger than he was, and quite intent, it would seem, on washing him away, silencing him with an unfeeling splash whenever he tried to yell. Somewhere in the tangled chaos of his fear and panic, his Timesense began to tick away towards the moment when he would finally run out of the strength to keep himself from being taken far off into the woods, and his heart turned as cold as the water.

Then, cutting through the sound of the rainfall and the galloping hooves was a yelling voice, muffled by thunder--had someone seen him?!

Yes!

The rope did not at first register to him, seeming almost too good to be true, but there it was. Fortunately, Clockwise latched onto the rope with his teeth before his surprise doomed him with any more hesitation, and began to fight against the water towards the shore. Even with the power of the stream tugging him away, the unicorn was still quite light, and Ember Heart and Hoss were able to pull him in with relative ease, considering. Once he had gotten his forehooves onto the bank, their combined strength was enough to tug him a short distance up into the air before he landed unceremoniously on the ground, sopping wet. Like a nervous young colt, the dusky unicorn immediately wobbled up to his hooves with numb uncertainty, panting, and then shook himself--a primarily moot effort in the pouring rain. On the bright side, well, now there was no more mud on his coat.

Despite all of that, the waterproofing enchantment on his glasses had remained intact--and his glasses themselves, as well, for that matter--and Clockwise lifted his head to regard his kind saviors, ears flat against his skull as he shivered. "I-I--oh--th-thank--thank--th-th-thank you," he managed through his miserable stutter, his voice as grateful as his wide, frightened eyes. Despite being shaken up and maybe a little on the cold side, at least he seemed to be mostly alright!

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Frantically, Hoss kept up his hover, encoraging the unicorn to grab the rope.

He definitely didn't want to get yanked in if he held out a hoof as his father taught him might happen.

If he had to though, he might have to drop in behind him and grab on.

To his relief ClockWise grabbed on, giving him time to hear Ember Heart yelling that the rope was slipping but now secure, and to get the rope around the unicorn.

Hoss increased the power in his hover, doing a loop to throw part of the rope under ClockWise's forelegs and help tow him in against the current.

The bay stallion landed, panting after pulling the unicorn in the last couple feet.

Hoss took a blanket offered by a race official an put it over Clockwise. [colour=#0000cd]"I'm so glad I could help you! Soon as you can, you get right up and get running. You need to boost your heat right back up."[/colour]

He then smiled in relief at Ember Heart [colour=#0000cd]"And thanks for your help too, I couldn't have done it if that rope had come loose."[/colour]

Hoss bumped hooves with them both [colour=#0000cd]"I'm Star Skybright, Hoss to my friends."[/colour]

He suddenly started to shiver [colour=#0000cd]"Whups! I'd beter take my own advise. I don't do sudden cold all that well so I'd better run and heat back up! See you both at the finish line!"[/colour]

Fluffing his wings for insulation, Hoss scrambled up the bank, and scooped up the apples he took the extra time to purchase from Applejack and ran up onto the bridge, heading for the other side as it rocked and swayed underhoof.

The stallion grew frantic as the bridge shimmied like it was rubber and jumped off the other end into the mud, skidding several yards before getting his traction and pounding his way past... *SCREEECH*

Hoss pulled up short on the trail as he realized the pile of mud standing there was most likely Gilda Griffon.

"[colour=#0000cd]Hay Gida, Thought you should know that Unicorn is still alive, no thanks to you. His name is ClockWise! [/colour]

[colour=#0000cd]Oh yeah! You might remember my sister from last year, Shanna. I'm Star, and you'll remember it cause my flank's all yer gonna see at the finish line, 'cause you got me good and mad!"[/colour]

With that he reared and whinnied, then broke into a gallop...

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It was only because the ground was so littered with leaves that Earth Writer could get any traction with his hooves at all, and even then he couldn't stop himself from skidding a couple of yards before finally coming to a stop near the rope swing. He just stood by the swollen banks of Bubbling Brook for a few seconds, panting for breath after his slapdash sprint.

[colour=#8b4513]*One good thing about this rain: I can just look up and get a drink.* [/colour]There was little time to dwell on thirst. The unicorn shook the thought from his mind, and looked up at the rope swing, levitating it closer with his magic. It was a very sturdy specimen of rope, securely knotted to a live and limber tree, and having more large knots near the end to provide a hoof-hold for ponies using it.

*If I grabbed on to the last knot, my tail would reach into the water, and then he could grab it. Not the best of plans, but it will do.* Having made a plan of action, he looked back upstream to the events upon the bridge.

He sighed in relief to see that Sugar Apple had made it across the bridge, which amazingly had not yet born the full brunt of a flash flood. As for the unicorn that had fallen into the water, the pegasus racer who'd dived into rescue him had received assistance from another racer, yet another unicorn by the looks of it. Earth Writer felt slightly foolish as he saw Ember secure Hoss' rope with a stake. [colour=#8b4513]*Such a simple idea. I should have thought of that, rather than rushing over here without even a half-baked plan.*[/colour]

It was while he was reflecting upon this that Greenshot Apple suddenly rushed up and swung across the brook. Earth Writer only barely disengaged his magic before it pulled him into the water, which only made him feel even more foolish. Far from being a rescuer, he was only one or two steps away from being a liability!

[colour=#8b4513]*At least nopony drowned. That's the important thing, right?* [/colour]It was, yes, but the stallion's pride was still smarting as he swung across himself. He couldn't quite manage the momentum, so he had to use his "levitation" on a secure tree branch on the opposite bank to help pull himself over the rushing waters far enough to drop safely along the bank. He trotted away from the site at a much more sedate pace than he'd approached it with, looking back over his shoulder just in case anypony else fell in the water.

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[colour=#282828]The blanket was quite nice, but it was already getting wet in the downpour. Since he had stopped running anyway, Clockwise decided to spend the bit of concentration required to place his waterproofing spell on it, as well, and that was one of the first things he did. His horn's glow began fragile and weak, a testament to his state of mind, but it grew in strength with some struggling until it was bright and primed with enough magic to weave the spell. The unicorn noticeably slumped once he managed it, but relished the repellent dryness as the rain that had already soaked the blanket was coaxed out by the magic.[/colour]

[colour=#282828]"Th-thank you, M-Mister Skybright, and-and you, a-as well," he breathed, audibly relieved. The hoofbump was weakly, perhaps awkwardly, reciprocated, but Clockwise was smiling shakily. "C-C--er--Clockw-w-wise, s-s-s-sir. Oh, I--I-I am truly in your debt, both--b-both of you!"[/colour]

[colour=#282828]Of course, there was still a race to be run--a race that all three of them were probably swiftly losing. Clockwise felt an acute twinge of guilt alongside his overwhelming gratitude; these two kind souls had forgone quite a bit of time to save him, and Clockwise, of all ponies, certainly knew the value of time.[/colour]

Wet-maned but now mostly immune to the rain, the purple pony watched as Hoss took off again to rejoin the race, and after a short bit of pondering, decided to take the pegasus' advice. Even so, he regarded the bridge with anxious disdain as he watched it swing so dangerously; would he risk it? It would be terrible if he fell in again, and Clockwise did not think he was beyond that possibility. Right now, though, he mostly just wanted to finish this stupid race and go back home to his nice, warm quarters at the Canterlot University.

He spared a glance to the sky, and then nervously trotted towards the bridge, only for it to crack and break before the strength of the river, startling the poor pony backwards and nearly causing him to trip over himself. Thank goodness that the ponies that had been crossing it had made it, but... what now? The rope swing was regarded with wide eyes. He knew he wouldn't be able to achieve that.

Well, then. Magic was technically against the rules, but Clockwise had just about had enough of this weather, and this race.

With a shaky breath, the stallion tucked his head against his neck and squeezed his eyes shut, willing his mind to calm and summoning up his magic. Then, in a brilliant burst of gold, he vanished!

...And appeared again, on the far bank. Ears low with weariness, he turned to continue the run--and hopefully depart the shadow of this dreadful storm sometime soon--but found a curious roadblock shaped rather like one pony and a griffon. In fact, it was a pony and a griffon, each coated with a considerable amount of mud. He reared with a startled noise of shock, inadvertently splattering them with even more muck when his hooves came back down. Mister Skybright had already gone on ahead past them. Clockwise could hear his hooves and see his swishing tail receding into the grey cloak of the rain.

Wait, wait, wait. Griffon. Griffon? THAT griffon.

With a terrified shout (which could be loosely translated as "WAUGHAGH!"), Clockwise rather suddenly found all the energy he needed to run very fast, indeed, and tore around them and down the muddy path at a speed to envy, slipping and sliding in the mud but maintaining his extravagant momentum most admirably.

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The rain continues in all of it's incredible fury, drenching the area in a neverending torrential downpour. Baltimare would miss every drop of this storm; farming had been poor recently. Instead of helping farmers, the storm kept dumping water into the brook. Finally- eventually- the brook could take no more. A swift wind caused a large wave of water to form and crash over the bridge. Luckily, nopony was swept up, but multiple coordinators now dot the bridge, declaring it off-limits due to safety concerns.

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[colour=#800080]“HEY! Ah slipped an’ fell back thar, it was an accident! At least ah ain’t th’ one who shoved ponies into that stream! ...[/colour][colour=#800080]An’ just... t’ let ya know... ‘sugarcube’, mah name’s... Sugar Apple! [/colour][colour=#800080]An’ don’t ya’ forget it.”[/colour]

GiIda just frowned. Well, her initial assessment was right; this pony did have spirit, she had the right attitude to maybe be a winner. If she was gonna sit here and lecture Gilda for shoving into a few ponies, she was still a dweeb though. Pity. She had met a few ponies now that were actually kinda cool, but no, this one wasn't one of those. She rolled her eyes and then glared.

[colour=#996699]"Listen, pal, you can blather at me all day about playin' fair if you like, but I just don't care, and you ain't gonna make me," [/colour]she said flippantly, scoffing at the mare. [colour=#996699]"So why don't you just pipe down and back off. I got a race to win here."[/colour]

"[colour=#0000CD]Hay Gida, Thought you should know that Unicorn is still alive, no thanks to you. His name is ClockWise! [/colour][colour=#0000CD]Oh yeah! You might remember my sister from last year, Shanna. I'm Star, and you'll remember it cause my flank's all yer gonna see at the finish line, 'cause you got me good and mad!"[/colour]

Just as Gilda got done saying her piece to one annoying pegasus right in front of her, she was greeted with another. This one was worse though. She laughed. This was a simple fool. Ridiculous. She could vaguely remember a similar looking but female pegasus pestering her about her actions last year; that was probably the sister. Of course, she wasn't about to tell this dweeb she remembered anything.

[colour=#996699]"Don't care. Its your unicorn friend's fault he took a bath. He really shouldn't have been in my way,"[/colour] she said, bitingly. "[colour=#996699]As for your sister, can't say she left a very deep impression, but I'm sure whoever she was she was just as dull and irritating as you."[/colour]

As she spoke, the unicorn she had knocked in the stream approached and gave a shout. She laughed and then used that moment as her excuse to make a break for it. Picking fights with ponies was amusing, but she still had to win this thing.

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Uggggh... the nerve of that griffon! Sugar Apple never ever wanted to be rude to anypony, but right now this bully was making it awfully hard for the pegasus to keep her manners. How could anyone show such a lack of remorse towards those she could have hurt? And why was it so important for this bully to shove everypony aside just so she could win a race that wasn’t really supposed to be that much of a race in the first place?

Well, Sugar Apple wasn’t going to let this griffon push her around! The bad weather had really done a number on this year’s Running of the Leaves, and the mare wasn’t prepared to have it ruined even further by letting a punk shove her way to first place. No ma’am; Sugar Apple would see to it that it didn’t happen by all honest means necessary. This race was long past the point of being about enjoying the scenery. Now, it was about teaching a bully… no, a thug, that cheaters never prosper, all set against a backdrop of a classic tale of Mare vs. Nature.

[colour=#800080]“Hmmmp, be thet way then, ya thug!”[/colour] pouted Sugar Apple, not caring that Gilda was busy hearing from another racer about something she did last year; [colour=#800080]“Ah’ll just have t’teach ya a lesson in spo’tsmareship!”[/colour] As a flash of lightning scorched the sky, Sugar Apple jolted and finally recommenced her light gallop down the path, this time keeping herself more aware of how stable her footing was. Taking a look behind her, the pegasus saw that the griffon was finishing talking-down the other racer.

[colour=#800080]~Heh, fo’ someone who likes winnin’ an all, she sure likes chatin’ a lot.....~ [/colour]

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((Autumn is taking the rope!))

[colour=#daa520]"Oh, shoot!"[/colour] Autumn Moon cursed his luck. Not only was he far behind the back, but the rain had started picking up and showed no signs of stopping. He continued running at a fast paced, determined to catch up with the front most runners, but was a bit hesitant. Any accidents now and he'd be out of the race for good. He frowned, his beautiful coat and olive colored now soaked as he come up on a bridge. Autumn stopped in his tracks, the rain was so bad that it might actually flood the bridge.

He gulped, putting a hoof to his chin in thought. There weren't any other racers around, and the ones that crossed the bridge already would probably regret it in the long run since part of the White Tail Woods was prone to flooding, especially in intense rains like this. Autumn looked around, and smiled when he noticed a small path that led a team of pegasi. They had set up a swing rope, perfect! Straying from the bridge, Autumn trotted over to the pegasi, not wasting any time he grabbed the rope in his mouth, trying desperately to hold on by wrapping some length of the rope around his hooves. He took a off across the brook.,. What was usually a calm peaceful place had tuned violent as a result of the torrential storm overhead and it was evident more than ever as large splashes of water jumped on to Autumn's back hooves.

[colour=#daa520]"There's no way we can continue the race if this keeps up..."[/colour]

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((Applejack 'gets her rope'))

[colour=#ff3300]"Pardon me, miss," Topaz called out, "Are you quite alright? How did you find yourself so far off the track?"[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack continued her stride, keeping pace with the ponies in the lead pack. She turned to the blood orange mare and spoke between her breathes. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "What? Oh yes! Not to worry, I jus took a little detour. I had to make sure mah trees were taken care of. I'm Applejack, and I run Sweet Apple Acres."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]In the short conversation, the two mares eventually reached the Bubbling Brook. This brook, which was being threatened by a little wash that the pegasi apparently forgot to deal with, was pummeling with water, which washed out the availability of the bridge. Fortunately, a rope swing was in place to cross the brook, had any ponies dared to make the attempt. Of course, one would have to if they planned on continuing the race.[/colour]

[colour=#ff0000]"Not that rope. No-can-do. Only my own trusty rope can get me across this thing without trouble."[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack was an artist in rodeo roping. This was known for the ponies that knew her. And the orange mare's stubborn pride took over once again, and she was determined to make her own rope-line over the brook. She dropped her rope out of her hat and tied a simply lasso. She then swung the rope and threw it at a branch, grabbing it, and pulling tightly to fasten it firmly.

Applejack was about to swing, when she noticed the blood orange mare she was talking to seemed a little withdrawn from the idea. Apparently she was a little afraid of the swing. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Don't fret, Sugarcube. You can do it."[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack remembered how important this event was to the trees of the woods. The more ponies in the race, the easier it would be to knock the leaves off. And the ponies who are competitive can find a lot more advantage in not having to use their extra energy on trampling the leaves down. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Tell ya what, I'll help you across. Just grab my tail."[/colour]

Applejack.pngMadden.pngGranola_Gracie.pngArrow_Plain.pngMiracle.pngRemington.pngSugar_Rush-1.pngCoconut_Lime.png

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Motion Paradox began the third leg of the race, despite the warning announcement she decided to take the bridge, she hadn't done very well with the previous leg of the race and this was her chance to make up some of the ground she had missed, she was getting close to it and could see it in the distance unfortunately....

"Closed? Why would the bridge have to be closed now!?" Motion Paradox complained. Stupid rain storm! Why couldn't the bridge have stayed open just a bit longer? Still the volunteers wouldn't left her set hoof on the bridge, as much as she hated to do so she would have to follow the river until she found the rope swing and take the long way around and hope that some of the other runners would fall behind her unless by some miracle she could find a way over the river. That was she noticed it, the solution to her problem; true the bridge was closed and the rope swing was who-knows-where, but that didn't matter, not when she could make another way.

She quickly picked up the spare rope that she found, how lucky that there was a spare rope lying around, granted it was probably there for the same reason that was keeping her from just crossing the bridge but still, at least she had her alternate way across. She threw the other end of the rope over the sturdiest branch she could find , levitated both ends to herself, grabbed them and took a few steps back. This was it, hopefully it would work, at least there hadn't been any warning or rules against finding another way across, if all else failed at least the volunteers would be there to help her. And with that she pushed off the ground and clenched the rope as tightly as she could and stretched her back legs in hopes of improve her chances of making it, finally the rope went as far as it was going to and she let herself drop and hoped her calculations had been right. And to her delight she felt the ground beneath her hooves, she squealed and pranced happily for a moment before dashing off to the forth leg of the race.

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(Rope, of course. Tough to win with the river.)

The situation was drawing itself in gray colors as the race continued through the Whitetail Woods. An earlier drizzle, which seemed to be quite refreshing actually, boiled over into a truly catastrophic storm, least in Star's opinion. The fatal weather, horrible wet terrain and doubts born with her lack of knowledge of race track successfully slowed her down. Mare's mane was whole sticking to her body already, leaving an unpleasant feeling while running. She kept wondering who's responsible for all of this. In her entire life she had never witnessed such an incompetence coming from the weather pegasi staff. Official event accompanied by stormy clouds and "tiny waterfalls"...

Being a city mare, Risi strove away from rain. She felt most comfortable in the warm rays of sun, provided to them by their beloved Princess Celestia. But today there was no possibility of avoiding getting wet obviously. Although her morale dropped significantly, she continued the race. The apples she had consumed strengthened her a bit, but in end consciousness caught up to her, as she accused herself of thievery again. Somehow back then the idea seemed, at least for a moment, pretty harmless. Now this memory only damped her mood. It cast a shadow on her experiences from the event so far.

If it wasn't raining, Risi could probably hear the thundering echo coming from somewhere in front of her current location, further down along the road. That's why it took her a minute or two to reach the location in which once stood bridge. As she approached the rampaging river, she slowed down, slipping in the mud and barely maintaining her balance. The raw forces of nature taunted her as she walked in circles observing the majestic and fearsome sight. She haven't even noticed when somepony approached her.

"The bridge is out, follow down along the river for an alternative passage via ropes." - her ears somehow managed to fish out this information from between all the noise around her. She threw a generous smile at the race coordinator following it with a simple reply: [colour=#0000ff]"Thank you!"[/colour] - before continuing her run, this time a bit off track, along the stream. [colour=#0000ff]"Ropes? Well, rope bridge should also work somehow, although it'll be more of a challenge I guess."[/colour] The river flowing next to her was quite a frightening phenomenon, but she did everything to suppress her fears. She couldn't break now, not when she's gone so far. Not mentioning that giving up was out of question.

As she finally reached the mentioned 'alternative solution', she couldn't express all the doubts that immediately appeared in her mind. By saying ropes the coordinator, obviously, meant ONLY ropes. There was not a single trace of any other bridge. It seemed the only way across was to swing above the stream. It was a bit of relief for her to see different ponies making it on the other side more or less safely. Her only chance to make it across was to try before the wave of fear, doubts and hesitation floods her mind. Yet, her nervousness had to find a way out of her body... [colour=#0000ff]"ReallyAreTheyAllNuts..."[/colour] - the speed with which those words were thrown out of her made them barely understandable. [colour=#0000ff]"...ThosePegasiDon'tEverDoTheirJobs..."[/colour] - Risi ran towards the ropes, partially ignoring everypony around. She was focused entirely on the task ahead of her... again. [colour=#0000ff]"...IDon'tWantTo...CelestiaHelp..."[/colour] - a single crack in her voice appeared as she levitated the rope and approached the stream. [colour=#0000ff]"...ReallyThisIsRidculous!Don'tYouThink!?..."[/colour] - she threw towards two orange mares whom she had joined at this side of river. Star couldn't help the feeling that for them she looked like a buzzing fly.

Without wondering and waiting any longer, she tied the rope engulfed in azure aura next to the others on a solid tree branch (what took her a few seconds, she wasn't an expert on knots), grabbed it between the teeth and jumped forward. In that very moment her heart reached her throat, as pure panic appeared in her eyes. For a quarter of second Star accused herself of complete recklessness and stupidity, barely resisting an urge to shout. Yet, in a matter of seconds everything was done. Above the ground, she let go of rope, falling on her side painfully. Star didn't allow herself to move a single muscle, trembling in fear and emotions, feeling her heart beat like a crazy and hissing from an impulse of pain coming from her right front hoof. [colour=#0000ff]"Sweet Celestia... Good mother... never more... Why...?"[/colour] - she whispered in a weak voice as spouts of water flowed down her body as she breathed heavily. Finally, she found strength to stand up slowly, even though she was still shaking... Throwing a look at the stream again she realized she was on the other side... pure insanity... Star started praying there wouldn't be any more surprises like this one.

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