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Winter Wrap Up: Animal Team


Corsair

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Fluttershy pulled aside the curtain of her cottage to peek outside. Princess Celestia had barely raised the sun above the horizon, but already ponies seemed to be gathering nearby. She quickly closed the curtain before any pony could see her. She... she wasn't ready. Today was Winter Wrap-up day; the day that every pony in Ponyville got together to usher in a new Spring. Normally, this was a day that Fluttershy loved more than any other. It was the day she got to see so many of her animal friends for the first time in months, whether they had been hibernating, or whether they had flown south. This was the day all of them returned. But this year... this year was different.

The pegasus was wearing her Animal Team vest, as she did every year for Winter Wrap Up. What was new was the band around her front leg. The band matched the color of her vest, and had a white star embroidered on it. It was the band that said that she, Fluttershy, was the Team Leader of the Animal Team.

Fluttershy stepped back from the window and resumed a nervous pacing. How had she let her friends talk her into this?? Yes, she had been making strides to overcome her timidity. Yes, she had been the one to organize things when the breezies had come through town. But that was just a couple of pegusii to keep the breeze moving. THIS was dozens of ponies all looking to her for leadership! M-maybe... maybe it wasn't too late to have somwpony else do this?

As Fluttershy turned around in her pacing, she came face-to-face with Angel Bunny. Angel was also wearing an animal team vest (and he looked adorable in it!) but he was standing in her way, his front paws crossed over his chest. His look seemed to say 'Aren't you supposed to be outside?'

Fluttershy's head drooped, and she said to the bunny, "I know, I know! I just... I just don't know if I can do this! What if I mess up? What if I humiliate myself in front of all of those ponies?"

The glare on Angel's face softened into a a tender smile, one he only showed Fluttershy when no other ponies were around. The little bunny lifted the pony's chin, pointing at all the other animals in the cottage who were watching, and then pointing outside. The motions seemed to say 'You can do this! You know more about animals than any pony out there!' He then leaped up on to her back, pointing her head toward the door.

Fluttershy took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment. She breathed out, slowly, then opened her eyes, turning the look a the white rabbit. "You... you're right... I can do this... I will do this!" she said. "Thank you, Angel."

With that, she strode to the door, and opened it with no hesitation. The sight of pony faces turning toward her in anticipation gave her pause, but she pushed through it.

"Um, th-thank you for coming this morning, everypony." she said to the group, fighting past her nerves. "And thank you for coming out to help Ponyville's animals. Even if they can't talk to everypony, you should know that they all appreciate it very much!" Fluttershy took another deep breath, then in a louder voice she said, "Now, lets all go out and help bring in a beautiful spring!"
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Snickerdoodle was up when the dawn was still reflecting pink on the snow and ice over the lake where she lived. This would be the first time she assisted with Winter Wrap-Up since moving to the lakeshore outside Ponyville. While she was a pegasus, and she did work in the weather factory in Cloudsdale, she wasn't a proper weather pony. So she opted to help with the animal team instead. Snickerdoodle knew she wouldn't be the only pegasus on the team, Fluttershy would be leading them this year.

It was still chilly, so the vanilla pegasus mare wore her hoodie under her team vest. She grabbed the box of honey seed cakes she had baked the night before, and headed out the door towards the cottage where everypony was meeting with team leader Fluttershy.

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Brooke stood amidst the group as they waited for the team leader to make their speech. She was wearing the traditional tan vest embellished with the animal team emblem on the corner. A silhouette of a rabbit depicted within the outline of a shield. It was too baggy on her slender build, but it was quite an honor to wear it nonetheless.

As soon as the travel writer heard Winter Wrap Up was coming up, she headed to Ponyville to get an insider account of the event. A tradition as special and important as this was something she simply couldn't pass up.

Her eyes fell on the leader as she finally emerged. A cream colored pegasus with a pink mane. She seemed a bit nervous as she spoke.

"Um, th-thank you for coming this morning, everypony. And thank you for coming out to help Ponyville's animals. Even if they can't talk to everypony, you should know that they all appreciate it very much! Now, lets all go out and help bring in a beautiful spring!"

"Yes ma'am!" She called out. Brooke resolved to observe the other more experienced ponies work for a moment. It would help her obtain a better grasp on the proper way to manage the current objective.

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Rarity smiled softly off to the side as she watched Fluttershy speak to the animal team. Poor dear. The simplest things always ended up being so difficult to her. It was good to see her get the words out though. Rarity had faith in her dear friend. Being a team leader for Winter Wrap Up wasn't easy, but she knew Fluttershy could do it if she put her mind to it. Though, of course... if she did end up needing help leading the team, Rarity was willing and happy to offer as many hooves as she needed. Sure, she didn't know as much about animals as Fluttershy. Nowhere close in fact, but she had always believed in the spirit of Winter Wrap Up and was eager to do everything she could to make sure it all went as smoothly as it possibly could.

As Fluttershy finished her speech, Rarity approached her and gave an approving nod. "You did well, Fluttershy darling," she said in a quiet voice. "Truly, you have no need for nerves. In all of Equestria, there is no pony more qualified to lead Ponyville's animal team than you are. Just keep your conviction about you, and you'll do fine, no matter what may happen."

Rarity began to turn around, but then stopped and gave a wink at her close friend. "But of course, I'll still be here to help out if the need for it arrises!" she added with a small laugh.

The unicorn turned then to face the rest of the team. "One of the most important jobs of the animal team each year is to build new nests for the returning migrating birds. This task is not as easy as it seems; it requires a deft and precise hoof and attention to detail. If anypony is up for it though, I would be delighted for the help."
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Trekker had been to Ponyville many times in the past, but today was a special day, Winter Wrap-Up. Growing up in Canterlot she never experienced a manual Winter Wrap-Up, as, many ponies know, it is wrapped up entirely by magic. She had used her magic several times during the Canterlot Winter Wrap-up and other cities as well. Tradition was different in Ponyville and that is why she felt she had to experience for herself. Dangerous locales were fun, but just experiencing something new was an adventure all it's own. She saw a team that she figured was the animal team and cantered up to the pink maned mare whom had an armband, which she figured to mean she was the leader. She had only come at the end of the end of her speech and she seemed nervous.

"Greetings, you seem to be in charge here" Trekker greeted the leader. "I'm Trekker, from Canterlot, and I was... just passing through and wanted to help with the animals." Trekker introduced herself rather unsure and trying to be as formal and kind as possible, as Chrome nudged her side. "Oh! And this is Chrome, my pet fox, who is also excited to help, if you'll allow him and myself to do so." She wasn't sure of the mare's reaction as she was from out of town.

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Valen Orange had a relationship with Ponyville and Winter Wrap Up. It had started with a trip forced on him by his parents a little over a year ago to Sweet Apple Acres. He hadn't been a fan of the reasons for that trip but the time he had spent in Ponyville was transformative if not just formative, to say the least. He had been under the supervision of great cousin Applejack who had taught him the value of hard work under a hot sun. He had never been afraid of hard work but such was the lot of a rich colt that he had to seek it out if he wanted it and he could never summin that simple desire. It had been a great learning experience and he had gotten to know his wonderful family even better. Wonderful, really. He ended up with all the injuries a clumsy foal colt could possibly incur while in the throes of farming. The shiners proved valuable 'war stories' amongst the stuffy youths of his academy.

He had also met Miss Rarity, which turned into a huge development for the colt. They shared a few powerful traits in common and in her Valen had found a confidant and a real friend. Their shared love of fashion and all things that it involved was passionate and defining to a large extent and in the rough and tumble world of Ponyville and the stricter confines of Manehattan's social circle his creative freedom had been strangled brutally. Having an outlet was a powerful experience and it didn't hurt that she had found use for him as a model- three differenr flavor of model, to be existed. Their history togethr got increasingly harried and confused and it involved everything from dating Sweetie Belle and trasnformation potions to dress mixups and giant worms. The one constant had been her kindness and generosity and the firming of their friendship which had spawned more than he could have ever dreamed.

And then there was Winter Wrap Up. An odd tradition but one he respected, Winter Wrap-Up had in the previous year been a display of his incompetence on a grand scale. Truth be told he had done little all of the previous year to instill confidence in anypony anyway, but the event had been the icing on the cake. Still, he had learned just enough that time to feel confident that he wouldn't be nearly as pathetic this year. All he needed was a bit of hope and desire and let his body carry the will to the finish. So he had arrived the night previous to Sweet Apple Acres, where he had resisted his family's pleas to go with them to help out the plant team. No, he was animal team: Redemption! And that was why he found himself at the cottage of Miss Fluttershy, one of Rarity and Applejack's close friends. He had only met her briefly last year during the same event and when Applejack took him around town, but she was an outrageously shy and sweet pony. He had looked like a fool last year in front of her and was determined to look decidedly less so this year. Grand success, your name is Valen Orange! Her speech finished and Rarity's words received, Valen confidently nodded as he trotted up to meet the pair.

"Such a wonder to meet you again, Miss Fluttershy. It's been a year but you look just as wonderful as you did last year! Leading a whole team, eh? I'm sure that with somepony who knows as much about animals as you do leading us, we'll be the best team ever," he said with a bow. Common courtesy for a lady, and she was nothing if not deserving of the attention. Was there a price for being the best team? There should be. A thousand bits a pony! He could use that to pay the rent for a low-cost Manehattan property for a month. Big business, big ideas.

"And Miss Rarity, it's been too long since...uhh, the Empire. That was fun? Anywho, I'm here to help. I'm not going to be anywhere near as incompetent as I was last year, just you see!" he added with another bow, this one slightly less formal. She was a friend and probably got this sort of attention all the time, after all. But still...common courtesy for a lady, and she was nothing if not a lady. His attention turned to the baskets, where he trotted to immediately and made himself home. He had learned how to thread the finest of nedles in the finest of fabrics with Miss Rarity's guidance. Surely a bird house would be no worse. Right? Right. Right? Right!

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This was so awesome! Presteza had never gotten the chance to work in Ponyville's winter wrap up before and she was absolutely ecstatic that she did! Not only were two of her friends in charge of it, but there was another friend of hers who was offering her services to assist them. To make things even more awesome there was someone in particular she hadn't seen before, the one in question was this really interesting looking dear with a pink mane and grey coat. She had to make sure to introduce herself later, she'd never met a deer before.

"Um, th-thank you for coming this morning, everypony. And thank you for coming out to help Ponyville's animals. Even if they can't talk to everypony, you should know that they all appreciate it very much! Now, lets all go out and help bring in a beautiful spring!"

"One of the most important jobs of the animal team each year is to build new nests for the returning migrating birds. This task is not as easy as it seems; it requires a deft and precise hoof and attention to detail. If anypony is up for it though, I would be delighted for the help."

The peppy unicorn grinned wide as she heard her two of her friends addressing everypony. It seemed she wasn't the only one who was excited as a small creature soon clambered out of her bag and started to fly around his owner and squeaking a few times. Seeing her friend and fellow member of spellbound speaking up and introducing herself had inspired her to do the same, so she trotted forward and waved to the two leaders of the animal team, "I'm Presteza, from Trottingham ... although I guess it's kinda weird fer me ta intraduce myself since I've met both o' ya before, especially you rarity." said the mare as she trotted forward, her little fruit-bat friend circling her as if in orbit before landing on top of Fluttershy's head and waving down to her. "Me and Fresco are ready ta help out with this year's wrap up. I think we'd be a great help with buildin' new nests! My li'l buddy there can help me gather up the materials and I've had plenty o' practice workin' with my hooves. I'm lookin' forward ta workin' with all o' ya!"

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"Gonna be on the Animal Team, far out!" a Paint stallion neighed as he walked over to the gathered group who were near the team leader, "Yo Flutterbabe, what's happenin'? I'm Mojo, maybe ya remember me from the last Winter Wrap Up? It was so groovy ta make nests for all those funky birds comin' back ta town. I'd like ta help out again with those, if it's cool with ya."

Soon, the hippie brony saw a familiar face, smiling as he trotted over to Presteza.

"Hay Pressy, good ta see ya again! We all hadda barrel of fun with the Tour of Peace, nice ta meetcha! Maybe you and I can... well... make nests together, whatdoya say, doll?"

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Among those who congregated with the Animal Team, one hat-wearing mare stood alone alone, and off to the side. She did not live in a place where the winter was controlled; a long distance away from Ponyville. Has the mare been any other out-of-towner, she would have been nothing more than a complete stranger wearing a Winter Wrap Up vest. But in the case of Calamity Mane, one of the biggest big shots of the Wild West, those who knew her exploits well couldn’t fail to recognize her.

Truth be told, Winter Wrap Up was not a community event that Calamity shared any special fondness for. Ponyville wasn’t her hometown after all; in Dodge Junction, she and her neighbors waited for winter’s end through the really old fashioned way. Which obviously, meant the snow melting on its own accord. But that didn’t mean Mrs. Mane expressed complete disinterest in the proceedings of Winter Wrap Up. Aware of the need of someone who could herd the animals if need, Calamity Mane for the last several years has travelled to Ponyville to provide her services to the Animal Team. A sort of “volunteer mercenary”, as one could put it.

The rodeo star however did not feel any feelings of praise for her team captain this year. Apparently, Ponyville got the most timidest girl possible to head the Animal Team. True, Miss Fluttershy spoke well enough this time, but the younger mare smelled of immense fragility to Calamity Mane. And Mrs. Mane had volunteered enough times in Animal Team to obtain a loose sense of how shy Fluttershy could be. As Calamity sternly stood there, warily waiting for her first instructions, she grappled with the thought that should hay hit the fan, she may very well have to take charge herself.

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By the time Snickerdoodle got to Fluttershy's cottage, a fair number of other ponies had already gathered. She probably would have made it in time for the pep talk, but she decided to swing by Sugar Cube Corner for a couple dozen muffins. The honey seed cakes were really more for the critters than the other volunteers, and she always felt bad if she didn't come bearing snacks for everypony.

A few of the faces in the crowd were familiar, she'd seen them around town, but she didn't really know anyone. A few more were strangers to her. No matter, she would get to know them well enough if they were going to be working together today. Snickerdoodle walked up towards the front, where Fluttershy and Rarity were standing. She wasn't sure if duties had been assigned yet. The pegasus mare preferred to be on wake-up duty, rousing the hibernating creatures from their dens. She was lousy at nest making, but she would be able to fly the finished nests into the trees for the returning birds, if necessary.

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This would be Apple Susie's first time participating in the Winter Wrap Up. She was absolutely ecstatic about this! Her mother had in the past few weeks been telling her stories about how Winter Wrap Up was supposed to go but this year her parents decided not to join her so she could make her own stories. Even though she knew she would miss playing in the snow she definitely wanted to help out the little animal creatures come out to experience the warm happy days of Spring. She quickly wrote a letter to her folks telling them where she was going so they wouldn't worry and quickly galloped out of the house. She had to go back inside to get her Animal Team Vest and a hoodie because it was definitely still too cold to work without some extra clothing on. after getting dressed she cantered out towards Fluttershy's cabin and saw at least 12 ponies already there when she arrived. She glanced around and noticed a few ponies from around town and saw a couple that she had never met before but she noticed Presteza but noticed she was already talking to some pony, she was hoping to find somepony around her age and to her surprise and happiness she saw a colt that looked around her age acting kind of funny bowing in front of Fluttershy and Ms.Rarity. Apple Susie saw the strange colt trot over towards the nest table and Apple Susie proceeded to trot up to the strange acting colt and slighty glanced at him in confusion before smiling and holding out her right hoof, "Well Hi! My name's Apple Susie what's your name if you don't mind my askin'?". She made sure to keep her ears open for the time when Fluttershy would call out the ponies who would eventually go out to help wake up the animals hibernating in the dens.

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Breathing heavily at the end of her speech, Fluttershy smiled gratefully to to Rarity as the unicorn continued for her. With Rarity and Angel's support. she might just get through this... She looked around the assembled ponies and recognized a few faces. One thing she didn't see was a lot of pegusii. She hoped that the team that was leading the birds back was already on their way... and going in the correct direction.

One of the first things that Fluttershy noticed was that one of the team members wasn't a pony at all, but a deer! Deer were common in the nearby Whitetail Woods, and she had several friends there. However, most deer shied away from pony towns and cities, preferring to live in the forests. This doe, however, seemed comfortable among ponies, and had even shouted out after Fluttershy's speech.

Fluttershy was then approached by a green unicorn who introduced herself as Trekker. The mare was volunteering to help, even though she was from Canterlot. "W-well, thank you!" Fluttershy said. The pegasus knew that the changing of the seasons was done quite differently in Canterlot. Twilight had told her how the unicorns used their magic to do nearly everything. "Um, just so you know, its a tradition in Ponyville to not use magic for Winter Wrap Up... I hope that's not a problem..." she told Trekker, a little worriedly. However, she was then distracted by by the little fox that accompanied the unicorn. "Oh my! A silver fox!" she exclaimed. Fluttershy bent down to the little creature and said "Hello, Chrome! I love your fur! You are more than welcome to help as well!"

The next pony to approach Fluttershy was a very familiar colt. Valen Orange was a cousin to the Apple family, and had helped on the animal team before... with less than stellar results. Fluttershy and her friends had also helped Valen and Rarity when the pair had gotten lost in a tatzlwurm nest. The colt was very well mannered, but he seemed to be rather unlucky. Smiling, and blushing a little at the colt's complements, Fluttershy told him, "Its nice to see you again, Valen." Then in a smaller voice she added "I hope you're right..."

Yet another familiar pony then appeared from the crowd, though Fluttershy hadn't known her quite as long. Presteza was an artist who had been staying in Ponyville recently. The two had met when the unicorn had adopted a little fruit bat from Fluttershy's shelter. Fluttershy giggled a little as the mare formally introduced herself. "Hello, Preteza, and hello Fresco!" she called out as the bat landed in her mane. "I'm sure Rarity would appreciate help with the nests, especially from another artist!" Angel looked up at the little fruit-colored flyer from his perch on Fluttershy's back and frowned. The look seemed to say 'This is my ride, you get your own!'

Rarity's nest building team then got another volunteer in the form of Mojo, a paint stallion that Fluttershy recognized, but wasn't really familiar with. She instinctively shied back at being called 'Flutterbabe,' but it seemed as thought the stallion was just being friendly. He also greeted Presteza in the same careless manner, so at least the two were acquainted. "Um, t-thank you, Mr. Mojo," Fluttershy stammered out, trying to reassert her confidence. She then turned to Rarity and asked, "Do you think you'll need anypony else, Rarity?"

Fluttershy looked out across the rest of the group. There were a few other unfamiliar ponies, including a cream-colored pegasus who looked to be carrying a box from Sugar Cube Corner. There was also a copper-colored earth pony that reminded Fluttershy of Applejack somehow, and a little earth pony filly that was talking to Valen. Fluttershy hoped they had enough volunteers to get everything done on time. Taking a deep breath, she addressed the group again. "Now, everyone, there are bells and food baskets set up over there," she said, pointing with a wing. "I need some of you to pick up bells to go wake up the hibernating animals. Now, the animals need be woken up gently! We don't want them to wake up cranky after all. I need some more of you to help feed the animals as they awaken. Many of them have not eaten all winter, and the poor dears will be very hungry! Since many of you have not been here before, I'll show you what to do. Lets get started!"
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Rarity could tell that her words offered some encouragement to Fluttershy. She was glad to see it. It was rare to see the pegasus take on anything remotely like this, so Rarity generally hoped everything went just fabulously for her, with nary a complication in sight. So far, she seemed to be doing pretty well. As ponies started appearing to contribute to the team, she held her calm and said what needed to be said. It was refreshing to see.

It wasn't very long before familiar ponies began to show. First was young Valen Orange. Rarity gave a somewhat awkward smile at the colt as she looked him over. Things had just been a little strange with her and Valen since the Crystal Empire. It was kind of hard to figure out really. Valen was such a good, well meaning young pony though. He was also a friend. Rarity was pleased to see him again, even if part of her still remembered all of the chaos he stirred up during his first WInter Wrap Up in Ponyville.

"Ah... helllo, Valen, dear. I trust you've been well since then...?" she started hopefully and somewhat tentatively. "We're glad to have you here. I'm sure that if you keep that right attitude everything will go smoothly this year."

Just then, another good friend arrived. Rarity smiled at Presteza, an artist she had met first as a customer and hit it off right away with as a friend. If Presteza wanted to help with nests, Rarity was most grateful. An artist of her skill would surely be an irreplaceable asset.

"Presteza, darling, what a surprise!" Rarity started, moving toward the other unicorn to give her a quick hug. "I didn't know you'd be coming to help us with winter this year? How delightful! I am pleased to have your help."

The mare gave a nod and smiled. "I'm sure with your help, we'll be able to make nests beautiful enough to meet the needs of even the most particular birds," she added with a nod.

Rarity was then approached by a pony she had seen a handful of odd times before around town, including at previous wrap ups; Mojo, he was called. Some kind of free spirited type who gave the same sort of curious vibe as the ponies she had met at the goop spa. He was offering his assistance, and she was glad for it. A few good helpers would only make the task go that much smoother.

"I'd be pleased to have the help on the nests. The more talented as we can get the better," she said with a nod. "Twilight's plan is all about all of us working together efficiently after all!"

She turned back to Fluttershy then and smiled. "But I can't imagine I'd need very many more to help with nests, and I'd hardly like to take talented hooves away from you, Fluttershy dear. This should be enough," she said.
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Chatter filled up the place as a variety of ponies have signed up for animal team. There were countless new and uncollected cutie marks within view, but she had to resist. She was not only on a mission, but a time limit as well. Adding cutie marks to her sketch book would have to wait. For now she had to focus. Especially if she wanted to reduce the risk of a mistake.

Brooke returned her gaze to the pink maned pegasus who was in charge. It seemed her name was Fluttershy. A few ponies had addressed her as such shortly after her first speech.

Brooke angled her ears forward, listening carefully as Fluttershy began to give instructions regarding their present undertaking. Everyone would choose between wake up duty or feeding the animals after they've awoken. She pondered for a moment to decide which assignment to take on. Because of her rather soft voice and a gentle disposition, Brooke determined the best fit for her would be waking duty.

"Since many of you have not been here before, I'll show you what to do. Lets get started!"

Brooke was glad to hear the last of Fluttershy's sentence. Even though she gained a clear idea of what to do, she still needed a bit of direction in dealing with hibernating animals for the first time. The salmon haired doe walked over and took one of the bells before approaching Fluttershy.

"Some guidance would be a pretty favorable notion considering my lack of experience. This is my initial time volunteering for Winter Wrap Up."

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Rarity seemed tentative and a bit, err, distanced from him. He supposed that wasn't entirely unexpected. Their time in the Crystal Empire had been transformative in a very literal sense and the knowledge of what she had done must have weighed heavily on her in some instanced. On the other hoof, she had seemed more pleased with herself by the end. Towards what end did her oddness point to? It was no use really worrying about it. There was enough cause for strangeness to not really have to give it too much thought. In any case, it was nice to see her again. It was always nice to see her. He had plans he wanted to show her but that could wait for later, maybe in the night after the event was over.

"Oh, I'm...fine. No, you know, incidents. Or what have you. And no potion, for that matter," Valen laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his neck before returning with more energy.

"I'm really excited to put all that threading exercise we did in the Empire to good use, Miss Rarity! Why, I bet I'll make ten times as many nests as you. Failing that, just as many," Valen proposed with a wink as his attention turned to Fluttershy. Yep, still as shy as ever. Hopefully he'd be able to prove to her that this new and improved Valen two point oh was significantly less clumsy and awkward. He then made his way to the nest weaving portion of the station.

As he prepared, Apple Susie approached. She seemed to have not remembered him but he did remember her. They were family after all and had helped out during the last Zap Apple season.

"Hello, Susie! I'm Valen...your cousin from Manehattan. Well, most ponies don't know me or care to remember me-" as Valen Orange anyway. odd that his two other lives probably had more recognition in a day than he would in a lifetime, "-so no harm, no foul. Here, lets make baskets together!" Valen offered with excitement as he looked at the materials in front of him.

Straw, hay, branch, and ribbons. Not exactly silk, satin, and suede, but it would do. He started to weave the branches to provide the firm structure of the nest, intricate designs in nature made simple through simple hoofwork. Some parts took longer than others but it wasn't a matter of speed, but quality. Plenty of ponies were making baskets so quantity wouldn't be a problem. Once the base structure was made, he started weaving in straw and hay in equal measure. Straw was weaker but thinner and could be strewn together to make a good, soft spot for the eggs. The hay provided padding and protection. Valen weaved them carefully and finely, producing a good nest for a good bird. Proud of his work, Valen proudly displayed it for everypony to see!

"Haha, see?! All those weaving and threading lessons paid off!"

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Mojo wasted no time but went right to work making nests. As a pony who makes and sells hoofmade crafts/art of all kinds, putting together great looking nests swiftly was no problem for the Paint stallion. The hippie brony carefully placed himself near Rarity so he could converse with the elegant unicorn mare.

"Hi ya Rarity!" Mojo speaks as he continued to produce perfect nest after nest with his skillful hooves. "Been a while since I last saw ya in town. I have more of me lava lamps if you'd like ta buy one. The trick is with lava lamps is ta be sure ta change out the lava every six months. Keep the glow up, y'know. Say, maybe after the ol' wrap up, why don't I treat ya ta supper? A groovy chick like you deserves the very best, could grab a bite ta eat at that funky outdoor cafe, the one with the waiter that talks rather funny. What do ya say, babe? Could be a far out night we spend together!"

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Apple Susie raised her ears up in surprise when Valen told her that he was her cousin, she nearly leaped backwards in shock when he also told her that he was at the Zap Apple Harvest that she was at not too long ago, "Oh sweet Celestia I'm awful sorry I forgot! Every pony is worth remembering its just me and my bad memory I'm so sorry!". Apple Susie walked next to Valen and nudged him affectionately before stepping back. She heard Fluttershy talking about helping waking up the animals and feeding them, this was the one thing she was definitely waiting for a while but she didn't exactly want to leave her newly re-found cousin in the dust and she was never really the type of pony for artsy types of things she was better for hooves on types of stuff. Apple Susie turned back around and looked at Valen, "I'm sorry cuz, was kind of hoping to help wake up or feed the little critters" She glanced down slightly ashamed because Valen seemed so happy to share this activity with her, she suddenly got an idea that completely erased her shame away, "But how about after we wrap up this winter me and you go hang out somewhere? You pick?". She glanced back up at Valen to see if he would approve of the idea.

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"Presteza, darling, what a surprise!" Rarity started, moving toward the other unicorn to give her a quick hug. "I didn't know you'd be coming to help us with winter this year? How delightful! I am pleased to have your help. I'm sure with your help, we'll be able to make nests beautiful enough to meet the needs of even the most particular birds," she added with a nod.

"I'd be pleased to have the help on the nests. The more talented as we can get the better," she said with a nod. "Twilight's plan is all about all of us working together efficiently after all!"

The mare smiled as she was hugged by her fashion savvy friend back,"Well I was visitin' my mum in Canterlot and then got ta stick around a bit longer with some new friends and then I wound up stayin' even longer until I heard this was goin' on. I Figured I'd stop by ta lend a helpin' hoof and bring in the spring... even if my nose won't appreciate it" she said with aplayfull wiggle of her snout before letting Rarity go. It was always nice to see Rarity again, Their bond having been forged when she came to order a dress for last year's Grand Galloping Gala. Presteza Found common ground with her in their mutual artistic endeavors.

"And yer absolutely right. We'll make those birds the best nests they've ever seen!" Said the mare with a triumphant thrust of her chest."No need fer Twilight ta worry! If there's anythin' I know how ta do, it's how ta capture beauty both effeciently and stylishly! So how do we start?"

"Hello, Preteza, and hello Fresco!" she called out as the bat landed in her mane. "I'm sure Rarity would appreciate help with the nests, especially from another artist!" Angel looked up at the little fruit-colored flyer from his perch on Fluttershy's back and frowned. The look seemed to say 'This is my ride, you get your own!' Lets get started!"

Fresco let out a happy little squeak atop fluttershy's head as she said his name, the little Fruit bat flapping his wings a couple times to show his elation to see his original caretaker once again. Having Noticed Angel's little glare from the yellow pony's back and replied by sticking out his tongue and flying off to land on Rarity's, but the look on the little chiropteran's face seemed to imply he'd be back when he felt like it. Presteza in the meantime smiled brightly at Fluttershy,"I'm glad ta have yer vote o' confidence, Fluttershy!"

"Hay Pressy, good ta see ya again! We all hadda barrel of fun with the Tour of Peace, nice ta meetcha! Maybe you and I can... well... make nests together, whatdoya say, doll?"

The silver maned unicorn's ears gave a twitch as she heard another familiar voice, "Mojo! Nice ta see ya again!" Mojo was another artist, although he tended to travel with others more often then Presteza did. She'd been in a hand with him a while back where she'd become the lead singer due to a very lovely singing voice she possessed. In regards to his flirtatious proposition, Presteza had gotten used to his constant affectionate nicknames due to their time together on the tour of peace so it had long since stopped bothering her. "Well since we've got like three of us already agreed ta help with the Nest makin' I think I don't have much choice but ta agree!" she chimed playfully at the stallion.

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Ice hadn't lived here in Ponyville long, but she had heard of Winter Wrap up. She knew that it was a tradition for the ponies here in Ponyville to help clean up winter and everypony had to help. Of course Ice Storm had no problem helping, but it was the added rule that would make this a challenge for her. There was no magic allowed, and she presumed that went doubly so for a mare who's dedicated her entire life to ice magic.

"Ugg, I can see this being problematic. I've never done anything like this without my magic before, and to be honest, I don't even know what else I could be good at to help. I mean, I might be strong enough to push one of the snow remover thingies, or could use a broom to get snow off of the roofs, but... that last part would still require me to use magic to levitate the broom high enough in order to reach the top of the roof," she spoke to herself looking around at everything to try to figure out where to best fit in. The weather team was a no go for her. She doubted that there was anything that she could do that would be beneficial. She could always help the Lake Scorers but she wasn't sure if that would be the best idea. Knowing herself she'd start getting carried away with the skating and start re-freezing the ice so she could keep skating. She couldn't imagine that ending positive for her.

"The Animal Team" She looked up at the sign. "Well, I supposed that I can't really get into to much trouble working with animals. I mean, I don't know the first thing about how to wake most of them, and... I actually try to avoid a good majority of them, but I suppose things like birds and bunnies can't be too bad," she said looking around for the team lead. She spotted a soft yellow pegasi making some sort of inspirational speech to everypony. She could sense a bit of nervousness in the mare, and she presumed that this was the Fluttershy she has heard about. She started addressing a few other ponies and Ice too began to look around, and she spotted that Fluttershy was speaking with Rarity, and Pressy! Pressy was here! Ice already felt her confidence grow a bit. "I wonder if I'll be able to do whatever it is she's doing. Hopefully it isn't something that I can hideously mess up..." she said to herself before moving in to speak with the pegasi to figure out where she was needed.

"Uh... Hello there, you're Fluttershy right? My name is Ice Storm and well, this is kinda my first Winter Wrap up outside of Canterlot or Fillydelphia and... I don't really know what to do. I was wondering if maybe you could help by pointing me in the right direction? Something that won't tempt me to use my magic preferably," she asked the pegasi, placing her hoof behind her neck and giving a blush-filled smile before giving a wave to both Pressy and Rarity. She clearly had no idea what to do or where she was supposed to be.

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Trekker was no stranger to the tradition of the magicless winter wrap up that Fluttershy spoke of, and in fact was the reason why she was there. Being an adventurer, her thrills came from new things (and some adrenaline pumping locales). But all the same, it was understandable why the mare was worried about using magic, since the tradition in Canterlot was to do everything by magic, and coming from a powerful magical family, they were always involved (but truth be told, such methods were rather boring).

Trekker smiled and nodded "Fear not, I never had any intention to use magic, especially not on critters. I believe in live and let live, no creature deserves to be magically manipulated, and if there is cause, it is probably because the pony encroached on them," the forest green coloured mare concluded hopefully putting the team leader's worries to rest.

And then she took notice of her pet fox, and immediately Chrome's tail began excitedly moving back and fourth, clearly happy of the compliment and that she trusted him enough to help with the animals. He immediately sprang up with his ears back and put his forelegs around Fluttershy, giving her a nuzzle. Trekker once again spoke up. "So... I was thinking... Chrome is rather intelligent, and so long as the animals don't have an issue..." She paused momentarily "I think it would be beneficial for him to poke into some warrens and dens to awaken the nesting critters. Being a fox I'm sure he would be rather good and fast at that!" She said with a bit of pep to her voice. "As for me, I think being at the ready with treats for the critters would do just fine. Surely they must be hungry after their hibernation." Trekker gave her suggestion for what she thought she could do. She wasn't very artistic, her talents lied in finding paths and with magic. Neither were very beneficial for the task at hand, BUT her time with Chrome did allow her to become pretty good with critters of all sorts, even dangerous ones. Though... sometimes she did.. er... kinda run from some of the more dangerous ones, but nothing that would be in a warren or den would be like that. Before she even finished speaking the fox released Fluttershy only to roll over on his back, seemingly beckoning the kind mare to give him tummy rubs, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Trekker glanced at him briefly, but didn't want to do anything, this mare seemed to know more about animals than she could hope to and if she didn't want to she'd handle it...

Looking over she saw that there was another member of Spellbound, a painter. They hadn't had the pleasure of meeting, but their origins were much the same and they both came from magically influential families in Canterlot, and ended up forgoing that for their own reasons to travel the world. She seemed to be going to help the white mare with the purple styled mane help with making nests for returning birds. Hopefully they'd be able to speak before the day was out.

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"Now, everyone, there are bells and food baskets set up over there," Fluttershy said, indicating the table with the supplies ready and waiting on it. "Since many of you have not been here before, I'll show you what to do. Lets get started!"

Snickerdoodle walked over to the food baskets and took a peek inside. They were filled with tasty nutritious things like nuts and berries. She reached into her saddlebags and retrieved the honey seed cakes, then dropped one into each basket. The surest way to wake up in a good mood was with something sweet to nibble on!

Snickerdoodle also dropped the muffin boxes on the table, with a little sign that read "FREE for Volunteers, Take One!" She wasn't sure how many other ponies had left this morning before eating breakfast (aside from her, that is). The vanilla pegasus opened the box and took a blueberry muffin to munch on, before her stomach growled loudly enough to wake the animals on its own.

Finishing the muffin and wiping the crumbs from her chin with a free hoof, she waited to see who she would be paired with for "Wake Up and Feed" duty. She hoped it would be somepony nice.

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With Rarity's assurance that she had the nest building well in hoof, That left one less thing for Fluttershy to worry about. There did seem to be an odd... tension... between Valen and Rarity, but she knew that Rarity was very fond of the colt. Had something happened on her trip to the Crystal Empire? Anyway, now, she just had to deal with the... oh dear... large group of volunteers that were watching her, waiting for instruction... She swallowed, putting on a fragile grin for the group.

The doe Fluttershy had noted earlier approached her then. It took the pegasus a moment to decipher the doe's extremely formal speech. "Wha... I'm sorry, but... Oh!" she said, her tongue tripping over the words. "That's no problem, many of the others here are new to this as well. And thank you so much for helping, Miss..?"

Fluttershy then turned her attention back to Trekker and Chrome. The pegasus felt relieved at the unicorn's assertion, and her understanding. She didn't want to offend anypony by asking them to not use their abilities, and some ponies might have taken that badly. Her attention was taken by Chrome. The little fox seemed to be very sweet, and had nuzzled up to her before rolling on his back. "Aww, aren't you a little cutie!" she cooed, before rubbing the proffered belly. "Who's a good tod? Yes you are, yes you are!"

After considering Trekker's offer, she looked up at the unicorn again. "I think that's a wonderful idea, Miss Trekker," she told the unicorn. "But, um, it might be best for the two of you to go to the outer dens. They are spaced further apart, but there are fewer creatures that, um, wouldn't like a predator like a fox waking them up... We don't want to frighten the poor dears, after all!"

The creme pegasus that Fluttershy had noted earlier approached the food tables, and set up a box of muffins before looking back to her. "Thank you, miss, that was very nice of you," Fluttershy told her. "I'm sure the ponies working here will appreciate the muffins."

An icy blue unicorn mare came up to Fluttershy, asking what to do. The unicorn seemed to be having trouble figuring out how she could help without magic. Fluttershy knew a certain alicorn who had had the same problem in her first spring here. "That's fine, Miss Ice Storm," Fluttershy told her. "I was just about to show everypony what to do!"

Fluttershy picked up one of the bells from the table, and began moving out into the field. She noted a smudge of dark clouds floating near the Everfree. Odd, usually the weather team would have dispersed those by now. She hoped Rainbow Dash wasn't falling behind schedule... But, she needed to focus on the task at hoof. She approached one of the winter dens, before ringing her bell and calling out, "Good morning, friends! It's time to wake up, Spring is here!" Moments later, a pair of skunks emerged from the hole, rubbing their eyes. "It's wonderful to see you again!" Fluttershy cooed at them. "Now I know you must be hungry, and these ponies here will be happy to get you some food!"

Fluttershy turned back to the group following her. "All you have to do is wake up the animals with your bell, and make sure that they get a good meal! Now, in this area, there are a lot of dens, and its not easy to go to every one. Here, we can string the bells together, and wake up the animals together, without rushing them! My good friend Angel Bunny will be here to help with that."

Angel leaped down from Fluttershy's back, preening to be the center of attention. The bunny pulled a roll of twine out of his pocket, and began tying it in loops over the branches near several of the dens. Looking back at the group, Fluttershy told them, "Now, everyone get a bell, or get a basket of food. We have a lot of animals to take care of today!"
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Pyro Blaze stepped off the train and almost immediately started running. He was no doubt late, mostly due to him sleeping in after working a show last night. Canterlot's Winter Wrap Up was boring, they just magicked it all into Spring. Being a unicorn himself, he could understand, but he wanted to try out Ponyville's no magic way of doing it at least once. He raced his way towards the team meeting place, somepony's cottage on the edge of the Everfree forest. He probably would've gone to the farm, but he wasn't really feeling up to doing that. He felt warm. Well, warmer than usual. And he couldn't help Rainbow since he couldn't fly and therefore couldn't affect the clouds without using magic.

He slowed to a trot as he came up to the cottage, and made his way over to the gathering of ponies as a yellow Pegasus mare directed the group to either grab a bell or a basket of food. He almost grabbed a basket with his magic, but he caught himself and trotted over instead to grab one. This no magic thing might be harder than he thought. Oh well, it'd be good to get stuff done without it. Having grabbed the basket, he made his way over to the yellow Pegasus mare that was evidently the team leader.

"Sorry I'm late, slept in." He said, smiling apologetically before looking around. He recognized Pressy, but nopony else except for Rarity, who he had met during the Running of the Leaves. He turned his gaze back to the leading mare before speaking again. "So I just give some of this to the animals as they come out?" He asked, referring to the basket of food he was carrying.

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"Oh, I'm...fine. No, you know, incidents. Or what have you. And no potion, for that matter, I'm really excited to put all that threading exercise we did in the Empire to good use, Miss Rarity! Why, I bet I'll make ten times as many nests as you. Failing that, just as many,"

Rarity gave a small smile. She was glad to see Valen in good spirits and to hear that he had not experienced any adverse side effects since the whole ordeal. She was sure that in time she'd be able to put that whole strange matter behind her and see Valen the same way she always had before. She only hoped that, deep down, he felt the same way.

"Excellent, Valen dear! That's the right spirit! Please do try and do your best. I'll be most eager to see the nests you can produce," she said with a reassuring--or perhaps reassured--grin.

"Hi ya Rarity!Been a while since I last saw ya in town. I have more of me lava lamps if you'd like ta buy one. The trick is with lava lamps is ta be sure ta change out the lava every six months. Keep the glow up, y'know. Say, maybe after the ol' wrap up, why don't I treat ya ta supper? A groovy chick like you deserves the very best, could grab a bite ta eat at that funky outdoor cafe, the one with the waiter that talks rather funny. What do ya say, babe? Could be a far out night we spend together!"

Well this one certainly... came on rather strong. Rarity looked at him a little unsure what to make of it all. There was something charming about him, she supposed, but she also had to wonder if that charm wouldn't fade fast. It was somewhat hard to gauge his intentions. Still, she appreciated the advice on her lamp, a lovely thing she had picked up a long while ago now and she appreciated that he was so eager to help her with her nests. She wasn't sure she could see it extending beyond that, however. Of course, she was always one for politeness.

"Thank you for the all too kind offer, darling," she said with a smile. "I'm sure dinner with you would be a most lovely thing, but my work schedule really is always so very full come spring..." she added in a soft voice.

"Perhaps instead you could stop by the Carousel Boutique sometimes. I would be delighted to design something for you in exchange for the advice you've given me on maintaining that lovely lamp you sold me so many months ago, as I had noticed its glow had faded," she said before coming to a brief pause. "And of course, for the help you will be providing me with today."

"Well I was visitin' my mum in Canterlot and then got ta stick around a bit longer with some new friends and then I wound up stayin' even longer until I heard this was goin' on. I Figured I'd stop by ta lend a helpin' hoof and bring in the spring... even if my nose won't appreciate it And yer absolutely right. We'll make those birds the best nests they've ever seen! No need fer Twilight ta worry! If there's anythin' I know how ta do, it's how ta capture beauty both effeciently and stylishly! So how do we start?"

Turning back toward Presteza now, Rarity grinned. "Well allow me to thank you on Ponyville's behalf. We really do appreciate all of the outside support we are lucky enough to receive," she said.

"And that's just the right spirit! Presteza, darling!" she added with excitement. "We start just by getting to work as Valen has," she said, nodding toward the colt. "Our materials have been gatered for us in advance, though at some point we might have need to find some more. There's nothing to do but get straight to work designing our nests right away. "

"Haha, see?! All those weaving and threading lessons paid off!"

Looking as Valen completed the first nest, Rarity smiled wide. "Just fabulous!" she said as she admired the nest. "You truly have learned a lot, my dear Valen. A lovely effort, and so quickly too."

"But don't force yourself to go too fast. This looks perfect, but if you keep this pace you are bound to soon get sloppy, which won't do at all," she cautioned with a nod.

Sitting down at the table, she then grabbed some nest makings for herself. "Now then, everyone, let's take Valen's lead and get to work!" she said with eagerness as she went about making her first nest.

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Mojo looked a little disappointed that Rarity turned down his offer to buy her supper. She seemed like a very calm, cool, collected mare who might fancy a chance to dine with a charming companion, like himself. Still, the task before him was at hoof, so the Paint stallion continued putting bird nests together. He saw that he wasn't alone putting the nests together, there was Presteza and Valen who were helping out as well. First, he walked over to Valen to give him some words of encouragement.

"That-a way to go, pal!" Mojo said with a wide grin, "Groovy style yur usin' there! Keep up the good work!"

Next, the hippe brony trotted over to the baskets of muffins that Snickerdoodle had left for volunteers and sampled one.

"These muffins are far out! Top notch I say! Thanks for bringing these out, doll!" he shouted to Snickerdoodle, seeing that she was busy at the moment. Lastly, Mojo turned towards Presteza, whom he considered to be a trusted friend.

"Presteza, could I ask ya for some advice? I just got turned down by Rarity for a dinner date. Ya got any tips for me on how ta ask a babe out? Seems like me approach is a bit off, yur a cute babe, if ya don't mind me sayin' so, what are mares lookin' for in a guy?"

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