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[Foothills] Fall weather Flames [Closed]


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The morning air was crisp and damp with the morning dew. The Sun was waxing ball of fire on the distant horizon as its rays began to warm the white birch forest of Solstice Heights Foothills. The previous week's Running of the Leaves went off with out a hitch. Almost all the leaves had fallen from the trees, leaving a blanket of red, orange, yellow, and brown, over the forest floor. As the Sun warmed Equestria all sorts of birds and animals began to stir. The leaves rustled as a slight breeze blew through the trees.

The rays crashed upon a large oak tree on the edge of town. However this tree was unique, inside of it lived a pony. The rays streamed though an open window and fell upon a small bed where this pony slept. She tossed and turned as the Sun edged in on her dreams. Suddenly a cacophonous ringing filled her small bed room. She reached out a hoof and bopped it upon its top. She grumbled and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Stretching she got up from the bed and headed downstairs, through her living room and into her kitchen.

Once in her kitchen she pulled out some milk and alfalfa. She placed these gently upon the small kitchen table and headed for the bread-box. Taking the bread out she placed it in the cast iron toaster. She looked at the fireplace and sighed, her banked coals had not lasted the night. Her breakfast had to wait for the moment as she restarted her cooking fire. She trotted off towards her wood-shed, the dew clinging to her hooves. With the tinder and fuel in tow she trotted back to her kitchen. She arranged the wood in a small teepee and smiled a little at what was to come. She clicked her ankles together unfortunately the -CLINK- that she had grown accustomed to was not to be heard.

“Sugarplumbs!” She murmured to herself. In her haste to wake up she had forgotten to adorn her ankles with the trademark bracelets that she had worn since basic training. After a quick hustle up stairs and some rummaging, she returned to her kitchen wearing her bracelets.

“Time for another try.” She quietly mused to herself. She clicked her fore-hooves together again and the -CLINK- that she was expecting filled her ears. She closed her eyes and felt the usual hum in her skull. The vast ocean of the aether appeared before her eyes. An ocean of pure energy, the ebb and flow of which could create and destroy worlds. A small, insignificant firefly of energy sparked into existence upon that sea of power. It wafted and swayed like a dingy in a storm. She marveled at that firefly for a moment, admiring its fight for life. She, with her magic, reached out and scooped up some of that energy from the sea. She channeled that magic towards the firefly, feeding it, nurturing it. The firefly began to consume the energy, very quickly. Greedily it gobbled the energy that she fed it, growing more and more powerful with every moment.

Back in Equestria a thin tendril of flame seemed to slink out of nowhere. It wove its way slowly towards the wooden teepee in the fireplace. It coiled around the base of the teepee and the wood slowly began to catch fire. She slowly opened up her eyes again and watched the fire catch. She slowly severed the connection between the fire and the Aetheric Ocean, the wood would surely keep the fire going. She pushed the kettle on its swing arm over the fire and hung the toaster near the flame. Soon she would have tea and toast. She snacked on her alfalfa as her breakfast cooked. She gazed out the window towards the woods. The fog still hung heavy in between the trees and covered the hills and dales.

“Ugh, why did it have to be damp today?” She remarked as her kettle began to whistle. The smell of toast filled the cottage as she poured herself some tea. She deliberately munched upon her breakfast as she pondered the day's work that awaited her.

With a soft grumble she stood up and placed her dishes in the sink. She figured that she would wash them later when she returned home. She went to her office and picked up her campaign hat and placed it on her head, with her vest soon to follow.

As she exited her home she took a deep breath of the air and looked over her yard. Her flowers were growing nicely and the picket fence was holding up well. She put her Forest Ranger vest on and exited through the gate in the fence towards the forest.

“Today is a big day. Going to need to check the forest and make sure all the caution signs are up, then make sure everypony is at a safe distance, set up some fire breaks, and finally get the fire going. Big day.” Pyrite spoke to herself as she walked off into the fog of the early morning in Solstice Heights Foothills.

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  • 3 weeks later...

By the time the first blush of the new day tinged the edge of the horizon, the blackbirds had begun the morning by waking the robins with their song. The robins woke the wrens, and the wrens the tawny owls, and so forth until only the lazy goldfinches still remained tucked into their downy nests. Trillium never needed an alarm clock, the building dawn chorus of neighborhood birds, usually the by the time warblers started their song, woke her gently just before the rays of sun peaked over the peaks around Canterlot.

She made herself her usual cup of invigorating mint tea, with just a hint of camellia, and quietly slipped out her front door to the moss-covered stump in her garden and looked to the east. The sky was clear, and the few stars that still twinkled in the slate colored sky were beginning to fade. The moon had returned to her roost beyond the rolling hills in the distance, and finally had shut her last sleepy yellow eye. "It's going to be a great sunrise", she remarked to a few remaining indigo morning glories, petals closed, but poised to open as soon as the golden light reached them.

It all started with a brightening of the sparking glaciers capping the tallest peaks of Solstice Heights, and then a pinprick of light atop Canterlot Castle's highest spire. Slowly and breathtakingly the light dripped and cascaded down the towers and parapets of the shining city, only to be caught up and echoed in the sparkling waterfalls that trickled, dancing around the city, from the peaks of the tallest mountain, Mount Equus.

The light, melting over the entire castle, and the surrounding walled city cast deep dimensional shadows highlighting every carved cornice, every buttress and arch. It continued, caressing the cataract that plunged through the lower part of the city on its way to the terraced farmland on the foothills below. The light touched the mist and light fog that rolled though these high autumn-ochre hills, briefly bathing the entire area in a golden yellow before it burst through to the dew-soaked rolling hills towards the Whitetail woods. The light kissed the green pony watching it with shining eyes, and the blue flowers next to her opened their mouths to gulp it down. When the intensity of the glow got to be too much for Trillium, she blinked, and in that instant the sun was up, and the magic faded. Midway up the mountain, Canterlot was fully bathed in light, the chiaroscuro effect gone, and the city looking much flatter and less mysterious, the hills surrounding her their normal autumn dusty beige.

"Well, my friends, I must be going" Trillium added, tipping a dented yellow watering can to the roots of the vines with one hoof, "I'll see you again when you close for the night.", she added, skipping off back to her whitewashed cottage with its exposed timbers and thatched roof, the empty tea cup balanced between her ears on her still messy mane.

Inside the cottage was tastefully decorated in what Chotchkie had insisted were called "Nature Bits". Furniture carved from weathered deadfall and covered in textiles made of spun flax and silk, dyed dusky purple-brown with tannin and pokeberry.. A partioned shelf above her tiny carved-fieldstone fireplace (which had simply been one of many clearance cairns long ago on the site that the cottage now occupied) held wasps nests and intricate amorphous shapes of honeycomb, interesting sparkling rocks and other natural detritus. Bowls turned out of burl root filled with pretty pebbles, acorns or pinecones rested on end tables. A spray of accent shelves made of bear bread, each holding a tiny carved vase willed with feathers or dried flowers, filled the wall between two large windows in the main living area.

From her largest window she looked wistfully at her guest cottage with its teak soaking tub, that filled itself with a lovely just the perfect temperature hot spring (the reason her little village of Wood's End had collected in this crook of the arm of the Whitetail Woods, as well as the reason that the growing season was just a tiny bit longer there) "No, Trillium, soak later, you promised Pyrite you'd help her with her burn today. And I should probably stop dilly-dallin' around and get my flanks in gear!"In her river-pebble tiled bathroom, she reached up and hooked her front hoof into the cord that pulled the release that would allow some of the water from the hot spring to rise up and disperse itself through the large tin pan that she had installed in the ceiling to serve as a quick shower. This quick steamy deluge was always filled with aromatic cleansing herbs, that had been placed in a strainer just after the release. Shaking as much moisture as she could off of her pale green coat, the then rolled against the pile of cotton cloth in the corner to remove the rest. After all, it was a bit nippy out there today.

The gentle mare grabbed a quick breakfast of leftover baked pumpkin, and a few cold plums, packed a russet colored saddlebag full of dried fruit and a few thermoses of mushroom-barley chowder. Finally donning her fluffy and warm pokeweed dyed scarf, headed out the door to meet her forest ranger friend. Before she shut her birch-sapling gate, she winked at the morning glories again, their bright blue eyes staring back.

Continuing down the worn slate path that lead to the lane, the moss between the stepping-stones still a bright emerald green, Trillium looked forlornly at the state of her lovely Coreopsis, Galliarda and Echinacea. She knew that seeding-off was a natural part of the plants’ life cycles, but that fortnight of waiting between when the last cheery sunset-colored late-summer flowers bloomed and the time where she could reliably harvest the seed and winterize her flower beds was always a tiny bit bittersweet for her.

She trotted down the lane, waving to friends and neighbors who were out running errands or enjoying their breakfasts in their own gardens, or on their verandas (Trillium always saw a veranda as wasted space where she could be growing more flowers, but she saw the appeal that they could have on some of her friends). There were a few muddy puddles glistening on the packed dirt cartpath from last night's rain that she deftly avoided.

The lane crossed a deeply rutted cobblestone street around the area where most of the local stores were clustered. This village of Wood’s End as they called it, had accreted over the years where the ancient cobbled road to Canterlot met the main branch of the small, shallow and quick-running river that was formed by the cascade from the heights of Canterlot. A covered well had been dug nearby as well, but had long since stopped producing clear water as the river changed course over the past few centuries.

The oldest building was the general store, with its two ancient stone cottages that had once sheltered travelers coming in from the wilds when the Saddleveil plains were mostly uninhabited; carts traveled much slower back then. Nopony was quite sure who had built them, but everypony agreed that they predated the time before Luna’s exile. Only the chimney and the foundation of the general store itself remained of what had supposedly been an old guardhouse, the foundation laid in beautifully carved pink stone, generally in motifs that seemed to resemble Princess Celestia, that nopony could identify. Rumor had it that it was a gift from the Griffin tribes, and stone like that could only be mined there, but nopony fully believed that. The store itself was a newer plank construct, erected in Trillium's lifetime, but all the ponies in the area still referred to it as "The Old Store".

When she reached the wishing well, built from the same mysterious rose-pink stone as the general store and the cottages she turned down a second dusty, and unpaved lane with short cropped grass. Late season grasshoppers flung themselves out of the way at every hoofstep. Finally she approached what seemed to be a large round window poking out of a hillside, with a silvered wooden shingle awning. Next to that was an arched doorway, also built into the grassy sod of the sloping hill that appeared to be covered in a variety of small, now leafless tea and coffee bushes. Tiny bells tinkled as she pushed open the door and entered.

Her eyes needed to adjust to the darkened, and rather steamy coffee shop. A handful of ponies where gathered already; sitting or lounging on the hodgepodge wooden furniture, eating muffins and sipping hot drinks. Rows of neatly labeled jars of dried and toasted leaves and coffee beans filled an enormous system of shelves that dominated the back of the room. In front of the shelf a highly polished piece of stone that may have at one point been part of a larger building sat atop numerous sturdy oak barrels that served as the coffee counter.

“Trillium! How nice to see you!” the pale sage-green mare behind the coffee counter exclaimed warmly. Her bright periwinkle mane flipping up excitedly as she fiddled with several large silver apparatuses, her eyes, just a shade deeper sparkling as she greeted her friend, and one of her favorite customers. “What can I get you?”

“Hiya Chicory! Can I get two of those nifty little crocks of your dam’s? One sassafras tea, one Linden flower?” Chicory’s mother had long been carving portable, rather well insulated crocks, sealed with a cork and covered in a woven rattan with a loop handle that tended to keep drinks warm for quite a while. They were made so one could loop a cord through the handle and wear the flask around their arching necks. Trillium rather thought that Pyrite would like one for her own use. They were definitely useful to her in the nippy early spring when she was clearing fallen leaves off the newly emerging crocus buds.

“Oh, so you’re going to see Pyrite, I see.” Chicory replied, looping the two flasks over Trillium’s graceful neck, and flicking her braid out of the way so it wouldn’t get caught. “I mostly keep the sassafras stocked especially for her. What are you two up to today?”

“Well, you see Chick, the running of the leaves has left the forest floor rather messy, and since there’s an upcoming autumn storm that could bring lighting, Pyrite wanted to clear as much if the debris left from the Running of the Leaves as she can. She’s bringing me along to identify where the patches of leaves need to stay to insulate the spring bulbs.”, Trillium puffed out her chest with just a teensy bit of pride. After all she was a rather young mare, and this older, much more experienced forest ranger had chosen her to help. “Plus, it’ll be so pretty, I so rarely venture into her part of the forest in the fall.”

Chicory grinned and Trillium tossed her a few bits, and added an extra one into her tip jar. “Well, say hi for me, and you be careful around that fire!.” Chicory was a sweet mare, but she was a bit of a worrywart when it came to anything potentially dangerous. She also never could quite wrap her head around the fact that Pyrite used her magic to control the fire, so there was never any danger. Unicorn pyromancers were a bit of a novelty in Wood’s End. “Of course I will, and thank you!” replied Trillium, knowing full well her friend’s concern came from her heart.

Through the narrow sloping valley with its amber-tipped grasses gently waving in the morning sun, with the occasional desiccated Queen Anne’s Lace or goldenrod standing straighter, resisting the push of the wind. As she climbed the final swell between her village and the solitary mare's treehouse, the scent of the newly mown hay wafted through the breeze. "Oh good, I'm not late", Trillium thought to herself, seeing the smoke from Pyrite's morning toast drifting from the hollow branch that served as a chimney, mingling with the fog that had not yet lifted in this more deeply valleyed part of the foothills. Round windows were affixed in what were once knotholes in the giant oak's trunk. The pale green pony broke into a gallop to meet her friend, stopping short as the door opened and the palamino mare began walking through the fog towards the forest proper.

"Hey Pyrite!" Trillium called in a sing-song voice, "I brought you SAAASSSAFRAAAAS TEEEAAA!"

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  • 3 weeks later...

The bright ball of fire in the sky was slowly warming Equestria and burning off the fog of the morning. Upon the grass hung tiny little diamonds that spewed rainbows in all directions if one were to look closely enough. The dew clung to Pyrite's hooves turning them a slightly darker colour than the rest of her. She surveyed the surrounding area. Being on the outskirts of town did have its advantages after all. The soft autumn ochers blended seamlessly with the bright green of the rolling fields that surrounded the small town of Solstice Heights Foothills. There were blocky outlines off in the distance that abruptly juxtaposed the rolling lines of the surroundings. These were the farming terraces that some ponies were trying out. It was a method new to Equestria but it seemed to be working rather well, it was adapted for the steep hills that surrounded the area of Canterlot Proper. This new farming method afforded these ponies to grow some unique fare that was not usually found in these parts.

All the sights and the sounds of early morning flooded Pyrite's senses. The smell of the grass underlying the pungent smell of rotting leaves. There was the light and airy fragrance of the flowers that played over top of these two smells as well. The birds were all a twitter with the morning gossip of which plants were fruiting and which the hummingbirds would want to visit to stock up on their energy reserves for the long trek south to parts unknown. Pyrite lavished in this morning chorus of sounds and smells. This was the major reason that she moved out into the country after all. The hustle and bustle of the city did not appeal to her. She loved the forest when she was a child and that love carried over into her marehood. There was just something about living off of the land and forging your own path. The rigidity of the military had rubbed off on her however, her stature, cadence, mannerisms, and even organization had been influenced directly by her time served. She stood at attention in her front yard outlined by white Daises, her campaign hat making her seem a tad taller than she actually was. Her ears were poking out of the side of the hat, allowing her to hear her surroundings properly.

Her ranger vest settled on her soft coat as the Sun warmed her back. She tilted her head around to look over her home. It was not at all similar to the other ponies homes that lived in Solstice Heights Foothills. Most of those were quaint little cottages with a few small cabins for visitors to stay in, when the chance arose. Although the houses of the other ponies tried to integrate into their organic surroundings, such as thatched roofs covered in native grass and ivy, or homes built into hills all together, no home blurred the line between nature and function as Pyrite's did. While the other houses tried to bring nature back into an area that had previously belonged to nature but now was more suited to living, Pyrite actually lived in nature. Her home had been hewn out of the center of an ancient oak tree. Small round windows where the knots once were and doors that were made out of the tree its self. Most, if not all, of her furniture had been carved out of the tree as well. Although she could not move most of the furniture because it was still part of the tree, she thought that the blend of nature and technology was elegant, she would have it no other way.

A faint smile came across the mare's muzzle as the Sun began to filter through the leaves of her home and brighten up the world around her. She was definitely a morning pony, everything about that time of day made her feel alive. Today was a day of action however. During the previous week her town had hosted more than a few legs of the famous “Running of the Leaves” race. The goal of this race was to make the leaves of the deciduous trees fall from their branches so that the snow would not damage the trees as readily. This presented an entire new set of problems however. As anypony that spent any time in the forest would know, dead leaves on the forest floor only leads to problems. Although they protected the bulbs and seedlings of the next year, they also presented a massive fire hazard. If any part of the forest were to catch from say a lightning strike the entire place could go up like a tinderbox, decimating the entirety of both the lively hood and home of many a pony and many an animal. Also there are a few very rare species of plants that would only bloom with the heat of a fire to spread their seeds and ashes to fertilize them.

Although Pyrite was the local Forest Ranger, she was no botanist. She knew her way through the forest like she knew the back of her hoof. She knew the small cave system that was to the north west, the other small alcove that was behind the Canterlot Falls, she even knew about the wooden fort that some of the local children had recently made to play soldier in. Whilst she knew all the places and ins and outs of her forest she only had a filamentary, working, knowledge of the plants and small animals that inhabited what she thought of as “Her” forest. She knew which plants tasted bad and were not to be eaten, such as pokeweed, and which made wonderfully tasty tea, such as mint and sassafras. She had been for a stroll through the wood recently, after the race, and had felt the pine needles softly crush under her hooves, the large oak leaves disintegrate with the mere brush of her saddle bags. She knew that the time was right to start what the fire industry called a “Controlled Burn”. However Pyrite needed some help for this one, she needed somepony to come and identify places where the underbrush needed to be kept intact so that she could direct the fire properly. Pyrite had contracted out to the small pale green mare that seemed to know everything about the regional flora and fauna. Her name was Trillium and she should have been arriving any moment.

"Hey Pyrite!" Trillium called in a sing-song voice, "I brought you SAAASSSAFRAAAAS TEEEAAA!"

And there she was. The pale green Earth Pony came trotting towards the older mare. She had some odd looking casks hanging from her neck as she entered through the creaky gate into Pyrite's little yard.

Well hello there Miss Trillium, I'm glad that you made it. What are those things hanging from your neck, if I may ask? Oh yes, sorry about that, please take a seat, make yourself at home, after all you came all this way just to help. Can I get you anything from the pantry?” Pyrite asked her guest.

The older mare usually did not entertain guests, it was not that she did not want to have guests, she did like having ponies over to talk with and such, it was just that her home was more than a little out of the way for most travelers. She offered Trillium a seat in an Adirondack style chair that was stationed in the garden. Pyrite took a seat in the chair that was facing the other one. Pyrite sniffed the air, there was a faint smell of sassafras wafting out of one of the casks. She eyed the stone container and levitated off of the mare's neck. Pyrite used her magic to unscrew the cap and take a good sniff of the concoction. Boy did it smell wonderful. She pressed it to her lips and took a good swig. She smiled as the familiar taste filled her mouth. With that finished Pyrite continued,

Now down to business. Today we are going to be attempting what is called a controlled burn. This is a dangerous procedure under the ideal circumstances. So everypony needs to be on the top of their game for this. Even though I have the ability to control the fire, there needs to be a contingency plan in effect just in case something goes awry. In the effect of complete loss of control of the fire we will evacuate the town and the surrounding area, call in all the local and regional firefighters, and then attempt to control the blaze. Even though this is an extremely unlikely occurrence we need to plan for every eventuality. Now with that being said, we are going to do a final walk through of the forest to check for stragglers and such, you will have to point out the areas that need to be protected for me, and then we will go about the burn.” The older mare's voice was stern and practiced but not mean by any sense of the imagination.

Then she shifted a little and in a more melodic tone said, “Well with that business out of the way, I have a gift for you!”

Pyrite adjured her seat for a moment and trotted off into her office for a short period of time. She came happily trotting out again with a small orange vest in tow. It seemed to be a the prefect fit for the pale green mare.

Here you go! This is a vest for you so that everyone knows you are part of the burn team! I whipped it up in my spare time, it isn't pretty, but it will work in a pinch. I hope you like it.” Pyrite continued to talk with Trillium.

This was actually a cleaver tactic on Pyrite's part, she was trying to wait out the clock and let the sun warm up the area and dry out some of the damp leaves. She was willing to spend however long it took for the forest's fog to burn off because starting a fire in the present conditions was not ideal. Pyrite took another sip of her tea and waited for Trillium to respond.

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