After the Fall Frolic, the weather just got a lot colder. I don’t ever remember it getting this cold in the big city, but I think that was because my mom and dad took care of that. Now, as each day passed, it seemed like I was spending more and more time just surviving. That focused around two important tasks; keeping the inside of my house warm, and keeping the water bucket full.

Thanks to my amazing magic teacher, I could quickly and easily start even a sizeable log on fire. Of course, I was careful how much wood I had burning in my fireplace. I tried to burn just enough to keep my house warm. Besides, I wanted the wood my neighbors had given me to last as long as it could. I honestly had no idea where else I could get firewood, especially in the middle of a cold winter. And, trying to find some out in the meadow… I knew that would be a nightmare, a freezing nightmare. After my neighbors had dumped that huge pile of wood in front of my house, I quickly moved a bunch of it, onto my front porch (out of the rain and such) and into my house, along the opposite wall from the fireplace. And, on sunny and not so freezing days, I kept moving wood from that pile, out of the weather, either on the porch or into the house. And every single leaf I found, usually branches of them, they went into my bedroom. That was my bed, and dried leaves felt a lot nicer than the dirt floor in there. Well, if it was extremely cold, I just slept in the big room near the fireplace. The floor in there is wood. The fire was in there though, so more amd more frequently, I just slept facing the fireplace. It really was comfortable, even on the coldest days. Well, I always wore that nice coat my pretty friend gave to me. I think she actually made it for me. But that coat helped me stay comfortable and use less wood. All around it was very nice.

Well, at one point early in the winter, my neighbor friend to the west came over in the middle of a very cold day. Well, I am pretty sure she ran over from her house. She wore her coat, but she was still very cold when she got to my house. I had her on her belly in front of the fire right away, and her teeth soon stopped chattering. When she could, she sheepishly admitted that they accidentally let their fire go out… She said they had two big fireplaces, and if one went out they lit it from the other. But this time, both had… I stopped her right there, and said I would gladly come light their fires again. Then I sheepishly explained that I only recently could actually use magic that powerful. I said that my magic teacher at the castle was so nice, and had helped me so much! And I told my neighbor that when she first dropped off that wood, I couldn’t even start a leaf on fire! Well we both laughed together, and ended up hugging some. I really like my new friends here. And as we hugged, I almost started crying. I had not been teased at all since I came here. This mare couldn’t fly, and was not a Unicorn, but that didn’t bother her at all. She loved being just like she was. Well, she laughed and said that being able to easily start a fire would be nice. I just jumped in and said she could come get me any time she needed. I think I was trying to be a real friend back.

That afternoon, we ran back over to her house. It is further to her house than to town, maybe twice as far. And she clearly could have run a lot faster than me, but she kept a pace that I could stay running. We were both freezing when we ran through her front door and into her biggest room. It was cold outside, and getting colder… I think it was the rest of her family huddled in a corner under quilts she called them, shivering. Well, they had two fireplaces, and they had wood stacked and ready, so I quickly lit a log in the kitchen, then another log in the big room. Then we all crowded around one of those fireplaces on our bellies, as it warmed up inside her house. My friend was crying… We hugged again, and I said quietly “Any time, just come get me.” And, my friend was adamant that I spend the night with her. It was already much colder and almost dark outside. She felt it was threatening snow, too. She explained that, if you get caught in a bad snowstorm, you could be 50 forelegs away from your house, and still not find your way, and maybe even freeze to death. Well, I took her word on that. In the big city, when it snowed a lot, we just all stayed home, and huddled around this big block of burning black stuff in the fireplace.

Wow, they could cook! Since fall, I had been nibbling on oats, but they fixed up a dinner… There was so much food, and everything tasted so good! Some of the stuff I had never seen before. Well, after the house was warm again, mares got to cooking… I was stuffed by the end of that meal. I don’t think I could even have walked home! My neighbor and I talked most of the evening. She had more to say than I did, and I listened enthusiastically. I guess she and my magic teacher were friends too. Well, there was evidently a lot going on in this sleepy little town with it’s own castle! Still, at one point, I said quietly “Well, I grew up in the big city, and hated every second because I was teased constantly. Then I came here, and have found you and a bunch of other amazing friends…” I started crying, and we hugged a few minutes more. I also think she knew more about fires and stuff than I did. She carefully kicked some logs to certain places inside the fireplace, and we went to sleep. A small fire was still going in the morning, and she just added more wood and the house warmed quickly up again.

Well, it didn’t snow, but it did warm up some that next day. My neighbor friend and I were able to walk back to my house in the sun. We talked on the way some. And she volunteered to bring some more wood over if I needed it. I said I would keep her posted about that. The first load she brought was lasting pretty well. Once to my house, I lit my fire, and we warmed up a bit. Still, she was quickly crying. She really appreciated my help. And since it affected her kin too, she said… As we hugged, I told her again that she should not hesitate to come get me. Then I laughed and said I probably ate more last night than I had so far all winter! We both laughed a while at that. I guess she and her family, they are very good cooks, and they always have plenty. We hugged for a few minutes more, then she left and ran back home. Then I felt alone again because I was. But I was very glad I could help her. Helping others == that was certanly a new feeling for me, too. Still, I could thank my magic teacher in the castle that I could even help my neighbor, and stay warm myself. I made a mental note to thank my magic teacher again. Up to this point, my magic lessons had come when she had the time I guessed. It would probably be spring before the next one.

That water bucket was the other task that seemed to occupy a lot of my time as winter settled over my meadow. Well, the pond was easy enough to find. It was very close to the rock at 200 steps north and 100 steps west. I walked that path a lot; it was well worn, sort of a low trail that ran clearly from my house to the pond. I drank a lot of water during the summer and so filled that bucket up a lot. That was always a very tiring task because I had to use the pulling wagon, and still had to place the bucket on the wagon, and slide it forward. I lost a lot of water that way, but it had to do. After my second magic lesson, I could easily carry the bucket down to the pond, fill it half full, then carry it back. And, over time, I could fill it more; my magic was actually getting stronger just by carrying that bucket the 250 or so steps back to my house. And when it started getting really cold, I always brought it back most of the way full.

The water was for two things. I drank from that bucket. I drank more during the summer, and not as much in the winter, but I still drank from that bucket. That water was also my only means of putting out anything on fire that popped out of the fireplace and onto my wood floor. I forced myself to always refill the bucket at 1/4 full. There was a knot in the side at about that point. In the middle of that knot, and it was refill time. I didn’t know if I would need that much, but I wanted to be ready. The black stuff we used in the big city didn’t pop at all, and behaved very well, as it slowly burned and heated our small house. By early winter, I could bring the bucket back full. But the surface of the pond started to freeze over by then. I could use fire spells to melt a spot in the ice, then dip the bucket in and fill it. As it got colder, the ice on the surface got thicker. Well, sometimes it would just take longer to fill that bucket. And, even with my nice new coat on, I was sometimes freezing by the time I made it back inside. And sometimes, it just took a while to fill the bucket with water. Other times, I had to melt some water, then use levitation magic to reach down and break chunks of ice off, and put that ice in the bucket. It would thaw in the house, but didn’t fill the bucket as full, so I would sooner need to head back to the pond. And I found I could actually use my magic to pick up chunks of ice from the creek that fed the pond. Well, I had to look into the ice before I put it in the bucket. I didn’t want fish or other small animals swimming around in my drinking water! As the cold of winter set in, it seems like I did something different each time I went to the pond to get more water. It didn’t matter; I just had to do that.

In the middle of that winter, I got a drink from the bucket, and then noticed that the water level was down to the knot. Ordinarily, I would just get my coat on (if it wasn’t on, which wasn’t often), then go spend the next hour or so refilling my water supply. Then I would come back freezing, and need to thaw out… Well, this time, that was a problem… It was snowing hard since this morning, and every time I peeked out my door, I realized it was still snowing. It was early afternoon, and it was snowing then too. Looking at the snow next to the porch, it had already snowed quite a bit, not quite half way up to my belly. And the wind was blowing a lot too. Wow, I didn’t want to go out in that… I shivered just peeking out the door. I made sure the door was closed all the way, then I laid on my belly in front of my nice warm fire. I would need to attend to my water bucket first thing tomorrow, though. I thought about practicing some water spells. I still had that paper… But, honestly, I just wanted to stay warm. And every time I moved…

Sometime in the middle of the night, it stopped blowing, I easily heard that. And the next morning, it was not snowing at all. There was a lot of snow on the ground, and the drifts were pretty high up the north side of my house. The sky was a uniform gray with just a bright spot where the sun was. Well, having no wind to deal with, this would make the water bucket a little easier of a task. I waited a while longer, then moved another log on the fire, because I knew I would come back freezing… I sighed, picked up the bucket with my magic, then went quickly out my door, using my magic to close it all the way as soon as possible. Well, I looked, and my path to the pond was easily visible. I could see half way there from my porch. I started walking. Well, it was noon maybe, and it was absolutely freezing. But there was no wind. It was so quiet… And, well the meadow looked so beautiful in this pretty white blanket. And even me walking in the snow made almost no noise. This was the first snow of the winter, and my first time out in the meadow in snow. I walked slower than I should have, and just took in the harsh beauty. I remembered this same meadow in the middle of summer… It was every bit as beautiful now, just very cold. And even my hooves were getting cold. That realization made me pick up my pace a little, and I was quickly to the pond. The pond was covered with snow, too… This was gonna take a while… I was too chicken to actually walk out on the pond, the ice, so I used a lower level fire spell to melt the snow to clear it away. Then it took ten minutes to even melt some water from the ice. I dipped the bucket, but most of the water froze to the side of the bucket. Well, I was determined, I guess. Maybe an hour later, I was frozen, and the bucket was frozen too, but half full of frozen water. It would have to do. I started walking back. The path was easy to see. I think I was a little more concerned with watching the path. I really did want to be home, inside my home, warming up…

As I walked back to my warm house, I was looking mostly down, and walking pretty quickly. Did I say I was cold? Halfway back, I stopped… I froze… I stopped moving completely…

There are very few shapes that will instantly grab the attention of any small horse. For myself, there was only one shape, that slow, stately, elegant spiral that works it’s way up my Unicorn horn, from the base in roughly the center of my head, making that amazing magic spiral, ever smaller, dashing madly up to the tip. I have looked at my own Unicorn horn often, watching it grow, or not grow, watching it change from an almost pale blue to a brighter bluish white. And I think it gets brighter as my magic grows…

Like I said, I stopped… stared…  I saw that shape… in the snow…

I was just glancing down on the path, thinking about how cold I was, and how warm I wanted to be… I could not miss that shape… The point of the spiral was not far from the well worn path I had taken an hour ago, and was taking back home. The spiral was on it’s side. Every Unicorn in the land knows that shape, and knows that it does not occur all by itself…

I looked further from that point… A horse body… “Oh, no… oh, no…” I said quickly, a few times, well constantly. Kneeling down, I started trying to clear snow away from… another Unicorn… laying on their side in the snow… I kept trying to clear snow away from head, legs… as carefully as I could… And this took a while… I thought about using levitation magic to brush snow away, but I might hurt… I was quickly crying… I thought of running to get my neighbor, there just wasn’t time I thought… 20 minutes later, I had the body mostly uncovered, and they were still breathing… I was crying the whole time… I took my own pony coat off, and at least laid it over this poor, probably freezing or frozen horse… I absolutely had to get this horse into my house…

Still crying, and almost paniced, I quickly ran back to my house and brought my pulling wagon… I… Wow, how would I do this… I set the wagon down at an angle, so the edge was along the back… of this frozen horse… How in the world… I started pushing, pulling with my front hooves… Nothing seemed to be working… And by then, I was not cold anymore, I was working hard… I thought again about levitation magic, but that… I just couldn’t take that chance… Then, almost in desperation, I laid on my side in the snow, put my back up against the chest, the belly, dug my hooves in, and pushed… I was able to push the horse sideways; the pulling wagon just moved too… I was almost beside myself… There was a tree nearby, so I just kept frantically pushing, kept moving… him… (Well, it was a stallion…) I finally got him and the wagon next to that tree, and finally got him up on it. I had never used my levitation magic to push something down, but I had to… I used the strongest spell I had… It worked, but he started to fall, so I put the wagon back down… It took ten minutes to actually push his whole body further onto the wagon with it sitting at such a steep angle… I was sweating, and I was sure my sweat was absolutely freezing… But I finally managed to push him further up the wagon and hold him there, while I magically pushed the pulling yoke down until the wagon was level. Ever so carefully, I walked that wagon back to my house, empty pulling harness first, using my magic to hold it level, then pushing my teeth up against the wagon from behind to move it (which hurt…) I finally got him to my house, and then slowly raised the front of the wagon. A few inches from the ground, and he fell off… I was sure I had killed him… Still, I opened the door, propped it open, and did the same thing to get him inside… I put my back up against his chest, his belly, dug my hooves in and pushed… It was starting to get dark by the time I had him inside, on my wood floor, with his back sort of close to the fireplace. I put another log in the fireplace, started it on fire, and hoped my house would warm back up… The door had been open a long time… And I realized I needed to go back and get my coat and the bucket still… And I realized after I started back down the path it was snowing harshly again… But I got my coat on right away, picked up the bucket and made it back to my house, back inside, and closed the door behind me…. Well, the water in the bucket quickly thawed out… And I got my old coat and put it carefully over him…

My legs and hooves were filthy from pushing through frozen dirt, and hurt too… My teeth hurt… Everything was sore…. I was absolutely exhausted… And I had no idea what kind of shape he was in… I laid on my belly facing this surely frozen to death Unicorn stallion and just cried… I cried myself to sleep hours later…

————–

1. The Background Music for this entire story is entitled “The Divine” from the “Forever Today” add-on for the original soundtrack for the “Seekers of Adoulin” expansion for Final Fantasy XI, and is copywritten by Square Enix. Players of FFXI will recognize this tune immediately, and this tune is fitting since a lot of this story takes place in the dead of winter. Please purchase this tune, and play it softly in the background while you read each chapter.

2. This story, “CSR Princess” is vol. 14 of the Chronicles of Summer Rain, and is copyright 2017 by Shysage

 

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