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a guest Jan 6th, 2013 6 Never
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  1.         “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!”
  2.  
  3.         Novell would have been worried if he didn't recognize the voice.
  4.  
  5.         As it was, he glanced up just in time to roll out of the way. An orange blur ripped through the spot he had been relaxing on. His heart beat hard; he wasn't surprised, just startled as he peered through the hole in his cloud. A certain particularly annoying pony tumbled straight for earth. Novell rolled his eyes and tried to plug the tear in his perch with a passing nimbus. [i]She[/i] could take care of herself, and sure enough, as soon as he repaired it her orange head poked up through the patch.
  6.  
  7.  
  8.         “Not even gonna help a pony in distress, huh, blank flank?” she accused, worming her way up through the cloud. Her mane was the color of orange cream soda. It curled at its ends into graceful bobs, which stirred in the breeze. It would be pretty if it weren't so disheveled, a side effect of travelling at high speeds into solid objects.
  9.  
  10.         Bandages covered her face, shins, and sides, patching up the bumps and scrapes she acquired every day. Her orange coat was ruffled from her antics. On either of her flanks, three lighter orange squiggles represented her talent: she could command wind currents with more finesse than anypony in Hoofington. Novell's flanks were unmarked white, and his talent was unknown.
  11.        
  12.         The oddest thing about the mare was the snail that clung to her mane. It gazed at Novell with a half-lidded stare, seemingly incapable of falling off as she bobbed and weaved over the tatters of cloud beneath her hooves.
  13.  
  14.         Novell arched a brow at her. “Go bother somepony else, Whisper. I’m busy.” He fluffed up his cloud and tried to wing away a few meters.
  15.  
  16.         She followed. “Obviously. You trying for a cloud repair cutie mark? I don’t think that’s really a special talent for a pegasus.” The mare, Whisper Wind, rolled her eyes and pulled a small loop, her lips pursed in concentration.
  17.        
  18.         Novell wasn't surprised when one of her wings failed to flap correctly and she stumbled out of sight. A moment later she returned with closed eyes as if nothing had happened. Her snail’s expression was unchanged.
  19.        
  20.         “You know, Novell, if you actually tried at something, maybe you could actually do it. All you do is quit if things get tough, even if you’re kinda good at it.” She opened her eyes. “Not that you’ve really accomplished anything good.”
  21.  
  22.         “And your problem is you never quit,” Novell countered, drawn into the conversation despite his better judgement. “All you do is fail over and over at every ‘trick’ you do. One of these days, you’re going to fall and not be able to catch yourself. You might even try a dive and not pull up in time, the way you’re going. Not everypony can perform to Cloudsdale standards, Whisper. You’re a weather pony, not a Mare Devil.”
  23.  
  24.         He said the last to empty air. Whisper attempted a cartwheel and fell onto a cloud below her, bouncing slightly on the fluffy surface. Novell wondered at how lucky she was, never managing to hurt herself too gravely despite her dangerous stunts. She stuck out her tongue at him as she regained her hooves, and she raised her voice to be heard. “At least I know what I’m supposed to do!”
  25.  
  26.         Novell watched her fly away, perhaps to do her job for once and regulate the air currents. More likely she was going to go screw up more tricks without a care in the world. As for him, peace and quiet returned to his battered cloud - for a time at least.
  27.  
  28.         A bell tolled below him, the clock in the center of Hoofington striking twelve. Novell sighed. So much for relaxation; it was time to go home for whatever talent-finding trial of a task his parents had set for him. Today it was the scheduled thunder-storm - though Novell had no more reason to think it would earn him his mark than anything else they had tried.
  29.  
  30. His home was only a few minutes out of town, a solid wooden house rather than the cloud palaces most pegasi preferred. It had been built by an old friend of his father many years ago and it still stood strong despite its age. It needed fresh paint more often than anything else, and that had become Novell's job. He complained but he didn’t realy mind the work. It was relaxing for somepony who could fly.
  31.  
  32.         As he drew closer, he heard humming coming from the adjoining garden. An arch covered in vines opened through its white fence and grape flowers grew on its trellis, clusters of yellow against the white-washed lattices and pickets. The back of the garden bordered a small wood. Pine and oak boughs hung over its fence, shading the back half. They rustled in the wind and perfumed it in turn.
  33.  
  34.         The song from the garden was joined by the twitter of birds as he landed. Novell's mother gently flapped and twirled and sang as the breeze carried her to and fro. She had all the weight of a cloud despite her shape and was so easily blown away that she had to stay indoors whenever a storm was scheduled. Otherwise she’d end up miles from home, lost, with no sense of direction.
  35.  
  36.         Even the slightest breeze could move her, brushing her cloud-like mane back and forth as it did now. Her teal body was often guided by the birds who flocked around her. Her mark was a tan feather against a fluffy white cloud and her special talent let her communicate with any avian.
  37.  
  38.         Feather Light also loved to sculpt clouds into shapes for the amusement of ponies on the ground. Most pegasi could shape clouds, but hers were full-fledged works of art. Often local pegasi asked her to design their homes and she graciously agreed.
  39.  
  40.         Novell decided to sneak inside the house before she noticed him, but his hooves' clip-clop against the stone walkway by the garden gave him away. His mother's humming stopped and his ears turned toward the silence, the door to his home halfway open.
  41.  
  42.         “Good afternoon, Novell!” she said, airily as if she wasn’t fully aware of her surroundings. “Your father’s in the kitchen waiting for you. Have fun today, will you? And don’t worry, you’ll find your special talent soon enough. Everypony does.”
  43.  
  44.         “Thanks, Mom.” Novell sighed at her encouragement and opened the door the rest of the way. “Let’s get this over with.”
  45.  
  46.         He said the last under his breath, already feeling the disappointment exuding from the kitchen. Wooden furniture at home in any earth or unicorn pony’s house decorated the living room. A clock ticked on the wall as if counting down the time he had left before his lecture. When he turned the corner into the kitchen, he saw his father standing there waiting with his back turned.
  47.  
  48.         He was a dark grey stallion, the color of the storms which he stewarded above Hoofington. A black cloud with two branches of lightning forking from each covered his flank. Their zigzags echoed the craggy yellow streaks in his mane and tail, and both suited his stern will, tested and proven against the chaotic weather he commanded.
  49.  
  50.         Novell stepped into the kitchen with lowered head, waiting for the inevitable reprimand.
  51.  
  52.         Thundermane turned toward him. “You’re late,” he said quietly, though Novell could have sworn he heard the harsh crack of thunder in his tone. “And no storm is routine enough to handle with light hooves. The charts are in my study.”
  53.  
  54.         “Yes, sir,” Novell said.
  55.  
  56.         “You will fly close to me today and help me lead. Pay most attention to the big picture and keystone events.”
  57.  
  58.         “Really?” Novell said. A giddy excitement was gathering in his body. He imagined the tug of the high winds on his mane, the loud cracks of lightning as he and his father worked the clouds. Ozone would fill the air and he could already see the cloudscape from above grumbling under its own weight.
  59.  
  60.         He had watched his father perform these duties from afar but he'd never participated himself. Perhaps this would be his talent.
  61.  
  62.         “Yes, really,” Thundermane said with a chuckle. “There is nothing but to try, son, to get your hooves wet and the wind in your mane. You know how to read a forecast, so explain this one to me. I'll make sure you have all your questions answered.”
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