Tactics of Snowbound Unicorns

by Amber Spark

Chapter 1: Snowbound Rebels

Sunset Shimmer let out a yawn as she finally slid Tactics of Snowbound Unicorns into one of her saddlebags and tried not to shiver. The bright teal and white scarf and matching boots helped a bit, but only a bit. The cold chill of winter had swept over Canterlot in the last few weeks, making it abundantly clear that Hearth’s Warming Eve was fast approaching. As far as Sunset could tell, this didn’t faze her study partner in the slightest.

Twilight Sparkle kept her nose in her book, her eyes darting back and forth like a pair of frenzied jackalopes as she devoured the words. Even with the cloudy sky and the rising wind, Sunset’s friend remained huddled under her favorite oak tree outside the Royal Canterlot Archives, and showed no signs of leaving.

“Twilight, come on,” Sunset said, gently tugging on Twilight’s pink and white scarf with her magic. “I can’t feel my hooves anymore.”

“Not done yet,” she mumbled, chewing on one of her bangs. “Need to finish this chapter. This hypothesis on the relationship between the windigos and the sirens is fascinating.”

Sunset sighed. She had learned something very quickly after the Princess had brought on Twilight as a second student: Twilight took the term ‘student’ to a whole new level.

“We’re supposed to meet Rara and Coco at Pony Joe’s in twenty minutes!” Sunset protested.

“Need to finish.”

“Ugh, you’re impossible.”

“Uh-huh,” Twilight murmured absently.

Sunset could have simply yanked the book out from under Twilight’s muzzle. In fact, she was about to do just that when a little spot of white drifted into her vision. It fluttered down like a hesitant ladybug before landing on her nose with a tiny frozen tingle. Sunset blinked and looked up. Above, a whole lot more spots drifted lazily out of the dark clouds.

“Uh, Twilight…” Sunset said. “You might want to reconsider that.”

Twilight finally deigned to glance up at Sunset with a frown. “I’m reading!”

Sunset pointed a hoof up to the clouds as the snow began to fall in earnest. “And it’s snowing.”

Twilight glared up at the clouds as if they had committed some great atrocity. She closed her eyes and concentrated, her muzzle still scrunched in a frown. Her horn flared, and a beam of magic lanced up into the oak tree above her head. A wash of light shifted around the canopy for a few seconds before it burst outward and an umbrella of bright pink magic coated the top of the tree.

“There. Problem solved.”

She blew a slightly damp bang out of her eyes, adjusted her glasses, stuck her nose back into her book, and started reading again.

“You’re kidding.” Sunset just stared at her friend. “You’re kidding, right?”

Twilight didn’t bother responding.

Apparently, the pegasi had decided it was time for a good, solid snowstorm, because the snow around Sunset’s hooves wasn’t melting. Instead, it began to form small drifts. The courtyard was entirely deserted, save for the two unicorns. The early winter chill had driven everypony else inside to hot chocolate, blazing hearths and warm blankets.

Or maybe to the magical heating of the RCA and its cozy reading nooks.

Anywhere other than outside. After all, being outside in the beginning of a snowstorm isn’t exactly what most ponies would consider sane.

Then again, my definition of sane and Twilight’s definition probably differ a bit.

Sunset stared at her friend and smiled in spite of her best efforts.

Despite everything, I can’t help but admit that Twilight’s dogged determination to finish that damn chapter is... Celestia help me, but I think it’s actually cute.

However, the gathering piles of snow gave her an idea. Granted, it was a fairly obvious idea after a moment’s thought, but considering how far Twilight’s muzzle was shoved into that book, she doubted anything short of the arrival of the Princess would drag Twilight away.

So, it was time for a classic technique she had learned from Rara’s manager, Spotlight, a few years ago…


But as with all great performances, the timing had to be perfect. She waited until Twilight was once again completely lost within her book. According to the clock tower overlooking the Royal Canterlot Archives, they were supposed to be meeting the rest of the girls right about now. That seemed fitting somehow as Sunset carefully used her telekinesis and meticulously applied the correct amount of pressure to create the desired object. After a brief calculation of wind velocity and aerial trajectory, she unleashed her payload with a precise level of kinetic thrust at the same moment she conjured a shield over Twilight’s book.

Even Minuette couldn’t have timed it more perfectly.

The moment Twilight looked up at Sunset, she caught the snowball in her very annoyed face.

Twilight blinked a few times, clumps of snow falling from her bangs.

Sunset smirked.

Twilight blinked a few more times as further bits of snow plopped onto the shield protecting Twilight’s book from collateral damage.

Sunset’s smirk grew.

Twilight calmly and very patiently brushed the snow off of the shield. As soon as it was clean, Sunset dropped the shield. Twilight slowly slipped the book into one of her saddlebags. With quiet, languid motions, she climbed to her hooves. Another bit of snow fell from her muzzle as she stared at Sunset with a… somewhat icy expression.

Twilight's horn lit up again and motion above the other unicorn’s head drew Sunset’s attention.

She blinked as she realized Twilight had captured every bit of snow that had landed on her impromptu umbrella atop the tall oak.

Twilight’s eyes glinted.

Oh, ponyfeathers…

Sunset managed to take cover behind a hastily erected snow barricade as the onslaught continued, only taking a few glancing blows in the process.

"You can’t hide forever, Shimmer!” Twilight called out, magically projecting her voice to pierce the veil of snow.

“I don’t plan to, Sparkle!” Sunset shot back as she feverishly searched for quality supplies to refill her ammunition stores. A daring foray into Sparkle-controlled territory had gone terribly wrong when her enemy had conjured a minor blizzard to drive Sunset back. Despite her best efforts, it had been super effective.

“Surrender now, and I’ll make it quick and painless!”

“Likely story!”

Sunset glanced to the side and growled. Her munitions supply was still dangerously low. Sure, she could use the slushy stuff, but that just didn’t have the same style. Instead, Sunset gauged the distance between her makeshift fort and the fresh snow near the gate to the Royal Canterlot Archives’ courtyard, calculating how far she could gallop before being subjected to enemy fire.

It’ll be close, but…

Her train of thought skidded to a halt as she caught sight of a familiar group of ponies approaching the courtyard. Sunset grinned, knowing that the tide of battle would soon be turning in her favor. As was right and proper, after all.

“Yowza, what is going on here?” Minuette asked, staring at a thoroughly soaked and muddied Sunset Shimmer. Of course, Minuette’s traditional red winter scarf looked spotless.

“Looks like a reenactment of the Pre-Unification Wars, if you ask me,” Moon Dancer commented from beside her. She wore a neat little gray beanie around her head and thick black coat. She adjusted her glasses. “I can’t seem to figure out who’s winning though.”

“Looks like it’s a stalemate at the moment,” Cheerilee said, tapping her hoof to her chin. Her own scarf—which matched her two-toned pink hair—fluttered in the wind.

Sunset’s eyes went wide as Coco Pommel and Coloratura came up from behind the other three. There was an odd sort of gleam in their eyes as the quintet looked at each other and nodded. Sunset suddenly felt very outnumbered.

“Well,” Moon Dancer said with a positively wicked smile. “We can’t have that now, can we?”

“I don’t think that would be fair at all.” Cheerilee nodded.

“Honestly, I think we could tip the scales one way or another,” Rara said as she adjusted her own seafoam green scarf to be a bit more snug around her neck. She then made a great show of checking her gray boots. “Seems like the right thing to do.”

Coco just giggled, her ears twitching beneath her white-lined lavender cap. She actually looked rather cute with the matching lavender coat.

Granted, she would be a lot cuter if she wasn’t smiling at me like I’m a bit of loose thread…

Sunset swallowed.

Yeah, I can see where this is going.

Sunset took a chance, leaping over her own barricade, and put herself in full view of Twilight. Her foe didn’t hesitate, and welcomed her with several cannonballs of flying snow. Minuette and Moon Dancer opened up on Sunset with a salvo of snowballs they’d apparently been preparing behind their backs. With a sudden flare of magic, Sunset teleported a few feet backwards to avoid getting crushed in the snowy crossfire. However, it only gave her a moment’s reprieve.

A few seconds later, a fresh onslaught of powdery missiles crashed against the old oak trees to either side of Sunset. What her earth pony friends lacked in magic, they were making up for with sheer ferocity.

“Oh, this is so not fair!” Sunset cried, cowering behind a wonderfully thick oak tree.

"You started this war!” Twilight called. “And now we’re going to finish it!

“That’s it!” Sunset gathered up twelve missiles of watery mush, rolled out from behind the oak tree and let them fly with a flash of her horn. Cheerilee took one to the chest, bowling her over into a snowdrift. Rara, with a dancer’s grace, dodged two that were meant for her. Moon Dancer yawned as she casually tossed up a shield for both herself and Minuette, blocking four missiles with ease. Twilight got one in the side, before ducking back behind her own barricade. Three more snowballs spattered harmlessly against Twilight’s icy bulwark. Meanwhile, Coco laughed as she batted one out of the air with speed greater than Sunset thought possible.

But that wasn’t the point. After all, the name of the game was misdirection. Before they could open up again, Sunset teleported once more… this time, right in between Twilight’s snow fort and the rest of their friends.

The moment her friends unleashed the full might of their snowy wrath upon her, she dove face-first into the snow. But the squeaks of surprise from Twilight, Moon Dancer and Rara told her that she’d done her job.

Hey! That was friendly fire!” Twilight protested as she ducked behind her barricade. A fresh onslaught of projectiles exploded from Moon Dancer’s position, now several feet away from Minuette.

“Doesn’t matter! You got aggro now!”

“Real life doesn’t work like Ogres and Oubliettes!”

"Snowball wars do!”

Sunset took her chance and scrambled to the relative safety of the Starswirl the Bearded statue. Just as she dived behind it, a missile of frozen slush found her flank.

"And don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, Sunny!” Moon Dancer taunted.

All-out chaos descended on the courtyard of the Royal Canterlot Archives as small wars broke out among her friends. Within five minutes, it was everypony for herself. It gave Sunset just enough room to finally breathe and prepare for her devious counterattack.

Sunset was already shaking from the cold, but she held her position, waiting for the proper moment for retribution. A few seconds later, she had her opening and unleashed her wrath upon her foes with all the might at her command.

"Admit defeat!” Sunset cried as she kept Moon Dancer and Twilight pinned with a rapid-fire barrage of snow pellets. “I can be magnanimous in victory!”

"Since when?” Minuette yelled back from somewhere on Sunset’s right.

With a flash of magic, Sunset blindly sent out a wave of snow in that direction and was rewarded with a squeak from her blue friend.

“I’m going to try it out today! You can say you were the first to experience mercy at my hooves!”

Sunset paused. She thought she heard something... almost like the sound of wings. She glanced up, but couldn’t see anything aside from the snowstorm above the battlefield. She was rewarded for her momentary lapse by twin blasts from Moon Dancer and Twilight that knocked her into another drift of snow. The two mares promptly opened fire on each other as soon as Sunset went down.

Cheerilee cantered up, smiling an evil little smile.

“You see, your big mistake,” she commented, “was relying on all the fancy magic. Nopony expects the Earthen Inquisition!”

Sunset yelped and scrambled to her hooves as Coco and Rara sent a colossal snowball the size of a small boulder rolling towards her. Cheerilee leapt to the side, but not before nailing Sunset right in the horn, preventing her from teleporting away or throwing up a shield as the massive snowboulder rumbled ever closer.

An enormous white shape suddenly dropped in front of Sunset.

“Well, you all look like you’re—”

Apparently, in all the confusion, Princess Celestia didn’t see Rara and Coco’s snowy siege ball. It crashed into her with enough momentum to send the Princess of the Sun sprawling into the snow.

“Princess!” Sunset cried as she rushed over. “Are you okay?”

“Well… that was unexpected,” Celestia said softly. Sunset could see the twinkle in her eye. What’s more, Sunset knew Celestia knew Sunset could see the twinkle. This made her take a few steps away from the Princess. “I’m just fine, Sunset. Thank you for your concern. I did have some questions regarding your Pre-Unification studies… but I suppose that can wait.”

Morbid curiosity made Sunset ask her next question.

“Wait for what?”

Celestia’s horn blazed in the snow, freezing all the combatants in place as they realized whom they had inadvertently inducted into their little war.

Somewhere upward of fifty snowballs suddenly lifted from the ground, each glowing in Celestia’s golden aura, and all perfectly spherical and battle-ready.

“Why, revenge, of course,” she said sweetly.

Sunset didn’t make it two steps before the first royal snowball slammed into her.

Celestia lounged by the window in her study, smirking a smirk only she could smirk. Sunset was pretty sure the only reason the Princess of the Sun still had spots of snow in her mane, coat and tail was because it amused her.

As for herself, Sunset was snuggled next to Twilight with Moon Dancer on the other side. All three were wrapped in a blanket in front of the small fireplace Celestia had in her study. Philomena had been ‘generous’ enough to help warm Minuette, Cheerilee, Rara and Coco on the other side of the room.

That feathered fireball wouldn’t stop snickering every time she glanced at her.

Sunset couldn’t really blame her. Instead, she focused on enjoying her hot chocolate. Celestia had given them each a mug about twice the size of their hooves as an olive branch for what would probably be called the ‘The Great Pony Snow War’ in tomorrow’s paper, if any of the press had gotten wind of their battle in front of the RCA.

In the end, the seven friends had bonded together in their darkest hour in defense against the wicked alicorn threat… and were thoroughly walloped.

Sunset shook her head and watched another chunk of melting ice fall from her mane. Beside her, Twilight shivered again, her mane a tangled mass of soaking-wet hair.

“You know, Princess,” Sunset called from her spot by the fire. “You happen to be pretty good with that drying spell.”

“Indeed I am, my faithful student,” Celestia said, the smirk never leaving her face. “But one must properly learn to deal with defeat, especially in the aftermath of a failed coup.”

Sunset stuck out her tongue at the Princess as Twilight shook again. To her surprise, Moon Dancer scooted a bit closer to Twilight. For the briefest of moments, Sunset thought she could see a blush on Moon Dancer’s face. But a few seconds later, she realized it had just been the flicker of the fire against her pale coat.

“Feeling any better?” Sunset asked Twilight. “You took the brunt of her last volley before we finally flew the white flag.”

It had been hysterical to see Twilight bravely throw herself before the final wave of twenty snowballs targeted at both Sunset and Moon Dancer. Twilight’s shield had held only for the first five before it collapsed under the deluge of frozen water.

Twilight nodded and took another gulp from her mug. She sighed in delight as a little bit of the color returned to her cheeks and her shivering lessened. Sunset smiled, resettling the blanket around the three of them, just enjoying the company for the moment.

And the burning in my cheeks is the warmth of the fireplace. It has absolutely nothing to do with being huddled up next to Twilight.

On the other side of the room, Minuette, Cheerilee, Coco and Rara were all having a low conversation, occasionally stealing glances their way and giggling. Sunset pointedly ignored all four of them.

Celestia’s ever-attentive aide Raven entered the room with a little smile on her lips. Fresh mugs of hot chocolate floated to each of the eight former combatants, wrapped in her delicate pale red magic. Celestia accepted hers with a smile and a nod.

“Thanks, Raven,” Sunset said as she relinquished her empty mug and took the new one.

Raven smiled again and inclined her head, then departed as swiftly as she had appeared. However, before the door closed, she glanced at Twilight, Moon Dancer and then back to Sunset in an odd way. Then… she winked.

Sunset wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.

For a time, Sunset just sipped at her mug and watched the play of fire against the back of the fireplace. Something occurred to her, and she glanced over to the Princess of the Sun. Celestia looked completely serene, a tiny smile on her lips, as if she had just played a magnificent prank upon them all. Still, it took a few more minutes for her to gather enough energy to break the quiet calm of Celestia’s study.

“I do have one question, Princess,” Sunset said as she studied the somewhat-mussed Princess of the Sun. “You’ve ruled Equestria for over a thousand years. You must have seen your share of conflict.”

“I have, on occasion, seen the need to use combat to resolve certain issues, yes,” Celestia replied with a nod.

“Then how did two earth ponies get the drop on you?”

Celestia’s twinkle returned, brighter than ever.

“Did they? I don’t recall that. In fact, since the engagement began, I believe various snow-based threats and war cries were the only things being shouted around the courtyard.”

Sunset’s eyes narrowed.

“You really wanted an excuse to throw a snowball at my head, didn’t you?” Sunset asked with a cocked eyebrow.

“Ah, but therein lies your misconception, my dear student,” Celestia said as the twinkle intensified. “I don’t need an excuse.”

A flash of golden magic was all the warning Sunset had, but it was enough. The snowball smashed into the teal shield Sunset tossed up a few inches in front of her own nose. It was Sunset’s turn to smirk.

“Don’t you two start again!” Moon Dancer protested. “We barely survived that battle… I don’t want to think about what round two would do.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, dear Moon Dancer,” Celestia said in a beatific—bordering on angelic—voice. “After all, today I got to see some of my favorite ponies enjoy being themselves and revelling in something wonderfully simple. It is a rare gift. Something to cherish.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Sunset muttered with a laugh.

“What?” Twilight asked, peering up through her steamy glasses at the Princess of the Sun. “I don’t get it.”

“Oh, the Princess was just waiting for the perfect time to get in on the fun,” Sunset snorted.

“Ruling a nation and controlling the heavens rarely allow downtime. I’ve found it healthy to let one’s mane down once in a while. Even I require rest. So long ago, I made a promise to myself: a promise to enjoy the little moments.”

Celestia’s eyes suddenly caught Sunset’s own. In those eyes, Sunset saw the warmth of the entire Hearth’s Warming Eve season.

“Never forget that, any of you. Cherish every special moment you get with those important to you. While there are always new experiences ahead, you should never sacrifice the present for a questionable future.”

“Class is in session again?” Sunset quipped. “And here I thought we were going to get a break.”

“That’s life, Sunset. Little moments and the surprises we see within them.”

Celestia’s eyes wandered to Twilight and then to Moon Dancer and back again to Sunset. Sunset felt her cheeks heat up.

“This was the most fun I’ve had in weeks,” Minuette chirped. “We should do it again sometime. I think if we coordinate better, we might be able to take her.”

“That sounds like a challenge, Miss Minuette,” Celestia said, arching an eyebrow.

Minuette beamed back at her.

“Well, I suppose something could be arranged. How’s tomorrow for all of you?” Celestia’s eyes glinted and twinkled at the same time. That was never a good sign.

“Only if you provide the hot chocolate for the aftermath,” Sunset demanded.

“Done,” Celestia laughed.

The rest of the girls joined in the laughter. And as the fire crackled in the hearth and Philomena enjoyed her role as a space heater, the laughter continued long into the hours of the night. They didn’t talk about anything of great importance. There was no great threat on the horizon nor some critical lesson to be learned. No emotional whirlwinds nor crucial mysteries to solve. No mental battles nor startling revelations. Even Sunset’s angry little pony seemed to have taken the night off.

It was a night filled with little moments of joy.

Just eight friends enjoying themselves, sipping hot chocolate in a warm room as outside, the snow fell upon the quiet city of Canterlot.

Sunset couldn’t remember the last time she’d experienced anything quite so perfect.

Author's Notes:

Welcome to the opening number of the Infatuations and Other Lies Arc of the Wavelengths Timeline.

Yes, yes. I know I promised that I would be doing the stories in order. In truth, I had a story that would have worked great for Christmas, but I definitely need to build up to that story properly. So instead? We just get to have some fun with a good ol' fashioned snowball fight about a month and a half after Twilight finally reconnects with her old friends... and finds some new friends as she joins Sunset Shimmer's circle.

And there's just something about Sunset that brings out the sass in ponies. Don't ask me why. You'll have to ask her.

There's a lot more fun to be had about this story, but for the rest, you'll have to check out the Snowbound Retrospective!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hearth's Warming Eve to All!


If you come across any errors, please let me know by PM!

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