The rest of the meal passed with surprisingly little incident, mainly due to Tyra actually finding a meal that sated her appetite without making any of the ponies uneasy. Dash, however, seemed to be slightly tense for the entire meal, only taking part in the conversation when directly addressed. However it wasn’t until the end of the meal when Tyra left to use the restroom that the others were able to bring up her distressing silence.
“Dash, you’ve been quite quiet throughout the entire meal, is something the matter?” Rarity asked, concern apparent in her expression.
“Nope! Nothing’s wrong, just don’t feel like talking right now,” Dash replied quickly.
“It’s probably because my mom threatened her,” Gilda remarked nonchalantly. “What?” she asked when all eyes turned towards her.
“Why would she do that?” Fluttershy asked.
Gilda sighed. “You know griffins are really big on honor and loyalty right?” there was a round of nods. “Well one of the biggest things about being honorable and loyal is looking out for family. Parents care for children; children keep an eye out for parents and all that junk. Last time I was here some… things happened between me and Dash that left me kinda depressed. That sort of thing kinda pisses off my mom and she wanted to let Dash know, hence the threat. Which one did she use anyway?” she asked Dash with a small smile.
Dash was taken aback by the strange question but shrugged and acquiesced. “She said that she’d tear out my eyes and make me eat them,” she said with a small shudder as she recalled the look in Tyra’s eyes as she had said that.
Gilda just laughed and shook her head. “She always uses that one. That’s the threat she uses when she just wants to scare someone. She’s never actually followed through with it,” Gilda assured her friends. “That I know of anyway,” she amended not long after.
Dash shook her head in slight disbelief. “Your mom is terrifying. You know that?”
Gilda grinned happily. “If it makes you feel any better as long as you’re my friend she won’t do anything too disfiguring to you.”
“So I better not piss you off then,” Dash replied wryly.
“She wouldn’t really do something like that would she?” Fluttershy asked. “She seemed so nice.”
“Well she is a trained bodyguard right?” Twilight asked. “Because I know some of Celestia’s bodyguards have had to do some pretty… unpleasant things to keep her safe and Equestria is much more peaceful that the griffin cities. If anything I’d be surprised if she wasn’t willing to go through with it.” She looked up at the shocked looks on her friend’s faces and slowly realized what she’d said. “Although I’m sure she wouldn’t do anything like that!” she added hastily in an attempt to reassure them.
“Yes, I’m sure that Tyra will be very reasonable. She’s just looking out for her daughter,” Rarity said without conviction.
“She also happens to have very good ears.”
Everyone at the table jumped slightly and turned to see Tyra standing a couple yards back with a wry smile on her face.
“You were telling them it was an empty threat weren’t you?” she asked Gilda.
“Yeah, I don’t really want you scaring off my friends,” Gilda replied flatly.
“They can stand you, I shouldn’t be too bad,” Tyra replied, placing a forelimb over her daughter’s neck and giving it a quick squeeze.
“Mom! Stop it!” Gilda groaned as her mother laughed.
“So how did it go?”
Tyra jumped at the sudden question and turned to see a grinning Damien behind her. Cursing herself mentally for getting relaxed enough to let someone as potentially dangerous as him sneak up behind her she gave him a fierce scowl. “It went quite well. Nothing like the disaster I was afraid it would be after you seemed so eager to have this meeting happen.”
“Yes I suppose if you were expecting something like that you were bound to be pleasantly disappointed. You’re welcome for helping you lower your expectations by the way.” He looked at the retreating backs of the five ponies and single griffin. “So what did you think about them? Not often I get the opinion of someone that hasn’t already formulated some mental image of the Elements of Harmony.”
Tyra started at this revelation. “Those were the Element Bearers?” she asked as she shot a quick look back at them just before they rounded a corner. “I’d heard that Celestia had found a group to wield them but I figured they’d be holed up in a training facility somewhere, not frolicking in an out of the way town like this.”
“Huh, I was wondering how widespread knowledge of the Elements was,” Damien muttered before continuing on more strongly. “Fluttershy is kindness, Rarity generosity, Pinkie Pie laughter, Rainbow Dash loyalty, Applejack from yesterday is honesty, and Twilight is magic.”
Tyra nodded absentmindedly as Damien named each Element. “Heh, I always told my daughter that making friends and gaining the reciprocal loyalty of those in power was useful but I never expected her to befriend the wielders of the oldest known magic is existence.” She smiled fondly. “Though I doubt she had any idea of it at the time.”
“Probably still doesn’t,” Damien said with a slow shake of his head. “Those girls are remarkably humble for heroes of their stature. If half the ones back home had been this accepting and humble I might have never had to leave.”
Tyra nodded. “It’s better if she doesn’t know. Loyalties gained with knowledge of their benefits are easily tainted. True and pure companionship and trust come from desiring to stand with others even if it gains you nothing and costs you everything,” she stated simply.
“So you approve of your dear daughter’s choice in friends?”
“I don’t really have any say in the matter but for the most part yes. It’s a diverse group that will certainly be a good influence on her. For the most part anyway. She’s hot-headed and brash enough without Dash egging her on and that pegasus already hurt her once,” Tyra said, a trace of darkness underlying her tone.
“Pinkie helped a good deal with causing the problems with Gilda and Rainbow. Not to mention that from what I’ve heard Gilda was a bit of a bitch during her first visit here.”
Tyra sighed and her shoulders slumped. “I know. Pinkie I can forgive because she was acting out of a desire to protect her friend. If you can’t recognize honor in those you fight you are undeserving of any personal honor after all. But Dash and Gilda had a bond once and it was broken, that is not something any griffin can take lightly.”
“No griffin raised around griffins perhaps. But Gilda has not been able to make those same bonds that you and other griffins take for granted. In many ways she is likely still somewhat childish by griffin standards.”
“I know that!” Tyra snapped. “Though I am surprised that you’re defending Gilda.”
“Merely playing the part of the demon’s advocate,” he replied with a bow.
Tyra sighed and chuckled, best not try and make it sound like he actually cared about her daughter it seemed. She looked back up and met Damien’s gaze with both curiosity and mischief. “Questions about your motives aside there are some more things I want to ask you.”
Damien’s eyes lit up with glee. “About what?”
“The leader of the Elements, Ms. Sparkle,” Tyra replied with a smile.
“Ah, I was wondering if that would come up,” Damien chuckled. “I suppose I must, mustn’t I?” He grinned manically. “I’ll even promise to answer all your questions honestly.”
Tyra snorted derisively. “If anything that makes your answers more suspect, not less.”
“-and that’s why I was banned from the Elven capitol for all eternity,” Damien regaled to a laughing Tyra with a grin. “But it seems we’ve gotten bit off topic here haven’t we?” he asked as he looked at the setting sun.
“I suppose I should know better by now than to let start talking shouldn’t I?” Tyra asked, an intermittent chuckle still punctuating her words. “I had been planning to spend some mother daughter time with Gilda today.”
“Bah, there’s still some time before Gilda hits the sack. I find that when spending time with children it is the quality and not the quantity that matters,” Damien quipped.
“You have children?” Tyra asked incredulously.
“Yep, an acquaintance of my friend wanted children without having to deal with the problems commonly associated with males of her species. My friend also wanted to test the viability of a cross-species reproduction spell she had created some time ago.”
“And… what exactly was the species in question?” Tyra asked, trepidation plain in her voice.
“Dragon,” Damien replied as turned and started heading home.
Tyra stared blankly after Damien and shuddered slightly at the image that came to mind. “Knew I shouldn’t have asked,” she muttered to herself as she began to follow him back to the house.
“Ahhh, home sweet home!” Damien sighed as he closed the door behind Tyra. He closed his eyes and breathed in slowly. “Your daughter is in the kitchen right now, best go say goodnight on your own. Not my place to intrude after all,” he chuckled as he headed towards the stairs.
Tyra shook her head tiredly. It figures that Damien would rather rely on his magic to learn whether Gilda was here or not. Pushing aside the slight sense of marvel that she still associated with a non-mane casting a spell she padded silently into the kitchen, slowly sneaking up behind Gilda as she finished up a snack. “You’ve made good friends Gilda, I’m proud of you.”
Gilda jumped slightly at her mother’s voice. “T-thanks,” she stuttered awkwardly. “Met most of them because of Twilight and Dash though,” she added dejectedly. “Not like I actually did much to become friends with them.”
Tyra chuckled at her daughter’s words. “That’s part of what friends do, introduce you to more friends.” She grinned and looked Gilda in the eye. “Friends make up for what you lack, and they do it because they want you to be happy, not for repayment or for glory. I’m glad you’re finally starting to make friends.”
“I had friends before,” Gilda muttered.
“You had Dash. One friend. And now you have several, you even have a landlord that looks after you.” Tyra laughed at Gilda’s disbelieving look. “Just because he doesn’t make things easy for you doesn’t mean he doesn’t look out for you.”
Gilda snorted but kept her beak shut. Not wanting to argue the point she moved over to the sink and placed her dirty dishes inside, not even blinking as a soft glow enveloped them and cleaned them more thoroughly that she would have ever managed on her own. A few seconds later she lifted them from the sink and replaced them in the cupboards, steadfastly not looking at her mother as she made use of all the enchantments Damien had showed her how to activate to clean the kitchen.
“Yes, he’s done absolutely nothing for you at all,” Tyra said with a smile.
“Yeah, well… He made all these things to make things easier for himself not for me,” Gilda retorted half-heartedly. Her meal done and clean-up completed she turned to leave the kitchen, only to be ambushed by her mother half-way there.
“I really am proud of you Gilda,” she said as she gave her daughter a hug.
Gilda winced slightly at the sudden hug but accepted it. A small smile touched her beak as she reached up and laid a talon on her mother’s arm. “Thanks mom.”
“We are surprised that you are still asleep,” Luna said as she landed next to Damien.
He grinned in response. “Yes well since Tyra is leaving today she has to make sure she is plenty rested for the long flight ahead. It certainly helps that Derpy insisted that Gilda take the day off so that she could say goodbye to her mother.”
“Since we can now actually talk, how has the week progressed since we last spoke? We imagine that Tyra caused quite a commotion among some of the citizens,” Luna asked eagerly, curious to hear what sort of chaos had erupted in Ponyville this week.
“Surprisingly little actually. With Gilda and me living in town they seem to have gotten used to griffins, Tyra turned very few heads with her appearance. In fact what incidents did occur had very little to do with her. There was the trouble with the water tower earlier this week that nearly flattened half the marketplace, some timber wolves were prowling near the edge of the Everfree for a few days, the crusaders somehow managed to get hold of one of Twilight’s advanced chemistry books and made something called thermite, and I’m pretty sure that we had somepony go through that cutie mark failure thing for a few hours yesterday. Special talent was trimming hedges, amazing what a pony can do with a pair of gardening shears if motivated,” Damien said as he ticked the items off on his claws.
“It sounds like a slow week for Ponyville from what We’ve heard,” Luna commented with a smile.
“Indeed,” Damien chuckled. “I didn’t even take part in any of those incidents.” He smiled wistfully. “Although I did make sure to get that thermite recipe. No idea what I’ll use it for but that stuff was beautiful.”
“So We take it that Tyra’s visit wasn’t as exciting as you hoped?” Luna asked with a wry smile.
“It was surprisingly dull. A couple interesting parts but for the most part not much different from a normal week.” He sighed “But enough about me, how did your week go?”
“Twas less than interesting. Celestia has continued her attempts to persuade us to partake in Nightmare Night. We have already decided to visit Ponyville to give this holiday a chance but it intrigues us to see how far she is willing to go in order to assure our participation,” Luna replied with a light laugh. “Beyond that there has been little enough to take up our time beyond our usual duties.” She sighed. “It was a sobering realization that our week is much less entertaining when We are unable to speak with you during our free time.”
“You could always just try and meet with someone else and try to make another friend. I’m almost certain that they won’t have fighting a chaos god as a requirement for their friendship.”
Luna’s head drooped. “We still are having great difficulty with starting conversations with others. Far too many of the ponies that We meet with any regularity know of and fear our past as Nightmare Moon. It has not been the most easily overcome handicap.”
“Why do they still hold that against you? Most of them weren’t even affected by your return beyond getting a few extra hours of sleep. Pit, I’d thank you for that!”
“We think it is more about that We intended for the night to be eternal,” Luna admitted.
“Bah, the night is far more entertaining anyway.”
“We thank you; it is not often that We hear anyone hold our night in such high regard. It is nice to hear that every so often.”
Damien chuckled. “Then you should try talking to more of the night crowd. Check out some night clubs and bars. You’ll find that a lot of ponies prefer the night to the day if you ask the in the right places.” He paused for a moment. “Just make sure to stay away from the depressed looking ones in black and white makeup. They’re a little… off,” he added conspiratorially.
“We find it doubtful that We will be capable of finding ponies stranger than you.”
“There are different kinds of strange,” he replied with a grin. “I doubt you are ready to handle all the strangeness that has cropped up in your absence.”
“We keep better tabs on the ponies of today than you give us credit for. We are in charge the black ops division of Equestria. It is part of our job to know what is going on in all parts of Equestria. Including Ponyville as it happens.”
“And this is where I ask you what you found out right?” Damien asked tiredly. At Luna’s almost insistent silence he caved out of curiosity. “What is going on tomorrow?”
Luna smiled for a moment to savor her small victory before proceeding; it wasn’t often that she was actually in possession of something Damien wanted after all.
“Thanks for visiting mom. It’s been… fun,” Gilda said awkwardly.
“Thank you for having me,” she replied wholeheartedly before turning to Damien. “And thank you as well. I’ll be counting on you to keep Gilda out of trouble.” She paused thoughtfully. “Out of too much trouble.” She paused again and turned to Gilda. “Okay, it’ll be up to you to keep him out of trouble.”
“I feel like I should take offense to that,” Damien muttered good-naturedly. “It was good to meet the woman that brought this little monstrosity into the world,” he said with a smile as he threw an arm over Gilda’s shoulder.
“Get off freak,” she growled as she ducked out from under his arm.
Damien chuckled lightly as his gaze twitched momentarily towards the front door of the house. “I’m going to head out, planning on seeing what new books have shown up at the library after that last shipment. Breakfast is on table if you two are hungry,” he said with a wave as he padded over to the door. “I have some things to take care of.”
Before he could make it more than a few steps Tyra reached out and stopped him, her eyes had suddenly grown hard. “It would be remiss of me not to help you with this. It is my fault after all.”
Gilda’s confused expression melted away to one of comprehension. “Not again,” she groaned as she buried her face in a talon. “I thought you and dad had finished this all years ago.”
“Apparently not,” Tyra replied cheerfully. “A few of them were just trying to find the right time to attack.”
“Indeed,” Damien interjected. “And I will be doing this alone, a good host doesn’t let his guests deal with such things after all.” A darkness flashed in his eyes momentarily. “Besides, it not like I really have many chances to fight without having to worry about consequences after all. I suggest you just let me have this one.”
There was something in his tone that made Tyra pause. It was a momentary thing but it was enough for Damien to reach the door and close it securely behind him. Tyra glared at the door and tried to wrench it open to no avail.
“Come on,” Gilda said with a sigh. “You can’t overpower his magic in here. Not if he doesn’t want you to anyway. Besides, the freak made breakfast; in case you haven’t figured it out by now you do not want to miss out when he cooks.”
Tyra gave the door a withering glare but sighed despondently. “I suppose so,” she muttered.
Damien chuckled as he felt Tyra’s attempts to break the spells holding the door shut. His chuckle stopped as a pair of large muscular griffons stepped up to the path leading to the front door.
“Well look at this Jaeger, a griffin living with ponies,” the first indicted to his companion with a grin.
“So it is Theron. I’d heard some griffons had gone soft and were living with prey but I never thought I’d see it for myself.” The second griffon smirked and shot Damien a depreciating look. “Although I suppose we should ask him whether he’s seen Tyra or not.”
“I suppose we should at that.” Theron looked down his beak at Damien. “Well weakling? Have you seen the griffoness known as Tyra around town?”
Damien stared at the two of them for several seconds before bursting into raucous gales of laughter. The two other griffons stared at him at first in shock and then in rage. Before they could speak up again Damien held up a claw. “I’m sorry my good sirs. I came out here expecting assassins, not a traveling comedy troupe,” he choked out between laughs.
Theron and Jaeger’s faces both twisted into grimaces of rage and hate as they reached behind their backs and each of them unslung a long heavily decorated spear and rose into the air with murder in their eyes. One right behind the other they shot forward, spears aimed at his head and heart.
Damien’s laughter didn’t even falter as slid past the first spear and reduced it to nothing more than splinters with a single strike. His head twitched to the side allowing the second spear to pass within a fraction of an inch of his head and his free talon slammed into the ground. Before either of his opponents could wonder about what he was doing a column of dirt burst from the ground and slammed into both griffons, sending them flying.
“Theron, was that-” Jaeger started to say before he was cut off as Damien launched himself towards the stunned griffons, grabbing each one by their throat, lifting them into the air, and slamming them into the ground.
“Now I believe you two said something about griffons that live amongst ponies,” Damien said conversationally as he squeezed their throats. “Something about being weak.” The griffons beneath him rallied valiantly, attempting to claw at his underbelly and arms but the grass beneath them rose up and twisted around their limbs, binding them to the ground beneath them. “Yet here you lie, on my land among the ponies completely helpless and at a weakling’s mercy,” he sneered as he watched the griffon’s eyes flutter and their faces slowly darken. “Remember this next time you intrude on someone else’s affairs,” he whispered as he let go of their throats and the life-giving air rushed into their lungs.
The pair stared at him in a mix of reverence and horror. “M-my lord. We didn’t know that a Mane was-” Jaeger started before being interrupted by Damien.
“I am no Mane child,” Damien growled. “And if you try to foist a title on me I will hunt you down and make you wish you had never seen me in your life.” His demeanor suddenly changed back to his usual happily irreverent self, a smile cracking his beak. “Now if you’ll just leave Tyra alone when she heads home we can go our separate ways with all our limbs intact.”
“But Lord Morus demands the head of-” Theron began before his words were transfigured into a shriek of pain when Damien shot towards him and cleanly snapped the shin of his right forelimb in two.
“I’m sorry about that. It seems that you two are down to a total of eleven intact limbs. Wouldn’t want to decrease that number any further would we? Why if you keep talking back I might start in on the wings. And that would be… unpleasant wouldn’t it?” he asked without the smile of before faltering in the slightest.
Jaeger’s face paled significantly as his gaze twitched between the bone he could see clearly sticking out of his comrade’s forelimb and the serene smile that still lay on Damien’s beak. “O-of course. I’m sure that Lord Morus would understand if we were incapable of finding Tyra. She is notoriously difficult to find when she desire to remain hidden,” he stated shakily.
“See!” Damien crowed as he slapped the wounded griffon on the back heartily, sending him sprawling to the ground with a howl of pain. “You’re friend knows how these things work, what about you?”
“Y-yes. We we’re unable to find Tyra but there was an incident with an animal in the Everfree forest that resulted in my injury,” Theron replied hastily.
“Ah, and improvisation about the nature of your injury, excellent,” Damien said with an appreciative laugh. “Now go,” he said while the air around him seemed to drop several degrees despite his happy demeanor.
Both griffons shot from the area as though they couldn’t get away fast enough, leaving behind a chuckling Damien. “Ah, been far too long since I got to have some fun like that,” he said with a contented sigh.
The actual farewells were short, as befitted Gilda’s lack of sentimentality. Tyra seemed to be willing, albeit a touch disappointed, to go along with her daughter’s wishes and allowed their parting to be simple and nearly wordless. Damien, using what little empathy he had, chose to stay away from the entire production and let the two of them share this one little moment, opting instead to watch from the balcony in front of the pegasus door on the second floor. A grin slithered across his beak as he watched Tyra take to the sky and leave Ponyville behind.
Thinking herself alone Gilda allowed a small smile to spread across her beak at her departing mother before turning around and heading inside. Damien chuckled quietly as he spread his wings and glided down to the streets below. He considered needling Gilda about what he had seen but decided against it. Sometimes it was best to let things be. Whistling a happy tune he padded down the street, he had a library to raid after all.