"Right this way you three." Gilda said as she took another turn out into the courtyard where she had eaten breakfast. "Wait here for a moment, I'll go grab some wood for a fire." The three fillies nodded and sat by the soot blackened fountain base.
"Woah..." Scootaloo muttered, causing the other two crusaders to look at her.
"What is it scoot?" Sweetie Belle inquired, noticing the other filly was looking up. "Wow..." the white unicorn said as she imitated her pegasis friend.
The sky above them was clearer than they had ever seen it. Amidst the deep black of space the billions of small pinpricks of light twinkled and flickered, dancing across the dome of the sky. The silver moon, not nothing but a small curved sliver of silver light hung in the sky like a silver canoe, simple yet elegant. As they sat mesmerized by the sight, Gilda returned with the firewood. She glanced up to see what the fillies were looking at and was entranced too.
"Ah don't think ah've ever seen it this clear, even from mah place." Applebloom said after a little while.
"Yeah, too much light pollution in Ponyville I suppose." Scootaloo said, drawing a look from her two friends. "What? I occasionally spend the night at twilight's place. She's taught me a bit about the night sky."
"Twilight... Isn't that the purple unicorn?" Gilda asked as she set the logs in the firepit.
"Yeah, she's real nice."
"Why do you stay there sometimes though?" Gilda asked, lighting the wood. "She your sister or something?"
Scootaloo looked down, a look of sadness crossing her face. "No... my dad sometimes gets in these moods and..."
"Shh, kid." Gilda said, putting a wing around the orange filly.. "I understand. My folks were the same, heck my whole town was. I was always the runt of the town. Everyone went after me when they needed to beat something up, toughened me up. I didn't have many friends, well sides Dash, but I didn't say anything about it to her."
"Why not?" Scootaloo asked puzzled.
"Pride I suppose. Back then I did my best to put on a tough attitude, I guess I thought that if I told Dash she'd think I was weak and look down on me."
"Ah don't think Dash would look down on anyone for that, 'specially not her friends." Applebloom said. "What'd ya do to the people who were mean to ya?"
"Nothing at first, then I started to fight back. Took some lessons on how to fight, heck even bought a sword at one point, but that caused things to get real bad. I nearly died at one point. Hold that thought, I'm gonna go grab something for us to eat, er, do you three mind if I have some meat?"
Sweetie Belle and Applebloom shook their heads, Scootaloo looked a bit nervous though.
"Something wrong Scoots?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Well... It's just..." She began but was cut off by Applebloom.
"Bit unsettled by tha' whole meat thing?"
"It's alright, I'll do that after you three are asleep then." Gilda said with a smile. "I understand, most ponies don't run into any kind of carnivore."
"Thanks." Scootaloo said as Gilda took off to the tower.
"Ya know, she ain't so bad anymore." Applebloom said watching Gilda fly to the tower.
"Yeah, we should invite her back, I mean, taking the three of us in for the night is an awfully nice thing to do... according to my sister we can be a bit irritating sometimes..." Sweetie belle said with a giggle.
"I suppose I can see why she would say that..." Scootaloo said, and soon all three fillies were giggling at the joke.
The three fillies stopped giggling as Gilda suddenly turned around and started yelling something at them. "...un! Get into the trees, HYDRA! GET MOVING!"
optional music: Ace Combat 5 OST - Scinfaxi
"Wut is she? Oh buck..." Was all Applebloom could say before screaming like the other three crusaders and running towards the opening in the castle's wall. The Hydra tore apart a chunk of the tower as its attention turned to the three fillies rather than the griffon who was flying out of its reach. It roared as the tower proceeded to fall on its tail, momentarily stopping it.
Gilda swooped in low and yelled to the crusaders, "Scoot! jump onto my back! You two, get ready to be picked up!"
Scootaloo looked back and jumped up, using what little flying ability she had to gain some hang time as Gilda swooped under her and pulled up, the orange filly landing on her back. There was a loud crash as the hydra broke free of the rubble, by now rather angry. "Heads up girls!"
The other two crusaders yelped as Gilda scooped them up, holding them tightly in her front arms. "Scoots, hang on tight, I can't climb or go much faster holding the three of you so we're going through the trees!" Gilda yelled over the air rushing past them as the forest loomed ahead, the underbrush barely visible in the moonlight.
In seconds they were screaming, figuratively in Gilda's case, and literally in the case of the crusaders, through the forest. The trees whipped past, coming within inches of Gilda's large hazelnut as they flew, speeding within a foot of most of the undergrowth of the Everfree.
If I can just make it to the river Steven will help us. I have to save these kids, they are NOT dying on my watch! Gilda thought, her face set in grim determination. She glanced back and saw the hydra tearing through the thick trees, furious that its meal was escaping. It was gaining slowly, it's speed and ability to just charge through the forest allowing it to catch up to the weighted down, weaving griffon.
Gilda looked back just in time to see a small branch from a tree inches from her face. She screached in agony as pain erupted from the right side of her face, causing her to loose concentration and dip. The underbrush clawed at her and the fillies momentarily before they burst out, rolling to a stop beside the river.
"Gilda!" Applebloom yelled running to the injured griffon, the other two crusaders following suit.
"I'm... fine." She said, grunting at the pain. "STEVEN! HELP!" She yelled, the smooth river rippling as the serpent surfaced.
"Oh my... what happened to you four?" He asked.
"No time, get the fillies to Ponyville I'll distract the hydra!" Gilda said, flapping her powerful wings and shooting into the air, flying for the hydra.
"H-Hydra!" The serpent said, looking around in shock.
"Gilda!" the crusaders yelled as the sea serpent snapped out of his shock and scooped them up.
"Come on you three, oh I do hope she knows what she's doing..." Steven said as he placed them on his back, looking back in the direction of the hydra's roars before shooting down the river.
"Alright, that was better Trixie, try again." Starlight said smiling as the powder blue unicorn sighed and concentrated, deep blue shadows gathering around her horn. "Remember, patience is important."
A deep blue mist gathered over a spot about a foot wide on the river, and soon a sphere of water was lifted, it's outside rippling and contorting as the showmare tried to keep it stable.
"Very good, now move it over yourself." Starlight said and smiled as his student hovered the ball of water. Time and Shade kept watch along the riverbank. They had all decided that it would be a good night to go out for a stroll and had ended up by the river to do a bit of training, and for Starlight to see how much magic they knew.
"Heads up everypony, something's coming down the river!" Time said, his ears perking at the sound of young voices. Trixie's concentration broke and the shadow magic dissipated dropping the sphere of water onto her.
"Gah! That's cold!"
"Shh..." Time said, motioning for the others to be quiet.
"... have to go back, there's no way she can defeat that thing on her own!"
"Girls, she knows what she's doing and she asked me to get you to Ponyville, she's buying us time."
"Well I'll be, a sea serpent." Starlight said. "Good evening sir! May I ask what is going on?"
"Oh thank goodness someone!" The serpent said. "Can you take these three back to Ponyville, a griffon friend of mine is distracting the hydra that was after them but I don't know how long Gilda can last." Steven said in a panicked voice.
Starlight's smile faded, replaced with a serious expression. "We'll help, how far back down the river is it?"
"About a mile, I swam as fast as I could." Steven said.
"Got it, keep going, Ponyville isn't far, we'll help Gilda." he said. "Alright, time to see if you three can fight, let's move!" He said galloping down the riverbank, the other three following suit.
"Oh I hope they make it..." Steven said, the crusaders nodding as they took off down the river again.
Gilda panted as she dived at the hydra once again, weaving past it's attempts to eat her and raking her claws along one of it's necks. Flying just out of range she yelled hoarsely, "C'mon? Is that all you got you overgrown tadpole!"
Just a minute longer, then I can fly off, they should be far enough away by then. Wings don't fail me now! Gilda thought making another swoop.
The hydra had other plans however. It had cost the beast an eye and some blood but it finally had figured out the griffon's attack style. It feinted as if to snap at Gilda again but the another head swung at her and knocked her clear across the river the two were fighting beside.
"GAH!" Gilda yelped in pain as she flew through the air, unable to recover. She landed with a thud on the opposite bank, the hydra following, intent on finishing off the pesky griffon.
Well... I guess this is it... Gilda thought, trying to drag herself to her feet, but two of her legs had been broken by the hydra's swing and the impact from landing. Sorry I can't make it back kids. Hope ya let Dash know that I died saving your hides.
She braced for the hydra's bite as one of the heads shot out towards her.
"SE'RITETHUS!" someone yelled nearby and they hydra roared, a sharp bang echoing through the forest.
Gilda raised her head and saw four ponies running up to her, three unicorns and an earth pony. The unicorn's horn was surrounded by a dark colored haze as he fired another spell at the hydra, another unknown word pouring from his mouth as the hydra was hit by a bolt of white lightning.
Another unicorn, this one powder blue backed up the black one, adding a dazzling display of illusion magic to the mix, the bright flashes and images that kept flashing into existence around the hydra disorienting it.
The earth pony and grey unicorn ran up to her. "Mam, Miss Gilda? Can you stand?" The unicorn asked as they reached her.
"No, the landing broke two of my legs I think..." She said, before breaking down into a fit of coughing red flecks landing on the sand in front of her. "Oh that ain't good..."
"Oh buck..." The earth pony said spotting the flecks of blood. "Probably a punctured lung... two broken legs, that wing doesn't look right, probably dislocated... and that eye is probably beyond repair. She needs profession medical help, Shade can get her there, can you handle the hydra?"
"With ease." the grey one said as he turned. "Shade! Trixie! Stand back."
The two immediately got out of the way and stopped casting, and ran back behind the gray one.
"In the moon's name, rain down from the heavens." He said, his voice level, the little light there was seeming to lessen around them. "Ma'tae'si."
A black aura flared around his horn as hundreds of inch thick silver rods rained down from the sky, each one terminating in a needle's point. The hydra was unable to escape as the deadly downpour tore into its body, ending its life.
"Get her to a hospital, I'll clean this up." the grey one said as Gilda lost her grip on the world, the last thing she saw was a black circle opening in the air in front of them.
A/N: 'pologies for the delay, i've just not had the muse to write here for the past little while, hope I can make it up to y'all. as per usual I gots no editor so any spelling and grammar errors lemme know, and please let me know what you think. Also, if some of the behavior of the characters seems weird (or Starlight being an OP Gary sue) i will explain/fix these issues in due time.