<<Chielo, could you come here?>> said Stelara.
Chielo went downstairs and saw Stelara, Twilight, a purple and green baby dragon, and two white pegasi in military uniforms. She handed her son a white blanket with Celestia's cutie mark on it. “Here,” she said in Common. “Wear this.” As he tied the blanket just below his wings, Stelara said, “I'm pulling you out of school for the day. I have something that I really think you should see.”
The six went outside together. The soldiers hitched themselves to a floating cart, and Twilight and the dragon climbed in. Stelara took off, and Chielo and the soldiers followed. They flew almost directly due north, following a road.
“Mom,” Chielo said as he kept up. “Where are we headed?”
“We're flying to the border between Equestria and the Griffin Kingdom. Tondro and I will be spending a lot of time up there.”
The young dragon said, “I must have missed the big picture. What are the griffins fighting over, anyway?”
Stelara answered, “I'm not unbiased, but I'll try to answer as best I can, Spike.”
“The Regnistoj – or Royalists – believe that griffins are the chosen royalty over all the world, and that all other species are inferior. They want to kick out griffins like me who have been 'tainted' by working with dragons or equines. Their leader is Her Highness Forta, third in line to the throne.
“The Egalighoj – or Equal-ists – say that there is no superior race among the dragons, griffins, or equines. Some egalighoj are isolationist, thinking that the other races have nothing to offer. Others like me believe in trade and understanding other cultures.”
“Wow.”, said Spike. “What does your Princess think?”
Stelara sighed. “Princess Aglleona is old and addle-brained. She's not aware of what's happening. The Prime Minister, Estro, had been trying to balance the two factions. But what Estro saw as balance, Forta saw as weakness.”
At this point, they had flown to the northern border of Equestria. A wide, dirt road lead between Equestria and the Griffin Kingdom. The traffic was almost all one-way: griffins and equines with carts leaving the Griffin Kingdom and entering Equestria. The griffin guards gave the emigrants few hassles: they seemed to let everyone through. The equine border had to be more careful about the immigrants: a large collection of knives, muskets, swords, and other weapons was watched by a soldier.
Two pegasi, a very light-blue stallion with a dark-blue mane and a slightly darker mare with a rainbow mane, glided far above the road, border stations, and immigrants.
A griffin, wearing the purple of the Regnists, flew toward the border from the north. The light-blue stallion in the air set off a black cloud of smoke behind him. Four soldier pesasi took off and flew toward the griffin, carrying a large net. The griffin turned well before the border, and started flying away.
Just south of the border, a sign read: Kolonion de Rifughintoj and pointed further down the road.
They landed about a mile south of the border at the refuge. Dozens of tents had already been pitched. A large cart had long strips of canvas. Ponies and griffins drove stakes into the ground, tied ropes to the stakes, pulled canvas from the cart, and set up shelters in the softer dirt.
A circle, about four hundred yards across, had been cleared of all vegetation. It looked much drier than the soft soil around it. Five earth ponies moved around the shale circle. Four of them – a pale, gray mare with three rocks on her flank wearing a black shawl and glasses; a brown stallion with a pickaxe on his flank wearing a hat, collar and tie; a blue filly; and a gray filly – moved with silent, steady grace. The fifth, a pink mare with three balloons on her flank, bounced around the other four and sang,
If you take clay and quartz,
Raise them up the Mohs scale.
Pressure and compaction
Turn it into good shale.
If that isn't hard enough,
Then use more heat and weight.
Turn it into hard slate!
Chielo tilted his head. “What are they doing?”
“They're magicking a foundation of hard rock.”
Chielo stared at Twilight. “But... don't only unicorns have magic?”
“All equines have magic. Unicorns just have the flashiest magic. Pegasi have magic over the sky. And earth ponies have magic over the earth. The Pies – the five ponies out there – have a rock farm, and they know more about geomagic than anyone in Ponyville.”
All six walked to the largest tent. A sign above the tent read Malsanejon. Inside the large tent were the war-wounded.
One griffin, not much older than Chielo, had bandages wrapped completely around his midsection. His wings had been ripped from his body. Others were missing legs. Many had tears in their hides where other griffins had attacked them. The tent smelled of stale bandages, blood, and worse.
Around an older griffin's splinted wing, a yellow pegasus with a pink mane tied off the last of a bandage. In a soft voice, she said, “Now please don't, um, use that wing for at least three weeks.” A younger griffin – probably her daughter – translated it. When the yellow pegasus saw Twilight, she smiled. “Twilight!”
“Fluttershy! It's good to see you!”
“I heard about all the hurt griffins and I had to nurse them back to health.” She saw Chielo next to Twilight. “Uhm...” Her voice grew quiet.
“Fluttershy, this is Chielo. His mom was exiled from the Griffin Kingdom. Chielo, this is my friend, Fluttershy.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Chielo.
Fluttershy squeaked softly.
“Uhmmm... I'll wander outside. I'll let you get back to nursing the sick, Fluttershy. I'll see you later.”
Fluttershy squeaked softly.
Not five seconds after he left the hospital tent, Chielo recognized a lady griffin half a head taller than him with white hindquarters. <<Pluma!>>
<<Chielo!>> The two old friends hugged. <<What are you doing here? I thought that you moved weeks ago!>>
<<I'm living in Cloudsdale. Mom wanted me to see the refuge. What are you doing here?>>
Pluma's wings drooped. <<Forta convinced Princess Aglleona to exile all the top Egalighoj. Your mom was just the first.>>
<<Where are you staying?>> Chielo's voice was anxious. <<What will you be doing?>>
<<I don't know what we'll be doing, but at least I know where we're staying. It's not much, but let me show you.>>
They crossed the hard circle that would make the town center to a canvas tent with four flags: green, red, yellow, green. <<Mom? Dad?>> Pluma called. There was no answer.
The inside was decorated with tapestries containing the history of Pluma's family. Hanging from the walls were two hammocks, one much larger than the other. Both had grass woven into the hammock threads. Beside the larger hammock were two locked chests, and on top of the chest was a book of hymns. A small, steel harp was beside the smaller hammock.
Chielo saw the harp and said, <<Next time I come, I'll bring my reed-whistle. We can play together!>>
Pluma smiled. <<I'd like that. You're the first reminder of home that I've seen.>>
From outside the tent, Chielo heard Stelara calling his name. <<I gotta go.>> They hugged once more, and Chielo departed.