Tondro and Stelara invited Chielo to the refuge, to celebrate the completion of the refuge's keep. They told him to arrive before sundown.
Chielo lazily circled, catching an updraft, as he studied the growing refuge. The warm, late afternoon sunlight illuminated the stone dome of the large stone keep at the center of the refuge. Around the keep were wooden buildings with dozen of griffin carpenters and builders working on them. These buildings, though incomplete, already served as markets, as schools, as the common kitchen, and other purposes. To the southwest of the keep was a small metal shed of pony design. Surrounding the wooden buildings, where the griffins lived, remained dozens of tents.
From the sky, he saw a half-dozen griffins turning spits over fires and stirring cauldrons of stew in preparation for the feast. He saw younger grifflets chasing and mock-hunting each other. On the road, coming from the south, he saw a caravan of six ponies pulling carts. They would be in town within fifteen minutes. To the north, he saw two specks flying and patrolling the border. He could not see whether anyone was trying to enter or leave Equestria.
He found the green-red-yellow-green flags of Pluma's family, and landed near. <<Pluma? Doktorino Rugha? Signoro Krifo?>> He heard Rugha's higher-pitched voice welcoming in a visitor, so he entered. All three were in the tent, getting ready for the celebration.
The former minister of education smiled widely as she saw Chielo, and she embraced him with a warm hug. <<Oh, koro mia, it's so good to see you! Stelara told me you should be at the party today. Would you like some jerky?>> She was wearing aluminum chain mail over her chest, shoulders, and wings that gently rustled with every movement she made. Wrapped around her legs and tail were aluminum ornaments, and her talons were capped with aluminum, but she left her tail tip uncovered.
<<It's great to see you too, Dr. Rugha, and no thanks. I already saw how much food they're cooking for the festival.>>
Krifo was a little quieter, but equally happy to see Chielo. <<You've been growing.>> he said as he hugged Chielo. As a male, his formal clothing had more color. His woven clothing was white over his chest, red over his forelegs and talons, dark brown over his wings, and black over his hindquarters.
The final hug came from Pluma. <<Thanks for coming, friend.>> Her chest had an aluminum chain bearing a miniature book. Her wings were both unadorned and uncovered. Around her body, she wore a leather girdle that had been dyed white. Around her tail were a dozen simple, leather rings. With each fidget of her tail, the rings would slide smoothly.
From his pack, Chielo pulled a woven silver and black cloak that looked like a second pair of wings, a silver necklace, and new mousefur bands around each of his legs. <<We didn't have room to bring much formal clothing.>> He put on his small set of clothes, feeling underdressed. Dr. Rugha helped him tie the bands to his arms. Then Pluma unlocked the wooden chest next to her hammock, pulled out two large, matching rubies, attached one ruby to Chielo's left armband, and attached the matching stone to own her right armband.
They were ready.
The sun set as the town gathered at the keep's entrance.
Twilight walked to the podium, carrying a large stack of carefully-notated paper.
“Today we are here to honor a refuge, and the pon – I mean griffins – great and small who are building it. On behalf of Celestia, Equestria welcomes everypon-- I mean everyone – as guests as long as you need to stay...”
The assembled griffins tilted their heads as they looked at her. One said to the other, <<Kion diras shi?>>
“Oh, right,” she said with a sigh. “Most of you don't speak Common.” Twilight scanned the crowd for Stelara. She was talking with three other griffins. Then she saw Chielo with Dr. Rugha, Krifo, and Pluma. “Chielo... help?”
Chielo flapped his wings, flew over the crowd, and landed to one side of Twilight.
<<This is Twilight. >> he said to the crowd. <<She's an assistant to Princess Celestia. She says we're welcome as long as we need to stay.>>
A light-pink pony with a darker pink mane wearing a pink dress emerged from the common kitchen. In a loud voice, she called out, “Foooooooood's on!” In a quieter but higher-pitched voice she continued, “It's supposed to be party food but there's hardly any cupcakes except for the ones I brought for the ponies and that doesn't make sense because how can you have a party where most of the food is made from dead animals and from secretions of animals and stuff? Oh, well.” She jumped back into the common kitchen.
Twilight nudged Chielo. “You'd better make sure Pinkie doesn't hurt herself.” He memorized the name and entered the open building.
Pinkie Pie was at the head of the quickly-growing line, carrying a wooden plate in one hoof. She looked at the trays of meat and stews laid out for the griffins. “Ooooooh! What's this?”
Chielo said, “It's a goulash.”
“That sounds good.” She took a little of the stew and some of the potatoes. “Ooooooh! What's this?”
Chielo said, “They're sausages.”
“That sounds good.” She took a little of the sausage. “Ooooooh! What's this?”
Chielo said, “Rocky Mountain Oysters.”
“That sounds good.” She took a little of the organ meat. “Ooooooh! What's this?”
“Pinkie, you know that none of these are good for ponies.”
“I know that, silly.” answered Pinkie. “But a little won't hurt, and I might really like one of them! It would be terrible to miss out on something tasty!” She continued to take small pieces from every tray.
No other pony joined Pinkie in line. Soon, she took a spot at a wooden table. Since few other griffins spoke Common, Chielo sat with her.
Pinkie leaned over and carefully chose one bit of meat with her tongue. She tasted, chewed, and swallowed. “Nope, didn't like that one,” she said to no one in particular. She tried a second piece. “Nope, didn't like that one.” She tried a third piece.
Chielo interrupted Pinkie's taste-test. “Who were the ponies in the caravan?”
Pinkie lit up. “Oh! That would be Octavia and her band, who are Lyra, Noteworthy, and Frederick. They're all earth ponies And there's also Rarity. She's a unicorn. But she's not in the band. But she makes really nice dresses. She even made this one!” Chielo smiled at the candy-colored, candy-covered dress she was wearing. “And I think Fluttershy flew in earlier today to the hospital. And Twilight is here. But that's silly for me to say; you were talking to her.”
Chielo saw Pluma and her family emerge from the buffet; he waved them over.
“Say,” said Dr. Rugha in Common when she saw Pinkie. “Weren't you one of the geomancers?”
“Yup! That was me and my family. But don't judge me by them; they're weeeeiiiiiiird.” Pinkie bugged out her eyes at this phrase.
“Then thank you for a solid foundation for the center of our town,” replied Dr. Rugha.
“Okie-dokie-lokie! But I'm mostly here to throw tonight's party. I've never welcomed a whole town before! Though this isn't really a town, I guess. People call it a refuge instead of a town. So I'd better say that I've never welcomed a whole refuge before!”
Pinkie tried the other nibbles on her plate. “Nope... nope... nope... all gone! I gotta run to finish setting up the party! See ya!”
Chielo took the opportunity to talk with Pluma, her mom, and her dad about what was happening in the refuge.
A keep is a central, defensive location. This keep was made of the strongest materials that the refugees could afford: very large stones, mortared with cement. The top was a dome in a graceful arch, best to keep attackers from landing. The only holes in the walls were small vents that could be blocked. Undecorated and severe, the outside was functional not beautiful.
Pinkie had decorated the inside with green ribbons, green banners, lamps, and the tapestries of all the families. Over many small wooden tables, she put green tablecloths. Each corner had a large punchbowl filled with red liquid and cups. A section of the floor had been roped off, and a small upright piano, a cello, a sousaphone, and a harp rested there.
Griffins had already started to file into the keep. They commented on the strong construction. One or two flew up to examine the rafters in the ceiling, and to shoo young grifflets from their hiding places. They seemed pleased with the work.
Chielo noticed a solitary, white unicorn wearing pink and gold examining the tapestries carefully. He tried to remember her name.
“Frederick, I presume?”
“Oh, no. Frederick is with Octavia, getting ready for the concert. My name is Rarity. What is this weaving?” Rarity studied a deeply intricate, never-repeating tapestry on the wall. “I've never seen anything of this sort before.”
“It represents a family. You're looking at Dr. Rugha's and Krifo's weaving. At the bottom are the most important things of their lives: the birth of their daughter, Dr. Rugha's elevation to Minister of Education, and so forth. Just above it are the most important parts of their parents' lives. Just above that are the most important parts of their grandparents' lives, and so forth. At the top are the names of ancestors. When two griffins marry, they create a new weaving from the elements of both families' weavings, and add their own stories to the bottom.”
The white pony's eyes grew wide. “I wouldn't use these actual tapestries, but... would it be offensive to make clothes from this style of weaving?”
Chielo laughed. “They're just tapestries. It would be like making a dress from pages of a book. If you're not making clothes from an actual tapestry, it wouldn't be offensive, just weird.”
Rarity looked around. “Could you introduce me to any weavers that speak Common?”
A brown, male griffin wearing teal and bright green that Chielo didn't recognize said, “I do-overhears. I do-speaks a little Common. Would you do-likes to will-sees my weaving?” Rarity wandered off with the griffin.
Soon, Pinkie bounced to the center of the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, from the great town of Ponyville, I'm proud to introduce Octavia's Miniature Orchestra!” Four ponies – a brown stallion, a greyish-purple mare, a light-blue mare, and a dark-blue stallion – walked behind the ropes and started playing music that they considered upbeat and happy.
Pinkie bounced to every beat. But the griffins who listened to the music started smirking, and didn't join the dancing. Pinkie looked confused at the response. “Is this like the Grand Galloping Gala or something?” Only a few ponies understood the reference.
Pluma and three other griffins brought their heads together, whispered among themselves, and walked out. They came back five minutes later, carrying two string instruments, a reed instrument, and a set of claw-drums. They listened to the melodies from Octavia's orchestra, and when they repeated, the four griffins counterpointed four notes for every note that the ponies played.
Fast melodies and drums got the griffins dancing!
Octavia's orchestra and the griffins started improvising off each other; Octavia's lower instruments played harmonic patterns that supported the griffins' fast riffs and melodies. Talons plucking strings were nimbler than hooves.
And the crowd danced. Pinkie bounced around, dancing with anyone who would join her. Feathers, fur, hair, and clothing moved with the beat of the drums. Fledglings raced around their parents' legs. Two griffins locked their arms, spread their wings, and pirouetted, hovering above the crowd.
A light-blue pegasus with a rainbow mane and rainbow tail landed at the keep's open door. <<Kvieti! Resti ie sendanghera! Grifoj de la nordo atakos nin. Ili alvenos je unun minuton.>> She flew to deliver her message to other groups of griffins.
“Rainbow Dash speaks Griffin?” Twilight, at Chielo's shoulder, looked very confused. “Wait... back up. What did she say?”
Chielo had forgotten that Twilight didn't speak Griffin. “Get to somewhere safe. Griffins from the north are attacking us. They'll be here in a minute.”
Just then, the large, wooden building visible through the keep's open door ignited.