<<There's wounded in the hospital tent!>> shouted Chielo. He raced out of the keep, toward the burning building.
From above came the slight sound of wings and a keening cry. Lamp oil fell from above, splashing slightly on Chielo. He ducked and moved away from the spilled liquid. The lamp oil was ignited by a spark, and Chielo felt tongues of fire on his back. He rolled on the stone ground to put out the flames.
Half-running half-flying, Chielo dodged around the burning former kitchen to the hospital tent. A few seconds later, Pluma arrived, panting.
Only two griffins were too unwell to move themselves; both were on stretchers. Fluttershy and a tan griffin missing both wings were at the head and feet of one stretcher. “We promise we'll be back for... oh!” said Fluttershy with a squeak as she saw the two enter.
“Are these two griffins the last patients?” asked Chielo. Fluttershy nodded. Chielo and Pluma stationed themselves at the head and feet of the other stretcher.
Fluttershy laid down at the head of her stretcher, put her wings under its supports, and stood up, lifting the patient at the same time as the tan griffin. Chielo and Pluma lifted their stretcher and emerged into the fire-filled night.
The fires and smoke on the ground prevented Chielo and Pluma from seeing much more than the nearly-full moon above them, but they heard gunfire and curses above them. As Fluttershy raced toward the keep, the ground ahead of her exploded with a bouncing musket ball. More lamp oil fell from the sky, missing Chielo and Pluma entirely. The keep's door opened, and Fluttershy and the other griffin entered. Then Chielo saw a griffin's shadow against the full moon, growing larger.
As the assailant dove toward them, Chielo and Pluma carried the last stretcher into the keep. The assailant landed not ten feet from the door. The griffin in purple fully cocked his musket, aimed it at the still-open door, and fired.
A magenta, opaque surface flared just beyond the door and the bullet ricocheted. Chielo closed the stone door and barred it. He looked behind himself to see Twilight's horn stop glowing. “The door should be stronger than my shield spell,” she said as heavy thumps came from the door. The stout, wooden bars held against the attack.
Chielo was immediately grabbed and hugged by both parents. <<You scared me, koro mia. I'm so glad you're alive.>> Stelara noticed the singed feathers and fur on his back, and started to preen and clean her son.
During the time that Chielo had left, the keep had filled with young grifflets and fledglings. The air was filled with a game of tag, shouts of joy, and a few loose feathers. One youngster hung upside-down from the rafters.
Chielo barely heard Twilight talking with the other seven ponies and Spike, but he couldn't hear what they said. Then Dr. Rugha walked to them. In Common, Dr. Rugha said, “Twilight, it's time to open the shed.”
Together they walked to the southwest corner of the keep. Twilight's horn glowed magenta, and blocks of stone moved from the corner. On the other side of the blocks was darkness, not an exit. A large hole opened. Rugha picked up a hand light, and rested it against the bottom of the hole. The light showed what was beyond the hole: the metal shed, containing the weapons that had been confiscated from the immigrants. Rugha lifted swords, longbows and crossbows and arrows, muskets and cartridges, and metal claws from the shed.
<<We came here because we were not wanted in the Griffin Kingdom. We left, not willingly, but to preserve the peace. The Griffin Kingdom doesn't want even that peace. We must now fight!>>
Twilight didn't understand the words, but she understood the sentiment. “Dr. Rugha, you don't need to do this. I've already sent a message to Celestia. She will be here with soldiers within a few hours!”
Dr. Rugha turned to Twilight and responded in Common, “We can't let others do our fighting for us. We already gave up our power. We already gave up our land. Now they want us to give up our lives. Even if we're rescued now, they will continue to harass us. The time for passiveness is over.”
<<The Regnistoj wear purple,>> Dr. Rugha stated. She picked up a green tablecloth, and tore it along the weave to make a strip. <<Then we shall wear green – the color of new life. New life in our new home!.>> She tied the strip around her left foreleg, and passed the cloth to the griffin at her left.
<<We will fight here, our last stand.>> The griffins cheered.
<<For Celestia! For Luna! For freedom!>> The griffins shouted along, <<For Celestia! For Luna! For freedom!>>
Chielo grabbed two sets of metal claws, and put them over his front claws. Sharp and shiny, each foot-long claw reflected the lights behind him.
Tondro picked up a longbow and a quiver of arrows, and Stelara grabbed two swords. Stelara looked at Chielo with his weapons. <<Where do you think you're going?>>
<<I'm going with you,>> said Chielo. <<I want to be a soldier in this war, just like you and dad.>>
Stelara looked angry. <<Do you really want to be a soldier?>> half-shouted Stelara.
<<Hell, yes!>> replied Chielo.
<<Then obey orders, soldier! Protect this keep!>>
He had no answer for that.
Other griffin soldiers quieted their young children, hugging them goodbye, and whispering in their ears.
Dr. Rugha called together her fighting force – thirty able-bodied griffin adults who had served in the military. All had green around their forearms.
In Common, Dr. Rugha said, “Twilight, open the door.”
Twilight's horn glowed, the wooden bars lifted, and the door opened. Two by two, they marched through the door, spread their wings, and flew into the air.
Chielo sighed. <<What now?>>
He looked around the room. The four musicians were asleep in a rough circle, using each other as pillows. Rarity and Spike were gathering scraps of tablecloth. Fluttershy was with her two patients and the tan griffin. Pinkie was bouncing with some of the grifflets, trying to play tag even without her wings. Twilight was reading a book, “The Griffin language made easy” and murmuring to herself <<Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj.>>
The remaining griffins were either asleep or watching the open door carefully, looking for any other attacks on the keep.
Pluma said, <<Do you want to make yourself and those claws useful?>>
Chielo nodded. Pluma handed him a large bag of earth, a cutting board, and a jar. <<Mince some earthworms. The babies will wake up hungry.>>
For half an hour, he pulled earthworms from the bag, carefully chopped them into tiny pieces, and put the baby food into the jar.
Rarity looked at her green scrap cloth, opened her pack, pulled out more cloth and a needle and thread. Considering at the energy-filled grifflets, she used one as a model. Within fifteen minutes, she had a small, green puppet griffin. Within half an hour, she had a second, green puppet pony.
Fluttershy giggled as she looked at the puppet pony. She picked it up in her hoof, and made a whinneying sound. All the grifflets looked at Fluttershy and chirped <<Pli! Pli!>>
“A play?” responded Fluttershy. “Uhmm, I guess...”
Pinkie jumped in. “Rarity, make a dragon. We can do this!”
Pinkie and Fluttershy used the three puppets to entertain the few still-awake children. They used lots of animal noises for the different characters, telling a tale of a griffin and a pony who were the best of friends and overpowered a dragon together.
“Raaaaar!” said Pinkie, shaking the dragon.
“Silly, that's not how the griffin sounds.” said Pinkie.
More horns responded from outside the keep.
Twilight woke up. “Those are Celestia's horns!”
Twilight, Pinkie, Fluttershy, Chielo, Pluma, and three adult griffins raced out of the keep. Twilight's horn glowed as she made a shield over all eight. Coming from the south were at least fifty pegasi in full battle armor riding giant storm clouds. Lightning struck the air around them, and thunder echoed among the trees around the refuge.
Above them, griffins with purple tabards turned tail and flew north, rather than be attacked by the reinforcements. The eight on the ground cheered.
Twilight looked around, and saw a pile of feathers and fur not far from the keep. Then she saw the green stripe around its right arm. The face looked familiar. She nudged Chielo and pointed. He gasped, ran, and bounced off the shield. Twilight shut off the shield, and he ran to the broken body.
He hugged the dead body closely and cried. He murmured half-remembered hymns to ease. He blubbered in both languages keening cries of loss.
The other seven – and the children who awoke with the horns – gave him space to mourn.
Within five minutes, Celestia landed where a common building once stood. Ashes crunched under her hooves.
All of the ponies and the griffins who recognized Celestia bowed to her.
Celestia said, <<Ghi finitis bone, Niajn shtatanojn novajn.>>
Murmurs repeated through the audience. Celestia spoke Griffin?
Celestia repeated herself and continued. <<Well done, Our newest subjects – if you so consent.>>
More murmurings. No longer guests, but subjects?
<<Prime Minister Forta-->>
Hisses echoed through the audience.
Celestia stared. <<Prime Minister Forta has personally apologized to Us. The Griffin Kingdom will pay to rebuild all damage, and the sergeant who led this raid has been executed.>>
<<Is Leonkoro Stelara here?>>
Chielo held back a tear. <<Your Highness, my mother is dead,>> he replied. Tondro rested a wing around his son's shoulder.
This answer struck Celestia. <<Are you Chielo?>>
Chielo nodded, not trusting his voice.
<<If it weren't for your mother, this town would never exist. Her letters before you arrived, and her briefings with Twilight, gave Us warning, both of Our new subjects, and of this attack. We had enough time to prepare Our Royal Guard for this battle. It won't bring her back, but this town will have her memorial statue. Everyone here will, at least, remember her.>>
Chielo nodded, still not sure for his voice.
<<Finally,>> she said, stopping talking for the kingdom as a whole, <<I have a daily task that I must accomplish.>>
Celestia stood, facing the east. Everyone around was silent. Her horn slowly glowed a deep red color, and her waves of magic gently lit the keep, the few standing tents, and the trees around. She spread her wings, and the red of her horn glowed more brightly. She took two steps forward, flapped her wings, and hovered in place as gold tendrils emerged from her horn. In the east, the sky began lightening. Celestia flapped her wings more; her horn glowed brightly but without paining the eyes of the observers. The top of the sun, following her sympathetic magic, peeked over the horizon. She rose higher and the sun rose with her. Soon, it had risen, and Celestia's body was eclipsed by the sun.
From the sky, Celestia said, <<Let this be a new day, and a new beginning, for Equestria's newest town... Hippogriff.>>