The scheme is uncovered, the truth is revealed.What madness fell upon the once proud warriors?With all doubts erased, the goal becomes clear,All forces gather to defend their land.Chapter 16"Toward Revival”
May 7th0507 hrsCanterlot, Royal Castle
It was Edge
“You’ve got some nerve coming here!” Firefly said angrily.
Her wingmares were stunned to see a griffon inside the castle.
“How did he got inside?”
The pink mare directed that question toward Quick Chaser and Thunder Flicker, who were standing by him. Because the whole place was surrounded by Princess Celestia and Princess Luna’s magic barrier, no one should have been able breach it.
“You may not believe it, but the guy surrendered willingly”, said Quick Chaser.
He and Thunder Flicker were outside, patrolling the castle’s vicinity. When Fluttershy and Shamrock got back to the main wing and told everypony about a griffin flying suspiciously around the castle, the two pegasi were sent to investigate. They found Edge. He seemed to have no intention on fighting them, and that was already surprising. But then he asked them to get him inside, saying he had some very important pieces of information for the Royal Sisters. He was unarmed, without any support... They knew he wasn’t posing any danger. Firefly was still angered seeing a griffon simply walking in like that.
“I don’t like whatever that sleaze is up to. It would be best to just take him out.”
“Wait...” Edge pleaded. “Before you kill me... There is something you must know. All of you, ponies, are probably wondering why the griffins are acting so violently... Why this scorching of Equestria was allowed? I can explain everything.”
“What there is to explain?!” Firefly exclaimed. “The situation is obvious to me. You and your kind are nothing more than unsatiated killers! This whole ‘honor‘ thing I kept hearing about is worth dirt! All you guys want to do is to enslave or kill every single pony!”
“Things aren’t always that simple...” Edge argued.
Rainbow Dash was out of her bed already and tried to restrain Firefly's temper. Other ponies were actually curious, why... Why their northern neighbours have turned into vile ruffians?
“I... I think we should listen to him,” Fluttershy spoke. “I... I want to know what happened.”
“Yeah, I wonder...” Lightning Bolt added. “We might just as well let him talk, there’s no harm in that.”
“I agree,” another voice from the corridor has sounded.
It was Twilight Sparkle, with her assistant Spike. Her friends came along as well. Though Firefly tried to oppose the idea, she was in the minority. With no choice, she had to let Edge do the talking, while still feeling a bit sour.
“I have one condition, though,” he said. “I will tell you all I know, but I’ll only speak in the presence of your princesses.”
Firefly was slowly losing it.
“Unless you haven’t noticed, they are busy with the barrier that is supposed to keep scum like you from entering the castle!”
Luckily, Twilight managed to cool things down.
“You can speak to me. I am Twilight Sparkle, student of Princess Celestia. Rest assured, I will relay everything you will tell us to them. Spike?”
The young dragon was already holding a quill and a parchment, waiting to write down whatever revelation Edge had to tell.
“I guess it’s better than nothing...” he muttered. “Very well, then listen closely, because your time is drawing short. If you ponies want to survive and win this war, you need to grasp the whole situation properly.”
All ponies present in the chamber: the Mirage squadron, the Wonderbolts, the four foreign aces and those who bear the Elements of Harmony were about to learn the reason behind the madness that plunged Equestria into such dark times.
But before Edge even started, Medley asked him how was it possible that, in several missions and battles, they saw griffins other than squadron leaders being in charge of the operation. Edge explained that the commanding structures of The Griffin Kingdom were much more “flexible” than that of Equestria. As long as the griffins had a common goal, they could easily cope with each other. The fact that many soldiers had natural warrior abilities helped as well. The only drawbacks of this tactic were their ill-prepared concepts of leading the others, and it usually forced them to resort into a very loose strategy, with little success rate.
“Although by looking at you, Mirage squadron, I can tell you’re pretty much an independent unit yourself...” Edge remarked.
“OK, but can you tell us what exactly happened?” Rainbow was getting impatient.
“Yes, I’m about to get there... You should know... There has been another coup d'etat in our capital. Our general is dead.”
Spitfire and Soarin’ looked at each other. It would seem that loyalty wasn’t a very common sense among the griffins these days. When the fiery-maned pegasus asked Edge who could have been responsible for General Silverbeak’s death, the soldier responded with a truly shocking statement.
“It is rumored... that you
were the ones who killed our leader.”
“What the hay?”
The reaction of the ponies was predictable. None of them believed that.
“We haven’t even been to Gryphus since the whole war started!” Firebolt added. “Why would they think we could have killed your general?”
“Hold on, I’m not finished yet.”
Edge waited until every pony calmed down before continuing.
“I know that you didn’t kill him, therefore I believe you’re innocent. But the same cannot be said toward others. Red Cyclone made them think that it was your doing and that’s why he ordered the griffins to ravage Equestria and deal with every single pony that would dare oppose them.”
“But... that doesn’t make any sense!” Rarity shouted.
“What exactly happened in Gryphus? Tell us step by step,” Twilight asked.
Edge paused for a moment, trying to recreate the events that occurred in the Griffin Palace. He told the ponies about Black Star and his suspicions toward his comrade. Acting as a superior figure to Edge, he told him to follow Red Cyclone and see what he planned to do. Upon eavesdropping on his conversation with the General, he learned about the crimson griffon’s plan.
“Our general was planning to go to Canterlot and begin peace talks with your princesses, but Red Cyclone had a different concept. He proposed a complete conquest of Equestria and either turning all ponies into slaves... or smoking corpses. He called this... the ultimate solution
Edge winced when he said that.
“But our general would have none of that, he decided to remain committed to his original intent. That was when Red Cyclone revealed his true colors. He killed our leader and took his symbol of power. You should've seen him... that laugh... I’ve left before he noticed me and went to tell everything to Black Star...”
----------------- “So... he actually did killed the general... It is just as I feared.” “You... knew?!”
Edge sounded incredulously.
“But, you are his partner, in a sense. You should have been able to prevent him from—” “I expected he would have done it sooner or later... It seems he is ready to carry out his plans...”
Both of them were on a balcony, listening to Red Cyclone’s speech toward fellow griffins gathered outside the palace. They were expecting General Silverbeak to come and greet them, though. The red-feathered soldier showed them his symbol of power, covered in blood. A loud clamor ensued. Red Cyclone told them what has happened in a fiery manner.
“My fellow soldiers, brothers and sisters! Our general has been killed in a most vile assassination attempt by those wretched ponies! Do you see now? They are not harmless, cute fillies we might have thought they were! The second we turn our backs, they strike at us without mercy! But I assure you, this treacherous act will not remain unpunished! I shall carry out the will of our general and lead our country toward certain victory! Join me, and our triumph is assured! Go now, soldiers of The Griffin Kingdom! Stain the land with the blood of our enemies! March forth, toward Canterlot! Burn every village! Spare no one! Purge them from this world! We will give those ponies a taste of true fear!!!”
An uproar of support sounded. Naturally, both Edge and Black Star knew that, in reality, Red Cyclone was the one who killed General Silverbeak to usurp his power. But they couldn’t do anything. Thanks to his charisma, silver tongue and proper organisation, Red Cyclone easily convinced and encouraged the griffins to begin a truly frightening scourging of Equestria. As the feathered soldiers were getting closer to the capital, every major grassland, forest, meadow or even town was ravaged by them, set on fire. Edge was told by Black Star to follow the griffin soldiers and, when given the best possible chance, see Princesses Celestia and Luna to tell them about Red Cyclone’s mad idea.
As Edge was about to finish his explanation, the looks on ponies’ faces were that of disbelief, fear, but also anger.
“That’s sick... That Red Cyclone is a total freak!” Rainbow growled.
“He should go see the doctor or something, this isn’t normal,” Pinkie Pie added.
She tried to sound casual, but, deep inside, she felt deeply shaken.
“Come on, girls! You’re not gonna believe him...! How do we know he’s not making this up?” Firefly asked, losing what little patience she had left.
“I never asked you to believe me,” Edge said. “I only tell you what I saw. You don’t have to listen to me. Whatever you will do is your decision alone.”
His voice sounded a little resigned. It was as if he didn’t want to take a part in this conflict anymore. Edge additionally stated that Red Cyclone had actually been planning this whole coup for a while, according to Black Star. While he tried to reason with Red Cyclone at first, in the end, he decided that it would be best if he’d play along. Needless to say, this information left all ponies a little flabbergasted.
“Well... Edge, what you’re saying is all fine and dandy, and... you decided to just give in to us, risking your life, so we could have heard it all? Interesting...” Spitfire though aloud.
“Highly suspicious, you mean,” Firefly tried to correct her. “Besides, who says it’s true?”
“Ah do,” Applejack spoke. “As yah know, honesty is something I’m good at, and Ah can tell this fella is not lying. He’s speaking directly to us, he’s ain’t rolling his eyes around... Ah just know he’s sayin’ the truth.”
Firefly was still not convinced. She tried to warn Applejack about a possible trap. But the orange pony believed in her reasoning. Applejack blurted that Firefly’s assumptions had a shade of paranoia. Things were uneasy, a confrontation between the two mares was hanging in the air. Twilight tried to calm them down.
“Girls, this argument is pointless!”
“Twilight Sparkle is right,” Firebolt said. “If we want to survive this conflict, we should be fighting our enemies, not each other.”
“But do you know exactly
who your enemy is...?” Edge sounded inquiringly.
When the ponies turned their attention back to him, he carried on:
“I’ll have you know... not every griffin wanted to fight you... only some are fighting of their own volition. But others simply saw this as a chance to bring glory to our kingdom. Unbeknownst to us... our principles and mentality degenerated in the past few years. Even though we are still proud warriors, we’ve learned to obey the orders of our superiors... and regardless of who is the one in charge... Truly, a shameful turn of events...”
He briefly hung his voice. Medley knew inside her heart that Edge wasn’t exactly evil. Her instincts and thoughts were correct this whole time. Now, things were slowly starting to become more clear for the ponies. Spike was just about to finish writing down Edge’s revelations.
“Is that everything you had to say?” Twilight asked him.
“Actually... there’s one more thing. Which one of you is Firefly?”
When she stood up, Edge looked accurately at her, then spoke quietly.
“Right... a pink pegasus with a blue mane... Black Star has a little message for you.”
Firefly’s ears perked up upon hearing that. Knowing him, it could have been practically anything. While a little anxious, she told him, with a strong voice, to deliver the message. But she was completely unprepared for what she heard from Edge’s beak.
Just as Edge was about to leave with the strike team to conceal himself until proper time, Black Star halted him for a moment and said the following words: “Listen... if you happen to run into a blue-maned, pink female pegasus named Firefly... tell her that I’m waiting for her here, in Gryphus. We still have a fight to finish.” “Huh?”
Edge growled. “But I thought you already fought with her... and won.” “No. That was no true battle,”
Black Star explained.
“Our fight is yet to occur. And this time, only one of us may survive. Either I will kill her... and reunite her with her parents... or she will kill me and avenge them. To tell the truth... it matters little. A fight to the death with her. That is all I desire. Only in that can my soul find respite... Also... tell her that... I do not ask her for forgiveness or mercy, but... tell her that... I feel regret for killing her parents. Let her know that. That is all. ...Go, now!”
“I have spoken. That’s all there is,” Edge finished.
An unsettling silence fell for a few moments. Twilight asked Spike if he wrote everything down and he confirmed it. Then, the purple unicorn motioned every pony to come with her to the Princesses’ throne room. Quick Chaser and Thunder Flicker took Edge along with them, while the other ponies were slowly leaving the room. Rainbow Dash noticed Firefly was just sitting on the floor, not willing to go. Rainbow asked the others to go ahead, that she will catch up to them.
Then, she slowly approached the pink mare. Firefly appeared to be devastated... but why?
==========0555 hrsCanterlot Castle
“Hey, Firefly... are you OK?”
“Do I look
OK to you?” Firefly replied with a picky voice.
Her eyes were staring deeply into Rainbow’s.
“No... Is something wrong? Wanna talk about it?” Rainbow asked.
Firefly shook her head in denial. Rainbow pressed her a little, but she still wasn’t willing to speak.
“Come on, Firefly... you can’t fool me. I can see clearly something’s wrong.”
“I DON’T want to talk about it, Rainbow! And stop acting like you care!”, Firefly exclaimed.
That last sentence hurt Rainbow Dash deeply. She wanted to help Firefly and seemed worried about her state. With an angry face, she turned her sight away from the pink mare. Dash knew there were more important issues before them.
“Fine. Have it your way. I’m just gonna leave you with your... problems.”
She was just about to leave when Firefly suddenly chuckled. Rainbow stopped dead where she was and turned back around. The blue-maned pegasus burst into a loud, hysterical laughter. But soon, Rainbow noticed that this laughter was caustic and shallow... It slowly died down and turned into whines. Still uncertain what was the cause, Dash came closer.
“Firefly...? What’s going on?”
“Ahahahah... Talk about irony... You heard him, didn’t you?” she asked.
“You mean Edge? Yeah, I did. So?”
“Don’t you get it?!” Firefly yelled.
Her voice was getting louder with every word. Rainbow had a bad feeling about it.
“I’ve spent the last six years of my life... trying to take down a guy who ruined my whole life... Who took everything away from me... And now... Now I hear he’s sorry! Heh... NOW he’s sorry! W-WHY WASN'T HE FEELING SORRY WHEN HE KILLED MY PARENTS!!!”
Firefly pounded her hooves on the ground, squeezing her eyes. Tears glazed in them. She grit her teeth and yet let out two loud sobs. Rainbow Dash was shocked to see her in this state. Even Firefly wasn’t immune to everything that was happening around them... She got closer and put her arms on the pink mare’s shoulders, trying to calm her down. But Firefly initially turned her down.
“Save it! What do you know...?! Sniff
... That idiot...!”
Rainbow just stared at her, unsure what to do. She couldn’t leave her in this state, that much she knew. The blue pegasus decided a different approach.
“Look... Firefly. I know it’s hard for you, but... Try to get a hold of yourself. Calm down...”
Those words had an effect opposite to the desired one.
“I CAN’T CALM THE BUCK DOWN!"
More tears distilled from Firefly’s cheeks. She looked at Rainbow in despair, blabbering to herself. She felt like her soul had been torn in two, as if she was split between fury and sadness. Firefly broke down completely. She glimpsed at Rainbow with a distraught sight and started weeping.
"Agh... I just can’t... I couldn’t... I’m... I don’t know what to do... I feel so lost... I’m... so confused. Rainbow... I need help!”
Rainbow touched her right cheek. These words made her feel sorry for Firefly. Though she couldn’t grasp how painful it was for her, Dash really did sympathized. The word “help” sounded really desperate. Without saying anything, Rainbow slowly embraced Firefly. This caused her to sob some more, but she returned the hug, leaning her head against Rainbow’s shoulder.
“I know I shouldn’t be going into pieces like that... But it’s stronger than me... I can’t fight it... I just had to cry it out... Listen, Rainbow, I... I never got the chance to apologize to you...”
“What for?” Rainbow asked.
Firefly reminded her about the time when the blue pony was resting in the hospital after the battle over Ponyville. She told her of all the nasty things she threw in the pegasus’ direction, regretting them now.
“I... didn’t mean to hurt you more... But seeing you in that state reminded me of what I’ve experienced... I thought that by yelling at you I could have felt better... But I didn’t! Now it only hurts me
more!” the pink mare screamed.
Rainbow patted her on the back.
“It’s fine... I was so grief-stricken that I wasn’t paying attention anyway. It could have been the same as if
I had a major case of deafness.”
She tried to brush her leader’s worries aside, laughing at mishaps that happened in the past. Firefly remained silent for a while. Then, she finally told Dash what troubled her.
“I’m beginning to think that the only reason I’m still here is... to take Black Star down. I still want to... I swore to myself I will do it. But... then what? What will I do after the war? I have nowhere else to go... I’m alone... all alone... like an outsider.”
Now her voice was just a bleak whisper.
“Seriously, stop saying that!” Rainbow interrupted her. “You have us. ...I know that it’s not the same as having a family, but don’t deny the fact we’re your friends!”
“That’s not what I meant...” Firefly continued. “Defeating Black Star is my sole purpose... I don’t have another reason to fight... If I take him down, at least I’ll—”
“Flash!” Rainbow exclaimed, causing Firefly’s eyes to widen.
It was the first time the blue mare used her callsign since the battle at The Burning Talon.
“Come on... you’re being too hard on yourself, Firefly,” Rainbow said tenderly.
Though Firefly felt really bitter about everything that happened, she appreciated Rainbow’s attempts to cheer her up. While the tears were still rolling somewhere in her eyes, Firefly wiped them away. Rainbow Dash resumed:
“For the moment, we have something bigger on our backs. First, we have to liberate Canterlot and chase the griffins out of Equestria. When we do that, we’ll worry about that other stuff, OK? Come on, Firefly, let’s go. You’re our leader, however you look at it. A team isn’t the same without a leader. We need you.”
“Yeah... you’re right. But, Rainbow... you know that you’re a pegasus who doesn’t actually need a leader. You can do everything on your own,” Firefly pointed out.
“I know that, but...”
Rainbow Dash hanged her voice for a second before she confessed.
“But... while I was around Twilight and the rest of my friends, I took a few lessons in humility... and I took them the hard way. By that, I mean that I saw my flaws and I have tried to overcome them somehow. They helped me with that as well. Thanks to them... I am the pony you see now.”
She looked into Firefly’s purple eyes.
”Besides... somepony told me that I should get a little more disciplined if my dream is to be realized... There are several reasons for me to keep fighting... and my dream is one of them!”
Firefly immediately knew what she meant. It could have been the reason Spitfire wanted to stay alone with Rainbow back then in Cloudsdale... Now, Firefly had no doubts that Rainbow Dash had a potential to be a famous heroine. The blue-maned flier stood up and wrapped her arm around the blue pony’s neck.
“Well... then I guess I’ll help your dreams come true. I don’t really care what others might think about you, but to me, you’re a great companion. And, you know... I’m glad I’ve met you back then over Ponyville. Heh, funny... It’s been such a long time, and I feel like it happened only a few days ago... Come on, let’s move it, Rainbow Dash!”
TThough Rainbow wasn’t technically the best kind of pony for showing sympathy toward others, the war had taught her that it can sometimes save the others from falling into the abyss of despair. It was proven to her once more. Following Firefly, the two winged ponies quickly went towards the throne room.
==========0621 hrsCanterlot Castle, Throne Room
Both mares had reached the room where the two princesses were deciding upon Edge’s fate. Their horns were glowing with magical aura as they continuously channeled their magical power to keep the barrier around the castle intact. Though both stated already that they knew the griffon was telling the truth from the beginning and didn’t even needed a precise report (which caused Spike to groan quietly to himself in a slight annoyance), both winged unicorns understood everything that was said. Their verdict was surprising to everypony—Princesses Celestia and Luna decided to let Edge go!
While Soarin’ tried to point out the griffon was responsible for more than a few deaths among the ponies, the lunar Princess explained that his vital information will be crucial in stopping, or at the very least, minimizing the griffin expansion. Along with Celestia, they were just about to make the barrier passable in one small point and allow Edge to leave. But Derpy thought that this may be her only chance in finding out who was responsible for Carrot Top’s death. She approached Edge and asked him:
“Please, tell me... did you happened to see a griffon trying to kidnap a little unicorn pony?”
“Perhaps... Yes, I do remember Axe was attempting such an act... until a yellow earth pony got in his way. He then decided to kill her instead of kidnapping the child,” said Edge.
Hearing Axe’s name made the Wonderbolts remember the Talon squadron, which was supposedly annihilated during the Battle for Stalliongrad. It turned out that Axe requested to represent the Talon squadron; he tried to honor his comrades. But what could have been the reason for him trying to kidnap Dinky? For what purpose?
None of that mattered now. Derpy thanked Edge for telling her what she wanted to know. Before he flew outside the castle, he turned his sight to the ponies gathered in the throne room one last time and spoke:
“You ponies aren’t even half as evil as Red Cyclone may say. I see now that I was wrong about you. You could have killed me, and you did not. So I want to give my word: never again shall I rise a talon to harm any of you. If our paths cross again... who knows. For now, farewell.”
Once Edge left, the princesses sealed the barrier back. His fate remained unknown since then.
“See? I told you! Not all griffins are bad,” Medley broke the brief silence that ensued.
Lightning Bolt and Cloud Kicker looked at Firefly, expecting another outburst of anger. But this time, she simply said: “Yeah, I guess...” not wanting to argue at this point.
The castle was safe once more. Both rulers were visibly exhausted; they were upholding the barrier for about eight hours. Such a feat was possible only due to their immense magical power. But even the Royal Sisters were not able to defend the castle this way forever. And they realized that. Calling out to Phalanx, along with Twilight and her companions, they pleaded them to go and gather any combat-ready pony, anyone who still had the strength to fight on. The Wonderbolts instantly rushed to get Gale, while the members of Mirage squadron were sent to round up the remaining pegasi teams.
Soon only Firefly remained with the Princesses. They saw her uneasy look.
“Y-Yes... Princess Celestia?”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you look like something is bothering you.”“They know too, huh”
, Firefly thought to herself.
While she hasn’t opened her mouth at first, the pink mare decided that hiding facts from the Royal Sisters would do her no good.
“I... I feel like an outsider. It’s like this feeling has been lingering within me since I came back... So much has happened... When I see other ponies sad or troubled, nothing really triggers inside me... It’s like my heart is icy cold. I do feel inner peace when my friends are around, but this feeling of isolation still gets to me. I think... No... I don’t know what’s wrong with me...”
Her voice was dejected, as if she was about to cry again. Both princesses knew exactly what was tormenting her, but unfortunately, there was nothing they could do.
“We know that you miss your family, Firefly...” Princess Celestia spoke first.
“Your loss is grave, that is why these feelings are consuming you. I... am partially to blame."
She took a deeper breath and continued.
"I knew of what happened... but I couldn’t have done anything in this case. There were no traces of either you or Black Star when the Royal Guards had arrived. Lacking proof of a murder, it was ultimately deemed as unfortunate accident. I am still ashamed of being unable to aid you in this earlier...”
Celestia went silent. Luna decided to take over.
“Since your family was divested from you in a violent manner, ‘tis understandable you seek revenge on their killer. But take heed, for defeating him may not take your pain away...” the night princess warned.
“Believe us, if there would be a way to reunite you with your parents, Luna and I would most certainly make it happen. And yet...”
Celestia’s voice turned somber.
“Even though we rule Equestria, we are not as almighty as some ponies may think. While we can raise the sun and the moon, despite our vast power, we are unable to revive... to raise the dead from their graves.”
Firefly listened to their words with a blank expression, seemingly staring into an empty space. So this was the reason of her torment... not the thirst for vengeance... she was just lonely. Friends weren’t enough to soothe her suffering... Firefly needed a family... or somepony who could give her love and care. She lowered her head and dropped a few tears, which fell at the red carpet. The purple flier tried to suppress her emotions, to no avail.
She never felt so helpless before.
“Mom... Dad... I miss you... I miss you so much...” Firefly whispered, sobbing.
And yet, the two sisters also told Firefly her parents “live in her,” they have guided her all the way through many dangers she faced on her path to become stronger. They reminded the pink mare that now she needs to look around, believe in herself and notice one important thing: although her friends aren’t the same as having a family, it’s thanks to them Firefly hasn’t succumbed to despair. They were always willing to help her, if only she could have asked them...
Realizing the meaning behind the royal ponies’ words, Firefly dried her tears and regained her self-assurance. And not a moment too soon; Phalanx, the ponies of Harmony, the Wonderbolts and the Mirage squadron returned with over two hundred other pegasi, unicorns and earth ponies.0650 hrs
Gale managed to contact two more Wonderbolt members, Fleetfoot and Rapidfire, to aid them in the upcoming battle. With all ponies assembled, Princess Celestia greeted them with a formal tone:
“My little ponies, hear me well. I and my sister Luna have called you here, because we are in need of your help. We can see that the war, which now ravages Equestria, has left many painful imprints on the majority of you. But know this: the conflict was not brought upon us by griffins. This entire war is a heinous and frightful campaign devised by one of them only. Those who are causing chaos in our land are not responsible, for they do not know the true meaning of their actions.”
“Red Cyclone, the treacherous griffin leader, must be defeated if this conflict is to be resolved,” Princess Luna continued.
“For while he lives, terror will roam in Equestria. We know and see that many a pony are tired, but only you are capable of restoring our beloved land to its former glory. This is the moment of truth for us all.”
“Therefore,” Princess Celestia spoke once more, “we must have courage and stand up to the challenge that awaits before us. But this battle will be of utmost danger. Those who will take part in it, may not be able to come back. So we ask for volunteers. Luna?”
“Volunteers, step forward!”
Firefly and her team immediately left the crowd and stood before the thrones. Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, Spike, as well as Cheerilee, with the Cutie Mark Crusaders by her side, also stepped forward. Then, the pegasi teams and the Wonderbolts came up toward the princesses. The four foreign aces: Mobius, Talisman, Shamrock and Sky Eye, hovering above the crowd on their wings, were not hesitating either, landing before the Royal Sisters. Other ponies slowly, but surely followed them.
No one was left behind, each and every, all of them wanted to help in defending Equestria. This act of patriotism and devotion brought an inward relieve to Celestia and Luna. They motioned Gale and Sky Eye to come closer and tell the gathered ponies of what would be later called “Operation: Rebirth”—a bold plan to liberate Canterlot.
“The plan is risky, but it’s our only hope in saving the capital” Gale begun.
Due to lack of computers, he resolved to showing a large geographic map of the city, with important areas.
“It involves separating the army we have stationed in the castle into two groups: one will stay here and defend this area long enough to wear the enemy down, while the other strike team will lead a counter-offensive on the griffin positions in the rear. It would flank them between both army groups and they will either be wiped out, forced to surrender or retreat.”
Some ponies were whispering nervously between themselves; while the strategy was adroit, some doubts rose over the fact the griffins pretty much controlled the town area. Getting out of the castle unnoticed was impossible. Princess Celestia eased the ponies’ worries. She would use her magic to teleport the strike team outside to the nearby hills. It was far enough for them to stay away from the enemy detectors and give them time to mount an offence.
“We have agreed that Mirage squadron should be the ones to lead the strike team,” Gale carried on.
“Alongside them, there will be the ponies who bear the Element of Harmony—by this, I’m talking about Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Applejack, leading their respective units. Sky Eye and I also thought that the support in form of Burner, Racer and Garuda teams would be a good idea.”
“There’s one problem, though,” said Sky Eye. “We might have to draft additional fliers to the Burner and Racer teams, as they have only one flier each...”
“No, there is no need for that!” Tornado Swirl’s voice sounded. "Overdrive and I have come to a decision; we will be fighting as sole members of our squadrons. In memory and honor of those who gave their lives... so that we could aid you now.”
Understanding their determination, both strategists agreed to their decision, but stated that an additional team had to be added, just in case. Flare Star’s Dragon squadron had volunteered. Going back to the mission plan, Sky Eye motioned to the Wonderbolts and Mobius, who would act as the main air defense force during the battle and asked everypony to help them out as best as they could.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders were demanding to let them aid others too, but Rarity was very reluctant about this. While Sweetie Belle understood her worries, she said:
“I don’t want to sit back and watch as you risk your life for Equestria, Rarity. Being a filly doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. I’ve made up my mind. I want to help my friends!”
Applejack wasn’t sure about letting her little sister, Apple Bloom, fight either. But she trusted in the yellow filly. Apple Bloom assured Applejack that with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, plus other fillies aiding them, things will be fine. The princesses knew they would need every possible force to hold the attackers away, so they agreed to let the Crusaders join other ponies in defending the castle. Cheerilee was still going to watch over them.
When all have been said, Princess Celestia then turned to her sister. Luna saw that she was slightly exhausted.
“Luna... I shall teleport the strike team outside the castle. It appears this time you
have to do the boring task of raising the sun”, the older sister tried to sound a bit jokingly.
Luna, however, was fine with that, calling it “something new”. The moon Princess soon left the chamber to prepare herself and bring about a new day. Celestia, in the meantime, was focusing her powers intensively.
Twilight was getting anxious.
“Fear not, Twilight. I will be all right. Focus your mind on the upcoming task. You are responsible for the ones in the strike team. Lead them onward. Be brave. I trust in you, my dear student... I trust in all of you. Good luck, my little ponies. Equestria... depends on you.”
Cheerilee briefly turned toward Firefly and her wingmares and said a phrase the fliers heard once before:
“May the sun and moon shine upon you, Angels of Equestria!”
It followed by the Cutie Mark Crusaders chanting “Angels! Angels!”, with hopeful expressions. The pegasi grinned, thanking them for the much needed boost in spirits.
In a bright flash of light, Twilight, her friends, the ponies under their command, Firefly’s team, Tornado Swirl, Overdrive, the Dragon squadron and the Garuda team vanished. After a brief silence, Phalanx went on explaining the strategy and assigning different squadrons and soldiers to the key areas in Canterlot. The earth ponies and unicorns were to act as a support overall, while the main fighting would once again be carried by the pegasi. The Lancer and Sweeper squadrons were more than ready for another fight, not fazed by seemingly low odds of success. Thunder Flicker proclaimed he “always looks for a challenge.” The Phoenix squadron along with the Wonderbolts were to cooperate together, while Mobius was given a tough job himself; to aid whoever would need assistance. He acknowledged it with a nod.
One of the ponies gathered in the crowd pointed its hoof in the direction of one of the chamber’s big windows.
A dim, yellow-orange glow appeared over the horizon. Princess Luna was raising the sun. Celestia smiled. “Well done, Luna. I’m so proud of you...”
, she thought.
verything was set. Phalanx and the Wonderbolts led the rest of the ponies to the castle’s main gate. They all noticed the barrier started to thin out. Enemies were waiting for them outside, and they were fully aware of that. Everypony was readying themselves for battle.
“This is it, everypony,” Phalanx’s voice sounded.
“Our time has come. Steel yourselves! We shall fight with growing confidence and strength. For our fallen comrades! For Princess Celestia and Princess Luna! For Equestria! Pegasi, soar in the skies! Everypony, move out!”