It was hard to hear Fulltrot from the loud noise, laughter, and dancing of the villagers and reunited family members inside the town hall. Regardless, he stood upon the fringes of the brightly-lit structure, speaking to Rainbow Dash.
“Sladesteed has not put up any resistance. He's fully cooperating with the village, and allowing himself to be dealt in a Wintergate court of law,” Fulltrot said. “It's rather ironic. All his adult life, the heir to the lead seat of Windthrow has advocated full and complete coexistence with the outside world. And now that it is finally happening, it's for the purpose of enacting justice upon his criminal actions.”
“You can only play the 'martyr' for so long,” Rainbow Dash said. “I only hope he doesn't do anything stupid to screw up his future here in the village.”
“His future or the village's is hardly up to him,” Fulltrot said. “In light of recent events, Hushtail himself is stepping down and allowing the town council to elect their own leader.”
Rainbow's ears twitched. “Huh. That's interesting. What's up with that?”
Fulltrot's nostrils flared as he stared into the celebratory crowd lit up by torchlight. “I suppose he feels personally responsible for his son's actions. Not only that, but the extreme nature of recent events has opened his eyes to how his stubbornness has potentially hurt this town after so many years.”
“Do you believe that to be the case?”
“I think Sladesteed was right about a few things,” Fulltrot murmured. “But he chose incorrect ways to go about highlighting this dwelling's problems.” He gazed over at Rainbow Dash. “We would indeed benefit from opening our doors to outsiders, and even letting those of us who wish to leave find other places to live in Wintergate. However, this is not something that can blossom over night. When the council deliberates on the future, they'll have to choose a leader who's more than capable of balancing old traditions with new ideas.”
Rainbow Dash smirked. “I think you would be perfect for the job, dude. You've got the gray mane for it and all.”
Fulltrot managed a slight, bashful smile. “I do have... a considerable degree of experience. But I would be just as happy to serve as the village's lead courier as I always have these last few decades.”
Rainbow Dash said, “You have shown... incredible loyalty to Windthrow, Fulltrot. That's something that ponies have a hard time forgetting.”
“Hmmm. Fitting that you would tell me that, Equestrian.”
Rainbow Dash fumbled for a response to that. Suddenly, her front legs were being tackled by a small body. “Wh-whoah!”
“Heeheehee!” Rockspot was hugging her forelimbs tightly. “My family is back together now! Everything is so awesome and cool and it's all thanks to you!”
“Heh, well...” Rainbow smiled nervously and tried shaking him off. Spotty remained glued to her. “I sometimes share the ingredients that make me so... me. Now will you cut it out? I'm losing the feeling in my hoof!”
“I got it taken care of...” Red Turnip Senior headed over and detached Rockspot with his strong limbs. He balanced his son on his backside and stood up. “We've declared today a holiday. Everypony's talking about celebrating the rest of the week, now that the monsters are gone for good.”
“So long as none of you guys do something stupid like reopen that large structure down below.”
“Hah! You kidding?!” Red smirked. “As if we could!”
“I bet Mommy could!” Rockspot chirped.
“She'll be too busy with my heart over the next few days, Spotty.” Red winked back at him. “You should stay at our place! We have an extra room, and you can join the festivities at sunrise!”
“I...” Rainbow Dash's smile lingered. Her wings flexed and unflexed. “I-I'll think about it. Thank you so much for the offer, dude...”
Fulltrot gazed curiously at Rainbow Dash.
“Whoops!” Red spun with Rockspot on his back. “I think I hear the Missus calling now. Gotta go dance till I drop!”
“Heehee! Dad likes to get tipsy on rock sider!”
“I do not! That's your oldest brother, from what Mister Ironhoof is telling me!”
As they trotted away, Astral and his companions walked up to Fulltrot and Rainbow Dash.
“I sort of figured you'd four would be wallflowers,” Rainbow Dash said. “Is it just me, or do unicorns suck at dancing?”
“Your racism is only barely made tolerable by your charm,” Astral said with a wink. “It so happens that the entire village has extended their endless hospitality to us.”
“And have you accepted?”
“Most definitely,” Astral said with a nod. “I think most ponies here are self-conscious. They feel responsible for Sladesteed's actions, something that has led to the death of several of our companions over the years...”
“Yeah...” Rainbow Dash stirred awkwardly. “That's... not exactly a cheerful fact to live with.”
Astral waved a hoof in front of him. “Alas, their legacies will not go unheard. Already, Mister Fulltrot has suggested the village council allow a permament expedition of Southstone scholars to come visit the mysterious site beneath the mountain so that we can gain new and rich data concerning Wintergate's architectural past.”
“Uhhhh...” Rainbow Dash gazed nervously between Fulltrot and Astral. “That doesn't mean you're gonna be opening any doors to the crazy bat-monsters, are ya?”
“Heheheh...” Astral shook his head. “Nothing of the sort. I've already started writing an extensive journal of my findings. We'll cross-reference those with the elemental readings we take of the leylines situated around this site. I have no doubt that Wintergate is on the verge of its most startling historical discovery in centuries.”
“Well, sounds like you've got your work cut out for you,” Rainbow Dash said.
“I'm mostly concerned with journeying back home to see my family once more,” Astral said. “My brothers and sisters will have thought I died long ago. I look forward to proving to them otherwise.” He smiled sweetly. “Both my life and my career would not have this second chance if it wasn't for you, Miss Dash. Now, more than ever, I wish to make a pilgrimage to the land of the Sun Goddess before my days are over.”
“Trust me,” Fulltrot said with a slight chuckle. “You have a great deal of years ahead of you, good sir.”
“I would think as much,” Astral said. “Now, if you excuse us, we have an experiment to conduct.”
“This late at night?” Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “The heck kind of an experiment are you talking about?”
Astral smirked. “Whether or not unicorns can actually dance!” He gave her wave and trotted off. Chuckling, his close companions followed him, and soon they disappeared into the thick of the crowded town hall.
Rainbow Dash shook her head, smiling. “I wish all unicorns could loosen up like that schmuck.”
“Hmmm, indeed.” Fulltrot wandered over. He extended a hoof.
Rainbow Dash glanced at it, then at him. “What's this all about?”
“I am wishing you good luck and a strong wind,” he said. “That is the correct pegasus expression is it not?”
“Heh... come on, dude...” Rainbow Dash shook his hoof. “You're talking as if I'm going away or something.”
He gazed calmly at her. “Aren't you?”
Rainbow Dash said nothing.
Softly, he remarked, “Your nonchalance may be able to throw off the likes of Red Turnip and Mister Astral, but not myself, dear outsider. In all the time you've been here, your hooves only barely touch the ground. You haven't even taken off your saddlebag. Trust me, I know a wandering soul when I see one.”
Rainbow stared at him fixedly. She gulped and said, “You are some pretty swell ponies, Fulltrot. But everything that just happened... it was all just a zay, awesome fluke. I... really dropped by completely by accident.”
“A rather charming accident, I must say,” Fulltrot said. “Would you care to announce your departure to the rest of the village?”
“I don't see what it would matter,” she remarked in a low voice. “There is nothing for me here.”
“Ohh...” His eyes glanced up towards a mountain ledge above the village. “I wouldn't exactly say that.” With an elderly smile, he turned around, and trotted out of her life.
Swiveling, Rainbow Dash glanced up at the mountain ledge, and the petite figure squatting thereupon.