• Published 16th Jan 2015
  • 561 Views, 15 Comments

Fallout Equestria: Action Hero - Popcorn Chicken


The world of cinema may be long dead, but one young griffon strives to build a life taking clichés as gospel.

  • ...
9
 15
 561

Chapter 4: Grounded Part II

Chapter 4: Grounded – Part II

Why?

I expected him to pout, argue and shout. To spout a whole heap of nonsensical reasons about why he just had to go where I explicitly told him not to.

I knew exactly what I was doing!

It was practice! I was flying! I just flew up!

You said it was impossible! Well guess who proved you wrong!

I was gonna join Junior Speedsters just like Gilda did!

Why can’t we play with the clouds? Pegasuses have all the clouds! I want some too!

How come we never get to see the sun? I wanna see the sun!

Lasers! Pew pew pew!

But no, he just had to ask that. Something completely tangential to the subject at hand yet it struck home hard for both of us. For a moment I even considered it all an elaborate ruse just to get himself out of trouble.

Gillet’s eyes widened and averted to the floor. I realized too late I was glaring at him. All the rage and furore I held for my son evaporated in an instant, leaving me feeling… empty. My talons numbed and felt weak as I wrestled with the words in my head. I had to pick them carefully.

“Sweetie, what brought this on?” The words caught in my chattering beak but I pushed on. “It’s very sudden. Even for you.”

He dropped his gaze back to a… polaroid? “They were getting married,” he said quietly. “Then they become a real family right? How come I don’t have a real family?”

Until now, I had never given much thought to my parenting. I assumed I was doing a satisfactory enough job compared to what I had witnessed across the Wasteland. I would even say Gillet was privileged to live the life I had given him. Maybe there was something fundamental… a core responsibility I had overlooked.

“Aren’t I enough?” I answered with a soft smile, taking a seat on his bed beside him.

“Mum, I mean-”

“I know what you mean, sweetie.”

“I was just wondering.” He scooted a little closer to me and leaned on my side. I draped a comforting wing around him while his own pair fluttered weakly against the small of my back. “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologise for anything, sweetie.” I finally looked down at the picture; the two pegasi I had just held at gun-point were beaming happily and in-between them was Gillet who just looked confused and sad. “And this was a real family to you?”

Gillet looked at the picture again, he pointed to the grey stallion first. “Dad…” then to the rose one. “… mum…” and finally to himself. “… son.”

“I see.” I think. Two Enclave stallions raising a griffon nestling as their own kin sounded like the start of a bad joke, but I could see what my son meant. “Well Gillet, you’re a big boy now. Old enough to fly and a good enough flyer to make it above the clouds. You’ve shown you can take responsibility and take out dangerous pests. Now, you’ve put me on the spot, calling me out on something I’ve dreaded for a long time.”

He looked up to me with wide, glistening eyes, a flurry of emotions held within. I could see dread, confusion and sadness in my son. It pained me to push on.

“Do you want to know the truth?”

“I…” Gillet trembled, shivered and then averted his gaze to the floor with a troubled flinch. “… I dunno.”

“I’ll save you the trouble then. It’s about time I come clean.” A soft sigh escaped me. I couldn’t recall the last time I felt anxiety like this. Negotiating with greedy bandits? A little tense but nothing a little coercion or few choice words couldn’t fix. Steel Rangers out for target practice? A challenge, but nothing I couldn’t outfly. That one time with the Vertibuck? That was actually fun.

I found no comparison to draw comfort from, so I just told my son the barest truth. “I’m sorry Gillet, but I don’t know who your father was or where he is…”

The next part pained me greatly.

“… and the same goes for your real mother.”

Fur, feathers, hue of the highlights and the crest atop the head made each griffon unique. Like Gillet I had a set of brushed back elongated feathers styled in a shallow mohawk with a pointed end. However; Gillet’s was natural, mine was fashioned that way. I plucked out a few bobby pins and my crest fell forward over my eyes. I was met immediately with a sharp gasp, and then silence.

This moment right here and now, is the lowest point of my life so far. I couldn’t even bring myself to look Gillet in the eyes. It hurt too much.

A real mother would tell white lies or spin tales of monsters who preyed on those who stayed up past their bed time or bullied other nestlings. I lied to an infant about their mother and father. For a long time I had wanted to tell him, but I kept putting it off until he was older. I thought he would have matured enough to understand better, but in the end, I had convinced myself it was easier to lie to him his entire life.

“I like it better that way,”

Gillet’s small voice roused me from sinking any further. I turned slowly to him, gazing down at his wide orange eyes through a messy golden haze. Despite all the lies I had just unloaded on to him, the corners of Gillet’s beak showed a reassuring smile.

“It looks just like Indiana’s, ‘cept gold instead of crimson.”

I blinked away a tear feeling my own beak mirroring his, albeit weaker. “Really? Whatever makes you happy, sweetie.”

We leaned on each other, him mostly against me. I was just happy he didn’t out rightly reject me then and there.

“Where did I come from then?” he asked eventually. I wasn’t out of radigator infested waters yet.

“Well… when two griffons love each other very much…”

“Ew! I don’t want that talk again!”

“Sure? Not even a little refresher?” Gillet shook his head like his life depended on it. “Suit yourself. Now, do you remember that talk we had about virtues? How they can help define us and give meaning to the way we act and how we live our lives amongst others.” He nodded softly. “Well, the day I found you happened to be the same day I found my virtue. It was about ten years ago, when I was making my very first delivery as a courier.”

Oasis Trade Pony Express,

The swiftest hooves, no need for stress!

Travelling far and wide from city to town,

Delivering packages all around!

Roaming here and there, rain or sun,

A courier’s job is never done!”

Those lyrics stuck to me like a bad case of feather flu. I glanced upwards hoping to see the sun I had just sung of, but the roiling grey cloud cover forever loomed ahead. Sometimes, I felt like flying up there just to take a peek or maybe toy with the Enclave a little, but I doubt they’d take it lightly. It would be more trouble than worth in the end. With a small sigh I returned my gaze forward, making sure to keep Route 52 to my left.

Admittedly, singing and humming those lyrics relieved a little tension. Today I was under the scrutiny of Oasis Trade – dare I say the Wasteland’s – premier mail service. Provided I complete these deliveries satisfyingly, I could finish the day as a fully-fledged courier! Taking a wing-up in the world I had worked for ever since I could barely fly. Then I could travel. See Equestria, the wasteland, maybe even the world and all it had to offer. All I had to do deliver a package and sing a song.

Just a hooful of bits

Our prices are a hit!”

Hm, that’s a tad out of date.

Just a hooful of caps

We pay our couriers crap!

Much better.

Ah! There was my destination; a dark dot nestled between rolling hills and rocky plateaus of the Equestrian Badlands, a place I thought entirely deserted. A simple dirt path flanked by some long dead trees led to the shack from the cracked and faded highway. I mused on how out of the way this place was as I started my descent. How would the ponies who lived here survive? Traders along the highway? Underground cellar? Hunters? Who knows; maybe I was taking them lunch right now.

I landed just short of the front porch and retrieved the package from my packs; a small box wrapped in brown paper. Hardly interesting but I still wondered what was contained within. I always liked to think every package was part of grander tale, and I was simply its mode of transport.

I’ll leave poetry and metaphors for another time. I did have a delivery to make right now.

“Mrs.… Sunlit Smiles?” I asked as the screen door swung forward. “I’ll need you to sign here and here please.”

“Sure dear.” What a quaint pony to match her name. The yellow unicorn took my pen with her magic glowing stuff and scribbled her signature were needed. “Honey! Lunch is here!”

“I’ll get the pit going!” said the masculine voice of what I assumed with Mr. Sunlit Smiles.

“We are using the oven!” she shouted over him.

Mr. Smiles response was notably delayed and a little deflated. “Okay honey. Whatever you want.”

Huh. Well I was right. The Oasis Trade Pony Express was using couriers to deliver lunch to out-of-reach residents. Well, I guess it wasn’t a complete waste of resources.

“Thankyou for using Oasis Tr-”

“Oh! Don’t forget your pen dear!” Mrs. Smiles took an abrupt hoof forward floating the pen back to me. For a moment it poised directly in front of my eye before slipping neatly into my jacket’s front pocket. “Say, that must have been such a long flight for a young griffon like yourself. You must be starving! Would you like to stay for lunch?” she then offered shaking the package. “My husband and I are trying out a shiny new pre-war cooking appliance! Very rare!”

“Thanks but no thanks. I have other deliveries to ma–” I felt an odd sensation around my ankles. I looked down to see transparent yellow manacles locking me in place! “Hey-Hey! Quit it! Let me go!”

Mrs. Smiles’ quaint demeanour was gone. Replacing it was a certain unnerving look of bestial hunger and malice. “Dear, I simply must insist,” she said, levitating a frying pan behind her. “I assure you, this lunch will simply be to die for!”

SPANG!” I exclaimed, the sudden outburst causing Gillet to jump. “She smacked me upside the head with the frying pan! I was out cold on the spot.”

“A frying pan? ‘Simply to die for’? They’re cannibals!” Gillet gasped, clapping his talons to his cheek. “Did they eat you?!”

“You’ll just have to wait and… sweetie, what are you doing?” He had grabbed my right forearm and started probing it with his talons.

“I’m checking which one is made of metal,” he said, moving to my left.

“And why would they be made of metal?”

“Well duh!” he said incredulously. “‘Cause they ate one and then you got cy-beh… cy-ber-net-icks and swore revenge.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “You’ve got quite the imagination sweetie, but no, they didn’t eat my forearms and I didn’t get cybernetics as a result.”

He dropped my forearm, looking just a tad disappointed.

I woke an indefinite amount of time later lying on the cold stone floor of some pre-war bunker. My predatorial senses adjusted sharply, giving me a quick and in-depth view of my prison. Immediately I wished they hadn’t.

Lining the walls were multiple refrigerators, grime and muck seeping from the door seals. Stacked against the opposite wall were piles of bones, some bearing patterns of pony teeth. Next to them some canisters of flamer fuel were attached to pipes that led up through the ceiling, no doubt fuelling some nefarious heating system. Directly opposite of me, perhaps most terrifying of all, were two skeletal mannequins bearing sinister sets of pony barding.

On top of all that, my head hurt. Worst. First. Day. Ever.

Desperately I struggled against my bonds. The thick ropes around my wrists and hindlegs weren’t going to budge anytime soon and I couldn’t twist my talons around the slash at them. I tried flexing my wings but they were secured to my sides with some sturdy leather belts. Even my beak was taped shut.

Hold on… taped… just taped… that meant the tip was still free!

I groaned, shuffled, wriggled and rolled across the damp floor before I could bring my forearms and the binds up to my face. I pressed down against the rope, dragging the sharp tip of my yellow beak across it. It didn't cut all the way through on the first go, but a couple of quiet twangs gave me hope that escape was still a possibility.

“Honey! Are you boiling or frying my lunch?!” came the voice of Mr. Smiles.

“I can’t boil or fry anything until I get this thing working!” Mrs. Smiles replied angrily.

“Did you read the instructions?”

Mrs. Smiles groaned in frustration before replying. “No, I didn’t read the instructions! The trader didn’t mention any before I caved his skull in with the frying pan!”

“If it’s that much of a hassle, we’ll just cook it the old way,” replied Mr. Smiles.

A light scowl formed across my brow as I paused my escape attempt. What was this it business?

“No!” Mrs. Smiles cut in. “I am going to do this properly and we are going to enjoy a well cooked meal for once!”

“Whatever you want honey. My ways’ quicker and easier. Just saying.”

I waited for the across house banter to finish before resuming my escape. My forearms came free first, next the binds around my hind legs and wings thanks to my talons. I admired their gleam in the low light momentarily. Time and time again they had proven their usefulness. I’ll always wonder how ponies lived without razor sharp opposable digits.

As sharp as my talons were, I would still preferred to negotiate from a distance. Call it misfortune, naivety or irresponsibility, but I had set out of my first delivery unarmed. In my defence it had been my intention to purchase a sidearm with the caps I would have earned today.

Looking around the room, I felt as if the skeletons in the suits of raider armour were scrutinizing my situation with harsh, critical glares. Well, if Mr. and Mrs. Smiles left their armour down here, then perhaps their weapons as well. I needed something, anything to defend myself with.

“Ahah! Yes!” Mrs. Smiles exclaimed triumphantly. “I got the stove top working!”

“That’s great honey! I still think good ‘ol firepit is faster,” replied Mr. Smiles in a somewhat dour tone.

“Just you wait and see. I’ll fry you up some lunch first then we both get to work on dinner downstairs. I’m thinking… roast chicken tonight! What do you say to some nice, juicy drumsticks?”

First it, now chicken. These pair were really asking for it

“Sounds lovely, I guess,” said Mr. Smiles.

I was the main course? That was a load off my mind; it noon when I arrived and surely I hadn’t been out of it for that long. Still I had to wonder; who was lunch? Unless they were eating foals – which I wasn’t about to put past them – it had to be from their own reserves… that happened to be down here with me. My time was running out!

I crept up the stone steps mindful of my talons clinking against the hard surface. With a shallow breath, I twisted the door knob and tried to gently push it out. It didn’t budge in the slightest.

“Work dammnit!” I seethed, pressing my bulk against it. “Fine!”

I pulled back and threw my full weight against the door. My stomach lurched as I met no resistance, instead passing seamlessly through it and slamming into the opposite wall.

“Honey!” I froze, the sudden shout giving me pause. “I think dinners’ escaping!”

I turned right; there was Mrs. Smiles, the glow of her yellow magic fading the from the door knob.

“That’s one thing you’re right about, dear!” she answered. I expected to see a set of jagged teeth when she grinned.

I brought my forearms up just in time to block a buck from Mrs. Smiles. The seasoned raider’s kick sent me tumbling down the hallway, crashing into the doorframe of what appeared to be the house’s kitchen. Reeling from the blow I managed to scramble upright just as a luminescent flash of yellow appeared to my right. Her hind hooves struck me on my sides this time, sending my sliding across the tiled floor and slamming into a kitchen bench. Dinner plates, cutlery and some familiar brown packaging paper rained around me as I watched Mrs. Smiles approach through dazed eyes.

Weakly, I again raised my forearms in defence but instead of third buck, something smooth and ellipsoidal fell down upon them. I opened my eyes and discovered what Mrs. Smiles had planned on frying up for lunch.

An egg. A griffon sized egg with a sandy shell and some brown and bronze splotches to be precise.

Everything came to an awkward stand still. Even Mrs. Smiles could only grin uneasily while averting her gaze to the floor and ceiling. I just stared in awe of the egg as a flood of thoughts rushed through my head.

Who did it belong to? I was no mother myself but I knew what a griffon hen would sacrifice for her young or what any Talon with a shred of decency or honour would do if they knew of the Smiles’ actions.

Secondly, where had these cannibals acquired such a thing? Some sort of underground black market? An illicit organization trafficking exotic food and meat?

Which lead to one horrifying realization: sitting atop the egg was a torn fragment of the invoice, the part that just happened to be signed by me. I don’t know if my employer set this up or some shady dealer manipulated us both, but they had used me to carry it out.

“How about I take that off your hooves…” Mrs. Smiles said slyly, her yellow magic slowly enveloping the egg. I closed my talons around it as felt her try to tug it from my grip. “Give me the damn egg! It’s not even yours!”

“It’s my delivery!” I shouted back before rolling to the side to dodge a stab from her knife. I leapt up and grabbed the handle of the frying pan sitting atop the now working stove and swung it around, slamming the hot underside against the side of her head. “How’s it feel, bi-

I slammed my beak shut and glanced to my son who scrutinized me with a raised brow. “H-How’s it feel you… you big, ugly pony!” I hastily corrected.

“Mum, you can say it,” Gillet said, unamused. “Indiana’s said it like a hundred times. It’s what she calls Gilda all the time.”

Huh. Alright then. Maybe I should actually sit down and watch these movies sometime.

I slammed the hot underside of the frying pan against Mrs. Smiles’ head, scattering her magic. “How’s it feel, bitch!

“Gah! Honey! I could use some help here!” Mrs. Smiles screamed as she recoiled, blindly swinging the kitchen knife at me with her flickering magic. “This chickens’ putting up a fight!”

“I’ll be there in just a second!”

Not enough time! I had to make my exit pronto! Through where though? The window? A door? Over Mrs. and Mr. Smiles beaten bodies? That last one was tempting.

Pain shot through one of my digits as Mrs. Smiles knife cut through the hard scales. I jerked my talons back with a shout of pain dropping the frying pan but maintaining my grip on the egg. I reached for it only to have Mrs. Smiles yank it out into hallway with her magic.

“Well chicken, any last words?” Mrs. Smiles menaced, advancing on me with the kitchen knife.

“Yeah.” I returned her glare with a confident smirk. “This griffon’s on no-one’s die-et!”

I looked to my son for approval, but all I received was a disappointed frown.

“You already used ‘die’ once mum,” he grumbled. “You can’t use it more than once or it loses its punch.”

Well, my son was either going to grow up to be a Talon or a critic. I could see both occupations getting him into a lot of trouble.

“Take a step back, honey.”

We both turned to look at Mr. Smiles who now had me at gun point… with a grenade launcher! By the Great Egg! We were in the same freaking room!

Mrs. Smiles vanished in yellow flash while I stood and stared, completely dumbfounded by the situation. I thought this was it; the end. That I would go out in a grenade rifle’s explosion in some raider’s kitchen, taking some innocent griffon with me as well. My thoughts trailed on like this for some time before I realized Mr. Smiles hadn’t fired yet. Actually, he was jerking the gun to the right, directing me to an open pantry.

I dived in just as Mr. Smiles fired, slamming the door shut with my tail. The explosion rocked the house to its foundations, sending kitchen utensils and oven fragments flying like hot shrapnel.

“Darn,” uttered Mr. Smiles with what sounded forced surprise. It was hard to tell through the deafening ringing. “That damn griffon was just too fast for me.”

There was another yellow flash and Mrs. Smiles appeared in the kitchen. “My oven!” I heard her moan. “I spent months searching for one!”

“What a shame.” Mr. Smiles gave a few seconds of solemn silence before perking back up. “Whelp! I’ll go get the flamer so we can cook the dinner the old fashioned and better way.”

“NO! I am not eating anything cooked with your stupid flamer anymore!” Mrs. Smiles teleported into the kitchen doorway blocking her husband. “You don’t cook the meat properly and it always tastes like petrol!”

“Then I’ll use the fancy home-made stuff. You like maize, right?” Mr. Smiles argued while trying to get around his wife who continued to block his path. “Aw come on! I spent MY day lugging that stupid oven across the desert and hooking up MY flamer fuel to it!” he slammed his forehooves onto the ground and butted heads with his wife. “I want something to eat!”

“And you could have had that if you just waited!” Mrs. Smiles bellowed back, also pressing her forehead against his. “But nooooo! You had to blow up the oven and put a great big bloody hole in our new wall! Guess who’s going to fix that!” She jabbed him sharply in the chest with her hoof. “You are! And you’re not having ANYTHING to eat until you do!”

I peered through the grated pantry door. Mrs. Smiles was indeed right; smoke cleared from the oven wreckage revealing a sizeable hole blown in the wall behind it. It was my best bet out of here so I clutched the egg to my side, poised myself low to the ground and uttered a small prayer to the Great Egg before making a mad dash for freedom.

“And now dinner’s getting away!” I heard Mrs. Smiles shout as I bolted past them. “That’s also your fault!"

I ducked through the hole just as a kitchen knives telekinetically rained around me. I spread my wings to catch some lift, only to come crashing down moments later. I only flew twenty feet! I looked to my left wing and groaned in frustration; impaled cleanly through the carpel joint was a blackened fork. I felt like yanking it out, marching back in there and slowly disembowelling both Mr. and Mrs. Smiles with it.

“Yes honey! I have got the right gun this time!” Mr. Smiles shouted. I clutched the egg close to my chest and leapt to the side towards an old sky-wagon just as Mr. Smiles let off a burst of automatic fire. Though safe behind it, I was now pinned with no hope of an aerial escape and delicate cargo perhaps more precious than I.

“What did you do this time?! Can you do anything right!?” I was growing accustomed to Mrs. Smiles raised voice and argumentative tone. I glanced back to see jets of flame erupting from the ovens base. Through the shimmering, hot air I could see Mr. and Mrs. Smiles still arguing. While they were distracted, I decided to make another mad dash for it.

Next thing I know I was blown off my talons and paws and slammed into the rusted remains of a pre-war outhouse.

“Luckily, no-one had used it since the spells fell,” I added.

“What blew you off the ground?” Gillet asked.

“Do you remember that part from Fight for the Fringes IV where Indiana strapped a stick of dynamite to a cylinder of gas...” GiIlet looked up to me with wide eyes. “… And then threw it at the cyber-zebras running across the bridge to stop them.”

“Yeah. It didn’t work ‘cause they had jetpacks.” I swear I’ll know these movies just as well as he does one day.

“Well, remember what I saw in their basement?”

Gillet thought really hard to himself. “The raider armours… piles of bones… fridges and… flamer fuel?”

“Which had pipes leading up into the ceiling.”

They say a light bulb sparks above your head when you work things out. I imagined the glow above Gillet’s could almost outmatch the fresh glare of a balefire egg. “How big was it!?”

“Pretty big.”
“All the way up to the clouds?” Gillet threw his forearms into the air imitating the shape of a mushroom.

“Not quite, but let’s just say the house was… no longer a house.”

I thought his movies and documentaries might have numbed him to it a little but the amount of glee on my son’s face said otherwise. “What happened next?”

“I woke up a day later in a Talon compound close to the Badlands Border. A squad that happened to be passing by on patrol noticed the giant plume of smoke and flew in for a closer look. They were kind enough to mend my wing and get me back on my talons.” I showed him the joint of my left wing; underneath the feathers you could clearly see four small scars. “Their leader, Gorge, – the biggest griffon I had ever laid my eyes on! – needed my help. The egg traffickers had also stolen his son.”

“Did you become a Talon and help save him?” Gillet asked. His question I had expected but the worried tone I had not.

“Sweetie, you don’t need to be a Talon to help another griffon in need,” Gillet nodded softly, taking my wisdom a little more seriously. He had simply laughed the last time I said that. “I led them to my employer back at the Oasis Trade Pony Express and they were able to acquire the information after tearing the place to the ground and interviewing the employees four hundred feet above the city.”

“They got what they needed right?” Gillet quivered with unease, his talons tightening on my forearm. “The big Talon got his son back… right?”

“He did.” Gillet sighed deeply in relief. “He was generous in thanks; offering me expensive equipment, wealth, a home in their compound and even instant membership.” I chuckled softly as my son drooled on jacket sleeve. “I settled for some menial supplies and a favour I plan never to cash in. I was just happy to lend a talon helping save his son and bringing those involved to justice.”

“… Justice,” Gillet repeated, awe in his eyes and tone.

“The Oasis Trade Pony Express went out of business but I decided to stick with the courier job. After all, since my first delivery could not be completed, it now fell to me to return it to the original sender. I just had to find them first.” I pulled the framed Equestrian World Map off the wall and held it before Gillet and I. “I used my courier’s map and visited every place listed. I started south first, leaving the Badlands and travelling to Dodge City and then up around near Shattered Hoof and Junction R-7.”

“Wow…” Gillet followed the route I laid out with his own talons, eventually catching up to mine. “That’s a long way."

“It was just the beginning.” I remembered it just like it was yesterday. It was then when I truly started to live my life. “The Talons there pointed me further north to Manehatten, Tenpony and Friendship City. All busts, so I moved east towards the Canterlot Ruins and then swung around to meet with the Tronto Talons. No leads but I meet a wonderful mare in the city who offered to take you in, no questions asked. Next, I plucked up what courage I had and ventured south into the perpetual warzone that was Fillydelphia.”

“You went to Filly?”

“I convinced myself too. Let’s just say my visit solidified it as a no fly zone.” I shuddered; the ash, pollution and lets not even mention the locals. “I luckily found another squad on its outskirts who lead me to the ruins Ponyville and finally to New Appleloosa.”

Gillet caught on. “Finally?” he asked with a hint of trepidation.

“Finally,” I repeated nodding just slighty. “My time in Fillydelphia was… tiring, and I needed a decent night’s sleep before planning an expedition outside the Equestrian borders.” I chuckled softly to myself as fond memories and nostalgia came flooding back to me. “I had to put that plan on hold as I had something much more important to worry about the next morning.”

“It hatched?

It? Tucked in my jacket was a necklace; on it dangled a bronze and brown fragment from that very egg. Again, Gillet stared at it. I could almost hear the rusty gears grinding into place inside his little head, but this really shouldn’t be so hard for him to piece together… right?

“That’s just like me,” he murmured, toying with the fragment. Suddenly his eyes lit up. “I was in that egg?”

My parenting might be up to par but perhaps I should look into my ability to teach. “Of course that was you!” I answered with an exasperated smile. “I failed my delivery Gillet. I couldn’t return that package in time. I failed to reunite you with your true parents before you hatched… So I tried to raise you as best I could.”

“You did all that for me?” I nodded slightly. “Teased raider ponies, exploded them and then flew all over Eques… the world just for me?” My messy crest flopped about as I nodded again. Gillet and I shared a brief stare before he erupted in joy. “I HAVE THE BEST MUM EVER!”

Suddenly I was flat on my back with Gillet wrapped around my middle. “You’re fine with me not being your real mother?” “‘Fine?’ I’m lucky! I have the coolest mum in the world!” The fears which had haunted me for nearly a decade lifted in an instant. I floundered a little, still overwhelmed, before wrapping my own wings and forearms around Gillet, returning his embrace with almost the same amount of passion as he did. “And she’s so awesome that she won’t ground me for flying up above the clouds.”

My smile just broadened. “Nice try little guy, but you’re not off the hook that easily.” His grip slackened a little. “However. For being such a brave little boy, maybe I’ll ground you for a week, instead of the rest of your life. Sound fair?”

I knew my son had a way with words and the will to argue anything he deemed remotely unfair, but I don’t think either of us were up for a debate tonight. “Okay,” he said.

“Come on, you can have one treat before your grounding starts.”

“A treat? Yes!” Gillet leapt off the bed and flew out the doorway in a bronze and brown blur.

“What did I say about flying inside the stable, mister!” I called out after him, even if I knew it was pointless. I sat back down on Gillet’s bed giving myself a brief respite. This was a conversation I had dreaded for years. Yet, when it finally came about, it was over in minutes. Gillet’s impression of myself was what I had feared the most. He worshiped the history of others and I assumed he would do the same to his own. To have him accept me as his mother, and not a griffon who robbed him of his lineage or his true family, warmed me to my core. Truly, I had been blessed.

As I blinked a tear, I heard the clinking of little talons and claws speeding back down the hallway. “Wait! Mum! You forgot one bit!”

“Oh?”

“Your virtue!” He skidded to a halt just in front of me. “You said you found it on the same day you found me! What was it?”

“Isn’t it obvious, sweetie?” I said while ruffling his bronze and brown crest. “My virtue was you.”