Rainbow Dash made good time getting to Griffonstone. She threaded her way up the mountain, watching eagerly for the ancient griffon city to come into view. When she had last visited it had been kind of a dump, but Gilda’s letters had said that they were starting some renovation projects.
It wasn’t long before she caught sight of buildings, and from there it was just a few short minutes before she arrived at the entranceway. She flew eagerly into the city before landing to take a look around.
At a glance it didn’t look too different from how she remembered it. High mountain breezes wove through thatched cottages and scattered trees. Looking more closely though, she could see that many of the cottages appeared to have had recent repairs done, and the streets were much tidier. The biggest change, however, was in the griffons walking and flying around.
True, most of them still looked grumpy and standoffish. But here and there she could see pairs and small groups who looked like they were getting along well together. They weren’t playing games or singing songs, but they appeared to be enjoying each other’s company, more or less. Gilda must have been doing a good job teaching them about friendship.
And with that in mind, Rainbow Dash flew off toward Gilda’s house. When she arrived her hoof beat out a quick rat-a-tat-tat on the door. From within she heard Gilda’s voice call out, “Hang on, I’m coming.”
When the door opened Gilda’s face lit up. “Dash! Good to see you! Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
The next thing Rainbow Dash knew, she was being pulled inside and shown where to dump her saddle bags. In short order tea and scones were set on the low table, and they were filling each other in on all the odds and ends that didn’t fit into letters.
It wasn’t until the scones were nearly gone that Rainbow pulled a brochure from her bag and showed it to GIlda, explaining about her mission.
“So Twilight wants to try to find students from all these different places we’ve visited, and she sent me here to see if you know any young griffons who would want to come study in Equestria.”
“You mean like how I went to an Equestrian flight camp to work on my flying?”
“Yeah. Only this would be to learn about making friends and solving problems and… uh…” Rainbow sneaked a look at the way Twilight had worded it on the brochure. “Working together to form bonds to make a brighter future for everycreature.”
“This sounds like a great idea, Dash. Going to Equestria for flight camp was one of the best things I did as a grifflet. Griffonstone’s doing better than we were, but there’s still not a lot of chances to get out into the world.”
“So, can you think of any young griffons who’d like to go?”
“Well, there’s Gabby. She’d probably jump at the chance to go to school in Equestria. But then again, she jumps at pretty much anything.”
“Gabby? She’s the mail griffon who delivers your letters, right? The one who likes to hang out with Scootaloo and her friends when she’s in Ponyville?”
“That’s her. I’m sure she’d like to go, but…” Gilda’s voice trailed off.
“Well, this brochure says that it’s for creatures to learn how to make friends. Gabby’s already good at that. Like you said, she’s made friends with the fillies she visits in Ponyville. And besides that, she does more than anygriffon to help me out here. She’d be really happy to go, but, well, I think there’s probably others who need it more.” Gilda seemed unusually quiet and solemn.
Rainbow wasn’t sure what to make of Gilda’s sudden shift in mood. “Hey, are you doing okay?”
Gilda shook herself and gave Rainbow a smile. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“All right. Did you have any other griffons in mind?”
“I wasn’t really thinking of anyone in particular.” Gilda thought for a moment. “How about we go see Grandpa Gruff? He might have some ideas.”
As they made their way to Grandpa Gruff’s house Gilda pointed out places where she had persuaded the Griffons to come together to work on improving Griffonstone.
“That house is the new library. No one wanted to spend the time or gold on rebuilding the old library, but with the weather coming in the books were likely to get ruined. So we just moved them into an abandoned house and fixed it up a bit. Grandpa Gruff was actually the one who took the lead on that. Most of the younger griffons aren’t interested in history, but it’s really important to him.”
“So I guess maybe he’s not as gruff as he seems.”
“No, he is. But he still cares a lot about passing on griffon stories and culture to the next generation. That’s why I thought he might have some ideas for your school. That’s his house up ahe-”
Gilda’s voice cut off as a sudden burst of noise and the sound of things breaking shook the house she was pointing at. A moment later they heard Grandpa Gruff’s creaky old voice raised in fury.
The door swung open, and a small blue griffon darted out. He rushed past them muttering, “Hi Gilda. Bye Gilda.”
And then he was gone.
Grandpa Gruff appeared in the doorway yelling, “Gallus, get back here and clean up this mess! You better listen to me, young griffon!” He shook his clenched talon.
Gilda ran over to him. “He’s gone, Grandpa Gruff. He just blew past us.”
“Good-for-nothing young scallywag. He just knocked down a whole shelf of dishes. Then he ran away. No respect for his elders at all.”
Rainbow gave him her best smile. “Well, we’re here. How about we help you clean up?”
Grandpa Gruff’s bleary eyes focused on her. “Oh it’s you. One of those ponies Gilda likes to hang out with. Rainbow Rush? What are you doing here?’
“It’s Rainbow Dash, Grandpa.” Gilda corrected him. “She came to tell us about a school that’s opening in Equestria. They’re looking for griffon students, and she wanted to see if we could let her know about anyone who’d like to go.”
“Send that young rogue Gallus. Get him out of my feathers for a while and see if a proper education can knock some sense into his head.”
Gilda considered for a few moments.
“You know, that’s not a bad idea. Gallus has been getting into a lot of trouble lately, but he’s not a bad kid. Going to your friend’s school might be good for him.”
“Great! Let’s go talk to him!”
Rainbow would have flown off after Gallus, but Gilda held up a talon to stop her.
“Actually, Dash, it might be better if I go talk to him alone. He’s kinda headstrong, and if he feels like we’re ganging up on him he’ll just refuse to go.”
Rainbow flapped her wings indecisively for a few moments before shrugging and settling to the ground. “Okay. Let me know if you need any of the brochures or anything.”
“Will do. In the meantime, why don’t you stay here and help Grandpa Gruff clean up?”
Grandpa Gruff pulled Rainbow toward the door. “You look strong enough to do some good work. And while you’re cleaning up Gallus’s mess I’ll tell you about the history of Queen Gwendolyn and how she developed the recipe for the first griffon scones.”
Rainbow’s smile was frozen in place. “Sounds great.”
Gilda found Gallus sitting in a tree on the outskirts of town.
“Did Grandpa Gruff send you to find me and drag me back so he can give me a lecture?”
“Well, he is pretty mad, but no, he didn’t send me after you. I want to talk to you about something else.”
“I didn’t do it.”
“Didn’t do what?”
“Whatever it is you want to yell at me about.” He scowled deeply, almost daring her to challenge him.
“Look, Gallus, you’re not in trouble, and I don’t want to yell at you for anything. Can we just talk for a minute?”
Gallus huffed and rolled his eyes but relented. “Fine.”
Gilda flew up to perch next to him on the tree. For a few moments they sat in silence. Gallus seemed to be pretending that she wasn’t there. Gilda watched him thoughtfully before speaking.
“You know, Gallus, when I was your age I hated living in Griffonstone. I probably would have done just about anything to get out and see the world.”
“Yeah, who wouldn’t? This place stinks.”
“What if I told you there was a chance for you to leave for a while?”
Gallus immediately perked up. “What kind of chance?”
“There’s a school opening in Equestria, and they’re looking for griffon students. You could go there, board at the school, meet lots of creatures from all over the world.”
Gallus’s signs of interest vanished as quickly as they came. “A pony school? That sounds super lame.”
“Not just ponies. Yeah, it’s run by ponies, but they’re looking for students from all over. There’s probably going to be dragons and hippogriffs and who knows what else.”
“I guess going to school with dragons might be cool.” His voice was still indifferent. “So exactly what’s the deal here? Why are you looking for students for a pony school, and why me?”
“You’ve heard me talk about my pony friend Rainbow Dash. She’s the one who told me about the school and asked me to help find students.”
She didn’t say any more, and Gallus gave her a suspicious glare as he repeated the last part of his question. “Why me?”
“Grandpa Gruff suggested you.”
“Well, that’s great. I make one mess in his dusty old house and he’s ready to banish me to live among the ponies! Does he already have a bag packed to ship me off?”
“It’s not like that, Gallus. He thinks it would be good for you. I think so too.”
“I’m not interested in being carted off to live with a bunch of stupid ponies. Why don’t you send Gabby if someone has to go? She’d probably love it, and she’s so annoying it would be good to get a break from her.”
Gilda almost snapped at him, but she had gotten much better at reining in her temper since reconnecting with Rainbow Dash. She took a deep breath and tried again.
“I did think of Gabby at first, but I decided she wasn’t right for it. Or maybe I should say it’s not right for her. She wouldn’t get much out of it. I think you would.”
Gallus just rolled his eyes again.
“Look, Gallus… okay, you remember what I said before about how much I hated living here when I was younger? Did you know that I went to learn in Equestria for a while?”
That got his attention. “You mean you went to a pony school?”
“Not a school exactly. I went to a pony flight camp to work on my flying. Not many griffons went there, but my parents were convinced I was really good, good enough to train with pegasus coaches. They teach stuff about speed flying and aerial acrobatics that we just don’t have here. And my mom and dad thought I should go and learn from the best.
“When they told me about it I didn’t know what to think. On the one claw, I wasn’t happy here. I didn’t like any of the grifflets I went to school with. I got picked on a lot, and when I tried to fight back I got into trouble. I was desperate to break free.
“On the other claw, I didn’t want them telling me what to do or where to go. And, even though I didn’t want to admit it, I was terrified at the thought of going to a strange place with strange creatures.
“But in the end I went. And at first it seemed like a disaster. When I first arrived everything seemed to come crashing down on me. I was alone. I was scared. Everything looked and sounded and even smelled different than what I was used to. And to top it all off, right after I arrived a group of bullies started making fun of me. I thought it was going to be like school here all over again except that now I didn’t even have the home turf advantage.
“But then I met Rainbow Dash. She stood up for me against the bullies. She practiced flying with me. She was just the… the nicest person I’d ever met. In fact, she might have been the first nice person I ever met.
“I was… I was happy at the Equestrian flight camp. Happier than I’d ever been. When camp ended I didn’t want to come home. When I did come home I missed Equestria. I missed the friend I’d made there.
“I’ve had some bad times since then. Once I had a big fight with Rainbow Dash, and we went a really long time without speaking to each other before we made up. And even since we’ve been friends again I’ve had problems to deal with.
“What I’m trying to say is that going to learn in Equestria was one of the best things I ever did. It made a difference for me. And I really needed that, even though I didn’t know it then.
“That’s why I don’t want to pick Gabby to send to this school. She’s already happy. She doesn’t need it. I want to pick someone who’s having a rough time like I did. I know you don’t like talking about it, but I know you’ve been getting into trouble a lot. You’re not happy.”
Gallus hadn’t said a word throughout her speech. Now he was looking sullenly at the ground, deliberately not meeting her gaze.
“Just give it a try, Gallus. You might be surprised.”
Gallus took a long breath. “Okay, I’ll go, but I’m not promising that I’ll stay. If I don’t like it I’m gonna get out of there.”
“Fair enough. Just give it a few weeks before you make up your mind.”
“...and that’s how we griffons became famous for our scones. Mind those cups!”
Rainbow Dash had a slightly glazed look on her face. She had just learned far more about Griffonstone’s culinary history than she had ever wanted to know. The lengthy story had been punctuated with sharp comments about the quality of her housework. She thought she might crack up soon. She wished that she had traded places with Twilight and accompanied Spike to the Dragon Lands. Twilight would have loved cleaning up a mess while getting a history lecture.
It was with a great deal of relief that she heard Gilda return.
“Well, Dash, you’ve got a student.”
“All right!” Rainbow Dash’s lethargy was shaken off immediately. “So Gallus is going to come to the school?”
“Yeah. He’s not too keen on the idea, but he’s willing to give it a chance. That’s probably the best we can do.”
“Great! Let’s head back to your place to celebrate.”
A wicked smile spread across Gilda’s beak. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay and hear some more of Grandpa Gruff’s stories?”
“Well, uh, if I hear them all now then there won’t be any more for next time.”
Grandpa Gruff waved them off. “You girls go on. I’m late for my afternoon nap. And, Gilda, when you talk to Gallus make sure to tell him to come spend some time with me before he leaves. There’s some advice that a young griffon needs to hear before he sets off into the world.”
“Will do, Grandpa. I’ll see you later!”
Rainbow Dash breathed a deep sigh as they flew back to Gilda’s house. “I thought he wouldn’t tell stories unless you paid him. What happened?”
“I’ve been trying to tell him about how ponies will trade favors instead of paying for them. He probably figured that cleaning up Gallus’s mess was fair trade for telling the story. Looks like I’m getting pretty good at teaching these friendship lessons, huh?”