The Power of Freedom

by Greatazuredragon

V - First Impressions

First Impressions

You should never trust a pegasus or a unicorn.

That was a truth that Forest’s parents had told her more than once when she was still but a little filly. A truth that nothing had discredited as the moons went past and she saw more and more of the world as she grew up to the mare she was today.

You trusted only the members of your own tribe, for doing otherwise was nothing short of folly at even the best of times.

Oh, sure, everypony knew that the Three Tribes were technically allied with each other. An alliance based on a fair division of tasks befitting each tribe’s innate magic, and that should allow them all to thrive and prosper together in harmony.

The basic idea of the treaty was really very simple. The pegasi would protect their borders from outsiders and control the weather, the unicorns would safeguard them all from magical threats and keep the cycle of the celestial bodies going, and the earth ponies would tend to the land and manufacture what was needed for them all to thrive.

But the truth was that everypony also knew that the treaty wasn’t worth the parchment it had been written upon.

The pegasi were full of themselves and antagonistic to ground dwellers even at the best of times, taking whatever they wanted with their flying legions while calling it a ‘tribute’ for keeping the weather fair enough for farming and ‘protecting’ them all. Despite the fact that the feather brains barely did the minimum necessary regarding maintaining the weather, forcing honest and hardworking earth ponies to put that much more effort in taking care of their crops due to rain shortages and rogue storms and tended to be way too busy butting heads with the unicorns to even try and maintain their peacekeeping duties.

The unicorns were somehow even more arrogant than the winged ponies, lording their control over the sun and the moon and using it as an unsaid but always present threat that should their own ‘tribute’ not be paid in time then famine would shortly follow as they prevented the sun from rising as it should. And as for protecting them from magical threats? Be prepared to pay a leg or two if you ever wanted to see a needle head spell caster ever do something helpful for a change. Not to mention most of their magicians were always being deployed to fend off the winged armada of the pegasi, and so far too busy to help the common pony.

Amidst that whole mess, despite the fact that two thirds of the alliance proposed by the treaty were more often than not at each other’s throats, the earth ponies were forced to soldier on. Only the knowledge that should they ever stop, neither of the other two tribes would be able to produce even one tenth of the food necessary to keep them going worked as a shaky counterbalance to keep both the pegasus armada and the unicorn war mages somewhat at bay and maintaining a tenuous semblance of order.

That was the truth of the ‘great treaty’, an uneasy truce born by sheer necessity due to the fact that no tribe could truly survive alone, despite the fact that they all dearly wished that wasn’t the truth. They were only kept going by greed and the desire for survival in equal measures.

And that was why the mere idea of any member of the Three Tribes willingly working with any of the others was laughable at best, sheer insanity at worst. For who would ever truly trust somepony you knew would end up stabbing you in the back in the end?

And that question was why, as she took in the current situation she found herself in, Forest Blossom sincerely wondered if she wasn’t suffering from a concussion or something. Perhaps she had been hit on the head as the gryphon raiders’ tossed her into the cage and she was hallucinating due to it? For it would most definitely explain this whole thing quite nicely after all.

At the very least it would make far more sense than the other option, that her savior’s companions were indeed a pegasus and a unicorn. A pegasus and a unicorn that not only seemed quite civil with each other despite the old hatred that existed between their tribes, something that quite frankly she hadn’t even known was possible, but also seemed to be traveling with an earth pony without trying to treat him like an unimportant servant or free muscle.

Yes, the concussion idea definitely made more sense.

But, as she watched a light blue glow envelop her battered body as the white unicorn cast what she had said was some kind of analysis spell on her, all the while speaking with her savior in what had to be the most civil conversation she had ever seen between a member of her tribe and a horn head, all the while their pegasus friend went along with Ganondorf’s suggestion of searching the camp for anything of use while keeping an eye for threats without a single complaint she had to admit that perhaps this was actually happening.

No matter how weird it all was.

“She has both bruises and open cuts, none of which seem to have been treated properly, and I think she may be running a fever,” Ganondorf nonchalantly spoke, his right fore-hoof idly petting Singing Blossom’s mane, keeping the little filly calm at his side after explaining to her that the unicorn mare was going to heal Forest’s wounds.

“I see, but why haven’t you at least started cleaning and dressing her wounds then?” the white coated mare inquired in a disturbingly polite tone of voice, eyes narrowed in concentration while staring at Forest with a slightly unnerving intensity.

“Do you seriously think I know how to do that?” the large brown coated stallion said with a loud scoff while giving the white mare an exaggerated eye roll. “I at least know that since there was no immediate risk to her health that it was better to wait for someone that knows what they are doing rather than to try and bodge something together and hope that it works.”

“Point,” the mare, Zelda apparently, readily replied. Her eyes kept track of something Forest could not see as her spell took effect. “Despite my limited knowledge of her species’ biology, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here, it should be a simple matter to heal all the wounds and cleanse any foreign substances from her blood stream, so as to prevent infections from occurring.

“Lady Forest, the healing spell I’m about to use may cause you a slight tingling feeling, please do not be alarmed,” the unicorn mare calmly explained in a polite tone of voice, which alongside her caring smile was doing a very good job in unnerving the earth pony mare.

Giving a brief glance to Ganondorf’s composed and calm form for a long moment, she hesitated for a moment longer before nodding her understanding, not trusting her voice with remaining steady and not wanting to embarrass herself in front of the stallion.

As the glow around herself intensified and the promised tingling feeling started to spread around her body, she once more thought if this wasn’t another point in favor of the concussion idea, the very surreal fact that she was being treated by a magical healer.

For while it was true that Forest did not know much about the magical secrets of the horn heads, one thing that she knew damn well was that ponies capable of healing magic were as rare as hens’ teeth. To the point that many unicorns spent their whole lives without ever seeing a magical healer, even amidst their so called nobility! And the less said about the chances of an earth pony commoner like herself being treated by one of those the better!

And yet, as she felt a warm feeling swiftly covering her body, and as she watched in silent awe, as her open wounds closed before her very eyes leaving nothing but her unmarred and pristine coat behind, as if she hadn’t ever been injured in the first place, she could not deny what was clearly happening.

Somehow, Forest Blossom, a no name mare from a forgotten little hamlet in the middle of nowhere, was being healed by a magical healer so skilled that she wasn’t even sweating as she healed dozens of open injuries as if they were nothing.

And that, right after being rescued from a group of gryphon raiders by an extraordinary earth pony that was so strong that he could literally rip steel in two without even trying!

As the last of her wounds magically disappeared and all pain left her body, Forest discreetly gazed towards the green pegasus calmly opening a barrel to see what was inside it, wondering if he at least was somewhat normal, though she somehow doubted it.

All in all, it was understandable really why she was in a state of near shock while inwardly wondering what the buck was going on! A state of near shock that wasn’t being helped in the slightest by how the massive mountain of masculinity and power that was her savior was now nearly touching her muzzle with his, as he observed her with his intense and entrancing golden eyes from way too close.

“You sure you are finished, Princess?” she heard Ganondorf question from what sounded like too far away, despite how he was inching his face even closer to hers, before promptly placing his right forehoof atop her brow. The action made her already crimson muzzle blush even harder. “I think she still has some kind of a fever or something, her face is awfully flushed.”

Cautiously approaching her target while doing her level best to not make any noise and keep herself hidden behind one of the meany winged beasts’ tents, Singing Blossom peeked from behind her hiding spot.

Thankfully, big sister was still occupied with mister Ganondorf and the strange unicorn mare that had healed her injuries, and so they were far too busy to stop her from investigating her target. And while she would have liked to see the unicorn from up close too, she knew better than to do so right underneath her big sister’s muzzle, no matter how weirdly and distracted she was currently acting.

Curiously watching the forest green pegasus as he kept gathering all the items that were littering the campsite and sorting them into several different piles, for some reason she couldn’t really guess, she took in his form with a hint of excitement.

She had never seen a pegasus from this close before! None of her friends or acquaintances had! Not even that arrogant poser Shining Quartz could boast about seeing one of the winged ponies from so close, and she had once visited the earth pony central city with her father!

The closest she had ever been to a member of the feathered tribe had been once seven moons ago when she and her friends had dared each other to try and sneak out so that they could try and see the winged ponies bringing forth the rain clouds their home village needed to grow crops.

And all she had seen that day had been colorful blurs darting one way or another high up in the sky around the black background of the rain clouds, which had been really unfair considering how much time she had spent grounded when her big sister had found out what she had done.

Sure, she knew that the winged ponies were dangerous meanies, Forest had said so herself, after all! Something that, after everything that had happened today, made her wonder if being a meanie wasn’t maybe a problem caused by having wings or something. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t curious about them!

And besides, the horned ponies were also supposed to be mean and arrogant. Never helping an earth pony no matter what! And yet the mare with mister Ganondorf had healed all of her sister’s wounds just like that! So perhaps mister Ganondorf’s companions could be alright despite not being earth ponies themselves.

It wouldn’t really surprise her, after all mister Ganondorf was awesome and really, really strong! There was no way he would accept a bunch of meanie-pants as his friends!

But that didn’t mean she shouldn’t be smart about it, which was why she was sneakily peeking from behind a wooden barrel to see the strange winged pony.

She stared in awe at the forest green pegasus calmly sorting through the items for a long moment, watching curiously how his feathery wings seemed to sprout from his sides. She stood there for a moment longer, until with a wide eyed look she finally noticed one very attention grabbing fact.

“How are you doing that?” she blurted out, incredulity clear in her words as she stepped from behind the barrel in order to get a clearer look. The surprise she felt at what she was seeing was so strong that she momentarily forgot that she had been hiding from the stallion in the first place.

“Doing what?” the forest green pony calmly inquired while giving her a small, peaceful smile. His hooves still moved through the assorted items in front of him and placidly packed them into a small brown saddlebag lying in front of him.

“That!” Singing forcefully exclaimed pointing with one hoof to the ordinary looking saddlebag, now peeved that he was being stubborn and not answering her question.

“What? I’m just packing some things for later,” the pegasus placidly explained, tilting his head to the side as he gazed at her in slight confusion. “It’s always a good idea to carry some supplies with you, just in case you know.”

“That’s not what I mean!” she exclaimed while stomping on the ground in frustration as the oblivious green pegasus kept packing the items into the saddlebags, watching as he stuffed a packet full of dried nuts into it.

The normally completely ordinary action absolutely lost said classification due to the simple fact that the packet in question was over three times bigger than the saddlebag it was being stuffed into! And yet, despite how impossible It sounded, not only was that little fact not stopping him in the slightest, nor the fact that he had already stuffed quite a few other things into said saddlebags, but the saddlebag wasn’t even bulging after being stuffed with quite a few things that individually surpassed its own size and mass by several orders of magnitude!

“It’s just packing,” the pegasus simply said with a shrug of his wings while giving the filly a slightly perplexed look. “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you how to do so?”

Watching in utter bewilderment as the stallion proceeded to stuff a cooking pan that had no right to even fit through the bag’s opening in the first place, much less disappear into it without even the smallest bulge appearing on the mysterious container, Singing Blossom simply replied with a slow and hesitant head shake.

“It’s an important skill to learn you know?” he simply stated, giving her a brief considering look before continuing with a small serene smile. “Here, I’ll teach you.”

The small filly stood there for a moment, unsure what to do. Until, slowly but surely, her curiosity and enthusiasm started to override her wariness and confusion.

Slowly closing in with unsure steps, eyes glued at the second, equally ordinary looking saddlebag being offered to her as if she expected it to grow fangs and lunge at her at any moment, she settled herself next to the odd pegasus and hesitantly grasped it with her hooves.

Nodding his head once and giving her a small smile, the green pony gestured with one hoof towards the completely ordinary bag and started to explain the old and proud art of properly storing and sorting adventuring equipment.

“Well, first you need to…”

Fighting down a new wave of embarrassment, Forest quickly left the presence of her savior and his perplexing unicorn companion, quite happy to use the excuse of seeing what her little sister was currently doing to leave the now bickering duo behind.

She simply could not believe how she had just acted in front of him! Blushing and stuttering as if she was a young filly being asked for a dance on her first harvest festival!

Taking a deep breath in order to calm herself, she begrudgingly sent a mental thanks to her healer. She may be a needle head, but not only had she healed her, she had also at least not spilled the beans to Ganondorf about the reason for her ‘sudden fever’.

Though Forest could have really done without the deeply amused smile the mare had been sporting after her savior directed his questions her way. Thought she shouldn’t had been surprised, she was a unicorn after all. Even if she was surprisingly helpful, she still had to have the tribe’s arrogance and superiority complex.

Leaving the still bickering duo behind, she pushed the thought that she had only ever seen that kind of good natured bickering and fake grievances in old married couples to the deepest reaches of her mind, she instead started to search for Singing in earnest.

No matter how sure Ganondorf was that Link, which was apparently the pegasus’ name, would be perfectly able to keep any possible danger well away from the gryphon camp, and so from her sister, she was still very uncomfortable about the fact that her little sister was alone there with a pegasus.

Everypony knew how aggressive and territorial the feather brains were. Who knew what he could possibly do to her, should the little filly accidentally annoy him in some manner! The sooner she took Singing away from the feathered menace the better!

Turning around one tent Forest felt herself relax as she gazed at her perfectly fine little sister and a relieved sigh slowly left her lips.

The filly was sitting right beside the pegasus, which was worth some worry, but thankfully nothing bad seemed to have happened so far. Point in fact, considering the two saddlebags resting in front of them and the assortment of packets and loose items all around them it seemed that Link had decided to pass the time by teaching Singing how to pack properly, which was a quite thoughtful way of distracting the filly, since it was a useful skill to have.

Slightly berating herself for having such unkind thoughts to her savior’s companions Forest started to move towards the duo. She should have known that Ganondorf wouldn’t allow a dangerous barbarian to travel with him, after all. But even so, the knowledge that all pegasi were dangerous brutes was something that was widely accepted as fact, so her reaction was more than warranted.

It was simply one more proof of how extraordinary Ganondorf was that he had somehow managed to recruit such oddly upstanding members of the other two tribes as his companions.

But her thoughts about her savior’s virtues were brought to a screeching halt as her eyes took in her dear little sister’s actions.

Or more accurately, how she had somehow just stuffed what looked like a pack of medicinal herbs into her saddlebag with a look of fierce concentration. A pack of medicinal herbs that was twice the size of the saddlebag it had just been stuffed into.

“…what?” Forest incredulously whispered, watching the aberrantly normal looking saddlebag with a perplexed look. Her shock grew even larger as Singing stuffed another far-too-large-to-fit package into the container, which wasn’t looking even remotely disturbed despite the impossible load it was now containing without even bulging.

Gazing at her little sister’s beaming form with more than just a little shock, as she crowed in joy to the strangely civil looking pegasus that was calmly praising her for her successful efforts in breaking the laws of nature, Forest once more revisited the validity of the concussion idea.

It really was looking like the only logical explanation left.

The group was walking alongside the unkempt road that would lead them to the small settlement where Forest and her sister lived alongside his companions. Inwardly quite amused at the suspicious, confused and weirded out looks Forest kept giving both Link and Zelda when she thought they weren’t looking, and at the truly perplexed looks Zelda was returning to the mare on occasion, Ganondorf thought that the day shaped up quite nicely, all in all.

Sure, it had started quite in the slow side, but the gryphon raid had thankfully remedied that, no matter how lackluster the gryphons had proved themselves to be as combatants in the end. And now they were even moving towards an actual civilized settlement, from where things could hopefully really get going in regards to this new adventure.

Sure, the fact it was a tiny farming hamlet in the middle of nowhere probably meant that calling it ‘civilization’ was a bit of a stretch. Considering how Forest kept referring to it as ‘the village’, the place apparently didn’t even have a proper name, and if that didn’t say how small it really was, nothing would. Not that that would be a particular problem, for after roughing it more than once in the middle of the desert without even a tent, one tended to grow to appreciate even the simplest of inns.

Nonetheless, it was still a step in the right direction, a place to gather information and find out exactly what kind of world this was and what was its current situation. They already knew that there were pegasi, unicorns and gryphons inhabiting this land, and so the Lord of Darkness was really looking forward to what other species he could hope to stumble upon here.

It had been far too long since he last wrestled a good sized elder dragon after all, and he didn’t want to risk letting his skills get rusty.

“Mister Ganondorf?” Singing Blossom innocently asked, derailing his train of thought. The little ball of fluffy happiness had been asking questions nonstop for the past hour or so, which was, at times, somewhat annoying. However, dissecting her questions and Forest’s replies was also a surprising source of information, and since if he didn’t want to answer and kept his silence long enough, Zelda always ended up answering for him, he saw no reason to make her stop.

The fact the yellow filly had a truly devastating puppy dog look had nothing to do with the decision.

“Yeah, squirt,” Ganondorf absentmindedly replied to the happy little bouncing ball, all the while debating the worth of asking the tiny filly to stop referring to him as ‘mister’. Sure, the complete lack of success caused by his last four attempts at getting her to drop it probably hinted that it wouldn’t stick for long, but stubbornness was always one of his key virtues.

“What is the meaning of your cutie mark?” she curiously inquired as she turned her large sparkling eyes his way.

“My what?” he swiftly asked, now giving the filly his full attention as he tried to confirm what he had just heard but hoping he was wrong.

“Your cutie mark!” Singing helpfully repeated while pointing to the Triforce Mark emblazoned upon his flank, confirming the very unique name the ponies had apparently given to the tribal markings they seemed to favor emblazoning on their flanks.

“I take that Cutie Mark is the local name given to the markings upon our flanks?” Zelda curiously inquired, after noticing that the Lord of Darkness was in no condition to contribute to the discussion for the moment.

“Well, yes, that’s what they have been always called.” Forest Blossom interjected with slight confusion as she gave Ganondorf’s mildly pained face a bewildered look for a moment before giving Zelda a suspicious glare.

The wielder of Power had of course noticed that both Forest and Singing had very detailed marks emblazoned on their flanks, right where he and his companions now carried their Triforce Markings for that matter. He hadn’t paid it much mind, having personally seen quite a few cultures that used ritualistic markings and tattoos as everything, from rites of passage to adulthood to ways of demarking one’s social status. It wasn’t a big deal in the least.

If you ignored their culture’s unique choice for how to name said markings, that is.

A small shudder ran down his spine when he truly processed the fact that a whole culture would more likely than not apparently call his magnificent Triforce of Power a cutie mark on sight. By Din’s majestic flame was he glad none of his minions would ever hear about that!

“And I must admit that I’m a little curious about your cutie marks myself. I’ve never seen identical cutie marks before, after all.” Forest continued, the glare she was giving the Princess all but demanded the unicorn to spill why exactly she had the same mark as the Lord of Darkness.

“I take that identical marks are rare then?” Link calmly interjected, distracting the earth pony mare from her attempt at glaring Zelda into submission.

“Rare? Try unheard of!” Forest nearly shouted, stopping on her tracks to give them a very serious look. “While they also denote a pony’s special talent, they tend to be unique to each pony! They are the marks of our destinies made manifest after all!”

“Well, if that doesn’t have some wonderful implications…” Link calmly mumbled, giving the Triforce Mark on all three of their flanks a look.

The King of Thieves had to agree with the Kid on that one, even if it did neatly explain why their Marks had migrated all the way to that particular area and not anywhere nearer their hooves.

“A physical manifestation of one’s destiny… probably magical, but that would mean… their apparently innate magical capabilities could serve as an explanation… how fascinating!” Zelda swiftly mumbled under her breath with a tone of voice that Ganondorf had learned was bad news long ago, an excited glint on her eyes. Granted, he knew from personal experience that it tended to precede the wielder of Wisdom disappearing with a bunch of dusty tomes and forgotten scrolls for some time before reappearing with a new, and usually quite unpleasant, spell or two.

Thankfully Link had apparently noticed as well, since he poked Zelda on the side with one wing in order to break her out of her funk before she decided to try to dissect and analyze their flanks or something.

Shaking his head clear of such thoughts he turned towards Forest in order to explain to her the meaning behind their marks, all the while mentally banishing the first part of the name given to them by the locals to the back of his mind so that it could be ignored and forgotten.

Only to stop the moment he opened his mouth as his ears immediately noticed the whistling sound of something swiftly cutting through the air. A whistling sound he was very familiar with for that matter. But before he could even start to react a green blur had already moved, turning the issue moot.

“Archer,” Link unnecessarily explained, calmly inspecting the arrow he had plucked midflight with the same ease most would pick a pebble from the ground.

“Cool…” Singing Blossom quietly exclaimed, watching the green pegasus wide eyed. Her older sister by her side had a far less measured reaction, having sprung forth to cover the little filly with her body while searching for whoever had fired the shot.

“Forty yards to the north, three individuals, only one archer,” Link kept on talking with his ever present stoic calmness upon noticing that the earth pony mare was searching for the origin of the attack, most of his focus still on the arrow on is hoof as he turned it one way and then another before nodding slightly in approval.

“You don’t seem very worried about the fact someone just attempted to shoot us,” Zelda grumbled under her breath, a blue magical aura surrounding her horn as she prepared herself to cast at a moment’s notice.

Ganondorf himself had started to fall into a battle stance, but that had lasted until he saw the same thing the Princess had just pointed out, how utterly unruffled Link was acting. And since the Kid was hardly one to allow himself to be caught off guard, he decided to trust Link’s instincts that there was no threat, for the moment.

“Warning shot; it was intended to be a close miss but not to hit any of us,” the wielder of Courage explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, clearly not paying the incident much mind.

Well that explained it then. Which, alongside the fact that none of the new interlopers seemed flight capable, only left one likely origin from them. Forest’s home village had to be close by this point.

“None of you move! I won’t miss again!” a loud voice shouted from amidst the trees to the north of their position, though Ganondorf’s sensitive ears could detect a hint of incredulity on the archer’s voice. Clearly whoever the archer was, they really hadn’t expected to see someone simply grab their arrow mid-flight as if it was a complete nonissue.

“Well balanced and perfectly aligned; good craftsmanship. Did you make it yourself?” the green coated pony pleasantly asked, finally averting his eyes from the arrow in order to look at the sea green mare that was holding a short bow with its string already pulled back and another arrow nocked in and pointing straight at his head. Not a hint of worry was present in either his voice or his body language.

Upon seeing the incredulous look the archer was giving Link, and the equally bewildered looks her two companions were also sporting, how clearly none of them knew how to deal with how calm and unbothered the Kid was acting after nonchalantly plucking the mare’s warning shot out of the air, nor how to respond to his nonsensical sounding question, Ganondorf snorted in amusement and decided to simply wait and see how this would develop.

It was always a treat watching new people react to the green wonder’s unique personality after all.