The Power of Freedom

by Greatazuredragon


VIII - Portents

Portents

As he watched the last few raindrops of the storm Link had called forth hit against the window of Old Oak’s log cabin, Ganondorf listened with half an ear to the hushed whispers of the throng of ponies who were now crowding the far side of the main room of the elder’s home, an action that was made far easier than normal due to the fact that his ears could now apparently swivel independently in order to better capture sounds. Quite useful, that.

He thought about this new biological quirk for a moment before a particular awestruck comment from one of the ponies talking about how Link had affected the whole area by himself as he called forth the storm proved itself too much and made it so that the King of Thieves couldn’t help but snort in amusement. Seriously, it was almost as if none of the locals had ever seen a large scale magical undertaking before. Though truth be told, the fact that Link’s little musical ability could be mistaken for an old pegasus art had been as surprising as it had been amusing.

Growing bored with both the landscape he had been watching and the locals which he had been eavesdropping, he turned around from the window and searched the room for his two companions. Link was standing near the cabin’s small hearth, apparently entertained talking with Singing Blossom and completely ignoring the deeply distrustful look Sure Shot was giving him from less than two feet away.

Zelda, on the other hoof, was animatedly talking with Old Oak while perusing a large faded book. While he would normally be all in favor of gathering some actionable intel regarding this world, he had decided that the Princess had the situation well under control by herself. And no, that decision had nothing to do with the fact that he had forgotten to add a written component to the translation spell that had been integrated into the transportation ritual that had brought them all to this realm, which meant that he couldn’t read a single line of any of the books inside the cabin, absolutely not.

Of course the lack of prompt translation hadn’t fazed the unicorn scholar for more than a heartbeat, the mare having apparently managed to figure out and read the earth pony language in a matter of moments after seeing it for the first time as if it were a non-issue. That was clearly visible by how she was now happily devouring the books he simply couldn’t read. The fact that he was quite sure she hadn’t even needed a translations spell, or any kind of magic for that matter, to do so was just icing atop the cake. Not that that fact bothered him. Not at all.

Nonetheless, now that the rain had already fallen upon the area, their part of the deal was completed, and with the Princess sifting through dozens of dusty old tomes in order to separate the junk from what was of worth and gather some intel they could actually use, that left seeing to the promised supplies to do. Well, either that or admitting he couldn’t read the darned things and asking the unicorn for a translation spell so he could help. And there was no question to which task he would rather do.

“Hey, Princess!” Ganondorf loudly called the wielder of Wisdom, making the mare stop her enthusiastic discussion with the village Elder as she gave him a half curious half suspicious look. The fact quite a few ponies gave both him and Zelda strange looks when they heard what he had called Zelda was simply ignored by the Lord of Darkness.“I gather that you will lose yourself on the old timer’s book collection for the immediate future, so the Kid and I will go ahead and start seeing what we can get regarding travel supplies. You both okay with that?”

Link simply raised his head from his one-sided conversation with Singing to nod his agreement to Ganondorf’s plan. The fact he was ignoring Sure Shot’s angry glower as if it wasn’t even happening, and making the action look completely natural at that, forced a tiny smirk on the King of Thieves' muzzle.

The Princess seemed to think about his proposal, for a fraction of a second that is, before the white coated mare immediately nodded her agreement to the plan without even really looking his way, a happy little smile on her muzzle as she immediately started discussing something about soil types of all things with Old Oak as she turned back to the book. Not that he had doubted that outcome even for a second, since the fact that Zelda actually liked reading through the dusty old things really helped accomplish his current goal with minimum fuss.

Scholars, he would never understand them.

“Yes! I can show you around the village so we can see what you need!” Forest happily replied from his side as she moved her still wet mane behind her head with one hoof all the while she tilted slightly to the side and gave him a half lidded look. “We can also pass by Forge Fire’s forge so we can drop those swords you got from the gryphons.”

“Very well then, see you later Princess,” he agreed after a moment’s thought as he made a mental list of what they would need both long and short term and what they were likely to be able to find in this little hamlet. “Let’s get going, Link.”

“There is no need for that! The two of us can do this easily enough by ourselves! There is no need to tie him up with us, Singing can show him around the village instead!” the mare hastily added as she saw both the green hero and the little hyperactive ball of fluffiness that was her sister getting up to follow them outside, her words followed by her giving him a strange look for a moment as a small smattering of red appeared on her cheeks, before she averted her gaze and continued in a strangely bashful tone of voice while making a small kicking motion with her foreleg. “If you don’t mind, that is?”

The Lord of Darkness gave the proposal a moment of consideration, even as part of his mind briefly wondered if it was alright for Forest to be out and about after being in the rain earlier since it looked like her fever was making a reappearance, even if it seemed weaker than it had been yesterday. Perhaps the mare had some kind of chronic illness of some kind? A quick look towards Zelda, who had actually set aside her book for a moment to see what was happening, and he decided that it was probably alright. If there had been any real danger to the mare’s health the Princess would be already nagging her to get back to bed or something, and since she was simply standing there with a small smile on her muzzle as she gave both him and Forest an odd look he decided there shouldn’t be a problem.

“Fine, let’s get going then,” he gruffly said as he picked the saddlebag with the swords from the Kid’s outstretched wing, his words somehow having the effect of making the orange coated mare beam in happiness and dart ahead of him with a skip in her step. He watched the odd sight for a moment in slight befuddlement before he followed her outside at a far more sedate pace.

Females, he would never understand them either.



Eyes never straying from her target, Sure Shot kept pace while keeping a healthy distance between her and the possible threat to her village, the weight of her bow and arrows a comforting feeling at her side. But even that was not enough to stop her ears and tail from flicking in annoyance. She really didn’t like how the day was shaping up.

“And those are the southern fields there after that fence! They are called that because they are at the south side of the village, you know?” the very excited filly explained to the strange pegasus who was oddly enough actually attentively listening to her inane babble with a placid smile on his muzzle. “Just like the western orchards are to the west side of the village! But you can’t see them from here of course, since we are at the south side, not the west one!”

As she followed after the odd pegasus and his very enthusiastic tour guide, Sure Shot wondered not for the first time what strange madness had befallen their little village, all the while doing her level best to tune out the filly's inane chatter.

As if this mysterious trio appearing out of thin air, just in time to stop a gryphon raid before it could even start as if it was nothing, wasn’t enough, now by order of the elder himself they were to allow these dangerous outsiders leave to freely roam within the village as they pleased, no matter how much of a bad idea everypony knew that was!

“And that’s Shining Quartz home farther down the road! I don’t like her, she is mean! And really, really stuck up! I mean, just because her father is a merchant and keeps going to the Earth Villa and bringing back awesome stuff for her, that doesn’t mean she has to be such a meany-pants! Oh and there is…”

Oh sure, she understood why Old Oak did it, after all the outsiders did help Forest and Singing out of a very tough situation personally and the village as a whole indirectly. But couldn’t they have just tossed them the supplies they needed and wished them a safe travel immediately afterwards? Was that too much to ask for?

It seemed that she was the only one who had realized a very worrying truth, which was that the simple fact that they had been able to take down the gryphons while unarmed in the first place already showed how dangerous the group could be. And that was before they learned the pegasus could somehow summon storms with a bucking flute of all things! They were all dangerous and a threat just waiting to happen! And they were to be allowed to gallivant through the village unsupervised?!

And even worse, the group had divided itself, meaning she had been forced to choose who to tail.

Not that that had been a particularly tough choice. Ganondorf was still an earth pony after all, no matter the very dubious company he kept, and Forest Blossom would also be accompanying him so she didn’t think he would end up causing much mischief. Not to mention that the mare would probably throttle any other mare that tried to get into her newly found alone time with the stallion. The unicorn was cause for some concern, but she seemed civil enough and had been clearly engrossed by Old Oak’s books and other inane brainy stuff, so it was probably alright to leave her with the elder unsupervised for a few moments. So that left her current target and clearly the most dangerous member of the strange trio. The pegasus who was currently nodding to Singing’s rapid fire speech.

“And that’s our house! But you already know that since you slept there last night! Oh and that’s…” and speaking of the tiny filly, the ranger really wondered where she got all that energy from, only watching Singing bouncing around all the place was already making her feel exhausted. She was quite sure the other foals were nowhere near as active and hyper as the yellow coated filly. “Oh, and this is the river that crosses the village! Once I grabbed a frog from it, but mom really didn’t like it when I brought it back home to show her! She didn’t like the mud prints I left on the floor either!”

Her early impression of how dangerous the pegasus was hadn’t abated in the slightest. Point in fact, the strange way in which he seemed to take everything around him in with disturbing efficiency and focus while completely ignoring everything else only served to enhance that feeling.

“…and then both big sis and mom said I was grounded! And how unfair was that! I mean, how could I know that flour can explode if you throw it all around in the air while near a fire!” The fact that listening to the filly’s very fast paced one sided dialogue was starting to give her a small headache also wasn’t exactly helping her mood. “And why wasn’t that taught in school? I think that really should’ve been taught in school! Don’t you think so?”

For that matter, how exactly was he keeping such composure as he listened to the filly go on and on as she talked about everything and anything? The ranger could see that he wasn’t simply pretending to pay attention to the babble as he actually followed the filly’s movements and made one worded comments that actually pertained to whatever she had been last talking about as they trotted through the village! He had to have the patience of a saint or something!

As Singing started another odd tangent, Sure Shot groaned in annoyance as she closed her eyes for a moment and stopped in her tacks in order to lightly massage her brow. Bucking perfect, she now had a headache, just what she needed as she kept watch over a dangerous unknown.

She stood there massaging her brow for a brief moment, before the lack of something made her abruptly open her eyes with a sharp snap, headache be damned, as she noticed the lack of a certain filly's continuous stream of gibberish.

“Oh, come on! It was just a moment!” she snapped as her eyes frantically looked from left to right as she searched for a tiny yellow filly, and far more importantly, a green coated pegasus she had vowed to not leave unsupervised. That only to confirmed that, somehow, the strange outsider had managed to disappear completely from her sight during her brief moment of inattention, despite the fact he had been standing less than two feet away from her while being followed by a loud brightly colored bouncing chatterbox.

“Buck!” she silently cursed as she started to gallop as she searched for the odd featherbrain, determined to find him as swiftly as possible before he could cause some trouble.

He couldn’t have gone far with the filly following him around after all. Right?



“I see, so we are located at the north easternmost border of the territory claimed by the Three Tribes?” the Princess of Wisdom asked the elder stallion by her side as she intently analyzed the faded and crude map atop the table before her.

“That is correct. We are at the very border of the settled regions. Directly to the south of us, five days away at a travel pace, lays the Earth Villa, my tribe’s main settlement,” the grey coated stallion calmly explained as he pointed his hoof first to the location of his village before moving it to the earth ponies capital. “Two days travel west from there rests the mountain stronghold of Unicornia, the unicorns’ capital and seat of their nobility, and while Pegasopolis can usually be found a few days travel from either of such settlements, the fact that the great cloud fortress of the pegasi is always drifting around makes truly pointing out its location an exercise in futility.”

Zelda nodded her understanding of Old Oak’s words, knowing from personal experience how frustrating it was to locate a floating city even at the best of times. Though the idea that said city was actually made of clouds was quite odd to the wielder of Wisdom and made her dearly want to be able to examine such a unique architecture and how it could possibly work. It would probably be truly fascinating. As she set that little musing aside, she instead focused on the fact that the area shown on the map was in fact quite small, with the distance between the borders being something an able rider could traverse in a couple of weeks' travel time with ease. All the while vast swaths of the map to both the west and the south were completely blank as they showed they hadn’t even started to be explored yet.

“Though I must admit that I’m quite surprised you don’t know about this already, my dear. I can easily recognize a scholar when I see one, and the great library of Unicornia vastly outstrips my paltry collection of knowledge by an immense degree,” the stallion calmly said, though Zelda's experienced ears could easily detect the hint of suspicion and curiosity in his tone of voice. “So I find it quite odd that one as well educated as yourself wouldn’t know such basic facts when they could be so easily accessed by any unicorn who ever set hooves upon their capital.”

“My companions and I come from a very distant land my good sir, far, far beyond the borders of your tribes’ lands,” she calmly stated. She understood why the earth pony was slightly suspicious, after all most would expect that someone who could easily converse about the myriad of topics they had talked about both on the way to his cottage and as she perused his tomes wouldn’t need to ask about basic information about the region they were currently in that anyone should know already. “I have personally never set hooves within Unicornia, much less its vast library, I’m sad to say. Point in fact, this settlement is the very first my companions and I have visited upon reaching this land.”

Luckily for her it was clear that the ponies' so called Three Tribes hadn’t yet truly started to explore the world, for besides their immediate surroundings all that they knew of foreign lands was about the Gryphon Kingdoms to the northeast and a large city state to the southwest where yet another pony tribe apparently lived. And even that was more hearsay and conjecture than not in regards to the second one, since the ‘Crystal Ponies’ were apparently extremely isolationist and basically refused all contact with those not from their great city.

“I see. In that case, if you wouldn’t mind answering to this old stallion curiosity, what brings you and your companions to our lands?” Old Oak said in a far less suspicious tone of voice, even if his muzzle's expression showed that he found that the fact that Zelda and her companions heralded from foreign lands explained a lot. “For while I’m thankful for it due to your timely intervention on that nasty business with the gryphons, I must say that this isn’t exactly a good time to visit the region, what with the growing tension between the Tribes, especially for a group as… diverse as your own.”

She could see the old stallion’s point. In the last few hours she had spent inside this room Zelda had already obtained quite a bit of information regarding this new realm she and her fellow Triforce Wielders had been transported to by Ganondorf’s newest scheme. Chiefly amidst them being that the different pony tribes were on the brink of open warfare after decades of growing unrest and distrust. That really wasn’t helped by the ever growing deterioration of the weather as winters grew harsher and harsher with each year that passed, despite both unicorn and pegasus attempts to resolve the situation, which in turn, led to both tribes accusing the other of sabotaging the other's efforts and not doing enough to help. Which, when it all was added together, meant that the situation was a literal boiling pot waiting to blow.

“Regrettably, due to a series of unavoidable circumstances, we were unable to remain within the lands of our birth,” Zelda continued to explain, glad that her host had accepted her half-truth without undue complications since she would hate to have her conversation with the old stallion cut short after but a few short hours. Old Oak was clearly a scholar himself and had much to share about this strange new world. The large bookshelf filled with books and scrolls she had but started to peruse could easily attest to that. “But you need not worry, both myself and my companions are more than able to protect ourselves should there be the need.”

“Of that, I have little doubt,” she heard the elder mumble as she moved towards the bookcase in search of new information. It had been slightly annoying but not remotely surprising to discover that the ponies' written language was different from her own, and that apparently whatever ritual Ganondorf had dreamt up to get them here hadn’t bothered with translating written information. But that had been only a minor hiccup. After learning and translating so many different languages during the course of her many lives, learning the basic rules and generalities of the pony language had taken but a matter of moments. Given that, she thought she probably should make a note of casting a mildly adapted translation spell on both Link and Ganondorf later on.

“Do you possess any tomes or scrolls about this realm’s pantheon?” she inquired of the stallion as her eyes roamed from tome to tome. She now had a very solid foundation in regards to the mortal side of things regarding this world inhabitants, and as such it was time to see what they could expect from the more ethereal side of things.

“I beg your pardon?” Old Oak asked for clarification, confusion clear in his tone of voice as he moved to stand beside Zelda’s white form.

“I would like to know what information you have pertaining to this realm’s pantheon. Who they are, who worship them, and what are their mantles of power, things like that,” the unicorn explained in more detail as she averted her gaze from a book that seemed to be about earth pony agricultural magic to look at the village elder, only to stop short as she noticed the clear confusion and lack of comprehension of the stallion’s features. “Information about the gods responsible for overseeing this realm's stability and continued existence?”

The long moment of silence that followed, when coupled with the very confused expression Old Oak was now sporting and with how she had learned that the mortals of this realm not only moved the celestial bodies, but also were responsible for keeping the weather and the changing of the seasons stable, were enough for her to start building a very disturbing picture in her mind.

“Honored Elder, tell me, what knowledge do you possess in regards to your people’s gods?” she sought clarification one last time, even if she herself was already quite sure that, even if she had no idea about the details, the hows and the whys, the mad hypothesis she had just came with had to be at least roughly right on its broad strokes

“Well… I do have a few tomes about folklore and ponytales…” Old Oak hesitantly stated after another long moment as he caressed his beard with one hoof in deep thought, though the way he looked at the Princess showed he knew that was not the case. “Is that what you are talking about?”

The white coated mare took a deep breath as she centered herself. She knew that it was too soon to draw any conclusions, but yet this initial evidence by itself was quite damning. And so, even as she kept asking ever more intricate and detailed questions to Old Oak, part of her mind kept thinking about this newest revelation and what it could possibly mean.

This world may very well no longer have gods of its own.



“This is awesome!” Singing Blossom excitedly shouted from her perch atop Link’s back as she gazed past the pegasus' shoulders at the tiny structures that made up her village far down below. “I can see my house! And Old Oak’s house! And the barn! And the farms! And…”

She kept going with ever growing enthusiasm and eagerness as she noted every single structure in the village she could see from this high up, which could be basically be summed up as, all of them.

“Indeed,” Link calmly replied to the filly’s eager comments as he flapped his wings as they climbed ever higher towards a loose collection of clouds that seemed to have survived the small storm he had summoned earlier. “Do hold tight for a moment, yes? Falling from this height is not much fun.”

“Okay!” she happily proclaimed as she pressed her body flat against his back and held on tight to his mane with her hooves. Her eyes tracked the distant figures far down below for a moment before she excitedly asked, “Can we go faster?”

“Yes,” Link simply replied before they both rushed forward in a sudden burst of speed, much to the filly’s delight, and she squealed in happiness as the wind rushed past her.

Far too soon for Singing’s liking they reached the cloud bank, where the pegasus proceeded to land as if the fluffy structure was some kind of very white ground, much to the young pony’s amazement.

“That’s really cool!” she happily proclaimed before letting go of the pegasus' mane and attempting to jump at the fluffy looking surface, only for a set of strong teeth to gently but firmly pick her up by the scruff of her neck before she could touch the white surface, much to her disappointment. “Ahhh, come on!”

But her current jailor was unmoved by her pleas for freedom, as he calmly but firmly placed her back atop his back before giving her an amused but unyielding expression.

“I can walk on clouds, you cannot,” he simply stated the moment his mouth was free to do so.

Singing Blossom stopped to think about that particular revelation for a short moment, before she eagerly nodded her head in agreement. “Okay, that makes sense!”

The yellow coated filly kept herself entertained for a few moments as she gazed at this strange new view in wonder. Meanwhile, Link busied himself by pushing and pulling at the cloud he was standing atop.

“What are you doing?” she curiously asked after a few moments longer, wondering what exactly the green pony was doing.

“Experimenting,” was the stallion’s immediate reply as he gave a harsh stomp on the cloud. The fluffy surface turned dark for a moment and rumbled with something that kind of sounded like thunder and made Singing’s whole body thrum in place alongside the cloud the moment he did so.

“Experimenting with what?” she inquired with a huge smile on her muzzle after her body stopped shaking. That had been fun!

“Controlling the weather by hoof,” he easily answered as he once more stomped. This time his action caused the cloud to return to its original white appearance, to which he nodded once in apparent approval.

“Don’t you know how to do so?” she asked while stretching herself past his neck in order to try and see his face better.

“Not really, no,” Link answered, eyes still calmly analyzing the weather phenomenon he was currently standing atop, even as he moved a wing to better support the filly now atop his neck and peering from over his head.

Singing hummed in contemplation as she tried to think on how to help her new friend with this new problem. It was hard, since controlling the weather was a pegasus trait, not an earth pony one!

She thought about it for a moment longer as she ignored the low rumbles coming from the cloud as Link pushed and prodded it, her eyes gazing away in search of inspiration, until she finally found it.

“Maybe they can help?” she eagerly asked as she pointed to the far away colorful blurs in the distance, feathered wings beating up and down as they flew their way.

Another pegasus had to know how to help with the problem more than her, after all.