The Power of Freedom

by Greatazuredragon

IX - Birds of a Feather...

Birds of a Feather...

“Pleasure doing business with you!” Forge Fire happily replied, a happy smile on her muzzle as she examined the several gryphon swords she planned to melt in order to salvage the metal.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Ganondorf halfheartedly replied to the grey coated blacksmith as he left the forge behind, not exactly surprised but nonetheless not thrilled at his earlier prediction of the feline avians’ blades not being of much use in their current form being proven right. At the very least, he had acquired the chance to use the forge and some of the salvaged steel later on to try and bodge together a half decent weapon for the time being, so that was something.

“Everything alright?” Forest Blossom asked as he exited the building where she had stayed as some odd sort of guard. The two unknown mares swiftly departing from the area showed that the orange coated mare had just gotten rid of a few more of the hangers-on that had started to follow him around everywhere since he had left Link and Zelda behind.

“Eh, nothing I wasn’t already expecting, it’s fine,” he reassured the slightly worried looking mare with a small shrug. Forest had been a useful and attentive guide so far, which had allowed him to see about most of the supplies he had sought to gather in a far smaller time frame than he had initially expected, not to mention her help in keeping the riffraff away, so there was no need to cause the mare undue worry over such a minor irritant as a few days wait time for him to get a weapon.

“That’s good to hear,” Forest happily said with a smile, before giving a harsh glare to an approaching mare, who suddenly seemed to decide she was late for something, as she did an about face and left them alone. Unsurprisingly the glare was once again replaced by a beaming smile as she gazed back towards Ganondorf. “So, is there anything else that you need?”

The King of Thieves thought about it for a moment as he gave Forest a nod of appreciation for her efforts in preserving his peace as he started to walk away from Forge Fire’s place of work, Forest following right alongside him as if some kind of honor guard.

Ganondorf had noticed that staying still in one place in this village for long resulted in the annoying consequence of drawing a crowd to him, and since the Lord of Darkness had never been one to appreciate large mobs of people, or crowds in general, he had taken to simply not staying put for long if he could help it. He had expected the earth ponies to be a little more approachable since neither the Kid nor the Princess were around to trigger their ingrained social prejudices to their new species, but he had really underestimated how many of them would try to get close and talk with him without them both there to act as a shield of sorts. As such, the fact Forest had decided to help keep most of the ponies away in order to give him some breathing space, and went so far as stopping other ponies from unduly bothering him, was appreciated.

It was a slightly annoying situation, even if seeing so many females trying to talk to him and gather his attention brought some nostalgic memories to his many days as the king of the Gerudo. Though that did bring into question the possibility that, just like with his former subjects, there was some kind of imbalance between the number of mares to stallions, since nearly everyone who had tried to interact with him since he left Old Oak’s house had been female for some odd reason. It was something to think about later. Nonetheless, Forest’s efforts in keeping them at bay and not bothering him were a true gift from Din herself.

“Nah, I’m thinking what we currently got is good enough for now. Got all the true essentials and even some extras,” he easily answered as he mentally catalogued the supplies he had managed to acquire so far as they walked down the cobblestone path. Sure, some of them would only be available later as they were delivered to the Blossoms’ home. Considering that he would have to wait a couple of days or so to use the forge anyway, that was hardly a huge issue. It wasn’t like either he or his companions had to hurry anywhere, after all.

“In that case, if you don’t have anything else planned that is, what do you think about eating lunch together?” Forest asked in an eager tone of voice, staring at the large brown coated pony with hopeful eyes, as she sped up slightly in order to be able to look Ganondorf in the eye as she talked. “Mother told me she would leave me a picnic basket ready if I wanted to, and I know a very nice place near the border between the village and the woods where we could eat undisturbed!”

The wielder of Power considered the proposition for a brief moment before deciding that he liked the sound of it. Both yesterday’s dinner and today’s breakfast had been quite tasty after all, not to mention that free food was never something to be turned down lightly, so accepting the lunch offer was a given. Add to that a place he could eat in peace without being gawked at by a species he didn’t feel truly comfortable telling to get lost, due to how his mind linked their appearance with lessons from several of his Gerudo upbringings insisting that he shouldn’t mistreat anything that looked like that, while accompanied by someone who had no such compunction and whose presence he found he didn’t really mind all that much and the answer was a foregone conclusion.

“Sure, that sounds like a plan,” he stated out loud with a small nod of his head towards the now beaming mare, all the while not paying much mind to the brief death glare Forest leveled at a trio of mares who had been blocking their path prior to her having done so. The speed at which the mares had fled was slightly impressive though, Forest had a very respectable glare it seemed.

“YES!” Forest Blossom loudly proclaimed to all and sundry as she gave a small hop in apparent happiness as they trotted down the now unblocked path, before she seemed to remember where she was and lowered her head slightly as a generous dusting of red overtook her cheeks. “I mean… I’m glad that you accepted the offer. That’s it! Now come on, let’s get us some lunch.”

The Lord of Darkness watched the strange behavior of the now swiftly departing mare in slight befuddlement for a moment, nearly stopping in his tracks as he pondered her odd reactions before he noticed that the trio he had noticed blocking the path earlier had apparently grown into a quintet, and were starting to trot his way now that his personal bulwark was disappearing down the road.

Immediately picking up his pace it didn’t take him long to catch up with the very excited looking orange coated mare.

As he trotted down the road alongside Forest, towards her home, Ganondorf briefly wondered about what Link and Zelda could be doing right now and where exactly they would eat. After a moment’s thought, he let out a small snort of amusement as he decided that the Princess had to be still buried underneath every single dusty tome, scroll and book that the village elder possessed, and that she would most likely ignore lunch completely in favor of acquiring every single possible scrap of knowledge those dusty old tomes could provide during the smallest frame of time possible.

At the very least Zelda’s little obsession would mean that he himself wouldn’t have to read a bunch of useless drivel, not to mention finding a reliable way of reading said drivel in the first place. Thankfully he wouldn’t have to go looking for what was relevant and what wasn’t in that sea of words, since the wielder of Wisdom would more likely than not give the summarized versions to both himself and the Kid later on. And as such he was more than happy to let Zelda to tackle that little ordeal.

Link, on the other hoof, had wandered off to goddess knows where. He knew from personal experience that even trying to guess what he was up to was an exercise in futility, what with how his whimsical nature was overshadowed only by his ability to fulfill said whimsies. But, since Singing Blossom had been following him the last he had seen the pegasus, Ganondorf was fairly confident that the green wonder wouldn’t get in too much trouble in the near future.



Eh, whatever, it wasn’t like he was responsible for the green trouble magnet’s actions anyway. And besides, Link was more than capable of taking care of both himself and the little filly. Not to mention that anything capable of posing a real threat to the Hero would undoubtedly leave behind such a large scale trail of destruction in its wake that it would be really hard to miss it before it even neared the village, meaning that he could easily join in case of a fun fight.

And with that cheerful thought, Ganondorf trotted down the street alongside Forest Blossom, towards lunch.

As he kept his position at the outermost left end of the formation his squadron was using as they flew through the, surprisingly cloud free, sky as they searched for the cause of the strange rogue storm that had suddenly befallen the area earlier, Bolt couldn’t help but wonder why it seemed no one else in his flight could see what he could.

Strange happenings had been taking place these past few days with ever growing frequency, from the sightings of gryphon scouts testing their borders to the odd lights that had fallen from the sky a couple of nights ago. And that was not even mentioning the unexplainable cold snaps that were happening with alarmingly growing frequency, sure signs that things were not proceeding as they normally should. And this unknown storm was just another sign pointing towards it.

But of course, with the whole Armada busy confronting the unicorns for the lack of results in making the cold stop, all the while blaming them for everything and anything, not many seemed to want to pay such oddities much mind. No matter the fact that his gut instincts said that things weren’t as they should be. That danger was lurking ever nearer.

Not that anypony would ever listen to him anyway, even if there wasn’t the threat of open warfare hanging over all their heads.

He held back a small sigh of frustration as his left forehoof briefly played with the strange object he had found as he investigated where he had thought one of the lights had fallen. A guess that was proven right, but even that had earned him nothing from his superior but him yelling at him to stop wasting their time with stupid pink bugs.

“Half-breed, stop daydreaming and pay attention already!” Lieutenant Wind Shriek yelled from the very tip of their formation, his grating voice making Bolt’s ears fold beneath his helmet due to the noise. “If you got time to woolgather then you got time to do your job right! So pay attention, scout!”

But then again, considering the lieutenant’s usual dislike for his very being, Bolt gathered that he would have probably ended up yelled at even if he had found a fully fledged gryphon raid group instead of an odd pink light bug.

“Sir, yes, sir!” he immediately replied even as he ignored the snickers and taunting looks the rest of the pegasi in the squadron were throwing his way with the ease of long practice. He knew that they wouldn’t try anything more than that, not after what he had done to the three last idiots who had tried to take their taunts and words into the next level and physically strike against him.

“Good! It’s bad enough I got saddled with you even when you are being useful!” the grey coated stallion all but spat as he gave him a scathing glare before returning his attention onwards.

The azure coated scout fought back another sigh, and the completely inappropriate desire to simply speed up and leave the whole squadron in the dust with a single wing beat. Instead he pushed back his annoyance and focused on the environment as he scanned the immediate area.

He was easily the strongest flyer in the entire squad by far, and one of the best skirmishers in the whole force too. Either of those by themselves would normally more than assure him a command position in the Armada due to its so called meritocratic ways. If not for the ‘taint’ to his family’s honor that is, a ‘taint’ that he had inherited despite never doing anything to deserve it.

“Unknown pegasus dead ahead upon that cloud bank, sir!” he dutifully reported even as he wondered exactly how Wind Shriek, not to mention the rest of the squadron, had somehow missed the unknown. Sure, the pegasus was still quite far away from their current position, but his forest green coloration upon the white of the only cloud bank in sight was kind of hard to miss.

“Good, at the very least we can get some answers to what happened around here without having to talk with ground dwellers! Now move it!” the lieutenant barked as he adjusted the straps of his armor with an angry glower. “And you better pay more attention half-breed! You should have seen that pony far sooner!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” Bolt readily replied while doing his level best to resist the urge to roll his eyes. The Lieutenant’s distaste for anyone who didn’t have wings was well known to him, something that was sadly not uncommon amidst the pegasi of the Armada. Something he sadly knew from personal experience and was the cause of his position, or rather lack of such, in the squadron.

As he flew towards the unknown pegasus, the azure coated pony considered for what felt like the thousandth time if his mother had regretted her ‘sin’ before her passing.

Wondrous Sky had been a skilled fighter, a truly superb flyer and an even better weather manipulator. But even those traits had been barely enough to prevent her for being exiled from the great cloud fortress of Pegasopolis when it had been found out that she had chosen to lay with an earth pony and had been willingly carrying his foal.

That inescapable fact, that his father was an earth pony, had haunted his whole military career, as every pegasus he found tried to belittle him or put him down. His skills, alongside the fact that his stamina was simply unheard of in the entirety of the Armada, seemed to only make the idiots try even harder to, in their words, put the half-breed in his place. Nonetheless, he soldiered on.

He never truly understood exactly why his winged brethren had such dim views about the earth ponies, as he personally found the tribe to be hardworking and steadfast to a fault. But then again, he was quite sure that with his infrequent visits to his father’s family that he had more contact with the tribe than the rest of the Armada combined, no matter how depressing that thought was.

With a mental head shake he put said train of thought aside and focused instead on the green pegasus far into the distance. There was no need to make the lieutenant scream at him more than necessary after all.

Even if that nagging feeling at his gut warning him something was about to go horribly wrong was now pestering him more than ever before as they flew upwards their new target.

Feeling the chilly afternoon breeze brushing against his coat, Ganondorf stood still for a moment in order to simply enjoy the feeling of the cold air moving through his fur as his eyes took in the woodlands situated a little beyond the border of the small village where Forest had taken him so they could eat lunch.

He gazed at the wall of trees as he savored the slice of pie he was currently eating as he appreciated the natural beauty all around him. It probably wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the king of Thieves had realized that, after being born in the middle of deserts and other such desolate wastelands more times than he cared to remember, he had eventually developed a very healthy appreciation for plant life in all its forms. As such, the large forest right in front of him was a welcome sight to his golden eyes.

As he swallowed his morsel he decided he was content for the time being. Nice scenery, very good food and non-annoying company, what more could one want for their lunch hour, really?

“I hope you liked the pie, the recipe has been in the family for a long time,” Forest timidly said from where she was seated by his side as she played with the nearly finished slice she had been slowly nibbling at as she kept giving him strange looks when she thought he wasn’t looking.

Ganondorf gave her a simple nod as an answer, far more worried about savoring the cinnamon flavored apple pie he was currently eating than talking. It was a very tasty pie.

“Good, that’s good… I even helped mother bake it this time! So I’m happy that you liked it! Really!” Forest said in a hurried fashion, each word tumbling out of her mouth with ever growing speed as her eyes moved all around the scenery without truly focusing on anything and as a dusting of red sprung across her muzzle.

He wasn’t exactly sure why exactly Forest had been acting so skittish ever since they got the picnic basket from Beautiful Blossom. But considering how her mother had pulled her aside for a hushed conversation before sending her away with a wink and a smile as she pushed the basket into the orange coated mare’s hooves and closed the cottage’s door, he supposed that it was probably either a family or a female issue, and as such not his business.

If she wanted to talk about it he would listen. There was no reason not to, after all. But if she didn’t want to do so then it was equally fine in his opinion. He could always find other ways to occupy his thoughts.

Though he hoped, that whatever it was, that it wouldn’t affect her actions past its current point. Finding tolerable company was always a massive chore after all, not to mention how useful she had been today keeping the crowds of awestruck earth ponies at bay. So he hoped she got over whatever issue it was in a timely manner.

Mind wandering as he thought about exactly what to do next as he searched his mind for any idea of what to do to pass the time until he could use Forge Fire’s forge, the Lord of Darkness distractedly reached into the basket for another slice of apple pie, only to feel his hoof hitting something furry and warm midway that was most definitely not an apple pie.

He blinked in slight surprise once before looking downwards; only to see that he had unwittingly grabbed Forest’s hoof as they both attempted to grab a slice at the same time. He let out an amused chuckle as he mentally berated himself for his lack of awareness. He guessed he had been even more relaxed than he had initially thought for him to miss that the mare had been moving as well..

He let go of her hoof as he turned his gaze upwards towards Forest’s face, ready to tell her to go ahead and grab her slice first. Only to once more stop and blink in slight surprise, as Forest Blossom simply stood there, her body completely unmoving with its left fore-hoof midway through the motion of grabbing a slice, her face a vibrant red coloration, a glassy look to her eyes and a tiny dreamy smile on her muzzle.

He kept staring for a moment longer, idly wondering what exactly was the problem now. A moment later, the mare appeared to shake herself out of the odd stupor that had overcome her and gave him a tremulous, shy smile.

“So, Ganondorf, I had been thinking…” Forest hesitantly started right next to him as she fidget in place as if unsure of what to do next. “You see…”

“Yes?” he simply inquired as he moved his head slightly to the side so that he could better see the orange coated mare after the pause stretched a little too long without another word from her. His right hoof was already firmly grabbing his next slice and bringing it towards his mouth.

“I mean… after everything you did for Singing and I with the gryphons…” she hesitantly said while looking as if she was trying to order her thoughts in a coherent manner. “I mean, that’s obvious! But you were really amazing and… well that’s not the point! You see, you are really… and so… what I mean is…”

The Dark Lord watched the mare sputter incoherently for a couple of heartbeats before he set his pie slice aside as he decided that enough was simply enough. And so, the King of Thieves turned around so he could face the fidgeting mare fully and gently but firmly placed a hoof on her shoulder to keep her in place before he looked her straight in the eye.

“Take a deep breath, and then speak,” he commanded in a hard but unthreatening tone of voice, as he used millennia of experience dealing with fretful, panicking and spooked equines to calm her down, all the while making use of an equally vast period of experience dealing with prevaricating minions trying and failing to report things to him as a basis to make the mare simply spit out whatever she wanted to say it already. “Stop overthinking it and simply say whatever it is you want to say.”

He watched as Forest followed his commands with a nod of approval, even as part of his mind inwardly decided he was going to bother the Princess to have a look at the mare’s fever bouts later. He had never seen anyone turn such a vibrant shade of red before. And that was considering he was seeing it through her burnt orange coat.

The mare took in various deep breaths before opening her mouth to speak. Only to promptly fail to produce a single sound, close her mouth and take a few more deep breaths. She then proceeded to repeat the whole process twice more before she finally managed to articulate her words properly. Well, kind of.

“Ganondorf… Would you… I mean…” she stuttered in hesitant tones, her eyes once again wandering everywhere as she fidget underneath his large hoof. Ganondorf simply patiently waited, since he knew from personal experience with panicking minions carrying bad news that, frustratingly enough, trying to force the issue would only make it take even longer.

She finally seemed to gather her resolve and looked him straight in the eye. The action actually earned a nod of approval from the Lord of Darkness, as he glimpsed the steel hidden beneath her insecurities for a brief moment.

“Ganondorf, would you mind being m…” she started to say, before suddenly closing her mouth as a sudden look of panic crossed her features. A look of panic that grew for a moment as her eyes darted back and forward before she finally decided to carry on.

“Can you teach me how to fight?!” the mare rushed it out in a single breath before slightly averting her gaze, her muzzle as red as ever.

“What?” the question actually making the Dark Lord blink in surprise.

“YES! I mean, that’s right! That’s exactly what I meant to say! Can you teach me how to fight?” she once again asked in a rush, her words gaining strength with each moment that passed despite the strange grin on her features and strained look in her eyes, though both oddities were slowly being replaced by more normal expressions as she kept speaking. That alongside how, after a fierce head shake, the mare seemed to had both regained her composure and warmed up to the idea she had just proposed made Ganondorf simply shrug the whole odd episode aside as inconsequential.

“I always thought I was strong, but those damnable flying beasts took me down like it was nothing and I couldn’t do anything about it! Buck it all, I was completely helpless!” the mare spat out, disgust clear on her tone as she angrily stomped on the ground. “I didn’t even manage to slow them down! Didn’t even manage to protect my little sister!

“You, on the other hoof, took them down like it was nothing! Despite the fact that you were unarmed!” she enthusiastically continued, the strained smile long since replaced by a far more natural looking one and a look of determination in her eyes. “I refuse to be that helpless ever again! To ever risk letting my sister be in such a situation!

“You’ve got to be the strongest earth pony I’ve ever seen! So please, teach me how to fight!” she ended her plea as she stared at him with shining eyes, an eager expression on her muzzle.

Ganondorf blinked in befuddlement for a moment, not sure how to react to this new situation, before he started to think about her request. Should he bother humoring such a request? The mare did have some muscle already, which was a point in favor of it, and considering the magical strength enhancements all earth ponies seemed to have she probably could deal some adequate damage should she manage to hit her opponent, which was another point in her favor. Not to mention that the way she moved showed that she had absolutely no training whatsoever regarding how to fight, which while some would consider to be a point against in his opinion that was an overall positive, since it would mean she wouldn’t have the myriad of flaws and bad habits most students got from mediocre masters.

He pondered it for another moment, before he remembered that he would have to wait one way or another until the steel was ready and he could forge a new temporary blade, and as such had a day or two to waste, at minimum.

And besides, he had never taken an apprentice before, had he?

A fanged smirk slowly surfaced on his muzzle as he reached his decision. This could be interesting.

“What travesty is this?!” Wind Shriek snarled from the center of the formation, the grey pegasus’ features twisting between rage, incredulity and disgust as if the lieutenant could not decide what emotion was allowed to win over as their squadron drew nearer to the unknown pony.

The source of the stallion’s fierce reaction being the fact that the green pegasus who was placidly waiting atop a cloud as he gazed at them with nothing but idle curiosity on his gaze was carrying an earth pony foal atop his back.

Bolt himself could barely believe his eyes. After all, to carry somepony atop one’s back was a sign of both deep trust and familiarity. Something that hardly ever happened outside either family, be it by blood or not, or extremely close friends. And yet the image of the green pegasus carrying the yellow filly on his back still remained. An image that made Bolt inwardly wonder: Could this stranger be just like Wondrous Sky, only having not chosen to return to the Armada afterwards?

“Greetings, my name is Link and this is Singing Blossom,” the green stallion calmly introduced himself and his small hanger-on, who happily waved upon hearing her name. Neither outwardly reacted to the snarls and glares nearly all of Bolt’s squad mates were throwing their way. “And I fear I will need you to elaborate upon your question, since as it stands I do not think I can adequately answer it.”

“What the- What kind of nonsense are you spouting about?! What is your rank and file, soldier!” the lieutenant shrieked, clearly thrown for a loop regarding the green pony’s reaction, or lack thereof, to his words. “And what the buck are you doing out here?! We were supposed to be the farthest ranging squadron sent out by the Armada! And what do you think you are doing carrying that thing on your back as if you were a filthy ground pounder! Explain yourself immediately!”

His flight commander’s outburst was enough to break Bolt out of the daze the unexpected sight had caused him as he processed with a sinking feeling what exactly was happening.

Wind Shriek was right of course, there shouldn’t be any pegasi anywhere even near here, the Armada would never allow it. Not with the looming threat of war on the horizon. Which, he realized with a jolt as he uneasily took in the ever worsening glares the rest of his squad was giving the green pony, meant that, regardless of the stallion’s relation with the filly, there could be only one answer to how he was here, that he could only be one thing: a deserter.

“Very well, in the same order as your questions: I merely introduced myself and my companion and explained the lack of necessary details pertaining to your initial question, and I’m currently inspecting the clouds that remained from the storm I called forth earlier in order to better understand my body’s innate abilities,” Link calmly explained, his tone of voice showing he was apparently not fazed by how eleven of the twelve pegasi all around him were pointing their weapons towards him quite aggressively. “As for my rank and file? I fear that I possess neither and as such cannot offer them.”

As Wind Shriek sputtered in incoherent rage at the rogue pegasus’ nonchalant admission to not being a part of the Armada and as angry mutters of betrayer and deserter made their way through the squad, Bolt started to fidget with his wing-blades, quite uncomfortable with the direction where this was going, until with a sudden start he noticed to a particular point in Link’s speech.

“Wait! What do you mean, you called forth the storm?” Bolt blurted out, wondering if he had heard it wrong. He kept his gaze firm upon the odd pony, all the while doing his level best to try and ignore the death glare the lieutenant was throwing his way. “Are you saying you caused the storm earlier by yourself?”

“Yes,” was Link’s unruffled reply, the very slight tilt to his head silently adding that he didn’t understand why that was worthy of any notice, despite the fact that causing such a massive storm usually demanded a full weather team working together, minimum.

“You want us to believe you created that storm from scratch by yourself? A filthy, ground loving deserter?! Don’t make me laugh!” the grey coated lieutenant raged as he threateningly pointed his short sword straight towards the stallion’s chest. The action signaled for the rest of the squad to spread out in a half circle around the unlikely duo, weapons ready should he try to flee. “Now tell me what caused the rogue storm before your lies get added to your crimes!”

“But that’s the truth! There weren’t any clouds around and everypony was quite worried about the harvest because there was no rain, but then Link played a flute and then there was like a lot of clouds all around! And I really mean a lot! Like filling the whole sky, a lot! There were really that many! And then they kept getting darker and darker as he kept playing some really catchy song! And then it started to rain! It was awesome!” the little yellow filly happily interject, the deluge of information exiting her mouth in a single breath that forced everypony to try and decode what she had just said due to it’s sheer speed.

“What?” Wind Shriek demanded once again, now not only angry but also more than moderately confused. A feeling that was clearly shared by most of his squadron if one where to go by all their confused expressions.

And what exactly did she meant with, he called the storm forth by playing a flute?

“That’s what happened!” Singing helpfully added with a beaming smile.

“Be quiet mud-pony! Your betters are talking!” the lieutenant snapped at the tiny filly after having decided to simply ignore her words. The action caused her smile to disappear and Bolt to have to hide a wince as Singing’s eyes took on a sad shine.

“You are quite rude, aren’t you?” Link asked with a hint of displeasure, the ever present serene mask that had been firmly placed on his features since they had arrived now marred by the tiniest of frowns.

“Like I care about the opinion of a worthless deserter and a filthy mud-pony!” he snarled as he moved a few wing beats closer to the duo in as threatening a manner as he could manage, his teeth bared in a parody of a smile. “Now tell me what I want to know before I’m forced to convince you to do so!”

“Mister Link, why is he saying all those mean things?” the yellow filly asked with a small sniffle as the tense silence drew on. Her body lowered against the stallion’s back and half hid behind his neck.

Bolt felt another sharp wince as he heard her words. And as he took in the contemplative expression that briefly passed over Link’s features, as if he was now wondering how to explain the whole situation to Singing, he wondered about how the green pegasus would explain this to her. How he planned to explain to the little filly the ugly truth about the ever present racism and prejudices inherent to their tribe. The foolish hatred they harbored for those bound to the earth. How to express to such an innocent soul why a sentient being would choose, of their own free will, to persecute and harass another being for such petty and pointless reasons in a way that she could understand it.

After a moment’s pause the green pony nodded slightly, as if he had found out an appropriate answer. And so, Link gave the sad looking yellow filly a solemn look and spoke in a perfectly level and calm tone of voice.

“He is a very silly meany-pants,” he serenely intoned in the most perfect deadpan Bolt had ever heard.

The yellow coated filly made a silent oh of realization the moment the green pegasus finished his explanation, before she nodded her head in understanding from her perch. All the while, more than one pegasus nearly dropped their weapons in sheer incredulity at his words, the speechless looking lieutenant being no exception.

“Okay, that makes sense!” Singing exclaimed, apparently happy that that little mystery had been explained to her. The sight actually forced Bolt to bite his lip to contain a chuckle.

“You…! You dare mock me!” Wind Shriek yelled in outrage, now all but frothing at the mouth. “I will make you pay for this insult! Both of you!”

“You may try,” the stallion nonchalantly replied with a shrug of his wings, not even a single trace of worry at the threat in either his voice or body language. And for the second time in as many minutes, Bolt bore witness to his flight leader being rendered completely speechless once again.

“You- You think you can defeat us!? A fully trained pegasus squadron! Unarmed and carrying a ground bound filly at that!?” the grey coated stallion shrieked in both outrage and incredulity, a sentiment that was shared by quite a few of his followers. “Do you truly believe that?!”

“Yes,” the pegasus calmly stated, as if simply saying a universal truth.

And in the long moment of stunned silence that follow Link’s bold claim, Bolt noticed that there was not a single trace of arrogance or bluster in his words. The one word answer should have sounded juvenile at best, sheer insanity at worst, and yet, somehow, as he heard the absurd affirmative from the serene looking pony, Bolt felt a shiver run down his spine. The sheer, unshakable conviction held in that single word showed that the stallion not only fully believed his own words, but saw the whole thing as if a foregone conclusion, as unquestionable as the moon following the sun.

“Enough of this!” Wind Shriek snarled, fury clear in his eyes. “If words won’t get through that thick skull of yours then perhaps steel will!”

With a sinking feeling Bolt watched as his commander raced forth towards the pegasus placidly waiting atop his cloud, whom, the azure coated pony realized with a start, held a look of complete disinterest on his muzzle despite the charging warrior flying towards him.

“Singing, do hold tight, yes?” Link calmly said to his charge even as his steely blue eyes tracked Wind Shriek’s advance. “I do not wish to risk you falling.”

“Okay!” the filly readily agreed as she pressed herself tight against the stallion’s back and hugged his neck and mane with all of her earth pony strength.

Meanwhile the lieutenant had already crossed two thirds of the distance between them. And as he approached into striking distance he drew his sword back for a slashing strike meant to take down both the stallion and the filly on his back with a single blow.

Bolt wanted to close his eyes so as to not see what would undoubtedly come next, to see this senseless attack carried forth to its end. And yet, a sudden scream from his instincts told him in no uncertain terms that closing his eyes for even a moment while in the presence of the green pegasus would be a monumentally bad idea.

Wind Shriek slashed with his short sword as he unleashed a battle cry. The steel weapon darted towards its targets with the speed of a striking viper, ready to take them down in one fell swoop.

And then, Link moved.

Bolt gaped, utterly astonished, as during the single instant as the blade crossed the last few inches that had separated steel from flesh the stallion had somehow darted upwards with a wing beat so strong that the cloud beneath him had literally disintegrated due to the wind pressure, turned around in midair and, with an equally titanic wing beat, dove downwards towards the striking lieutenant. All of it in less time than it took to blink.

He watched for a brief moment as Wind Shriek’s satisfied face started to morph into confusion as he realized that his sword had cut nothing but air, the lieutenant clearly having not been able to even see his opponent’s movements as Link evaded his strike. An instant later, his look of confusion was quickly hidden from view by a swiftly descending green hoof as it struck the lieutenant with all the momentum of a small avalanche.

And so, Bolt and the rest of the squadron watched, mouths agape, the surreal sight of an unarmed rogue pegasus taking down a fully trained and armed lieutenant of the Armada. The later apparently had been rendered unconscious by the blow as he bonelessly fell towards the ground down below.

The fact the sight was accompanied by a loud, excited squeal that came from the tiny filly firmly pressed against Link’s back only made the whole situation even more surreal.

“Lieutenant Wind Shriek!” the squad’s second in command yelled in distress as she finally processed what had just happened before she turned her now snarling muzzle toward the green stallion serenely hovering amidst them all and snarled. “You bastard! You shall pay for this! Get him!”

But even as his remaining ten flight mates charged against Link and Singing with yells of rage, Bolt hesitated for a moment. Until, with a heavy sigh he followed. Even if he really didn’t want to do it and no matter how much it pained his heart to do so, he was still a pegasus of the Armada, and as such had a duty to fulfill, no matter how unsavory.

And so, with a heavy heart, he charged into the growing melee. Of course, the fact that his instincts kept screaming at him that this was a terrible idea also wasn’t really helping.

As she attentively listened while Ganondorf walked her through a very basic fighting stance he had said would allow her to better keep her balance and improve both her reaction speed and striking power, Forest Blossom wondered how exactly things had turned out this way.

“Good, remember to always keep your body firmly balanced and rooted to the ground, just like that,” the King of Thieves calmly instructed as he walked around the orange coated mare. “Fancy movements and showy tricks will just serve to get you killed if you don’t have a strong foundation!”

It had seemed such a golden opportunity. She had managed to make it so that she had spent the whole morning in the company of her hero, much to her enjoyment. And even better, Ganondorf seemed to have appreciated her presence too as she had guided him though the morning! He had even complimented her! Sure, it had been slightly odd being complimented about her helpfulness and for not being annoying, instead of her looks or such, but it was still a compliment!

The day had proceeded so well and without any hiccups too! She refused to acknowledge her mother’s light teasing about possibly becoming a grandmother as having happened at all. And as such, as they had proceeded to have lunch at a very beautiful, and far more importantly slightly isolated, clearing she had decided to try her luck. And so, Forest had gathered her courage and been moments away from asking if the stallion could maybe be interested in being her colt-friend.

Only to completely lose her nerve at the very last possible moment as she gazed at his beautiful golden eyes and abruptly changed what she had been about to say.

“Forward hooves further apart!” the brown coated stallion firmly instructed and Forest immediately obeyed, to her silent delight as he nodded in approval, his beautiful crimson mane fluttering on the wind.

She hadn’t meant to, but the truth was that in the heat of the moment she had panicked and brought forth the very first thing she had managed to think about! Which, considering Ganondorf’s exquisitely muscled form that had been right there in front of her, and his even greater battle prowess she had witnessed first hoof already, had unsurprisingly been his fighting ability.

She felt like she would die of embarrassment as she fumbled with her words like a filly to her first crush. The fact that she had never had a colt-friend before was tactfully ignored. And yet now that it was all said and done, despite it all, somehow things had actually ended up working better than she could have hoped for!

“Good! Do you see how it’s far harder to dislodge you from this position?” Ganondorf firmly asked as he pushed her at her sides with enough strength that he would have sent her tumbling had she been standing normally. The feeling of his hooves on her coat made a silly smile briefly appear on Forest muzzle, before she refocused on his instructions. She refused to let him down by not paying attention to his lessons! “That’s your foundation! Remember it always!”

The more that she thought about it the more she realized that her blunder was actually quite the stroke of genius! After all, in order to train her on how to fight properly Ganondorf would have to spend time alone with her! Not only would she learn how to defend herself and her family from the strongest earth pony she had ever seen, but she would also get to spend some quality time with him too without having to keep away what looked like every mare in the settlement that was currently single! A winning situation if she had ever seen one!

And seriously, couldn’t those mares take a hint already and leave them alone?! Forest felt that every single moment where she hadn’t been talking or helping her hero had been occupied by her having to drive the female hordes encroaching all around him back! Sure, Ganondorf was amazing, and extremely handsome, and incredibly strong. Basically a hero of legend given form, really. But that didn’t mean that everypony had to try and vie for his attention! But now that would no longer be an issue!

“Now then, slide your right hoof slightly forward and-“ but sadly for Forest, both her elated inner monologue and her beloved teacher’s lesson were both cut short as an out of breath Sure Shot burst forth from the underbrush with a slightly maniacal look in her eyes as she frantically scanned the area.

“Forest! I finally found you!” the village’s lone ranger shouted. All the while the orange coated mare narrowed her eyes as her alone time with Ganondorf was cut short by one of said single mares. “Why the buck did you decide to come to such a secluded clearing! I looked for you everywhere!

“No matter, have you seen that weird pegasus and your sister anywhere?!” the sea green mare rushed frantically asked as she approached them under her slightly miffed and Ganondorf lightly curious gazes. “They are nowhere to be found! I looked away for but a single moment, but now they are gone!”

“Calm down Sure Shot, they can’t have gone far,” Forest Blossom said with a tired sigh as she took in that her training session with her hero had been cut short because the ranger was apparently seeking Link and Singing without success.

“Oh, you would be surprised!” Ganondorf happily piped in as a fond smirk settled on his features. “Link can really move when he wants to!”

“So neither of you has seen them?” she once again asked through gritted teeth as faint twitch developed on her left eye.

“Sure Shot, seriously, calm down!” Forest once again stated as she took a step closer to the other mare in order to rest a comforting hoof over her withers, forgoing her slight annoyance at being interrupted due to the sorry state the other mare was in.

“Calm down? Calm down?! That menace is lose on our village completely unsupervised alone with a defenseless filly!” the sea green snapped, her light blue mane fraying at the edges as she did so. “How the buck am I to calm down!?”

Forest Blossom didn’t quite know how to reply to that. Especially since she was quite sure that Link wouldn’t do anything to her little sister, even if he was a pegasus. Thankfully she didn’t need to, as a loud voice from her side cheerfully interjected..

“If you are worried about the little one, then don’t be, the Kid won’t let anything happen to her,” Ganondorf nonchalantly said with a tiny smirk on his muzzle. “And believe me, very few things can get past him, and those very few that do tend to be kind of hard to miss as they approach, she’s perfectly safe.”

“You can’t know that! You cannot trust a pegasus, everypony knows that!” Sure Shot angrily replied as she took a forceful step towards the large stallion. “I don’t know why you risk doing so! That’s asking for him to stab you in the back!”

A moment of silence descended after the ranger’s words were over. As an uncomfortable looking Forest and an incredulous looking Ganondorf stared at the mare as she forcefully pointed towards the brown stallion with a hoof. A moment of silence that was shattered immediately afterwards by a loud boisterous laugh, as the King of Thieves simply threw his head backwards and roared with laughter.

“Link, stabbing me in the back?” the stallion managed to incredulously ask amidst bouts of laughter. All the while both mares looked at him not knowing how to react as he pounded the ground due to his mirth. “The Kid would never stab me in the back! The mere thought of it is simply preposterous!”

“But- but- You simply cannot trust a pegasus! Everypony knows that!” Sure Shot tried once again to make Ganondorf see sense, a flustered and confused look on her muzzle.

“Look lady, I don’t know what your problem with the winged ponies is, and frankly I don’t really care, but let’s get something perfectly straight,” he mirthfully stated as he wiped a tear from his eye and gave her a very amused look. “Link is the kind of guy that will draw the blade in full view right in front of you, salute you with it, and then look you right in the eye as he proceeds to impale it right through your guts.

“Believe me; I know that from personal experience. That’s just the type of guy he is! Really, Link stabbing me in the back, what a ridiculous idea!” he continued as he fought back a stray laugh, as if what Sure Shot had said was the funniest thing he had heard in ages. All the while Forest simply stared in utter confusion as she tried to make sense of what her hero was talking about, something that was not helped as he continued to speak. “Zelda on the other hoof, now that is a whole other beast altogether!

“The Princess would never hesitate to take advantage of such an opening, not in the slightest!” he proudly proclaimed, as if it was something to boast about, as he nodded in apparent approval. “It probably has something to do with her ending up being raised by that little ninja cult thing that tends to gravitate around her family, but nonetheless she can be downright vicious in a fight! It truly is a thing of beauty!”

“What?” Sure Shot finally asked after a long and uncomfortable moment of silence. Both mares now even more confused and befuddled than before.

A state of affairs that was aggravated even further as the topic was brought to an unexpected end due to the fact that an armored pegasus suddenly crashed against the ground, hard, but a few steps away from their position.

Both mares jumped in fright at the sudden appearance of the apparently unconscious pony, before they cautiously approached him in order to see what had happened. Meanwhile, as they checked the clearly injured pony’s current state of health, Ganondorf chose instead to look upwards as he searched from where their newest interloper had sprung from.

“Found them,” Ganondorf cheerfully said to the two mares as his eyes locked on something high up above. And as Forest followed his gaze after confirming that the pegasus was still alive, if sporting quite a few broken bones from the fall, she saw the mess of colorful feathery blurs that were apparently trying, and failing, to pin down a frighteningly fast green blur up above. A frighteningly fast green blur that seemed to have a tiny yellow dot on his back.

“Singing!” she shouted with a start, as she realized that quite a few pegasi were apparently attacking both her sister and Link high up above.

“Eeyup, that’s them alright,” Ganondorf calmly stated as he shaded his eyes with a hoof in order to better see the distant confrontation before he added with a slightly irritated grumble. “The Kid always had a gift for finding the fun first. Now if only he chose to share it instead of hogging it all for himself…”

“Filthy feather-brains!” Sure Shot snarled as she unslung her bow and nocked an arrow with the ease of long practice before she started to take careful aim at the darting pegasi.

“You will never hit them with that little stick thrower of yours, not at this distance. You know that, right?” Ganondorf bluntly stated, not even trying to mince his words in the slightest. The fact he didn’t particularly like bows, what with how often they tended to be used to take him out, made sure of that. “Even if you had the necessary strength to send an arrow that high, the wood of the bow would shatter the moment you put the necessary force into the string.”

“And what do you suggest we do then, throw a tree at them?!” Sure Shot bit back in annoyance even as she loosened the tension on the bow’s string slightly as she realized the truth of his words.

“Nah, those aren’t anywhere near aerodynamic enough for such a long distance shot,” he nonchalantly replied as his eyes briefly surveyed the open clearing where they were currently in. “Such a projectile would veer off course long before reaching its mark.”

“What?” the ranger asked in confusion, only to be ignored by the stallion as he huffed in slight annoyance as he mumbled about the lack of rocks of all things.

“So what do we do?” Forest hurriedly asked with a hint of panic as her eyes tracked the distant figure of her sister. They had to be able to somehow help! She refused to be powerless again as Singing was placed in danger!

“We make do, obviously,” Ganondorf deadpanned, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world as he raised his right hoof. “Can’t let the Kid hog all the fun, after all!”

The moment the last word left his mouth the Wielder of Power brought his hoof downwards in a stomp, hard.

The very next moment Forest found herself fighting to keep her balance as she reflexively tried to retake the stance Ganondorf had been teaching her moments earlier. All the while the ground below their hooves heaved and rumbled as the earth itself shattered along dozens of deep fissures that sprung forth from the large stallion’s right hoof.

“What the buck?” Sure Shot asked in a barely audible whisper as she slowly rose from the now shattered ground as she stared wide eyed at the pony that had somehow caused a miniature earthquake with a single stomp of his hoof.

“Now this is more like it!” Ganondorf cheerfully exclaimed as he completely ignored the ranger’s question, all the while raising a large chunk of earth and roots larger than his head from the ground as if it weighted less than a feather. “Now this is a lesson to remember, Forest. When in doubt, improvise!”

Forest Blossom mechanically nodded her head, her mind still trying to process exactly how strong her hero really was. Sure Shot in the other hoof was slightly less poleaxed, or at the very least hadn’t lost her words due to the feeling.

“And what exactly do you plan to do with that? Throw it at them!?”

“Exactly!” he easily confirmed as he drew his hoof backwards while taking careful aim with his unwieldly large impromptu projectile.

The sea green mare opened her mouth once more, but whatever she was about to say never passed her lips as Ganondorf threw the large chunk of compacted dirt upwards with enough force to cause a sudden gale to whip around the clearing and force her to take a step backwards.

Several more gusts of wind ravaged the area as her hero threw his projectiles against those who would dare to threaten her family. And as her eyes greedily drank his perfectly muscled form as it moved with divine precision to create this impossible feat of pure undiluted power, Forest realized two things. One, her cheeks were once again hued the crimson of a blazing sunset, and two, getting Ganondorf to agree to teach her how to fight had indeed been a stroke of genius.

“Watch out!”

Link dodged a charging sword bearing pegasus with a small tilt of his body before, with a single beat of his wings, he rose upwards just in time to avoid two more charging fliers and their spear thrusts and turned around just in time to place himself in the perfect position to buck a fourth winged pony that had been attempting to blindside him right on the jaw. All the while he made sure to keep a weather eye on the little filly on his back ensuring her hold was still firm and that no harm had come even close to her.

“Hey, Link! There is another one there!”

Corkscrewing to the right he left behind a diving foe, his snarled curses and the delighted squeal from his companion. That was followed by another strong wing beat to propel him forward so that he could tackle the charging foe right in front of him before he could position himself correctly. His left hoof made said enemy’s helmeted head ring like a gong, the blow apparently enough to render the helmet owner unconscious as he dropped to the ground. He then folded his wings slightly, dropping a couple of inches as he avoided two other attackers while reflexively making sure Singing was still centered on his back.

“Wow, did you see that!”

All the while he heard with half an ear to the constant flux of blabber that came from said companion’s mouth, as Singing excitedly talked about his charging opponents, from their position and movements to their coat colors and how shiny some of their weapons and armor were.

He dodged a snarling red pegasus wielding a longsword by the smallest of margins, before weaving around a charging purple one with a spear in just the right way to position himself to strike another brown one with what looked like blades strapped to the tip of his wings with a strong buck straight to the chest.

“Hey, Link, are you listening?”

One would think that having someone constantly babbling inane things at one’s ear mid combat would be quite distracting and annoying, but Link didn’t really mind, nor was he even slightly bothered by it. Point in fact, truth be told, as far as he was concerned it was actually quite nostalgic.

It reminded him of Navi, and Tatl, and Midna, and Fi, and quite a few more companions who he had partnered up with in one past life or another. Whom, one and all, for some odd reason, felt like every single moment of silence had to be filled with chatter regardless of what was happening in said moment, or if the topic of discussion was even remotely appropriate or not.

“Watch out!”

Two more wing beats took him out of the range of his opponents, even as it also prevented him from striking at his intended target. He followed with an appraising eye the azure colored pony who had quickly proven himself to be the best combatant on the group by a far margin.

He was an azure blue pony with a very bright neon green mane and a winged lightning bolt as his cutie mark, whose weapon of choice was one of those interesting looking wing-blades. And, far more importantly, he was the only one of his opponents whose speed and agility he deemed to be acceptable.

As he evaded three more strikes and downed another of the pegasi in a single heartbeat, the Wielder of Courage reasoned that the rest of the attackers weren’t exactly bad per se. There were simply… lackluster, that was all.

“Hey, Link! Did you see that?”

And so, in the sea of mediocrity all around him, the lone blue pegasus shone like a small star. His movements sharp, precise and contained, and all of it enveloped by both skill and an obviously clear head.

Of course, the fact that he was the only of the pegasi not snarling and cursing, or that he seemed to refuse even attempting to strike Link in the back where Singing was, to the point that twice he had aborted an attack run upon noticing that it would lead him towards where the filly was, also served to draw the Chosen Hero’s attention.

It was a strange contrast, the one between the collected blue warrior and the group of snarling minions all around him. One that Link found himself contemplating as he dodged a very well executed series of strikes from said azure pony before he opened space between then with a series of rapid wing beats, weaved around two other pegasi and downed them with two hard strikes to the back of the helmeted heads.

“Watch out!”

His companion’s warning, alongside a faint whistling sound coming from below, made Link choose to temporarily shelve that particular train of thought as he darted upwards and away from the remaining pegasi. He was just in time to see three of their number hit by large brown projectiles that were traveling at very respectable speeds and burst into explosive showers of dirt upon contact.

“Artillery strike!” a mare shouted as she attempted to evade the sudden barrage by flying upwards, only to apparently forget the slightly bemused green pegasus who had gotten there first.

A few very confused moments passed, filled with speeding chunks of earth sailing through the air, panicked shouting, frantic pegasi trying and failing to escape to an higher altitude, and a green blur zipping and weaving around it all and adding to the general confusion.

Afterwards, as the sudden onslaught drew to a close, only three ponies remained amidst the endless sky. Link, Singing and the azure blue pegasus.

Link watched his opponent for a moment as he allowed him to regain his breath after the frantic dodging of moments earlier, before the Wielder of Courage decided to try and sate his curiosity.

“Thrice you abandoned excellent attack venues upon noticing they would endanger Singing, I would like to ask you why?” Link asked, curious for the warrior’s reasoning for doing so. For, while the Hero knew that he would have been able to either block or dodge said attacks before they could harm his charge, his opponent had no way of knowing so.

“I have no desire to hurt a young innocent, no matter the circumstances,” the pony answered after a brief moment of consideration as his eyes took in Link’s form, a hint of approval hidden beneath his steely eyes.

“You do not condone your leader’s actions,” Link stated, instead of asked, as his suspicion about the warrior in front of him were slowly confirmed.

“Yes, but that changes nothing,” he simply stated, his voice strong and unwavering but lacking even a single trace of hate or anger. “I’m a pegasus of the Armada and they are my squad. Regardless of who leads our flight, or what I think about their actions, it’s my duty to aid them and keep them safe.”

“I understand,” The Wielder of Courage answered with a shallow nod of approval. He could acknowledge such drive and sense of honor, even as he inwardly pitied the pegasus for the fact he had ended up saddled with someone unworthy of his loyalty. “My name is Link, may I know the name of the one I face?”

“Wonder Bolt, that’s my name,” the azure coated pony replied with the tiniest of smiles on his muzzle, a smile that remained even as he tensed his wings and prepared himself to re-start their fight. “And for what’s worth, I commend your speed and skill, brother.”

“Likewise,” Link honestly stated as he likewise prepared himself. He knew that Bolt had to be aware that he would be unable to match Link’s speed. That he had to know about the gap in skill between them by this point and how large it was.

And yet he refused to even attempt to retreat, choosing instead to face his foe with everything he got and more. Knowing that should he fail, that at the very least he had done his very best and that he could go down with no regrets. Link could respect such courage.

“You know, despite it all, I’m happy to have met you, Link,” Wonder Bolt said, his small smile still firm on his muzzle even as he started to beat his wings, body tensed and ready to charge at a moment’s notice. “To know that there are others like us, who saw past the barrier of our tribes, it brings me hope.”

“Oh?” Link answered, head tilted to the side slightly in curiosity even as his wings remained tensed and ready to launch him forward and his eyes remained locked on his opponent’s form.

“Yes, to say that to one’s opponent. Funny isn’t it? “ Bolt said as he let out a self deprecating laugh, all the while his wings tensed in kind as he kept his own eyes fully focused on Link’s form, ready to move. “I wonder-“

But whatever words would have followed remained unknown, for the very next moment a swift brown blur suddenly connected against the azure coated pegasus with explosive force, showering Link’s surprised form with pebbles and dirt.

Link blinked in befuddled surprised once as he watched his opponent plummet towards the ground, clearly unconscious. He blinked once again as he took in the boisterously cheering brown coated earth pony down bellow that was surrounded by large chunks of earth waiting to serve as ammunition, before his companion’s words finally brought him back to the present.

“Ouch, that’s got to hurt!” Singing Blossom earnestly stated as she peeked past Link’s neck as she followed Wonder Bolt’s form as it hit the ground with a muted thump.

“Indeed,” he simply replied, eyes never straying from Ganondorf’s form down below. All the while a small, irritated frown bypassed his usually serene facade.