The Lost Fledgling of Griffonstone

by Nitro Indigo

Chapter 2: Gabby Meets the Locals

Gabby was exhausted. By the time she’d arrived at the foot of the barren, craggy mountain where Griffonstone stood, her wings ached too much to fly. After spending hours walking up the steep slopes, the sun was setting, the wind was howling, and her legs were about to give out… But she was almost there!

At the top, Gabby dragged herself towards a pair of arch-shaped gates flanked by two golden griffon statues, and looked up to see two stern-looking guards wearing silver armour. They were even bigger than Gilda!

“Hey!” a burly guard shouted in a gruff voice, pointing a spear towards her. “Who’re you?”

Startled, Gabby jolted her head back. “Uh, h-hi! I-I’m Gabriella!”

“That’s not how you talk to visitors!” a slender guard snapped at the burly guard, who withdrew his spear. The slender guard looked at Gabby. “What business do you have here, Miss Gabriella?”

“I-I came here! All the way… from Equestria…” she panted. She stopped to catch her breath; the next part was really important. “I’m here to look for my family!”

Both guards gave her a blank stare.

“You know?” Gabby continued. “I went missing years ago! Surely somepony is still looking for me…?”

The slender guard raised an eyebrow. “Pony?”

Gabby facepalmed. “Oops! Y-you know what I mean.”

“You’ll have to ask the archivist about family matters, kid,” said the burly guard. “Whatever. Well, you are a griffon, so come on in.”

The two guards pushed the gates open — and what Gabby saw took her breath away. She stared in awe as hundreds of griffons flew between the branches of a giant, gnarled tree, as grey and ancient as the mountain it sood on. Upon closer inspection, each branch was its own street — at least, she thought so. It was too dark to make out any buildings, but the twinkling lights of houses shone like stars. At the very top of the tree was a tall, white palace, with gilded spires that glittered in the orange sunset.

This wasn’t what she’d dreamed of — it was even better!

Heart pounding, she bounded through the gates… and was immediately interrupted by her stomach growling. Of course! In all her excitement, she’d forgotten that she hadn’t eaten since that morning. There had to be somewhere that sold food here!

The cobblestone-paved street at the base of the tree was noisier than a Rar-eye-T concert. It was lined on both sides with wooden market stalls whose owners competed to see who could advertise their wares the loudest — “My pots and pans are state of the art!” “Ignore her! What you really need are my wrought-iron kitchen utensils!” Not even the Ponyville Market got this intense!

Towards the end of the street, the stalls became fewer and further between, and the shouting matches gave way to gentle violins and accordions. Gabby so wished she could tip the performers, but she couldn’t afford to. A sheet-metal food stand titled “CUISINE DE GUSTAVE” caught her attention, accompanied by the scent of… something salty? Maybe it was just her hunger — she’d be willing to eat griffonscones again at this point! — but it captured her curiosity on an instinctive level, as if she were encountering real food for the first time. She walked towards it; she had to stand on her hind legs to reach the counter.

A tall, white-feathered griffon turned around in an instant, staring at Gabby with tiny, piercing eyes. “Finally — une CUSTOMER!” he exclaimed, gesturing widely. “Oh, I simply cannot BELIEVE it! What do you wish to order, mademoiselle?”

Startled, Gabby dropped to all fours. And everypony says I’M too loud! Wait… is this a normal thing for griffons? She noticed a menu on the back wall of the stand, and reeled back in shock. Those prices were way too high! The cheapest option was something called “lapin”, and it cost as much as a dozen baskets of carrots at the Ponyville Market!

“Uh… I’ll have the lappin’, please,” she said, dropping all of her bits onto the counter.

“La-pin,” the griffon corrected. “Un lapin, coming right up!”

Gabby sat in front of a wooden table while she waited. There were no seats, and not even her fur could hide how cold the cobblestones were! Still, she wouldn’t have to wait long until she wasn’t hungry anymore.

A few minutes later, the chef placed a medium-sized bowl of stew on Gabby’s table, along with a spoon. Floating in the brown liquid were cut-up carrots, and beige lumps of… something. She couldn’t wait to eat it—

How did she hold the spoon?

Back when she lived in Canterlot, she’d seen fancy unicorns levitate their spoons. Being Earth ponies, her family — no, her adoptive family — had never used them. Should she hold it in her beak? No… Then she wouldn’t be able to eat the food!

Her thoughts were interrupted by another loud growl from her stomach. She picked up the bowl in both of her talons, and drank the stew like it was soup.

It was the most delicious thing she’d ever tasted! Despite its unappetising colour, it was just the right combination of salty and savoury, and its warmth felt like curling up next to a cozy fireplace while a blizzard raged outside. It felt like she’d tasted real food for the first time!

“Thank you thank you thank you! That was great!” Gabby exclaimed once she’d finished. “What was it?”

“I believe you call it… un rabbit?” the chef replied.

Gabby almost threw up. Trixie had all those pet rabbits, and they were so cute... She wouldn’t dream of EATING one in a million years, let alone ENJOY it!

“Is… is this what griffons always eat?” Gabby asked.

“Oh, no no no!” exclaimed the chef. “This is mere peasant’s food!” He gestured widely again. “Gustave le Grand has dreams of opening a restaurant one day, but alas! He is tragically grounded at the foot of Griffonstone.” He said this so overdramatically that Gabby half-expected him to faint.

“Really? That’s a shame,” said Gabby. “Next time you see him, say that I wished him luck!”

I am Gustave le Grand, you imbecile!” he yelled as he slammed his talons on the desk. Gosh, his eagle eyes were scary! “Nethertheless, mark my words!” He pointed upwards, to the top of the tree. “One day, I will be able to open a restaurant on the highest branches, and even expand my brand to Equestria! Maybe I’ll even become the prince’s personal chef! And you, madamoiselle, were the first wingbeat on my long flight ahead!”

“Thanks!” Gabby exclaimed. “I’m from Equestria! I’m not sure if everypony would, uh, appreciate eating rabbits, though…”

“Oh! Please tell me, is it true that ponies all live in castles?”

“Nope!” exclaimed Gabby, reaching up to the counter. “I live in a tree, too! Only the two princesses live in a castle. Years ago, they found me abandoned in the mountains, and I came here to find out where I came from. One of the guards told me to find the archivist — do you know who that is?”

Gustave furrowed his brow in thought. “Hmm… I believe the archivist works in the library a few branches above us, but alas, I have never had a reason to go there.”

Gabby nodded. “Thanks! I'd better get going… Is there any place I could stay for the night?”

“Got any bits?” asked the griffon who owned the local inn.

Gabby rummaged through her bag — and was horrified to discover that her search came up empty! Why had she spent all her money on dinner? She could already picture Tavi giving her a lecture about responsibility… But that stew was just so good!

“N-no, but PLEASE can you let me in anyway?” Gabby begged, sitting up on her haunches and staring at the griffon with puppy-dog eyes. “I’ve been travelling all day!”

“Sorry, kid, but if you don’t have the bits, you can’t stay here.” With that, she slammed the door in Gabby’s face.

The next morning, Gabby woke up from her dreamless sleep on the cold cobblestones and looked up. The sky was so clear that she could make out the materials of every building that lined the tree’s branches; the lower ones were made of wood and straw, much like Ponyville’s, while the highest ones were made of polished stone that reflected the pale sunlight.

Between these two extremes was a really tall building — almost as tall as the palace! — that was made of rougher stone, worn from years of erosion. She flew up to it; above its tall, thin, mahogany doors that looked more fitting for an ancient (and possibly haunted) castle, was a sign that said “LIBRARY”. She landed in front of it and quickly knocked; she probably didn’t need to, but it was still polite!

“...Come on in,” a female voice said from behind the door, barely louder than a whisper.

The doors creaked as Gabby pushed them open. Inside, the library was musty, dusty, and filled with cobwebs. The bookshelves were over twice as tall as the ones in the Golden Oaks Library, reaching up to a ceiling so high that every breath she took echoed. The walls were lined with candles, but none of them were lit; the only source of light was the sun shining through stained-glass windows depicting various griffons wearing regalia.

But what stood out the most was that unlike the bustling street below, this library was completely empty! As Gabby stood still in the entrance, looking around in awe, she felt… scared? No... That wasn’t the right word. It was more like a feeling of being so small, so… humble? If only Tavi were here; she’d know the right word for sure!

Gabby looked to her right to see a griffon standing behind a mahogany desk. She was dainty — much smaller than any of the other grown-up griffons she’d seen — and had a white head with black markings around her yellow eyes.

“Oh!” exclaimed Gabby. She walked towards the desk. “Are you the archivist?”

“I suppose so…” replied the other griffon. “Um, I’m Glenda, and nogriff else wanted to be a librarian or an archivist, so I’m both, I guess.”

Gabby sighed in relief. “Good. I came here to look for my family!” She placed her talons on the desk. “Do you have any records of a griffon who looks like me and was abandoned in the mountains years ago?” she asked in one breath.

Glenda nodded politely, but she wore an uncertain frown. “I’ll have a look…”

Gabby watched as Glenda flitted towards a bookshelf at the back of the library. She paused and looked around for a few moments, before pulling out a book, scanning its pages, then putting it back and reading another one. The cycle repeated over and over; Gabby impatiently tapped her front toes against the floor, creating a pitter-patter that echoed like a rainstorm.

After what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, Glenda landed behind her desk. Gabby’s heart drummed as fast and loud as the Running of the Leaves. This was it! The moment of truth! She’d FINALLY have the answers she was looki—

“I’m sorry, but I can’t find any records of a griffon that matches your description.”

Gabby’s heart didn’t sink this time; it shattered into a million pieces. Glenda’s words felt like a blow to the chest that knocked all the air out of her lungs.

“B-but surely you’ve missed something!” Gabby spluttered. “Let me have a look!” She took a stride towards the bookshelves, but Glenda interrupted her.

“I have a gift for reading quickly. It would take most griffons days to read through the census reports. The newest one alone is over six hundred pages long.”

Six HUNDRED? That was longer than Tavi’s rune books! Gabby slumped to the cold, hard floor, completely and utterly defeated. She’d come all this way for nothing! What could she do now? Spend the rest of the day going all the way back home just to tell everypony that she wasted her time?

She was so distraught, she almost didn’t notice that somepo— griff else had entered the library.

“You know the drill,” a male voice on the verge of yawning said. “I’m here for the weekly tax reports.”

Gabby looked up to see a bright blue griffon strutting towards the desk. He wore a long, purple scarf that wouldn’t look out of place at Auntie Vinyl’s boutique. What stood out to Gabby the most was his size; she’d finally found a griffon who looked around her age! Maybe he’d vaguely remember her from his childhood, or at the very least, he was on her level and she’d finally make a frien—

“Yes, um, your highness,” Glenda replied, bowing her head.

WHAT?! Gabby clamped a talon over her beak to stop herself from gasping out loud; Tavi always told her to be quiet when the library had visitors. But more importantly, how was she supposed to get to know him? She’d die from embarrassment if she admitted she had no idea who the ruler of her people was, and it wasn’t like she could just say “hi”! The Equestrian princesses didn’t like small talk; for all she knew, griffon royals could throw anygriff they wanted in the dungeons for looking at them funny!

“By the way, looks like you finally got another visitor,” he continued, after Glenda gave him a scroll from under her desk. “It only took you my entire life.”

In a split second, Gabby lunged herself towards the desk. “Who is he?” she whispered to Glenda as quietly as possible.

“Do you really not know?” Glenda asked, somehow louder than Gabby.

“Oh! I’m not from here,” Gabby replied, closer to her normal volume. “How did I forget to tell you that?”

“He’s Prince—”

“Gallus,” the blue griffon interrupted. “I’m not deaf, you know.”

Gabby’s heart skipped a beat. “I’m so sorry did I anger you if so I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Gallus replied, sighing. “Although… what brings you here?”

Gabby breathed a sigh of relief. “My name’s Gabby, and I came from Equestria! I came here looking for my family, but…”

Gallus' ears pricked up. "Can you tell me more about Equestria?"

“...And that's how Tavi and her friends freed the Pillars of Old Equestria from Limbo!” exclaimed Gabby. She and Gallus had decided to continue their conversation outside, and were now perched on the library's roof.

“Sounds more exciting than anything that's happened to me,” said Gallus.

Gabby tilted her head. “Huh? But you're a prince! Don’t you get to do important prince duties or have incredible magical powers or anything?” If princes are anything like prinCESSes…

“Oh, I wish,” Gallus sighed. “The only duty I have is being the Council of Lords’ errand boy.”

“Don’t you have any parents?”

“I’d rather not talk about it…”

Gabby draped a wing over his shoulder. “I understand. I’ve never met my parents. In fact, I came here looking for them, but it seems that nogriff even noticed I was gone…” She squeezed her eyes shut to stop tears from forming.

“Is that what you were doing in the library?”

Gabby nodded. “That reminds me! When you said that Glenda finally got another visitor, what did you mean?”

“Collecting the weekly tax reports is one of my errands,” replied Gallus. “I must have done it hundreds of times, but I’ve never seen anygriff else visit the library.”

Gabby was surprised, and she could only imagine how HORRIFIED Tavi would be! “But you have access to all the information in the world! Why wouldn’t you use it all the time? I mean, I wouldn’t — but still!”

“Because nogriff cares,” Gallus replied. “A few centuries ago, the Griffon Kingdom went through a dark age. We were betrayed by one of our closest allies, we lost all of our land except for this city, and we closed our borders and all of our trade routes…” He said this flatly, as if he was reciting a boring history lesson. “Even though those have been reopened now, the older generations still cling onto the before times that their ancestors told them were oh-so-amazing,” — he rolled his eyes — “and they don’t want to learn anything new. And the worst part is that in some ways… they’re right. Griffonstone still hasn’t recovered.”

“Oh — I just remembered!” exclaimed Gabby. “Last night, a chef told me that he was ‘tragically grounded’ at the foot of Griffonstone. What did he mean?”

“There’s a huge divide between the rich and poor in Griffonstone. Generally, the richer you are, the higher up you live.” Gallus looked up to the palace — his palace. “It’s my dream to change Griffonstone for the better, but what can I do? I don’t think the Lords would let me…”

Gabby wanted to reassure Gallus, but a question pressed on her mind. “Who are the Lords, anyway?”

“Just a bunch of stuck-up geezers who cling onto the past even more than most griffons. They basically raised me for most of my life, and they’re always going on and on about how ‘Oh, you can’t do this, young prince! It’s bad for your image!’, or, ‘Oh, you SIMPLY must tell the public you approve of this new law, regardless of your actual opinion on it!’” Gabby couldn’t help but chuckle at his exaggerated posh accent. “Don’t tell anygriff else this, but—” he leaned close and whispered, “—I think they’re the ones who’re really in charge.”

“That sounds awful!” gasped Gabby. “In Equestria, the princesses don’t do everything, but at least they’re honest! Not that I’m calling you a liar — it’s not exactly your fault!”

“Heh… are all Equestrians as enthusiastic as you?”

“No, actually! When I was at school in Canterlot, I tried to answer so many questions that the teacher eventually had to ignore me to give my classmates a chance… even though I wasn’t always right.” She rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. “Even now, Tavi tells me not to talk too much when we have visitors over.” Her eyes widened as she realised why he might’ve asked that question. “Do you find me annoying?”

“Nah. I’m just glad that I finally have somegriff my age to talk to.” A grin spread across his beak. “Say… do you wanna go flying?”

Gabby nodded rapidly. Gallus spread his wings and elegantly soared off the balcony, and Gabby followed. As they descended to the base of the tree, he smirked at her before doing a loop-de-loop. She leaned forwards to increase her speed and tried to copy him… but almost tumbled back-first onto the ground instead. Good thing she righted herself at the last second!

Eventually, he gently landed on a cliff, beyond the city’s gates. Gabby tried to land too — but she’d never flown at this steep of an angle before! Unable to slow herself down in time, she tumbled over and landed face-first in the dust. Again.

“Oww,” she groaned as she picked herself up, her forelegs sore from the impact.

“Hey, are you alright?” Gallus asked.

“I’m okay!” Gabby cheerfully exclaimed. “I’ve never been good at landing.”

Gallus frowned. “Let me guess — you learned to fly from ponies?”

“That’s right! Why do you ask?”

Gallus paced back and forth. “Now, I’ve only seen pictures of pegasi, but they have smaller wings than us, right?”

Gabby nodded; she remembered being sent to Junior Flight Camp in Cloudsdale.

“Then that’s your problem,” Gallus continued. “I’m guessing that since their wings have a smaller surface area, they don’t need to spread them out as much in order to break, and they need to flap them more often. Have you ever tried soaring?”

“Yes! Yesterday, I rode a tailwind across the ocean, but the air is still today.”

Gallus placed a talon under his chin. “Hmm… I know!” His eyes lit up. “Follow me!”

The two of them ran towards the edge of the cliff, and stopped in front of a huge chasm. Gabby couldn’t see the bottom; it must’ve been as deep as Canterlot Mountain was tall!

“This is the Abysmal Abyss,” Gallus explained. “According to legend, a giant that once threatened griffonkind plummeted to its doom here. The winds are so strong that not even the strongest griffon could fly out.” He turned to Gabby and smirked. “Wanna try flying across it?”

Gabby’s legs were shaking, but she HAD to swallow her fear! She’d never fallen off Cloudsdale!  “Y-yes.”

“Then watch and learn!” With a couple of flaps of his wings, Gabby watched closely as Gallus effortlessly glided to the other side. “NOW YOU TRY!” he shouted from the other side.

Gabby took a deep breath. She carefully positioned her wings to be as horizontal as possible. She flapped them rapidly — then remembered she shouldn’t do that! Instead, she leaped into the air with the grace of a cat, and didn’t flap her wings until she started to lose altitude.

Yes! It was working!

However, when the other side was in her foreleg’s reach, she began to panic. With her current trajectory, she was headed straight for the side of the cliff! She desperately flapped her wings as rapidly as a hummingbird, and reached out both of her talons to grab the top of the cliff — but it was too late.

The last thing Gabby heard before she plummeted into the abyss was Gallus screaming her name.