...But It's All Right

by Petrichord

Manic and Needy

Silverstream didn’t know how long she could keep up the suspense for. And, much as egging on  her audience’s unsettled anticipation was fun in its own right, she didn’t want to find out her limit.

So, instead, she hopped off of the balcony railing, spread her wings and swooped like a hawk, coming in for a perfect three-point landing smack in the middle of the Mt. Aris Central Park’s public amphitheatre stage. As soon as she touched down, the crowd erupted into applause - and when the confetti cannons surrounding the stage went off and ringed her in a cloud of glitter, the applause went from enthusiastic to manic.

“Hi, everygriff!” Silverstream chirped into her sparkly outfit’s clip-on microphone, at which point the crowd went completely nuts.

Months ago, Silverstream had worried that her audience might injure themselves if they got too worked up over her. It was hard to remember when she had stopped caring, though, and harder to remember why. Familiarity with their reactions? Experience with dealing with this sort of thing? A creeping, generalised apathy?

It didn’t matter anymore. She had a job to do: making them smile. And, while waiting for them to quiet down, she took the time to reach into her tacky pink saddlebags and pull several knickknacks out, setting them carefully on the stage next to her until things were, more or less, quiet.

“I’m so, so happy that all of you managed to find the time to come visit me and my silly little show!”

“It’s not silly!” squawked out a hippogriff in the back, and Silverstream’s grin widened — and this time, part of it felt genuine. Briefly, the memory of her time in Equestria washed back over her: Equestria, with its silly, non-interactive theatre! Equestria, with the tomblike silences that accompanied every play and presentation!

Equestria, where you couldn’t tell what the audience was thinking.

“...And I’m always accountable for what they’re thinking.”

Gallus sat across the table from her, hayburger deluxe still clenched in his claws, waiting for him to take a bite. “You make it sound like they own you.”

“No! Nothing like that!” Silverstream stammered, jabbing her fork into her salad and taking a quick bite. “Just that they’re good at letting me know what they like or don’t like.”

“And they call you out on it? Like, then and there?” Gallus set his hayburger down. “So if they feel like being an absolute jerk to you, you just have to stand there and let them say your performance sucks?”

“It’s not like most of them do that, really.” Silverstream shook her head, taking another quick bite of her salad. “Besides, doesn’t Equestria have hecklers? Doesn’t Griffonstone have hecklers?”

“Griffonstone’s still poor as hell, you know.” Gallus sat back and folded his forelegs across his chest. “I guess you’re not wrong about Equestria, though. Still…”

“You’re worried about me.”

“In so many words, yes.” Gallus arched an eyebrow. “Look, the war effort’s the war effort, I get it. Somecreature needs to help bolster morale at home. And-”

“Don’t you think I’m good enough?”

“It’s not a question of good enough.” Gallus sighed, abruptly looking tired. “I just don’t want you getting burned out, is all.”

Silverstream snorted. “Says the griff who’s actually going to be shipping out to lead troops soon.”

“I know what I’m doing, okay?”

“And I don’t?” Silverstream replied, voice taking on a hard edge.

For a second, Gallus balked. Then, looking defeated, he sat up and picked up his hayburger again. “No, you’re right, you do. But I swear to Boreas, if anycreature says anything awful to you while I’m away, remember them for me. That way, I can track them down when all of this is done and thrash their flanks.”

“Show us your flank, Sylvie!”

Smile hardening, Silverstream forced a laugh. “Now who’s the silly hippogriff?”

Laughter. The audience seemed placated for the moment, which was just enough time for Silverstream to grab an object by her feet and hold it up. Caring more about filling the lull than the specifics, Silverstream still smiled at the audience as she scooped up and held out—

A statuette of her in a frankly silly pose. Propaganda and innuendo sold, Silverstream wasn’t naive enough to assume otherwise, but she’d never been sold on the idea of trying to mix them together. Maybe it was like mixing chocolate and peanut butter to some creatures, but it felt more like trying to mix oil and water to her. And this combination of her in a sailoresque suit, mixing a salute and a foot pop while looking like she was posing for a camera, was too much for her.

But not too much for her audience, apparently, as excited murmuring spread through the crowd.

And, really, that was what was important right now.

Cocking her head and popping her hindleg in a facsimile of the statuette, Silverstream held it out in front of her. “Anyways, here’s something very special I wanted to show everycreature: Hippogriffia-made, Hippogriffia-sold Sylvie statues! Better than war bonds, and for just as good a cause!”

The crowd went into an uproar again, disjointed comments flying thick and fast in Silverstream’s direction.

“—Goverment selling these? Yoooo—”

“I love you, Sylvie—”

“—Shilling for the military again—”

“—So cute!”

“—Anotomically correct?”

“—Anything for Sylvie, she—”

“She’s basically a pinup anyw—”

“—Selling these for the war effort.”

Yona sniffed, looking over one of the statuettes as if it had personally offended her. “Structurally weak. Yona could crush this in hoof if she squeezed too hard.”

“Please don’t?” Silverstream grinned sheepishly. “I don’t think Queen Novo would like it.”

“Yona not care much about what Queen Novo think.” Yona looked up at Silverstream, expression guarded. “Besides, Silverstream deserve better than cheap figure of self. Why government not make high quality figure, mark as limited edition and sell at high price?”

Silverstream giggled softly. “I asked the same thing. Queen Novo said that she wanted to be able to make sure she could keep selling these as long as necessary. And if one of them gets destroyed, then the government doesn’t need to repay the cost for it after the war’s over.”

“Clearly inflation not pressing issue.” Yona rolled her eyes and put the statuette on the bistro table, inches away from Silverstream’s claw. “Good likeness, though.”

Silverstream smiled. “Thanks.”

“Yona not buying one, though.”

Silverstream’s smile vanished. “I wasn’t going to—”

“Yona knows. Yona not think you want to meet old friend for sales pitch.” Yona’s mouth crinkled into a faint frown as she shook her head. “Yona think you worry about not having another chance to say goodbye.”

“Of course I don’t—”

Yona’s stare made Silverstream’s protest die in her gullet.

“...Don’t think we’ll get another chance” Silverstream concluded, shoulders slumping. “I mean, Gallus is off on the Griffonstone border doing who knows what, you’re apparently joining the factory brigades by the polar line, and the whole world is just…just such a mess. How am I not supposed to worry?”

“By having trust and doing right thing. Just like rest of us.” Yona stretched and pushed her empty plate off to the side, where it teetered dangerously on the edge of the table. “But…Yona suppose Yona is still worried.”

“About the brigades?”

Abruptly, Yona’s hoof lashed out, narrowly missing the plate as she snatched the figurine back off of the table, looked deliberately at Silverstream and squeezed. With a splintering noise, the statuette didn’t snap so much as it crumbled in Yona’s grip.

“About Silverstream,” Yona replied. “Yona worried this not right thing for your mental health. Yona fear this not make you happy at end of it all.”

An awkward pause filled the air.

Eventually, Yona cleared her throat. “...Okay. Yona break this figure, Yona buy it. But just this once. Let Yona get purse out of satchel, and…what is cost, again?”

“...And all proceeds go directly to helping our hippogriffs out in the seas and skies!”

The crowd looked less convinced than Silverstream had hoped. There were murmurs of assent, of course, but it wasn’t loud enough, and there were too many unconvinced grimaces.

“Please?” Silverstream pouted, as a light gust of wind brushed some of her brightly-colored mane extensions against her cheek. “I wouldn’t sell it for this much if it was going all to me! I just want to help out the hippogriffs who need it more than I do.”

“I’ll pay you that much if you kiss me!” piped up a hippogriff near the right of the stage.

Immediately the crowd erupted again: Some hippogriffs assented, many more shouted objections to the comment, and a couple of impossible-to-pick-out voices said things entirely unrelated to the topic at all. Silverstream’s mind spun, the gears in her brain whirring in overdrive as she tried to process a way to get the situation back under control.

Then it came to her. Coughing slightly to draw their attention back towards her, Silverstream brought the statuette up to her beak and gave it a little smooch.

The air went deathly quiet.

“I know it’s reasonable to want Sylvie to love you. I’d want someone to love me, too — and I do! I want all of you to love me very, very much, just like I love all of you!” Silverstream began. A couple of hardcore fans whooped their agreement, but the crowd otherwise hung on her words.

“Sooooo…How about if I talk to Queen Novo for a little bit tomorrow? Maybe to my most adoring fans…maybe those willing to pay an extra five bits?...I could see if she could let me give their Sailor Sylvie figures a kiss? That way, it’d be like sending all of my love straight from me to you! Your own personal Sylvie smooch—”

The crowd erupted again. What had once been a mixed assortment of beaky smiles and beaky frowns turned into a unified, overenthusiastic ruckus. Silverstream beamed and did her best to suppress a wince as a couple of inappropriate comments wafted up from above the cheering.

“Great!” Silverstream chirped, setting the figure down and picking up something else from off of the floor. This time it was a larger, obviously higher quality microphone, and she tugged her clip-on microphone away from her beak and held the new one closer instead. “Now, it wouldn’t be a proper visit from Sylvie to all of my lovelies if you didn’t get to hear me sing! I’ll notify my accompanists really quick, then…does anygriff have any suggestions?”

“Yeah, I suggest you quit. Immediately.”

Silverstream frowned and took a quick sip of water. “I can’t do that, Smolder.”

“You can and should.” The dragon crossed her arms in front of her chest and scowled. “Being worried about what’s gonna happen to Mt. Aris and wanting to do something to help Queen Novo? That’s fine. I don’t think you guys need to go through with this colonization dispute, but whatever.”

“It’s not—

“Important to the topic at hand. If you have something you think is worth fighting for, you should absolutely fight for it. That’s the dragon way of doing things, and you’re honestly more of a dragon than my peacenik big brother. But this isn’t fighting anything, Sil.”

Silverstream took a breath. If she were talking to Gallus or Sandbar, Silverstream was positive that she could have glared them down. Maybe even Yona, if she was angry enough. But getting angry at Smolder was like trying to punch out a mountain. “Okay, then. So if I’m not contributing—”

“You aren’t. You’re contributing to what Queen Novo says, which is…what? Having a high-profile public entertainer who supports her that she thinks will boost the country’s morale?”

“The country needs an optimistic face.”

“The country wants bread and circuses, and that’s what she’s giving them. She’s giving them you.” Smolder jabbed a finger at Silverstream. “She’s sponsoring a career you never asked for so that you can do things you aren’t interested in doing to an audience that’s fu-”

“Don’t!” Silverstream stood up, wings flaring. “This is my country! My culture! Don’t you dare say that we’re doing things the wrong way!”

Unstated: the addendum “you, of all creatures.” The message was received, though, and Smolder’s expression shifted to somewhere between impressed and deeply pissed off.

“...Okay, then. I won’t say it,” Smolder replied after a few tense seconds. “But you realize you’re being sold, aren’t you? You’re just…”

Silverstream sat back down again, no longer thirsty. “Just what?”

“A commodity. The queen, the country, yourself, whoever’s in charge of all of this…they’re selling you. In exchange for some money and some fame, they’re using you to say what they want you to say. They’re making you do what they think’s for the best, but not for what’s best for you. And you’re going to burn out before they’re done with you.”

“Yona said the same thing! I don’t know what’s with you two, or with Gallus, or…” Something ugly turned over in the pit of Silverstream’s stomach. “Why doesn’t anyone want me to do this? Why doesn’t anyone want me to make other creatures happy? That’s all I really want…”

Smolder stood up: not energetically, but as if sloughing off a weighted set of shackles. “That’s what we want too, Sil.”


“And that includes yourself. Who you keep forgetting to include. And I dunno about the rest of our friends, but it pisses me off that you’re doing this to yourself.”

Silence. Smolder didn’t sit down again.

Finally, Silverstream broke the silence. “You’re not going to stay?”

Smolder smiled sadly. “I dunno if I have anything else to say. And like I said, I’ve still gotta keep searching for my wife. Once I find her and this all blows over, though…we’ll keep in touch.”

Silverstream squeezed the microphone in her claw like she was trying to snap it in half. She could feel sweat around her temples, but resisted the urge to brush it away; even if anygriff else could see it from here, calling attention to it would make things worse. And her throat felt like shredded kelp, but if nothing else how bad it felt was useful for measuring how long she’d been singing and dancing for a perpetually enthusiastic crowd.

Three hours. If her throat felt like this but she could still sing for now, still talk for now, still be cute for now, it couldn’t have been more than three hours. Three was her limit, especially since the accompanists left a few songs ago and she’d been doing things a cappella ever since.

And yet they were still cheering, still wanted more.

“Thank you! Thank you, everygriff!” Silverstream chirped, trying to take deep breaths without looking or sounding like she needed air. “Wow, your support still means so much to me! I can’t believe that you stuck with me through all of this!”

“I love you, Sylvie!”

“Be my wife, Sylvie!”

“Aww, shucks. I’m flattered!” Cocking her head, Silverstream tried to fix the crowd with what she hoped was a cute smile. Judging by their enthusiastic roar, it was working.

“Whoof! I think I should probably take a break from singing for now. My throat’s starting to feel all tingly, and I wouldn’t want to sing off-key or give you guys anything but the best time possible!”

“Show us a good time, Sylvie!”

“I can make your throat tingly!”

Laughter spread through the audience. Refusing to let her smile diminish even an inch, Silverstream set the microphone down, readjusted her clip-on mic and picked up…

“Oooooooh!” Silverstream’s eyes sparkled as she eyed the big, complicated-looking metal puzzle she had picked up off of the floor. “Physical puzzles! I’ve been meaning to talk about these for a while! I know you can’t find them anymore, at least not at the stores I go to—”

“I’ll buy you some, Sylvie!” shouted someone in the crowd.

“I’ll buy you if you let me!” piped up another voice, and the crowd fell once again into chastising, laughter and other unprintable statements. Silverstream’s face flushed a little redder, and her grip on the metal puzzle shook slightly, causing the whole contraption to jangle.

“So I thought that maybe we could solve it together! I know you up near the front have a pretty good view of what I’m doing, and if you helped me figure out how to solve this I’d be sooooo grateful! You’ll be good and help me, won’t you?”

Cheers from the front. Jeers from the back.

“And while we’re working on this together, we can spend time talking to each other!” Silverstream settled back on her haunches, idly picking through a set of interlocking rings and geometric shapes so maddeningly interconnected that it seemed impossible to figure out where to begin. It wasn’t hard for Silverstream to remember a time where this sort of puzzle would have seemed impossible to figure out how to solve at all, but that was a long time ago.

Things had changed irreparably.

“So!” Silverstream began again as she looked over the puzzle and tried to pick out a good spot to begin. “I bet all of you have struggled with these at some point in time, haven’t you?”

“I haven’t!”

“Me either!”

“Maybe you’re just bad at puzzles, Sylvie!”

“I’ll help figure them out for you!”

More laughter.

“Aww, thanks! Maybe if we all get super stuck, then you can come down and help us figure it out together!” Silverstream stuck her tongue out of the side of her beak briefly, as if she was focusing hard on how to solve the puzzle, and did her best to ignore the next few comments as she carefully shifted a ring and a triangle towards what would probably be a more useful spot.

“But you’re right. I always love love loved physical puzzles like these, just like I love love loved architecture. Wow, that’s a big topic to talk about! I’d be happy to talk about it with you later!” Silverstream chirped, heading off distracting statements before they began and pressing on. “But I used to fiddle and fiddle and fiddle with them, and I never quite knew how you should start these off at first! So what changed?”

“Brain transplant!”

“—Got a teacher to solve—

“—replaced by a changeling, guys!”

“No way! Sylvie’s too cool to—”

“Actually,” Silverstream interrupted, “I had this friend at school. He was kind of laid-back-looking, you know, like he wouldn’t amount to much. But he was pretty smart, and he was a lot better at figuring things out than he looked on the surface! He was full of even more surprises than your best friend Sylvie is!”

“No way, that’s not—”

“Nobody’s smarter than you, Sylvie!”

“—course you’d need a guy to—”

“I think you would have liked him!” Silverstream interrupted again, sliding another ring into place and moving on down to a square. “He was funny, and thoughtful, and best of all he was the sort of friend you could always learn something from!”

Desperately, Silverstream kicked the door shut, lunged towards the rolling shade by the bathroom window and tugged it shut with both claws.

Then she vomited. Stress and bile ripped their way out of her beak, burning her throat and filling the air with an acrid stench. She hadn’t been anywhere close to a toilet, and clamped her eyes shut as soon as her mouth was empty so she wouldn’t have to look at the mess she made.

Entire body trembling, Silverstream staggered back, reached toward the bathroom’s doorknob and twisted it open again. The letter was still there, lying on the floor where she’d dropped it. Silverstream’s body kept trembling as she staggered back towards the letter.

The contents of the letter couldn’t possibly have changed since the last five times she had read it over. Her stomach lurched again as she picked it up off of the ground, but Silverstream kept her beak clamped shut.

“We regret to inform you…”

More nausea. Silverstream lunged back for the bathroom, trying to ignore the squirming feeling in her guts, and didn’t start reading until she’d shut herself off in the foul-smelling bathroom again.

“...passed away while…”

Sharp spikes burst up behind Silverstream’s eyes. Why would this happen? It couldn’t be happening. It was a joke. A sick practical joke made by someone who had gone too far.

“...service to be held on…”

It had to be a sick joke made by somecreature who could flawlessly forge a government seal. And have the letter sent from the correct government department. And make sure that it wasn’t picked up as fraudulent by government channels when Queen Novo had it sent over to her.

“...cannot reimburse travel expenses at this time…”

He was an Element of Harmony. This couldn’t have happened. Not him.

“...Further enclosed in this letter is an additional transcription of a letter he wished to have delivered to you in case of…”

Not him it couldn’t have been that was so stupid this whole thing was so stupid this was a sick joke he wasn’t and couldn’t have been the letter was fake this wasn’t true he wasn’t

“...reading of the Last Will and Testament at…”

Her stomach lurched violently. Silverstream had just enough time to pull the letter away from her beak before her head jerked down—too close to her body—and she retched again, and found herself unable to stare at anything but the sickness splattered over her fur and on the bathroom tiles for several seconds while her brain continued to try and process the contents of the letter.

Not him. It wasn’t right. Not him. This, everything about this, was going too far. It couldn’t have been…

She could have been there. She didn’t have to be here, she could have been there, where he was, and maybe things would have changed. Things would have been different.

No, things hadn’t changed, they didn’t change, this was a sick joke.

It wasn’t.

It was. It wasn’t. It was. It wasn’t. It was it wasn’t it was it wasn’t it was it wasn’t it

She couldn’t think about this. Dropping the letter to ground on her cleaner half, Silverstream pulled herself upright, took as deep a breath as she could manage, and shuffled over to the mirror above the sink. She couldn’t think about this now. She needed to clean things up and clean herself up before she could keep thinking about this. She needed to practice for her routine tomorrow. She needed to figure out how to make her audience smile tomorrow.

Shivering as the vestiges of nausea settled in her guts, Silverstream looked into the mirror. She had expected to see a tall hippogriff, her normal glamour tainted by sick and redder eyes, just barely holding herself together. That would be something she could work with. Sylvie could still be glamorous after this: all she needed was to clean herself up, calm down a little and practice her smile for the next day. Sylvie could deal with this.

But instead of seeing that, Silverstream looked into the mirror and saw herself. Saw things as they truly were. She saw, instead of the Sylvie that had become Mt. Aris’s darling, only Silverstream: nothing less, nothing more.

Silverstream stared at herself for two seconds. Then she reached out, yanked the mirror out of its wall bracket and threw it off to the side as the jagged maw of agony swallowed her whole.

“...and that’s why it’s always important to look in the mirror every morning and give yourself a big smile!” Silverstream concluded as the last pieces of the third puzzle came away from each other. “Because when you take a big, honest look at yourself and all the good things inside of you, it’s impossible to not be happy with the wonderful person you are! And when you’re happy, you make everycreature else happy, too!”

Such a vapid statement. Such a worthless statement. And yet the crowd loved it; Silverstream was positive that they wouldn’t have been cheering as hard for completing the puzzle if it hadn’t been Sylvie solving it, wouldn’t have been passionate at all were it not for Sylvie’s overwhelming positivity and enthusiasm.

They loved Sylvie. She was an icon. The happy, cheerful face of Mt. Aris, whose smile brightened every darkness, whose voice captured every ear, whose body caught everygriff’s eye.  Queen Novo wanted someone everygriff could love, that they’d all rally for and fight for, the face of everything bright and wonderful about the Hippogriff race.

That’s what they needed. That’s what they wanted. Mostly.

A glint in the crowd. Silverstream looked up and saw that it was light reflecting off of a badge: a securitygriff off to the left must have joined the crowd without changing out of his uniform. The light, of course, came from the sun—and the sun was a lot lower in the sky than it had been when she arrived.


“Oops!” Silverstream chirped, casting a quick glance over at the now-setting sun. “I guess I’ve been here for longer than I thought! Ooooh, I’m gonna be in so much trouble if I don’t get back on time…”

Booing. At least they weren’t calling her out on what sort of trouble she’d get into, and with whom. They never did, which was useful when the answers were “none” and “nocreature.”

“I’m sorry! You know how much I love spending time with all of my loving fans!” Silverstream mock-pouted, before putting on a pensive look. “Hmm…but I might be able to make more time tomorrow if I can squeeze it into my plans!”

Her plans, of course, being “Nothing the queen hasn’t specifically asked for.” But the audience didn’t ask about that - instead, they cheered, flaring their wings and jabbing their fists in the air, demanding more, more.

“Okay!” Silverstream chirped, with a (forced) happy little nod and a (forced) light shrug. “I’ll do my best to see if I can meet all of my lovely fans…how does tomorrow at noon sound? We can be lunchtime buddies together!”

“To-mo-rrow! To-mo-rrow!”

“I love you, Sylvie!”

“You’re the best, Sylvie!”

“I love you, too!” Silverstream replied. As deftly as she could manage, she started packing her knickknacks away into her saddlebags again. It was a small mercy that her fanbase, as passionate as it was while she was center stage, wouldn’t follow her home.

Overtly, anyway. They wouldn’t if they felt like other griffs would notice them trying to do it. Which was something she didn’t want to think about, and the reason why she didn’t take chances: as soon as everything was packed away, she flared her wings and swooped off again. Unlike her dynamic entrance onto the stage from above, this time she cut low, weaving between buildings and sticking close to walls when she could, eschewing open spaces that might let the citizens of Mt. Aris get a bead on her for more than a few seconds. She’d have to remember she used this particular path back, too after a couple of days, she’d have to change her routine, just to be safe.

Still, eventually, she made her way back. A quick swoop up into an alcove tucked away in the mountain, near one of the castle extensions that doubled as a government office, and there she was: the place that was now her semi-permanent home, barred to her only by a thick, locked door. Tucking her claw into a nearly invisible pocket in her jacket, Silverstream withdrew a key, fit it into the lock—and that last barrier, too, yielded to her. With a soft sigh, Silverstream put her key away, swooped inside and shut the door behind her.

It had clearly been glamourous, once. There was a lot of room for a building that was ostensibly designed to house just her: maybe it had been meant for a functionary who planned on having many social events in his quarters. Maybe she was supposed to have them, too. She would have asked Queen Novo about whether she was supposed to or not, but the Queen was always busy. Especially in these times, with a world steadily lurching towards conflict, Silverstream knew that Queen Novo didn't want to be bothered with a silly little entertainer asking how she was supposed to do her job.

She was just supposed to know. Which, more or less, Silverstream felt she did. Or had, anyway. Every time she showed up for some impromptu little visit or innocuous demonstration, or made an appearance at some formal gala or important social event, she always seemed to have more and more fans. Raucous, rowdy, enthusiastic fans that never failed to let her know that they wanted her, fans who never failed to speak their minds.

She was doing a good job, wasn't she?

Silverstream mulled her way through her new thoughts as she picked her way through a disused kitchenette and headed straight for a liquor cabinet. The glass bottles, inside their oaken confines, reminded Silverstream of potion vials: strange liquids bearing powerful effects, waiting to be stirred together into a potent elixir to heal her worries.

It didn't really work, but that didn't stop Silverstream from pulling out a few bottles anyway, setting them on the counter and going off to fetch a glass and some ice. As long as she kept her hands busy with this, she'd have an excuse to stay in and do something, and she wouldn't have to come up with an excuse as to why she wasn't going outside. After all, she could be out there, talking with Queen Novo about the statuette war bond initiative, or keeping up appearances with her fans, or trying to get back in touch with friends from long ago. Heck, she could even go and buy her own groceries and liquor for a change, instead of paying someone to have them delivered to her.

She could do all of those things.

Instead, Silverstream poured herself a drink, threw it back in one swallow, poured another and brought it over towards a table made for two. Silence reigned as she drank, alone, trying to think about all the good she was doing for the country and trying not to think about anything else.

Because she didn’t know how long she could keep this up for.

But she didn’t know how long Yona could handle working herself to the nub on producing munitions for the front lines, either. She didn’t know how long Smolder could handle trying to find out why Ocellus never returned from her last trip into hostile territory. And she didn’t know what could drive…


…to make her last visit to see him a posthumous one.

But Silverstream couldn’t afford to give anything less than what her friends were giving, so she was going to have to find out what her limit was, too. Even if she didn’t want to.

And even if it broke her.