by Blueshift

3 - Together, Or Not At All

There was a large wooden platform beside the pony’s nest. Misty had dragged herself up to it and sat down. The stars from outside shone their light into the nestroom. Misty wondered what her mother would think of her now. Her weak daughter, who had come so far yet been unable to make the hard choices that would rescue the hive.

It didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right. She should go home and just wait for death with the rest of the breezies, and –

The quiet was shattered by a roar from above. Misty barely had time to turn as a shadow fell over her and a transparent cylindrical prison slammed down, the noise as it collided with her platform echoing all around as she was sealed in.

The echoing became high-pitched, and Misty realised that it was her screaming. Bolts of agony shot through her back and she tried to move but couldn’t. To her mounting horror, she saw that the edge of the prison had come down on top of her right wing, crushing the delicate membranes. She whimpered, tugging gently at it to see if she could pull herself free but was rewarded only with more pain.

“No no no!” she cried, a new panic flushing through her. If she couldn’t fly, she was dead. Had the cruel pony killed her, just like that? Something caused her to turn, and she saw the vast eyes of the once-sleeping Terror pressing close to her prison, massive and unblinking. Misty threw a limb in front of her face and scooted back against her injured wing.

The pony let out a long, low roar of triumph and started to scrape the prison along the floor. Misty yelped piteously as the pressure on her wing intensified, the friction burning off scraps of membrane from the portion that was trapped. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” she screamed, forced to painfully scuttle along with the motion of the prison lest her wing be torn from her entirely. “I’m sorry I tried to kill you!”

The pony quickly lifted the edge of the prison and slid under a flat metal cap. Misty barely had time to pull her wing free as the pony sealed her in. The prison began to rotate, somehow sinking over the cap, and then in a sickening lurch, the entire container was tilted upside down and slammed back onto the wooden platform.

Misty gasped for air, clutching her poor wing for dear life. The edges were torn and frayed, and there was a curved crush-line across the top portion. She tried to give it a flap, but could barely manage three gyrations before she had to stop, a thudding mist of pain clouding her vision. “We lift ourselves!” she chanted, trying again. Her right wing flapped and twitched uselessly under the effort, causing her to sink to the floor. “We lift ourselves!”

It was useless. She saw her pitiful reflection and realised she was crying again. She wiped her cheeks as clean as she could get them and held back a sniffle. She wasn’t a brave hero like Sunny Breeze, but she wouldn’t give the pony the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

She shrunk back again with a scream as a large cracking noise boomed out across her prison. The pony was stabbing holes in the top with some sort of metal implement. Misty pressed herself into the floor as tightly as she could, hiding her precious wings against her back, waiting for the pony to finally break through and impale her.

It didn’t happen. When the roof was full of tiny, tantalisingly small holes, the pony stopped. It rumbled to itself in that terrible sound that came from its throat, and apparently satisfied, went back to its nest.

“No! Let me go! Please!” Misty thumped a limb helplessly against the wall of her prison, but to no avail. She could see the pony happily roll over in its nest and begin to hibernate. Misty desperately looked for her sword, but found that it had fallen from her grip and rolled away when she had been captured. It lay so close on the platform but on the other side of the breezie-prison, it might as well have been metres away.

Misty slumped against the cold, hard surface of her new home, rocking back and forth. From above, a gentle breeze flowed down. She wouldn’t suffocate, but she had nothing to eat. Did the pony want to watch her starve to death?

She could still see the stars outside, even further away and more impossible to reach than ever before. She rested the side of her head against the prison surface, her gaze fixed upwards to a patch of black where a lone star twinkled brighter than the rest.

“Sorry, mum,” she whispered softly. “I wasn’t good enough.”

She settled onto the floor, resting her weight on her good wing. Perhaps in the morning, one way or another this nightmare would be over.


Misty woke with a start as her prison began to violently judder and shake. It had been fixed to some sort of harness on the pony’s back, and if Misty stretched upwards as far as she could, she could see the world outside.

It was dizzying. The pony moved so fast - Misty had never realised how quick they could be. It covered metres in vast bounds, and effortlessly skipped down immense staircases, each step as big as the breezies’ Great Hall. She caught a glimpse of the Red Destroyer as it hefted up some sort of large bladed instrument, and ducked, half expecting it to attack her, but the Terror continued on.

There was a green pony with skin like bark which Misty had never heard of before. She wondered how old ponies could get, and how ancient and mighty ones like that must be to be so old yet still lift itself. Then the Terror opened the mighty doors to the entranceway and bounded down the gravel plains, her speed making a mockery of Misty’s journey the night before.

Misty looked longingly back to the trees as they receded into the distance. In the sky she saw the sun slowly rising, and flying ponies start to move fat, grey clouds to cover the warm rays of light. She remembered her father’s words: “Winter is coming.” Was it already too late for the breezies?

Captor and captive sped faster and faster across the plains until they rounded a hill, and Misty let loose an exclamation of shock and horror. There was another castle. And another. Dozens of them, getting closer and closer, and in the streets were hundreds of ponies. It was almost too much. She covered her eyes and sunk to the bottom of her prison, whimpering.

There were noises outside. Loud, rumbling pony voices. Perhaps she was going to be paraded about as a prisoner of war before being smashed to pieces on their Death Wheels? Maybe they wanted to torture her and pull her wings off and make her reveal the location of their treasure?

Misty checked herself over. She was in a sorry state. Battered and bruised, covered in lots of little cuts from her journey to the castle, and a large painful welt over her midsection where the crow had grabbed her. One of her antennae was bent at an angle, and her right wing looked so fragile now. She gave it a waggle and winced at the stiffness of her muscles.

The sounds outside got louder. Misty cowered at the bottom of her prison so she didn’t need to see what was happening. Flashes of light from above told her that they were still moving, and a sudden fall of shadow indicated that the Terror had moved into another castle.

Her world lurched again, and the prison was unceremoniously tipped out onto a hard wooden platform. It rolled along before a mighty hoof descended from on high and stopped it in its tracks, causing Misty to gain a few more bruises in bouncing to a halt.

There was no escape now. There were eyes. Eyes all around her. Massive eyes belonging to what felt like infinite ponies, all as large as the Terror, staring at her intently. Misty quivered, turning in a full circle in her transparent prison, taking in the horrific sight. She was surrounded. Surrounded by what must be the High Council of the ponies.

She wanted to hide again, but knew she couldn’t. She had to be brave like she hadn’t been before. She had to be like Sunny Breeze or her mother or her father or any of the better breezies. She launched herself forwards, hammering on the glass walls as hard as she could. “Stop it!” she screamed at the top of her voice. “Stop the winter! Stop the war!”

The ponies around her threw back their heads and let loose with booming roars. They were laughing. Misty was trying to save her world, and they were laughing at her. Suddenly they all grabbed for her at once, dozens of deadly multicoloured hooves lunging for her prison and trying to snatch it up. The air filled with hollers and thundering yells, and the prison span around and Misty threw her forelimbs over her face and she started shaking and the prison span faster and faster and she was just five weeks old again, crying in the dark for her mother and –

A roar louder than the rest cut through the air. Through the dizzying motion of her prison, Misty saw the ponies scatter in fear. A purple pony even bigger than the rest stalked into the room and placed a hoof onto Misty’s cell to stop it spinning, causing her to tumble to a halt. It started to bellow at the Terror, who quivered before it like a pathetic breeziegrub.

Misty blinked in confusion. Were they fighting over her? Did the bigger one want to claim her for its own prize? The purple pony picked up her prison and took her outside, the Terror trailing behind and roaring out indecipherable noises as she followed.

They were moving towards a structure that towered far above even the pony castles. She strained her neck to look upwards and take in the whole view, and her jaw dropped as she processed the object. It was a World Tree! The ponies had a World Tree! It was impassive, mighty limbs stretching out from an impossible trunk that was as big as a castle. She steeled herself for what was to come.

After a short climb, the roof of her prison was removed and she was tipped out onto a large circular wooden platform, yelping all the way at every bump and bruise. She was free though! There was nothing to keep her penned up! She flexed her wings, and winced at the pain that shot through her body. That was why she didn’t see the ponies at first. She knew they were there, of course. The purple one, and the Terror, peering up at her from below the platform. There was another one though, one she hadn’t seen before. Slightly taller, a darker purple and with a sharp spike that jutted out of its head.

Misty skidded backwards in shock. Was this the ponies’ queen? No, she remembered the image engraved on the treasure. They all looked the same to her, but there was that same spike. No crown though. Maybe a local leader.

They were looking at her intently. Misty would not be cowed, she would not be found wanting when she stood before the gods. Climbing to her shaking limbs she raised herself as straight and determined as she could muster, and shook a forelimb. “Stop the winter!” she shouted up at the leading pony. “Stop the winter! Do what you want to me, but stop the winter!”

The dark purple pony blinked, and turned to the other. “It’s definitely a breezie,” it boomed in a low, rumbling voice. “But what’s it doing here? Where did you find it?”

“It was in my room!” the Terror roared upwards. “I’d never seen one before up close, I wanted to show everyone!”

“You hurt it, poor thing!” the lighter purple pony exclaimed, leaning closer to Misty.

Misty’s mouth dropped open and she looked between the three. “Y-you can talk breezie?” she squeaked. Ponies just made noises. She didn’t think they could be words.

“Sort of,” the dark purple one began, and Misty found herself flung backwards by the exhalation of air from its mouth. “It’s really a translation spell that – ”

“Stop it!” Misty screamed at the top of her voice. “Stop the winter! Stop it! Stop trying to kill us! You can never win the war, we are too strong! We lift ourselves!” Her wings flapped weakly as if to illustrate the point.

She was met by silence. Finally, the leader spoke. “War?”

“Yes, the war!” Misty shook a limb angrily. “Your eternal war against us! You attack our World Tree and steal our fruit a-and kill us with your Death Wheels, but we have your treasure!” She smacked an appendage against her chest proudly. “We will never give in. S-so please, stop the winter!”

“I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” the leader said softly, tilting a curious head to one side. “What war? What treasure? We don’t attack anyone, we live in peace with nature!”

Misty tore at her hair and started to walk in a circle, venting her frustration. “Why are you saying that?” she shouted up, not holding back against the creatures which could snuff out her life at the flick of a hoof. “Why are you lying? You hate us! You don’t live in peace! You steal and you rip thngs up and you build and you make it rain! You’re murderers! You killed my mother with your Death Wheel, an- and you want to kill all of us with your winter!”

“We’re not…” the leader began, and then stopped. “If you need help, we can help you.”

“Lies!” Misty pushed her limbs into her ears to blot out the noise. “You’re using pony magic on my head and trying to trick me! It won’t work!” She continued to storm in an ever increasing circle until she walked straight into a huge metal disc that was lying on the platform, tumbling to land head-first on it.

She was staring into the metal eyes of the pony queen. “The treasure!” she gasped, a hollow pit opening in her stomach. “H-how? You’ve got the treasure!” She picked herself up. Next to the treasure was another treasure. And another. And another.

“It’s just a coin,” the pony leader said, and she flipped one of them over. It landed with a heavy thump. “There’s loads of them, see. Nothing to be scared of.”

Misty staggered backwards in shock, landing hard on her behind. “We’re nothing!” she croaked, through a dry throat. “We never mattered!”

“Where’s your hive?” the light purple pony asked, eyes creasing in concern. “We can help you get back to the land of breezies. The pegasi can create a breeze for you to fly in. We’re not your enemies we work togeth– “

“No, stop lying! You can’t trick me!” Misty was hoarse with shouting now, and she was shaking so hard she couldn’t stand up. “You’re not our friends! You’re nothing like us, you’re evil monsters who want to destroy us!” Before anyone could stop her, she flung herself off the table, her injured wing burning with agony as she skidded through the air and onto a ledge that led out of a window. “I’m getting out of here!”

She wobbled unsteadily on the ledge, at the top of the ponies’ World Tree, and looked down upon their town. It was the day before, and she was stood at the top of the breezies’ World Tree with her father, watching her fellow breezies scuttle about in the distance like dust mites.

In the streets, the ponies were tiny as they went about their daily business. Like dust mites.

Misty had never given a second thought about dust mites.

“It’s true,” she squeaked, barely able to say the words, clapping her limbs to her mouth in shock. “It’s all been a lie!” She turned, and slumped piteously against the ledge, watching the ponies in the room. “Please, stop the winter,” she begged. “You’ll kill us all.”

“Where’s your hive?” the leader moved forwards to gently pick Misty up. She didn’t resist. “We can’t stop the Summer Shutdown, but we can keep you safe until the next breezie migration. Then you can live with the rest of the breezies and never have to worry again.”

“In the World Tree,” Misty mumbled. Her damaged wing felt like it was tearing up from the exertion of her flight. She just wanted to rest. “It’s the old tree in the far corner of the apple treelands. You attacked it yesterday.”

The Terror shrieked at this. “The dead tree?” she exclaimed, starting to leap up and down in an animated fashion. “My brother said it was dead but just didn’t know it yet! He was gonna cut it down today before winter to give the rest of the orchard a chance to grow!”

Misty sat bolt upright. “No! No, you can’t!” She looked at the ponies with a mixture of fear and trepidation. “Please don’t kill us!”


It took even less time to return to the World Tree. The ponies had hollered like frightened breezies, gathering up more and more of them as they raced with Misty towards home. They were too late though. The World Tree was shattered and broken. Chunks were sliced out of its mighty trunk, and its branches were broken and bare.

The Red Destroyer had stood to one side, watching the tree and holding his weapon, a strangely melancholy crestfallen expression on his face. “There ain’t nobody in there!” he kept repeating to anyone who would listen. And then: “Ah didn’t know!”

Misty knew, though. Her father would have kept the breezies in the tree, hiding and safe, just waiting for their heritage to finally collapse and kill them all. At her instigation the ponies had stepped away from the tree, letting her get closer. “Come out, come out!” she shouted, but her voice was too little and weak to carry.

Above hovered several mighty winged ponies, waiting to herd the breezies safely out. They would have to wait a long time.

“I’m going in!” Misty turned back to the purple leader one last time. “Promise me you’ll make sure they’re safe.”

“Of course,” the pony replied. “But I can’t let you go in, it’s too dangerous, it could collapse at any moment, and you’re hurt.”

Misty bowed her head. “I’m not a hero,” she said gently. “I just do what I can. Please, promise me.”

She didn’t wait for a reply. She made her way into rootspan, and home.

Misty swallowed hard as she stepped back inside the World Tree. It felt like an eternity since she had last been there, and it had changed beyond all recognition. Destruction was everywhere. She pushed through the secret entrance at the bottom of the trunk, clambering up ruined and broken stairs. The walls creaked ominously, sections buckling as the structural integrity of the World Tree began to fail at last.

Her aching limbs moved through piles of wood chippings that had fallen during the initial onslaught. She pushed onwards, passing the nursery where she had spent most of her youth. One of the walls had collapsed, and there was a jagged slash in the bark that had thrown in splinters. Thankfully it didn’t seem that anyone had been in there. Her father would have kept everyone safe.

She bristled. There wasn’t any safety here. There couldn’t be. “Hello?” she called out, making her way higher. “It’s me, Misty!”

The Great Hall opened out in front of her. It was a mess of debris and rubble. Breezies covered in dust cowered under makeshift shelters, waiting for the end. Mothers clutched their wailing breeziegrubs to their chests for comfort. Panicked eyes turned to her as she entered.

“I’m back!” she cried. “Where’s my dad?”

“Misty!” A pair of limbs grabbed her. It was Windy, his face marred by a fresh scar and eyes wide with panic. “You shouldn’t have come back! It’s the end of the world!”

“No, it’s not!” Misty gently pulled him off her. “It’s not, Windy. We need to leave. All of us!” She gazed over the room, addressing the terrified breezies. “We can go somewhere else, somewhere safe!”

She was met with silence. Only the creaking of the World Tree filled the air.

“Please!” Misty begged. “Follow me!”

“But… the war…” Windy yammered. “The ponies are waiting outside to kill us all!”

“They’re not! There is no war, there never has been a war!” Misty pointed upwards at the ceiling. “You’ll die if you stay here!”

“Well, what do you call this?” growled a stocky red breezie smeared with dust and sap. “If this ain’t war, what is it?”

“It’s…” Misty struggled for the right words. “It’s a misunderstanding! Please, you need to trust me, I found out what’s been going on! You’ve got to fly before the World Tree collapses!”

As if to underscore her words, from high above came an almighty crashing, sending shockwaves through the Great Hall. It sounded like a heavy branch finally giving up and tumbling down.

The gathered breezies cried and hugged each other, but none of them made a move. Misty looked around desperately. It wasn’t fair. She had come so far only to fail now.

A familiar figure stepped down from the stairs that led upwards. “Uncle!” she gasped, running forwards to leap at him in an embrace.

Her uncle looked down with momentary shock at Misty’s ragged appearance, and then allowed himself a smile. “Misty, you’re safe! They came so fast, with weapons we hadn’t seen before. The underroot was sealed off by rubble in the first attack but your father kept everyone safe. He’s upstairs now with the rescue teams. Don’t worry, we’ve got a plan to strike back and -”

“No!” Misty pushed past her uncle, tearing up the stairs as fast as she could. “Dad!” she screamed into the darkness. “Dad, please, you’ve got to listen to me!”

There were other breezies upstairs, turning to see her with a mixture of alarm and relief as they continued their work. Some teams were busy pulling breezies from the wreckages of their nesthomes, while others were armed with shells full of sap and doing their best to patch the holes. It wouldn’t work this time though, Misty knew that. The World Tree was dead, it just didn’t know it yet. Everywhere she stepped her home was full of destruction and chaos. Where there had been a neat stack of single-breezie dwellings there was now a tangle of broken wood. Great holes were ripped in the floor, and continued to tear themselves apart with every creak of the tree.

“Dad?” Misty pushed open the entrance to her own nesthome. If her father wasn’t supervising the relief efforts, this was the next most likely place he would be. She faltered as she entered, taking in the sight. For some reason, despite what she had seen, she’d thought her own nesthome would have been spared the worst of the destruction. Instead, it was ruined. Chunks of ceiling had fallen in, crushing the little cabinet her father had made her that sat by her bed. Her belongings were strewn out over the floor, some of them falling into the cracks that appeared on the floor. And there, in the middle of it all, was her father.

“Misty!” He turned, almost dropping the last remaining firestick that he held in his limbs. His eyes trembled and he launched himself forwards, wrapping her tightly in a hug.

Misty tried to hug back, but could only yelp as her father knocked her damaged wing.

He pulled back in alarm, dismay clouding his face. “Oh, Misty, my poor little breeziegrub, are you okay? Can…” His traced a limb carefully over her wing. “Can you still fly?”

Misty nodded. She didn’t know if it was true, but she couldn’t disappoint her father. “I’m back, dad!” she squeaked. “You’ve got to listen to me!”

“Don’t worry, Misty.” Her father patted the firestick. “Those ponies won’t get away with this! We’re going to use the firestick on them! Then we’ll rebuild and -”

“No!” Misty shook her head and slapped the stick from her father’s grasp, ignoring his horrified look. “No, dad! This is more important! I’m back from my Quest, and I’ve brought back –”

“A weapon?” Her father looked her over for any mysterious artefact she may be carrying.

“No…” Misty furrowed her brow, looking for the right word. “I’ve brought back understanding. It’s not a war, dad. I saw the ponies! I spoke to them! There’s not a war, there never has been a war!”

Her father raised a limb to slap her, and then thought better of it. Instead, he reached down to pick up his firestick. “You don’t know what you’re saying, Misty.”

“No, you don’t!” Misty wailed back. “The ponies don’t hate us, they’ve never hated us. We’ve just… not been important to them! We’re like dust mites. They never noticed us!”

“Don’t you dare!” Her father’s face flushed an uncharacteristic shade of red. “Don’t you dare, Misty.” He thumped his chest, proudly. “We are important! We’ve held out so long against the ponies, and that is something to be proud of. Do you want everything - all our sacrifices - to have been for nothing?”

“No.” Misty’s head sunk down. “I don’t. But it’s still true, dad.” She looked up at him again, eyes sparkling with renewed vigour, grasping at his limbs pleadingly. “Please dad, the others won’t listen to me! You’ve got to talk to them, get them to leave! I spoke to the ponies, they said there are other breezies! They’ll help us get to them, we can be safe! We don’t have to live like this! The world doesn’t have to be like this!”

Her father just shook his head. “No, Misty. They’re trying to trick you. This is our home, our heritage. We’ve fought so long to live here, we’re not going to let them beat us now!”

“But…” Misty’s bottom lip quivered. She struggled to regain her composure. “They don’t need to trick us! They’re massive and powerful, if they wanted to destroy us, they’d have done it by now! We’re just… swept up in their wake!”

“Stop it!” Her father slammed the firestick down on the floor. “Misty, we’ll hear no more of this nonsense. How dare you disrespect your mother like that! Join the others in the Great Hall or help with the repairs. When this is over, then we can talk.” He softened slightly. “I am so, so glad you are all right. Please, remember that.”

Misty tore at her hair in frustration. “No! No! You know it’s true! All of it! Think, dad! You’ve saved everyone in the past, save them now!”

Another mighty rumble coursed through the World Tree, knocking Misty onto the ground. A section of ceiling finally gave up, collapsing in a shower of wood and dust. A familiar, high pitched squeal cried up from the wreckage.

“Leaf!” Misty exclaimed, looking around for her pet, a strangled cry rising from her throat. “Leaf, where are you? Are you okay?” She began to mvoe towards the fallen section, but a strong limb fell on her shoulder.

“No, Misty,” her father said softy. “No. We are breezies, remember? For the sake of the hive, the strong survive. We lift ourselves.”

Misty gently pushed her father’s limb off her, and turned away from him. “No, dad,” she echoed back. “There’s a different way of living. A better way!” She pushed forwards into the rubble, digging furiously until she emerged triumphant, her darling aphid held safely. Leaf was scratched and battered, but seemed to be otherwise unhurt. “See, dad?” she called back, holding out her pet. “See –”

Her words were cut off as yet another tremor rocked the World Tree, a screeching tumultuous crash heralded part of the wall buckling, fanning out jagged spikes of wood that stabbed brutally forwards.

Misty’s father was silent, staring at her. There was something wrong, his face had turned the palest white. It looked like he was starting to cry. Why was that? Misty started to move towards him, Leaf safe in her grasp, but found that she couldn’t.

“Oh.” Misty looked down. Everything seemed slightly fuzzy. “Oh.” There was a long splinter of wood from the wall protruding out of her chest. “O-oh.”

“Misty!” Her father gave a cry of alarm, rushing forwards. Her knees buckled and she toppled forwards, Leaf falling from her grasp and scuttling away. The spike that impaled her slid from her back as she crashed to the floor, her ragged breaths bubbling with fluid from her lungs as shock set in.

“D-dad,” she gasped, trying and failing to pull herself forwards. “I don’t want to die. Help me.”

She could feel his breath against her as he bent over her, the quiver in his voice as he spoke. “Misty, my poor Misty. I told you, you should have listened and been safe.” She could hear him crying. He was her father, he shouldn’t cry.

Misty tried to lift her head but couldn’t. There was a sharp pain in her chest, but it was hurting less and less, feeling softer. “Please,” she begged.

“We who are strong fly free,” her father said quietly over her. “We who are not will return to the stars.” He gently kissed the top of her head. “We lift ourselves.”

Misty tried to look up. She tried so hard. Her injured wings spasmed and her limbs couldn’t even gain purchase on the broken floor. Through the ground she could hear the creaking of the World Tree as it tore itself apart and the cries of the terrified breezies within.

Shoulders slumped, her father turned his back and began to walk away.

“No!” She couldn’t even raise her head to see him. He might have been gone. Leaf scuttled forwards to lick at her cheek. She weakly drew him forwards into a hug. “Dad – daddy, please, I know what you’re thinking!” She panted hard. The words were getting harder and harder to come out. “I-if I’m wrong then you’re a hero and you’ve saved the hive. B-but if I’m right and you’re wrong, then…” She gritted her teeth hard. Tears were running down her cheeks now but she didn’t care. She knew she wasn’t a hero. “I-if I’m right then everything that’s happened has been for nothing b-because we don’t have to live like this. E-everyone that’s suffered and died. Mum. B-but that’s okay because no-one knows everything. It’s not your fault. We can find a better way.”

There was silence except for the rumbling of the tree and the gentle tongue of Leaf as he lapped at her tears. Was he gone? Had he even heard?

“Dad… I’m sorry… I can’t lift myself…” Misty whispered. There was black fog on the edge of her vision. Her wound didn’t hurt any more. It was over.

Two strong limbs wrapped themselves around her and hoisted her up. She trembled as she looked into the face of her father, his cheeks smeared with dry tears. He hugged her tight and kissed her on the head again. “No, Misty. You’re right. Of course you’re right. We lift each other.”

Misty clutched her father, Leaf held weakly in one limb as she let him drag her out of the nesthome. The tree continued to rumble and creak and split.

“Breezies!” her father cried out. Misty rested her aching head against his chest, feeling his voice reverberate through her and around the World Tree. “Follow me! Take the sick, the injured, take everyone and rise!”

Two breezies who were standing over a third who had fallen stared at Misty’s father in shock. One of them looked down at their fallen comrade and slowly picked him up. “Rise,” he echoed.

“Rise!” her father repeated, and his wings blurred into life. From below, the call continued, and breezies started to emerge from the Great Hall, frightened and unsure, but with a new determination welling up. “Rise!”

“Rise!” came the chorus as the breezies flexed their wings and pulled up their injured. They ascended the stairs and squeezed through cracks in the World Tree’s bark.

“Rise!” Misty croaked weakly against her father’s chest as he lifted her into the air, through the ruined maze that was the remains of their home and into the sky.

Misty was surrounded by hundreds of wings, and the World Tree bloomed one last time with greens and yellows and purples and blues as the breezie hive lifted each other into the air. She was crying again, but this time she didn’t mind. They weren’t tears of sadness.

“Rise!” came the cry, again and again, all around her. “Rise! Rise! Rise!”

She had done it. She had saved the world.