“Watchtower, this is the ERA Swallow, call sign six, two, four, delta, delta, echo, requesting permission to enter Gloriam airspace. Over.”
“Swallow, this is Watchtower. Your escort is en route and will guide you in. Over.”
High above the clouds, the Equestrian vessel quietly sailed forwards under the lift of its large balloons. Suddenly, the quiet was shattered as two additional airships surged from the sea of clouds with the piercing keen of diving falcons. Unlike the clearly peaceful transport, these two were weapons of war, nimble aircrafts with hawk-like speed with deadly talons of hextech armaments. The two ships pealed around to flank the Equestrian vessel, vapor trailing from their raptor wingtips as they decelerated to take up positions alongside their ward.
One Ponyville girl was very grateful for their consideration.
“Yo! Fluttershy! Do you see that? Huh? Did you?” Rainbow Dash called out as she literally bounced about the cabin, her rune crafted wings a flutter of translucent energy that matched her bubbling excitement. “That there’s the new G-17 Thunderbird, top of the line fighter that can hit speeds up to Mach 6! Oh man, what I wouldn’t give to fly in one of those babies!”
“That sounds very nice,” Fluttershy nodded sweetly from across the cabin with absolutely no idea what Rainbow Dash was talking about. “But… don’t you think you should sit down? It looks like we’re going to be landing soon.”
“Yeah, yeah, in a bit,” Rainbow quickly replied while making no move to unglue herself from the window. “Oh man, that thing is so… freaking… awesome!”
Seeing that her friend was not to be dissuaded, Fluttershy contented herself with a small, “oh my,” smoothed her yellow sundress over her legs, and joined Rainbow Dash in looking out the windows. Though she thought that the Imperium airships were quite dashing – indeed, their designs reminded her of her good friend, Pinions Beackington IV, peregrine and noble esquire of Shady Glade’s west end – she didn’t quite see what was so fascinating about an airship when Rainbow herself could well exceed those speed Rainbooming it through the stratosphere on her own two wings.
However, as their own ride dipped through the clouds and she got her first look at the Griffon Imperium’s capitol city, she found a good deal to get her excited as well. You see, everyone in Equestria knew of Cloudsdale, the floating city. Constructed on rocks as sturdy as granite but lighter than air, the city was a naturally levitating construction that wowed all who came to visit. But it was a construction, made from imported stones whereas Gloriam was a true, flying vista.
It wasn’t just a city, but an entire mountain range of floating stones. Complete with thriving forests, torrential waterfalls, and all manners of flying birds and beasts flitting between titanic islands of flying rock, it was as if the gods had lifted the world from the soil and set it free to soar about in the sky. It was between and among these sailing stones that Gloriam sat. Constructed not on one single plane, but several, the entire city was constructed like a spiraling wedding cake with layers upon layers of glittering marble, spiraling columns, and pristine beauty winding its way through the lush foliage of the surrounding greenery.
A combination of artistic grace and natural splendor, the Imperium’s capitol truly deserved its title as the Verdant Star.
“Attention, Element Bearers,” a voice called as the intercom crackled to life. “This is your captain speaking. Just wanted you to know that we’ll be on the ground in about five minutes. That is all.”
“Oh my goodness… oh my goodness!” Fluttershy squeaked as the gravity of the situation suddenly came down and panic started to come up. “What should we do? I mean, I know what we’re supposed to do, but how are we supposed to do it? I’m not very good at talking, though I suppose we’ll have to, but what happens if we–”
“Relax, Flutters, it’s all good,” Rainbow Dash grinned as she finally reclined into her seat. “We’ve dealt with Griffonheim plenty of time before back in flight school, remember? They’re a cool bunch, so no need to get your undies all in a twist.”
Fluttershy was not convinced that her definition of cool and Rainbow Dash’s were exactly the same thing. True, she’d seen many of their winged classmates before, but interacted with almost none of them. After all, it’s hard to interact with someone you’re your idea of successful interaction had been not running away in shyness-induced terror at the first prospect of eye contact. In truth, her only real involvement with the aforementioned Griffonheim had been through a certain friend of a friend, and that meeting had not ended in an exactly cool fashion, had it?
A sudden steeper drop interrupted Fluttershy’s thoughts as their ride quickly approached the large, central island amidst the floating sea. That drop, coupled with the natural convulsions of an already nervous tummy, ensured that the butterflies in Fluttershy’s stomach were tearing about like the G-17’s outside their windows.
A gentle drop, a quiet hum as engines cut off, and the airship doors opened to let the two Ponyville girls descend onto Imperium soil.
“So, is there gonna be a welcome party or something?” Rainbow Dash frowned as she looked about the open and empty plaza around them. “I mean, I’m not exactly looking for a red carpet, but someone to show us where the hay we’re going would be nice.”
“That’d be us,” a voice called out from overhead. Turning to the sound, the girls found themselves looking up at the cockpit of the first Thunderbird where the canopy had popped open to reveal the pilot who now sat with helmet in hand. With a head of rich, brown hair that looked like the sleek plumage of a kestrel, the young man grinned back down with sharp, hazel eyes.
“Sorry for the late introduction,” he continued as he spread wings the same color as his hair to launch himself from the cockpit and lightly descended before them. “My name’s Avis, second son to Senator Aquilam, and your personal guide for today’s festivities.”
“I’m Rainbow Dash, best and only kid to my pops, and it’s good to meet ya,” the cyan-clad flyer smiled back as she reached out to take Avis’s hand in a firm shake. Though his body was long and lean in his fitted silver flight suit – a characteristic shared of all the naturally avian Griffonheim – his handshake was strong and returned with a force to match Rainbow’s before he turned his attentions elsewhere.
“And I don’t think I got your name yet,” Avis said as he looked to Fluttershy with a very different sort of smile.
“Me?” the shy girl squeaked. “Oh… my name is… um… it’s Fluttershy… and… um… … oh my…” Trailing off with a mild cry of alarm, Fluttershy quickly ducked behind her cherry blossom locks and did her best to remain invisible. Under the Griffonheim’s sharp gaze, however, she might as well have been bunny trying to hide from an eagle in open field.
“Fluttershy, huh?” he grinned. “That’s a really pretty name. Makes sense since you’re a really pretty girl.” Rainbow Dash snorted and Fluttershy turned a remarkable shade of crimson, but Avis pressed on with the focus of a diving raptor. “So I was thinking that after you finish all your official business, I might be able to show you a tour around Gloriam. Unofficially, of course. What do you say?”
“Lay off, Avis,” another voice called from above. “Any more and she’ll probably explode before we even get to the forum.”
Rainbow Dash was just about to burst out laughing at the truth of those words when she paused. Those words. Not the words themselves, but the voice that said them. It couldn’t be.
“Come on, Sarge,” Avis grinned as the other pilot descended with wings of soft, ash grey, “gotta at least give me a chance, right?”
“Sure,” she sighed as she ran a hand through the feathery plumage of her hair, “I’d give you a chance if I thought you actually–”
Perhaps it wasn’t the most diplomatic choice, powering up spell wings and diving at your Griffonheim escort, but Rainbow Dash was cool with that.
“Gilda!” Rainbow squealed in delight as she took the blindsided pilot down in a tumble of feathers and confusion. “Oh my gosh, it’s so good to see you!”
“Tch, duh!” Rainbow Dash snorted. “I haven’t seen you since you came to Ponyville last time, and that’s like, a billion times over way too long ago. Of course it’s good to see you!”
“So, you two know each other?” Avis inquired.
“We were roomies at flight school, why?” Gilda asked as she caught a little extra something in his tone. Following his sharp gaze, it was only then that Gilda realized that she was currently flat on her back while a head of multicolored quills nested itself very comfortably against her chest parts as Rainbow Dash kept arms wrapped arms around her waist in a chiropractor’s nightmare of a hug.
“H-hey! Get off me!” Gilda started as she instantly set to both prying the rainbow-colored barnacle and maintaining some semblance of composure, neither with much success.
“Nuh uh,” Rainbow shot back as she clung on even tighter. “Not till you tell me why you’ve been giving me the cold shoulder recently.”
“What are you talking about?” Gilda asked, her pitch reaching new octaves along with revolutionary shades of red in her cheeks. “I’m – oof – not giving you – grr – the cold shoulder!”
“You two need a minute?” Avis suggested as he threw an arm around Fluttershy. “Cause I can totally take the pretty lady here off if you two want some time alone.” It was hard to see who was more embarrassed at that moment, Gilda or Fluttershy, but the Griffonheim girl made a really good showing.
“It’s not like that!” Gilda screeched as she abandoned all semblances of dignity and began squirming like a shrimp in order to knock the adherence from her person. “She’s just a friend! Just a friend.”
“Hey, I’m not one to judge,” Avis grinned. “You can bat for whatever team you want, Sarge. No feathers off my wings.”
Fuse blowing in her white-plumed head, Gilda could only groan in despair as she fell back to the pavement while Avis continued grinning like the fool of a man he was.
“But seriously though, we should probably get going,” Avis said as he walked over and helped the tangled pair to their feet. “Forum’s probably already begun and we’d best make our entrance before things start to really spiral out of control.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Rainbow Dash agreed as she finally released the mortified Gilda,
“But seriously,” the Equestrian athlete continued, crossing her arms and giving the taller girl one of her no-nonsense-about-to-break-the-sound-barrier-looks. “I know something’s up when I send my best gal pal like, a gazillion letters and she never writes back. We’re gonna have to deal with that.”
“And deal with it you shall!” Avis laughed. “But business first and pleasure later.”
Though Gilda smacked the backside of his head like a tennis player with a grudge against lime green felt, he could safely say that it was oh so worth it.
The grand coliseum that served as the Imperium’s true seat of power could be seen from all corners of Gloriam. Constructed of pristine white marbles, the soaring columns and intricate murals detailing thousands of years of Griffonheim history gave the arena the somber gravity of a hallowed hall.
The sounds heard from it, however, were much less so.
“Um… is everything okay in there?” Rainbow Dash asked as she glanced up at the building. Even outside of coliseum as they were, she could hear the dull roar of some sort of madness ringing out from its marbled walls.
“Business as usual. Why?” Avis asked.
“It’s just that for a meeting that’s supposed to be in front of the leaders of a country, it sounds an awful lot like a riot,” Rainbow Dash offered with yet another hesitant look. Here, their hazel-eyed friend could only grin.
“Welcome to politics.”
The four arrived at the gates where a phalanx of guards in glittering, bronzed cuirasses opened the grand doors and ushered them in. Guided through the grand atrium where past rulers and heroes of the Imperium stood immortalized in cool, smooth stone, the four were led further down dimly lit halls that took them towards the arena floor. Barred by a heavy oaken door that thrummed from the noise of the other side, Gilda turned to the Ponyville pair with hard, almost worried eyes.
“Alright, so here’s how it works,” she began as she plucked invisible lint from her flight suit. “The Senate’s on the floor and starting the debates about whether or not to join Equestria over this whole going to war business. Your job is to convince them that teaming up’s the best for everyone. It’s probably going to be hard, talking to twenty people at once, but that’s just how it is.”
“Um… pardon,” Fluttershy squeaked with a timid hand raised. “But if there are only twenty people, then why is it so… loud?”
“Oh, that?” Avis shrugged. “That’d be the rest of the city in the stands.”
“T-t-t-the w-w-w-whole c-c-c-ity?” Fluttershy stammered.
“Eh, people love a good show.”
At that moment, Fluttershy’s pallor took on a remarkably similar hue to the marble statues they’d just passed.
“Hey, don’t worry about it, Flutters,” Rainbow Dash grinned as she threw a consoling arm around her friend. “You just leave all the yelling and stuff to me.”
“Ready?” Avis asked as he took hold of the door. “ ‘Cause we’re on in three, two, one…”
The roar of the crowds hit them like a physical wall of sound, the tremors so loud that they rattled bones and brain about like popcorn kernels over the fire. The arena was massive, easily twice the size of Cloudsdales own arena, and yet the stands were completely full. Everywhere the eye looked, tunic-clad Griffonheim occupied the benches by the thousands, some listening to the debates, but most choosing instead to debate neighbors on their own. All through the stands, clusters of winged men and women shouted and ranted at each other like angry in-laws at Thanksgiving dinner. Yet through all the bedlam and madness, a few voices could still be heard above all others.
“The Equestrians have been friends to us since the days of the founding! If they say that this is an hour of need, it is our solemn duty to rise up to the occasion!”
“And who’s to say that this indeed is that hour? Our scouts have reported no such disturbances warranting such unprecedented action!”
“Our scouts have reported nothing because constant cutting of our military’s budget prevents them from roaming two steps from our own borders!”
“Always with the budget! Is it not possible for you to go one hearing without crying about the budget?”
“I will continue to cry until someone learns to hear the sense in my words!”
“And I would hear sense if there were any to hear!”
At the arena’s center floated a large dais made of pearly, white cloud stone. Upon this dais floated twenty carved podiums of the same weightless material. And standing behind these podiums were the most apoplectically enraged bunch the Ponyville girls had ever seen. Though each wore a silk toga and a golden laurel wreath upon the brow, the men and women taking center stage had more red faces, more flying spittle, and more furious arm-waving than that one pro-wrestling match Rainbow Dash had made them all go to. This wasn’t just a debate. This was a battle of words where the other side was to be put down with extreme, unforgiving prejudice.
“Did we come at a bad time or something?” Rainbow Dash blinked as she looked to one Senator who was gesticulating with such force, she nearly lost her balance.
“Actually, it’s perfect,” Gilda remarked. “Looks like things are still pretty quiet for the moment.”
“You’re kidding,” Rainbow Dash gaped. “This is quiet?”
“Nobody’s lost any blood yet, right?” Avis chimed in. “Debates aren’t really official till somebody takes a swing.”
“Enough of this nonsense!” another senator cried out. “Why should we waste our time listening to your nonsensical doubts when Equestria has so graciously provided envoys to enlighten us all?”
“Um… what?” Fluttershy blinked.
“Yes, let’s hear from the Equestrians!” another Senator called out. “Bring them to the stage!”
Before either could make heads or tails of the situations, pairs of winged hoplites descended, took the girls by the arms, and lifted them onto the stage. A flurry of other armored soldiers rearranged the podiums to make room for two more, and before anyone could blink, the circle of twenty now held twenty two.
“So, tell us,” a shriveled raisin of a twice-desiccated grandfather called out with a voice that could have made a grizzly scurry in terror. “What do the children of Celestia have to say?”
It was only then that Rainbow Dash realized everything had gone quiet. Really quiet. Looking to the crowds, her violet eyes slowly widened as she found thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of eyes all fixed on her, waiting for her to speak.
Rainbow Dash swallowed. Hard. Normally, she wasn’t one to get stage fright. In fact, relished the attention and thrived off the energy of the spotlight. The roar of the crowds, the thunder of applause, all of it pumped her up like firing afterburners and spurned her on to some of her greatest performances ever. But that was for flying. This was speaking, and speaking meant words, something she’d never put in very high priority. To be perfectly honest, aside from the rare homework assignment she’d bothered to do and the comics that devoured her allowance, words occupied a truly miniscule portion of her childhood.
Much to her dismay as ten thousand citizens silently waited for her to speak.
“So… yeah, about that,” Rainbow Dash began once more after a series of loud and deliberately prolonged coughs. “Princess Celestia sent us here because, uh… she wanted us to talk to you. Talk to you, because… we’ve got really important stuff to say.”
Did they really? Between the twelve dozen things the princesses had been working on, neither of them had had the time to really explain the nature of the whirlwind plans they'd just set into motion, let alone the intricacies of international diplomacy that were needed to make it happen. In fact, beyond the “I’m sending you guys out,” declaration, they hadn’t really gotten anything at all. Just what the hay were they supposed to say?
“And just what is this… ‘really important stuff’, if I might ask?” one senator asked with grey eyebrow arched.
“You most certainly can,” Rainbow Dash agreed, now working to make up for content with bluster. “See, we’ve got a problem. Like, a really big problem. It’s a… a super ginormous, grade A epic disaster problem in the form of a world-ending monster-type guy who’s–”
“–Well, is it a disaster or a monster?”
“I, uh… what?” Rainbow Dash blinked as the question caught her like a right hook from the blindside.
“If the trouble is a disaster, it’s one matter,” the interrupting senator continued, “and if it’s a monster, it’s another matter entirely. So which is it?”
“I… guess it’s more of a monster then?” Rainbow Dash frowned. “But that’s important. The point is that we’ve got to stop it from–”
“–Now just a minute there,” another senator chimed in. “If it’s more of a monster, do you mean that it is part disaster as well? How can something be both corporeal beast and fundamental, natural phenomenon as well?”
“Obviously, it must be an entity that occupies a non-corporeal form,” yet another member of the congress sighed in open exasperation. “Anyone who’s at all familiar with Congue’s works would know that.”
“Well, pardon us for our ignorance, oh learned keeper of useless knowledge,” still another toga-clad Griffonheim sneered. “It seems that we of the martial delegation have been so busy keeping our borders intact, we fell a little behind on our homework.”
Wings flared as arguments began to bubble up once more, not only on the stone table in the arena’s center, but in the stands as well. Rainbow Dash, now completely bewildered at just what the illustrious senators were talking about, tried to assert control once more.”
“Look, it doesn’t really matter what exactly he is,” she called out over the growing din. “The point is that Nul – the thing we’re talking about – is big trouble in whatever shape he comes in and we need your help to keep him in check.”
“I propose a study to ascertain the actual nature of this supposed threat,” an aged woman called as she brought a fist down onto her pedestal. “Until we can be sure of the creature’s actual nature, it is most prudent that we stay our hand.”
“What? Wait, no!” Rainbow Dash cried. “We already know what he is! Celestia and Luna were the ones who locked him up in the first place, so it’s not like we–”
“–I propose we bring Celestia and Luna here for a more thorough roundtable on the topic,” another grizzled senator called whilst contemplatively stroking his beard. “Perhaps over a nice herbal tea and some buttered scones.”
“We don’t have time for snacks,” Rainbow called out once more, a desperate keen coming to her voice as it grew fainter in the rising noise. “What we need is–”
“If we are proposing another meeting, then we must allocate a proper budget for the occasion.”
“Not so fast! According to our fiscal schedule, me must first finalize allotments for public waste disposal before adding on any additional expenditures.”
“In that case, we might as well forget the meeting since the Ipsum cohort refuses to budge an inch on their proposals.”
“We’ve been over this before! Construction of a new aqueductal pathway is imperative to reduce cases of mildew-based allergies by three percent per year! Unless you–”
The senators froze in mid speech as the piercing whistle sliced through the noise like a seagull through ocean spray. All eyes turned to the young Avis who, once sure that he held the crowd’s gaze, turned his eyes to Gilda.
“Citizens of Gloriam!” she called out, her voice clear and strong as it soared to the ears of the populace. “It seems we have forgotten our purpose this day. While we prattle on about petty squabbles and semantics, we neglect the Element Bearers who grace us with their presence!”
A quiet murmur rustled through the stands. Legends of the Elements of Harmony were spoken of in all nations as all lands held reverence for the fabled relics. If these two truly were bearers of the Elements as claimed…
“Celestia has bidden two who hold the power of creation come speak with us,” Gilda continued as her words compelled silence once more. “It would be a stain upon the name of Gloriam and the Imperium itself if we did not give them the courtesy of our ears. Now, citizens and Griffonheim all, will you give them a moment to speak?”
Though it took a moment of consideration and a great bit of grudging acceptance from some, the crowds did turn their attention back to the young fliers from Ponyville, specifically the girl with a head of multicolored quills. Rainbow Dash could feel the oppressive weight of expectation weighing on her like snow on her wings, now twice as heavy given her first oratory fiasco. She’d completely failed to capture the audience and let their turbulence throw her off course. Once struck and twice shy as she was now, she wasn’t sure she was ready to give the speech these people needed to hear.
But maybe she didn’t have to.
“Um… excuse me,” a voice called out softly, so softly in fact, that only half the senators heard it. “So, I’m not sure exactly on what’s going on, but I’d like to say a little something, if I may.”
One by one, eyes turned to Fluttershy who – despite having the pallor of a powdered sugar – stood with a death-grip on the podium and addressed the crowd.
“Alright then, um… My name’s Fluttershy, and Princess Celestia sent my friend Rainbow Dash and I here because we’re in trouble. Sometime soon, a monster called Nul is going to come out of the ground and try to destroy the world.”
“Destroy the world?” one senator scoffed, “what is this, some children’s video…” Words trailed off as a look from Rainbow Dash promised a thousand distinct unpleasantries should he continue speaking; she may not have been the best at speaking, but there was nobody better at backing up a friend. The cyan-clad flyer gave Fluttershy a quick thumbs up and in return, got a grateful nod as the quite girl resumed.
“I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Nul is coming and will destroy everything unless we’re able to stop him. Right now, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are working very hard and doing everything they can to stop him. But we can’t do it ourselves. That’s why she sent us out to our friends for help. And that’s, um… that’s why we’re here, I think.”
“… You come for help,” a senator with a sharply pointed beard began, his words equally sharp, but not hostile as he spoke, “but what does this entail? What help do you want from the Empire?”
“I’m not… exactly sure,” Fluttershy murmured, looking down towards her feet as she quailed under his raptor’s gaze. “But… I think… she needs your help and hold off Nul until we can lock him up.”
“We?” a congresswoman blinked. “You mean… you and your companions will use the Elements to seal him? Personally?”
Mutely, Fluttershy nodded.
“But you’re just a child!” she cried, less from derision and more in abject shock. “If this Nul is as great a threat as you say, then aren’t you afraid of facing on your own?”
“… Yes… ” Fluttershy squeaked, the confession nearly bringing her to bursting out in tears. Nearly.
“But,” she continued as aquamarine eyes glistening with moisture held just before the verge of breaking, “at least I’m not going to be alone. I have some very good friends coming along with me, and even if we’re not together, we know that the princesses and all the people in Equestria will be fighting alongside us. We have friends helping us, and we'll be ever so grateful if you'd be so kind as to possibly consider helping us out too. If you wouldn’t mind that is.”
And here, despite being on the brink of tears, Fluttershy smiled. It was small and timid and hardly more than a slight wrinkle in her flushed cheeks, but it was so sweet and pure and innocent in its earnest hopefulness, many of the elders in the crowds clutched at their chest and wondered if a visit to the apothecary was required. They reacted, but it was the young who acted.
“My brothers!” a young Griffonheim with indigo wings called out as he stood in the stands. “Let it be known that on this day, Volucris, first son of centurion Larum, pledges his hand to the aid of Equestria!”
“Pica, third son of Senator Milvus pledges his hand as well!”
“Tolleno, second son of city consul Erodio!–”
“Columbae of House Noctua!–”
That was all they heard before the whole stadium was on its feet in roaring applause so loud that the coliseum itself trembled in reply. Once again, the senators broke out into furious discussion, but now of the conciliatory sort. Where energies had been directed towards harsh and insulting words before, they now went to formulating plans, organizing work, and putting actions into motion. After all, when a clearly terrified girl can be brave for a cause, what other response could they give?
Once Fluttershy was sure no more was expected of her, she was content to collapse. Knees buckling beneath her yellow sundress, the Ponyville girl would have tumbled from the stone plinth had it not been for the timely intervention of Rainbow Dash at one side and Gilda at the other.
“Way to go Flutters!” Rainbow Dash laughed as she threw the girl’s arm over hers to keep her on her feet. “You totally knocked it outta the park, didn’t she, Gilda?”
“That was… actually really cool,” the Griffonheim girl muttered as cheeks flushed beneath her snowy plumage. “Didn’t think you had it in you.”
“Really?” Fluttershy gasped in surprise. “Does this mean that I’m cool enough to hang out with you, now?”
“Um… what now?”
“Well, last time you came to Ponyville, you said you only liked to hang out with cool people,” Fluttershy explained as eyes instantly went back to her feet as she flushed for being so bold. “You haven’t come back since, but maybe now we… maybe… could be friends?”
Gilda had once been struck by lightning. There were no clouds now, but the expression she now wore was a carbon copy of that unfortunate event.
“Wait, you’re saying that you… you want to hang out with me?!” Gilda gaped. “Even after the way I acted like a total jerk?”
“Oh my yes!” Fluttershy nodded eagerly. “I mean, you were kind of scary, but you were friends with Rainbow Dash, so you couldn’t be that scary. I thought you were just a little nervous at being in a new town for the first time.”
“Hold on a second,” Rainbow Dash frowned as she looked to Gilda, the gears in her head slowly grinding up to speed. “Is that why you haven’t been responding to my letters? Cause you felt bad?”
“… Can you blame me?” Gilda muttered, her cheeks now so red that she looked like a peppermint with wings. “When you were a royal pain like I was, it’s not like people are dying to keep being friends, you know?”
Rainbow Dash gaped before turning to the gaping Fluttershy so they could both return to gaping at Gilda. Then, gapes turned to grins as the two did the most painful thing Gilda could possibly have thought of.
“Well isn’t that just adorable!” Rainbow Dash gushed as she seized up Gilda in a big old bear hug. “Isn’t she just the cutest?”
“Yes she is, yes she is!” Fluttershy cooed as she mirrored the hug from the other side with, if not quite as much force, with just as much enthusiasm. “She’s just a big old sweetie, isn’t she!”
“Hey! Get off of me!” Gilda screeched as she struggled desperately to escape the mortifying ministration of the two Ponyville girls. But with arms and wings alike pinned down, there was little she could do but endure the egregious displays of public affection. Endure, that is, right up until a most timely intervention.
“Hey,” Avis called out as he alighted before them. “Sorry to break up your love fest, but I think we might want to get out of here.”
“Why, did we piss someone off?” Rainbow Dash asked, concerned, but still not releasing Gilda just yet. Avis scratched his head.
“More of the opposite, really. You see–”
Avis was saved the need to explain by the arrival of the problem. Flapping about in a flurry of feathers, no less than twenty young men landed nearby and began flocking around the trio of girls.
“Miss Fluttershy!” one with a beak of a nose called out. “I was wondering if you needed accommodations for the evening?”
“If that’s the issue, then I’m your man!” another one called out with a flash of forest green eyes. “My house has the nicest view of Gloriam by far. You’ll love it!”
“Forget about sleeping arrangements!” yet one more scoffed as his brawny form pushed his way to the front of the crowd. “What say I take you out to the finest restaurant the city has to offer? Only the best for a lady like yourself!”
“Apparently,” Avis grunted from where the mob had pressed him in, “Fluttershy here’s gotten herself a little fanclub. And by little, I mean all of this.”
“You don’t say,” Rainbow Dash snorted as she deigned to kick away a particular Griffonheim who was getting a little too fresh with his posture. “So how do we get out of this without starting a riot?”
“You don’t,” Gilda sighed. “I give it two minutes before everything goes talons up.”
Fluttershy’s aquamarine eyes opened rather wide.