• Published 11th Jul 2011
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Pony Age: Origins - OmegaPony11

The Ponyspawn have invaded Equestria, and it is up to the newest addition to the Grey Wardens, Twilight Sparkle, to find the means to drive them back! With her friends and allies at her side, can Twilight win before Equestria is devoured?

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Cold Winds Blow from the Everfree

Chapter 32 – Cold Winds Blow from the Everfree

Twilight awoke from a night of thankfully uneventful slumber to the aroma of fresh porridge being cooked over the cottage’s hearth. As Twilight stood up and stretched her limbs, she looked around to see everyone in the group stirring awake, and saw Pinkie working several pots of porridge to be ready for breakfast. Shale was sticking her head into the cottage through the window, her stone body too large for the door way.

“Good, you are all awake,” Shafle rumbled with a hint of discontent. “I was bored all night. I was hoping that dragon would come back so I could fight it, but nothing came. Not even a foolish pigeon came across my path. How typical of them. Only the prissy Rarity and boastful Trixie are outside working on some magical nonsense instead of conversing with me.”

Rolling her eyes at Shale, Twilight walked outside to see what spell Rarity and Trixie were working on. Both unicorns were enhancing individual aspects of their arcane work, with Rarity focusing on a large glyph and Trixie chanting some spell or another. Twilight watched them with eyes attuned to magic, noticing that both their horns and staves were working in tandem with each other to produce a much more powerful spell.

What was also interesting was that they were using the remnants of Flemeth’s protective magics to fuel their work. Despite her demise, the Mare of the Mire’s spells did not diminish, holding strong and feeding off the natural lines of magic from the Fade into the real world. If Flemeth had not tried to kill them, Twilight would have wanted to spend time and learn such magic.

“Good morning, Twilight,” Rarity said as she noticed Twilight approach. “We were just working on getting Flemeth’s protective spells to work for me now. We can’t possibly bring Sweetie Belle with us, and she’ll just be captured by the templars if we bring her back to Red Apple. As long as she’s here and we use Flemeth’s spells to protect this region she’ll be safe.”

“We’ve been weaving Rartiy’s glyphs, Flemeth’s enchantments, and the Great and Powerful Trixie’s chanted spells into one ultimate protective illusion.” As Trixie explained the spell, her staff etched sigil after sigil into the ground, reinforcing the spell with arcane writing Twilight recognized from old spellbooks in the Tower.

Twilight studied the spell for a moment, taking note of every magical weave and thread incorporated. However impressive this spell was, they were still piggybacking on Flemeth’s old magic. “What if Flemeth returns? That she is powerful enough to return from the dead?” Twilight wondered aloud, voicing the concerns that Rarity held within.

“I don’t believe she will. Even if she could raise herself from the grave, she knows we hold the Elements of Harmony, the means to end her permanently, and that we still need to defeat the Archdemon. Honestly, I think the battle yesterday was some sort of cruel test.” Rarity looked around as if expecting Flemeth would swoop down upon them then and there in the form of Asha’Bellanar. When no dragon ambushes occurred, Twilight noticed Rarity relax for the first time in a long while.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Twilight was eager to lend her special talent to the work, yet was instead met with shaking heads.

“This is taxing spell casting dear,” Rarity explained. “We’ve been using our staves heavily to channel the necessary magic. You would just become tired after, and we need to make our way to the Everfree Forest.”

Trixie took the moment to puff herself up, straightening her hat to make her appear taller. “Don’t you worry your little pony head about this, Sparkle,” Trixie said, patting an indignant Twilight on the head. “We can work on these spells on our own. You go and rest, or practice swinging your sword about. Leave the magic to Trixie.”

Twilight responded to Trixie’s chiding with a smile. “I’m glad you’re here to help Rarity, Trixie. You’ve really grown as a mage since leaving the Tower. It’s also nice to see you making so many friends.”

The unexpected yet sincere words from Twilight caught Trixie by surprise, causing her to stumble on her words. Chuckling to herself, Twilight turned to return to the cottage while Trixie resumed her work on reinforcing Flemeth’s enchantments. It was true what she had said though; the change in Trixie from the arrogant student of Hubred to a trusted friend that Twilight could rely on in battle and in their journey was astonishing, and completely welcome.

She turned to watch the interaction of Trixie and Shale for a moment before choking back a laugh. Distracted by the unexpected compliment, Trixie was not ready for Shale to come at her with a barrage of playful insults. As Twilight returned to the hut, she thought she heard somepony claim to the other that “the only thing harder than diamonds is your thick head, which is perfect for a battering ram.”

As she went inside, Twilight found herself shoved towards the table in Rarity’s kitchen and a bowl of steaming porridge placed in front of her. She blinked as Pinkie dashed about the cottage, placing ponies both awake and still in the grips of slumber alike near the table and giving them their warm breakfast at speeds Dash would have been envious of.

Twilight leaned towards her porridge, sniffing the contents until the delightful smell of apples and cinnamon filled her snout. Coupled with a healthy serving of oats, breakfast smelled delicious and the rumbling of Twilight’s stomach agreed with the assessment.

Once everypony was seated at the table, Pinkie took her place and bowed with flourish to her friends. “As the Filesians would say, ‘Bon Appetit!’” Pinkie giggled as she sat, hoof to her chin. “They have a bunch of funny words. ‘Un. Deux. Oui. Le chateau du fromage.’”

“Enough talking in tongues, it’s grub time!” Oghren slammed his head into his bowl, devouring the porridge in a sloppy mess. Spike looked up at Oghren and followed suit, much to Twilight’s dismay. Pinkie, laughing all the while, joined them in the messy consumption of their food.

Once the clowns of the party had gone to collect a second helping, the others began to eat with far better manners. The apple and cinnamon porridge was impeccable, and Twilight found she enjoyed her meal with gusto as well. With breakfast finished, they all began to prepare to continue their trek towards the Everfree Forest.

There was one last goodbye to say.

Sweetie Belle held on to her older sister tightly as Rarity prepared to leave. Sniffing away tears, Rarity nuzzled her sister as she spoke in a quiet whisper. “I’m sorry I have to go so soon, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity said as she looked into Sweetie Belle’s eyes. “But I have to go with my friends. I have to help fight the ponyspawn to protect you.”

“I know,” Sweetie Belle replied, tears swimming in her eyes. “But we hardly know each other, and I want to be with my sister. And it’s going to be so lonely here in the Wilds by myself.”

“Just for a little while, my dear, until the Blight is defeated. Then I’ll come back and we can live here. Together.” Rarity held Sweetie Belle in a tight embrace while Twilight considered what was still ahead of them. Getting the support of the Dalish pegasi was their next challenge, and there wasn’t a lot of time left to do it.

Knowing time was of the essence, Rarity hesitantly broke her sister’s embrace before walking away. Sweetie Belle waved

goodbye as Rarity left with the party out of the Wilds, both teary-eyed while Rarity’s horn glowed, closing the door behind her.

“We have to win,” Rarity said aloud. “For the sake of everypony. We will win, yes? We know where the Elements of Harmony are. We can win.”

Twilight did not reply. Even with the Elements of Harmony, they were only barely able to defeat Asha’Bellanar who practiced some restraint. When they faced off against the Archdemon, they would go up against the terrifying driving force of the ponyspawn in all its horror and unmitigated might. Victory would be won in blood.

“We will win,” Twilight said, loud enough for everypony to hear. “We are going to raise the greatest army in Equestrian history, and we will defeat the Archdemon. Most important, we are going to win together, as friends. No matter what.”

They left the Wilds without a word, the improved magics of Flemeth now shrouding their path behind them in near-impenetrable fog. The ruins of Ostequus watched them leave as they returned to the road with refined purpose, onward to the Everfree Forest.


The road they travelled continued on its own way towards the capital city of Trotterim, yet their journey took the party off the beaten path and towards the Everfree Forest. Massive clouds hung over the dark forest, appearing just as foreboding as the shadows cast by the trees themselves. Despite being well documented as a home of Dalish pegasi and terrible beasts, the forest was largely still a place of mystery to most ponies. Thanks to the aforementioned clan of isolationists and other monsters lurking in the woods, not many explorers were able to delve deep into the heart of the forest and discover the secrets within.

History books told that the Everfree Forest was once a place of arcane research for the Unicorn Imperium during the height of their power. In her youth, Twilight had always wondered what sort of experiments the Imperium had conducted in this place of natural yet malevolent energies. That morbid curiosity came to the forefront now out of concern for her friends; being the most powerful empire ruled by Maleficar and ancient dragon gods, whatever they were researching in the midst of the forest was likely not for the benefit of all pony kind.

Twilight looked up at the closest thing to an “entrance” the forest had with a shudder. A place so close to nature likely held both its beauty and its feral ravages underneath the emerald canopy. Looking at the forest with magical senses, Twilight could feel the untouched ley lines of magic leading from the Fade into the forest. It was something she was looking forward to discovering: a font of magic untouched by unicorns or demons, though the Veil separating the two realms was weak. They would have to tread carefully.

“Look,” Fluttershy said as she pointed to the ground. “Tracks. This long one belongs to something large and drawn on wheels, like a carriage, but these… I’ve never seen them before.”

They stopped to look at the tracks Fluttershy discovered. The divots created by large wagon wheels were simple enough, but it was the prints left next to them that Twilight was interested in. Several times larger than a pony’s hoof print, the tracks were dug deep by something very heavy. Instead of hooves, they were similar to large grasping paws of a lizard, with claw marks digging into the ground.

“Do y'all think it’s the Dalish?” Applejack asked, looking at the tracks. Fluttershy shook her head.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” Fluttershy hid behind her mane while still studying the tracks. “My time with a Dalish was very short. I don’t know if they use carriages or giant lizards.”

“It’s all right, Fluttershy, you did great.” Twilight smiled at Fluttershy, then turned her attention to the forest. “If we think about it, it makes sense. The Dalish are nomadic and need to move from place to place quickly. They’ll likely use large carriages for their tools and such rather than carry everything individually. They also may have found and tamed large reptiles to act as beasts of burden instead of pulling the carts themselves.”

“They could still be in the Everfree. Let’s go find them.” As Twilight concluded her deductions, the party entered the woods in pairs, with Twilight in and Applejack in the front while Oghren and Shale took the rear. With Rainbow and Fluttershy in the air, they were in a good formation to protect each other should anypony or anything accost them.

The Everfree Forest was as dark on the inside as it appeared on the outside, with the large and ancient trees blocking out the light of the sun with their massive branches and thousands of black leaves. Shrubs and plants dotted the ground, looking just as sinister as something out of Twilight’s nightmares. Several of the plants had thorns and prickly leaves, while others just seemed monstrous. She watched as an innocent fly buzzed about until landing on top of a plant that appeared to have teeth, only to be snatched up in its leaf-like mouth.

The noises from the Everfree did not help matters at all. Animals known and unknown made their calls in the dark, giving the forest a spooky ambiance. Twilight could have sworn she saw glowing red eyes peer down on them from atop the branches, only to look and see they were gone.

Twilight felt exposed and vulnerable in the dense foliage of the forest. There were too many vantage points for ambushes, both by armed marauders and beasts of all shapes and sizes. If the ponyspawn were here, they could likely be planning an attack, even though Twilight could not sense their heartbeats. If the Dalish were watching, they were probably wondering who the clumsy group was that was traipsing through their territory.

Suddenly, a loud snap sounded which brought everypony to full alert. Weapons rang out from sheaths as they looked around for whatever had caused the disturbance, Twilight baring her sword tight in her mouth as her eyes darted to and fro.

“It was just a twig,” Trixie muttered, kicking away a broken branch with a stiff kick. “Trixie refuses to apologize for stepping on dead wood.”

Twilight laughed despite herself, finding the whole thing comical for whatever reason. “Look at us, bumbling through a dark, scary and potentially lethal forest. We’re getting jumpy over broken twigs. Isn’t that silly?”

There were a few nervous chuckles from her friends as they looked at each other for support. Twilight continued to laugh until she felt the point of a weapon press against her back. Her blood ran cold and her eyes widened as, all around the party, pegasi in hoods and drawn bows approached from out of nowhere.

Shale reacted as Twilight expected, launching herself on the ambushers with reckless abandon, the pegasi just barely to get out of the rampaging path of the golem. “Call off your thrall, hara tan,” growled the feminine voice of Twilight’s assailant. “Or we skewer you all.”

“Shale, stop,” Twilight ordered as she calmed down. Shale looked at Twilight as if she had grown a second head, yet complied with her request. The pegasi approached Shale, keeping their arrows trained on her while the rest of the party stood still, waiting for whatever was going to happen next. They were at their ambushers’ mercy. Shale looked down at their attackers with disdain.

“Harm a single hair on their coats, and I will make sure to tear your wings off and feed them to you.” Twilight took a deep breath as Shale made her threat. Knowing the golem, she would make do on her words in the most painful method possible.

Twilight was finally able to get a good look at her assailants as they all stared at the stony guardian, and noted that they were all pegasus ponies in form-fitting leather armour and low hoods. What parts of their coats she could see were covered in ink markings, all as red as blood. When the arrow tip was removed from her back, Twilight allowed herself a sigh of relief. The other pegasi did the same, a good sign if there was any to be had.

Slinging her bow around her shoulder, the pegasus jumped into the air and landed in front of Twilight. Her hood flew off, revealing a youthful face framed with long red hair and blue eyes. Her scowl was likely an attempt at intimidation, but when one faces down the hordes of evil and a high dragon, Twilight simply stared back with a look of contempt, utterly unimpressed.

“I am Zharia, Chief Warrior of the Dalish here in the Everfree,” she said with a sneer. “Your kind are outsiders and are not welcome here. What business do you have in our woods?”

Before Twilight could respond, Fluttershy stepped forward to Zharia. It was surprising to see Fluttershy approach a warrior so mean-tempered as this Dalish, though she did cast nervous glances to her friends before gulping. Zharia looked down on her, waiting with an expression of extreme annoyance.

Faram,” Fluttershy said, further surprising Twilight as she spoke in some strange tongue that was neither Equestrian or Filesian. She pointed a hoof at each of her friends before continuing. “Hosan. Halla tan. Nel’nier. Dogan. Um... Spike. Shale. Salanah. Meesha.”

“I didn’t know you could speak Dalish,” Rainbow said in amazement and perhaps a hint of jealousy. Zharia cursed at Rainbow’s words, barking before returning her piercing gaze towards Fluttershy.

“So you know some of our words, nal’shem,” Zharia said, “but you are not one of the People. None of you are. You may not be a threat, but I’d sooner trust a torak makar before any of you! Speak, unicorn! Tell us why outsiders are here before I decide to make you all leave. With arrows in your flanks if need be.”

Twilight kept her calm as Zharia continued to berate them, her horn glowing as she levitated the Grey Warden treatise for the Chief Warrior to see. “We’ve come seeking the aid of the pegasi of the Eastern Dales against the Blight that is ravaging Equestria.” There was a collective gasp from the gathered Dalish as Twilight announced the reason for their visit. She let the information soak in for a moment. “The Blight will not rest until it has consumed the land, including the Everfree Forest itself. We’d like your forces to join ours as we stand united against a common foe. We already have the aid of the Unicorn Tower and the Kingdom of Orzamule.”

Zharia looked over the treatise for a moment, just as many had done before whenever Twilight brought them up. It was amusing, in its own way, how bringing up the Blight and showing off old documents to enlist the help of would-be allies seemed to work. This was dangerously close to becoming routine, something that surprised Twilight considering the impending crisis that the ponyspawn represented.

“Ya’ll gotta understand that this forest isn’t gonna keep ya safe from the Blight,” Applejack piped up as Zharia continued to read. “If Equestria falls, everything is gonna turn into Blightlands, including these here woods. Only by comin’ together can we stop the ‘spawn from devouring everything.”

Once she was done reading, Zharia said nothing as she turned away to consult with the other warriors of her clan. They did not feel the need to be subtle or silent, talking in loud and rapid Dalish that Fluttershy could not understand. Twilight kept her attention focused on the fighters of the Dalish as they spoke, taking some satisfaction that their speech was hurried and filled with quick, exasperated words.

With a loud curse, Zharia broke up her impromptu meeting and turned her attention to Twilight. She looked at Twilight with another dry sneer as she said, “Your treatise bears the seal of the Keepers of old. We will bring you to our wise leader Boreas of the Winds, Keeper of our clan. If anypony can help you better, it will be him. Follow close, and we will lead you to our camp.”

With a smile, Twilight nodded to Zharia as the Dalish trotted deeper into the Everfree Forest. With some measure of success at hoof, she beckoned for the others to follow. The Dalish led them through winding, intricate paths that the party would not otherwise had found. It impressed Twilight greatly how well the pegasi were entrenched in the Everfree and how much they knew of the forest.

Oghren was the first one to speak up as they traversed the woods with greater speed. “Something ain’t right, Warden. These ponies, they have the looks of seasoned warriors from recent battles. I’ve seen the look before on young bucks fresh out of training and thrown to the ponyspawn in the Dark Tunnels. They’ve seen things, and the markings on their coats are fresh. They were made recently by something really nasty. Not ponyspawn, or they’d be dead from the tainted blood. Something else though.”

Recent battles? Twilight closed her eyes as she strained her ears to listen for any ponyspawn that could have been lurking in the depths of the woods. Only the rustling of the leaves met her ears, confusing her further. She looked through the forest with senses attuned with magic, and found no sign of demons either. Perhaps the Dalish were at odds with other ponies, or some kind of forest creature. Whatever it was, she would have to be on her guard.

Once they were past the great woods, the party had found themselves in a great clearing filled with several large carts and many pegasi milling about. The ramshackle camp of Dalish pegasi hummed with activity as warriors patrolled the treetops, and those with green ink tattoos kept watch over very large and very fearsome looking lizard creatures. Twilight looked in surprise at several pegasi moaning on the ground, covered with bandages, while Dalish healers chanted psalms and coated wounds with salves. One pegasus screamed as a healer looked over his wing, or rather what was left of it.

Many of the lizards were hitched to the wagons, and all of them had eight legs and wore blinders over their eyes. “Those are basilisks, our beasts of burden and primary defence for the camp,” Zharia explained. “Our salanah’ishiel care for the basilisks, and in turn they prove to be most effective defence for our people. Their gaze paralyzes any who makes eye contact, and their venom will kill in moments if their great maws don’t do the job.”

The basilisks were frightening from a distance, but Fluttershy paid little heed to the dangers of approaching the great reptiles, hovering just above one’s head and stroking the scales with a gentle hoof. Several of the Dalish animal tamers were wary at first that a newcomer was so close to one of their pack beasts until one eventually flew up to Fluttershy and both began a dialogue about animals. Twilight was pleased that Fluttershy was getting along so well and so easily with the Dalish and their animals. Zharia was not.

“Pah. Nal’shem. She shouldn’t be so close to our basilisks. None of you should be here.” Zharia’s contempt for the group seethed with every word, and the way she said “nal’shemgave Twilight the impression it was a heavy-hoofed insult. Rainbow took offence and flew up to Zharia’s face. Both pegasi met in mid-air, staring daggers as they circled each other with malicious intent.

“You keep calling us shem,” Rainbow Dash growled, challenging Zharia. “What does that mean? Are you insulting us? Because if you are…”

“And what are you going to do about it!?” Zharia shot back. “You may look and act like kalach, but you are just the same as any other ground walker. You have no honour! You don’t know what it means to be a pegasus! Your mother should have pinioned you when you were a foal and leave the real flying to true pegasi! To the Dalish!”

Dash reacted as Twilight expected her to at the end of Zharia’s insult, tackling the loud warrior in the air, bringing both of them tumbling to the ground. Both pegasi struggled against one another as a sizable crowd formed around them, the sounds of cheering Dalish supporting their chief warrior against the newcomer. Twilight pressed a hoof to her face; this was no way to begin relations with the Pegasi of the Eastern Dales.

“Zharia, enough! Boreas commands that guests be treated well, whether they be pegasus or anypony.” A pegasus with a purple coat and green mane glared at Zharia. She was dressed in flowing green robes, with blue ink marking her coat. Her eyes were milky white, and she appeared to have a difficult time walking.

She’s blind, Twilight thought as the newcomer stood still, somehow cowing Zharia. Rainbow turned away from the struggle as the blind pegasus appeared to look about, her ears twitching for a moment before she spoke again.

“My name is Silphia, apprentice to Keeper Boreas,” the newcomer greeted. “And what my good sister is calling you is shem. Outsider. Flightless. Most earth ponies and unicorns ignore it. But saying it to a pegasus is a grave insult. Zharia will request forgiveness now.”

Zharia bowed her head low. “As the Keeper wills it, I apologize for my harsh words.” The apology lacked sincerity, but Twilight could only guess that Zharia respected the wishes of her clan’s Keepers over the feelings of outsiders. Rainbow simply glowered before turning away, either accepting or ignoring the apology.

“Thank you for your patience,” Silphia continued. “Boreas will receive you shortly. Please understand, he has been very busy since the attacks started. More of us fall to the savages living in the forest every day. If it were not for Zharia, her warriors, and our basilisks, we would be no more. You may wander the camp at your leisure for now, until I come and collect you again.”

Twilight nodded to Silphia as both she and her sister left them to their own devices. Looking around the camp, she realized just how strange and alien everything was. Besides the towering basilisks and the awkward language of the Dalish, there were also wood totems surrounding the camp, and many pegasi having their coats worked on with the special ink used for tattoos. For a moment, Twilight felt lost as to where she should go to learn more about the Dalish.

It was thanks to Pinkie that her attention became focused on a group of pegasi sitting around a campfire. “Look, everypony!” Pinkie exclaimed as she bounded over to the small gathering. “Too laid back to be a party, but not silent enough to be a funeral. And one of those pegasi sounds like he’s telling stories!”

Interested, Twilight walked with Pinkie towards the storyteller, who looked up with a mixed face of surprise and interest. He did not introduce himself, remaining rather silent as the party approached, offering them all a seat in front of him with Dalish foals that were nearby. Once they were all seated, Twilight waited patiently for the storyteller to acknowledge their presence.

“It would appear we have an interesting group of guests,” the storyteller said, “Perhaps you may wish to listen to the history of the Dalish pegasi? I always remind the foals where they come from, so that they may always feel pride and know that they have a purpose within the clan.”

He scooped up a small pile of purple dust with his hooves and tossed it into the fire. The flames flared dramatically, awing the foals and Pinkie Pie as what appeared to be images began to form while the story teller began to speak.

A long time ago, before we were known as the Pegasi of the Eastern Dales, the pegasi were a once united people under the wise and benevolent rule of our Skylords. We ruled the air with great fortresses of clouds, and claimed dominion of the farthest reaches of the eastern continent now known as the Free Plains all the way to what is now known as Equestria. Our kingdoms were vast and our power was great, as the very weather which allowed the land to become green with the bounty of nature was ours to control and command. Through the pegasi, the world flourished.”

The flames appeared to move on their own, the smoke rising high until it formed a miniature sky fortress of its own, with little pegasi soldiers patrolling the perimeter. Pinkie stomped her hooves in amazement while Twilight looked at the display with curiosity. There were faint traces of magic in the show, but from where? Pegasi couldn’t use magic.

“But there were those who were jealous of our might, of the blessings given to us by the very winds. The Unicorn Imperium, far to the north, did look on our kingdoms with lust and greed, and set their armies to conquer us. We prevailed in our battles, as the magic of the unicorns and the strength of their demon servitors were no match to our ability to summon lightning and tornadoes. We thought we were invincible.”

The clouds billowed again, this time forming an army of unicorns and demons to march against the cloud fortress. The cloud rose higher as the pegasi soldiers retreated to its safety while it rumbled like a thunderhead. A small spark of lighting struck against the Imperium’s forces, scattering unicorn and demon alike. The foals cheered loudly at the might of the pegasi, with Pinkie joining in, equally as excited.

“How wrong we were. When their blood magic and their demons failed, their dragons made swift work of us. Terrible creatures of razor claws and melting flames, the Imperium struck us with a terrible vengeance the likes of which we had never seen before. In a matter of weeks, the skylords were vanquished and our great civilization was brought low.”

From the smoke, where the scattered remnants of the Imperium’s army laid battered and broken, rose six shadows of great dragons, each more terrible than the last. They circled the sky fortress with frightening malice, terrifying even as mere wisps of smoke, until one took a quick swipe at it with its claws. The cloud castle disappeared as the dragons celebrated their triumph, much to the despair of the young audience.

“The Imperium claimed the pegasi as their prize, and used us as slaves to command the weather for them. For centuries after, our people suffered under the yoke of their magic and of their dragons, until the rise of Luna and the fall of the Imperium. Once we were free, our people tried to rebuild. However, the long years of slavery made us forget. We had lost the ways to command the weather and to craft dwellings from the clouds. It was our only safeguard against the Imperium, to never teach our young how to command our once-treasured gifts. Without leadership, we were lost. Without gifts, we were broken. We took on a new name, one of the lands of our origins, the Eastern Dales. We are the Dalish pegasi, the Ponies of the Wind.”

Each of the young pegasi stood up, their wings flared wide open as the violet fire died down and the smoke dissipated into the air. The storyteller and the foals spoke in unison at the conclusion of the tale, which perturbed Twilight and the others.

We are the Dalish. Our wings will never be bound. Our eyes will never be blinded. The Wind will set us free.”

The familiar voices of both Zharia and Silphia spoke the oath behind the party, alerting Twilight to their presence. With a nod of their heads, the pegasi sisters turned towards a glade where Twilight assumed the Keeper of the clan was waiting.

Silphia led the party through the woods, being able to manoeuvre through the forest thanks to the aid of her sister until they reached a small grove. It was a serene sight, with several small trees decorated in beautiful blossoms surrounding a small altar. On the altar was a stone carving of four arrows, one pointing in each of the nautical directions. Around the altar were several offerings of candles, each burning around the four points.

Kneeling in front of the altar was a tall stallion with a pale blue coat, a perfectly bald head and many blue markings along his skull and face. His cutie mark was a powerful blowing wind with several leaves caught in the gusts. He looked very calm as he meditated in front of the altar, breathing deeply in rhythmic movements. Finishing his meditations, the Keeper of the Dalish clan stood up, stretching his impressive wings for a moment before turning around to meet his guests.

Despite the kind smile on Boreas’ face, Twilight felt cold around him. Perhaps it was the icy wind that rushed through the Everfree Forest on occasion, but it was especially frigid here. She could feel the skin under her violet coat grow goose bumps in response to the cold. Boreas responded to the party’s shivering with another smile as he made his way towards Twilight.

“Grey Wardens. Welcome to our camp, as much as it is. You honour us with your presence.” Boreas bowed his head to Twilight, who matched his gesture with her own. “Please, come and sit with me. Silphia, Zharia. Get some refreshment for our guests.”

Silphia bowed, though Zharia snorted as they both turned away from Boreas and headed back to the camp. Twilight smiled at the Keeper, glad to finally meet the leader of the Dalish. With a flick of her magic, she drew the Grey Warden treatise for Boreas to read. As he took in the words of the treatise, Twilight made her case to the leader of these Dalish pegasi.

“Keeper Boreas, we’ve come to request the aid of the Pegasi of the Eastern Dales to help us fight against the Blight,” Twilight began as Boreas continued to read. “The ponyspawn have already established a hoofhold in the region of Ponyring, and the Archdemon has revealed itself. We already have the support of the Unicorn Tower, the Templar Order, many Equestrian nobles, and the Kingdom of Orzamule. With your added help, we can save more lives against the ponyspawn.”

Boreas hummed for a moment as he turned away from the treatise, returning his attention to the altar. “You have caught us at a disadvantage, my friends,” Boreas replied. “Your treatise bears the seal of my mentor from a long time ago, and with that I would offer help against the ponyspawn with little questions asked. The threat of the ponyspawn is greater than anything.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “But…?”

Boreas did not look at Rainbow, focusing only on his altar. “But we are currently under attack by another force that will not let us leave the Everfree Forest. Somewhere, deep in the heart of these cursed woods, is a flock of savage beasts known as hippogryphs. They are fearsome foes, half-falcon and half-pony, but they are completely vile. They have been ambushing our camp and supply lines for weeks since we arrived in the forest.”

“I’ve never heard of a hippogryph before,” Twilight said, surprised that she had already encountered two creatures she was unfamiliar with in their short time in the Everfree Forest. “Why would they attack you?”

“Because they are monsters! Cursed beings who hunger for flesh and to pass on their curse to the Dalish under my care!”

The cold winds picked up around Boreas as he let his anger flare, something Twilight did not anticipate from a pegasi. She knew of the old stories, of how the pegasi were once able to command the weather and the clouds overhead after hearing about the skylords in Luna’s temple. It could not be coincidence that Boreas was commanding the winds now, but the real question was how?

The Keeper seemed to calm down for a moment as her rubbed his smooth head with a hoof. “I’m sorry if I startled you,” he said. “You have seen what the hippogryphs are capable of. Many of our finest warriors have already fallen to their talons, or are crippled and maimed. Those are the lucky ones. Many pegasi who are bitten by hippogryphs contract the curse that runs in their blood. The hippogryphs are not natural creatures, but the result of a centuries-old curse. When I arrived with my clan to the Everfree, I thought such things as nonsense. How wrong I was.”

“Now the hippogryphs are attacking us with a hatred I have not seen since… my youth. If it were not for our basilisks and Zharia’s warriors, we would be no more, and the Everfree Forest would only be filled with fierce savages. Worse yet, there is a creature from old Dalish legends that appears to have organized the beasts: the Thunder Roc, Notus.”

The party looked at one another, confused, save for Rainbow Dash, whose eyes widened with uncharacteristic fear. “The Thunder Roc is real?” She almost squeaked the words out of fright, which did not help the already skittish Fluttershy. “My mom used to tell stories about the Thunder Roc when I was a foal. Little things like ‘eat your barley or the Thunder Roc will come and snatch you away!’ It’s supposed to be this massive bird, made out of the most violent of storm clouds! But it’s just an old pegasus tale!”

“A tale that has become all too real,” confirmed Boreas, a grim look on his face. “Notus is an elemental of the winds, of lightning and thunder. He is a terrible foe, and the source of the hippogryphs’ power. We believe they have their nest in the center of the forest, but there is a thick fog that surrounds it that only the hippogryphs can navigate. He patrols the skies, is never seen because of the cloud cover, yet also prevents our escape! As long as Notus lives, we cannot leave the Everfree Forest.”

Somehow the Dalish had brought down the wrath of the hippogryphs upon their heads. Twilight rubbed her temple with a hoof as a migraine was coming on. How was it that everywhere they went to, there was doom and destruction waiting for them?

“Don’t think so hard,” Pinkie said as she patted Twilight’s shoulder. “It’ll just make your brain do back flips and front flips and side flips and flip inside out…”

“In any event,” Rarity spoke up, ignoring Pinkie for a moment. “I have this distinct feeling that we will not be getting the aid of the Dalish unless we take care of your hippogryph problem, yes?”

Boreas continued. “I would not ask for this if I knew there was another way. The hippogryphs know us too well. They know how we fight, how we fly, which paths we take. They do not know of you and your diverse party. If you could find the heart of the hippogryph’s flock and slay the Thunder Roc, then the beasts will surely scatter.”

Twilight was not sure how to respond. Before, it was always a request for the Wardens to find something or someone to bring a people into the fight against the ponyspawn. In the case of the Tower it was them arriving at the nick of time. Everything Twilight had fought and slain attacked her or her friends first, and many proved far too gone to be reasoned with. This time, Boreas was asking for them to kill something that may have reasons of its own for attacking the Dalish. What if they had intruded on some kind of sacred ground?

Yet there was little to do but consider the implications of refusing to help Boreas. It meant the Dalish pegasi in Equestria would be slowly hunted to extinction at the talons of the hippogryphs. It meant not having their support against the Blight, which would prove invaluable to counter the already clear advantage the ponyspawn had with their screamers.

“We’ll do what we can to help stop the hippogryphs’ assaults on your people,” Twilight offered. “If there is a way, we might be able to reason with the hippogryphs, perhaps.”

“No!” Again, another rush of cold air swept over the party, causing surprise and shivering in the wake of Boreas’ sudden gale. “I don’t think you understand what exactly is going on! Those monsters are treacherous! Ruthless! They all deserve to die for what they have done to my people! To my family!”

Twilight waited until Boreas controlled his temper, his near-arctic winds finally dying down again, leaving only a panting pegasus in their wake. “Forgive my outburst,” he said as he turned towards his altar yet again. “I… suffered for a long time. The hippogryphs have caused me much pain, it is difficult to think straight. I need more meditation. Please…”

“We’ll do what we can.” Twilight bowed her head before leaving Boreas and his small glade, followed close behind by the others. Waiting for them were Silphia and Zharia, one appearing concerned while the latter had a cross expression on her face.

No words were said as the group passed by the carts of the Dalish camp until they were well away from prying ears. Zharia paced the ground for a while, cursing in Dalish as her sister contemplated hard on what she had heard.

“Charming fellow, isn’t he?” Shale muttered, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “I must say, I for one do look forward to squishing a myth. We do that on a regular basis, yes? Defeat the impossible?”

“Only because our enemies force our hooves.” As Twilight said this, she was soon face to face with the chief warrior of the Everfree Dalish. A strange look of desperation and anger was in her face as they stared each other down.

“We need your help! We can’t fight the hippogryphs hoof-to-talon, and they have the very storms on their side. They won’t expect you! If you help us, you’ll be saving lives! Our injured, our elderly, our sick! Think of our foals! The basilisks and my fighters can’t hold out forever! We can’t hunt the animals in the Everfree to feed the basilisks, and the hippogryphs know it! And we dare not venture too far into the woods. Not when the bite from a hippogryph turns us into… into them!”

“Please understand the stress my mentor has been under.” Silphia turned her head in the direction of the wind before breathing deep. She seemed to get her strength from the winds around her. “Many years ago, when Keeper Boreas was young and was under tutelage just as I was, our clan was attacked by a group of earth pony bandits. They assaulted the camp at night, burned down the tents, and galloped away with many mares, including Boreas’ daughter. When the bandits were found, the mares were… defiled.

In his rage, Boreas led the bandits on a chase into the Everfree where they were soon attacked by the spirit of fury, the Thunder Roc. Those bandits became the first hippogryphs. The clan left the forest, and every ten years Boreas was able to return to keep both the hippogryphs and the Thunder Roc in check. Something has changed this time, though. They act with intelligence mixed with complete savageness.”

“My sister may be brash, but she is right,” Silphia continued. “We need help. If you can do anything to help, my people would be in your debt, more so than you can ever imagine.”

It was then that both pegasi bowed towards Twilight, practically begging her for her aid. As they laid themselves low, there were murmurs from the other pegasi in their strange language that Twilight could not understand. Many were angry, but many more were frightened, having their eyes scan the treetops for attackers.

“We want to avoid conflict at all costs if we can,” Twilight explained, which netted her a glare of death from Zharia, though Silphia seemed much more lenient. “We’ve seen what this kind of cycle of hatred and revenge can create. It drives unicorns to become Maleficar, or make pacts with demons. It can bring ponies to want to destroy entire families. We saw it wipe out an entire people who could have been instrumental in defeating the ponyspawn. We will stop the hippogryphs from attacking the Dalish, I promise you that. Just give us the chance to solve this without violence.”

The pegasi sisters said nothing, regarding each other for a moment. The two held a silent conversation, Zharia watching her sister’s body language while Silphia’s ears twitched at every noise the former made with her wings and hooves. It was Zharia who turned her head towards the party, nodding.

“We leave our fate in your hooves, Warden,” Zharia eventually said, joined by many of her kalach warriors. “Do what you deem right. We need every bit of hope we can get to save our people. But when you fight them—“

“If we fight them,” Applejack interjected.

When you fight them,” Zharia shot back. “Show no mercy, for they will give you none.”

The chief warrior continued to speak as the party moved with purpose towards the edge of the Dalish encampment. “We will lend your group one of my best scouts, Blitzer. He’s from the Yokalach originally, but he is a true Dalish who has helped fight against the hippogryphs many times. He will lead you to the edge of their cursed fog that protects the center of the Everfree Forest.”

“Take the blessing of the winds with you, salanah,” Silphia said as she flared her wings. “Our hope lies with you all. Winds are with your wings, and give you flight. Ground is soft with your hooves, and give you rest. Soral nel’nier hial mek tallach.

Both sisters, as well as several of the Dalish pegasi who had begun to circle around them, bowed towards the party again. Twilight bowed her head in return until she felt it was time to leave. Joined by a spry young pegasus stallion who she assumed was Blitzer, they made their silent march to the edge of the forest, with nary a word said between the lot of them as they left the Dalish camp.

To Twilight, this was her chance to show the Dalish that they did not need to resort to violence to stop the hippogryphs. Yet that was up to the beasts themselves and if they could be reasoned with. She hoped beyond all hope that to bring the pegasi into the fold, they could use calm and rational thought to solve the day.

If not, both that hope and the hippogryphs would have to be put to the sword.

Boreas watched the Grey Wardens and their allies leave the forest with one of his own pegasi before retreating unnoticed into the woods. This was his first chance in decades be rid rid of Notus and save his people from the hippogryphs. There was just that small issue of the lavender unicorn’s insistence on trying to use peace to resolve the conflict.

Notus and the hippogryphs deserve to die, Boreas told himself as he flew back to his altar, Notus never killed those bandits. He made them into something much worse. He went against his purpose, and now threatens my people once again!

Kneeling in front of his altar again, Boreas looked up at the sky through the hole in the treeline. I still have friends in the winds, he thought as the cold air picked up around him, I still have the power over the north wind. Kill Notus and the hippogryphs, Warden. With every fibre of my being, how I want you to kill them brutally. Painfully.

Because if you won’t…

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