• Published 23rd Apr 2014
  • 3,457 Views, 294 Comments

MLDC Next Generation: Know Fear! - Michael_Ravencroft



"Starburst of Equestria, you have the ability to instill great fear!"

  • ...
21
 294
 3,457

Announcement

One week had passed since, what has now been dubbed, the “Liberation of Cloudsdale”. Many of the citizens of Equestria were now on edge after learning just how easily that Griffon Empire sneaked into their homeland and nearly stole the entire city. None took it harder than the Cloudsdale pegasi themselves, many of whom knew the griffon Pretenders by their false identities and had befriended them, only to learn later on who they really were. Co-workers, family friends, best friends, and even romantic partners, all lies and all falsities, they Pretended.

Luckily the floating city had been returned to its original location, a little banged up and in need of some repair work, but otherwise fine. One thing that was starting to spread amongst the populace, acting as a beacon of hope was the now confirmed rumors of a mysterious pegasus mare, wearing golden armor and wielding a power that struck fear into the hearts of the griffons. To some, this hero was known was the Golden Star of Stalliongrad, but now the hero had given their name, which was now spreading throughout the land, the name that was the Fear Lantern.

This, however, did not go unnoticed by the High Rulers of Equestria. A special meeting between the six High Rulers of Equestria, and the High Prince and Princess of the Crystal Empire was to take place at Canterlot, mostly to discuss the most recent attack by their enemy and how they should counter, and partially to discuss their knew ally in the fight against the Griffon Empire. The eight High Rulers had convened to a large meeting room, sitting at a round table, symbolizing that all were equal, and as to allow everyone to look the other in the eye.

“I’m glad that you could make it Cadance, Shining Armor,” said Celestia.

“Well, after we found out what happened with Cloudsdale, there was no way we couldn’t just not come when you called, this is getting serious,” said Cadance.

“I still can’t believe that they so easily got by us and took over Cloudsdale so quickly, how was that even possible!?” asked Shining Armor.

“Ahem, if I may, I have some information on that.” All eyes were directed at Flash Sentry. “From what the Guard has been able to piece together, this was orchestrated by a covert division of the Griffon Empire known was the Pretenders. Their armor was comprised of a specialized metal that seems to respond well with a crystal that was embedded into the armor itself. Utilizing this, they were able to cast a Glamour spell that was effective enough to fool everypony.”

“So they slipped by us by entering Equestria as regular pegasi, still, the level of planning and preciseness of their operation, this wasn’t just a spontaneous attack,” said Supernova.

“Which is why this wasn’t a spontaneous attack, from what we gathered from our two prisoners, they have been planning this particular infiltration and occupation for well over three years.”

Silence had overtaken the room, allowing the eight to take that in. For three years their enemies had been lying and wait right under their noses, and in that time they could’ve killed any number of ponies without anyone being the wiser. They could’ve even attempted an assassination on one of them at any time they wanted. It was becoming very clear that the Griffon Empire had been planning this war for far longer than they had imagined which made the group realize just how far behind they were in responding to this situation.

“Are there more of these ‘Pretenders’ in Equestria now?” asked Celestia.

“After analyzing the armor and crystal fragments, I was able to create a counter spell that will reveal any and all Pretenders within Equestria. It’ll take some doing, but I should be able to broadcast the spell to cover all of Equestria and reveal them if there are any,” said Twilight.

Everypony nodded in thanks to Twilight’s speedy creation of such a spell. Luna was shaking her head and sighing in frustration from this whole situation. “First we lose Maretonia, and then we nearly lose Cloudsdale…Our citizens will lose confidence in us if we cannot defend them from this threat!”

“I have to agree with Luna on this one,” said Discord, “These griffons are creating chaos!”

“And why does that bother you, you’re the Spirit of Chaos,” said Cadance.

“Because this is organized and controlled chaos! They’re intentionally messing with us, from every direction! Chaos is not
supposed to be organized or controlled, it’s spontaneous and erratic! A force of nature! I may have made ponies miserable back in my time, but I never killed anyone!” Discord harrumphed, crossing his arms in front of his chest in annoyance and anger about his precious chaos being used in such a way.

Celestia, though she did love her husband, did not always understand his logic, but for once she did agree with it. “This has brought me to a point that I wanted to discuss with you all, particularly, Twilight, Luna, Cadance, and Discord.” The four named High Rulers all listened intently as Celestia spoke. “Given the recent actions of the griffons, I believe that a show of force is needed to stop further bloodshed.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “What are you saying…?”

“……One of us must enter the battlefield, and show the Griffon Empire why it is a foolish thing to go to war with Equestria.”

Everypony’s eyes widened in shock at what Celestia had suggested. There was a reason why those five hadn’t entered the battle yet, because it was pure overkill. Luna looked to her older sister as she stood on her hind legs and slammed her forehooves onto the table.

“Sister, you know that is a last resort! You’re not seriously asking us to break the seal on our magic and unleash its full force on them!?”

“What other option do we have? With every second we do not act a hundred more of our subjects die, I would think you of all ponies wouldn’t shy away from using force to make a point,” said Celestia in an even tone.

Luna snorted in indignation. “Times change Tia…We all didn’t have children to think about back then.” Silence once again befell the room. “To unleash our full power could incite a war with the other nations. They see Equestria as a beacon of hope, light, kindness, and understanding. If we show just how powerful we are, we risk making the others fearful of us…”

Supernova rested his hoof on his wife’s shoulder, easing her back to her seat. He then draped his bat wing over her back. He knew of what she spoke of, it took years before the citizens of Equestria finally got over their fear of Nightmare Moon and just as long to disassociate Princess Luna from that evil persona. Now the citizens loved her, especially the young foals, and she did not want to do anything that would bring that fear back.

“What about this…Fear Lantern?” Shining Armor asked. “I hear she’s been instrumental in freeing Stalliongrad and Cloudsdale.”

“That’s…been a little iffy lately,” said Discord. “There seems to be no one who’s seen this pony’s face, only that she is a mare, wears golden armor with a strange insignia on her chest, and wields a ring on her right hoof.”

“Valiant Heart gave a report on that,” said Flash, “The ‘Fear Lantern’ can apparently instill fear in her enemies; she’s more than once defended the citizens of Equestria, and solely attacked only the griffons.”

“So, is it safe to assume she is an ally?” asked Cadance.

“Hard to say…” Twilight sighed, “We don’t know who she is, and her power, we can assume, is fueled by fear itself. While she may be using it to help us, such a power is…dangerous, plus, we don’t know if this is another trick of the Griffon Empire, a way for us to lower our guard while this Fear Lantern walks among us and waits for the right moment to show her true colors.”

“I thought her color was yellow,” said Discord.

“Not now, dear,” warned Celestia.

“So, the question remains, then who among you five are going to the battlefield…?”

Luna sighed yet again, “Only one, that’s all it should take. There’s no need for all five of us to attack.”

“Very well, that sounds reasonable. High Prince Shining Armor, Flash Sentry, and Supernova, please leave the room, we must discuss who will take part in this.”

The three husbands glanced at each other with worried expressions, but a gentle nudge from their respective wives told them that they would be fine. The three stallions then walked out of the room and waited outside. Several minutes past while the three waited, pacing about as they dreaded which of their wives might be sent to the front line to do battle. Though they knew how powerful they were, this was still something to be worried about, the griffons have so far shown that they have a plan in motion, and they didn’t want to risk losing one of them to griffons, not wanting to imagine all the horrible things they would do to an immortal alicorn.

After a bit longer the doors opened and all five strode out as one. The three former Guards looked at each of them in turn, wondering who among them had been chosen.

“The choice is made…”


2 Days Later, Ponyville…

All of Ponyville was in celebration the day that Rainbow Dash returned home. Prims Bolt was the first to meet her, followed by his father Soarin and his little brother, Icy Storm. Tears were shed, hugs were exchanged, by all, and of course, a second party was held to celebrate her safe return and aid in protecting the city of Cloudsdale. During the party, which Starburst was required to attend; Rainbow told them about her encounter with the Fear Lantern.

Star couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride as she heard the town talking about her, and not just Ponyville, but the radio news and newspapers as well. Some of the papers only got a blurry image of her, and others just got her wings or the shine from her ring. Still, it was nice hearing that she was making a difference. Ever since Maretonia had fallen, Starburst noticed how the morale of all the ponies was down, but her presence as the Fear Lantern had somehow brought them a new hope.

Even now as she walked about the town she could still hear ponies talking about her. She considered coming out to her friends about her secret identity, but decided against, now wasn’t the time, and with things the way they are, her greatest weapon against the Griffon Empire wasn’t just her ring, but her secret identity. With Shadow Wing gone, hopefully, and the knowledge that the Griffons had infiltrated Equestria, there was still a little danger. So, for now, the less her friends and her family knew about it, the safer they were.

As she was walking, Starburst was now taking notice of the pegasus with the Wonderbolts hoody around town, knowing that it was Sunny still shadowing her. It at least helped that somepony knew her secret. Even if she constantly gets on my nerves with her dirty jokes sometimes, she thought.

For a change of pace, Starburst decided she’d hang out with Annie, it had been awhile since the two of them did anything or even talked, so she thought, “why not?”

The cottage hadn’t changed at all since she was filly. It still had a large backyard filled with everything that you could possibly need to take care of almost any animal. Her Aunt Fluttershy had gotten her veterinarian license a while back and it really helped when taking care of Annie, allowing some income to flow in. The only downside to that was that sometimes that either involved Annie having to be left with a foalsitter or taken with her whenever she made house calls. But, thankfully, Annie’s vision got better, mostly, and even though she didn’t like being alone too much, the animals were more than happy to stick by her and keep the semi-blind mare company.

[Fear detected.]

“Fear, from who…?”

“AAAAAAHHHH!!!”

“What the hay!!?”

Starburst quickly galloped in the direction of the scream. Without thinking, Star used her ring to bust the door open and entered the cottage. She frantically looked around the room and saw that Annie was huddled on the floor, shaking like a leaf. Star could feel her fear through the ring, she was scared.

“W-W-Who’s there!? I can’t see!”

“Annie it’s me, Star!”

“S-Star…? W-Where you?!”

“I-I’m right here can’t you see me?” asked Star.

“No…”

Starburst didn’t need to hear anymore, she slowly walked towards Annie, watching the pink unicorn’s ears angle towards the sound of her hoofsteps. “It’s okay Annie, I’m coming towards you,” she said calmly and slowly, “I’m going to lie down next to you.” Starburst did so, lowering herself next to Annie. “I’m going to put my wing on you, is that okay?”

Anthea nodded slowly.

“Okay, here I go…” Starburst slowly extended her large right wind over Annie, bringing it to a gentle rest upon her back. Anthea flinched slightly from the contact, but once she felt Star’s wing, Annie moved closer till her side was touching Stars. “What happened, why can’t you see?”

“I-I overused my magic, Mom’s out working right now and I said I’d take care of everything here…I forgot that I had practiced some magic earlier before she asked, and used some of it for the chores. And…before I realized it, I had used it up and everything went black…”

Starburst gently nuzzled Annie’s cheek, and the blind mare leaned into it, welcoming the contact. It was known to Star that Anthea’s magic was helping her to see, maybe not fully, but she could at least see colors and that was better than nothing. Star knew this mostly because Annie was taught magic by her mother, and had more than once bared witness to Anthea overuse her magic and lose her sight temporarily. The ring allowed her to feel the fear ebbing away from Annie, and to know that it was the fear of the dark that frightened her the most.

The two of them laid there for a while. Anthea had stopped shaking and whimpering, the feeling of isolation having been assuaged by Star’s presence.

“How’re you doing,” asked Star.

“Better…Sorry,” said Annie.

Starburst shook her head. “Don’t be, you just lost track of how much magic you were using. There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

“Yeah…but I’m sure there was something better you wanted to do other than comfort a blind mare.”

“Well, now that you mention it, you’re right. So I guess I’ll go now…” Star slowly lifted her wing, causing Annie’s head to shoot up and stare right at her.

“Starburst Senturia Sparkle, don’t you dare leave me alone!”

Star placed her wing back onto Annie’s back and let out a little chuckle. “You really didn’t think I’d leave you like that?”

“No…Sorry I yelled.”

“Think you’re up for walking?”

Annie titled her head in confusion. “Why? To where?”

“To see Turquoise, you’d probably feel better with him, and at least the two of us can watch you until your magic comes back.”
Annie considered her options, she really hated being treated like an invalid, but right now, her magic needed time to recharge, and she wouldn’t mind being with her coltfriend right now.

“Okay.”

“Good, let’s get you up. Stand up on three. One…Two…Three.”

Starburst and Anthea slowly stood up, with the pegasus mare keeping her wing directly on her friend’s back. Once up, Anthea moved a little closer to Starburst and allowed her friend to keep her close by hugging her with her wing. The two of them then slowly and carefully made it out the door.


“This is so embarrassing…”

“What’s embarrassing about it? Everypony in town knows you can’t see too well.”

“Yeah…but it’s been way too long since I was completely blind like this. By the way, did you break down the door when you rushed in?”

Starburst’s cheeks tinted pink, remembering that she did indeed break down the door to get to Annie, “Um…yes, I’ll fix that, I promise!”

Annie giggled a little, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell Mom what happened. So, why did you come to see me all of a sudden?”

Star just shrugged her shoulders. “Just wanted to talk, or see if you were up for anything.”

“Well…I can’t do much right now. So I guess you’ll have to settle for talking,” said Annie smirking.

“Figured as much. So, why were you practicing so much anyway?”

“Oh…well, your mom, Princess Twilight, she sent me some magic texts a couple of days ago, and I wanted to learn them before our next get together next weekend.”

“I see…” Star’s mood shifted a bit from hearing about her mother. “How is she, my Mom?”

Annie paused for a moment, trying to think of the right words. “She’s a little stressed, especially with everything that’s been happening. She even told me that our magic lessons are actually helping her to relax.”

“That’s good, she can get a little too wrapped up in her work, checking and double checking, and then triple checking everything…”

“She asked how you were doing.”

Starburst almost stopped walking when she heard that. “And…? What’d you tell her…?”

“Nothing much…but Star, your mom’s sad.”

“‘Sad’, sad about what?”

“Think about it Star.” Annie looked at Star, as best she could anyway. “She’s sad that she can’t see you right now and even more so because she knows you’re sad too.”

“………”

“Star, please don’t go quiet on me now.” Annie pleaded.

“I’m not really sad anymore Annie, trust me I’m not.”

“Well, that’s obvious enough. I can tell you’re not.”

Starburst was now confused, and a little worried. “H-How can you tell…?”

“For one thing, it’s in your tone of voice. There’s a slight elation in it, mixed with a little trepidation, like you don’t want to tell but at the same time you do,” said Annie with a completely innocent smile.

“Oh…Well…Yeah, I guess it’s something like that…”

“It’s Del isn’t it, you’re happy that you can spend some more time with him.”

The bluntness of that statement was enough to make Starburst stop and tilt forward, face planting onto the ground. Luckily for Annie, Star had released her before she went down, and now the unicorn mare was looking at the ground after hearing the sudden thud and pain induced groans coming from below.

“Um…Star, are you okay?”

“Fine…Just. Fine!” Star peeled herself off the ground and returned to Annie’s side. “Why the heck do think Del’s the reason why I’m happy!?”

“Because you like him.”

“I like you, Prism, Turquoise, Claire, Red June, Whirlwind, Nidra, Illusion, Del, and other ponies who are my friends!”

“I know, but he’s special to you.” Anthea simply stated.

“H-How is that exactly!?”

Annie once again thought about the question. “It’s the same way with T, I can hear it his voice how much he loves me, and I can feel it.”

“Because he’s close to you?”

“No, nothing physical…it’s hard to explain. It’s like a feeling I get whenever I’m around T. And with I’m around Del, and I bring you up, his tone changes and I get that same feeling around him, but directed at you.”

Starburst could feel a rush of blood going to her cheeks. She quickly shook her head to disperse the coloring. “C’mon Annie, he’s four years older than me! And besides…I’m not exactly his type – Not that I know his type or even care!”

Annie sighed in frustration. “How do you know you’re not his type? I didn’t think I was T’s type either. I mean, why would he want to spend the rest his life with a semi-blind unicorn like me when he could spend his time with somepony else…”

“Annie…?”

“But, then he chose me, because he cared about me, and loved me, and I love him too, no matter if he’s half dragon, he’s the pony I’ll love. You just need to give it a chance Star, open up to him.”

Starburst sighed heavily, was Annie right? Was it possible for her and Del to become something more than just friends, despite the obvious age difference, and her, well, her personality? It was times like this that made it hard for her to be jealous of the mare.

“And so long as you and Del don’t do anything that ends up with your mom and dad becoming grandparents, then you don’t have to worry about the age thing.”

Once again, the bluntness of Annie’s words made Starburst freeze up and face plant against the ground.

“Um, Star, did you fall again?”

“No, I dropped a bit and I’m looking for it.”


After that awkward walk, the two arrived at Carousel Boutique where they were greeted by Star’s uncle, Spike.

“Hey Star, what’s up?” He then looked to Annie who was completely wrapped in Starburst’s wing. “What’s wrong, you okay Anthea?”

“Heh, heh…It’s a little embarrassing, do you mind if we come in?”

Spike moved aside and allowed his niece and, potentially future daughter-in-law, into the house/business. As they entered, they watched as Rarity, with her mane in a bun, walk down the stairs.

“Spike, darling, who’s at the front – Oh my, Star, Annie, how nice to see you two?” She then noticed the concerned look on Spike’s face as he nudged his head towards Anthea. Rarity looked upon the two young mares and she too sported a look of concern. “Whatever is the matter dear?”

“I…Uh…Is T here?” asked Anthea.

“He’s uh…Out, right now, but he should be back soon,” said Spike. “C’mon guys, tell us what’s wrong already?”

“Annie used too much of her magic and, for now anyway, she can’t see anything.”

Spike and Rarity looked upon Anthea with shocked expressions. Even though Annie couldn’t see them, she definitely could feel their eyes on her, and because of it she let out a sheepish smile.

“Yeah, my bad.”

“Oh good heavens darling, where was your mother?” asked Rarity.

“Out on call, she said she’d be back soon…but she might start to panic if she’s the state of the front door.”

Spike looked to Starburst for an explanation, to which Star regaled them with how she broke down the front door to Fluttershy’s and Anthea’s house when she heard the unicorn mare scream in fright. Spike let out a sigh of relief along with Rarity, fearing that there may’ve been something worse waiting at the cottage.

“Well, Annie, for now it is best that you rest and let your magic reserves regenerate.” Rarity walked up to Anthea and stood on her right side. She then nodded to Starburst to lift her wing off so she could take the lead. “Come with me dear, the couch isn’t far.”

Anthea groaned in annoyance, appreciative, but still annoyed at being this helpless for the time being. Spike then looked to his niece who was sporting a kind smile at her friend. “Hey, Rare, I’m going to talk with Star for a bit. That okay with you?”

“What? Oh yeah, that’s fine.”

“Very well, but don’t go too far, I’ll need you to send a letter to Fluttershy before she gets to her house and sees the state it’s in and assumes the worst.”

With that established, Star and Spike left Carousel Boutique and just had a little walk around the block.

“So, how you holdin’ up Star?”

“I’m alright Uncle Spike, seriously, you guys worry about me too much.”

Spike chuckled, which sounded like low rumbling thunder. “Well, not like you can blame us. After what happened…we really thought we were going to lose you there for a second Star.”

“I know…and I’m really sorry, ugh, I still need to apologize to everyone properly.”

“Don’t worry, besides, I don’t think anypony’s really holding a grudge for what you did. Claire was really scared for you. You do know you’re, like, her favorite cousin.”

Star smiled a little at that, she had a lot of respect for Claire, and she really admired her, just as much as her biological cousin, Valiant Heart, both for totally separate reasons.

“I know it wasn’t easy what Twi and Flash had to do…Honestly I think that was just a little too harsh, banning you from the Royal Guard and all.”

A familiar stinging sensation resurfaced in her heart, though her dream of being a Royal Guard was lost, it had given way to an even greater opportunity. Though it still hurt, the sting was lessened by the fact she could still protect her friends and family.

“I’m not completely over it Uncle Spike, but I’m adjusting. Who knows, maybe I can be a Wonderbolt? I’m sure Aunt Rainbow Dash would put in a good word for me.”

“Heh, now that’s the Starburst I know, never giving up and running herself straight into the ground as always.” Spike then raised his left claw and ruffled his niece’s mane. Starburst groaned in annoyance but did not shy away from it.

“Okay, okay, Uncle, you can stop now,” Starburst used her hoof to swat the large dragon’s claw off her head and then grinned a little, “geez.”


The Next Day…

Yesterday was kind of eventful, especially since they failed to get the letter to Fluttershy in time and the pegasus mare went into a fury and worry fueled rampage through the town looking for Anthea. Needless to say, Star’s ring was at maximum power by the end of the day thanks to that.

Since last night, Starburst had been keeping a close listen to the radio. So far the war wasn’t teetering one way or the other, the other Equestrian territories were holding their ground and keeping the invading armies at bay, however, the news mentioned talks about a possible retaking of Maretonia.

Starburst sighed, getting a little stressed from thinking and planning what her next move as the Fear Lantern should be. “I need to relax…”

The pegasus mare gave a shifty glance of her surroundings, she then used her ring to shoot out multiple yellow tendrils at the windows, closing the blinds. Others went to the doors and made sure they were locked tight. Nopony could see what she was about to do, as much of a reputation she had as tomcolt and a fighter, and this would be a detrimental blow to that rep. Besides, everypony had ways of reliving stress, and this was just her way.

After double checking that the room was indeed empty and the windows were closed, and the doors shut, Star relaxed her body and moved towards the center of the room. Where the horsehead statue was, resting upon the table was a radio she had purchased a few days ago. Starburst turned the dial, listening to find the right kind of music. After a bit she settled a station that played classical music, it was easy, and allowed her to move freely to the soft beat.

Starburst stood on her hind legs and entered a ready position, waiting for the right moment in the song where she could begin. Star spread her wings and jumped into the air flipping once and landing with the grace of a falling feather, gliding her hoof across the floor; she pivoted and swayed along with the music, becoming like the air itself. She then moved into a back flip, landing on her forelegs and pushing off for another, mentally counting the numbers in her mind to keep track.

1…2…3…4…5.

She then stopped and pirouetted, keeping her wings tucked close as to not knock anything down. Star then jumped, readying for her finale. She then tucked and spun out aiming downwards, Star then flipped midair with her hind legs aimed for the floor. Before making contact, Starburst flared wings and slowed her descent to the floor, creating a whoosh of wind that spread out in all directions, making some of the cloth blinds flap. Starburst touched the floor and readied to give a bow.

Suddenly she heard a knock at the door, which unfortunately, threw off her concentration and made her fall flat on her face, for the third time since yesterday. Starburst groaned in annoyance and used her ring to shut off the radio.

“Who in Equestria…?”

Star then stomped her way to the front door and flung the door open and said, “Yes!?”

Standing at the front door was none other Del, who was now looking very confused at this moment. “Um…Hello… You, uh, you okay Star?”

Starburst’s cheeks tinted pink in embarrassment from accidentally yelling at her friend, “Uh, yeah, perfectly alright,” she lied, “What’s up?”

“Well…Ah was wonderin’ if you wanted to go out for a walk or somethin’? You know, get out of the library for a bit,” said Del.

Star, despite her earlier face plant, was actually in a good mood. And thought a walk would be nice.

“Alright, lead the way.”


It was pretty much a silent walk the whole way. Del was starting to wonder if he had caught her at a bad time, but decided not to press the issue, whatever it was. Star for her part was thinking about all her actions up till now as they walked together. Her pretending to be a Royal Guard, almost getting killed in Stalliongrad, and her persistent wanting to protect those she loves and cares for. Star was starting to think differently about her actions…

“Hey Del…”

“Hmm?”

“Do you…Do you think I’m being selfish,” she asked.

Del raised an eyebrow at that. “‘Selfish’, where would ya get an idea like that?”

“I’ve just been thinking about my actions lately…How I rushed into having Nidra cast that spell on me, lying my way onto a Royal Guard airship, and then impersonating one. All I want is to help and protect my home and family, is that really so wrong?”

“Uh-uh, it ain’t at all. That’s actually a noble thing, and very much you Star.”

Starburst smiled a little. “Thanks…”

“But…” Star looked to the earth pony stallion, “Ya do tend to overdo things sometimes. Like when we work out, you push yerself too far sometimes and end passin’ out.”

“Still hung up about that, aren’t you?”

“Well when ya keel over and nearly scare meh half to death, yeah, Ah get a little hung up about it.” Del stated. “Just sayin’ Ah admire yer determination, and, despite what ya did, you’re still more level headed then most of the mares I know.”

Starburst eyed Golden Delicious dubiously. “Exactly how many mares do you know?”

“Countin’ you, six.” Starburst’s eyes went wide at that number. “Like Red June, Nidra, Whirlwind, Claire, and Candy.”
Star face hoofed herself, “I didn’t mean our friends, I meant mares other than our friends!”

“Oh~, that’s what ya meant,” said Del with a playful tone, “Well…not very many then.”

“Why not,” asked Star.

“Why the sudden interest in my love life?”

The pegasus mare’s cheeks started to glow red, “J-Just making small talk? We’re best friends aren’t we!? We can tell each other this kind stuff, right!?”

Del, for some reason, was also blushing a little. “To be honest…Some of the mares who want to go out with me are………How can Ah say this without soundin’ like a jerk?”

“Just say it; you don’t have to find another way.” Star insisted.

Del let out a deep sigh. “Ah find some of them tirin’, some either don’t know what they want to do with their lives, or some are just lookin’ for a big strong stallion to call their boyfriend. Not like you, Star. You actually know what you want to do, and strive for it, and yer not distracted with frivolous things. But you could tend to lighten up from time to time.”

Starburst let out a small laugh, “Ha, ha, ha, that was so funny I forgot to laugh.”

Del chuckled a bit, not bothering to hide his mirth. Eventually Starburst joined in as well. This was one of the things she liked when around Del, he was honest, like almost every member of the Apple family, but he didn’t hold back with her. It felt natural, and Starburst, she liked it…maybe even liked him.

“Hey…Del…?”

“Yeah?”

“Hypothetically speaking…If…If I was, a little older, and you were still you and I was still me…Would…Would you have considered possibly –”

“Hey we’re here.”

“What?”

Starburst took notice of her surroundings; apparently the two of them had somehow made it all the way to Sweet Apple Acres without her noticing, the afternoon sun was now starting to set on the horizon and give way to the night, and now she was standing at the front of the barn doors. Star looked up to the tan earth pony stallion in wonder. “Del, why’re we here?”

“There’s somethin’ inside that Ah think you’ll like.”

Del pushed open the door. It was dark inside, she could barely see anything. Starburst felt Del give her a slight shove inside, when she turned to look at him she nearly lost it. The sun was setting right behind him, enhancing his features, and making him look unnaturally handsome. Star’s heart thumped in her ribcage. Why had he brought her, it wasn’t like this was first time she had been to the Apple family barn, but this was the first time she had been there, alone, in the dark, with Del.

He’s…He’s not thinking what I think he’s thinking about doing…? B-B-But I…and he’s…! He could get in trouble! Wait, am I seriously considering letting him do… that!?

Del then trotted inside and started to close the barn door. The light dimming considerably as he did so.

C-Calm down Star…This…I don’t know…Do I really want him to!? Do I like him that much to…to…?

Starburst was getting jittery; it’s not as if she hadn’t ever considered something like this, but that was way, way into the future, like, halfway into her time in the Royal Guard far! But it wasn’t like she was thinking of Del whenever those thoughts popped up! He just happened to pop into her head! It didn’t mean anything, she even thought Prism was cute, she still did, but he was too damn arrogant and annoying for her to even consider as a coltfriend. Any other thought was silenced when the barn door fully closed behind her.

“Are ya ready Star?”

“…I…I…just, just be ge –”

Suddenly the room was filled with light and almost a dozen, plus, ponies jumped out and yelled in one powerful voice.

“SURPRISE!!!”

Starburst’s eye twitched, her wings fully flared, and at that moment, she tipped to the side and fell to the floor.


Three Minutes Later…

“You are such a jerk!”

“Sorry, Star. It was supposed to be a surprise,” Del apologized.

Apparently, Cotton Candy and Anthea had organized a surprise birthday party for Starburst. From what they were able to gather, thanks to all the mess with the war, Star’s birthday party had taken a back seat. In truth, during that time, she didn’t really care that they didn’t have a party, there were more important things to worry about, and there still were. But, like her mother, Candy didn’t want such an important day be overlooked because of a war.

Somehow, the unicorn and earth pony mares had orchestrated this entire thing in secret. They wanted to do something special for Starburst to cheer her up, and this was the result. Almost everypony was there, Prism, Claire, T, Annie, Candy, Icy Storm, Candy’s sisters, Cloudy Skies and Sugar Rush, and Red June. Her Aunts Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy, Cheerilee, and Rarity, along with her Uncles, Spike, Soarin’, Big Macintosh, and Pokey Pierce were there as well.

After getting over the initial shock of the party and the thoughts that were running through her head beforehand, the party went into full swing. Music blaring out the barn, dancing, games, and of course, considering that it’s Star, there was tons of food. Some more time passed and more ponies joined in the party. Sweetie Belle, Button Mash, and their daughter Pixel Bit, Scootaloo, Rumble, and their child Echo, and lastly, Apple Bloom, Pip, and little Api.

The whole barn was one giant party, and Starburst was actually enjoying herself. It had been a long time since she had any kind of fun, or party thrown by Pinkie Pie and Cotton Candy. But right now, she was chewing out Del.

“You led me all the way here, and made get the wrong idea of what was going on. To reiterate: you are such a jerk!”

Del was nervously scratching the back of his head, trying to figure out where he messed up, “Well…What did you think was goin’ to happen?”

Starburst’s face went red, “Nothing, nothing at all! You’re still a jerk though…”

Del really didn’t want Star mad at him, even if he didn’t know why she was. So he went off to the food table and came back with a peace offering. The young mare’s nostrils flared as the aroma hit her immediately. She looked to Del and saw the stallion holding a large slice of watermelon.

“Um…Uh…Okay, you’re not jerk, so gimmie!”

In a rush of orange, Star grabbed the watermelon out of Del’s hooves and greedily ate the delicious treat, having been a long time since she had watermelon. Satisfied that all had been forgiven, at least he hoped, Del went back to talking and with the others and keeping Starburst company. After a while had past, there was a knock on the barn door.

“Who could that be, you guys pretty much invited everypony here Candy,” said Star.

“Oh not everypony, not yet,” she said with a grin.

Candy rushed to the front door, with Pinkie right behind her. The two earth ponies peeked outside and then turned to each other to nod in confirmation. They then opened barn doors and revealed the surprise guests to Star’s, belated, birthday party. Standing in the doorway was none other than Twilight, Flash Sentry, and Night Light Jr., Starburst’s family. The young pegasus mare put her watermelon slice down on the table nearest her and walked slowly towards them. There was silence in the room, except for the toned down party music.

The High Prince and Princess and young Prince walked towards Star as well, the crowd parting as they did so. There was a bit of tension in the room, many knew why. Twilight’s friends watched with trepidation as the family made their way to the center of the room. They knew Twilight in particular had been missing her daughter, but most likely feared what Star would say or do considering that they didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms.

On the opposite side, Starburst’s friends watched with an equal amount of worry. Star’s state of mind hadn’t been easy to figure out during the past two months of punishment, they were afraid that calling them here may’ve been too soon for her, but as Candy and Annie had made it clear to the rest, Star needed to see them, if for nothing else than to say whatever it is she needed to at least begin to forgive, if she could.

After what felt like an eternity of walking, the four ponies met at the center of the room. Flash Sentry smiled at his daughter, Twilight’s smile was wearier, and Nighty was just happy to see his big sister again. Starburst, for her part, was a mixture of emotions. Happy because her family was here, sadness because she remembered that day vividly when they banned her from joining the RG, and anger because they did so, dashing her dreams and aspirations into tiny pieces, but also thanks, since, in a weird way, it was due to them sending her to Ponyville that Star was able to further her abilities in the use of the power ring.

“Hey Star,” spoke Twilight, breaking the silence.

“Hey…Mom, Dad, Nighty,” she responded.

“Been awhile, huh,” said Flash.

“Y-Yeah, almost two months…”

This was painfully awkward to watch, and many just wanted them to just say –!

“I-I’m sorry…”

All eyes shifted to Starburst.

“I’m sorry,” Star then looked to the crowd around them, “to all of you. Sorry for doing such a stupid thing, sorry for worrying you all…What I did…there’s no excuse…I was just so caught up in wanting to help Equestria that…I lost sight of what my actions brought to everypony here, my friends and family. I…I know I don’t deserve it, but, I hope that you all can forgive me…”

Starburst then hung her head in shame, her ears flat against her skull, and eyes closed as she awaited what was to come. Many in the room were taken aback; they certainly weren’t expecting that of all things. Because of the suddenness, not many knew what to say, the collective did forgive her, knowing that her dreams were pretty much destroyed was more than enough punishment without adding scorn from family and friends to it.

Twilight separated herself from her husband and son, carefully walking towards her daughter. Star opened her eyes for a bit and noticed the lavender colored hooves of her mother before her. With a heavy sigh she lifted her head to meet her mother’s gaze, but, instead of a scolding stare, or an ashamed look, there were tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry too…Star,” said Twilight in a soft tone. The alicorn then moved forward and brought her daughter into a loving embrace. “I know you can never forgive us for what we did…and we know you’re sorry, but please understand…we love you, and we just don’t want to see you hurt…That day really put it in perspective for us, so…please, please forgive us…”

Starburst was a tough mare, she didn’t cry when she was half dead back at Stalliongrad, and she didn’t cry when she was in that tight spot with Cloudsdale. But right now…within the comforting forelegs of her mother, and in front of her friends and family, she let the dam burst. Star leaned forward and cried into her mother’s chest, Twilight nuzzled the top of her head, letting some of her own tears fall as well. Flash walked over and nuzzled the side of Star’s head while draping his wing on her back. Nighty walked up to them and nuzzled Star’s right foreleg, she brought it up and allowed her little brother to come close and hug her.

Anthea and Cotton Candy were watching the display, happy to see that the family had reconciled, even the two of them were crying a little. Annie couldn’t really see it clearly, but the mixture of colors and the feeling of love that she sensed told her enough.

“This was a good idea,” whispered Candy.

“Definitely,” agreed Annie, “Do you have a tissue?”

Candy then reached off into nowhere and produced a box of tissues. Not really sure, never in fact, of how Candy did that, and honestly not really caring after all these years, Annie used her telekinesis to grab one of the tissues and dabbed her eyes, along with Candy’s.


Morning …

Starburst’s birthday was a happy one after all the crying was done, presents were given and cake was eaten, mostly by Star. And games were played all around, Nighty in particular was happy to see the youngest of the bunch, Echo, Icy, Api, and Pixel, and her mother and father were able to catch up with their friends. Star’s family stayed a couple of days after, just hanging around the library for old times’ sake. But they couldn’t stay long and had to return. Star understood, there was a war going on, and Equestria’s rulers were needed.

Now, alone, once again, and after completely closing the blinds and locking the doors, Starburst once again tried to indulge her guilty pleasure. She walked over to the center table and turned the dial on the radio, she cycled through many stations till she found one that had the right beat for her to dance to.

Star relaxed her body, rising on her hind legs and entered a ready position, finding the right moment for when the music reached a point where it felt right to move. After a few seconds, Starburst found the beat and started dancing, she glided across floor, gracefully and with little effort, swaying her forelegs to and fro, whipping her head back and to the sides, her mane snapping from the sudden change in directions. Star was getting lost in the music, in her movements. There was nothing but her and the rhythm.

Suddenly, the music crackled as static broke her concentration. “Huh?” Star walked over to the radio and hit it a couple of times, that didn’t work, she then tried to maneuver the antenna a bit, again, nothing. “Alright, that’s it! Ring, find out what’s messing with the signal.”

The power ring released a few pulse waves, scanning the air for the source of the interruption.

[Alert: Enemy communication frequency detected. All transmissions are being blocked.]

“WHAT!!? Where is it coming from!!?”

[Scanning…Scanning…Source is wide broadcast signal, originating from enemy territory “Griffon Empire”.]

As if to confirm the ring’s scans music started to play from the radio, but it wasn’t the music from earlier, this music was stronger, prouder, this was the Griffon Empire’s anthem!

{Truth and hope in our Fatherland!
And death to every foe!
Our soldiers shall not pause to rest
We vow our loyalty!

Old traditions they will abide
Arise young heroes!
Our past inspires noble deeds
All Hail Griffonia!

Immortal beacon shows the way
Step forth, seek glory!
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Griffonia!

Our Emperor stands astride this world
He’ll vanquish every foe!
His truth and justice shine so bright
All hail his brilliant light!

Never will he be overthrown
Like mountains and sea
His bloodline immortal and pure
All Hail Griffonia!

So let his wisdom guide our way
Go forth and seek glory
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Griffonia!}

Starburst couldn’t believe that the griffons had intercepted their radio airways. She turned the dial, but no matter what station she put it on the anthem was the only thing that played. Soon the singers stopped, but the music still played. It was then that Star heard the voice of the instigator of this needless war.

{My brave soldiers of the Griffon Empire, we are the superior race, it is as nature has demanded, mandated by the heavens and natural law. We seek strength, and never give in to that which stands against us.

Equestria, a land praised for its ideals of love, kindness, equality, and friendship. Ideals that supposedly make them a beacon of hope in this world, and make them equipped to think themselves superior. I am here to tell you that those are the ideals of the weak!

Inequality is not a crime, nor is it unjust, EQUALITY IS! It is natural for some to be physically stronger than others, swifter of wing, or smarter than others! Should we punish them by bringing them down to meet the mediocre levels of the masses? NO! And that is why the Griffon Empire will continue to prevail, we fight, we adapt, plunder, and crush the weak, ever evolving and embracing that which makes us stronger!

Look how easily their territory, Maretonia, has fallen! And how close their floating city nearly became ours! WEAKNESS! Pure and simple, weakness! The Equestrians shall no longer be the one atop the pedestal of this world; such weak creatures are meant to be beneath us! And as such, we shall see to it that the pony race bow before their superiors!

To those Equestrians who hear this, know that it will only be a matter of time before we invade your houses, pillage your mares and foals, your riches and your land! You shall take your place as nature had deemed, serving your betters! However, should you decide surrender you shall see that life under the Empire is one better than what you currently have! And to those who choose to stand and fight against us, you will know the cold sting of our steel, and the fury of our talons, and the power of our fangs!

With our wings we shall ride the winds of victory, with our eyes we shall see the way to our glorious day, and with our claws we shall rend our enemies and raze their castles to the ground! High Rulers of Equestria, your Day of Reckoning is fast approaching and you will know who are the true deities of this world! All hail the Griffon Empire, all hail Griffonia!!!

~\~/~

Truth and hope in our Fatherland!
And death to every foe!
Our soldiers shall not pause to rest
We vow our loyalty!

Old traditions they will abide
Arise young heroes!
Our past inspires noble deeds
All Hail Griffonia!

Immortal beacon shows the way
Step forth, seek glory!
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Griffonia!

Our Emperor stands astride this world
He’ll vanquish every foe!
His truth and justice shine so bright
All hail his brilliant light!

Never will he be overthrown
Like mountains and sea
His bloodline immortal and pure
All Hail Griffonia!

So let his wisdom guide our way
Go forth and seek glory
Hoist your swords high into the clouds
Hail Griffonia…!}

At that moment the transmission cut off and the music she was listening to had returned, but she couldn’t hear it, Star was too shocked by what she heard. The Emperor of the griffons had just made a public announcement to all of Equestria, threatening them, and even going so far as to give them the option of subjugation or death! Starburst gritted her teeth, her ring shining as a yellow aura erupted from her body.

No Emperor Stratus, believe me, your Day of Reckoning is coming! As the Fear Lantern of Equestria, I swear it!

Author's Note:

Inspiration and credit for the Griffon Empire anthem are from THIS SONG, I just changed the name from Britannia to Griffonia

To Be Continued…