• Published 13th Sep 2014
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The Seventh Element - PaisleyPerson



Thestrals are thought extinct. But what will happen when one moves to Ponyville? Disguised as an earth pony, Acrylic does her best to fit in. Can she keep the secret, or will she expose her entire race?

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Chapter 21: Valley of the Dragons

Chapter 21
Valley of the Dragons

“We’re here!” I finally sighed, taking in the familiar charred scenery and the sulfur-ish smell that went with it. The dragons always settled in the same volcanic craters. Torchwood folded his wings a few feet away from me, also drinking up the surrounding landscape. I looked around in hopes of seeing other thestrals who had come to see kin. I knew that the dragons typically visited the thestrals so they wouldn’t be seen, but I’d heard of several thestral families who made the migration as well. Unfortunately, none of them seemed to have traveled this year.

I waited for one of the dragons to pass by before shuffling closer to Torchwood. “Any sign of Flintstone?”

“Not yet,” he absentmindedly replied, still scouring the rocky terrain. “And you? Have you spotted Ignition?”

“No, but I thought I saw Sparks during the flight.”

“There!” Torchwood jabbed a hoof near the top of the cliff. I looked in his direction and noted a huge hulk of a dragon with rough gray scales. It was just the way his spines had knobbed, but it almost looked like he was covered in boulders.

“Flintstone?”

“Yes. It looks like he’s about to dive into story time, though. Perhaps I should catch him later.”

“He tells stories to the young ones?” I’d noticed a large quantity of hatchlings gathering around his area, but I hadn’t thought anything of it.

“Yes. He’s one of the oldest dragons here. He has one of the best memories, too.”

“Well, why don’t you try to catch him before he starts? Have him tell the story of how he met your family.”

“I suppose...”

“Go on! I’ll be right behind you. I just want to say hello to Sparks and Ignition first.”

“Alright, then. I’ll see you up there.” He gave me a farewell peck on the cheek before taking off. I smiled after his silhouette shrinking in the distance before turning back to the crowd of fire breathing lizards.

Ignition had yellow scales, creamy colored spines and a feminine physique. Her husband Sparks, on the other hoof, was small yet muscular and had orange scales and red accents. I looked for either color combination among the multitudes, but the constantly shifting crowds made this rather difficult. I’d almost resolved to take to the air and search when I spotted a patch of orange scales at the center of the ever shifting mass. Finding my way blocked by an endless sea of claws and tails, I decided the only way to attract his attention was to glide overhead. Upon circling around, however, I saw not Sparks but Bran, his brother, tail wrestling some blue dragon. Rather put out at this disappointment, I found a perch to overlook the crater.

While Bran was part of the family, he wasn’t exactly friendly. He and Sparks had both had an eye for Ignition, and Bran never let go of the fact that he hadn’t been the one to win over her heart. It was especially ironic since he was the bigger and stronger of the two. That also meant that he could easily give Sparks a hard time about it, though. And that he did. The two never got along.

I took one more look around from up above and still didn’t spot either of them. I eyed the still-flowing string of arriving dragons. Perhaps they hadn’t arrived yet. It would still be almost half a day until they’d all settled in. With this in mind, I flew back to the other side of the crater where we had found Flintstone. The playful hatchlings had settled in, so I assumed it was nearly time to start. I quietly tried to creep around the side to Torchwood so as to not disturb them, but I did not escape Flintstone’s watchful eye. The massive beast’s neck lolled around, displacing rolls of skin as he looked me over with old eyes.

“My, my, my. Two thestral visitors this year. Aren’t we popular?”

“Flintstone, I’d like to introduce you to Acrylic,” Torchwood stepped in.

“Got yourself a lady-friend, have you?” he chuckled. His voice was dry and the gargle of age was evident, but it was a kind voice. He turned to some of the dragons more his age grouped some distance from the hatchlings. “You hear that, boys? Torchwood’s got himself a lady-friend!” Amused gurgling erupted from the cluster, and two even waddled over to examine the visiting couple. I blushed deep red upon having so many eyes turned to us, but Torchwood was evidently used to such behavior, because he only smiled good naturedly and struck up a conversation with the old ones. The hatchlings groaned with impatience, recognizing that it was going to be a while before story time began. I somehow managed to escape from the dragons and found a seat among the youngsters.

It wasn’t really a successful escape because as soon as I got away from the old dragons, I found myself mobbed by the hatchlings. They were curious about the strange hybrid, and with nothing better to do until the older dragons dispersed, attempted to entertain themselves by investigating the visitor. I welcomed the first few with a friendly smile, but soon realized what a mistake that had been. Before I knew what was going on, I had one or two climbing on my back, claws prodding my wings, one playing with or in my mane (I couldn’t tell which) and gentle flame even licking my side.

“What is it?”

“It’s not an it, it’s a she!”

“These wings are as big as my mom’s!”

“She’s not a dragon...”

“It looks like a pony.”

“No pony has wings like these.”

“Can it breathe fire?”

“Where’d it come from?”

“It’s a SHE!”

“I wanna see!”

“Easy there!” Even though I was already laying down, I was unbalanced and tipped onto my side, sending hatchlings sprawling every which way. An eruption of laughter sounded from above, and I looked up through a tangle of claws and spines at the elder dragons looking down on us. Torchwood grinned down from the center. I responded with a smile of my own. I wasn’t entirely comfortable around older or unfamiliar dragons, but I could handle the young ones.

“It talks!”

“It’s. A. SHE!”

“What are you?”

“What’s your name?”

“Do you eat gemstones?”

“One at a time!” I laughed, shaking the last hatchling off my back. “I’m a thestral. That means I’m half pony, half dragon.”

“My dad says you can’t trust ponies,” one of them sniffed.

“My mom knows about thestrals!”

“I’ve never seen one in real life.”

“Can we keep her?”

“I wanna call her Rocky.”

“That’s a boy’s name!”

“My name is Acrylic.”

“Eh... Rocky’s better.”

“Where are you from?”

“The Everfree.”

“My mom went to the Everfree to visit a thestral!”

“Really? What’s her name?”

“Crispy.”

“Oh, I know Crispy.”

“Do you know Grit?”

“What about Buffy?”

“Charcoal?”

“Flicker?” I was so overwhelmed with names that I instinctively started tuning them all out. I couldn’t hear myself think.

“Alright, that’s enough, young ones,” Flintstone scolded. Why don’t you all settle in for a story about how I met a thestral?” Wide eyed, they all settled down instantly. I was trying to pay attention, but there were so many baby dragons snuggled in by me that I was becoming sleepy. Their warm bodies pressed by mine had a soothing effect. I was exhausted from the flight. I could fight it no longer. Slowly, I found myself nodding off to sleep.


“Hey.” I felt a nose prodding my side, and my eyes flickered to life. Torchwood was nudging me back to the real world. “Have a nice rest?” he chuckled.

“Oops,” I contently sighed. Sagging back to the ground, I looked up at the darkening sky. “It felt good, though.”

“Well, you can sleep for real once you introduce me to Ignition and Sparks. It’s getting late, and I haven’t met them yet.”

“We can look again, but I never found them the first time,” I yawned. I stood and shook the dust off my coat. Two of the hatchlings still remained, sleeping soundly. Sensing my absence, one rolled over until it found the other. Now pressed together, they settled down again. I smiled at the adorable sight.

“Are they not here yet?”

“Well, let’s see.” I took a running start off the cliff, though I was so drowsy it came out more as a trot. I spread my wings and soared over the crater. Most of the dragons were now gathered around an immense tower of gemstones for dinner, and so we checked there first. Ironically enough, we finally found Ignition among the few not fighting over gems. She was settled beneath an overhang near the top of the ridge.

“Ignition!” I exclaimed, wings whooshing as I slowed enough to land. As soon as my hooves touched the rock, I broke into a gallop to meet her.

“Acrylic? Is that you?” It took her a moment to recognize me, but when she did, her large wings stretched out to catch me in a hug. While she was one of the smaller dragons, I found it slightly amusing that my wings had filled out to nearly match the size of her’s. “You’ve grown so much since I’ve last seen you.”

“How long has it been? Five years?”

“It’s felt like ten.”

“Ignition, I’d like to introduce you to Torchwood.”

“Ma’am,” he respectfully dipped his head.

“It’s good to meet you, Torchwood. I don’t recognize you from Blade Wing. Are you from another sector?”

“Midnight Armor Sector Two,” he affirmed.

“Ah, that explains it. I must admit, I’ve never had the opportunity to make my way over there. Not with young ones, anyway. Garble can take care of himself, but Blaze?”

“Oh, Ignition! Congratulations!”

“Thank you,” she smiled.

“Torchwood! Head’s up!” We looked just in time to see a large blue dragon dive in and scoop him up. I laughed as he was dragged away to a gathering on the opposite ridge. I waved with a sly grin, watching him try and worm his way out of Smite’s grasp.

“Where is the little guy?”

“Down with his brother. You see them down there?” I looked where her claw pointed, and found the red scaled teenage dragon I knew to be her son. He’d hit his teenage years by now. His snout had become unnaturally rounded, and flimsy looking orange fins ran down to the nape of his neck. He’d inherited his mother’s pale yellow underbelly and wing membrane, though it’d become ragged and torn. As I watched, I realized that he’d inherited his uncle’s bold and unpleasant personality; he bashed his way through the crowd to get at the food, and even seemed to lead his own gang of dragons. “Blaze is the little orange one,” she purred. Garble was currently blocking my view, but when he finally moved, I noticed a little guy standing in his the shadow of his big brother. This one looked to be about Spike’s age, though he was a little pudgier. He had vibrant yellow-orange scales and bright red spines. They were pointier than Spike’s, and almost looked wind blown by the way they curved back. Like his brother, they only reached as far as the back of his head. He had long ears tipped by three points, but formed in such a way they resembled flames. His solid orange wings hadn’t yet filled out, and didn’t look large enough to lift his soft frame. His tail was topped with a spade like Spike’s, but it was wavy and reached a sharper point. His belly was light yellow, but it was unusually plated with thick, sturdy plates which reached a point at the tip. He’d inherited his mother’s bright yellow eyes.

“Ignition, he’s beautiful!”

“I worry about him,” she sighed. “Even his brother rejects him.”

“What does Sparks have to say about that?” Her eyes looked pained, so she closed them. My eyes widened. “Ignition... I- I’m so sorry! How? When?”

“A landslide, so they say,” she growled. “But Bran was the one to find him.”

“You don’t think...”

“I do think, but they say I’ve gone crazy with grief if I even begin to suggest it.”

“I knew the two were sore, but I didn’t think it was that bad.”

“Nor did I.”

“I just... don’t believe it. I’m... so sorry!” Tears pricked my own eyes, and I bit my lip. Her tail curled around me in understanding, and her eyes dampened. I leaned in against her as we silently watched the world below.

“He looks a lot like his father, doesn’t he?” Her eyes sparkled as she watched her youngest son chase after the teenaged group, trying to fit in. “Acts like him, too. Those boys are all I have left. I wish I could take them far away from these... monsters.” Her gaze turned cold when Bran came into view.

“So why don’t you?”

“Garble fits in here. I can’t just take that away from him. And Blaze... like it or not, he needs to learn to fend for himself. If I take him away and shelter him all his life, I’m afraid he’ll become... domesticated.”

“There’s nothing wrong with domesticated. I know a young dragon who lives in Ponyville and has been raised by the unicorn Twilight Sparkle. He may not be the fiercest dragon you’ve ever met, but he’s by far the kindest.”

“Is that so?” Ignition raised an eyebrow.

“Possibly the most noble, too.” I knew Ignition didn’t care about the things most dragons did, like strength, fearlessness and what I viewed as an obnoxiously bossy and commanding persona. They called it ‘leadership.’ If Ignition valued those qualities in a dragon, she definitely would have chosen Bran over Sparks. Rather, she valued bravery, courage, and essentially all the good qualities that made up that one, whether it be pony or dragon.

“Well then... perhaps it wouldn’t be the worst idea.” My gargling stomach broke the silence. I let out an embarrassed chuckle.

“I guess that’s my cue. Have you eaten, Ignition?”

“No, but that’s alright. Garble said he would bring me something.” I looked down at the rough teen as he competed with his buddies, having forgotten about all else.

“It looks like he’s busy. Come on, why don’t we go together?”

“I don’t know...”

“What do you feel like? Sapphires or diamonds? I haven’t been able to find any good topaz in a while, myself.” Without waiting for a response, I unfurled my wings and glided down to ground level where the ravenous dragons were still eating. I waited at the base of the cliff when I realized she wasn’t right behind me as I’d thought. Almost reluctantly, she stood and shakily glided after me. Somehow, she looked frail out in the light. I thought nothing of it as we searched for an accessible opening to the gemstone mound. I was also too thick to notice the dirty glares we received.

I finally cut in as one of the dragons started retreating. Ignition slunk low to the ground after me, keeping careful watch of the other dining lizards. When the silver-scaled hulk beside me finally noticed her approaching the food store, he whipped around and snarled in her face. The red one on my right also turned on her. I didn’t know what was going on.

“Get out of here, Ignition!” the silver one hissed.

“There’s no place in the flock for defects like you,” the red one agreed.

“Then what are you doing here, brute?” I snapped, jumping between them. In my experience, dragons wouldn’t respond to anything less than an insult, though I always felt odd when I hid behind an angry mask.

“The defect’s a traitor, too!” Silver snarled.

“This is no place for a pony,” a green one joined in.

“I just so happen to be a thestral,” I snapped.

“Oh, how scary!” By this time, a sizeable crowd had gathered around us, forming a tight ring. I eyed Garble and his gang off to the side. The red teenager was at the front of the ring, giving me a clear view of his face. I was almost surprised at what I found, though I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t see the bully of a gang leader that had stood before us a few moments ago. Fear was painted on his face. He was afraid of these dragons; afraid for his mother. Blaze appeared at his side.

“MOM!” he cried, trying to make a break for her. Garble held him back. My attention was drawn away from the children as the three dragons began to circle us. Ignition hunkered low, and I pressed against her, standing my ground. I felt rage beginning to bubble up inside. Rage, anger, fury, hatred. I wanted revenge.

A snarl as fierce as any dragon’s bubbled up from my throat. My piercing gaze was as sharp as a blade, and the white flames that exploded from my hooves were so forceful that my mane and tail seemed to flow like Luna’s. The dragons were taken by surprise, giving me time to direct scalding fire careening in their direction. The whistle of wings alerted me of an aerial attack, so I turned my attention to the sky. Rather, it was reinforcements. Torchwood smashed into the ground beside me, sending green and orange fire melding with mine. The two dragons he’d previously been conversing with also seemed ready to support us. While small, the teenage dragon gang wanted in on the action. Garble was the last one to come out, but ended up at the front of his team. Luckily, Blaze was still being held back where it was safe. The three opposing dragons were seriously outnumbered, and turned to the crowd in search of supporters. They were all too busy chanting, “Fight, fight, fight!” to be bothered with actually joining in. With an angry shriek of defeat, the three retreated into the multitudes. I wasn’t going to let them go that easily. I tried to chase after them, but deafening victory cries from all around knocked me back to my senses. Literally. The incredible volume caused me to stumble, but by the time I recovered, all thoughts of revenge had dissipated.

I found myself being lifted up onto the shoulders of a tubby brown teenaged dragon and a tall, lanky purple dragon of the same age. The teens scuttled back up the cliff face to Ignition’s previous nesting spot, the dragoness herself being ushered along in a protective bubble of young teens. Torchwood’s friends also chaperoned us.

“That was amazing!”

“Those guys took off like a bunch of little hatchlings!”

“I’ve never seen anyone stand up to Sear like that; especially not a pony!”

“Yeah. You’re not too bad, for an equine,” Garble rubbed his chin in thought.

“Would someone like to explain what just happened?” I dug my hooves into the dust, jaw set as I glared at the dragons.

“You just put Sear, Ember and Inferno to shame!” one of the youngsters triumphantly roared. His buddies crowded around and continued to cheer.

“But why? What happened? Why did they all turn on you?” I marched up, eyes ablaze. “Defect? Traitor? What does it mean? Someone explain!” Ignition had been shrinking away from my fuming form back behind Garble’s group up to this point. Now she stood tall, weak and frail, but still proud.

“Because I’m sick.” The whole group hushed. By cold eyes softened as I looked up shamefaced at my old friend. Her thin frame stood out more than ever. Her eyes were dark, ringed with exhaustion. Her bright yellow scales appeared dull, and a few were even missing. I hadn’t recognized how ill she looked. “There is no place amongst the flock for the sick and weak. You know that. And since Sparks died...” Garble’s face fell, but he didn’t let his friends see. “They think I’ve gone mad with grief. I’m no longer welcome here. I stay for the children’s sake, but Blaze is nearly old enough to fend for himself. Then I’ll have to leave.”

“Mom...” Garble was horrified, letting me know that he hadn’t been alerted to this fact.

“Mommy! Don’t go!” Blaze had been forgotten in all the excitement, and was left to climb the steep slope by himself. Now he’d finished pulling himself up over the edge, and ran to cling to his mother’s leg. She rested her head on his shoulders in consolation. I could have kicked myself, I felt so ashamed.

“Maybe we should go,” one of the gang whispered to another.

“Yeah... uh... see you tomorrow, Garble.”

“Yeah, whatever.” The put out dragon shuffled deeper into the overhang and settled into what seemed to be a familiar nook. It was well worn, and conformed to his body almost perfectly. He shut his eyes, pretending to go to sleep.

“I’m sorry, Ignition.” I slumped to the ground, making no move to catch myself. Torchwood wrapped a wing around my crushed figure, joining me in the dirt. “I didn’t mean a word of it. I was just... scared.”

“Scared?” she nudged Blaze along with her as she curled around us.

“I don’t like being angry, and facing those three dragons made me angrier than I’ve ever been. It scared me, and I started yelling. I’m sorry. Please, can you forgive me?” I buried my face in the dust, mane pressing into her hide in repentance.

“Of course I do, Acrylic,” she purred, tucking us closer. “I’ve known you and your family for half a century. Thestrals are prone to bursts of anger. I know that wasn’t the Acrylic I know. And you, sir.” She moved onto Torchwood, who gazed back into her wizened eyes. “Thank you.”

“It was only right,” he simply stated. Ignition drew the three of us ever closer, Blaze included. At first, the hatchling’s breath came in short, panicky breaths upon being pushed so closed to the monster he thought was taking his mother away from him, but when I nuzzled back, he relaxed.

“You too, Garble.”

“Me? Me too what?”

“Get over here.”

“For a group hug? No thanks.”

“Oh, come on now, my big boy. No one will see.” To demonstrate, Ignition turned until her back was facing the crowd. We must have looked very inviting, because Garble begrudgingly got up and took part. He was only there for a moment, but it was still something. He soon returned to his nook, and Torchwood had a spot saved with Flintstone, but I fell asleep then and there with Ignition and Blaze.


The second day there was much less eventful. I got up early and scooped up as many gems as I could carry before the multitudes swarmed. Almost immediately after breakfast, Blaze left to join the other hatchlings for Flintstone’s story telling. Garble didn’t even bother stopping to eat. Rather, he took off to join his pals for their morning meal. Torchwood ate with Flintstone and the elders, but stopped by Ignition’s overhang to pick me up. There were a few friends we hadn’t gotten to get with hanging around the lava pits. They ended up excluding me from the conversation, but I hadn’t had a lava bath in years, so I wasn’t complaining. It felt good to soak.

It was approaching midday, but I didn’t want to get up. The sun combined with the thick warmth of the lava pool felt incredible against my hide. Then, all of a sudden...

“Whoo!” I opened my eyes just in time to see five silhouetted forms crashing through the air, down to the pool next to me. Luckily, I was on the far end, but Torchwood and his friends got splashed. I was laughing until the bulky brown teenager careened down into the pit.

“CANNON BALL!” His splash was so huge that even I was drenched. That was enough to earn laughter from Torchwood and his friends.

“What’s wrong, Spike? You afraid the lava will hurt your soft pony hide?”

“Huh?” I looked around until my eyes settled on Spike, still way up above us on the cliff they’d used as a diving board. I grinned up at him, but didn’t have time to attract his attention before he was diving after Garble’s gang. While he’d maintained the diving poise, he faltered at the last second, ending up splatting on the lava’s surface in a harsh belly flop.

“Ooh,” everyone in sight groaned. I was among those at first, but I was soon scrambling to switch pools and make sure he was okay.

“Spike?”

“Ugh... was I that bad?”

“No, dude. That was awesome! No pony could live through a belly flop like that!”

“I could.”

“Acrylic!” Spike jumped out of the pool to greet me.

“You know each other?”

“Sure I do. He’s one of my best friends! You putting’ him through that initiation ritual of yours?”

“How’d you know about that?”

“I’ve known you since you were this high, Garble, even if you don’t remember me. Plus, your mother tells me everything.” I let my hoof splash back into the lava as his buddies laughed.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now if you’ll excuse us, we haven’t officially dubbed Spike yet.” Before I could object, he was yanked away. He waved from the confines of Garble’s arms. I chuckled. I still couldn’t believe Twilight would have let him come alone. My smile faded. Was he really alone? I sank deeper into the lava pit, and retracted my wings. Then I hastily jumped out. I needed to secure the perimeter and make sure there weren’t any ponies on the premises. I also trotted over to Torchwood and alerted him of my fears. He wasn’t worried, but I made him promise to duck under the lava if he spotted anything suspicious.

I was just about to climb the rocky cliff face by hoof when somepony gripped my waist and yanked me to the side. I thudded to the ground on my back with little more than a ‘thunk,’ but I blinked back into the face of a rather cross Rainbow Dash.

“WHAT are you DOING here?” she demanded.

“Me? What about you?”

“Why do you think? We followed Spike.”

“We?”

“Rarity and Twilight are here, too.”

“Did they see anything?” I panicked.

“No, but they heard Spike calling for you. I only just managed to convince them that he said ‘Skillet’ instead of ‘Acrylic.’”

“Skillet?”

“What? It sounded like a dragon name. You try coming up with something that rhymes with ‘Acrylic’ on the spot like that!”

“Okay, okay, fair enough.”

“You’ve got to get out of here! I can only cover you for so long.”

“I... can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve got good friends here that I haven’t seen in years! I can’t just take off like that.” I didn’t mention Torchwood.

“Well, you better wrap it up quick!”

“You think you can keep them away from the lava pools?”

“I guess...”

“Okay. I’ll just hang out there until you leave.”

“We’re here as long as Spike is. That might be a while.”

“Well... think of something! Just keep them away!”

“I’ll do my best... just avoid the dragon they all think is Crackle’s cousin.”

“Let me guess. Rarity’s costume?”

“It’s a pretty bad one, if you ask me, but we’ve passed so far.”

“Rainbow, where’d you go?” Twilight hissed.

“Gotta go!”

She whooshed away, and I waited until she’d attracted their attention before making a run for the lava pools. I headed straight for Torchwood’s group, broke through their circle and tackled him head-on. I pulled him under just before the ponies walked by in their costume. Torchwood didn’t understand what was going on, and irritably scrabbled back for the surface. I desperately yanked on his wings. When he finally noticed that mine were already gone, he seemed to realize what had happened, and stopped fighting me. The lava muffled the noises of crunching bones, but I waited until the last ‘pop’ before surfacing. I just let my eyes stick out above the broiling pool.

“They are here, then?” Torchwood asked in a hushed voice.

“Yep. There,” I gestured to Rarity’s costume off in the distance.

“We’ve got to get out of here.”

“I know. Rainbow promised to keep them away from the lava pools. Don’t worry, she doesn’t know about you.”

“We can stick to the west side; wind our way up those rocks. We’ll come scott free once we hit the ridge.”

“Leaving so soon?” Torchwood’s buddies looked down on us.

“We... can’t be seen.”

“A smuggling job? Say no more.” Before we could protest, we were both picked up and carried off, disguised under their large wings. I never did get to say goodbye to Ignition.


“That was too close,” Torchwood shouted over the wind whistling in our ears as we flew over the woods.

“I know,” I called back, looking over my shoulder for the fiftieth time. I wasn’t so much afraid of being followed as just thinking back to Ignition. “I just we’d been able to say goodbye.”

“Oh, Haze and Flare promised to tell them what happened.”

“I know. It’s just not the same.”

“I know.” He sympathetically brushed his wing tip against mine. “But it’s better than being discovered.”

“Is it?” I looked at the shades of green rush beneath my hooves. “I’m not sure anymore.”

“How can you say that?”

“I can’t bear lying to them, Torchwood. I wonder, did they come too close to finding us or not close enough?”

“Acrylic, you know why we have to stay extinct.”

“I know why, but this has been going on far too long. We say that we don’t hold anything against the ponies, that we’ve forgiven them. Isn’t that why we ventured out while they all stayed behind? But we can’t truly forgive them unless we’re completely honest.”

“You’ve already been honest with three of your friends.”

“All of which have been accepting and only one of which was a pony.” He fell silent. “I don’t know how much longer I can take it, Torchwood.”

“Maybe what we need is to spend some more time around our own kind.”

“Our own kind? Ponies are our own kind! We’ve separated ourselves for so long we’ve forgotten that! We were meant to live together, Torchwood!”

“But that’s just not the way things are.”

“Maybe it’s time for things to change.” I spotted the roof of Art Life, and folded my wings into a dive. Torchwood followed, landing not far from me. The familiar but still sickening crackle of bones sounded, and I followed suit.

“Hang in there,” was all he could manage. The rest he expressed through a warm nuzzle. Then he was gone. I was left all alone. Again.