• Published 12th Oct 2015
  • 8,067 Views, 1,025 Comments

A Pony Displaced: Another Path - NoLongerSober



Legend has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape. There once was a stallion who faced Nightmare Moon and was sealed away with her. Now he returns in the modern age, hoping to find a new path.

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Chapter 23

“Hey, you listening?”

“Aye,” Barrier replied without tearing his gaze from the rolling landscape, noting how the ground slowly became more barren and gave way to ice the longer they went, and how every twenty or so seconds the train seemed to hit a slight bump.

“Are you paying attention?” Daring’s gaze narrowed.

The unicorn replied with a slight hum of acknowledgement, gaze remaining on the window.

“Barrier, my mane’s on fire.”

“You look great,” Barrier replied once more without turning to face her.

Daring groaned and pressed both of her forehooves to her face. After a brief period of suffering, the pegasus perked up, a smile settling itself on her features as she reached into her saddlebag and began to fish around. After much searching, Daring was rewarded with the sight of the object of her desire: a rubber band. With a smile, she caught the band on the very edge of her hoof and drew it back to the breaking point before taking careful aim…

“Ow, son of a bitch!” Barrier winced, pinning the stinging ear to his skull as he turned to face his travelling companion. “What is wrong with you?!”

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you?! I’ve been talking for like fifteen minutes now and you’ve just been nodding occasionally.”

“Apologies,” Barrier let a throaty sigh escape him. “My mind was elsewhere. What were you saying?”

“I was asking if you knew anything about the Diamond Ray of Disappearance.”

“Only that is an artifact of the Crystal Empire.”

“Good thing one of us came prepared then.” Daring held up her worn journal. “Princess Celestia finally gave me access to a restricted section of the archives. I copied down what I could find about it.”

“And what does it say about our quarry?”

Daring opened the journal to a dog-eared page and began to read. “Myths say that the Diamond Ray of Disappearance was entrusted to the crystal ponies by a group of elders -race not disclosed- who foresaw that it would one day fall into the clutches of evil. Fearing what horrors such a weapon could cause, the Crystal Ponies hid it an ice-cavern, never to be seen again.”

“That sounds incredibly stupid.” Barrier deadpanned. “And quite useless. Its origins are meaningless to us, only its location and the abilities of it.”

Daring glared at the unicorn for a moment before she replied, “If you want to know what it can do, then don’t interrupt me!”

Barrier twirled his hoof at the mare, much to her irritation.

“It supposedly has the power to banish creatures to another dimension.”

“Do we know anything of this other dimension?”

Daring glared even harder. “Stop. Interrupting.”

The unicorn just smiled in amusement.

“Nothing’s known about the other dimension and the idea that it sends the victims to another dimension is based on what was said by the elders who gave the crystal ponies the Diamond. About the only other thing mentioned was that it would shoot out a beam whenever the box was opened.”

“And the Crystal Ponies abandoned it in a cave. Excellent.”

“In any case, all that we can say with certainty is that when you open it, the artifact fires off a beam and makes whatever the beam hits vanish. “ Daring snapped the journal shut. “So, now that I’ve told you what I know about the Diamond, why don’t you tell me what you know about the frozen north?”

“There’s little to tell,” Barrier winced as the train bounced harder than it previously had.

“Still afraid of trains?” Daring wore her trademark grin.

Barrier ignored the bait in favor of retrieving the map and unfolding it. “As I was saying, there’s little to tell. With the Empire gone, it’s just a frozen wasteland with some very unfriendly inhabitants. We’ll be avoiding most if not all of them. We’ll likely set up camp on the edge right here, alongside the train-tracks. It’s the only landmark besides the empire, and I’d rather avoid that if we can.”

Daring hopped over to Barrier’s bench, leaning against him to peer at the map.

“Though, unless it’s in one of the first two caves, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to do so.” Barrier found himself leaning into the warm mare.

“We could go around. It’d take a little more time, but-”

“I appreciate the thought Daring, but I’ll be fine. It’d take too long to try and skirt around an area as large as what the empire covered and you really don’t want to spend any more time in the cold than you have to. If you get caught out in the open at night, freezing to death is a very real possibility this far north.”

“We’ve got enough supplies for it though.” Daring pointed out, motioning to the stallion’s bulging travelpack and then to her own.

“I’ll be fine,” Barrier reassured his temporary body-pillow. “Now that the business portion of this trip is concluded, Mrs. Velvet asked me to pass along a message regarding your books.”

Daring perked up slightly, drawing her head back to meet the unicorn’s gaze; Velvet hadn’t mentioned anything to her when she was in the Sparkle Household that morning.

“She said to work on your grammar. Apparently you keep misusing ‘stallions’ and stallion’s’. She also said, I quote: “she can’t use commas for crap either”.”

Daring snorted in amusement. “Anything else my editor wanted you to pass along?”

“She mentioned something about a love scene between you and a Griffin prince that she thought would be better left out in favor of a rating.” Barrier drew his own head back to see the faint blush on Daring’s cheeks.

“Okay,” she admitted. “Yeah, that might need to be redone or cut.”

“Was it based on a real event?”

“Heh, yeah.” Daring rubbed her neck sheepishly. “What can I say? It was a party, and it’d been awhile.”

Barrier’s muzzle scrunched up and the stallion snorted. “I can’t picture a pony willingly coupling with a griffin.”

“Eh, it isn’t that bad once you get past the barbs. Not my best experience, bu-”

Barrier gagged slightly. “That’s not what I meant, Daring.”

“What else could you have meant?” The pair locked eyes briefly before realization dawned. “Ohhhhh! Right, right. Trust me, I’ve met a lot of griffins in my time. Most of them are as nice as any pony. There are a few rude ones, but they’re few and far between. I know that you had a lot of nasty griffins in your time but trust me, they’re way better now.”

“What kind of literature do you write?” Barrier asked, clearly trying to shift the subject.

“I technically write fiction, but they’re all based on my adventures. I just keep them as fiction so ponies don’t badger me. If everypony knew Daring Do was real, my trips would be a lot more troublesome.”

Barrier simply hummed his acknowledgement, unable to really argue the point.

“What about you? Ever write anything?”

A chuckle coupled with his mane tickling her neck was Daring’s only response.

“So is that a yes or a no?”

“No, I’ve never written anything. Well, nothing you’ll find published in a book. Perhaps the longest thing I’ve ever written was my report on the Gallopfreyan occupation.”

“Gallopfrey?” Daring took a moment to place the name. “Oh, the original name for Trottingham.” Daring hissed slightly at her casual delivery. “Sorry, I forgot.”

Barrier chuckled again, “It’s fine, Daring. You don’t have to treat me as if I’m made of glass. I admit I wasn’t handling my issues before but I’m working on them.”

“So…would you be willing to tell me about Gallopfrey?” The pegasus tried to draw her tone back, but the curiosity bled through regardless.

My second greatest failure. Barrier closed his eyes in thought; Daring had been a good friend, despite their disagreements. “Very well, Daring. I’ll tell you one of my experiences in Gallopfrey, but,” The screeching of the train’s brakes interrupted their conversation, drawing a smile from Barrier; couldn’t have timed it better. “It will have to wait until tonight. It appears we’ve reached our destination.”

“You planned that,” Daring didn’t bother to hide her annoyance as she turned her gaze to the window; it was frosted over and she couldn’t see out of it.

Barrier only hummed in response, nosing their cabin door open and calling out loudly to the engineer’s compartment: “We’re gone! Safe journeys, friends!”

Daring followed Barrier out of their cabin and then the train and onto the rickety wooden platform; almost immediately she began to shiver and dig around in her packs for a heating crystal; Barrier only grinned as he watched the train depart, slowly picking up speed; despite his worries of being near the empire, the whole situation felt more familiar to him than anything had in months.

***

“And…” Barrier dropped his hoof on the peg one final time, making sure it was more than secure in the ice beneath them. “done.”

“Just in time by the looks of it,” Daring turned just in time to watch the last vestiges of sunlight fade into the western horizon.

“Aye, we don’t want to be out in the open at night.” Despite the slight urgency in his voice, Barrier took several steps back to admire the tent, eyes tracing over the faux-fur that composed the lining and insulation. Hopefully it’d be as warm as the real thing. “We need to get a fire going as well.”

Daring nodded and reached into her saddlebag, pulling out a heavy bundle of hickory-wood and significantly lightening her pack before reaching over to the other side and doing the same for a second bundle. “Oh man, it feels so good to have those off of my back.” As she spoke she arched her back, eliciting a number of satisfying pops, each accompanied by a groan of relief.

“You’re the one who insisted on carrying them.” Barrier’s horn flared as the bundles stacked themselves under a corner of train platform, a short distance from the tent before his magic snipped the cables holding the wood together; within minutes the stallion had a campfire blazing less than a stone’s throw from the tent where both he and Daring sat, slightly leaning against each other to share body heat.

“So, earlier you-” a series of wolves howling interrupted the mare briefly; she waited for them to fall silent before continuing. “You said you’d tell me about Gallopfrey earlier.”

“So I did,” Barrier acknowledged and took a moment of silence to organize his thoughts. “Alright, I’ll tell you about the final time I saw Gallopfrey and the second biggest failure of my time in the guard.” Barrier’s horn flared, retrieving a pot of boiling water from the small fire, his magic making tea even as he spoke.

“It was probably about three months or so after my cadets and I returned from Butterfly Island. We’d finally managed to push the griffins assault away from Manehattan and regain some of the ground that Gallopfrey had cost us, and the princesses wanted us to try and use that momentum to retake the city. Our job was to get any ponies still alive in the city out and kill what griffins we could, Grimhilde being at the top of the list.” as Barrier continued his narrative he found the memories resurfacing…

***

Barrier winced slightly as he and five other ponies sunk knee-deep in the cold water, departing the relative warmth of their rowboats. “Alright soldiers, get the boats out of the water, quietly.” Letting a dim light flare to life on the tip of his horn, Barrier and his team quickly tugged the boats towards the tree-line, several more boats joining them, each carrying two ponies clad almost entirely in dark-brown cloaks and cloth armor. Like Barrier and his team, the new ponies quickly dragged their boats up onto the shore and into the treeline out of the sight of peering eyes; he’d have to remember to thank Princess Luna for darkening the moon for them.

“Alright, ye six.” Barrier turned to address the extras that had accompanied them, “Stay here with the boats, no fire, no noise. Anything shows up, kill it quietly.” Six nods quickly followed as Barrier’s attention shifted to five ponies he knew much better. “Alright soldiers, let’s go meet Lieutenant Star and get this over with.” Five sharp salutes went up from his team—much to Barrier’s irritation—and they were off.

***

Barrier stopped his tale to take a short sip of tea, Daring following suit.

“Sounds like everything started out smoothly,” Daring noted as she sat her cup down; Barrier snorted.

“Nothing ever goes exactly to plan,” Barrier shrugged. “That’s why they’re plans and not certainties. In hindsight, I should’ve known better. Everything was going too right. I should’ve seen it coming.”

***

“Alright soldiers…” His teammates and the newcomer, Lieutenant Star—a dark-grey pegasus with a dark purple mane and tail and a silver snake cutie-mark—huddled down around the rough map that Star had provided, detailing what he knew of the Griffin positions within Gallopfrey. “I want Braeburn and Ember to head to the holding cages,” Barrier pointed the spot out on the map, “and get those ponies out. Silver Dust, River Styx,” Barrier glanced to the earth pony and unicorn respectively, “I want you to start as many fires as you can right around here. That should draw the griffins’ attention long enough for Braeburn and Ember to get the prisoners out. Myself, Flash, and Star will go after Grimhilde and meet you back at the boats. Everybody clear on it?” A quick round of affirmatives saw the plan underway.

***

“So what went wrong?” Daring interrupted, receiving a glare from the unicorn, much to her silent delight.

“We infiltrated the city without any problems and everything was going fine until we got stabbed in the back.”

“Somepony on your team betrayed you?” Daring drew back in slight surprise.

“No, he was never on my team, unfortunately. If he had been, I’d have been a better spot to kill him myself. No, everything went fine until I went into Grimhilde’s tent…”

***

“Flash, Star, keep an eye out here. I’ll only be a moment.”

Both ponies nodded and took up position where two griffin corpses were now resting.

Damned monsters… Barrier felt his hackles rise as gaze rested on the sleeping form of Grimhilde LeGrande. From the neck down, she had a charcoal-colored coat, not entirely dissimilar of his own, save her front talons which were the more standard gold. Gripping the knife all the tighter in his magic, Barrier crept towards the hen, only now noting how large she was. Even lying down, he could see she was probably about a half-head taller than him, perhaps just above Princess Luna in height and, unlike a lot of griffins, she was pure muscle.

Good riddance. Barrier raised the dagger to strike, only for a pained grunt and crash come from where he’d left his companions. As he turned his head towards the entrance of the tent, stars exploded across his vision, the knife flying from his magical hold. Instinctively backpedaling, Barrier forced his head up just in time to see a talon flying at it. Almost in a panic, the stallion fell to the side, wincing as he felt his hide armor and side being cut through like paper.

Desperately back-peddling, Barrier felt his hindquarters crash into something. Making to turn around and confront it, he felt something close around his horn before his face went crashing into the ground, a set of talons wasting no time in slamming a magic-inhibitor to the base of his horn and locking it, causing his magical charge to be sent back into his skull, the effect leaving his head spinning wildly at the sudden shock.

“Well this was a surprise,” Grimhilde spoke with a cocky tone. “It seemeth thou wert right after all.” The hen gazed down at Barrier with a smirk as he glared up at her, blood trickling from his mouth where she had split his lip with the ground.

Drawing in a sharp breath, Barrier spat as hard as he could, the mixture of blood and spit striking Grimhilde directly in the face.

Grimhilde didn’t even bother wiping it; she just grinned a little wider, clenched her right talon and swung, driving it downward into his jaw; Barrier coughed and shook as he struggled to stay conscious.

“I had heard that one of Equestria’s finest captains would be sent to slay me, I was hoping such a foe would prove to be more of a challenge.” She picked Barrier up bodily before throwing him across the tent, the stallion’s form slamming face first into a chest. “Rise. I can see thou still hast some fight in thee, and I prefer to have my meals tenderised while they’re conscious. They should learn their place before they receive such an honour as becoming one with the perfection that is the griffin form.”

***

“Can I help you find something?” Barrier glanced flatly at Daring Do who had begun to rub her hooves through his fur as if looking for something. He actually shivered when her hoof found the three welts -reminders of that night- that were normally covered by fur.

“So what happened afterwards?” Daring’s hooves kept exploring, finding smaller, less noteworthy scars. Though they were usually hidden by fur, Barrier had no shortage.

“I got my flank handed to me. Admittedly, it was foolish to try and fight immediately after what the inhibitor did, but I didn’t have many options.”

***

Barrier shook his head in an effort to clear up his dizziness to no avail. Deciding it was probably there to stay, he backed up slightly, taking in the rest of the room as best he could; there was nothing more than a single table, a chest, and a cot. Perhaps the barest officer’s tent he’d ever seen.

“Come, I wish to be entertained,” Grimhilde’s smirk persisted.

Taking a deep breath, Barrier took an unsteady step forward, ignoring the flare of protest from his side. Gait steadying as he picked up speed, Barrier rushed Grimhilde, turning around at the last second and aiming a buck; much to his surprise the griffin reached out and snatched his hind legs before rearing up and bringing one of her own hindlegs crashing into his stomach, sending him bouncing across the room once more.

“Ah, you poor pathetic pony,” Grimhilde stalked forward with a grace afforded only to her species. “Thou wert so deluded that you thought thou couldst stand a chance against me…” She stood over the downed stallion as she spoke.

Barrier could only half-make out the speech, his ears having started ringing when he contacted the ground for the second time. With as much energy as he could muster, his forehooves shot out, Grimhilde smirking as she reared back and dropped down on both of his forehooves with practiced ease, talons closing tightly around them. “I’m stronger than thee,” Grimhilde heaved and sent the unicorn flying across the room once again, into the same chest as before, “faster,” before Barrier could even consider standing up, Grimhilde had closed the distance and bull-rushed him into the side of the chest once more, this time actually pushing him through the chest and scattering its contents. “Without your magic,” Grimhilde sneered at the bloody pony, “thou art not to me but a filling meal.”

Barrier staggered upright, leaning against one of the tent’s support-poles and glaring angrily at the grinning bird. Grimacing, he flared his magic angrily, pushing as much magic as he could, regardless of the inhibitor.

“Oh?” Grimhilde laughed as she saw the very base of his horn light up. “That’s jus-” She fell silent when a thin crack formed in the ring and the horn flared even brighter. Eyes widening, she rushed forward, claws shooting out and across the unicorn’s chest, his horn’s light dieing out almost immediately. “Now, that was impressive.” she praised as she hefted him up by his shoulders. “But I think it’s time to bring this to a close.” With the same persistent grin, Grimhilde drew her head back and slammed it forward; Barrier saw nothing but black.

***

“Hello there!” Barrier shifted away from Daring Do as she ran her hooves over his flanks.

“Oh, come on you big baby!” the pegasus teased with a jab to his flank. “Now, keep going. I want to know what happened.”

“Flash told me that over an hour had passed between his capture and my liberation, but I only remember what happened when I regained consciousness.”

***

The first sensation that Barrier felt was a burning pain in his side. With a pained cough, the unicorn opened both of his painfully swollen eyes and took in his surroundings; he was in the same tent he’d been beaten in, except now he dangled from a rope fitted to the ceiling-pole.

“Ah, thou hast awoken. Excellent.” Grimhilde sat up on her cot, drawing the unicorn’s attention; she looked surprisingly vibrant. “About time. Now, I believe I’ve had enough entertainment. Why don’t we get down to business so we can move on to the main event?” She then darkly chuckled, “Or should I say, main course?”

Barrier only grunted in response, maintaining eye contact with the larger creature.

“How were thee a-planning to get off of the island with my prisoners?” Grimhilde hefted herself from the bed and stalked over to the dangling captain.

“Magic Barrier, Captain of the Equestrian Royal Guard, two-three-eight-zero, thr-” Barrier was cut off when Grimhilde threw a clenched talon into his jaw, sending him swinging about helplessly.

“Now, now, that is not what I asked of you. How. we-”

“Magic Barrier, Captain of the Guard, two-three-” this time the stallion was cut off by a new voice.

“He won’t tell you anything like that. Thou wilt have to use somepony to make him talk. Rumors say he is very close to Sergeant Ember. Mayhaps threatening her could make him talk.”

Lieutenant Star… Barrier mentally noted, struggling uselessly in his bonds.

“When did I say you could interrupt me?” Grimhilde turned her focus from Barrier to the pony in question.

“I didn’t want thee to kill him before we got something useful out of him,” the lieutenant deadpanned, making an active effort not to tense as Grimhilde stalked over to him.

“Thou art a fool, Starscream!” She all but hissed, “What wouldst thou do if the prisoner escaped? Thou would beest useless to us, nothing more than feed, like the rest of thy race.”

“I trust that won’t happen.” The pegasus stood his ground defiantly. “‘Twould be a shame for the king to find out that thee did something so negligent, now wouldn’t it?”

Grimhilde held the pegasus’s gaze for several hard seconds before smiling. “See, why can’t more of ye ponies be like that?” Grimhilde turned back to her captive. “Why can’t more of ye show some backbone like Lieutenant Star here? Now he’s admittedly stupid, but at least he tries. He knows who is the right species to bow too.” Grimhilde shoved Barrier, setting him to swinging once more.

“Starscream, go fetch Sergeant Ember. Maybe she’ll be more cooperative.”

“Ma’am,” Starscream departed with a faint smile.

“So, how should we occupy ourselves while Lieutenant Star is away?” Grimhilde gave Barrier another light shove, sending him spinning once more.

“I know!” Grimhilde knocked a talon to the ground and grabbed Barrier’s foreleg, stopping his movement. “How about I let you ask some questions? It’s the least I can do before I honor you.”

“Honor me?” Barrier asked hesitantly, knowing he probably shouldn’t.

“Thou wilt have the great honor of being apart of my meals for the next week!” The griffin sounded almost cheery. “Becoming one with a griffin’s body is the highest honor a species as pathetic as thine can experience. It’s an honor shared with many stallions, mares, and foals here in Gallopfrey.”

Against his better judgement, Barrier asked another question; one he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know. “Why?”

“I’m a very generous griffin.” Grimhilde spread her talons wide as if she were going to hug him. “Hence my sharing this honor with as many of thy kind as I can.”

“I meant why the foals!” Barrier barked, trying to lunge forward as he did so, to no avail.

“Ah, that is a very simple one to answer. They have the best meat, to start. Young and not entirely developed, they’re very tender. Also, they’re small, which means there’s less effort involved in cleaning their bones. Besides, I’m sparing them from a prolonged existence as an inferior species. If anything, you ponies should be thanking me.”

Barrier didn’t reply, choosing instead to close his eyes and wait for an opportunity.

“It doesn’t seem like thou hast any other questions for me, so why don’t we go ahead and get started while we wait for Lieutenant Star to get back?” Grimhilde gave a single flap of her wings, bringing her face-to-face with the unicorn. With a single swipe of her talons, the stallion fell to the ground with a pained grunt as the rope suspending him was severed.

Barrier curled up into a ball of pain as the scabs that had begun to form over his ribs split open.

“So, anything thou wantest to tell me before I turn mine attentions on thy sergeant?” As Grimhilde spoke, she began to circle the unicorn like a wolf teasing his dinner.

“I’ll never talk,” Barrier managed a haggard smile up at his captor. “And neither will Ember.”

“Very well then, Magic Barrier. Thou wert an entertaining combatant and will make a very filling meal.” Grimhilde placed her talons under his shoulders and hoisted him up to face her. “I’ve decided that I don’t want to wait any longer. I’m certain anything thou knowest, we can extract from thy team.” Grimhilde’s expression was one of joy as she descended towards the unicorn’s throat, taking the time to lick his fur almost sensually, relishing the taste of his blood, even as dried as it was.

Guess this is it. Barrier found himself retreating into his thoughts even as he set his outward expression as neutral and stony. Mother, father, I’m sorry I failed to return to you. Ember, Flash… Barrier swallowed, closing his bruised eyes tightly. I don’t want to die…I’ve too many obligations to fulfill… The stallion was broken from his thoughts as Grimhilde began to nip at his throat, her wings fully erect as she drew her sick pleasure from the act. Forgive me. Barrier opened his eyes and watched limply as Grimhilde’s beak opened imposingly, slowly inching forward, drawing closer in preparation to snap shut and tear out his throat. Barrier could barely keep himself from shivering as he could only stare at her undulating uvula.

A soft popping sound interrupted the act followed by the tent flooding with smoke. Almost entirely on reflex, Barrier sucked in a breath of air as he saw something knock Grimhilde away. Move dammit! Barrier ordered his body, groaning in pain as he forced himself to stand.

“Hold on.”

Barrier felt his hooves leave the ground as he was hefted onto his savior’s back.

“The others…” Barrier managed to rasp out as the pony rushed him out of the tent.

“They’re not here, just stay conscious and hope they escaped.”

***

“Who was it that rescued you?” Daring interrupted again, laying her wing over Barrier’s back as she did so.

“Flash Sentry,” The unicorn answered with a yawn.

“So, what happened to the others?”

“We had managed to catch up with them. Flash started to tend to my wounds once we made it into the water…”

***

“Can thou holdest still Barrier?” Flash asked as he did his best to bandage the unicorn.

“I’m fine Flash, lay off me.” Barrier huffed in reply, trying to shake his nurse off.

“Barrier?” One of the few surviving prisoners in a boat adjacent to Barrier and Flash perked up. “Captain Magic Barrier?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Barrier replied tiredly, turning to face the pony that addressed him. The pony was a pegasus mare with a two-tone silver mane and a light gray coat; Barrier couldn’t quite place it but something about her seemed familiar. “Have we met before?”

“No, we’ve never met, but I’ve received letters from my son that mention thee.” The mare wore a faint smile now.

“Hopefully we can reunite thee with him, Mrs…”

“Silver Wind, and I certainly hope so after my husband…” She looked down and scuffed her hoof.

“Worry not, we should have thee safely in Canterlot by the week’s end,” he said before Flash finished wrapping him up and giving him a hard pat.

“That was too close,” he said as he gave Barrier a glare, “thou wert almost a Barrier sandwich.”

“Indeed”, he replied with a frightened gulp, “indeed...”

***

“So, how many did your squad manage to free?”

“We managed rescue a total of nine prisoners that night, out of twenty-eight that were in the cell we managed break into. The majority of them fell fighting their way out.”

“Damn… sorry to hear that… sounds like the mission was a bust for the most part.”

“Well, we did manage to kill at least thirty griffins, and there was something I was glad to see in Canterlot.”

“And what,” It was Daring’s turn to yawn, “was that?”

***

“Cadet Forge!” Barrier raised his voice, five cadets completing their laps before coming to a halt in front of their captain.

As usual, Hat Trick’s mouth fired up before his brain did. “Did Princess Celestia catch thou a-spying on her whilst she was bathing?“

Any other time and I’d volunteer thou to help the nurses wipe flanks… “I didn’t say for the rest of ye stop exercising, get back to it!” Barrier stated harshly, the cadets—with the exception of Forge- saluting before going back to their laps.

“Sir?” Forge asked cautiously, eyeing the pink bandages wrapped around the unicorn’s barrel. “Is everything good?”

“There’s somepony who wanteth to see thee. Normally, this wouldn’t be allowed until after thee completed all of thine training, but I’ve decided to make an exception.”

“Sir?” Iron Forge’s head tilted slightly in confusion.

“Mrs. Silver Wind, thou cannest come out now.” Barrier took several steps to the side revealing one of the few survivors they’d manage to spirit away from Gallopfrey.

“M-Mum…”

Barrier let a tired smile settle on his face as the two had a teary reunion and turned, departing back into the depths of the castle.

***

“And that’s all the story for tonight.” Barrier huddled a little closer to Daring Do as a cool breeze found its way past the fire and into the tent.

Daring only hummed tiredly in reply, shifting slightly to allow Barrier a little closer.

“Thank you, Daring.” Barrier smiled affectionately at the sleeping mare as his horn came to life and pulled the tent-flap shut as well as draped a thick blanket over them.

Author's Note:

So, a slightly longer chapter than usual, but I am rather pleased with how it turned out, especially given all the trouble we had writing this one. It did make me think though, and through that thinking, I have a question for you readers.

Length-wise I've always tried to stick to the 2100-2500 range {barring the original APD's early chapters} as that is what I'm able to read through comfortably in one sitting. But what about you guys? Do you prefer longer chapters or shorter? What would you think of me writing longer chapters with less frequent updates or shorter chapters with more frequent updates? Or do you think I should write longer chapters and upload more frequently? Lemme know, it may change how things are done.

And with that out of the way, I give you a picture done by the resident co-writer/editor/proofreader/slave Canadian:

A size-comparison between Magic Barrier and Grimhilde. S'a big bitch yeah?

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