• Published 16th Mar 2016
  • 1,769 Views, 178 Comments

Daring Do and the Sword of Excalibur - Silver Malice



When Scootaloo collapses, screaming about a magic sword, evil gryphons, and a strange golden mare with grey mane, it’s up to Rainbow Dash and her hero Daring Do to keep Scootaloo from the clutches of an evil fanatic in search of the sword Excalibur

  • ...
11
 178
 1,769

Daring Do’s Tale: Part 1-Legend of the Sword

Author's Note:

Daring's tail begins...

Enjoy everyone and let me know what you think.

Daring Do was many things. An adventurer. An archaeologist. An author. But one thing she was not was a patient scholar, a fact that had played havoc with at least two of her three official professions. It was also playing havoc with the translation she was attempting of the ancient historical tome before her, detailing the ancient history of pre-Equestrian society. Unfortunately, it was all written in the ancient dialect of the old gryphon empire, said ancient language of the avian species having been long forgotten, even by said species. The few remaining books and records were considered no less lost and forgotten, while the surviving ancient tomes of history and magic were scattered or abandoned in decaying temples or remote libraries. Not even the expansive library and private collections of Canterlot held such treasures and such a wealth of information as that which was lost and tucked away in so many obscure places. Hence, Daring had been forced to leave the friendly borders of Equestria to find the knowledge she sought.

She had studied long and hard on ancient griffon lore and what she could find on pre-Equestrian history. Though the libraries of Canterlot were by no means extensive on the matter, she had managed to find scattered pieces and references about the relevant ancient gryphon tomes. From there, she had discovered references to something beyond imagining, greater than the idol of Boreas, greater than even the Griffon's Goblet. Something that could affect the entire world. That had piqued her natural adventurer's interest while also practically making her salivate with archaeological desire, and of course, all of this would make for a pretty awesome book, completing her writer's obsession. This alone had been enough for her to justify, to herself, the return to the place she hated most. The one place she could not stand. That one place that no matter how many times Daring told herself she wouldn’t end up back there, she always did, for one reason or another.

“Griffonstone. I hate going to Griffonstone.” The fallen capital of the once great gryphon empire was not Daring’s favorite destination. It wasn’t even on one of her top ten vacation spots. But, if what she had found was correct, it appeared that the gryphon empire was the only place she would find the sources she was looking for.

Daring’s exploits in Griffonstone had earned her quite the reputation. To the ponies of Equestria, that reputation was received mostly from the written exploits she had recounted in her novels, which, though full of fiction to the average pony reader, were all based on true, first-hoof accounts. Of that, she could solemnly swear. To the gryphon race on the other hoof, her exploits were very much real, themselves divided on how they saw her. To the social and reasonable gryphons, she was considered more of a nuisance and pest. To the warrior class griffon's, however, she had garnered far more infamy than normal, positive fame. The experiences she had in Griffonstone had created much enmity between her and the griffons. To them, she was not an author or literary figure, she was a grave robber, a thief, and an enemy of the state… even if the state of the state in question was not so great, Griffonstone having fallen into great ruin long ago. Natural order had broken down to the point that she often had to face a dozen different warring factions, all vying for her head, during her reluctant visits.

But, she was willing to risk such dangers and complications to find the answers to the questions she currently sought, for the item she had discovered in bits and pieces over several years had started to plague her thoughts. Ever since first reading about it on ancient glyphs from a ruined pony temple, she had been obsessed over what it truly was. It was from this obsession that she had embarked on a dedicated journey to find the answers. During the search, she had discovered that ponies and gryphon’s had once lived side by side. From there, she had discovered old texts that spoke of the history of Equestria before it had been Equestria. Of times before Celestia and Luna. Times that predated the oldest pony knowledge.

“The Sanctuary is my last hope for this,” she had stated to herself, assuring her mind that should she not find the answers she sought at the library and that she would not give up this personal quest. She had already learned so much from her exploration of ancient knowledge and history, having gained an insight few ponies ever did of the world before Equestria. It was far too late to give up the chase now.

Before Equestria had been formed, the land had been dark and cold. Ponies had yet to branch off into their three distinct races yet: earth, pegasus, unicorn. There were also no alicorns present, nor gryphons, or most of the species that would later come to inhabit the land. In this time of darkness, one light had shone brighter than any other: Allomane, the long light. His kindness and strength was matched only by his natural ability to use magic. Allomane was the first ascended, that is, the first pony to be granted the wings and horn of an alicorn, and became Allomane: The Prince of Life. Under his leadership, the three pony races grew and blossomed forth, but he not stop at them. Oh no. As the Prince of Life, Allomane’s tutelage went beyond the ponies of his domain, and under his watchful gaze arose the three other ancient, great, prosperous, and far ranging races and empires: the Gryphons, the Changelings, and the Diamond Dogs.

Unfortunately, once the Prince of Life had fallen, the three pony races divided among themselves due to their irreconcilable differences to eventually be reunited under the banner of Equestria by their new rulers Celestia and Luna, the second ascendants. The other races and their civilization fared even worse, the gryphon empire falling into far bloodier turmoil and infighting, the changelings going into ruin and despair, exiled to the badlands and outskirts of civilization, and the diamond dogs driven underground and scattered.

The most interesting discovery to her, though, was a reference to some sort of device, an ancient artifact made by all four races but wielded solely by the gryphons. A device that had the power to alter the very world. However, the runes and glyphs describing the exact nature of the object were written in ancient gryphonian, a combination of symbols and words, a dead language long since lost. The one hope she had had been the legendary Tome of Translation, a sacred text designed to bridge the gap between pony and gryphon by translating between the two races’ languages as well as serving as thesaurus and occasional dictionary.

The tome, of course, could only be found in the remote and long forgotten Griffonstone Sanctuary, an ancient repository of ancient gryphon knowledge whose vast, secretive collection lay unused and unread. Daring had traveled as fast as she was able to get there. Slipping past the gryphon-pony border had been easy, passing over the crumpled wreck of Griffonstone even more so. Then it had been a short but hard flight over the empty fields and regions until she had hit the cold zone. There she had found the library, the Sanctuary.

It had been built into the side of a single, lonely mountain located deep within gryphon territory. To be more specific, said lonely mountain lay at the center of a hilly area rightfully dubbed the Cold Hills, for it was surrounded by a wide array of frozen hills that comprised a winter wonderland so cold, nearly no one lived there. The ancient gryphons who had built the temple had wanted to ensure only the most dedicated could access its numerous, esoteric secrets. Well... that and also because it kept away most potential neighbors.

Huddled in the corner of the cold and drafty library, Daring had made sure to wrap herself in several warm layers of winter clothing. The numerous scarves and wool jumpers she had packed on kept her bundled and toasty. She had also started a small makeshift fire out of the ancient crumbled chairs and desks scattered about the library, the wood being surprisingly flammable for being in such cold surroundings. In addition to heat, Daring was also relying on the firelight to give her light to read the ancient gryphon lore by.

The particular word she was struggling with was the key to understanding the nature of the device in question. However, the translation was proving difficult, as the gryphon language had multiple meanings attributed to singular phrases. Context and formal usage was also not emphasized in the tome’s translation.

“Swart… Store… Something with an s,” she muttered to herself trying to ignore the steam of her breath dampening the page. Her eyes scanned the glyphs and text, trying to sound out the right context of the word. She decided to read, out loud, the rest of the verses she had managed to transcribe already.

"Pony energy to make it sing
Gryphon magic to craft its core
Changeling venom to give its sting
Diamond Metal to shape its form
Ancient Metal and crystal wrought
Hilt of steel and handle gold
Pommel key lost and sought
Dragon’s fire to make it whole"

Now came the section she had been studying while freezing in this place for over an hour, the small fire not enough to keep the room fully heated or the chill away from her bones. Even wrapped as she was, she could feel the cold upon her like a vice. Not allowing the freezing cold to distract her from her task, she continued on, her voice slightly hindered by the crisp breeze along her lungs.

"Power over both land and sky
Power over all big and small
Power to rule and to prye
Power over all that walks, or crawls
For if in the claws of evil should it fall
This powerful and mighty ward
No force of arms can contend
Against the master s-----"

The last word escaped her, but she was narrowing it down as she sat there, craning her neck to catch as much heat from the fire as she could. Daring suddenly had a thought. Looking sideways at the book, she seemed to recognize one of the glyphs. The last time she had seen these particular glyphs, she had been on her back, looking at it upside down, for seeing it from the right side up had confused her. Now, seeing it from sideways, she recognized that the griffon hieroglyph for the word device was also similar to the one used for weapons. She herself was quite familiar with gryphon weapons, having ducked her fair share in her lifetime. The possible weapons that met the criteria jumbled in her mind before she landed on what she believed was the right meaning.

“Sword,” she finished for the end of the verse.

So the device in question was a sword. Very interesting. A sword comprised of the essence and materials of several of the great races, with power over the world. Daring didn't like the sound of that. She liked the sound of “no army can contend,” even less. Whatever this sword was, it was dangerous. Plus, if she was able to track it down, then Celestia knew who else could get their grips upon it.

If this was to fall into Ahuizotl’s claws, the world would know its end for sure. That was the worse case-scenario. The second was if Dr. Caballeron got his hooves on it and sold it to the highest bidder. The third was if it was to fall under the appendages of any of the other despots and psychos hidden in the shadows of Equestria and the rest of the world. It was up to her, she realized, to prevent that from ever happening. So, Daring declared it her self imposed duty to either recover the sword to place it under Equestrian protection, or to destroy it, and ensure its power never could threaten the world again.

But how to find the sword? Where would she look for it? How would she retrieve it? These questions she had been asking herself were suddenly answered as she read a bit farther into the tome. The translation was a bit jagged, but clear enough for her to make out.

“Only the key can turn the fray
United by blood or more
To end the sword’s darkness at play
And bring peace back to its core
To find the key long lost and alone
from the gryphon seat of power
Encased upon throne of stone
Revealed only at the twilight hour”

Another puzzle for Daring, which she put to the side after quickly shaking the frost from her body as she realized the fire was dying down a bit. The dropping temperatures outside and inside the library brought a new chill about the sanctuary. She knew she had to leave soon, as she could not last a night in here. Her wings were already caked with enough snow and frost to hinder her travel back to warmer climates, and she didn’t want to be lugging the ancient book with her. There was no telling what a different climate might do it since the paper and bindings had been embedded in the cold for so long. There was still one last, small passage at the bottom of the page she just had to finish before she left, though. She desperately fanned the small fire to keep it going just a little while longer, a spring of new sparks making the last vestiges of the flame burn and crackle, providing the last few precious moments of flickering light.

“Beware the black one cursed and worn
With eyes jaded green
Black magic and sharpened bone
A soul so dark cannot redeem”

Daring didn’t have any idea what that meant either, the ancient verses as confusing as they were difficult to read. She quickly put the book back on the shelf, grimacing as a chunk of the wooden bookcase broke off in her hoof.

Dropping the piece of ice laced wood, she turned around and aimed back for the entrance to outside the sanctuary. She arrived at the open doorway, beyond which lay only the sheer plunge of air between the mountain roost and the valley floor far below. Daring could already see the sun starting to fade, partly covered by the grey and cold bearing clouds of the winter region. She understood this was her best chance, and so without much trepidation, she threw herself out the doorway.

Far and fast did she plunge downward, the wind and cold increasing about her. However, as her wings took off, so did the snow and ice, allowing her to freely move her cold yet functional wings once more. Catching herself out of her tailspin, she just managed to avoid crashing into the snow covered, permafrost hardened ground, using the momentum of her fall to power zoom her way across the frozen hills.

As she flew over the iced landscape, she repeated the verses in her mind over and over:

“To find the key long lost and alone
from the gryphon seat of power
Encased upon throne of stone
Revealed only at the twilight hour”

She slowly began thinking over each word carefully, starting first off with the phrase, ‘gryphon seat of power.’ Of course, that was referring to Griffonstone, the capital that was the once glorious jewel of the Gryphon empire. As for the rest, she began again in concession. ‘Encased upon a throne of stone,’ likely referred to the only stone throne there, the stone statue of the great griffon king, in the square. Almost piecing everything together, Daring increased her wing speed, this time lifting herself to catch some aid from the wind currents to help her glide and conserve her energy. Going over the last line of the verse, ‘Revealed only at the twilight hour,’ she rocked her mind back and forth.

She did so until she stared right ahead and watched the sun setting slowly behind the rolling hills, the last light of dusk lighting up the sky even as the darkness of night crept along to reclaim it. ‘The twilight hour... it’s the last moments of dusk before nightfall!’ If she picked up some speed, she could just make it before the outstretched night reached the capital of Griffonstone.

Picking up her pace, she hurled herself forward, passing into the higher and more forceful wind currents. They took her farther, but the turbulence was terrible, threatening to rip her apart. But, she had to try. Now soaring over the land, she flew hard, bringing her wings into a strong rhythm that carried her farther forward on every third stroke of her wings. As the golden pegasus passed over the rolling hills and dark wheat fields below, she could just make out the crumbled and collapsed towers of the griffon capital ahead. The air was still cold from the wind, but the climate had warmed considerably. She was now far from the reach of the cold regions, her body now far warmer and far less frozen, the ice and cold in her veins melting in the warmer temperatures. She could finally get the feeling back in her forehooves, having felt only numb when she had been lodged in the cold territory. As she flew, Daring shed herself of her winter layers, not caring where they dropped, or on whom, either. Now, once more in her typical green vest and pith helmet, she realized she had to make this fast. The last thing she needed to be was recognized this deep in Gryphon territory. As her destination grew closer, she wandered back to the subject of her visit. This sword, whatever it was, was unlike anything she had ever gone after before. Forged from the essence of the greatest races in the world, the power it must have, must be absolutely tremendous. From the sound of it, it did not strike her that is should have belonged to or on this world.

She zoomed straight into the gryphon square just as the last bit of light began to shine down on the squalor and devastated ruins of Griffonstone. The broken down capital was still as sore a sight as ever, run down gryphon houses, shops, roosts and crumbled buildings lining the dirty streets. The city square was entirely deserted. Putting on the full brakes, she made all efforts to brace herself, hard, prepared for a painful crash. Her wings heated up to near burning from the friction of such a fast stop. Finally slowing down and coming to rest relatively unharmed aside from the burning in her hooves and wing-tips, her eyes closed and her body on edge, Daring managed to open her eyes slowly and cautiously at first. If her first glance was correct, she nearly face planted into the chest of the large stone gryphon statue standing in the middle of the square. The face of the stone gryphon had long since been chiseled away, the definition and adorning features smoothed over by a combination of time and lack of care.

Staring at the statue now, Daring tried to see if there was a key stashed anywhere on its person. As she skulked around the stone slab, she kept her eyes keen, not seeing anything directly. Her hooves went out feeling all over the statue, patting down the stone figure, trying to see if there was some sort of hidden compartment. She became ever more on edge as she noticed the sun fading faster and faster, a small handful of torches, having been lit earlier, slowly taking over for the fading sunlight. Her hooves scrambled now in panic, but still, she found nothing out of the ordinary.

It was at that moment that a final ray of brisk sunlight focused its way through the clouds and directly into the eye sockets of the stone statue. Sockets once thought to simply be empty hollows, now fully shining with a glimmer and sparkle. Daring looked up in misery and defeat, only to catch a glimpse of the glow emanating from the griffon statue’s eye hole. Reaching a hoof up, she gripped the stone shoulders and used them as leverage to haul her body up to come face to face with the stone avian, not using her wings since they still burned from her near crash to the point where she couldn’t even hover. She looked back at the worn away facial features of the rock. Now this close, face to face with the statue, she could see the sparkle pouring out of the hollowed out eyes.

Reaching one of her hooves into the eyes, she felt around until she could coil it around a smooth, round object. The object was hot to the the touch and she could feel it sending tingles throughout her leg and skin. After pulling out the small object, she finally gazed upon the key up close and gasped at what she saw.

The key was a small, smooth pommel stone, like that which would fit into the hilt of a sword, except this one was glowing gold. The smooth stone rippled with flashing colors and emanated a sparkling glow about it. She could feel the tingle of it passing through her skin and up her leg, branching off into the rest of her body. A tingle like a small prick upon her sides. She looked down at the stone lying in her hoof, the energy glowing deep into her skin, and she smiled. The feeling of the stone making her giddy and feeling powerful. Lifting her head back, Daring felt like giving a loud neigh of excitement at the feelings coursing through her.

All of a sudden, she felt the alarming grip of a colder, stronger grip over her hoof. She looked down to see the stone talons of the gryphon statue had found their way to fasten themselves about her hoof, holding the stone. She then realized this statue was not of a king or founder, it was a griffon warrior. She gave a shriek of dismay before looking upwards to catch the glowing pair of eyes now peering at her from within the stone casing. Both once hollowed out sockets were now replaced with glowing green eyes of piercing jade. The grey scaled griffon rock, lifted itself from the stone block, the now living stone statue standing on its back two legs, dangling the golden mare from its grip upon her hoof.

The stone griffon growled, crumbling stone and gravel pouring out of its rock beak, the figure coughing harshly, further spluttering out rock fragments and puffs of dust.

“Who dares t-to t-touch, my key?!” coughed the cutting voice of the stone griffon.

Daring couldn’t do much more than grunt in pain, trying to angle her hooves the right way so she could apply some pressure to the stone arm and claws holding her as strong as... well… stone.

“Argghh! Pony-scum! Tell me, little worm, why you have freed me from this prison?”

Looking at the struggling mare in its grip, the statue gave a dark chuckle. “Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! The stone! So my little pony is searching for Excalibur, is she?”

Daring didn't know how to really reply to the walking rock slide, instead deciding it was best for her to just listen and gather knowledge. The statue itself sure didn't seem to have a problem talking.

The stone griffon brought her right up to its face, the stone beak poking her in the cheek as the jade green eyes lit up even brighter and even more glaring. She could feel the stone talons cutting into her soft flesh, but even still, she held onto the stone tight, unwilling to let it go.

“Truly a valiant attempt, but the sword is mine. No pony germ is gonna take it from me. It’s my destiny!” hollered the stone griffon, bringing up his other stone arm, the cold rock talons descending upon her neck, ready to snap it.

This, however, only served to bring himself close enough for Daring to get her foothold, both her hooves slamming into his stone chest and pulling with all her might. As Daring yelled at the strain upon her left hoof as she tugged, the stone statue slackening a bit in its initial surprise. This was just the opportunity she needed, and she brought one of her back hooves back as far as she could. With a loud scream, she sent the hoof smashing into the face of the stone griffon. The statue howled in alarm and pan as half of the griffons face cracked under the strain. The wound was enough to release both the golden pegasus and the glowing stone from its stone talons.

Daring was off the moment she felt the tight grip on her hoof vanish, her wings recovering enough for her to fly. She aimed for the clouds, but, she felt her tail grabbed in that same vice like grip before she could take off. With a whoosh and a shriek, she was thrown into the ground, once, twice, and again and again, her consciousness starting to fade. The stone griffon was throwing her about like a rag doll, talons gripped tight around her tail as his remaining talons desperately tried to hold together the cracked shards of his face.

She hit the ground again, hard, and upon being thrown once more through the air, she realized she would have to drop the stone to get out of this one. It was the hardest choice she ever had to make, the addicting sensations of the stone in her hoof holding a strange power over her. However, she held her body, and her life especially, in a higher regard. As the stone griffon brought her up to slam her down, she took the space afforded to her and chucked the stone straight at him.

The stone struck his chest, both sets of his talons occupied as he was unable to catch it. Releasing her from his talons, he dove for the stone, allowing her to finally get her distance from the lumbering rock-form. Her eyes, however, were drawn to the place on his chest where the stone had hit him, having formed a glowing crack. The griffon statue as well looked down, his green eyes peering from behind the claws he was frantically using to keep his face together.

The crack itself started to pulse and grow, the statue’s body soon sparking as beams of light escaped through the multiple forming cracks spreading across the stone husk. The stone figure gave an alarmed caw as its form began to all of sudden swell from the build up of energy, the stone having set off a chain reaction inside the rock. Daring couldn’t look away, and neither could the statue, as the energy began cracking through. Rays shot out like fire, illuminating the darkened square before finally exploding in a massive cloud of light and dust.

Daring Do brought her hooves and wings up in defense of her body as she was bathed in the light and shelled with fragments of stone and gravel. She rolled forward with the momentum of the explosion, wincing in pain as her one forelock bled. Moving it proved nearly impossible without pain as the marks left by the statue were still clear upon it. However, Daring found the shots of pain helped to cut through the haze in her mind created by the stone, wondering what properties the object had to have to make her so attracted to it. Looking back to where the statue had exploded, hoping to see where the stone had fallen to retrieve it, Daring found her jaw dropping at what awaited her.

Where once the large stone statue had stood, a new figure remained in its place. The rock body and stone wings had been traded in for flesh and feathers, a dark furred griffon half the size of the great statue staring back at her. His body, while smaller than most griffons, was defined and built, neither lacking in muscles or physicality, even for his size. His wings extended above him, the black sharpened feathers flashing in the moonlight and glinting much like metal blades, while the once stone claws were revealed as a fresh pair of steel-colored talons. The only familiar features remaining were the pair of glowing green eyes, an aura of dark green energy beginning to envelope around the griffons entire body.

The ground was littered in the piles and heaps of the former statue, the gryphon inside having shed the stone like a snake's skin. Standing there now, with the golden stone in his talons and its energy blending with the aura around his body, he stared deep into the stone’s reflective surface.

Daring understood only one thing at that moment: that stone with that griffon was a bad match, and she needed to act fast to arrange their break-up. Rolling onto all fours, she started to coil herself, tensing her muscles and judging the exact distance between her and this new enemy. Believing she had enough space to reach a sufficient velocity, she aimed herself right at the stone. Her wings drew back, straining themselves in preparation, while she made sure to lower her head and the pith helmet, like an arrowhead. With that, she launched herself forward, her wings bringing her to the right speed, enough for her to leave her flaming gray rainbow trail behind her as she zoomed across the square like a bolt from a crossbow.

The griffon had been too focused on the stone that he had not heard or noticed the golden mare on the other end of the town's square. Having been encased in that stone prison for so long, deprived of his magic, his stone, his key, he was finally taking a moment for himself. He enjoyed the familiar rippling sensations of the stones energy passing through him, like a piece of himself returning home after so long away, only in the next second to have it snatched from his grip while also nearly ripping his own arm off. The golden blur that had passed before his eyes now rearranged itself into the form of the annoying pony mare. Giving a hiss of pain and disgust he launched himself after her with a terrifying ferocity.

Daring managed to dodge the steel talons slashing at her, one blow so close to her head, it clipped off the tip of the hair sticking out from under her helmet. Even as that blow missed, the griffon brought his other set of talons up to slice her, only for her to somersault out of the way in mid-air, effectively dodging the second blow. As Daring dodged the second blow, she flipped herself, making sure she brought her hooves down to smash him once more in the face. The griffon gave a glaring howl as the pegasus mare's hooves once more connected with his cheek, this time, without the protection of stone padding.

Daring was about to flee when the key in her hoof erupted in ripples of golden light, the energy wrapping around her form and dragging her back towards the griffon. Turning to look back, she saw that her adversary was standing there across from her. His set of talons were outstretched, calling the stone to him and, as a consequence, herself as well. Struggling against the magical ropes binding her, Daring erupted in anger. Her wings managed to squeeze around the magical grip and she pulled herself into the sky, anchored to the avian below.

They must have made a very odd sight for anyone to looking up to see her, a golden mare halfway into the sky and bound by golden whip-like ropes, with him, a Black griffon below her and trying to pull her back down. Daring couldn’t break free, the griffons weight keeping her from truly casting off. Her mind raced with possibilities for escape, each idea flashing across her mind and vanishing just as quickly. Then, she settled on one idea so crazy there was no way it could work, but crazy was all she had left to use.

“If featherbrain wants to fly so bad, let’s give him a tilt-a-whirl experience!” she thought to herself as she began rotating her body, her wings flapping exceptionally hard. The pegasus began to move in circles, the circles growing larger and more fast paced. Again and again, she was hurtled clockwise, her speed growing along with, as a consequence, her strain upon the griffon below. The avian-hybrid scowled in surprise as his grip on the stone began to strain, finding himself being dragged by the mare as she started to spin above him. Looking up with jaded green eyes, all he could now see was the golden blur spinning above him, the golden chains linking him and her beginning to move with the pegasus’s movements. Now, he could feel the harsh pull and further strain brought on by the mare’s antics, his own feet leaving the ground as he brought his own wings to bear to try to push them back down.

Daring only increased her speed, the turbulence from her movements making her insides drop into her feet. Dragging him along with her, Daring could feel his attempt to haul her back down. Lifting her hoof carrying the stone, she saw how the golden tethers were still rippling off of its shiny surface. It had boiled down to a battle of wills, to whomever could hold on the longest without breaking. The black griffon pulled with all his might, his furious wings pumping like mad as Daring responded by pumping her own wings, smaller than the griffon's own, but able to beat more rapidly to match his strength.

Fortunately for her, the griffon had a lot less to hold onto, his concentration alone being the source of his magical hold on the key. The strenuous activity brought by her actions was slowly breaking holes in his mental armor. Now being flung around himself like a rag-doll, he finally realized that he was truly losing his grip on the stone. The flurry of the whirlwind he was now surrounded by was too much for him after being stuck inside a rock for so long. The connection wavered momentarily, then severed instantly. The magical tethers to the stone dissipated as the "dead-weight" was hurled like a blazing star across the towers and roosts of Griffonstone into the far distance with a piercing shriek.

Finding herself freed as well from the griffon's hold, Daring likewise found herself sailing into the starry night sky. After several moment, though, she managed to slow herself down and found herself hovering, staring at the bright face of the moon in front of her. Looking around to catch her bearings, she quickly scanned her person to make sure she was altogether there. Discovering that she still held onto the stone made her excited and giddy, those same feelings from before returning to her now as the waves of energy started emanating from the stone again. Realizing that she was also alone, the revived griffon warrior nowhere to be seen, she gave a squeal of victory, bringing her hooves up into the air only to wince as she was reminded of her wound once more.

“Aw, man… I gotta get this looked at quickly,” she muttered to herself. Looking around her from her bird’s eye view, she tried to see any place she could find to fix her wounded extremity. Her keen eyes caught the flickering light of one isolated roost on the edge of the town. It was the only lit structure in the place, and called to her like a beacon. As she prepared to move, she noticed the accumulating clouds eating their way through the silver domed moon. The sound of thunder and the brief flash of lighting signaled the arrival of a flock of rain clouds.

“Just perfect. What else can go wrong tonight?” cried the adventuress as she took off towards the township below. Her eyes locked onto the tower and her wings flapped as hard they could, trying to beat the downpour she could now sense was coming, the scent of ozone and rainwater permeating her nostrils.

As she flew down towards the light, she couldn’t help but wonder who that griffon that had come out of the statue had been. The adrenaline and fear of the whole encounter, even now still lingering in her heart and mind, hadn’t exactly left her much brain power for speculation. She recalled the sight of the stone turned flesh, the eyes that had held that stare with the most vile green. She couldn't help but feel that the black furred griffon as dark as night with wings like blade and talons of steel was far more frightening than when he had been a stone monstrosity about to snap her neck.

Beware the black one cursed and worn.

Those eyes were still so haunting in her mind. She had never seen or met a creature, be it gryphon or pony, with such eyes. So green and so reptilian that they didn’t appear to be even natural. They carried with them the ability to strip you to your core, beyond clothing, beyond flesh or bone, able to pierce into one’s very soul.

With eyes jaded green.

His wings had been larger than most for a body of his size. They were also black like the rest of him and sharp as blades. Despite their dark color, they also glinted in the same manner that the steel battle claws strengthening his natural, bone talons did.

Black magic and sharpened bone.

She was certain the griffon wouldn’t be coming after her so soon, not given the faint glow in the sky on the horizon much like the tail of a shooting star. Daring was sure, however, that she would see him again. From the moment she had seen him, she had realized that this was not someone who could be reasoned with, appeased, or bartered with. He would come for her and for the key without remorse, without mercy, and without a question. All this had been there in his dark green eyes, all of this he had told her in her mind, as well as his name. A name that made her clench her tail and shiver from head to feet in fear.

“Mordrue.”

A soul so dark cannot redeem.