• Published 26th Aug 2017
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To Perytonia - Cloudy Skies

Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity are tasked with establishing ties between Equestria and the strange people of Perytonia. Understanding and connecting with your own friends may yet be the bigger challenge. Updates every Tuesday and Saturday!

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Chapter 27

Princess Celestia


You post guys know where she lives, right?

The Royal Offices of the Princesses

Castle Road 1

Central Canterlot


No? I haven’t sent any letters. You told me not to use the message scrolls while Twilight, Rarity, Applejack, R the guys were away. I haven’t really used my firebreath that much lately, really, except to help light some candles, and to make popcorn when Shining Armor and I hang out sometimes, and a bunch when I went back to Ponyville to visit Cheerilee, and when I haven’t sent any letters anyway.

Are Twilight and the gang okay? Shouldn’t they be back now? Can I come visit the castle sometime soon? I’m going to go back to Ponyville to clean the library with Cheerilee this weekend, but I’m sure I can squeeze you in sometime next week. I have a very busy schedule, you know.


Rainbow Dash touched down near the mouth of the alley. To be specific, she touched down near the mouth of another alley, and it wasn’t the first “another alley” either. Trying to find her way back to Neisos and Ohrinna’s in a blackened city proved challenging, but fourth try was the charm tonight, she could feel it. Dash’s mood lightened when she recognised the stylized wings painted on one of the houses. Whoever lived at the north-eastern corner of the alley had good taste.

“Having problems finding your way back home too, huh?” Dash asked two peryton stood by the alley entrance. “If you just fly up, it makes a little more sense,” she offered.

They probably hadn’t heard her approach. Both the stags stared down the alley with their backs turned at first, and when she trotted past them, they stiffened, then observed her in silence. Dash stopped.

“Hang on, haven’t I seen you somewhere?” she asked, squinting. There’d been two stags at the docks as well.

“No,” said one of them. The other nudged him in the side and tilted his head down the main thoroughfare. They turned to leave without another word, and Rainbow Dash didn’t follow. Peryton still looked very similar to her, and the dark didn’t help matters. On the other hoof, she’d expected anything but a curt no. Maybe a strange look, or more likely, a reference to some Aspect of Noseyness. Now that she thought about it, the peryton who’d asked about the ponies at Neisos’ house had been a pair of stags, too.

Was that a coincidence? Suddenly curious. Rainbow Dash galloped back out of the alley, but they were nowhere to be seen. Two blazing bonfires punctuated the plazas at each end of the main street, but that was all. Rainbow Dash shrugged and turned back once more. They could’ve been anyone. A few seconds later she found Neisos and Ohrinna’s house and pushed the door open.

The downstairs common room was empty, and nearly completely dark. A single wall-globe glowed with a faint light, casting shy illumination on the increasingly familiar room. Books and scrolls lay scattered about the center of the room along with a few half-full water bowls, and the table bore food-stains not properly cleaned. She heard nothing at all, but the room smelled of bread. Rainbow Dash picked her way across the mess on the floor and mounted the stairs. Deimesa had probably taken the children to their uncles’ place.

Deimesa’s bedroom was empty, and Dash didn’t feel like sleeping, however late it was. She leaned against the wall next to the open doorway, putting her weight against it. Her head hit the wall with a thunk, and she was a good few minutes into doing nothing, thinking nothing, when she realised she did in fact hear something now. She thought of the last time she’d spent time in Twilight’s library while the unicorn read: that was definitely the faint rustle of paper.

“Oh, hey,” said Rainbow Dash, sticking her head inside the room opposite. “You’re still up.”

“Mm, same as yesterday, dear,” said Rarity. She looked up only briefly. This time, she wasn’t surrounded by crumpled paper and fabric samples. Rather, the unicorn sat on her bed covered in a blanket and with her snout buried in a book. She yawned and turned a page. “I slept in the middle of the day again, and I’m only now getting sleepy.”

“Ah. Right,” said Rainbow Dash, crossing the room to stand by the bed. Rarity’s book had peryton letters. Dash squinted. “Uh, you know we can’t read—wait. Did you learn to read Peryton?” Her eyes widened.

“No. I’m looking at the pictures like a foal,” came Rarity’s reply, her voice weary. She leafed through the pages, stopping only when she came to one covered in diagrams and a drawing of a simplified peryton. She levitated up a piece of paper to take a quick note before she turned the page again. “Research.”

“‘Kay. Making any progress?” Dash asked. She tilted her head to look, stealing a glance at Rarity’s notes. Daros: Sharp angles, mostly headwear? Also bodywear. Also, everything else. Deiasos: Emphasis on symmetric patterns. The next bit was heavily crossed out, then: inconsistent.

“No,” said Rarity, frowning deeply. “I am about to give up on this particular approach, I just wanted to have a last look, see if anything strikes my fancy for the Cotronnan dress I’m planning.”

“Cool, uh, let me know if you want any help, I guess,” said Dash. She glanced down at the dress she herself wore, touching up the buttons that had loosened a little with all the flying. The rest was nearly completely unscuffed. Partially. She sucked in a breath through gritted teeth when she remembered something. Remembered what she hadn’t remembered, to be exact. “Oh yeah, so, about that whole… asking what the peryton think of normal—uh, really cool dresses thing.”

Rarity arched a brow without looking at her. “I don’t suppose they cared too much for it. At best, they’d have the same reaction as Orto.”

“They didn’t say anything, but I forgot to ask. Again,” Dash admitted, wincing.

“I don’t expect it’d make a difference, dear,” said Rarity, turning another page.

Rainbow Dash shook her head at the sheer wrongness of this all. Rarity had asked her to do something fashion-y and she’d messed it up, but the unicorn wasn’t fazed at all. She was tempted to bite off one of the buttons of her dress just to see if Rarity would react, but she didn’t dare for fear that she wouldn’t. “I don’t get it,” said Rainbow Dash. “I don’t understand why you’re okay with that.”

“You’d want me to be crushed?” Rarity asked. Now she looked at her.

“No! Come on Rarity, I just—”

“Darling, I understand that they don’t look at dresses in the same way we do, do give me some credit,” Rarity continued. “I need a different approach, and I believe I do have one. That is why I am putting my efforts into research.” She shut the book loudly and put it away, a sheaf of paper hovering from the nightstand over to the bed—as well as some jewellery that Dash recognised as the Stagrumite antler-wear.

“Right, okay, but...” said Rainbow Dash, sighing.

Rarity leaned over the edge of the bed, moving her saddlebags a little closer. She levitated out one of the multi-coloured scarves from Orto. Her brows furrowed.

But what, Dash thought. She knew what she’d discussed with Fluttershy was true: When Rarity got working, she worked. The problem was, Rainbow Dash could really use someone to talk to now. Now more than ever. Rarity was smart, and knew Fluttershy almost as well as she did. Rarity could make sense of things that happened-or-didn’t between them. If Dash had messed up, maybe Rarity could tell her how to fix it.

“Hey, so, while you’re working and stuff,” Dash tried. Rarity hadn’t said anything since she started rooting around in her saddlebags.

“Rainbow, dear. Do you remember our discussion on harmony? I broached the topic in Ephydoera, as I recall,” Rarity asked. Now, Dash almost wished Rarity wasn’t looking at her. The stare she gave her was creepily intense.

“Uh, yeah, I do, actually,” Dash admitted. “What about it?”

“We keep going on about how different the peryton are,” Rarity continued. “I’ve thought for a long time that harmony is the one thing that they lack. At least, that’s how I see it.”

“Sure?” Dash asked. She tilted her head. “I’ve been thinking the same thing. Or, something like it, I guess—”

“They don’t have the uniting element that we ponies share,” Rarity said. “The Hearth’s Warming play is in many ways an expression of the harmony we’ve found, but what matters is the unification itself, like how the Princesses embody all the three pony kinds—it’s about symbols.”

“Yeah, sure, that’s cool and all, but first, d’you have a second—”

“I think I have an idea. One that will work for sure,” said Rarity. She smiled, but not at Rainbow Dash. Her eyes drifted to the floor for a second. “Yes. I think this will work. It will be my most… hard-hitting work yet.”

“Rarity—” Dash tried once more, but she knew she wouldn’t get through.

“Would you get me Fluttershy’s saddlebags? They’re in your room, aren’t they?” Rarity asked.

Rainbow Dash said nothing. She turned around and trotted over to collect the butterfly-marked saddlebags, returning seconds later to put toss them onto the bed next to Rarity.

“There. Okay, now, before you go all dressmaking-crazy,” said Dash. “D’you have a second?”

“Oh, I’m not going to make anything just yet. I need to see how this fits together first,” said Rarity, flinging the saddlebags open. “This won’t be a simple dress, this is a gift to all of Perytonia, and the Princesses will hear how much they love this one crowning moment.”

“That’s great,” said Dash, resettling her wings on her back. “So, I wanted to ask you about—”

“Of course, dear,” said Rarity, nodding quickly. “Now, do you know if Deimesa is here still, or did she leave already? I suppose she will have left.”

“Yeah,” said Dash, deflating a bit. Rarity wasn’t even listening, and she didn’t feel like a shouting match anyway.

“The markets will be closed by now,” Rarity added, frowning. “It’ll be much too late, hmh. I’ll have to find another way, but I’m guessing they’re particular to Vauhorn—that’s the entire point.”

“Awesome,” said Rainbow Dash. She turned and headed for the door.

“Where’re you going, dear?” Rarity asked, raising her voice even as Dash turned the corner. “Didn’t you want something?”

“It’s fine,” Dash replied, more to herself than to Rarity.

Rainbow Dash pulled the blanket over her body and ground her head against the wall, scratching at an itch. For a while she’d heard Rarity rooting around in her bedroom across the hall, but now all was silent. It had been a while since the last time Vauhorn gave signs of life, too. A huge bunch of peryton migrated past the nearest thoroughfare at some point, loud enough to reach her bedroom window, but now she heard nothing. Not so much as a bird call.

She still wasn’t sleepy. Maybe tired, but definitely not sleepy. She wanted Fluttershy to get back, but at the same time she didn’t know what she would say to her.

Was there anything to say? Dash yawned. Maybe she was overreacting. Maybe they were fine, somehow. Rainbow Dash needed to stop feeling… what was it, frustrated? Maybe even jealous? Not of Vulenos or anyone else, but that she herself hadn’t been there to watch Fluttershy. At the end of the day, she couldn’t not want to be around when Fluttershy did something cool. She just didn’t know how to stop herself from being the cause of the bad stuff.

Not stop Fluttershy from being cool, of course. Dash stifled a groan. Either this didn’t add up, or she was missing something—or perhaps it was just an impossible task? Rainbow Dash was fine with the impossible. She just needed to try harder, and everything would work out.

Maybe they were fine. She just needed to figure out some details or something. And she wasn’t sleepy at all.

Rainbow Dash awoke slowly to the soft noise of silk dragging across fur. She fought a yawn. In the scant moonlight spilling in through the open window, she watched Fluttershy meticulously fold her dress and put it next to Rainbow Dash’s on the dresser by the door.

“Welcome back,” Dash murmured.

“I didn’t mean to wake you, sorry,” said Fluttershy. She gave her a brief look and climbed into bed next to her, grabbing a share of blanket.

“You didn’t,” Rainbow Dash said. An obvious lie, of course. Fluttershy’s burnt tail-tip poked out on the other side of the blanket. “How’d the story stuff go? Did you win?”

Fluttershy pushed the blanket away a little, shuffling her wings until they lay on top. “Hm? Oh. I don’t know. I left a little early.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t ask why not. “Alright,” she instead said, wondering if it was okay that she was disappointed by that. Because she was.

“Your wings are a bit—eh, I don’t know. Feathers could use a touch-up,” Dash said. She tried for a grin and worked one of her own wings free to touch feathers against feathers. “Want me to give them a look?”

“No thank you. It’s okay,” said Fluttershy. She pulled the blanket back over her wings and eyed Dash’s wings in turn. “You’ve been flying a lot, though. Yours need to be preened, don’t they?” She gave Dash a long look.

Dash had to give her that. They did need some attention after all the flying and diving of tonight. At the very least, she’d need her primaries aligned. Small stuff Fluttershy could easily handle if she asked.

“Yeah. May—eh,” Dash said cutting herself off. No need to throw more wood on the fire. “No, they’re fine. I’ll fix it tomorrow.”

The silence dragged on, and in the end, Fluttershy looked away and closed her eyes.

“Goodnight,” said Fluttershy.

“Night,” said Dash.

Now Rainbow Dash was sleepy, and it took her many long seconds to realise that the reason she was so sleepy—and still tired—was because it wasn’t the first time she’d awoken that night. She didn’t know what had roused her up this time, but Fluttershy wasn’t in bed. She didn’t have to look far to find her, though.

Fluttershy stood by the far window, and a large bird rested in the opening high on the wall, casting shadows that were barely darker than the rest of the room. She recognised the osprey when the bird picked at a grape offered by Fluttershy with exacting care, and Fluttershy reached up to run a hoof along its feathered chest. Feeding birds in the dead of night. Nothing unusual about that.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Fluttershy murmured.

Talking to animals. Also very Fluttershy. Dash closed her eyes again and tried to go back to sleep.

“Tonight was… I just wish things had gone differently tonight,” Fluttershy went on. “No—no, I mean it, it was awful.” Her voice lowered further still, a whisper become indistinct now, and Rainbow Dash’s heart sank. She heard Fluttershy sigh, and the bird made a tiny peeping noise.

“It’s okay,” Fluttershy said. “And I’m sorry I didn’t ask you before I included you, Flappington. We’re still friends, right?” She paused for a second. “Okay. I’m glad, that’s very nice of you. Well, um… I should probably get some sleep. We have a big day tomorrow. We’re going to start travelling again. Take care of yourself, and maybe I’ll see you again on the road.”

A soft rustle and a few muted ticking noises, claws against the windowsill, maybe. “Thank you for listening,” said Fluttershy. A moment later came the sounds of wings spreading, followed by soft hoofsteps against stone. Dash felt Fluttershy lay down next to her.

One of Fluttershy’s wings snuck in under the blanket and wrapped around her body, holding her tight. Fluttershy’s head rested against her, and almost as an afterthought, she lay a foreleg across one of Dash’s until they lay side by side almost completely entwined. Dash let out a sigh masked as an exhale in sleep.

She hoped they were still okay, but Rainbow Dash now knew she’d been right. Tonight, she’d again pushed Fluttershy into something she didn’t want. She had just said it: it was awful.

When Fluttershy’s breath became steady enough that Rainbow Dash was convinced she was asleep again, Dash slipped her leg free of Fluttershy’s and worked herself out from under the other pegasus’s wing, sailing off the bed without a sound. Her throat was dry, and neither of them had filled the bedside pitcher of water. She grabbed it in her mouth and rubbed at her eyes, making a minor detour by Rarity’s room to check up on her. The unicorn lay fast asleep, surrounded by the contents of her bags, and some of Fluttershy’s, too.

Rainbow Dash shook her head and made her way downstairs, flying rather than walking to make less noise. She’d filled the pitcher and was on her way out of the kitchen when the door opened.

“—likely to the council,” said Ohrinna, walking into the living room, closely followed by Neisos. She paused to hold up her talons one by one, leaning against the stag while she scraped at them with a hoof. “I’m sure we will catch it eventually in full.”

Rainbow Dash cleared her throat, but the sound was low. With the pitcher gripped in her mouth, she didn’t really have free use of her voice.

“Of course,” said Neisos, bracing against her and smiling. “And I have no regrets, only curiosity. You understand that. Tonight was a night to be put down in a story of its own.”

“Never lose that gilded tongue,” replied Ohrinna with a low trill of laughter. She leaned over to touch her antlers to Neisos, almost like a little headbutt.

Dash frowned, and looked around for somewhere to put the pitcher. If they got affectionate, she’d have to pretend she tripped and dropped it. That’d get their attention. She walked away from the kitchen and into the room, making her steps as loud as possible.

“I’d sooner—oh, hello,” said Neisos, turning his smile to her. Ohrinna gave a start and looked over at Dash as well.

“You are home as well. Did you just get back?” asked Ohrinna. She put all her legs down while Neisos kicked the door shut and took his turn scraping dirt off his one claw with a foreleg.

Rainbow Dash put the pitcher on the floor. “Nah, been home since—uh, actually, I’ve no idea. For a while,” she said, squinting at the window shutters as though she could divine the time by staring through them. Still dark out, that much she could tell. “I was asleep and got thirsty. How’d the stories and stuff go? I kind of missed out on most of it. Or all of it, heh.”

Neisos chuckled. “As did we. Well, we missed the five gatherings, and also the fire of Ravenwall, but to some, that might as well be all of it.”

“Cool. Yeah, no, I missed more than that,” Dash admitted with half a smile. “Just so you know, I think Rarity’s gotten a lot better. We’ll probably get going tomorrow.”

“I regret this. I would like to have had more time to get to know you,” said Ohrinna, craning her neck in a slight bow. “You were a curious but pleasant surprise to come home to.” She tilted her head and smiled all at once. “Very curious.”

“Heh, thanks,” said Dash. She shuffled her wings uneasily. “Thanks for letting us stay.”

“It has been our pleasure, absolutely, but let us not say farewell just yet,” said Neisos, chuckling. “We will no doubt see you away tomorrow. And, speaking of labour for the morrow…” he trailed off, eyeing the state of the living room with thinly veiled disapproval. In the end, his eyes fell upon the scrolls spread about. “It seems a small hurricane has swept through, and I do not suppose you ponies have taken a sudden interest in—is that Daros’ tellings I see?”

“Deimesa did us a favour to the tune of Calthess’ refusal of Esorys,” said Ohrinna. She craned her neck back and yawned at the ceiling, slowly moving towards the stairs. “She can be excused for not cleaning up, I feel.”

“Yes,” said Neisos, frowning. “But the table has not been cleaned either—no, I have no desire to wake up to this. Go, love. I will follow if you will live without me for a moment.”

“You do as you must,” Ohrinna replied with a nod and a smile, disappearing up the stairs.

Rainbow Dash grabbed the pitcher of water and sat by the table. She’d head back upstairs in a minute. Maybe two minutes. She managed an awkward sip of water straight from the pitcher without spilling, watching as Neisos levitated the books back in place into a nearby bookshelf. He never grabbed more than one at a time in his magic, and took a few hobbling steps between the shelf and the middle of the room every time.

There was something calming about watching Neisos tidy the room, even if she herself didn’t care too much about whether the books were in the shelves or not. It was like watching Applejack buck apples. Applebuck season would be in what, a month? Two? She had no idea. Dash took another sip and blinked heavily. She really was tired.

“You said you did not listen to many of the stories,” said Neisos. He put the final book where it belonged and scanned the room, his eyes falling upon the table, giving the stains a dire look,

“Yeah. I heard like… half a story, tops. A pretty cool one, I guess, about some peryton—or Selyria, same thing with these stories, right?—travelling across the Bow. Something about dancing, I don’t know.” Rainbow Dash yawned and stretched her wings out. She’d sit for a little bit longer. She’d get up any moment now. Neisos disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a washcloth dripping in his magical grip.

“You hear any cool ones?” Dash asked. “Or tell any stories, maybe?” She smiled a touch at the thought she’d had earlier, of Neisos telling about meeting the ponies.

“Not this night,” said Neisos, shaking his head. The washcloth made a wet slap as he put it down on the table, but he did precious little cleaning. The stag stared at the rag. “But we could not avoid hearing rumours of one which stood out, and now puzzles me.”

“Yeah?” asked Dash.

“One of a far-away creature,” said Neisos, nodding to himself. “A winged one not a peryton, and while some may not put emphasis on the original speaker and on performance, they say a great bird featured in not just the story, but its telling.” The stag shot Rainbow Dash an entirely unsubtle glance, smiling only just enough for teeth to show. “And so people whisper of the first one who told it, and from the sounds constant in these whispers, it sounded a lot like a pony to me. Will you tell me you had no hoof in this?”

Rainbow Dash snorted hot air, rocking her where she sat. “Yeah, that was all Fluttershy. All her.”

Any other day, she’d feel so very good about saying that. It was Fluttershy’s victory, pure, undiluted awesome, except everything about it had also been terrible. Fluttershy couldn’t have enjoyed it much herself, scared out of her wits, and Rainbow Dash leaving had only made matters worse, somehow. To use Fluttershy’s own word, it had been awful.

“I see,” said Neisos. His antlers took on a muted glow, starting the slow and laborious task of scrubbing down the table. “This is a Ponyville custom, perhaps? To seek new experiences separate, and then share them later?”

“Not really, no,” said Rainbow Dash. She lifted the water-pitcher up to let Neisos clean underneath it. “Hey, what’d you guys end up doing if you didn’t go listen at the big bonfires either?”

Neisos’ smile grew positively languid. “There is a pond in the Saltwood that fills only after the summer storms, or when we are lucky to have enough rain. It is much used for bathing, but none think to go there on this night. We had it all to ourselves.”

“That sounds nice,” said Dash. She meant it, but the smile didn’t stick.

Neisos tilted his head. “You and your love have trouble, tonight?”

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes for a second, wincing at the question. When she looked again, Neisos frowned ever so slightly.

“Maybe that is not an acceptable question for some who have met so recently. I apologise,” said the stag, shaking his head briskly. “Let us together unsay those words of mine.” He balled up the washcloth and hopped his way towards the kitchen.

“No,” said Dash, sighing. “I guess it’s obvious, huh? It’s not that we’re not friends, I just don’t… I don’t like talking about that kinda stuff with anyone, I guess. Not even with my mom.” Not that she’d had these kinds of issues with anypony before, either. “Forget it. Can we talk about something else? Anything else to make me not think about missing my parents, too?”

“We do not have to talk at all. If you are tired, you should go to bed, and so should I,” said Neisos, returning to stand by the opposite side of the table.

“Yeah.” Rainbow Dash glanced at the stairs, but did not move. “Yeah, I know,” she said.

Silence reigned for a moment or two, and in the end, Neisos sat down, breaking into a sudden smile. “How would you like to hear a story?” he asked. “There is one I have wanted to tell since yesterday—” he waved a hoof as though to forestall protests, as if he expected Dash to flee. ”I promise you that where detail is needed, I will provide it. You will not lack for context.”

Dash shrugged and covered up another yawn. She caught Neisos giving his own damaged leg a glance as he settled down. Maybe she’d finally get to hear the story of how he hurt himself, a story she’d been promised a long while ago. “Sure,” she said, shutting her eyes and drawing a deep breath. No thinking about her mom. No thinking about Fluttershy right now, nor about anyone else. Storytime was good for a distraction. “Sure, why not.”

“It is about Vestrus,” said Neisos, almost a little too quickly once Dash said yes. “Now, before I begin, I must explain, Vestrus is not the most commonly discussed Aspect, nor the most often invoked, though he is not the least common, either.”

“So, top half-ish?” Dash asked.

“‘Top half’,” replied Neisos, and Dash could hear the smile in his voice. “Yes, I like that. If you divide the Aspects into two halves, most and least invoked, he is in the former category—though we certainly take care to remember all. Vestrus is one of the many Aspects concerned with knowledge. You may have noticed we have many concerned with knowing.”

“Not really,” Dash admitted. “I know a little about… half a dozen, tops.” She didn’t feel like explaining that trying to remember what each Aspect was about reminded her of cramming for tests, something she was notoriously bad at. ”Anyway, is ‘knowing’ different from ‘knowledge’?” she asked.

When Neisos said nothing, she cracked an eye open and found Neisos frowning at the table. “I wish to say yes,” he said at last. “But I could not explain it well. Chorossa is the known becoming unknown, but not a loss of knowledge. I did not mean to separate the two, but again, you have asked a very keen question, which proves my point.”

Rainbow Dash scratched at her side. Part of her wanted to try ask Twilight about that. The other, larger half held no illusions about her remembering or caring. “Okay, I’m getting confused already.”

“Then let me start anew with the story, and no such detours,” Neisos replied, smiling wide again and tilting his head forward in a slight bow. Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and shuffled her wings to make sure they lay right.

“Vestrus had travelled far. He is the Aspect of knowledge for its own sake, the thirst for understanding without a preference for method, and this day, his journey was complete,” said Neisos. Like most peryton, he had his own storyteller’s voice, soothing and even. “He had travelled from the Southpoint Cliffs to the alabaster shores of Thoshh, and there he despaired, for there was no more to know. He enlisted Pyn, who travels the lands, and Ilyra, who journeys across the sea, but they told him what he already knew: he had seen all there was to see.

“He called upon Chorossa, Aspect of un-knowing, to blind him and unbind all he knew, that he might travel again and learn it once more, but she would not. Finally, in the dark of night, he cried out to Selyria, who contains within her vast wings much, she who is the seeker eternal. He said that if she could not help him, he would perish.”

“Drama, much?” asked Rainbow Dash with a snort. She envisioned a peryton stag standing on a white shore crying to a shapeless Selyria, now with many wings, now with few. Beak or muzzle. Whatever she was, she was no normal peryton.

“This is an old story,” said Neisos with a chuckle of his own. “It is hundreds of years old at the very least, likely older. Maybe kin were more dramatic then—but, I will go on. Selyria could not help, for she knows things differently, and has made peace with her restless nature where Vestrus could not. In her stead, Selyria sent Kholarys, whose name in its primary use is rare. Kholarys is the Aspect of purposeful deceit, of the endless scheme that always brings about change.

“Vestrus thought it cruel of Selyria to send a trickster in response to such an earnest plea, but he had no choice. He stood upon the shore and had seen all there was, and so he begged Kholarys’ aid, and in return, she told him to travel.”

Dash frowned and opened her eyes again, the story grinding to a halt in her head. “He already tried that,” she said.

Neisos nodded. “You speak with Vestrus’ voice. ‘I already travelled all there is to travel’, he said, to which Kholarys replied that she swore if he set his face to the rising sun and travelled until the horizon was at his back, he would learn something new. Kholarys, she does all things in excess except break a promise, but, she also said this: Should he grow tired before this happened, she would take his legs.”

“Take his legs,” Rainbow Dash repeated, deadpan.

The stag grinned. “As I said, old stories. Do not ask me how one steals someone’s legs—though I suppose I should know better than most.”

Rainbow Dash snorted. She tried to keep from laughing, but it was pointless, and Neisos shook with silent laughter as well. He waggled a hoof in the air.

“Now! If you are familiar with riddles, you may think of the passing of the day as the solution. If you travel for a day, the sun will set at your back. This much, Vestrus knew, but Kholarys added another rule: Vestrus must complete this journey in no more than four steps before mid-day.”

“Four steps? He could always just fly,” said Rainbow Dash. “That’s no steps! Wait, hang on, let me guess, he couldn’t fly, either. Stupid rules all around, right?”

“The story does not say,” said Neisos. “But he did not need his wings, nor did he take until mid-day. Vestrus did not fear Kholarys’ looming threat—remember, she does not break her word, and so she would take his legs if he failed. No, Vestrus waited for the sun to rise and turned around.”

“Turned around,” Dash echoed.

“He turned around,” Neisos said, dipping his head. “And you can imagine what happens when you turn your back to the horizon.”

Rainbow Dash frowned. “The horizon is all around. You can’t actually turn your back to it.”

Neisos scratched at his muzzle. “Yes, I… suppose that is true, if you wish to be exact, but in this case, I suppose they meant the horizon upon which the sun made its ascent.”

“There’s just one horizon,” Rainbow Dash said, letting her wings hang loose. “Same thing—but I get it, yeah,” she quickly added. “Fine, the sun is behind him, he wins the bet. What’s next?”

Neisos cocked a brow. “This is not quite how I usually tell stories. You are an unusually active listener.”

“Sorry,” Dash said, splaying her ears. She mimicked zipping her muzzle shut in one smooth motion, which only made Neisos look more confused. Dash sighed. “I’m… closing my mouth. Gonna be quiet and stuff. Vestrus has his back to the sun.”

“Yes, let’s see—” Neisos shook his head briskly. “So, Vestrus turned and placed the horizon—or the sun, if you will allow it—at his back. He then told Kholarys he has done as she asked, and now she is forced to give him what she promised. To this, Kholarys replied that she had promised to give him nothing, but that he would have what he sought, and Vestrus saw that he did.

“Vestrus saw the underside of the leaves. He learned of the shadow side of every tree, of the colours of the tail-feathers of every peryton, and of the backs of their legs. Turned around by Kholarys’ trickery, all was new not through Chorossa’s oblivion, but by making new his eyes.”

Rainbow Dash nodded her head slowly, waiting to see if Neisos would say anything else, but the peryton merely smiled softly, perhaps expectantly.

“So, the end?” she asked.

“That is the end,” Neisos said.

“I don’t know what Kholarys wanted his legs for anyway. What do you do with eight legs?” Dash asked, tilting her head. “Eh, whatever. Go Vestrus, I guess.” She poked at the table’s edge. With the story over, the events of the day trickled back to the forefront of her mind. “I just don’t see how that’s supposed to help,” she said, a little lower.

“You said you did not want help,” Neisos said. He levitated the pitcher over to his side of the table and grabbed a used bowl, filling it with water. “This was not intended to be a moralising story, or to help you and your love. I don’t know your problems, if any, but I will listen if you wish to tell of it.” He took a sip of water.

Rainbow Dash crinkled her snout. “No. Never mind,” she said, shaking her head. “Yeah I meant it. I don’t want to talk about it.” She could fix any problems she had with Fluttershy, and if Fluttershy had problems with her, what could Neisos do about it? If it was a fight against a monster of ‘problems’ she didn’t fully understand, Dash had no intentions of losing the fight either way.

“Yet, you look puzzled still,” Neisos said, taking another sip. He filled another bowl and pushed it towards Rainbow Dash.

“Yeah, I don’t know. If you weren’t going to tell a story about… I don’t know, if you weren’t trying to give advice, I kinda expected to get the story about your leg, to be honest,” Dash said with a snort. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a, uh… I wanna say cool story, but how about ‘it wasn’t the worst story I’ve heard’?”

Neisos hummed. “The reason I have not told you the story of my leg is simple. One can only avoid so many instances of speech and story before a wall is built around a meaning from silence.”

“Yeah, simple.” Rainbow Dash squinted.

“Meaning to say, any purpose in telling that story is lost now in your anticipation,” Neisos said, smiling. “It is my story to tell, and I choose not to tell it for that reason, which is stronger to me than your curiosity. This, you simply must forgive without me apologising for it.”

Dash shrugged. “Sure. I can’t make you tell it. I’m curious, but you’re not getting me to tell anypony how—uh, the things I don’t want to tell anyone, so that’s cool.”

“Good,” said Neisos. “Instead I chose to tell this story because you reminded me of it, and I wish to acknowledge that. It is a gift for you to think on if your Ponyville does not have an Aspect to do Orrshur’s work, and a thank you to you and your friends. I hope you will tell them ‘thank you’ from me, either through the story, or in those simple two words.”

Rainbow Dash paused mid-sip of water, blinking. “For what?” she asked. “You’re the one who’s let us stay here and everything.”

“Think of the story I just shared with you,” said Neisos. “And let me give you some more context. The story is thought of as the birth of Orsshur. The Aspect of rediscovery through new perspectives sprung forth from this story. You understand, all peryton seek to know things. Travel is perhaps not as common for us as it is for you, but all Aspects exist for a reason—they are part of all peryton, too. All the Aspects’ possibilities are contained within us. That is their purpose.”

Neisos flipped his bowl over again and put it on top of the other dirty bowls, rising to stand up. He smiled down at Rainbow Dash. “When we talk of the Aspects who deal with knowledge, too often do we forget Orsshur. Too often do we all forget that our eyes are only our own, and not the eyes of all others, too. Meeting the three of you reminded me of how much is taken for granted when so much can change with a little shift. How much one can move the world with the tilt of a head. How trapped one can get in the supposed truth of one’s own world.

“Your visit to Vauhorn has no doubt refreshed Orsshur’s stories in the minds of many. You ponies visiting our home has taught my family much that we must think on, and I still cannot answer to my satisfaction why I do not fly. That is for me to consider.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t know right away what she could say to that. They’d definitely taught the peryton at the council a lot about Equestria, and if she understood this Alluvium thing right, Fluttershy’s story would basically be the talk of the town, but it didn’t feel right to accept thanks for just that, so she latched on to the one thing she did know to appreciate.

“Don’t worry about it, but if you get up in the air again, let me know.” She flashed a grin. “Send me a letter or something.”

“I will try to do this,” Neisos agreed, smiling. “And I hope that whoever takes the role of Orsshur in your Ponyville is renewed by our meeting. We will speak tomorrow on getting you supplies for your journey, but I will leave you now. I wish to have words with Ohrinna before she sleeps. Good night, Rainbow Dash.”

“Yeah, sleep tight,” said Dash. She sat for a moment longer, watching Neisos as he cleared the table and put the bowls away, then made his way upstairs. Only when he had gone did she get up.

Rainbow Dash stopped in front of the bed where Fluttershy lay quietly snoring, one wing still extended over the tangle of sheets where Dash had lain. Dash blinked heavily, spotting something white in the corner of her eye. The handkerchief they’d picked up for Rarity poked out from her saddlebags by the bed, and in it, an excuse to delay another minute. She grabbed it in her mouth and snuck into Rarity’s room instead.

She wondered if Neisos had in fact tried to give her advice and shared some cryptic wisdom with her. She’d love to be able to pretend that the story had helped, at least, but she didn’t see anything new in it. She already knew that the peryton saw things differently, that ponies and peryton looked upon the same thing with different eyes. She put the handkerchief on Rarity’s nightstand and made her way back to the other bedroom, hopping onto the bed with a measured wingstroke to cushion her landing.

No, what Rainbow Dash now worried about was that it wasn’t just the peryton who were different. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash had always been very different, too. She’d always known that, of course, she just hadn’t thought it was a problem until recently. Just like Neisos said, a tilt of the head could change a lot—or in this case, a few words that took them from friends to girlfriends could change everything.

She ducked in under Fluttershy’s wing, and immediately the soft feathers wrapped around her. The pull was infinitely gentle, but Dash let herself be moved a little closer, wrapping a wing around Fluttershy in turn, shuffling near until they lay flank to flank, side to side.

At least when she slept, Rainbow Dash couldn’t mess anything up. She nuzzled in under Fluttershy’s jaw, nosing her neck and sighing. She’d find some harmony or whatever, a way to be less different and instead be the best girlfriend there ever was, but it wasn’t easy at all. After all the mess of today, she had to wonder if Fluttershy might not be wrong. Right now, she didn’t know if she could, or even wanted to make a feather fly in a windstorm, much less a boulder.