• 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 30

At first I thought it was just Bluebell, but this morning, Beaky, Dusty and Glimmerflap all told me they’d like to perform at the Summer Sun Celebration, too. I don’t know what to do! So many of my little bird friends, all excited to sing in front of the Princess when she visits Ponyville, but they can’t agree on a song without me directing them.

I just don’t know myself. Rainbow Dash always tries to talk me into going to these Summer Sun things. Well, I always go, of course, but she wants me to help out this time, to bring the birds and be a part of the celebration, and this is year one thousand, after all, with Princess Celestia herself coming to visit.

Really, I think Rainbow Dash just wants some company while she does her own part keeping the sky clear, but it’s not a job for two pegasi. She wants us both to volunteer for something.

Maybe this is the year I finally do try to help out a little. I don’t like the idea of so much attention, but if ponies are excited to hear Bluebell and the others sing—and if the birds themselves are excited to sing, too—that helps a little. If Rainbow Dash likes the idea, too, well… Everything is a lot easier together, isn’t it?

There will be ever so many ponies, though.

Good night, Diary,

-Fluttershy


“Bit for your thoughts?” asked Rarity. “If you are pining for the outdoors, let me tell you, having a blindfold around my eyes while they took me outside this morning may just have put me off my basic needs for a week. I don’t recommend it.”

Rainbow Dash tried to be inconspicuous about looking. Not that she had to hide looking at her girlfriend, generally, but still.

“Mm, no, that’s not it,” Fluttershy replied, stretching her neck out to get the tiniest bit closer to the shafts in the ceiling above. “I heard birdsong this morning, and I thought I saw something move, once.”

Dash squinted.

“Ah. Well, I’m glad you manage to keep yourself entertained,” said Rarity, casting a cursory glance up and out. “Whatever is happening up there must be more interesting than what happens down here.”

Now, Rainbow Dash was sure. The little furrow across Fluttershy’s left hindleg wasn’t just burnt fur. There was a tiny scar there as well, a welt of singed skin underneath. She sat down next to Fluttershy and leaned closer to make sure. Definitely a little scar, a jagged line across her hock.

“Eep!” said Fluttershy, jumping away all of a sudden, backing against the far wall.

Dash was up in a flash. “What? What’s wrong?” she asked, looking all around, bewildered.

“You were breathing on my leg,” Fluttershy said, curling her tail around the leg in question, her blank look of surprise melting away under a giggle soon after. She moved back, closer to Rainbow Dash. “You startled me.”

“Right, sorry,” Dash muttered.

Fluttershy had lied to her. She had to have felt the lightning strike, but of course she’d hide that. Dash messed up with the thundercloud, and she’d messed up again in letting Fluttershy down, in letting them all get captured. She rose to stand and shook her mane out. Fluttershy nuzzled her like nothing was wrong at all.

“Koltares! Ask some to help you, watch the door!” said a familiar voice. “If any ask, the Guide is not here—or we have no visitors! Either or both!” Velysra passed by the door at a brisk walk without so much as looking their way. A moment later, she came back the other way at a run, the gruff stag from yesterday following her at speed, looking alert.

“What’s this, then?” asked Rarity, perking up. “Maybe it’s time we get some answers?”

“Finally,” said Dash.

“They are here?”

A new voice, clear and vaguely effeminate carried words far, even at a regular speaking volume.

“Koltares, the door.” Velysra, again. “Do you want me to follow? They…” her voice trailed off. Too indistinct for Dash to hear.

“No. Stay with Koltares. You have already proven you can handle the weight of this burden.”

“Cal—”

“Stay away, please.” Now the new speaker said something too quiet to make out. An urgent murmur.

“Yes, Guide Ascendant,” said Velysra. One set of steps receded, another grew louder and louder. Rainbow Dash rolled her shoulders and stretched her neck from side to side, and both Rarity and Fluttershy stood at full alert with ears perked when the strange new doe appeared in the doorway.

“Yeah, it’s definitely showtime,” Dash muttered under her breath.

The Guide was a little short and stocky for a peryton, and unlike the other bare peryton they had seen, she entered the room heavily adorned. Around her neck hung several necklaces with rows of orange gems or stones, and more of the same material made up bracelets around each of her legs, glowing faintly as though they drank from the sunlight that spilled through the shafts. Though her body was an unruly mix of browns, whites and greys, her cream-coloured forelegs ended in black. Judging by the way she shed a little powder with every step, they were inexpertly dyed with something.

Twice as strange as what she wore was the look on her face, though. For the longest time, she said nothing. The curious peryton doe with her regal bearing stood just inside the doorway, staring at them with her jaw slack. Had her chest not moved with breath, Dash would’ve been tempted to think her a statue.

“I had hoped someone was wrong, but with each step I take, with every breath, I find more damning truth,” said the peryton, shaking her head slowly.

“With all due respect, miss… Guide, whichever title you prefer—” said Rarity.

“I have no title to you. You are not kin to us. This is obvious to me,” said the Guide. She sounded distracted, breezy, her eyes roaming the ponies’ bodies rather than looking them in their eyes. Now she stared at Rarity’s chest, now her eyes fell upon Fluttershy’s legs, her head shifting slightly side to side. Rainbow Dash stepped in front of Fluttershy, but the Guide’s eyes stuck to her legs instead. It was like trying to stop a ray of sunlight.

“Regardless,” Rarity tried anew, her smile stiff. “Let us dispense with the crypticisms, shall we? We have a right to know why we are here, and if there is any shred of decency in you, you will tell us.”

The peryton’s floaty, almost indifferent mannerisms disappeared in an instant. She blinked, and in a moment, she was transformed. Her head rose a tad, and her expression turned serious and sour.

“I understand your frustrations, but you are in no position to make demands,” she said.

“Then maybe you have questions?” Fluttershy suggested, moving around Rainbow Dash to stand at her side instead. “We don’t really have any secrets, and we’ll be happy to help in any way we can. Why don’t you ask us what you want to know, and then afterwards, maybe you can let us go?”

“Maybe?” Dash asked, frowning at her. She’d been good at keeping quiet and letting the others talk, but she had her limits. “Listen here,” she said, pointing a dire hoof at the jewelled doe. “You have no right to keep us here, and the only reason we’re in here is because you played dirty tricks on us, and we’re playing nice! Why. Are. We. Here?” She glowered, and just like Velysra and all the other peryton here, the strange doe drew back. It was a tiny movement of her head, an almost imperceptible retreat, but Dash noticed. Before she got any reply, though, she heard rapid steps down the hall. Velysra careened around the corner a second later.

“Cald—I, ah, the emissary demands—no, he ‘requests’ to speak to you right now, he is by the door,” said Velysra.

The Guide sneered. “Demands all around! Then you will tell him that I will be there shortly, but neither you nor Koltares will let him in here at any point, for any reason.”

If Rainbow Dash had thought this Guide-peryton was angry with them before, she realised now she’d been mistaken. Now this strange new peryton was angry, her lips peeled and her wings half-spread, a gesture of threat she couldn’t remember seeing in other peryton.

Velysra ducked her head, shrinking down. “Yes. I only wished to let you know—”

“Yes! Yes, I… I know,” said the Guide, sighing and furling her wings. “I know. Forgive me. I understand and appreciate your thought. Go. Tell him I will come soon, and we will speak later,” she added, turning to the ponies when Velysra disappeared down the hall. This strange peryton who’d gone from sleepwalking to annoyed to maybe-frightened to angry now looked tired. From the look on Rarity and Fluttershy’s faces, Rainbow Dash guessed she wasn’t the only one confused by this mercurial doe.

“You are correct. I have questions. I will ask, now,” said the stocky doe, exhaling noisily. She didn’t sound like the prospect excited her any more than Dash looked forward to cloud counting.

“You will answer them truly. Honestly,” she added with a grimace. “When we are done, I will speak with Velysra, who in her eternal task of worrying has asked if she may tell you things you do not need to know. To soothe. To help. I will consider this request. That is what I offer you in trade for the truths I need from you.”

“We’d be happy to help,” said Fluttershy, nodding.

“Happy is stretching it,” Dash said, frowning. “How about you just start asking and we’ll see?”

The doe nodded slowly. “Then first, I wonder... do you know of the Nightmare of the Moon, of Luna? She has returned, I understand. Is all already lost, and Celestia deposed?”

“What?” asked Rainbow Dash, blinking.

“Nightmare Moon did return two years ago,” said Rarity, tilting her head. “She was defeated—”

“By guess who,” Dash interjected, grinning.

“—and Nightmare Moon and Luna aren’t really the same thing, I think. We—”

“Do not!” the doe snapped. She struck the stone with a hoof, loudly interrupting Rarity. The Guide glared at the ground between them, her teeth clenched. “Do not give me your ideas and you-thinks! Do not make… assumptions. I need your answers, and nothing else. You believe you know for sure that Celestia yet lives? The sun that shines is true? You purport to know her?”

“What the hay does ‘purport’ mean?” Dash asked.

Rarity, who’d worn a faint scowl ever since she was interrupted, nodded very slowly. “Yes, we know her quite well. Why?”

“You ‘know’ Celestia?” the doe asked after a deep breath, a little more composed. “You know the Sun, the bringer of Life and Light, the radiant warmth and the spark at the core of all?”

Fluttershy licked her lips, nodding at the erratic doe. “Yes, we do.”

“Of course we do. She sent us,” Dash added, expecting the peryton on the other side of the bars to lash out again, but all she did was give Rainbow Dash a nasty look. Rainbow Dash went on, undeterred. “We know her, and we know Luna, why?”

“Do not mock me,” the doe said, halfway between a hiss and a growl. She turned around on the spot, arching her neck to look straight up, taking a deep breath before she turned back to them, as though she’d drawn strength from the little gesture.

“Are you okay?” asked Fluttershy, her voice full of concern.

“Why does this upset you so?” Rarity said. “Letters were sent well in advance detailing who we were and why we were visiting.” She tilted her head. “Then again, I get the impression you may not have received it if you are not from one of the five cities. Where are you from? Where are we, really?”

“Rarity, maybe… um, maybe don’t interrogate the interrogator?” Fluttershy suggested.

“Is this an interrogation?” Dash asked, cocking a brow. “This is way easier than any tests I’ve ever taken. We know all this stuff. What else’ve you got? Wanna know how many hooves we have?”

“And maybe we can go easy on the making fun, too?” Fluttershy added, wincing. Dash shrugged. Their ‘interrogator’ hadn’t said much lately. She just stood there with her eyes closed, absorbing their words. When she again spoke, she was almost calm again, though her voice sounded brittle.

“You are from the place called Equestria,” she said.

“Yup,” Dash said.

“How can you claim to speak with the voice of the Goddess? She speaks only through the sun—and how… how is it that you are sent by the Nightmare, as well? How can this all be true at once if the sun has not gone out?”

“Speak with the voice of?” Dash repeated. “Are you asking us if we’re… no, I got nothing.”

“We’re emissaries. We can’t really make deals on behalf of the Princesses, but again, they are the ones who sent us here,” said Rarity.

“Asked us, really. They asked very nicely,” Fluttershy said, smiling. “We had dinner and talked about it.”

“Yeah, and if you think Celestia’s ever getting a ‘no’ when Twilight’s around, you’re crazy,” Rainbow Dash added with a giggle.

“Oh come now, we could all decline separately if we wished,” said Rarity, rolling her eyes.

“Hey, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have helped out if Twilight hadn’t said yes before I got a chance,” Dash said with a shrug. “I’m all for helping out, but—”

“Celestia speaks through the sun,” said the Guide, her breath coming quicker. “She speaks through the sun alone. How can you claim her authority? How can you come speaking with twinned voice—where is your lie? Is it all of it?”

“We haven’t told you any lies,” said Fluttershy, her voice soft. She took a small step forward, a tiny movement to bridge the gap between them. “I’m sorry, is there a problem?”

“She split us,” the Guide hissed. “The Nightmare split us, and that is why the others turned away! How could they tell me—no, it is not they. They must have spoken the truth. They are right, and so am I. It must be you, you or they—either you speak only lies, or the moon has poisoned the sun, the Goddess’ mind poisoned—”

“Uh, you’re still hung up on the Nightmare Moon thing?” asked Dash. She scratched her snout. “They’re sisters, you know, and Luna’s all better now.”

“Better is relative, but yes,” said Rarity with an affable smile. “Twilight told me—in confidence, you must understand—that Princess Luna still struggles a little to adjust. She works closely with Princess Celestia to overcome it, and I think she’s doing a marvellous job.”

“She’s gotten a lot better after last Nightmare Night, at least,” Fluttershy added with a quick nod.

The Guide shook her head, all the jewellery about her body shifting and clinking softly in the short silence. “There are words and actions missing. Or added where they should not be. Why, why and what?” She let out a wracking sigh and stared at Rainbow Dash. “This will be so much easier if you can tell me this: Will you tell me that the Nightmare of the Moon did this? Will you tell me that ten centuries and two years ago now, the Nightmare drove a wedge between us and the Sun?”

Rainbow Dash scrunched up her snout as she thought. “Ten centuries? A thousand years ago? Uh, Twi told me the Nightmare Moon story, but I don’t remember her doing anything like that? Probably not? A wedge?”

“I don’t remember any mention of Nightmare Moon’s motivations, really, but I sincerely doubt…” said Rarity, her words trailing off as the Guide locked eyes with her instead, her voice rising a tad.

“Will you tell me that our flight was not needless? Will you tell me as is true, that the Nightmare forced our people apart and out of the gorges? That the peryton people of the five cities forsook Celestia, spurning her and the Morrowsworn?” She took a step towards the bars, her eyes wide and unblinking. “Tell me of the betrayal of the cities who made the Aspects!”

“I don’t know anything like that,” said Rarity, raising a brow. “Honestly, the first time I ever heard Celestia mention peryton was at dinner earlier this summer, and what do you mean ‘forsook’?”

“Tell me,” the doe went on, her voice nearing a feverish pitch. She stepped right up to the bars, upending one of the water-bowls with a hoof in her haste. “Tell me that you are false! Tell me that you speak nothing but lies, and that the letter we have read upon the Ravenwall is a lie in every way! Tell me that nothing is true, and that these are all Luna’s machinations!” She stared at Fluttershy, and her antlers clashed with the iron bars as she thrust towards them. “Tell me that she sent you to confound me, sensing that I am on the right path! Tell me!”

Fluttershy backpedalled until her flank hit the wall, hiding behind her mane. Rainbow Dash was up against the bars in a flash, pressing against them as though she could part them with a push, a hoof shoving against the heavier peryton to no avail. The doe pushed back, equally pointless with the bars separating them.

“Get away from us!” Dash snarled. “We’ve told you everything you asked about, now let us out of here! It’s not our problem if you got some crazy ideas in your head. Nothing you’re saying makes sense!”

“Or at the very least,” said Rarity, stepping forward as well. “We can’t tell you what we don’t know. Most of what you tell us is, at best, news to us. If you wish, I’m sure we could help you pen a letter to the Princesses to clear things up, but we lost our dragonsfire. We could take a letter with us if you let us go.” She cleared her throat. “Are… are you quite alright?”

The Guide drew a shuddering breath and backed away, closing her eyes. “No. I… I will leave you. I must think. You will stay here until I understand.”

“Stay? I got a better idea: Let us out!” Dash snapped. “Let us out, and we’ll bring as many letters as you want! I’ll ask Twilight what shampoo Celestia uses if that’s what you want, or you can ask Luna about whatever it is you think she did, but just—come on!” she yelled, but the doe left as though she had never spoken at all. She retreated out the room at a walk, but once she was out of sight, Dash heard her run.

Far down the hall, the faintest of echoes of conversation could be heard, but none of it registered as words to Rainbow Dash. She was gone, and everywhere she’d stepped were small piles of black dust or dye.

“I know we’ve said we’re all a little scared,” said Fluttershy, still as far back in the cell as she could get. “But… now I’m starting to really get worried.”

“She seems to have some very interesting ideas of… of I don’t even know what,” said Rarity, frowning. She walked up to Fluttershy and ran a hoof along her side, sighing. “They don’t have the wrong people, then. Just the wrong ideas. What does Nightmare Moon have to do with Perytonia of all places?”

Rainbow Dash shrugged. “I dunno. I wish we could ask Twilight. Maybe she’d have a clue, but if this Guide doesn’t want to hear what we have to say, why did she bother asking?” she said, blowing a stray strand of mane out of her face. She wished she could ask Luna herself, but her dreams only held one other pony.


It could be any time of day. Rainbow Dash couldn’t tell. With how bored she was—bored of speculating, of thinking, of guessing, and most of all, of worrying—the Guide-doe-leader-person could’ve left a minute ago or it could be the next day, a night passing in the space of a long blink.

Probably closer to a few minutes, if she had to guess. She sat close to Fluttershy while the other pegasus watched the air shafts. Dash’s neck hurt just from looking at Fluttershy staring almost straight up all the time. Another trill of birdsong, and again Fluttershy smiled, letting out a sharp whistle in return. She cocked her head and perked an ear.

Nothing. It got quiet enough that Dash could hear the leaves rustle far above. Rarity’s tiny, soft sigh from the other side of the cell. Faint steps.

“Hoofsteps,” said Dash, standing up.

“Mm, I hear it too,” said Rarity. “Unless this ‘guide’ wants to come back for another round of confusion, I have a fairly good guess as to who it is.” Fluttershy abandoned her post by the shafts and shook her wings out, the three ponies crowding together without a word. Rainbow Dash was entirely unsurprised by Velysra rounding the corner, but she carried neither water nor fruit for them. Dash’s casual remark about how terrible the luke-warm water was died in her throat when she noticed the peryton doe’s eyes were rimmed with red.

“Um, hello,” said Fluttershy, splaying her ears. “Is something wrong?”

Velysra sat down heavily next to the door, her tail-feathers squished against the wall. She leaned back until her head hit the stone, and closed her eyes. Rainbow Dash licked her lips and tried to shift her wings. She looked back and forth between Fluttershy and Rarity, but they looked every bit as bewildered as she.

“Whatever it is you shared with Cal, it has destroyed her,” said Velysra, her voice hitching. She swallowed. “I do not understand. I helped with this task because I thought having you three here would bring clarity to her mind. Instead you bring ruin.”

“Cal? Is that…” Rarity asked, her question disappearing into a whisper.

Velysra rose to stand, taking the few steps needed to bring her back to the doorway, all with exacting slowness. Rainbow Dash wondered if she would leave, but instead the doe stuck her head out into the hallway and looked both ways. She returned and slumped by the wall again, this time looking at them through half-lidded eyes.

“Caldesseia. Her name is Caldesseia of Summer’s Tempest, and she is our Guide. She is my Guide, and she is my friend,” said Velysra. “I want to ask what you told her to ruin her so, but she has told me not to.” She shook her head. “She has told me to tell you what I wish. What I deem safe. This is at my own discretion, for she trusts me, but she asked me not to listen to your words.”

“We didn’t do anything to her,” said Dash. She felt her hackles rise, felt the brush of anger at the accusation, but she didn’t like to think she may’ve hurt anyone, either.

“What—what can we do? I don’t understand what we did,” said Fluttershy. “I’m sorry. We’re sorry.”

“We just told—ah. I suppose we shouldn’t tell you if you do not wish to hear, even if I don’t see the harm. I am at a loss,” said Rarity, sighing. “I don’t understand at all.”

“How would you?” asked Velysra. Her muzzle frumpled in an attempt at a sneer, but she failed to hold it, sighing. “You know nothing. Or, I am beginning to suspect, you know everything. A different everything.” She waved a hoof in the air. “I will be honest about this: I do not care for rules this moment, and I will break Caldesseia’s trust without remorse. I want to help her. You must tell me what you talked of, and you must help me understand.”

“If you’re sure,” said Rarity, frowning. “Do you want us to lie to her about this, if you are about to break her trust? Do you want us not to tell her we’ve talked, if the opportunity arises?”

A snort of laughter. Velysra shook her head. “I do not care. I will tell her myself. When she heard of your coming, she got… worse. That is what I meant when I said I fear what you have already done to her, and now she is sicker still. What did she ask of you? Did she ask about the gods?”

“Gods?” Fluttershy repeated, blinking. “I don’t really know why she used that word, but she asked about Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, yes.”

“Princess?” asked Velysra, the word ungainly coming from her.

“Yeah?” said Dash, shrugging. “That’s what they are. Princesses.”

Velysra’s eyes were empty of recognition, but she nodded. “And what did you tell her about ‘Princess’ Celestia and Luna?” Velysra asked, her voice fraught with frailty and hunger all at once.

“We didn’t tell her much of anything that isn’t obvious from the letter we sent, which you’ve apparently read. It’s no secret,” said Rarity. “We told her that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, the rulers of Equestria, sent us here. That we’re emissaries, and that we hope to establish relations with Perytonia. I suppose we also explained that we don’t have the power to make deals on their behalf.”

“And apparently us having dinner with them was a really big deal?” Dash asked. “She kept talking about Celestia and Luna fighting, but that was over a thousand years ago. They’re sisters and friends, they’re super close.”

“Friends.” The single word dropped by the doe was as flat as a word could be, given no tone whatsoever.

“Nightmare Moon was defeated two years ago, at the Summer Sun celebration,” said Fluttershy, speaking slowly and watching the doe as though she expected her to bolt at any moment. “Princess Luna is all better now. We even offered to ask Princess Luna about it, or send Princess—”

“I think,” said Velysra, sighing. “You will forgive me for interrupting. I think the issue is not only the details, but in that you say you are in a position to ask. How do you ask them?”

“If they invite us to Canterlot, over dinner or tea?” suggested Fluttershy.

“Or just tell Twilight and Spike to send a letter all quick-like, that’s the fastest way,” said Dash, shrugging. “If we’re in Canterlot, we… ask. Using our voices? Jeez, they’re not that snooty.”

Snooty?” asked Rarity, one brow raised. “Really?”

“Blame Pinkie. She’s right. It’s a catchy word,” said Dash. Velysra shook her head.

Them,” said Velysra. Another simple word lent disproportional weight. “Both of them.”

“Yeah? Fluttershy just told you. They’re friends,” said Dash.

“So the war in heaven ended in a stalemate?” Velysra asked. “They were matched? Neither of them won?”

“War?” asked Fluttershy, her tail drooping.

“I’m afraid we don’t know what you mean,” said Rarity, looking at her friends. “Girls?”

Rainbow Dash returned a blank look.

“She asked something like that, too. We don’t know what to tell you,” said Fluttershy. “They’re not fighting, if that’s what you mean. Has there been a war?”

Velysra bent down and scratched at her forehead with the nook of a leg. “I will ask you again. You are from Equestria, as claimed by this letter?”

“Yes!” said Dash.

“And you claim that both these ‘Princesses’, that both Celestia and Luna, dwell there,” asked Velysra.

“Again, yes,” said Rarity.

Velysra sighed. “If before I thought you may have been true, now this is proof you bring lies. If you are from where they dwell, how can you have missed the war in heaven? How can you not have seen the war of yesteryear when Luna and Celestia fought for control of the sky? The sun and moon were in upheaval! Will you say this was a trick played upon the peryton people?”

“They what?” Dash asked, gaping.

“Last spring?” asked Rarity.

“That was Discord,” said Fluttershy, shaking her head. “Discord, um… let’s call it ‘got loose’, and we had to stop him.”

“How’s that got anything to do with the Princesses? Celestia and Luna didn’t do anything,” said Dash, snorting.

“I don’t remember much of the… let’s call it the bad part of that day,” Rarity admitted.

“I don’t, either, really,” said Fluttershy, blushing faintly. “But I heard about it from all my animal friends. It made a mess like you wouldn’t believe. Their sleep patterns and schedules all depend on the sun and the moon, and Discord made a mess of things.”

“Oh, yeah. Twilight mentioned, actually,” said Dash scratching her head. “Or, uh, Twilight told Pinkie, who told me, I guess.”

“What is ‘Discord’,” asked Velysra, frowning deeply. “How does this explain the war of the sun and the moon? And how is it that the sun still rises when the moon-shadow mark is gone? How can you claim that there is peace?”

“Discord’s just a big bully, and he’s gone. Turned back into stone, anyway. He’s some weird, uh—” Dash paused.

“Draconequus,” Rarity supplied. “Just think dragon.”

“Or raccoon,” said Fluttershy. “I like to think of ‘raccoon’ instead.”

“Right, right, that. And he’s the one who did it, and how… how is there peace? Because why would there not be peace?” Dash asked.

Velysra tapped the ground with a hoof. “But you claim Luna sits on the heavenly throne—”

“Again, friends!” Dash groaned. “They have a throne each! What do you think—”

“I don’t know what to think!” Velysra snapped. She stepped closer, though she still kept a respectful distance from the bars. “I do not know. Do you wonder why we fear you?”

“Actually? Yes!” Dash retorted. “Yes we do!”

“Do you think we are a nation of warriors?” the doe asked, powering on as though Dash had never spoken at all. “Do you think that just because we have you here behind bars—in a prison we have made in haste and never before needed—that just because we were able to capture you, that this is who we are? That this is what we do?”

“How have you given us any chance to think you are anything but the brutes you have shown yourselves to be?” asked Rarity with an arch look before Velysra had a chance to continue.

“You know I am a soothe-prong. Of those who came with me on our expedition to seize you were five others who have never been so far from home. None of us are among the few who keep eyes upon the cities, none of us do these things!” Velysra paused for breath and sighed. “One is a forager. One fits tools. One in the wood-prong, and another one dances for entertainment. Koltares, who you know? Koltares makes toys for our young. Toys.”

“So what?” asked Dash. She was surprised by the venom in her own voice, and she caught Fluttershy wincing in the corner of her eye. “You think that gives you the right to just grab us and take us here? To keep us locked up? You think that’s okay just because—just because what? You haven’t told us why!”

Velysra shook her head slowly and swallowed. “Because you speak these lies. Because you come here and claim to be sent by Celestia, the sun to whom all our dances are given, but also by Luna, the darkness who fights her. That must be it.”

Rainbow Dash blinked. For all the fervor in her voice a moment ago, now Velysra sounded unsure.

“Must be it?” Fluttershy repeated, as though she’d had the same thought.

The doe looked away for a second, looking particularly sour until she schooled her features, then nodded. “Yes. It must be, and I will tell you why. When the moon-shadow left and the Nightmare returned to fight Celestia—”

“Uh, actually, we fought her,” said Rainbow Dash, holding up a hoof, stopping Velysra’s story before she’d even began. The doe blinked.

“You?”

“How about you say what you were going to say,” said Rarity, smiling a little too wide and giving Dash a little shove. “It is really not important right now, not compared to you so very kindly explaining something. Anything.”

“Ow,” said Rainbow Dash, glaring at her. “I’m just saying it ‘cause it’s true.”

“You must mean… a metaphor? No, we will leave this for now as you suggest.” She frowned. “We have lived here for hundreds of years. A thousand years, not in secret, but unseen by our other kin. This is our home. When the moon-shadow disappeared, our Guide, Caldesseia, she spoke to us and said she knew the course of our people. She revived the oldest of our stories, saying she knew that they were not lost tales, but forgotten truths. The Nightmare that now returned was the same Nightmare that split our people, that turned us away from the gorges. The Guide made new allies, and soon after, the war in heaven fell upon us.

“The war stoked the fire in her heart, and in turn, she stoked the fire in the Morrowsworn. Sun and moon warred in the sky, and even if things appeared normal again, Celestia surely needed our aid. We would unite the peryton people to provide it. Then, you came.”

Rainbow Dash crossed a foreleg over the other and leaned against the bars. “Right. We sent a letter. How the hay does that change anything? Ignoring that everything you said is wrong.”

“Rainbow—”

“Yes,” Dash said, cutting Rarity off, rolling her eyes. “Shut up, Rainbow Dash, you’re saying stuff that’s obvious.”

Velysra sighed. “Here is the problem. Or, these are the problems. You came here carrying a different story. Your letter announced it plainly. The two goddesses’ names together. Caldesseia grew… erratic, but perhaps I say this only as a soothe-prong, as a close friend to her, but also a healer. Perhaps others do not see this, and perhaps I should not tell you, but you can do little harm from here, so why not?”

The peryton doe let out a short caw of laughter, a single, sour note. “She has given our people what she calls hope, and your words are water to the fire. You say that the Goddesses have titles, and can be talked to. You say you speak to them. You say you dine with them. If this is a lie, it is cruel. If it is the truth… that thought is too big to hold, and so our people would not want this truth.”

Rarity squinted at the doe, giving her a piercing look. “You don’t sound like you agree. You say your people, not us.”

“You are keen. Yes, I do not agree,” Velysra replied. “We did not need this purpose of aiding a Goddess. We did not need this hope of a new thing to do. We were already a happy people. She did not point to wounds that bled. She re-opened wounds that were healed. As a healer, I know what to do with scar tissue. I know what not to do with it. You do not poke it with a stick or pull at it. A scar is a wound healed, not a wound.”

Rainbow Dash didn’t know about that herself. She scratched an itch on her snout against the bars to keep from looking to Fluttershy’s hindleg at the mention of scars. “So are we the stick, or…?” she asked. “I’m still not sure how any of this is our fault.”

Velysra snorted. “If you were truthful, then how could this be your fault? There is no fault in existing, but understand that until years ago, we thought this was all allegory. The sun and the moon, they do not have agency. To see this all come to life in the sky these past years, and now to have you here, claiming an explanation in your words, and representing a dichotomy in the authority you claim—it is confusing, and the shock is immense. I can think nothing but that Caldesseia holds you here until she decides whether you are true or not.”

Fluttershy chewed her bottom lip. “Do you think she’ll believe us? Do you believe us?”

Velysra took a step closer, stacking empty bowls atop one another. “I do not know. I wish to say that I do not think so. Even if I have not felt this fire that Caldesseia wishes to ignite in us, in me, you speak so frankly of these things—” she paused to sigh. “I am sorry. You have answers for everything. It is too convenient, almost, but I recognise that there is no fairness in this for you, whether you are true or false.”

“Come now, dear,” said Rarity, frowning. “You don’t think we’re lying to you, do you?”

“I think you believe what you say on some level,” Velysra replied, levitating the stack of bowls. “I will return with fresh water.”


Velysra didn’t return that evening at all. The only sounds to keep them company were those of birds and insects from above. Rainbow Dash had long since concluded that whatever building they were in, no one else lived nearby, and hours after their doctor-jailer-whateverer had left, it was easy to convince herself no one would come back here ever again.

Rainbow Dash grabbed another sip of body-temperature water, sticking out her tongue in disgust, both at the taste and at her own dramatics. She’d start chewing through the bars tomorrow or something. For now, they had plenty of water. No more fruit, though.

“I still think it’s a vast overreaction to hold us here simply because they don’t believe that Luna is no longer Nightmare Moon,” said Rarity.

“It’s not really that simple. They just believe some very different things, but… I don’t know,” said Fluttershy, shaking her head. “It sounds to me like the problem is with their history, not with the Princesses.”

“Or both?” asked Rarity.

“A problem with history?” Dash asked, snorting. “Any history is a problem. The problem is that it’s boring.”

Fluttershy returned a lopsided smile before she went on. “Velysra said she thought the problem was that they didn’t think of the Princesses in the same way we do, but the Guide didn’t seem nearly as upset about that as she did about… well, the things she wanted us to say to her. She sounded desperate. If she was talking about the same migration out of the gorges that Phoreni mentioned, she made it sound very different.” She scuffed the ground. “Phoreni didn’t make it sound like it was an unhappy event. She just said they moved, but the Guide made it seem like a very bad thing, and that it was all Princess Luna’s fault.”

“Phoreni did say it was hundreds upon hundreds of years ago,” said Rarity. “Huh. Maybe it is the same event. Even the spell—or the ghosts, if you must—made it seem fairly undramatic, though, didn’t it?”

Fluttershy nodded. “We only saw a few of them, and, um, I really didn’t look too closely, but they seemed excited to me, not unhappy.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Dash. “I just don’t get why their problem is our problem, though.” She snorted, and pushed the empty bowl away.

“Come now,” said Rarity. “You don’t mean that, surely. If we can help—”

“Then we help,” Dash replied, cutting her off. “Of course! I’d love to help them, but I don’t know what they need, and they’re not letting us help.”

“Maybe all we have to do is keep answering their questions,” said Fluttershy, smiling. “I think Velysra is coming around.”

“Yeah, she’s not, actually,” Dash countered, pointedly looking up at the air-holes. It was getting dark out already, and still they were alone.

“She meant it in a figurative sense, dear,” said Rarity.

“I got that. I didn’t,” said Dash. “What’s with that word they keep tossing around, anyway?” she asked on a whim. “They keep calling the Princesses gods or goddesses. Why?”

“I wondered about that myself,” said Rarity, frowning. “That word can mean anything. If you tell a mare she looks like a goddess, that’s a compliment.”

“I prefer ‘lookin’ good, girl’, myself,” Rainbow Dash admitted. She grinned at Fluttershy, but the other pegasus didn’t reply, clearly deep in thought.

“Phydra used that word, too, I think,” said Fluttershy a moment later. “Do you remember when we talked to her at the cottage outside Stagrum? She said that long ago, the gods ‘walked the land’? I don’t remember exactly. Do you think she meant the Princesses?”

“She also said they went away. Princess Luna is the only one who ‘went away’, but Princess Celestia didn’t,” Rainbow Dash retorted.

“Mm, well, but if they visited Perytonia at some point, leaving for another place, even for home, is ‘going away’,” said Rarity.

“Okay, fair enough,” Dash grunted.

“Phydra said that the Aspects rose in their place,” said Fluttershy. “So if the Princesses were special to the peryton, I suppose something changed when they left. Or when Princess Luna became Nightmare Moon, even if we still don’t know exactly how that happened.”

“Jealousy, I believe,” said Rarity with a shrug.

“Heh, if jealousy could make a pony into a monster, Ponyville would be way different,” said Rainbow Dash, but even as she spoke, she remembered the dream where Luna had told her of the memories she had hoarded jealously. Maybe there was a grain of truth to it after all.

“That’s not the only thing that happened, around then,” said Fluttershy. As she spoke, she walked over to their blankets and sat. Rarity followed, and so did Rainbow Dash, grabbing a seat in the corner, pushing absent-mindedly against her chains. “I think the First Stories happened around this time, too,” Fluttershy added.

“The First Stories? Neisos treated one of those with a lot of pomp as we were leaving Vauhorn,” Rarity said.

“Mm, Phydra made them sound like they were very different from other stories, and they sprung up when the gods left, too,” Fluttershy said. “That makes the Aspects a thousand years old.”

“Do you think the two are related?” Rarity asked.

“Whatever they are, these peryton here sure don’t like talking about the Aspects at all,” said Dash. She frowned at the thought. “Sure, I think all this talk about the Aspects is weird, but who gets angry just because they don’t like it? That’s stupid.” She stuck out her tongue. “This is a mess, Aspects and ‘goddesses’ and moving and creating. Did everything happen at once? The first—wait.” Rainbow Dash sucked in breath through clenched teeth. “Uh, hold on.”

“What is it?” asked Fluttershy.

“Rainbow, dear, use your words, please,” said Rarity, arching a brow. “First what?”

“The ‘gods’ leaving and the Aspects are totally related. It did happen all at once. Do you remember who their first and oldest Aspects are? ‘Cause I do. I think Phoreni told Fluttershy and me about it while we waited around or something, I don’t remember exactly—”

“Helesseia,” said Fluttershy. “Helesseia and Selyria.” The way her eyes widened spoke volumes. Dash wasn’t crazy. Or, if she was, they both were.

“Oh,” said Rarity, blinking. “The—”

“The Aspect of fire-whatever who they talk about as the sunlight,” Dash said. “And the Aspect they keep talking about as shadows and resting, and statues to sleep under. So, night.”

“Yes, I… I remember,” said Rarity, shaking her head in disbelief. “Selyria in particular seems to be quite ubiquitous in Perytonia, and they speak of Helesseia often enough, too. You think…”

“That’s Princess Celestia and Princess Luna,” Fluttershy said, simply. “They are the first two Aspects.”

“Do you think perhaps the others are—no,” Rarity interrupted herself with a shake of her head. “They said themselves they ‘discover’ new aspects in conversation.”

“I don’t think the Princesses have forty-seven brothers and sisters they haven’t told anypony about,” said Dash, staring at Rarity deadpan. “But yeah. This Cal person said something about the Aspects when she was shouting at us, didn’t she?”

“She said that the cities betrayed them when they made the Aspects,” said Fluttershy, shuffling her wings uneasily. “If they were angry that the other peryton no longer remember Celestia, but instead tell stories about Helesseia, I… I don’t understand it or know exactly why, but it makes some sort of sense.”

“They will have been the ones to deface the statues of Selyria, too,” said Rarity, nodding her head in agreement. “Because to them, she’s Luna—”

“She is Luna,” said Dash. “Well, the night stuff fits. I don’t know about the rest—”

“She is Luna to them,” Rarity said, raising her voice a little, scowling at the interruption. “And they are convinced she is still the same as Nightmare Moon, so they’re angry at Selyria, too.”

“Yeah,” said Dash.

“Okay,” said Fluttershy.

Rainbow Dash scratched at her snout. “So… taking bets that Princess Celestia knows about this? I’m betting against.”

“I doubt either of the Princesses know. Why would they?” asked Rarity.

“And why would they care?” Dash asked.

“If the peryton are hurting over this,” said Fluttershy, frowning ever so slightly. “Why wouldn’t they?”

“No, jeez, not like that,” said Dash, rolling her eyes. “I mean, why would Celestia want a bunch of peryton to call her by one name, or another name, and who gets hurt if they call her Helesseia instead of Celestia? The sun’s the sun, and she raises it every morning even if someone spits in her tea, right?”

“I’m more worried about Luna,” said Fluttershy, hugging her own tail tight. “It’s awful if so many people think she’s still… well, evil.”

Rainbow Dash sighed and nodded. “Yeah, you’re right, sure, but… it doesn’t really matter, either. If they’ve been thinking she’s evil for a thousand years, it doesn’t hurt her!”

“It’d hurt me to know that.” Fluttershy puffed out her cheeks. “Actually, it hurts me right now to think that they believe she’s something she’s not.”

“Yeah, but—” Dash groaned, exasperated not because she disagreed, but because she agreed. “Yeah, okay, you’re right. My point is, why do they think the Princesses want this or that? They don’t get to decide!”

Fluttershy nodded slowly at that, but said nothing.

“Clearly they don’t. They think Celestia speaks ‘through the sun’,” said Rarity. “If they believe the Princesses are not real, or barely-real, of course the idea of talking to them seems ridiculous.” She shook her head and looked up through the nearby air-shafts. It got darker still, and Rainbow Dash had barely noticed. Her eyes adjusting to the dim light bit by bit. Tonight, even the hallway was dark.

“Yeah,” said Dash. “You’d think they would be happy and jump at the chance to send her a letter or whatever, then. If you want to know what somepony wants, you ask them.”

Fluttershy sighed and nodded her agreement.

“Speaking of which,” said Rarity, raising a brow. “There is one pony here who could ask Princess Luna, at least. It’s getting awfully late, and I for one am ready for sleep. The next time you get a chance, do you think you could ask her—well... a history lesson might not exactly help, but you could at least let her know we are a little inconvenienced at the moment.”

“What, you mean the dreaming stuff?” Dash asked. She grunted and looked away. “Yeah, about that. I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in a while. I don’t know why.”

“That’s… also inconvenient,” said Rarity, sighing.

“You have, um—” said Fluttershy, stopping herself.

“I have what?” asked Dash.

“I’ll… tell you later,” said Fluttershy, shaking her head and sighing.

Dash meant to protest, but already she could tell Fluttershy wouldn’t budge. Ears bent, but no apologetic smile, no nothing. Rainbow Dash shrugged. Or, she tried to shrug, at the very least. Instead she just felt pressure against the chains around her wings and her barrel. Fluttershy swished her tail from left to right.

“But… one thing that can’t really wait until later,” said Fluttershy, chewing her bottom lip. “I hope Velysra comes back.”

Rainbow Dash tilted her head.

“What is it, dear?” asked Rarity.

“I have to go,” said Fluttershy.

“Oh,” said Rarity. She frowned. “You mean go. That may be—”

“Hey!” Dash shouted, as loud as she could. “Bathroom call!”

Fluttershy ducked and Rarity winced, one hoof to an ear.

“Hey! Anyone out there?” Rainbow Dash called.

“Darling,” said Rarity, holding up a hoof for silence.

“What?” asked Rainbow Dash, cocking a brow. She heard something creak far-off in the distance, an echo bounding its way down the hall. Dash smirked. “You were saying?”

“I don’t doubt the efficacy of your tactics, but I am sure you could have accomplished that with half the volume,” Rarity said, shaking her head.

“Thank you,” said Fluttershy as the hoofsteps grew louder. The hallway brightened slightly. Fluttershy reached out to brush a wing against Dash’s neck. “I guess she’s still down the hall even if she doesn’t want to talk to us right now. I feel a little bad for thinking she left—”

“What?” asked a gruff voice. Dash blinked. She recognised the stag by his voice alone. Koltares stood backlit by a torch he placed somewhere outside the door, staring at them. “Tell me what you need, but do not talk to me. No words except your needs. Food or water?”

Rainbow Dash looked at Fluttershy, who lay her ears flat and shrank back.

“Nature’s call, dear,” said Rarity.

“Which one of you?” he asked, not moving a muscle.

“Does it matter? We’re all mares. It would not be seemly,” said Rarity with a sniff.

“Wait here,” came the reply. He disappeared down the hall, entirely unhurried, and Fluttershy let out a breath she must’ve been holding for a while.

“That’s weird,” said Dash, staring at the empty doorway.

“Velysra did say that they were both, um, well… guarding us, or whatever you’d want to call it,” said Fluttershy.

Dash shrugged. “Yeah, but we haven’t even seen him again since—well, I guess he was around last time one of us had to go, all the guard detail and the blindfold and stuff, but outside of that?” Already she heard multiple steps on return, and she knew what to expect. Rarity shook her head.

“If you’re speculating about where Velysra is, I don’t know either,” said the unicorn. She stepped away from the cell door and put on her best bored look, and Rainbow Dash joined her. A full half-dozen peryton flooded the room, and Koltares stepped up to the door, key, blindfold and ropes for Fluttershy’s wings at the ready. Rainbow Dash waited for him to tell her to step further away from the door before she obliged.

“Again, no talk. When we are outside, one of the does will take you,” the grumpy stag said again when he had the blindfold around Fluttershy’s eyes, and the ropes tied around her middle—the grumpy toy maker, Dash thought, shaking her head at the craziness of it all. The cell shut again, and the peryton all filed out of the room. Dash just stared right back at them in response to the inevitable backwards glances they cast.

“Wouldn’t want to accidentally hear something true,” Dash muttered when they’d left. “I wonder what they’d do if I just shouted Celestia likes raspberry cake!” She snorted at her own joke, interrupted by a sudden flash of light. Rainbow Dash yelped and backed away from the source—away from Rarity.

“Jeez, watch it,” Dash snapped, rubbing at her eyes to clear the white spots.

“Oh dear, I’m awfully sorry, Rainbow,” said Rarity with a gasp. “I didn’t mean to do that! Or rather, I did, but I didn’t at all expect it to work!” She reached up to touch her horn gently, wincing and sucking in breath with a hiss. “I think my magic is coming back, however slowly, but I am not keen to repeat that.”

“Just… give me some warning next time,” said Dash, blinking quickly. Her annoyance quickly gave way to concern, though, watching Rarity stare cross-eyed at her own horn. “Hey, you okay there?”

“I’m fine, darling. Just a little sore,” said Rarity. “That was supposed to be a simple light spell.”

“If your magic’s coming back, that’s something, I guess,” said Dash. She walked up to the bars. Their saddlebags lay neatly arranged by the far wall. “Can you get our stuff?”

Rarity closed her eyes for a moment, then shook her head. “No. After that… whatever that burst was, everything is dead again. Nothing happens when I try to call upon my unicorn magic. Nothing except… dizziness. This is all very unpleasant.” She walked over to their makeshift bed and lay down slowly, letting out a little groan.

“Gonna catch some sleep?” Dash asked.

“I will try to, at least,” said Rarity, nodding and shifting about on top of their blankets. She covered her mouth with a hoof, yawning. “If the two of you intend to stay awake, I’d appreciate a little peace and quiet.”

“Sure,” said Dash, shrugging and flashing her a smile. “Sleep tight. If Velysra doesn’t come back tomorrow, you’d better get ready to cover your ears, because I’m gonna make sure they hear it.”

Rarity smiled in return and closed her eyes.


By the time Rainbow Dash heard Fluttershy and the little guard posse return, she’d started to get worried. Not just about Fluttershy, but about her own wings. She exhaled as much as she could and pushed awkwardly at the chains around her body, trying to get them down towards her hindlegs, but they wouldn’t budge. She couldn’t work them over her humerus, and it was simply too tight to push it further down. No matter what she did, her wings were jammed to her sides.

Sure, some pegasi went days, or even weeks without flying—Dash shuddered at the horror of it—but it wasn’t supposed to hurt. She couldn’t tell if it was because of a need to stretch her wings, or just plain wanting to really stretch her wings, of a desire to fly. She just barely managed to get back up on all fours and pretend at nothing when the six peryton returned, Fluttershy and Koltares at the front.

Rainbow Dash brought a hoof up to her mouth to hush them, and proving that the world was full of surprises, Koltares simply nodded and gestured for Rainbow Dash to step away from the bars—and for the other peryton to be quiet. In relative silence, he unlocked the door, unwrapped the blindfold around Fluttershy’s eyes, and let the other pegasus inside the cell.

The stag glanced down at the array of empty and half-empty bowls. “You will keep until morning. Anyone else?” he asked. He sounded gruff even when he whispered.

“Nope,” said Dash. “Where is—”

“No questions,” said Koltares, scowling. He gestured towards the door, and the others filed out. They left the torch in the hallway, the room a little brighter than before. Rainbow Dash shrugged and leaned a hoof on Fluttershy’s side, helping her tear the ropes off. She shoved the tattered ropes through the bars. She could do this as many time as they liked.

“Everything okay?” asked Dash.

Fluttershy nodded and smiled at her. “Yes. Is Rarity asleep?”

The two stared at Rarity, waiting for the unicorn to disagree. “I guess so,” said Rainbow Dash at length. She gestured to the blankets with a nod of her head. “Wanna go to bed?”

Fluttershy’s smile only tugged at one side of her mouth. “I don’t think there’s a lot else to do,” she said, lying down next to Rarity.

“Maybe when Rarity gets her magic back completely, she can sneak our bags over here,” Rainbow Dash whispered with a grin. “She got a little bit of juice while you were away. Do you have a key in your bags? Lockpicks? Really strong hedge trimmers?” She lay down next to Fluttershy, hiding a wince when the chains dug into her belly as she lay down, shifting to make it a little more comfortable.

“No, sorry,” Fluttershy replied, her giggle short-lived. She locked eyes with Rainbow Dash, chewing on her bottom lip. Rainbow Dash waited.

“What I was going to say earlier,” Fluttershy said, frowning slightly now. “You said you usually remember your dreams, but you haven’t… really had normal dreams lately, have you?”

“After talking to you guys about your dreams, and with Luna and everything, I don’t even know what’s normal,” said Dash with a helpless shrug. “But yeah, I guess it’s weird lately? You tell me, heh. Why do you ask?”

Fluttershy nodded, lowering her voice a touch further. “Well… I’ve, um… I don’t sleep all that well when I’m travelling, I guess, and it’s gotten a little better, but lately I keep waking up at night because you’re making noises in your sleep.”

“Like what?” asked Dash, tilting her head. “Battlecries? I do some pretty awesome stuff in my sleep sometimes, heh. Sorry if I wake you up.”

Fluttershy shook her head slowly. “If you always did that, then… I would’ve noticed. We’ve had sleepovers, and you don’t usually make noises like this.”

Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Noises like what? Talking?”

Fluttershy looked at her own forehooves. “No. Sad noises.”

“Sad… uh,” Dash tried to laugh, but it came out a nervous exhale. “Uh, okay. Yeah, I don’t know about that.”

They lay like that in silence for a little longer. Rainbow Dash meant to say something, she was sure, but she didn’t know what that would be. She didn’t really want to tell Fluttershy that she was wrong. She couldn’t call her a liar to her face. Fluttershy didn’t seem to have anything to add, and after a while, the other pegasus smiled at her briefly, the topic come and gone. Rainbow Dash was sleepy anyway. She smiled back and shuffled a little closer, as much as she could without stabbing Fluttershy with the stupid chain around her body.

At some point, that’d become their little ritual in the evening. Whether Dash went to sleep and felt the need to wrap a wing tight around Fluttershy, or Dash woke up in the middle of the night completely covered in Fluttershy, Dash didn’t mind. In fact, she found she was unwilling to give it up. They gripped each other tighter and tighter every evening—and every day, they drifted further apart.

Not in here, though. Locked up in this stupid cell, even Rainbow Dash couldn’t muck anything up. There was no way for her to make things worse. No room to fly, or to try to make anyone else fly, either, and maybe that made her and Fluttershy okay for the moment. She rested a foreleg atop one of Fluttershy’s own and closed her eyes.