• Published 6th Jul 2018
  • 1,190 Views, 323 Comments

Harmonic Fellowship - Sun Sage



Rarity's made it home, thanks to all the friends she made on Earth. But they weren't the only ones to find Equestria...

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6. Welcome to Ponyville!

“They’ll all be waiting for you both,” Celestia said simply as she, Luna, and their honor guard escorted Rarity and Aiden to the train station.

“You were able to contact them?” Rarity asked.

The solar diarch nodded, smiling softly. “Twilight and Rainbow Dash returned from their Friendship Mission late last night, and I responded to her letter to inform them that the two of you would be on the morning train. She was… quite enthusiastic. Expect hugs… quite a lot of them, I believe.”

Aiden chuckled. “So much good teasing fodder… this is going to be fun.”

“Oh, my dear human,” Celestia intoned as her smile became a more teasing grin. “I didn’t just mean Rarity...”

He blinked, and raised an eyebrow as if trying to come up with a suitable response when his shoulders slumped. “I guess I already blew the chance to be the cool, aloof alien, didn’t I?”

“Afraid so,” Rarity confirmed. “Your first words to Princess Cadance will be forever engraved in my memory. For that matter, you handled that little filly in the park rather adorably as well,” she shrugged, grinning up at him. “Face facts, darling: you’re simply not dark and edgy.”

“Stupid years of effective therapy…” Aiden mock grumbled as they approached the train station.

Luna laughed quietly. “Even were you to manage dark and aloof, Ponyville would likely be accepting. They’ve weathered much in the last several years, since the Element Bearers embraced their destinies as Equestria’s heroes… starting with saving me,” she grinned sheepishly, “from my own bout of dark aloofness.”

Rarity smiled at Luna. “That was a truly good day, Princess.”

Luna nodded. “For all of us, Fair Rarity.”

A notable advantage of being escorted by royalty is skipping the lines. In short order they were ready to board, with a private car waiting at Celestia’s insistence. “Luna and I will visit Twilight’s Castle soon, to discuss what we might about forging ties between our two peoples. Further, I believe we can help with repairs, at least in terms of enchantments and magical energy, to your ship.”

Aiden nodded. “The sooner the Falcon can fly again, the sooner we can move forward with bringing more of us together. We have some design specs that’ll help things along and, well... Frankly, it could be awhile for anyone else from Earth to get here. Batteries that hold enough aether for the trip are rare, and impossible for us to produce there, at least so far. Charging them is no picnic either. If we can solve those problems on this end, it’ll be a big help.”

“Then that is what we will work towards. But for now… Rarity’s family and friends have waited a long time to see her again, and from everything you’ve told us you’ve earned the rest as well. Within a week or two, we’ll begin following through on those plans, but for now enjoy getting to know Equestria.”

“That’s the idea,” he replied, and then hesitated. “I’m not sure what the protocol is for saying goodbye.” He glanced sidelong at Rarity. “You really got a pretty lousy diplomat out of your Earth adventure.”

“Eh, I’m rather happy with him,” she replied with casual aplomb. She gave a quick, dignified bow to each princess in turn. “Your highnesses, we thank you for your lovely hospitality and look forward to seeing you again soon. Princess Celestia… your secret is safe with us!”

Celestia blinked, and looked to the side as though embarrassed. “I… don’t know what you mean…” Aiden was surprised to see her cheeks reddening. He wondered how they did that right through the fur… probably magic-related... but he couldn’t argue it was appealing.

Raven coughed delicately. “We… appreciate your discretion, Miss Rarity.”

Rarity giggled. “I’m sure you do, Miss Inkwell,” she said with a wink. “Come along, Aiden, we have a lot to discuss before we get to Ponyville.”

“Huh,” Aiden muttered. “Right. Princesses,” he said, giving each a slight bow and a respectful nod before boarding the train. Each had returned the gesture, smiling indulgently (though Celestia still looked distracted). “Miss Inkwell, Captains…” Again, each exchanged nods.

It felt inadequate for the princesses; they were still both stunning, radiant in their magic in a way he couldn’t fully wrap his head around. And yet, he also felt that any further genuflection would be unnecessary or even insulting. They preferred friendship to rule. He couldn’t disagree with that.

The cabin was plush, even nicer than the car they’d shared from the Crystal Empire. Aiden took a seat next to Rarity as they looked out the window together, though the train had yet to start moving. “So what did I just miss?” he asked.

She giggled. “Princess Celestia and Raven are seeing one another.”

“...How’d you figure that out?” He had trouble picturing it. During their time in the presence of the princesses he’d quickly come to understand that they were people, as it were. He’d been happy to learn that, but this was a whole other step.

“Oh, several little clues, all confirmed by their reactions when I confronted them just now,” she replied. He couldn’t disagree with that last part, although Raven had been rather stoic. “The kicker was when Celestia ran her primaries along Raven’s Cutie Mark. It wasn’t even conscious on her part, I think, though of course Raven certainly noticed, and approved.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Aiden said, feeling a bit dense.

Rarity noticed. “Darling, there’s no reason to be angry at yourself for missing it. There’s no reason you’d recognize pony body language, particularly pertaining to wing movements.”

“Fair point… I’ll formally request a primer on such matters be included in the first edition of A Human’s Guide to Equus. ...We might actually have a market back on Earth for that before much longer.”

She giggled. “I imagine Twilight would write it for you with minimal prompting.”

“From what you’ve told me, I believe it, though I’d rather learn from you,” he said, meeting her gaze.

“Oh? Well then…” She hugged him tightly. “A human should be aware that a pony doing this is saying ‘I like you’. ...Or possibly just ‘hello!’ if it’s Pinkie Pie. Though with her the two are basically one in the same.”

Aiden smiled, feeling warmth through his body as he ran a hand gently along her back. “I think I can remember that.”

“Good, darling, you’re off to a strong start, now,” she nuzzled his cheek, rubbing across his jawline to touch her nose against his neck, just below his ear. She whispered into it, practically brushing her lips against him as she did so. “This would mean ‘I really like you. Although, if a stranger does it, it might just mean they’re drunk.”

Aiden chuckled, ignoring the warmth that had now concentrated in his cheeks. “...Noted. You do recall my neck just there is a rather sensitive spot?”

“I do.”

“And doing that goes a bit beyond casual flirting by human standards?”

“I know.” She pulled away, looking at him with luminous eyes. “Aiden… you really did it. In less than an hour, I’ll be home. We’ve joked about it, said it casually, flirted, laughed it off, but… Aiden. Everything you’ve risked, everything you’ve given, and you’ve never asked one thing in return. You nearly died! More than once! And I know I can’t ever thank you-”

“You don’t-”

She placed a hoof gently over his lips, smiling as her ears dipped. Aiden felt a lump in his throat. “I can’t. Ever. Thank you. Not enough. But I’ve come to know you. In such a short time with everything we’ve been through I’ve come to know you as well as the dearest friends I’ve ever had. And even if I can never thank you, I hope you’ll give me the time to try anyway.” She moved her hoof, leaned in, and kissed him. It was soft, and lingering as his hands ran across her cheeks, holding her gently. His fingers ran against her ears as they folded down over him, as though holding those hands where they were. After several long, wonderful seconds she slowly pulled away.

Her smile was the most gorgeous sight he’d ever beheld. And he’d been wrong. He hadn’t been hearing her song, not properly. He did now, and it would have rent his soul with its effusive beauty had he not just shared that perfect moment.

And apparently he wasn’t hiding his wonder over witnessing it, because she giggled, and his heart finished melting. “And that,” she said quietly, “Is a pony saying ‘I love you.’”

He chuckled softly, and leaned in, pulling her forward slowly. Her ears dipped again, those lovely eyes closing as he kissed her back. He’d have sworn he heard a happy little croon in the back of her throat as she leaned fully into it, pressing herself against him. They lingered together longer that time, but eventually broke away. “It’s an amazing coincidence, Rarity.”

“Oh? What would that be?”

“That’s how humans say it, too.”

------------------------------------------

As the train pulled into Ponyville station, the pair were hiding under the window. Rarity had spent a fair bit of time prepping (and fixing her very slightly mussed mane), and didn’t want to be seen before actually exiting the train. ‘Them catching a first glance through the window before we can greet one another would just be anticlimactic, darling.’ He couldn’t disagree, and anyway he was distracted by other matters. The kisses, of which there had been a few more during the trip, had been wonderful. And yet… he didn’t really feel like much had changed. It was more like… they’d fully acknowledged what had been there for awhile now. Looking back… the massages at the Crystal Palace had been rather intimate, and they’d both known it. Their talk at Aunt Lynn's the dancing at the going away party, the room after...

He hadn’t felt any pent up pressure here on the train, or much surprise. It had been an affirmation, one he’d been expecting of her, and himself, for some time now. He smiled. And she blew those expectations out of the water anyway. Still, he remembered the almost frantic excitement of early relationships in the past, and this felt different. There was a tranquility to it, a serene acceptance that yes, he loved her, she loved him, and they would walk forward together. He chuckled as the train finally came to a complete stop. I already knew that. He had a few reservations about the idea, but they could discuss those later. They were things to work on together. For now… she was home, and that was what mattered.

As they stepped off the train, her in front, and he saw several ponies he couldn’t help recognizing. But before he could sort them out, the blitz began. With an almost casual air, he sidestepped as Rarity was mobbed. It was a testament to how loved she was that no one noticed the (comparatively) tall alien sneaking away to give her her moment. He was quite happy for her.

Yet, as he stepped into a nearby alley, he felt a twitch in the aether, as though someone had-

“And where do you think you’re going, mister?”

He blinked, looking down at a pony standing in front of him. How did… oh shit, I know this mare…

She was pink. Pink on pink, with a poofy mane and tail that seemed to exude magic like heat from a brick oven. There was a warm happiness about her aura, and a depth to her place in the aether field that Aiden couldn’t define. She was everywhere and nowhere, depending on what she wanted. What made me think that? And yet it was her eyes that captured his full attention. ...Moira… They were the exact color of his sister’s.

He was a trained soldier, and accustomed to acting decisively while surprised. As such, he recovered quickly. Regarding her with a calm smile, he replied, “Not far. Just wanted to step aside so she could get her proper 'welcome back'. It’s not about me, so I got out of the way.”

The pink pony blew a raspberry. “That’s silly! Of course it’s about you, too! You brought her home… and you’re new here! So we have to throw a party. Oooh, also, hi! I’m Pinkie Pie!”

He couldn’t help but laugh as he dropped into a crouch to gently bump a hoof with his fist. “Aiden. Nice to meet you.”

“You too! Twilight told me no welcome cart, so this’ll have to do!” With that, she threw her forehooves around him, hugging tightly.

Strong… Oh right, earth pony. “Thank you, Pinkie Pie,” he said, returning the hug. “So which number hug is this?”

“Four!” Pinkie giggled, nuzzling his cheek. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean death here.”

What?

“Oh fine,” heh, or does it…? “I turn my back for a moment, and I find you hugging other mares in alleyways. How scandalous.” He didn’t need to turn to recognize that voice, or the teasing tone that would match a raised eyebrow and barely stifled grin below an elegant toss of her mane.

He regretted nothing. “It’s exactly what it looks like.”

“Oh I’ve no doubt. Pinkie, dear, would you be interested in joining a herd with my new stallion here? I know it’s not common these days, but I think we can make it work.”

“Oooh…” Pinkie said, pulling away from the hug to give Aiden an evaluating look.

Aiden stumbled, falling back onto his ass on the cobblestones. “What?!” It didn’t help that, now that he was surrounded by them, the strength of each was singing in his senses.

It also didn’t help that one was now snickering as Rarity, grinning, muttered “Got ‘im,” in English.

The snickering one hovered forward on soft, powerful wing strokes. Bright magenta eyes looked down at him from under a windblown mop of rainbow mane. Hello, Rainbow Dash. Aiden couldn’t help admiring the almost off-handed (hoofed?) mastery of magic on display. She was hovering at maybe two wingbeats a second, at most. The strength and majesty of the sky was in every one of them, and he felt a potent sense of freedom. ...And maybe just slightly more awesome than he had been a moment ago. Her muzzle split in a delighted grin. “So you’re Rarity’s knight, eh? Good to meetcha, I’m Rainbow Dash.” She held out a hoof, which he bumped as he stood up.

“Same here. Aiden,” it didn’t seem like there was any reason to give a full name here. This wasn’t formal introduction time. ...Though again, it seemed he’d managed to look foolish during a first impression. Ah well.

Pinkie was giggling, “Looks like he can take a joke, Dashie… you know what this means.”

Rainbow’s grin turned dangerous. “Sure do.”

“Rainbow, he’s a diplomat for his entire world, you should probably keep the pranking to a minimum.” He turned slightly, and his eyes widened at the alicorn of the group. Oh right, one of them’s a princess. He straightened slightly, and gave a half bow. “A pleasure to meet you as well, your highness.”

Twilight Sparkle waved him off with a casual wing flick. “Please just call me Twilight. I don’t mind the formality if it makes ponies happy but, you brought Rarity home to us. I’d rather we were friends, or more like we already are.” She smiled up at him, offering a hoof. Okay, so she’s adorable… and frankly they all are. Seriously, how the Hell did even the Onis attack this world?

As he shook her hoof, he felt it more closely. Her aura seemed to diffuse around her friends, as though they were a fundamental part of who she was. As Princess of Friendship, that did make sense, but there was a multi-faceted aspect to her magic that he’d never seen before. As he looked at her, felt her song, it was like gazing upon a magnificent work of art, an ivory tower built to share the glories of the sky and the stars, flawlessly proportioned. At the same time, he was seeing numbers. Perfect, elegant equations producing results both simple and complex, and united in their harmonious symmetry. He smiled as he released her hoof. “Don’t guess I can argue with that. Remind me to introduce myself formally at some point though, since you are a princess and all.”

“I’ll make a note of it,” she said with a grin. The numbers in her song seemed to spin, and a scroll and quill appeared by her head. The quill jotted down something too fast for him to follow, and then both disappeared. She didn’t bring those from elsewhere; they were constructed on the spot. I… don’t even know what to do with that. The world is really wide, isn’t it?

A throaty chuckle preceded the approach of an orange earth pony wearing a cowboy hat. “Hope this ain’t too overwhelmin’ for ya, pardner. I’m Applejack, mighty pleased ta meetcha.”

“Same here, Miss,” he replied, sharing a hearty hoof/handshake.

She snorted and shook her head. “Applejack… or AJ if yer in a rush.” Aiden had been all over Earth during the war, and a bit afterwards as well. He would have expected Applejack’s aura to be reminiscent of the Midwest U.S.: farmlands and thriving life. There was truth in that, but there was a deeper aspect to it. Mountains, towering trees, and a sense of the strength of the deepest places of the earth. ...And he really wanted an apple.

Rainbow chuckled. “What, this would overwhelm him? What happens at the next Apple family reunion?”

“Pie happens, Dash, and that’s different. If we don’t overwhelm him there, ah didn’t do mah job.”

“Also cider,” the pegasus noted eagerly.

Applejack chuckled. “Play yer cards right…”

The camaraderie was familiar. Amazing how much I didn’t realize I’d been missing this over the years. I hope everyone at Fort Friendship is doing well.

As Applejack stood aside, he noticed the last of the group of six. He knew her by sight, as he did them all, as well as knowing a little of who she was. As such, he didn’t approach. He felt as though he’d stumbled upon a beautiful glade, where deer and songbirds shared a limpid pool below a tranquil waterfall. He couldn’t approach lest he frighten them away.

He kneeled down as the others backed up, giving the two of them space. “And you’re Fluttershy, right? It’s really nice to meet you, as well, Rarity’s told me a lot abo-”

He stopped, in shock, and several jaws dropped, as the pink-maned pegasus closed the distance between them and hugged him. “Thank you! Thank you so much for bringing her home!”

Gingerly, as though worried he’d break her, he returned the hug.

Behind him, he could hear the grin in Pinkie’s voice. “Welcome to Ponyville,” she whispered.

He laughed softly, releasing Fluttershy as he felt her pull away slightly. Her face was bright red, he assumed from stepping outside her comfort zone. The reputed shyest pony on the planet hugs the strange alien. She’s braver than I expected.

As he stood back up, Rarity chimed in. “So… where’s Spike, and Sweetie Belle… ah, I suppose she’s in school? She could have taken the day off for this.”

“Actually she did, but she said she wanted to greet you at home, herself, as did your parents. They figured the crowd at the train station would be big enough already,” Twilight said. She chuckled wryly. “I’m sure it has nothing to do with Sweetie having made a mess of the Boutique the last couple weeks and wanting time to get it cleaned up. We didn’t exactly get a lot of notice that you were back.”

“Yup, Twi and I might not have been back in time if we weren’t so awesome. We needed to help one of my fans in Cloudsdale with some odd magic that was affecting her family and her classmates. But we whipped that friendship problem’s butt and and sped home as soon as we got Celestia’s letter. Good thing I’ve been keeping this one improving,” Rainbow said, giving Twilight an affectionate swat with her wing.

Twilight rolled her eyes, but smiled. That smile faded a bit as she continued. “As to Spike… well he also wanted to welcome you back in private, but more to the point, he’s at the hospital.”

“What?! Why?” Rarity exclaimed in sudden concern.

Twilight grimaced slightly as Rarity grabbed her, demanding answers. “It’s Starlight. When we were trying to find you, reaching beyond Sidera’s Veil the way Luna described, we weren’t having any luck. We came up with an amplification enchantment to strengthen the searching spell, but it was… very taxing.” She snorted as her expression turned sour. “And it didn’t work. It’s like something was actively working against us. We couldn’t get through. The strain was immense, and I almost passed out. ...And I’m an alicorn. Starlight might be the most magically gifted unicorn in Equestria, but she’s not limitless. ...Her horn cracked… a spiral fracture.”

“Oh no…” Rarity said. Aiden could only hear the words star’s light cannot pierce sideras veil as his eyes went wide.

“She’ll be alright, it’s taken a few weeks but she’s almost fully healed. There won’t be any permanent damage.”

“I’m glad, but that’s… a horribly painful experience from what I’ve heard. I want to see her, and… Aiden! Star’s light…

“Yeah, I was thinking that, too…”

To his shock, Rainbow spoke up, “...can’t pierce Sidera’s Veil?”

All eyes turned to her, and Twilight was nodding in wide eyed agreement. “Riot’s blade divides the wind…

Aiden turned to stare at her. “What the Hell…?”

“Rainbow… I think Joy needs to come visit sooner than we thought,” Twilight said.

“Yeah… think you’re right. I’ll head back to Cloudsdale right after the party.”

“I’m lost,” Aiden muttered.

“You’re not alone, darling.”

Twilight chuckled sheepishly. “The Friendship mission we were talking about, the filly we helped? She was having prophetic dreams, or at least we think they were prophetic. She’s had them for awhile now, and her family was hiding it and trying to help her cope. Some of them were pretty scary, and Luna couldn’t see them at first. It took awhile to discover why.”

“But Twilight was able to figure out how the magic was twisting up inside her head, and how the Veil was muffling her… right?” Twilight nodded confirmation, smiling at her friend. “And we totally helped her deal with it! And I autographed a poster for her and some more for her friends at school. They know she’s awesome again, and they’re all getting along great now.”

“Awesome indeed,” Rarity said. “Safe to say we both want to meet this filly.”

“Definitely… we heard her warnings through another dreamer on Earth,” Aiden added, nodded agreement. “We owe her a big thanks, at the least.”

“That’s amazing!” Twilight said, while Rainbow exclaimed, “Awesome!”

“Alright then!” Rarity said, stomping a hoof in determination. “First, the hospital, to see Starlight, Trixie, and Spike.”

“How’d you know Trixie was there?” Twilight asked.

Rarity gave her a level look. “Darling, please. And then home to see my family… and help Sweetie finish cleaning up the mess she’s probably made while cleaning up. And then, tonight…” She turned expectantly towards Pinkie Pie.

...Who grinned, and leapt into the air, spreading confetti from… somewhere? Aiden felt a familiar sensation, like tiny portals opening as the colorful paper flew into the air. “...PARTY!”

------------------------------------------

“Ahahahaha, you will not beat me at my own party! You will not…” With that, the griffin downed another shot of what Garken considered a rather decent whisky. “Beat… me…” He wobbled in his chair before toppling to the side. He hadn’t managed to set his glass down properly. Garken had won.

Not that it was a fair contest. Alcohol had next to no effect on him. The twenty shots he’d consumed left him with only a pleasant warmth. Tempest took another shot as well, though she wasn’t competing and it was only perhaps her third in the two hours they’d been there. ‘I prefer my wits about me; I’ve nothing to prove here,’ she had said.

Neither did Garken. After already spawning a massive barroom brawl just by appearing in a salty, rundown seaside tavern at exactly the wrong time, the two of them had already proven themselves against at least two dozen (admittedly drunk) griffon sailors and dockhands. They'd proven themselves all over town in the ensuing, extended melee. Now they were drinking with the tavern’s owner, who also happened to be the mayor of the small town, and several of the participants from the brawl.

It had been the first fight in a long time where Garken hadn’t killed anyone. It felt… surprisingly good. He was still concerned about how much weaker he felt, despite assuming that the corrupted aetheryte had been holding him back. That was proving to not be the case, and that was worrisome. He would need to be stronger if he intended to oppose his king, and his king’s loyalists. And he did intend just that. He owed a debt to Rarity, and to Johnathan… but also to his king in a very different way.

I owe them repayment… I owe him vengeance. Serendipitous that I can pursue both at once.

“As much fun as this is… Mayor Grinnek, we need a ship to take us to Baltimare or Fillydelphia,” Tempest spoke up, “We can pay for passage when we arrive.”

Grinnek, speaking from the floor, laughed loudly. “Little lady, don’t be silly! My brother is the finest captain on the seas! And you two… are the most fun my little town has seen in ages. He’ll be in with the morning tide, and we’ll get you on your way, no charge! I’m sure I can find something to send to… to…” He snorted, and began to snore like a chainsaw.

“How does he do that with a beak?” Garken pondered aloud.

“A better question is, will he remember that promise in the morning?”

Garken chuckled. “Does it matter? We’re crossing the sea, and they’re taking us. From there, on to Canterlot, to rally whatever we can to face my king. Though for that matter… should we also get help from these griffons?”

“Yes, yes you should,” a new voice added.

An unfamiliar griffon stepped into the room. He was younger and thinner than Grinnek, and most of the griffons Garken had faced in the tavern. Grey fur and lighter grey feathers covered his sleek form as he stepped fully into the light. Bright teal eyes swept the room, taking in every detail. He was also lightly armored, with a sword belted at his side. Tempest raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you a little young to be a constable?”

“I’m a Knight of Griffonstone, Tempest Shadow, and I’m not the only one. I may not have your reputation, but my order takes pride in its prowess… as well as its information. I’m glad to see you’ve regained your freedom.”

“Hmph, you knew I was taken?”

“Yes, your fight against… his kind…” he gestured to Garken, “was witnessed. Unfortunately, the witnesses could do nothing but bring us the account of what happened. I assume this one is trustworthy?”

Tempest nodded, as Garken chuckled at being spoken of as though he weren’t there. He mentally shrugged and poured himself another shot.

“Excellent. From what I’ve seen and heard since you appeared, you intend to face the same threat that took you. From what we’ve gathered in the quiet places of the world, that threat is massing for a major offensive, centered in Equestria. We wish to help.”

Tempest nodded again, and the griffon smiled fiercely. “Very well then, the Knights of Griffonstone are at your side, and we will accompany you to Canterlot to inform the Princesses of this rising threat.”

Tempest tilted her head, smirking. “Oh? And what makes you think I want the help of a people who can scarcely see past their own beaks… and coin purses?”

The griffon winced almost imperceptibly. “A sadly fair question. Our king… is a foolish, greedy old bird. But that doesn’t mean we’re all following in his wake! A chance to strengthen ties with Equestria, especially after a visit from two of their heroes did so much for Griffonstone, is one I don’t intend to pass up. Whether with you or parallel to you, we will pledge our aid in whatever is to come!”

Tempest laughed, though it wasn’t mocking laughter. “Well now… don’t you know just what to say? What’s your name, kid?”

He bowed deeply, fanning his wings in an impressive display. “I am Sir Gareth of Griffonstone, younger brother of the Arch Knight Gawain, and my fellow knights and I are at your service!”

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